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.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on Saint John's gospel, no. 33, 4-6; CCL 36, 308

Justice and mercy

The Pharisees said amongst themselves regarding Jesus : “He has a reputation for being true and has an air of gentleness; we’ll have to attack him on a matter of justice. Let us take a woman to him who has been caught openly in the crime of adultery and say to him what the Law demands on the subject”… What does the Lord Jesus reply? What does Truth answer? (Jn 14:6). What does Wisdom have to say?” (1Cor 1:24). How does Justice itself respond when thus put to the test? Jesus does not say: “Let her not be stoned”, since he does not wish to seem to speak against the Law. However, he takes good care not to say: “Let her be stoned”, since he has come not to lose what he has found but to “seek out what is lost” (Lk 19:10). So what does he reply? Note how justice, gentleness and truth are fulfilled at the same time: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” he says.

Wisdom’s answer! How he makes them return to themselves! Their manoeuvers were external but they did not look into the depths of their own hearts. They saw the adulteress but did not observe themselves… O Pharisees, doctors of the Law, you have heard the Law’s guardians but have not understood the One who gives the Law. Indeed, the Law has been written by the finger of God but, because of the hardness of people’s hearts, it has been written in stone (Ex 31:18; 34:1). Now the Lord writes in the dust because he is looking for the Law’s fruit… “Let each one examine himself, return to himself, place himself before the judgement seat of his soul… Anyone who looks at himself attentively inevitably finds himself a sinner. So let this woman go or submit yourself to the punishment of the Law along with her”…

This is the voice of justice: “Let the guilty be punished but not by the guilty. Let the Law be executed but not by those who break the Law”… Struck by the justice as by the point of a lance they return to themselves and find themselves to be sinners, “they went away, one by one.”

Saint Bruno of Segni from Commentary on Saint Mark's Gospel

“The Lord worked with them and confirmed the Word”

The Lord said to the Eleven: “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover”. In the primitive Church all the signs the Lord lists here were fulfilled to the letter, not only by the apostles but many other of the saints. The Gentiles would not have abandoned the worship of idols if the gospel preaching had not been confirmed with so many signs and wonders. Indeed, did not the disciples preach “a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,” according to Saint Paul’s saying? (1Cor 1,23)…

As for us, from now on signs and wonders are no longer needed: it is enough for us to read or hear an account of those that have happened. For we believe in the Gospel, we believe in the Scriptures that relate them. And yet signs still take place daily and, if we would mark them well, we would acknowledge that they have far more worth than the concrete miracles of former times.

Every day priests administer baptism and call to conversion: isn’t this to cast out demons? Every day they speak a new language when they explain holy Scripture by replacing the old letter with the newness of its spiritual sense. They put serpents to flight when they free sinners’ hearts from their attachment to evil with gentle exhortation… They heal the sick when they reconcile weak souls to God with their prayers. Such are the signs the Lord had promised his saints; it is these they accomplish even today.

Catechism of the Catholic Church §1337-1341

“It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.”

“The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father,” in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love (Jn 13,1). In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; “thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament” (Council of Trent)…

By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his Father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfils the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.

The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” (1Cor 11,26) does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors, of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.

Saint Hilary from the Trinity VII, 41

“Philip said to him: ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us'”

“Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” What means this: “Believe me”? Clearly it refers back what went before: “Show us the Father”. Their faith— that faith which had demanded that the Father should be shown— is confirmed by this command to believe. Christ was not satisfied with saying: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also”… The Lord would have us take him at his word, lest our hold upon the faith be shaken… Let us at least believe, on the evidence of the works, that God’s Son is in God and is from God, and that the Father and Son are One. For by the power of their divine nature each is in the other. The Father loses nothing that is his because it is in the Son, and the Son receives his whole Sonship from the Father.

Bodily natures are not created after such a fashion that they mutually contain each other, or possess the perfect unity of one abiding nature. In their case it would be impossible that an Only-begotten Son could exist eternally, inseparable from the true Divine nature of his Father. Yet this is the peculiar property of God the Only-begotten… this state whereby someone indwelling another causes the other to exist. For each subsists in such a way as not to exist apart from the other, since they are two through birth given and received, and therefore only one Divine nature exists.

This is the meaning of the words: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30), and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also”, and “I am in the Father and the Father in me”. The Son is not different or inferior to the Father… for the Son of God, in being born into the Godhead, manifests in himself the nature of the God who begets him.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on the First Letter to the Corinthians, no. 24

“The bread that I will give is my flesh, given for the life of the world”

“Because the loaf of bread is one, we though many are one body” (1Cor 10:17). What is this bread that we eat? The Body of Christ. What do communicants become? The Body of Christ. Not a multitude but one single Body. Just as bread, made up of so many wheat grains, is no more than a single loaf in which the grains disappear; just as the grains subsist in it yet it is impossible to see what distinguishes them within so closely compacted a mass, even so do we, together with Christ, make one whole. For it is not with one body that one member is fed and another member with another body, but the same Body that feeds all. This is why the apostle Paul added: “We all share in the one bread.”

Well then, if we all share the same bread, if we all become this same Christ, why do we not show the same charity?… This is what people saw at the time of our fathers: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). But it’s not at all like that now; quite the contrary. And yet, O man, it is Christ who came to look for you, you who were so far away from him, so as to be united with you. Yet don’t you wish to be united with your brother?

Indeed, he has not only given his body but, as the first mortal drawn from the earth died because of sin, he has introduced, so to speak, another yeast, his own flesh, of the same nature as our own but free from all sin and fully alive. Our Lord has shared it with us all so that, fed with this new flesh and all in communion with one another, we might enter into immortal life.

Isaac the Syrian from Ascetical discourses, 1st series, no. 72

“My flesh is meat indeed and my blood is drink indeed”

The tree of life is the love of God. Adam lost it at his Fall and never again found happiness but worked and sweated over thorny ground (Gn 3:18). People who have been deprived of the love of God eat the bread of their own sweat in their works (Gn 3:19) even though they walk on an upright path; this was the bread given to the first creature to eat after the Fall. Until we find love this is where our work lies: on thorny ground… Whatever our personal righteousness may be, it is by the sweat of our brow that we live.

But when we have found love then we are fed on heavenly bread and are comforted beyond any work and every difficulty. The bread of heaven is Christ, who came down from heaven and gave life to the world. And of such is the food of angels (Ps 77[78]:25). Whoever has found love is fed by Christ each day and at every moment and becomes immortal by it. For he said: “Whoever eats the bread that I shall give will never see death.” Blessed is the one who eats of the bread of love which is Jesus. For those who feed themselves on love feed themselves on Christ, the God who masters the universe, he to whom John bears witness when he says: “God is love” (1Jn 4:8).

Therefore, whoever lives in God receives from God the fruit of life. He breathes in this world the air of the resurrection itself, the same air in which the righteous who are raised take their delight. Love is the Kingdom. This is what the Lord mysteriously commanded his apostles to feed themselves with: to “eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom” (Lk 22:30). What else is this but love? For love is capable of feeding us beyond any food and drink. Such is “the wine that delights the heart of man” (Ps 104[105]:16). Blessed are they who drink of this wine.

Peter the Venerable from Sermon in praise of the Holy Sepulchre

Looking for Jesus

Hearken all you peoples; give heed, you nations over all the earth; pay attention, you many tribes and races (cf. Rev 7,9), all those of you who believe yourselves forsaken and imagine yourselves still to be despised. Pay heed and rejoice: your Creator has by no means forgotten you, no longer does he want his anger to hold back his mercies. Now, in his goodness, he wants to save not just the small number of Jews but your countless hosts as well. Listen to the holy prophet Isaiah…: ³On that day, the root of Jesse shall be set up as an ensign for the nations² (11,10)…

As Jesus himself has attested: he is the one whom ³God the Father has sealed² so that he might be a sign. But a sign of what? So that, exalted on high on the standard of the cross as the serpent of bronze was raised in the midst of the camp (Nm 21), he might turn to himself the eyes, not only of the Jewish people but of the whole world and might draw the hearts of all to himself by his death on the cross. Thus would he teach them to place all their hope in him. By healing all their sicknesses, forgiving all their sins, opening up to everyone the Kingdom of heaven, shut for so long, he would show them that he is indeed ³he who was to be sent…, for whom the gentiles long² (Gn 49,10 Vg.). He himself set up this sign for the peoples that he might ³assemble the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth² (Is 11,12).

Saint Gregory the Great from Homily 23; PL 76, 1182

“Do not neglect hospitality” (Heb. 13,2)

There were two disciples on a journey together. They did not believe and yet they were speaking about the Lord. Suddenly he himself appeared but in a form they were unable to recogniseŠ They invited him to share their company, as one does with a travellerŠ So they prepared the table, set the meal, and the God whom they had failed to recognise in Scriptural explanation they now discovered in the breaking of bread. Thus it was not in hearing God¹s commandments that their minds were opened but in doing them: ³For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified² (Rom 2,13). If anyone wants to understand what he has heard, he should hasten to carry out whatever of it he has already managed to grasp. The Lord was not recognised while he was speaking; but he deigned to make himself known when he was offered a meal.

So let us delight in hospitality, my very dear brethren; let us take pleasure in practising charity. With regard to this Paul affirms: ³Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels² (Heb 13,1f.; Gn 18,1f.). Peter says, too: ³Be hospitable to one another without complaining² (1Pt 4,9). And Truth itself declares to us: ³I was a stranger and you welcomed me²Š ³Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine,² the Lord will say on Judgement Day, ³you did for me² (Mt 25,35.40)Š Yet in spite of all this, how lazy we are before the grace of hospitality! Let us take our measure of this virtue¹s greatness, my brothers. Let us welcome Christ to our table so that we may be welcomed at his eternal banquet. Let us show hospitality to Christ present in the stranger at this present time so that when judgement comes we may not be like strangers whom he does not recognise (Lk 13,25) but he may receive us like brothers into his Kingdom.

Saint Catherine of Siena from Letter 301, to Francois Pépin, a tailor in Florence, and his wife

“Do you also want to leave?”

Dearest son, dearest daughter in Christ… I am writing to you in his precious blood, desiring to see you true servants of Jesus crucified, constant and persevering unto death so that you may receive the crown of glory (1Pt 5:4), which is not given to the one who only begins but to the one who perseveres to the end. And so I want you to apply yourselves zealously to running in the way of truth, always striving to go forward from virtue to virtue. Not to go forward is to fall back, for the soul cannot ever remain stationary.

And how shall we be able to increase the fire of holy desire, dearest son? By putting wood on the fire. But what wood is that? Remembrance of the numerous, infinite benefits of God, which are countless, and especially by remembering the blood shed by the Word, his only Son, to show us the inexpressible love God has for us (Jn 3:16). By reminding ourselves of this blessing and of so many others we shall see our love increase.

Cardinal Charles Journet from Conferences given in Geneva between 1972 and 1974 on the Gospel according to Saint John (Text published by the Cardinal Journet foundation, pp. 253-257; rev.)

Whoever believes in me

The divine Persons are transparent to one another. As though with a collar: if you take one of the divine Persons, you draw the other two along with it. It would be impossible for you to take the Father without reference to the Son; fatherhood is precisely what constitutes his personality, but it’s impossible to be Father without the Son. And then, it’s impossible that the Father and the Son, in their mutual love, should not produce the Spirit. So there is a word theologians use for this: they speak of the circumincession of the divine Persons. There is a word – to make it clearer to you – : the divine Persons are transparent to each other. When you speak to one of them, behold! the other two are reflected there and you are speaking to them. They are distinct but transparent to one another. And so, when Jesus says: “The words I have spoken to you are not mine but those of the Father” (cf. Jn 14:10.24), it is indeed the case; but they are also his own, his own words as received from the Father.

He comes from heaven in human sheath in order to speak words to us that revert back as far as his Person and the Person of the Father. He has received his whole being from the Father and it is the Father who speaks to us through him, present in our midst within his bodily sheath.

So we have the Trinity who comes to us by this way of the Incarnation, that voice of God’s tenderness coming into our midst in order to speak to us, no longer at a distance from the height of Heaven but to speak to us by means of a human voice, a human language, the Aramaean language of an insignificant people, an idiom that was spoken around Mesopotamia and those regions there.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 257-258, 260

“No one comes to the Father except through me”

“O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!” God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the “plan of his loving kindness” (Ep 1:9), conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: “He destined us in love to be his sons” (Ep 1:4-5) and “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rm 8:29), through “the spirit of sonship” (Rm 8:15). This plan is a “grace [which] was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tm 1:9-10), stemming immediately from Trinitarian love. It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church.

The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons. For as the Trinity has only one and the same natures so too does it have only one and the same operation… Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, “one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are”. It is above all the divine missions of the Son’s Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that show forth the properties of the divine persons…

The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity (Jn 17:21-23). But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: “If a man loves me”, says the Lord, “he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23): “O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.” (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

Saint Pio of Pietralcina ``Padre Pio`` from Letters 3,707; 2,70

“Whoever receives the one I send receives me”

After love for our Lord, I would recommend to you that of the Church, his Bride. She is like a dove sitting on her nest and hatching the Bridegroom’s chicks. Always be thankful to God that you are a daughter of the Church, following that vast number of souls who have gone before us along this blessed way. Have a great deal of sympathy for all pastors, preachers and spiritual guides; they are to be found over all the earth… Pray for them to God, that in being saved themselves they may become fruitful in winning salvation for souls.

Pray for the wicked as much as for the devout; pray for the Holy Father; pray for all the needs of the Church, both spiritual and temporal, since she is our mother. And offer a special prayer, too, for all those who work for the salvation of souls to the glory of the Father.

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Lectura super Ioannem, X, lect. 3, 1-2 (Orval)

“The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

The service of the good shepherd is love. That is why Jesus says that he “lays down his life for his sheep”. For we must know what distinguishes him: the good shepherd watches over the needs of his flock, the bad one seeks his own interest. That is what the prophet said: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who seek only to feed themselves! Should they not feed their flock?” (Ezek 34:2) Those who only use the flock for their own interest are not good shepherds… A good shepherd in the natural sense bears with much for the sake of the flock over which he watches, as Jacob testified: “By day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night.” (Gen 31:40)…

But the spiritual flock’s salvation is more important than even the life of the shepherd. That is why, when the flock is in danger, its shepherd must accept to lose his physical life for the salvation of the flock. The Lord said: “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”, his physical life in the loving exercise of authority… Christ gave us an example: “He laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” (1 Jn 3:16)

Blessed Paul VI from Message for the Day of Vocations 1971

“He calls each one by name”

When Jesus presented himself as the Good Shepherd, he referred to a long biblical tradition, with which his disciples and the other auditors were already familiar. The God of Israel, in fact, had always revealed himself as the Good Shepherd of his people. He had listened to its complaints, he had freed it from the land of servitude and, in his goodness, he had guided the people he saved during its long and hard march in the desert towards the promised land…From age to age, the Lord continued guiding his people – much more – he carried it in his arms as a shepherd carries his sheep. He also led it after the punishment of the exile, calling it once again and gathering the lost sheep to bring them to their fathers’ land.

It is for these reasons that our fathers used to turn to God as his children calling him their Shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack; In green pastures you let me graze; to safe waters you lead me; you restore my strength. You guide me along the right path” (Ps 22). They knew that the Lord is a good, patient shepherd, sometimes strict, but always full of mercy with his people and also towards all men. When Jesus came, he found his people “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6,34) and he felt very sorry for them. In him all prophecies were accomplished, he was the one they had been waiting for. With the same words of the biblical tradition, Jesus presented himself as the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep, who calls them by name and gives his life for them. And then “there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10,16).

Saint Cyprian from The Lord's Prayer, 2-3

Ask while calling on the name of Jesus

He who, among other salutary admonitions and divine precepts by which he counsels his people to salvation, himself gave us a formula of prayer also advised and instructed us himself what to pray for. He who caused us to live taught us also to pray with the same generosity with which he deigned to give and bestow his other blessings, so that, in speaking to the Father with the prayer and supplication taught by the Son, we may more readily be heard. He had already foretold that the hour was coming when “those who worship him would worship the Father in spirit and truth” (Jn 4,24); and he has fulfilled what he promised, so that we, who by his sanctification have received the Spirit and truth, may also by means of his teaching worship in Spirit and truth..

For what prayer can be more spiritual than that which was given us by Christ, through whom the Holy Spirit was sent to us? What prayer to the Father can be more true than that which was sent forth from the lips of the Son, who is Truth?

So let us pray, most beloved brethren, as God the Teacher has taught. It is a loving, filial prayer when we beseech God with his own words, for this is to make Christ’s own prayer ascend to his ears. Let the Father acknowledge the words of his Son, when we offer him our prayer. Let he who dwells within our breast himself be also in our voice, and since we have him as the advocate for our sins before the Father, let us speak the words of our Advocate. For he says: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you” (Jn 16,23).

Symeon the New Theologian from Catechesis 3

“The one whom God send speaks the word of God”

The Savior’s command, “Search the Scriptures” (Jn 5,39) shows how profitable they are for us. So search them, and hold fast to what they say with great exactitude and faith. Then, when the divine Scriptures have given you an accurate knowledge of God’s will, you will be able to distinguish without error between good and eviL and will not listen to every spirit, or be carried away by harmful thoughts.

You may be certain, my brothers, that nothing is so conducive to our salvation as following the divine commandments of the Savior. Nevertheless we shall… need great fear, great patience, and constant prayer before the import of even a word of the Master can be revealed to us. Only then shall we perceive the great mystery hidden in short sayings, and be ready to die for the smallest detail of the commandments of God (cf.Mt 5,18).

For the word of God is like a two-edged sword (Heb 4,12), cutting off and separating the soul from all bodily desire and sensation. More than that, it is like a blazing fire (Jer 20,9), because it stirs up zeal in our souls, and makes us disregard all the sorrows of life, consider every trial we encounter a joy (Jas 1,2), and desire and embrace death, so fearful to others, as life and the means of attaining life.

Saint John-Paul II from Encyclical « Dives in misericordia », § 7

“So that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life”

What else, then, does the cross of Christ say to us, the cross that in a sense is the final word of His messianic message and mission? And yet this is not yet the word of the God of the covenant: that will be pronounced at the dawn when first the women and then the Apostles come to the tomb of the crucified Christ, see the tomb empty and for the first time hear the message: “He is risen.” They will repeat this message to the others and will be witnesses to the risen Christ.

Yet, even in this glorification of the Son of God, the cross remains, that cross which-through all the messianic testimony of the Man the Son, who suffered death upon it – speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man, since He “so loved the world” – therefore man in the world-that “he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Believing in the crucified Son means “seeing the Father» (Jn 14,9), means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved. Believing in this love means believing in mercy. For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name and, at the same time, the specific manner in which love is revealed and effected vis-a-vis the reality of the evil that is in the world, affecting and besieging man, insinuating itself even into his heart and capable of causing him to “perish in Gehenna” (Mt 10,28).

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1333-1335

“The Jewish feast of Passover was near”

At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ’s Body and Blood. Faithful to the Lord’s command the Church continues to do, in his memory and until his glorious return, what he did on the eve of his Passion: “He took bread….” “He took the cup filled with wine….” the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ; they continue also to signify the goodness of creation. Thus in the Offertory we give thanks to the Creator for bread and wine, fruit of the “work of human hands,” but above all as “fruit of the earth” and “of the vine” – gifts of the Creator. the Church sees in the gesture of the king-priest Melchizedek, who “brought out bread and wine” (Gn 14,18), a prefiguring of her own offering (cf. PE I).

In the Old Covenant bread and wine were offered in sacrifice among the first fruits of the earth as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Creator. But they also received a new significance in the context of the Exodus: the unleavened bread that Israel eats every year at Passover commemorates the haste of the departure that liberated them from Egypt; the remembrance of the manna in the desert will always recall to Israel that it lives by the bread of the Word of God (Dt 8,3); their daily bread is the fruit of the promised land, the pledge of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The “cup of blessing” (1Cor 10,16) at the end of the Jewish Passover meal adds to the festive joy of wine an eschatological dimension: the messianic expectation of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he gave a new and definitive meaning to the blessing of the bread and the cup.

The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist. The sign of water turned into wine at Cana already announces the Hour of Jesus’ glorification (Jn 2,4.11). It makes manifest the fulfillment of the wedding feast in the Father’s kingdom, where the faithful will drink the new wine (Mk 14,25) that has become the Blood of Christ.

Blessed Jan van Ruusbroec from The spiritual espousals, III

“The Holy Spirit will teach you all things”

The going forth of a contemplative is a heavenly life… for by means of blissful love he transcends his creaturely state and finds and savors the riches and delight which God is himself and which he causes ceaselessly to flow forth into the hidden depths of the spirit, where the spirit bears a likeness to God’s own nobility. When an interior, contemplative person has thus attained his eternal image and, in this purity and by means of the Son, has possessed the Father’s bosom, then he is enlightened with divine truth…

You should know that the heavenly Father, as a living ground and with all that lives in him, has turned actively toward his Son as toward his own eternal wisdom (Pr 8:22), and that this same wisdom, together with all that lives in it, has actively turned back toward the Father, that is, toward that same ground from which it comes forth. In this meeting between the Father and the Son there arises the third Person, the Holy Spirit, who is the love of them both and who is one with them in the same nature. In a way characterized by both activity and blissful enjoyment, the Spirit embraces and penetrates the Father and Son and all that lives in both of them with such great riches and joy that all creatures must remain silent before this, for the incomprehensible wonder which resides in this love eternally transcends the understanding of all creatures.

But when a person understands this wonder and savors it without amazement, then has his spirit been raised above itself and been made one with the Spirit of God; it savors and sees without measure, like God himself—the riches which it has itself become in the Unity of the living ground where it possesses itself in accordance with the mode of its uncreated being… Now this blessed meeting is actively renewed in us… For just as the Father ceaselessly sees all things anew in the birth of the Son, so too are all things loved anew by the Father and the Son in the flowing forth of the Holy Spirit. This is the active meeting of the Father and the Son, in which we are lovingly embraced by means of the Holy Spirit in eternal love.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Union with God in Christ according to the Letters of direction of Dom Marmion

Source of peace

I very much desire you to be able to acquire calm and peace. The best way to acquire this calmness is complete resignation to God’s holy Will: here is where the region of peace lies… Try hard to desire nothing, not to attach your heart to anything without having first of all presented it to God and placed it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus so as to be wanting it in Him and with Him.

One of the main reasons why we lose our peace of soul is that we desire something, we fix our hearts on some object without knowing whether God wants it or not, and so, when an obstacle opposes our desires, we worry about it, we move away from conformity to his holy Will and lose our peace.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from Something Beautiful for God

“Remain in me, as I remain in you”

It is not possible to engage in the direct apostolate without being a soul of prayer. We must be aware of oneness with Christ as he was aware of oneness with the Father. Our activity is truly apostolic only in so far as we permit him to work in us and through us, with his power, with his desire, with his love. We must become holy, not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us. We are to be all love, all faith, all purity, for the sake of the poor we serve. And once we have learned to seek God and his will, our contacts with the poor will become the means of great sanctity to ourselves and to others.

Love to pray – feel often during the day the need for prayer, and take trouble to pray, Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself. “Ask and seek” (Lk 11,9), and your heart will grow big enough to receive him and keep him as your own.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from Jesus, the Word to Be Spoken, ch. 12

“I have told you this so that…your joy may be complete”

Joy is a need for us and a source of strength, even physically. A Sister who cultivates a spirit of joy feels less tired and is always ready to do good. A Sister who is filled with joy preaches without preaching. A joyful Sister is like a ray of the sunshine of God’s love, the hope of an eternal joy, the flame of an ardent love.

Joy is one of the best preventions against temptation. The devil is a bearer of dust and ashes: any occasion for tipping them over us is good enough for him. But a joyful heart knows how to defend itself from them.

Saint Cyprian from The Lord's prayer

“No slave is greater than his master”

What Christ did and taught was the will of God: humility of behavior, firmness of faith, restraint in speech, righteousness of action, compassion in deed, uprightness in attitude; being incapable of wrongdoing oneself but able to support being its victim; maintaining peace with the brethren; caring for the Lord with all one’s heart, loving the Father in him and fearing the God; preferring absolutely nothing to Christ since he prefers nothing to us; cleaving inseparably to his love; standing by his cross with determination and trust; showing steadfastness in our confession of faith when we have to fight for his name and honor; demonstrating that confidence under torture that upholds us in combat and the perseverance in death that wins for us the crown. This is what it means to desire to be heir with Christ. This is what it is to obey God’s precepts, to carry out the Father’s will.

Saint Gregory the Great from Homilies on the gospels, no. 27; PL 76, 1204

“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you”

Since all of our Lord’s sacred utterances contain com­mandments, why does he say about love as if it were a special commandment: “This is my commandment, that you love one another?” It is because every commandment is about love, and they all add up to one commandment be­cause whatever is commanded is founded on love alone. As a tree’s many branches come from one root, so do many virtues come forth from love alone. The branch which is our good works has no sap unless it remains attached to the root of love. Our Lord’s commandments are then both many and one: many through the variety of the works, one in their root which is love.

Our Lord himself instructs us to love our friends in him, and our enemies for his sake. That per­son truly possesses love who loves his friend in God and his enemy for God’s sake.

There are some people who love their neighbors, drawn by blood relationship or by natural affection, and Scripture does not oppose this kind of love. But what we give freely and naturally is one thing, and the obedience we owe to the Lord’s commandments out of love is another. Those I’ve mentioned indisputably love their neighbors… but their love does not come from spiritual but from natural motives. Therefore when the Lord said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another”, he added immediately: “Just as I have loved you,” meaning, “You must love for the same reason that I have loved you.”

Saint Anthony of Padua from Sermons

“The Spirit of truth…will testify to me”

The Holy Spirit is a “stream of fire” (Dn 7,10), a divine fire. As fire acts on iron so does this divine fire act on hearts that are soiled, cold and hard. When it comes into contact with this fire, the soul gradually loses its blackness, coldness, hardness. It is transformed entirely into the likeness of the fire with which it is enflamed. Since, if the Spirit is given to a man, if he is inspired by it, then it is so that he might be transformed into its likeness so far as possible. Beneath the action of this divine fire a man is purified, warmed and melted. He attains the love of God, as the apostle Paul says: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us,” (Rom 5,5).

Saint Gregory Nazianzen from 5th Theological Discourse no. 31, 25-27; PG 36, 159

“When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you all to truth”

In the course of the ages two great revolutions have shaken the earth; we call them the two Covenants. The first one caused people to pass from idol worship to the Law, and the second, from the Law to the Gospel. A third upheaval is predicted: that which will transport us from below to above, whereupon there will be no more movement or disturbance. Now these two Covenants both share one same characteristic..: neither of them suddenly caused an instantaneous transformation… They were not to force but to persuade us. For what is imposed by force does not last…

The Old Testament manifested the Father clearly and the Son obscurely. The New Testament has revealed the Son and hinted at the divinity of the Spirit. Today the Spirit is alive in our midst and is making himself know more clearly. It would have been hazardous, so long as the Father’s divinity was not recognized, to preach the Son openly, and so long as the Son’s divinity was not acknowledged, to impose… the Holy Spirit. One might have feared that, like people who are surfeited or like those who stare at the sun with weak eyes, believers would have run the risk of losing what they had strength to bear. So the glory of the Trinity had to shine out in successive steps or, as David says, “from strength to strength” (Ps 84[83],8) and progressively, from one degree of glory to another…

I would like to add one further consideration: our Savior knew certain things that he considered his disciples would be unable to bear in spite of all the teaching they had already received. For the same reasons as I said above, he kept these things hidden. And he emphasized that when the Spirit came, he would teach them all things.

Blessed John Henry Newman from Lectures on Justification, no. 9, 9

Our life “now hidden with Christ in God,” (Col 3,3)

Christ, who promised to make all his disciples one in God with Him, who promised that we should be in God and God in us, has made us so,—has in some mysterious way accomplished for us this great work, this stupendous privilege. It would seem, moreover, as I have said, that He has done so by ascending to the Father; that His ascent bodily is His descent spiritually; that His taking our nature up to God, is the descent of God into us; that He has truly, though in an unknown sense, taken us to God, or brought down God to us, according as we view it.

Thus, when St. Paul says that ) we may suppose him to intimate that our principle of existence is no longer a mortal, earthly principle, such as Adam’s after his fall, but that we are baptized and hidden anew in God’s glory, in that Shekinah of light and purity which we lost when Adam fell,—that we are new-created, transformed, spiritualized, glorified in the Divine Nature,—that through the participation of Christ, we receive, as through a channel, the true Presence of God within and without us, imbuing us with sanctity and immortality.

This, I repeat, is our justification, our ascent through Christ to God, or God’s descent through Christ to us; we may call it either of the two… we are in Him, He in us; Christ being “the One Mediator,” (1Tm 2,5) “the way, the truth, and the life,” (Jn 14,6) joining earth with heaven. And this is our true Righteousness… not only forgiveness or favor as an act of the Divine Mind, not only sanctification within, -… it is the indwelling of our glorified Lord. This is the one great gift of God.

Saint Caesarius of Arles from Sermon 166

“The kingdom of God is… justice, peace, and the joy that is given by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17)

What is true joy, brethren, other than the kingdom of heaven? And what is the kingdom of heaven other than Christ our Lord? I know that everyone wants to have true joy. But the person who wants to be happy with his harvest without cultivating his field is deluding himself; the person who wants to harvest fruit without planting trees is mistaken. We cannot have true joy without righteousness and peace… At present, respecting righteousness and having peace, we work hard for a short time like people bent over good work. But afterwards, we will rejoice without end because of the fruit of that work.

Listen to the apostle Paul, who said of Christ: “It is he who is our peace.” (Eph 2:14) … And speaking to his disciples, the Lord told them: “I shall see you again; then your hearts will rejoice with a joy no one can take from you.” What is that joy that no one can take from you other than your Lord himself, whom no one can take from you?

So examine your conscience, brethren; if righteousness reigns there, if you want, desire and wish the same thing for everyone as for yourself, if there is peace in you, not only with your friends but equally with your enemies, then know that the kingdom of heaven, which is to say Christ the Lord, abides in you.

Saint Theophilus of Antioch

“A division occurred in the crowd because of him”

It is with our bodily eyes that we notice what is happening in life and all around us: we observe the difference between light and darkness, white and black, ugly and beautiful… ; the same thing happens with regard to what comes to us through our sense of hearing : high-pitched, low-pitched, concordant. However, we also have ears of the heart and eyes of the soul and with these it is possible to grasp God. Thus God is perceived by those who can see him when the eyes of their souls have been opened.

We all have physical eyes but, for some of us, they are veiled and don’t see the light of day. If the blind can’t see, this is not because the light of the sun is not shining! It is themselves and their eyes that the blind are handicapped by. The same applies to you : the eyes of your soul are covered over by your sins and evil deeds… ; when someone sins, they can’t see God anymore…

Nevertheless, if you want to, you can be healed. Entrust yourself to the doctor and he will operate on the eyes of your soul and heart. Which doctor is this ? It is God, who heals and gives life through his Word and Wisdom. For it is through his Word and Wisdom that God made all things… If you understand this and your life is pure and pious and upright, then you are able to see God. But before all else let faith and the fear of God enter your heart first and then you will understand it. When you have put off mortality and put on immortality (1Cor 15:53) then you will see God according as you deserve. He is the God who will raise up your flesh to immortality along with your soul. And then, when you have become immortal, you will see the immortal God insofar as you have believed in him now.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem from Baptismal Catecheses no. 16

“It is the Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor 3,6)

“The water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4,14). This is a new kind of water, living, welling up, welling up for those who are worthy. Why did he call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things depend on water. Water produces herbs and living things. Water comes down form heaven as rain: water always comes down in the same form, yet its effects are manifold – thus it takes one form in the palm tree, another in the vine… For the rain does not change, coming down now as one thing and now as another, but it adapts itself to the nature of the things which receive it and it becomes what is appropriate to each.

Similarly with the Holy Spirit. He is one and of one nature and indivisible, but “he apportions his grace to each as he wills” (cf. 1Cor 12,11). When the dry tree is watered it brings forth shoots. So, too, the soul in sin: when through penance it is made worthy of the grace of the Holy Spirit, it bears the fruits of justice. Though the Spirit is one in nature, yet by the will of God and in the name of Christ he brings about multiple effects of virtue.

He uses the tongue of one person for wisdom, he illumines the soul of another by prophecy, to another he imparts the power of driving out devils, to another the gift of interpreting the sacred scriptures; he strengthens the self-control of one, teaches another the nature of alsmgiving, another to fast and mortify himself, another to despise the things of the body; he prepares another for martyrdom. He acts differently in different people while himself remaining unchanged, as it is written: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1Cor 12,7).

Saint Justin from The First Apology

The first historical testimony of Christian baptism, in Rome in the middle of the second century

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicate ourselves to God when we have been made new through Christ… Those who believe that what we teach and say is true, and who undertake to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and entreat God with fasting for the remission of their past sins, we also praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us to where there is water and are regenerated in the same manner in which we ourselves were regenerated. In the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they are then washed with water.

For Christ said, “Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Now, it is manifest to all that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins is declared by Isaiah the prophet: “Wash yourselves clean; put away your misdeeds from your souls; learn to do good… Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord. And though your sins be like scarlet, I will make them white like wool.” (Is 1:16f)… This is what we have learned from the apostles. At our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together… In order that we may not remain children of necessity and ignorance but become children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in water the remission of the sins we formerly committed, we pronounce over those who choose to be born again and who have repented of their sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe. The one who leads to baptism the person that is to be washed calls God by this name alone. For no one can utter the name of the ineffable God…

And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understanding. And he who is illuminated is washed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus.

Saint Thomas of Villanova from Sermon for Low Sunday

³My Lord and my God!²

Thomas said: ³Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.² What an astonishing hardness of heart on this disciple¹s part: not even the witness of so many of the brethren nor even the sight of their joy were enough to give him faith. Yet the Lord appeared to take care of him. The good Shepherd does not allow the loss of his sheep (Mt 18:12) having said to his Father: ³You gave them to me and none of them was lost² (Jn 17:6.12). Let the shepherds learn, then, what care they should show towards their sheep since the Lord came for a single one. Any care and labor are a small thing compared with the importance of one soulŠ

³Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.² O blessed hand that penetrated the secrets of the heart of Christ! What riches did they not find in it? It was while resting on this heart that John drew out the mysteries of heaven (Jn 13:25), while penetrating it that Thomas found great treasures: what a wonderful school which forms such disciples! Thanks to it, the former expressed marvelous things higher than the stars concerning the divinity when he said: ³In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God² (Jn 1:1). And the latter, touched by the light of Truth, cried out this sublime cry: ³My Lord and my God!²

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from A Simple Path, p. 171

“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.”

Works of love are always works of peace. Whenever you share love with others, you’ll notice the peace that comes to you and to them. When there is peace, there is God – that is how God touches our lives and shows His love for us by pouring peace and joy into our hearts.

Lead me from death to life,
From falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
From fear to truth.
Lead me from hate to love,
From war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts,
Our world our universe
Peace peace peace.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 2nd Sermon for Epiphany (cf. SC 166, p.259)

“I have made your name known to them.”

We give you thanks, Father of lights (Jas 1:17), for having called us “out of darkness into your marvelous light” (1 Pt 2:9). We give you thanks because, by your word, you caused light to shine out of darkness and shine in our hearts to enlighten us by the knowledge of the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). Yes, the true light – and even more, eternal life – “is to know you, the only God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”

We know you because we know Jesus, for the Father and the Son are one (Jn 10:30). We know you by faith, it is true, and we hold this faith like a sure pledge that we shall know by seeing. Nevertheless, between now and then, increase our faith (Lk 17:5), lead us from faith to faith, from brightness to brightness as by the motion of your Spirit, so that each day we might penetrate more into the depths of light. Thus our faith will develop, our knowledge will be enriched, our love will become more fervent and more universal, until faith leads us to the encounter face to face.

Benedict XVI from Speech given on 31/05/2006 before the Lourdes grotto om the Vatican Gardens

Wherever Mary comes, Jesus is there

On today’s Feast of the Visitation, as in every passage of the Gospel, we see Mary docile to the divine plan and with an attitude of provident love for the brethren. In fact, the humble maiden from Nazareth, still amazed at what the Angel Gabriel had announced to her – that is, that she would be the mother of the promised Messiah -, learned that in her old age her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth had also conceived a son. She immediately set out with haste for the house of her cousin, the Evangelist notes (cf. Lk 1:39), to offer her help at a time of special need.

How can we fail to see that the hidden protagonist in the meeting between the young Mary and the by-then elderly Elizabeth is Jesus? Mary bears him in her womb as in a sacred tabernacle and offers him as the greatest gift to Zechariah, to Elizabeth, his wife, and also to the infant developing in her womb. “Behold”, the Mother of John the Baptist says, “when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1: 44). Whoever opens his or her heart to the Mother encounters and welcomes the Son and is pervaded by his joy. True Marian devotion never obscures or diminishes faith and love for Jesus Christ Our Saviour, the one Mediator between God and humankind. On the contrary, entrustment to Our Lady is a privileged path, tested by numerous saints, for a more faithful following of the Lord. Consequently, let us entrust ourselves to her with filial abandonment!

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies, IV, 14 (SC 100, p.537 rev.)

“So that he may give eternal life to all you gave him”

In the beginning it was not because he had need of man that God fashioned Adam but so as to have someone on whom to set his blessings. For, not only before Adam but even before creation, the Word glorified the Father while dwelling in him and was glorified by the Father as he himself said: “Father, glorify me with the glory that I had with you before the world began.” Further, it wasn’t because he needed our help that he told us to follow him but to win salvation for us. Because following the Savior is to share in salvation just as following the light is to have a share in the light.

When people stand in the light, it is not they who illumine the light and cause it to shine but who are illumined and made to shine by it. Far from contributing anything at all to it, they benefit from the light and are lit up by it. This is how it is in serving God: our service contributes nothing to God for God has no need of man’s service; but to those who serve and follow him God gives life, incorruptibility and eternal glory…

If God requests man’s service it is so that he who is good and merciful might grant his blessings to those who persevere in his service. For, if God has no need of anything, yet man has need of communion with God. The glory of man is to persevere in the service of God. That is why our Savior said to his disciples: “It was not you who chose me but I who chose you” (Jn 15,16). Thus he showed that it was not they who glorified him by following him but that, since they had followed the Son of God, they were glorified by him. “Father, I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory” (Jn 17,24).

Saint Anselm from Proslogion, 26

“So that your joy may be complete”

My Lord and my God, my joy and the hope of my heart, tell my soul if this is that joy which you spoke to us about through your Son: “Ask and you will receive that your joy may be full”. For I have found a fullness of joy that is more than full. It is a joy that fills the whole heart, mind, and soul, indeed it fills the whole of my being, and yet joy without measure still remains. The whole of that joy cannot enter into those who rejoice, but those who rejoice can enter wholly into that joy.

Speak, Lord, to your servant in the depths of his heart, tell him if this is that joy your servants enter into when they enter into “the joy of their Lord” (Mt 25,21)? But of course, that joy in which your chosen ones will rejoice “eye has not seen and ear has not heard, nor has it entered the human heart” (1Cor 2,9)… So, my God, I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you.

And if I may not do so fully in this life, let me go steadily on to the day when I come to that fullness. Let the knowledge of you increase in me here and there let it come to its fullness. Let your love grow in me here, and there et it be fulfilled, so that here my joy may be in great hope, and there in full reality. Lord, you have commanded, or rather advised us, to ask by your Son, and you have promised that we shall receive that our joy may be full… Let my whole being desire it until I enter into the joy of my Lord.

Saint John Climacus from The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Shepherds following the one Shepherd

The true shepherd is he who, by his goodness, zeal and prayer, is able to seek out and restore to the right way those reasonable sheep who are lost. The pilot is one who has obtained, by the grace of God and his own labors, a spiritual strength that enables him to rescue his vessel not only from tempestuous seas but from the deep abyss itself. The doctor is one who has achieved health of body and soul and has no need of any remedy for them.

A good pilot saves his ship and a good shepherd restores to life and heals his ailing sheep. When the sheep are out at pasture, let the shepherd not cease to make use of the flute of the word, especially when the flock are making ready to sleep. For the wolf fears nothing so much as the shepherd’s flute. Inasmuch as the sheep have faithfully followed the shepherd and made progress, so will he answer for them before the Master of the household.

It is charity that discloses the true shepherd since it is out of charity that the great shepherd of the sheep willed to be crucified.

Saint Athanasius from On the Incarnation of the Word, 13 (SC 199, p. 311f)

“Christ is the image of the invisible God; through him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:15.14)

Since humankind had lost its reason and the demons’ deceit was casting its shadow on every side and concealing knowledge of the true God, what was God to do? Remain silent before such a situation? Accept the fact that people had strayed away in this way and did not know God?… Was not God going to spare his creatures from having strayed so far from him and being subject to nothingness, especially if their straying were to become the cause of ruin and loss for them, whereas beings who share the image of God (Gn 1:26) ought not to perish? So what should God do about it? What should he do but renew his image in them so that they might know him once again?

But how could this come about except through the very presence of God’s image (Col 1:15), our Saviour Jesus Christ? We ourselves could not bring this about since we are not the image but are created according to the image. It could not be brought about by angels either, since even they are only images. That is why the Word of God himself came, he who is the image of the Father, so that he might be in a position to restore this image in the depths of our being. Besides, this could not happen unless death and the degradation that follows it were annihilated. Therefore, he took a mortal body so that he could blot out death and restore the human creature made in God’s image. Thus the very image of the Father, his most holy Son, came among us to restore those who were made in his likeness and to find them again after they were lost through the remission of their sins, as he himself said: “I came to seek and to save what was lost,” (Lk 19:10).

Saint Catherine of Siena from Dialogues 167, 2-3

“I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth”

Thanks, thanks be to you, eternal Father, that you have not despised me, your handiwork, nor turned your face from me, nor made light of these desires of mine. You, Light, have disregarded my darksomeness; you, Life, have not considered that I am death; nor you, Doctor, considered these grave weaknesses of mine. You, eternal Purity, have disregarded my wretched filthiness; you who are infinite have overlooked the fact that I am finite, and you, Wisdom, the fact that I am foolishness. For all these and so many other endless evils and sins of mine, your wisdom, your kindness, your mercy, your infinite goodness have not despised me. No, in your light you have given me light (Ps 36:10). In your wisdom I have come to know the truth; in your mercy I have found your charity and affection for my neighbors. What has compelled you? Not my virtues but only your charity. Let this same love compel you to enlighten the eye of my understanding with the light of faith, so that I may know your truth, which you have revealed to me.

Let my memory be great enough to hold your favors, and set my will ablaze in your charity’s fire. Let that fire burst the seed of my body and bring forth blood; then with that blood, given for love of your blood, and with the key of obedience, let me unlock heaven’s gate. I heartily ask the same of you for every reasoning creature, all and each of them, and for the mystic body of holy Church. I acknowledge, and do not deny, that you loved me before I existed, and that you love me unspeakably much, as one gone mad over your creature.

Saint John of the Cross from Sayings of light and love

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…with all your strength”

The strength of the soul lies in its powers, passions and faculties. If the will turns them Godwards and away from everything that is not God, then the soul keeps all its strength for God alone. It truly loves him with all its might as the Lord himself commands.

To seek oneself in God is to seek for the sweetness and consolation of God, which is the opposite of pure love of God.

It is a very great evil to have God’s gifts in view rather than God himself together with prayer and detachment.

There are many who seek their own consolation and tastes in God and who wish that His Majesty would fill them with his favors and gifts. But the number of those who claim to please him and give him something at their own expense, abandoning their own interest, is very small.

There are few spiritual persons, even among those considered to be very advance in virtue, who achieve a perfect orientation to good. They never succeed in entirely renouncing themselves on some point regarding the spirit of the world or of nature, nor of paying no attention to what others say or think of them. But what is required is the fulfilment of works of perfection and detachment for love of Jesus Christ.

No one who wants God alone walks in darkness, however poor and lacking in light he appears to be in his own eyes…

The soul who, in the midst of dryness and abandonment, always keeps its attention and care focussed on serving God may well feel sorrow and fear that it will not succeed. But in reality it offers to God a sweet smelling sacrifice (Gen 8,21).

Benedict XVI from Message for Lent 2008

“She, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood”

How significant is the Gospel story of the widow who, out of her poverty, cast into the Temple treasury «all she had to live on». Her tiny and insignificant coin becomes an eloquent symbol: this widow gives to God not out of her abundance, not so much what she has, but what she is. Her entire self.

We find this moving passage inserted in the description of the days that immediately precede Jesus’ passion and death, who, as Saint Paul writes, «made Himself poor to enrich us out of His poverty» (2Cor 8,9); He gave His entire self for us… In His school, we can learn to make of our lives a total gift; imitating Him, we are able to make ourselves available, not so much in giving a part of what we possess, but our very selves. Cannot the entire Gospel be summarized perhaps in the one commandment of love? The… practice of almsgiving thus becomes a means to deepen our Christian vocation. In gratuitously offering himself, the Christian bears witness that it is love and not material richness that determines the laws of his existence. Love, then, gives almsgiving its value; it inspires various forms of giving, according to the possibilities and conditions of each person.

Saint Ephrem from Hymn on the Trinity

“One only God, one only Lord, in the Trinity of their persons and unity of their nature” (Preface)

Refrain: Blessed be the One who sends you!

Take as your symbols: the sun for the Father,
light for the Son,
heat for the Holy Spirit.

Though he is only one in being
we see him in trinity.
Who, indeed, can grasp the inexplicable?

He who is unique is also multiple: one is formed of three
and three of one –
What great mystery! What manifest wonder!

The sun is distinct from its shining
even while adhering to it,
for its ray is also sun.

Yet no one speaks of two suns
even though, here below,
the sun’s ray is also sun.

No more do we say there would be two Gods.
Our Lord himself, is he not God?
He is also raised above all creatures.

Who can show how or where
the sun’s ray and its heat are joined,
free as they are?

Neither separated nor confused,
united and yet distinct,
free but bound: O wonder!

Who, by studying them, can master them?
Yet do they not seem
so simple, so uncomplicated?…

Whereas the sun remains whole above,
its brilliance and heat are a clear symbol
for those of us below.

Indeed, its shining has come down to earth
and remains in our sight
as though clothing our flesh.

When our eyes close like those of the dead
at the time of sleeping, it leaves them
who will later awake.

But how light penetrates the eye
no one knows.
Even so was it with our Lord in the womb…

Even so, our Saviour
put on a human body in all its weakness
that he might come to sanctify the world.

Yet, when the sun’s ray returns to its source,
it has still not been separated
from the one who gave it birth.

It leaves its heat to those below
as our Lord left the Holy Spirit
to the disciples.

Consider these images within the created world;
as for the Three, allow yourself no doubt
lest you be lost!

I have clarified for you what was obscure:
how Three form but One,
A Trinity composing one single essence!

John Tauler from Sermon 7

Bearing good fruit

In a vineyard we turn over the earth and weed around the foot of the vines. A man also needs to be weeded, paying great attention to what might still remain to be pulled up in the depths of his being so that the divine Sun can come closer to it and shine there. If you allow the power from on high to do its work…, the sun grows bright, shoots its burning rays onto the fruit and makes it more and more transparent. Sweetness condenses more and more into it, the rind around it becomes very thin. So it is in the spiritual sphere. Obstacles standing in the way eventually become so tenuous that we can receive the divine touch uninterruptedly, from close to. As often and as soon as we turn to it we find the divine Sun shining within us with greater brilliance than all the suns that have ever shone in the sky. In this way everything in a man is deified to the point that he neither feels, nor tastes, nor knows anything so truly as God, with a knowledge that is well founded, and this knowledge greatly surpasses the mode of understanding proper to our reason.

Eventually, the leaves on the shoots are stripped off so that the sun can shine onto the fruit without meeting any obstacle. So it is with these persons: all intermediaries fall away and they receive everything in an unmediated way. Here prayers, images of the saints, practices of devotion, spiritual exercises all fall away. However, one should take care, nevertheless, not to spurn these practices before they fall away of themselves. But then, at this step, the fruit becomes so unutterably sweet that no mere reasoning can understand it… We are nothing but one with the divine sweetness to such a degree that our being is wholly penetrated by the divine Being and loses itself in it like a drop of water in a great vat of wine… Here, our good intentions, our humble efforts, are all simplicity itself, a mystery so essentially tranquil that we are scarcely aware of it.

Saint Bernard from 3rd sermon for the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, passim

“I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostles” (1 Co 15, 9)

Rightly, my brethren, does the Church apply these words of the Wise Man to the holy apostles, Peter and Paul: “These also were godly men whose virtues have not been forgotten; their wealth remains with their descendants” (Sir 44,10-11). Yes, we might very truly refer to them as godly men since they won mercy for themselves, were full of mercy, and it was in his mercy that God gave them to us.

Now see what mercy it was that they won. If you question Paul about it… he will tell you himself: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated by God” (cf. 1Tm 1,13). Indeed, who doesn’t know about all the dreadful things he did to the Christians in Jerusalem… and even in the whole of Judea?… As for the blessed Peter, I have something different to tell you, but it is something that is all the more sublime as it is unique. For in fact, if Paul sinned he did so unawares since he was without faith; but Peter’s eyes, to the contrary, were wide open at the time of his fall (Mt 26,69f.). Yet “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rm 5,20)… If Saint Peter could rise up to such a height of sanctity after so disastrous a fall, who can now despair, however little he, too, desires to forsake his sins? Note what the Gospel says: “He went out and wept bitterly” (v.75)…

You have heard what mercy the apostles obtained, and from now on none of you will be crushed by his past sins more than is necessary… If you sinned, didn’t Paul sin even more? If you fell, didn’t Peter fall even deeper than you? Now both of them, by repenting, not only gained salvation but became great saints. They even became ministers of salvation and teachers of holiness. Do the same yourself, my brother, because it is for your sake that Scripture calls them “godly men”.

Catechism of the Catholic Church §830-835

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

The Church is Catholic. The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense: first, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.” (St Ignatius of Antioch) In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head (Eph 1,22-23)… The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race (Mt 28,19). All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one” (Vatican II, LG 13)….

Each particular Church is “catholic”… These particular Churches “are constituted after the model of the universal Church; it is in these and formed out of them that the one and unique Catholic Church exists” (LG 23). Particular Churches are fully catholic through their communion with one of them, the Church of Rome “which presides in charity” (St Ignatius of Antioch). “For with this church, by reason of its pre-eminence, the whole Church, that is the faithful everywhere, must necessarily be in accord” (St Irenaeus)… The rich variety of ecclesiastical disciplines, liturgical rites, and theological and spiritual heritages proper to the local churches “unified in a common effort, shows all the more resplendently the catholicity of the undivided Church” (LG 23).

St. Augustine from Meditations, ch. 37

“Lord, save us!”

O my God, my heart is like an immense sea, constantly tossed about by storms:may it find its peace and rest in you. You commanded the winds and the sea tobe calm and they were stilled at the sound of your voice; come, still myheart’s restlessness so that everything within me may be calm and peaceful andso that I may possess you, O my only good, and contemplate you, O sweet lightof my eyes, free from disturbance or darkness. O my God, may my soul, set freefrom restless thoughts of this world, “hide under the shadow of yourwings” (Ps 17[16],8). May it find its place of refreshment and peace closeto you; wholly carried out of itself with joy, may it sing: “In you alone Ilie down and fall peacefully asleep” (Ps 4,9).

Let it rest, I pray, my God, let it rest from the remembrance ofall that lies beneath the heaven, awake to you alone, as it is written: “Isleep, but my heart keeps vigil” (Sg 5,2). O my God, my heart cannot rest inpeace or safety except beneath the wings of your protection (Ps 91[90],4). Letit therefore remain in you forever and be kindled by your fire. Rising aboveitself, may it contemplate you and joyfully sing your praises. In the midst ofall the difficulties that disturb me, may your gifts be my sweet consolationuntil I come to you, O my true peace.

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

“Go into the whole word and proclaim the gospel of every creature” (Mc 16, 15)

“Put your finger into the mark of the nails”, Jesus said to Thomas. “Youwere looking for me when I was not here; take advantage of it now that I amhere. I know what you are wanting to do in spite of your silence. Even beforeyou tell me, I know what you are thinking. I heard what you said and, eventhough unseen, I was beside you, close to your doubts, and made you wait sothat I could witness your impatience all the better without revealing myself .Put your finger into the mark of the nails; put your hand into my side; and donot be unbelieving, but believe.”

Then Thomas touched him. All his defiance fell away and, filled withsincere faith and all the love owing to God, he cried out: “My Lord and myGod!” And the Lord said to him: “You have believed because you have seenme. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe! Thomas, take the newsof my resurrection to those who have not seen. Lead the whole world to belief,not at the evidence of its eyes but at your word. Go through peoples and pagancities. Teach them to the carry the cross on their shoulders, not weapons…Tell them they are called by grace and, as for you, consider their faith:truly, happy are those who have not seen and yet believe!”

Such is the army the Lord has raised; these are the children of thebaptismal pool, the works of grace, the harvest of the Spirit. They havefollowed Christ without having seen him; they sought and they believed. Theyrecognised with the eyes of faith, not of the body. They have not placed theirfingers in the marks of the nails but have been fastened to his cross andembraced his sufferings. They have not seen the Lord’s side but, throughgrace, have been made one with his members and have made their own these wordsof the Lord: “Happy are those who have not seen and have believed!”

Saint John Chrysostom from homily on the word cemetery and on the cross

Setting the prisoners free

Today Jesus Christ has entered the depths of hell, conquering them. Today, “bronze doors he has shattered, iron bars he has snapped”, as Isaiah says (45,2). Take note of these words. He does not say that he has “opened” the bronze doors or has taken them down but that he has “shattered” them, in this way making us understand that the prison-house exists no more, that Jesus has totally destroyed the place where captives dwell. A prison that no longer has doors or bolts can hold its prisoners no more. Who could rebuild the doors that Christ has shattered? Who could replace the bolts that he has snapped?

When the princes of the earth set prisoners free by issuing a reprieve, they still leave in place the gates and prison guards to show those who are leaving that they might still return – either they or some others. But Christ does not act like this. When he shatters the bronze doors, he bears witness that there is no more captivity, no more death.

Why “bronze” doors? Because death was pitiless, inflexible, as hard as diamond. Not once through all the centuries before Jesus Christ, not once did any of its captives escape it until the day when the Lord of heaven descended to the abyss to snatch its victims from it.

Saint Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 31

The fast of the friends of the Bridegroom

“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” … Why ? Because in your minds fasting is a matter of the law and not of a spontaneous gift. Fasting has no value in itself; what matters is the desire of the one who fasts. What sort of profit do you think to get out of it, you who fast because you are obliged or forced to do so? Fasting is a wonderful plough for working the field of holiness: it turns back hearts, uproots evil, pulls up sins, expels vices, sows charity; it nurtures fruitfulness and prepares a harvest of innocence. In the heart of the field ripe for holiness, Christ’s disciples themselves are inserted. They gather up sheaves of the virtues and enjoy bread from the new harvest: no longer can they practice fasts that have been superseded from now on…

“Why do your disciples not fast?” Our Lord answered them: “Can the friends of the Bridegroom fast while the Bridegroom is still with them?”… A man who takes a wife sets fasting aside and abandons austerity. He gives himself up wholly to rejoicing, takes part in banqueting, shows himself friendly, amiable and gay and does anything that arouses his love for his bride. At that time Christ was celebrating his wedding feast with the Church and that is why he consented to take part at meals and did not refuse those who invited him. Overflowing with kindness and love, he showed himself to be human, approachable, friendly. He wanted to unite man to God and make of his companions members of the divine family.

Isaac of Stella from Sermon 11 (breviary)

“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)

Saint Hilary from Commentary on Saint Matthew's Gospel, 9, 5-8 (cf SC 254, p 209f)

“The girl is not dead but sleeping”

This synagogue official can be understood as representing the Law of Moses who, when interceding on behalf of the crowd he had nurtured for Christ by preaching the expectation of his coming, asks the Lord to restore a dead woman to life… The Lord promised to help him and, to assure him of it, he followed him.

First of all, however, the mass of pagan sinners was saved together with the apostles. The gift of life reverted in the first place to the elect predestined by the Law and yet, before that, salvation was bestowed on publicans and sinners in the image of the woman. That was why this woman was confident that, coming upon the Lord as he passed by, she would be healed of her haemorrhage at the touch of the Lord’s garment… In her faith she was in haste to touch the fringe of his garment, that is to say to attain, together with the apostles, the gift of the Holy Spirit emanating from Christ’s body after the manner of a fringe. She was swiftly healed. Thus the cure intended for the one was also granted to the other, whose faith and  perseverance the Lord praised since what had been prepared for Israel had been received by the gentiles… The healing power of the Lord contained in his body spread even to the fringes of his garments. For indeed God is neither divisible nor graspable in such a way as to be enclosed within a body. He himself shares out his gifts in the Spirit but is not divided among his gifts. In every place his power is touched by faith because it exists everywhere and is never absent from anywhere. The body he took did not restrict his power but his power took on the weakness of a body to redeem it…

Then the Lord entered the official’s house, otherwise called the synagogue…, and many people mocked him. Effectively, they didn’t believe in the God-man and laughed to hear him preach the resurrection from the dead. Taking the young girl’s hand the Lord restored her to life, whose death, where he was concerned, was nothing but a dream.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from Letter 135

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

One day I was pondering over what I could do to save souls; a phrase from the Gospel showed me a clear light: Jesus said to his disciples, pointing to the fields of ripe corn, “Look up and see the fields ripe for harvest” (Jn 4,35) and a little later, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers”. How mysterious it is! Is not Jesus all-powerful? Do not creatures belong to Him who made them? Why then does Jesus say: “Pray the master of the harvest to send out laborers … “? Why? …

Ah! Jesus has so incomprehensible a love for us, that He wants us to have a share with Him in the salvation of souls. He wants to do nothing without us. The creator of the universe waits for the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls redeemed like itself at the price of all His blood.

Our vocation, yours and mine, is not to go harvesting in the fields of ripe corn; Jesus does not say to us; “Lower your eyes, look at the fields, and go and reap them”; our mission is still loftier. Here are Jesus’ words: “Lift up your eyes and see …. ” See how in my Heaven there are places empty; it is for you to fill them … each one of you is my Moses praying on the mountain (Ex 17,8f.); ask Me for laborers and I shall send them, I await only a prayer, a sigh from your heart!

Vatican Council II from Message to Rulers

“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

To all those who hold temporal power, what does the Church ask of you today?… She asks of you only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men her message of life. Do not fear her. She is made after the image of her Master, whose mysterious action does not interfere with your pre­rogatives but heals everythirig human of its fatal weakness, transfigures it, and fills it with hope, truth, and beauty.

Allow Christ to exercise His purifying action on society! Do not crucify Him anew. This would be a sacrilege for He is the Son of God. This would be suicide for He is the Son of man. And we, His humble ministers, allow us to spread everywhere without hindrance the gospel of peace on which we have meditated during this Council. Of it, your peoples will be the first beneficiaries, since the Church forms for you loyal citizens, friends of social peace and progress.

On this solemn day when she closes the deliberations of her twenty-first Ecumenical Council, the Church offers you through our voice her friendship, het services, her spiritual and moral forces. She addresses to you all her message of salvation and blessing. Accept it, as she offers it to you, with a joyous and sincere heart and pass it on to your peoples!

Eusebius of Caesarea from Ecclesiastical History, II, 3, 9

The martyrdom of Saint James the apostle

With the powerful cooperation of Heaven the whole world was suddenly lit by the sunshine of the saving word. At once, in accordance with holy Scriptures, the voice of its inspired evangelists and apostles went forth into all the earth, and “their words to the ends of the world” (Ps 19[18]:5). In every town and village, like a well-filled threshing floor, churches shot up, bursting with eager members…

At the time of Claudius, King Herod made a determined attack on certain members of the Church, killing James the brother of John with the headsman’s sword. Referring to this James, Clement [of Alexandria] tells an interesting story on the strength of an authentic tradition. It appears that the man who brought him into court was so moved when he saw him testify that he confessed that he, too, was a Christian. So they were both taken away together, and on the way he asked James to forgive him. James thought for a moment; then he said: “I wish you peace” and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time.

Then, as we read in the sacred record, Herod, seeing how his action in putting James to death had given satisfaction to the Jews, laid hands on Peter as well, clapped him in prison, and was on the very point of perpetrating his murder too but for divine intervention. In the night an angel stood before him and he was miraculously released from his fetters and set free for the ministry of preaching (Acts 12:4-17).

Saint Jerome from Commentary on the prophet Joel; PL 25, 967

Jesus calls the cities of Galilee to conversion

“The Lord is gracious and merciful” and prefers the conversion of a sinner rather than his death (Jl 2:13). “Patient and generous in his mercy”, he does not give in to human impatience but is willing to wait a long time for our repentance. So extraordinary is the Lord’s mercy in the face of evil, that if we do penance for our sins, he regrets his own threat and does not carry out against us the sanctions he had threatened. So by the changing of our attitude, he himself is changed…

In like manner, given all that the prophet has said above – that God is kind and merciful, patient, generous with his forgiveness, and extraordinary in his mercy toward evil – lest the magnitude of his clemency make us lax and negligent, he adds this word, “Who knows whether he will not turn and repent and leave behind him a blessing?” (v. 14) In other words, he says, “I exhort you to repentance, because it is my duty, and I know that God is inexhaustibly merciful, as David says, “Have mercy on me, God, according to your great mercy, and in the depths of your compassion, blot out all my iniquities” (Ps 50:3). But since we cannot know the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Rm 11:33), I will temper my statement, expressing a wish rather than taking anything for granted, and I will say, “Who knows whether he will not turn and repent?” Since he says, “Who”, it must be understood that it is not possible to know absolutely for sure.

Rupert of Deutz from On the Trinity and all its works, 42, 4; PL 167, 1130

“There is something greater than Solomon here”

Having joined in collusion with her, the prophet Nathan, together with Bathsheba, petitioned for their plan before the old man, the wise king David, now close to death (1Kgs 1). Then it was that Solomon, whose name means “Lord of peace”, received the royal anointing. Then all the people went up after him; the crowds played on trumpets and gave themselves up to such great rejoicing that the noise of it caused the earth to shake, for the king had declared: “Solomon is the one whom I designate as ruler over Israel and Judah” (vv. 35.40). Now, without question, this enthronement prefigured the mystery of which Daniel speaks: “While the court was convened and the books were opened… I saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory and kingship” (Dn 7:10.13-14).

Thus it was at a prophet’s initiative that Solomon was made king, just as it was in fulfilling the prophecies according to their spiritual sense that Christ, the Son of God, was acknowledged King of Peace, King of the Father’s glory, drawing all things to himself. Solomon became king while his father was still alive just as Christ was inaugurated king by God the Father, who cannot die. Indeed, there is no doubt that he made him king and “heir of all things” (Heb 1:2) who does not die and will not die for ever, and – marvellous and unprecedented event – Christ, who is heir of a Father who lives for ever and can never die and who himself died once for all, came back to life and will no longer know death for ever.

Then Solomon “mounted the king’s mule” (1Kgs 1:38). But better still, it is on his Father’s throne, that is to say the whole Church…, “far above every principality, authority, power and dominion” (Eph 1:21) that Christ now sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). This is why the great multitude of people goes up after him with songs and rejoicing and earth trembles at their shouts. And we, too, have heard the great joy of those who made this glory known, that is to say the gladness of the apostles as they spoke in the languages of people everywhere (Acts 2), for “their words have gone out through all the earth and their message to the ends of the world” (Ps 19[18]:5).

Homily attributed to Saint Macarius of Egypt from Spiritual homilies, no. 51

‘An enemy has done this.’

I am writing to you, my brothers, so you might know that, since the day when Adam was created until the end of the world, the Evil One wages war against the saints without respite (Rev 13,7)… They are few, however, who realize that this destroyer of souls lives with them inside their bodies, close to the soul. It is there that they feel distress and there is no one on earth to comfort them. That is why they look to heaven and place all their expectation there, waiting to receive something within themselves. And by means of this strength and thanks to this armor of the Spirit (Eph 6,13), they shall overcome. For truly, it is from heaven that they acquire a strength hidden from the eyes of the flesh. So long as they seek God with all their heart, God’s strength constantly comes in secret to their assistance… It is precisely because they are sensitive to their weakness and are unable to overcome that they so ardently beg for God’s armor and, thus clothed for the fight with the weapons of the Spirit (Eph 6,13), they become victorious…

You should know, then, beloved brethren, that in all those who have prepared their soul to provide good soil for the heavenly sowing, the enemy makes haste to sow his tares… Know also that those who do not seek the Lord with all their heart are not tempted by Satan in so manifest a way; rather, it is in hidden ways and more by trickery that he tries… to push them away from God.

But now, brothers, take heart and don’t be afraid of anything. Don’t allow yourselves to be frightened by the imaginations stirred up by the enemy. Don’t give in to a confused restlessness in prayer by multiplying unnecessary petitions, but receive the Lord’s grace with contrition and repentance… Take heart, be comforted, hold fast, concern yourselves with your souls, persevere in prayer with all zeal… For all those who seek God in truth will receive divine strength in their soul and, in receiving this heavenly unction, they will feel within themselves the taste and sweetness of the world to come. May the peace of the Lord, that peace which was with all the holy fathers and kept them safe from every temptation, be also with you.

Saint Romanos Melodios from Hymn 40 (SC 128, p.397f.)

Mary Magdalene, messenger of the resurrection

He who searches the heart and mind (Ps 7:10), knowing that Mary would recognise his voice, called to his lamb like a true shepherd (Jn 10:4), saying: “Mary!” At once she said: “Yes, this is indeed my good shepherd calling me, so that henceforth he might include me with the ninety-nine sheep (Lk 15:4). Behind him I see legions of saints, armies of righteous ones… Well I know who it is who calls me; as I have said: it is my Lord, the one who holds out resurrection to fallen men.”

Transported with love’s fervor, this young woman wants to take hold of him who fills all creation… But the Creator… raises her to the divine level, saying: “Touch me not; do you take me for a mere mortal? I am God; do not touch me… Raise your eyes above and consider the heavenly world; it is there you must seek me. For I am ascending to the Father whom I never left. I have always existed beside him; I share his throne; I receive the same honor, I, who hold out resurrection to fallen men.”

“From henceforth let your mouth proclaim all this and explain it to the children of the Kingdom, those who attend my awakening, I, the Living One. Go quickly, Mary, gather my disciples. In you I have a trumpet loudly sounding! Ring out a song of peace in the fearful hearing of my friends in hiding; arouse them all as if from sleep so that they may come to meet me. Go and say: ‘The bridegroom has awakened and is leaving his tomb. Apostles, cast away your mortal sadness for he has been raised who holds out resurrection to fallen men’”…

Mary exclaims: “Suddenly my mourning has been turned to dancing; everything has become joy and gladness to me. Unhesitatingly I say it: I have received the same glory as Moses (Ex 33:18f.). I have seen, yes, seen indeed, not on the mountain but in the tomb, not veiled by cloud but by a body, the master of both the bodiless and the clouds, their master yesterday, today and forever. To me he said: ‘Mary, make haste! Like a dove bearing an olive branch, go, proclaim the good news to Noah’s descendants (Gn 8:11). Tell them that death is destroyed and he is arisen who holds out resurrection to fallen men.’”

Origen from Homilies on the Book of Numbers, no. 23

“The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath”

The Sabbath was instituted as a holy day; all the saints and the just must observe the Sabbath… Let us see, then, in what the Sabbath observance consists for christians. On the Sabbath day we should not carry out any work here below; we are to abstain from all earthly works, do nothing that pertains to this world and give ourselves to spiritual work, go to church, listen attentively to Scripture and to the explanations given to us about it, think about heavenly things, give our minds to the hope of future life, keep the judgement to come before our eyes and meditate, not those present, visible realities, but the future, invisible ones.

The Jews, too, have to observe all that. And amongst them blacksmiths, builders and every sort of manual laborer remains without doing anything on the Sabbath day. Yet, on that day, the lectors who proclaim Holy Scripture and the teachers who explain God’s Law never cease in their duties without, however, profaning the Sabbath. My Lord himself acknowledges this: “Have you not heard,” he said to them, “that the priests in the Temple go without resting on the Sabbath without sin?” Thus it is the person who abstains from this world’s labors and frees himself for spiritual activities who offers the true Sabbath sacrifice and sanctifies the Sabbath day as a festival…

During the Sabbath, all remain in their own homes and do not go out. Now what is the home of the spiritual soul? That home is justice, truth, wisdom, holiness: all those things are Christ who is, himself, the soul’s home. We should never go out of that home if we would keep the true Sabbath and celebrate this day of festival with sacrifice, according to the Lord’s word: “Whoever remains in me, I remain in him” (cf. Jn 15,5).

Saint Augustine from On virginity, 35-36; PL 40, 416

“Become my disciples; learn from me”

O good Jesus, with the eyes of the faith you have opened up within me, I see you crying out and saying to all humankind: “Come to me and seat yourself in my school.” What is the lesson…, O you by whom all things were made…, what is the lesson we come to learn at your school? “That I am meek and humble in heart.” For it is to this that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” concealed within you can be reduced: to learn this primary lesson, that you are “meek and humble of heart”…

May they listen, those who seek your mercy and your truth, may they come to you and learn from you to be gentle and humble, living for you and not for themselves. May they hear these things who toil and are heavily laden, who so labor beneath their burden as not to dare lift their eyes to heaven, sinners who beat their breasts and stand far off. May the centurion hear, who was not worthy that you should enter into his house. May Zacchaeus, the leading publican, hear when he restores fourfold the fruit of his sins. May the woman who had been a sinner in the town hear, who shed as many more tears at your feet as she had been the more distanced from your steps. May they hear all those women of evil life and publicans who go before scribes and Pharisees into the Kingdom of heaven. May they hear all those with every kind of sickness of whom you were accused of being the table companion…

All these quickly become gentle and humble before you when they turn towards you at the remembrance of their sin filled-life and of your mercy full of forgiveness. For “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.”

(Biblical references: Col 2:3; Lk 18:13; Lk 7:6; Lk 19:8; Lk 7:37; Mt 21:31; Mt 9:11; Rm 5:20)

John Tauler from Sermon 29

“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him”

It is impossible for us to find the right words for talking about the glorious Trinity and yet we have to say something about it… It is absolutely impossible for any mind to understand how the high and essential unity can be simple unity as to its essence but threefold in Persons; how the Persons are to be distinguished; how the Father begets the Son; how the Son proceeds from the Father while still remaining in him; and how, from the knowledge that comes forth from him, there springs a torrent of inexpressible love, which is the Holy Spirit; how these marvellous outpourings flow back into the ineffable satisfaction of the Trinity within itself, the rejoicing that the Trinity has in itself, and into an essential unity… Far better to feel all these things than have to explain them…

This is the Trinity we must take a look at within ourselves, noting how it is that we are truly made in its image (Gen 1,26), for in our soul, in its natural state, we find God’s own image, an image that is authentic and clearly defined even though it does not, however, have all the nobility of the object it represents. Scholars say that it resides in the superior faculties of the soul, in its memory, understanding and will… but other masters say – and this is a greatly superior opinion – that the image of the Trinity resides in the most intimate, most secret depths of the soul…Certain it is that, in this depth of the soul, the heavenly Father begets his only Son… Should anyone want to feel this, let him turn inwards, beyond every activity of his exterior and interior faculties, beyond every image and anything that has ever come to him from without, and let him dive down and flow into the depth of his own soul. Then the Father’s power will come and the Father will call to that man within himself through his only Son, and just as the Son is born of the Father and flows back into the Father so, too, such a man is born of the Father in the Son and flows back into the Father with the Son, becoming one with him. Then the Holy Spirit pours himself out in inexpressible, overflowing charity and joy. He bathes and penetrates the man’s depths with his loving gifts.

Saint Teresa of Avila from Soliloquies no. 8

“Worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word”

O Lord my God, how you possess the words of eternal life, where all mortals will find what they desire if they want to seek it! But what a strange thing, my God, that we forget your words in the madness and sickness our evil deeds cause! O my God,…, author of all creation! And what is creation if You, Lord, should desire to create more? You are almighty; Your works are incomprehensible. Bring it about, then, Lord, that my thoughts not withdraw from Your words.

You say: “Come to me all who labor and are burdened, for I will comfort you” (Mt 11,28). What more do we want, Lord? What are we asking for? What do we seek? Why are those in the world so unhappy if not because of seeking rest? God help me!… Oh, what great blindness, that we seek rest where it is impossible to find it!

Have mercy, Creator, on these Your creatures. Behold, we don’t understand or know what we desire, nor do we obtain what we ask for. Lord, give us light; behold, the need is greater than with the man born blind, for he wanted to see the light and couldn’t. Now, Lord, there is no desire to see. Oh, how incurable an illness! Here, my God, is where Your power must be demonstrated; here, Your mercy… I ask You: that You love someone who doesn’t love You, that You open to one who doesn’t knock, that You give health to one who likes to be sick and goes about looking for sickness. You say, My Lord, that You come to seek sinners (Mt 9,13); these, Lord, are real sinners. Don’t look at our blindness, my God, but at all the blood Your Son shed for us. Let Your mercy shine upon evil that has so increased; behold, Lord, we are Your handiwork. May Your goodness and mercy help us.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Meditations on St. Luke's Gospel, 1898

“But I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5, 44)

“As soon as you declare yourselves to be my servants, you must expect to be persecuted. I was persecuted all my life long. When I was born, Herod wanted to put me to death; I had scarcely begun to preach when my fellow men wanted to kill me; hardly had I escaped from their hands than I found myself exposed to the snares of the Pharisees and Herod [Antipas], who pursued me from town to town and daily, for three years, set new traps for me to cause my death…

“You must accept these persecutions with joy, as precious signs of being like me, as a way of imitating your Beloved. Bear them peacefully, knowing that, if these things happen to you, it is because I permit them to, and that they will not touch you except in the measure that I allow – I, without whose consent, not a hair of your head is able to fall. Accept them… welcoming all that happens, since all that happens brings about the glory of God in one way or another. Suffer them courageously, offering your sufferings to God as a sacrificial holocaust for his glory… Suffer them while praying for your persecutors since they are God’s children, God desires their salvation, and because I will give my blood to save them. I myself have set you an example of prayer for all men, for our persecutors and our enemies.”

Saint Bonaventure from Life of Saint Francis, Legend major, ch. 11

“Shrewd as serpents and simple as doves”

Unflagging zeal for prayer with a continual exercise of virtue had led the man of God to such serenity of mind that although he had no expertise in Sacred Scripture through his intellect, nevertheless enlightened by the splendor of etemal light, he probed the depths of Scripture with remarkable incisiveness. For his genius, pure and unstained, penetrated hidden mysteries, and where the knowledge of teachers stands outside, the passion of the lover entered.

Once, when the brothers asked him whether he was pleased that the learned men, who by that time, had been received into the Order, were devoting themselves to the study of Sacred Scripture, he replied: “I am indeed pleased, as long as, after the example Christ, of whom we read that he prayed more than he read, they do not neglect zeal for prayer; and, as long as they study, not to know what they should say, but to practice what they have heard and, once they have put it into practice, propose it to others. I want my broth­ers,” he said, “to be Gospel disciples and so progress in knowledge of the truth that they increase in pure simplicity without separating the simplicity of the dove from the wisdom of the serpent which our eminent Teacher joined together in a statement from his own blessed lips.”

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross from The Prayer of the Church

“Father, Lord of heaven and earth, to you I offer praise.”

When the Lord took the cup, he gave thanks (Mt 26:27). This can remind us of the words of blessing, which certainly express thanksgiving to the Creator, but we also know that Christ was in the habit of giving thanks every time he raised his eyes to the heavenly Father (Jn 11:41) before working a miracle. He gave thanks because he knew ahead of time that he would be heard. He gave thanks for the divine power that he carried in himself and through which he was to manifest before the eyes of men that the Creator is all-powerful. He gave thanks for the work of redemption, which was given him to do, and he gave thanks through that work, which is itself the glorification of the Triune God, whose disfigured image it renews through its pure beauty.

Thus, Christ’s eternally present sacrifice on the cross during Holy Mass and in the eternal glory of heaven can be understood as one single immense thanksgiving – that is what the word “eucharist” means – thanksgiving for creation, for redemption, and for the final fulfillment. He offers himself in the name of the whole created universe, of which he is the original model and to which he descended so as to renew it from the inside and to lead it to its fulfillment. But he also calls this whole created world to come with him to give the Creator the homage of thanksgiving, which is his due.

Saint Augustine from Commentary on the 1st Letter of John, § 8, 10

“It is mercy I desire”

In loving your enemy, you want him to be your brother. You do not love in him what he is but what you want him to be. Let us imagine some oak wood that has not been carved. A capabable craftsman sees this piece of wood that has been cut in the forest; he likes the wood. I do not know what he wants to make out of it but the artist does not love that piece of wood so that it might remain as it is. His art lets him see what the wood can become. He does not love the plain wood; he loves what he will make of it, not the rough wood.

That is how God loved us when we were sinners. For he said: “People who are in good health do not need a doctor; sick people do.” Did he love us sinners so that we might remain sinners? The craftsman saw us like a piece of rough wood coming from the forest and what he had in mind was the work he would draw out of it, not the wood from the forest.

It is the same with you: you see your enemy who opposes you, who overwhelms you with scathing words, who is harsh in his insults, who pursues you with his hatred. But you are attentive to the fact that he is a human being. You see everything that this person did against you, and you see in him that he was created by God. What he is as a human being is God’s work; the hatred he bears towards you is his own work. And what do you say to yourself? “Lord, be kind to him, forgive his sins, inspire him with fear of you, change him.” In that person you do not love what he is but what you want him to be. Thus, when you love your enemy, you love a brother.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross from Am Fuss des Kreuzes `{`At the Foot of the Cross`}` November 24, 1924

“If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

On the way of the cross, the Savior is not alone, and he is not only surrounded by enemies who harass him. People who support him are also present: the Mother of God, model for those who, in every time, follow the example of the cross; Simon of Cyrene, a symbol of those who accept a suffering that is imposed on them and who are blessed in that acceptance; and Veronica, an image of those who are pushed by love to serve the Lord. Each person who, throughout time, has carried a heavy destiny while remembering the Savior’s suffering, or who freely performed an act of penance, redeemed a little of humankind’s enormous debt and helped the Lord to carry his burden. And even more, it is Christ, the head of the mystical body, who accomplishes his work of atonement in the members who give themselves with all their being, body and soul, to his work of redemption.

We can assume that the vision of the faithful who would follow him on the path of suffering upheld the Savior in the Garden of Olives. And the support given by those who carried the cross was a help to him each time he fell. It was the righteous of the Old Covenant who accompanied him between his first fall and the second one. The disciples, men and women who rallied around him during his earthly life, were the ones who helped him from the second to the third station. The lovers of the cross, whom he awakened and whom he will continue to awaken throughout the vicissitudes of the struggling Church, are his allies until the end of time. It is to this that we, too, are called.

John Tauler from Sermon 7

Bearing good fruit

In a vineyard we turn over the earth and weed around the foot of the vines. A man also needs to be weeded, paying great attention to what might still remain to be pulled up in the depths of his being so that the divine Sun can come closer to it and shine there. If you allow the power from on high to do its work…, the sun grows bright, shoots its burning rays onto the fruit and makes it more and more transparent. Sweetness condenses more and more into it, the rind around it becomes very thin. So it is in the spiritual sphere. Obstacles standing in the way eventually become so tenuous that we can receive the divine touch uninterruptedly, from close to. As often and as soon as we turn to it we find the divine Sun shining within us with greater brilliance than all the suns that have ever shone in the sky. In this way everything in a man is deified to the point that he neither feels, nor tastes, nor knows anything so truly as God, with a knowledge that is well founded, and this knowledge greatly surpasses the mode of understanding proper to our reason.

Eventually, the leaves on the shoots are stripped off so that the sun can shine onto the fruit without meeting any obstacle. So it is with these persons: all intermediaries fall away and they receive everything in an unmediated way. Here prayers, images of the saints, practices of devotion, spiritual exercises all fall away. However, one should take care, nevertheless, not to spurn these practices before they fall away of themselves. But then, at this step, the fruit becomes so unutterably sweet that no mere reasoning can understand it… We are nothing but one with the divine sweetness to such a degree that our being is wholly penetrated by the divine Being and loses itself in it like a drop of water in a great vat of wine… Here, our good intentions, our humble efforts, are all simplicity itself, a mystery so essentially tranquil that we are scarcely aware of it.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on Saint John's Gospel, no. 14; CCL 36, 685

Two apostles, two ways of life, one Church

The Church recognizes two forms of life praised and endorsed by God. The first is in faith, the second in sight; the first during the pilgrimage of the present age, the second in the dwellings of eternity; the first in travail, the second in rest; the first on the way, the second at home; the first in the exertions of activity, the second in the rewards of contemplation…. The first is symbolised by the apostle Peter, the second by John… And it is not only these but the whole Church, Christ’s Bride, who actualises all these things, she who is to be delivered from this world’s trials and dwell in everlasting happiness.

Peter and John each symbolized one of these two lives. But each of them passed together through the first in time by faith, and each of them will enjoy together the second in eternity through sight. And so it was on behalf of all the saints inseparably united to Christ’s body and to navigate them through the storms of this life, that Peter, the first of the apostles, received the keys of the Kingdom of heaven with power to retain and forgive sins (Mt 16:19). And it was also for the sake of all the saints and in order to give them entry into the peaceful depths of his most intimate life that Christ allowed John to recline on his breast (Jn 13:23.25). For the power to retain and forgive sins is not Peter’s alone but belongs to the whole Church; and John is not the only one to drink at the stream from the breast of the Lord, the Word who, from the beginning, was God from God (Jn 7:38; 1:1)… but the Lord himself pours out his Gospel for everyone in the whole world so that each may drink according to his capacity.

Eusebius of Caesarea from Ecclesiastical History II, 3, 9

The martyrdom of Saint James the apostle

With the powerful cooperation of Heaven the whole world was suddenly lit by the sunshine of the saving word. At once, in accordance with holy Scriptures, the voice of its inspired evangelists and apostles went forth into all the earth, and “their words to the ends of the world” (Ps 19[18]:5). In every town and village, like a well-filled threshing floor, churches shot up, bursting with eager members…

At the time of Claudius, King Herod made a determined attack on certain members of the Church, killing James the brother of John with the headsman’s sword. Referring to this James, Clement [of Alexandria] tells an interesting story on the strength of an authentic tradition. It appears that the man who brought him into court was so moved when he saw him testify that he confessed that he, too, was a Christian. So they were both taken away together, and on the way he asked James to forgive him. James thought for a moment; then he said: “I wish you peace” and kissed him. So both were beheaded at the same time.

Then, as we read in the sacred record, Herod, seeing how his action in putting James to death had given satisfaction to the Jews, laid hands on Peter as well, clapped him in prison, and was on the very point of perpetrating his murder too but for divine intervention. In the night an angel stood before him and he was miraculously released from his fetters and set free for the ministry of preaching (Acts 12:4-17).

The Roman Missal from Nuptial blessing

“The two shall become one flesh”

Father,
to reveal the plan of your love,
you made the union of husband and wife
an image of the covenant between you and your people.
In fulfilment of this sacrament,
the marriage of Christian man and woman
is a sign of the marriage between Christ and the Church (Eph 5,32).
Father, stretch out your hand, and bless N. and N.
And take them under your protection.

Lord,
grant that as they begin to live this sacrament
they may share with each other the gifts of your love
and become one in heart and mind
as witnesses to your presence in their marriage.
Help them to create a home together
and give them children to be formed by the gospel
and to have a place in your family.

Give your blessings to N., your daughter,
so that she may be a good wife and mother, caring for the home,
faithful in love for her husband, generous and kind.
Give your blessings to N., your son,
so that he may be a faithful husband and a good father.
Father,
grant that as they come together to your table on earth,
so they may one day have the joy of sharing your feast in heaven.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Saint Cyprian from The Lord's Prayer, 23-24

“Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors”

The Lord demands that we ourselves forgive the debts of our debtors just as we, too, ask that our own be forgiven (Mt 6,12). We should know that we cannot receive what we ask with regard to our own sins unless we do the same for those who have sinned against us. And so Christ says elsewhere: “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,” (Mt 7,2). And the servant who, having been freed from all his debt, was unwilling to forgive that of his fellow servant was thrown into prison. Because he would not spare his fellow, he lost that for which his master had spared him. Christ establishes this even more forcibly in his precepts when he decrees that…: “When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your transgressions,” (Mk 11,25-26).

When Abel and Cain first of all offered sacrifice, God did not look at their offerings but at their hearts (Gn 4,3f.). The one whose offering was pleasing to him was the one whose heart was pleasing to him. Abel, the peaceful and just one, by making his offering to God in innocence, taught others to come forward in the fear of God to offer their gift at the altar, with a simple heart, a sense of justice, harmony and peace. By offering sacrifice to God with such dispositions as these he merited to become a precious offering himself and to be the first to offer the witness of martyrdom. By the glory of his blood he prefigured the Lord’s Passion because he possessed the Lord’s righteousness and peace. Men like these are they who are crowned by the Lord and who will obtain justice along with him on the day of judgement.

Saint Bonaventure From the spiritual exercises of the soul, ch 2 rev. (Book II of The life of Perfection)

God, the guest of our souls

Hear, O my soul, what is your dignity! The simplicity of your nature is so great that nothing can inhabit the dwelling place of your spirit nor make its abode there except the purity and simplicity of the eternal Trinity. Listen to your Bridegroom’s words: “My Father and I will come to her and make our dwelling in her” (cf. Jn 14:23), and elsewhere he says: “Hurry and come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.” God who created you can truly come down into your spirit since, according to Saint Augustine, he claims to be closer to you than you are to yourself.

Be glad, then, O happy soul, that you can become host to such a guest. “O happy soul who daily make your heart pure to receive the God who gives it a home, the God from whom the host has need of nothing because he possesses within himself the Author of all good.”

How happy she is, that soul in whom God finds his rest, for she can say: He who created me reposes within my tent. Therefore he will not be able to refuse the repose of heaven to one who offers him repose in this life.

You are far too greedy, O my soul, if the presence of such a visitor is not sufficient for you. Know well, he is so generous that he will enrich you with his gifts. Would it not be unworthy of such a monarch to leave his hostess in need? So adorn your bridal chamber and receive Christ your king whose presence will bring joy and gladness to all your household.

O Word most wonderful and truly amazing! The King whose splendor the sun and moon admire, whose majesty both heaven and earth adore, whose wisdom illumines the hosts of heavenly spirits and whose mercy fills the assembly of all the blessed: this King himself is asking you for hospitality, he desires and longs for your house more than his own celestial palace, for his delight is to dwell with the children of men.

Odes of Solomon from § 21

“He followed Jesus, giving glory to God”

I raised my hands to heaven,

to the grace of the Lord.

He cast my chains far away from me;

my defender has raised me up

according to his grace and salvation.

I have stripped off darkness

and put on light.

I have discovered limbs that know not

affliction, anguish or pain.

The thought of the Lord has greatly supported me

and his incorruptible communion.

His light has raised me up;

I have walked in his presence

and shall draw close to him,

praising and glorifying him.

My heart overflows,

it has filled my mouth,

gushed forth from my lips.

The rejoicing of the Lord and his praise

light up my face.

Alleluia!

Saint John-Paul II, from Message to the Catholics of Austria 1982 (DC 1835, 15/8/82, p. 753)

“Nation will rise again nation”

In view of the numerous dangers and threats against human existence, Christians battle with all the strength of their hope, in union with all people of good will, for a more stable future that is worth living. Furthermore, what motivates us is not just a purely earthly hope but also and above all that hope which comes from faith, whose foundation and goal are ultimately God himself: the God who, in Jesus Christ, has spoken his definitive “yes” to humankind. In his cross and resurrection Christ has overcome all the world’s suffering and disaster, thus becoming for all of us the sign of hope.

Hope is indeed a divine virtue. It is fundamentally a gift that you already obtain… whenever you pray together with others and for others… We Christians equally have the duty of manifesting our hope publicly and sharing it with others. By words and actions rich in hope we shall help others to overcome their fear of life, their resignation and indifference, and have confidence in God and in other people. As disciples of Christ… you are to give people of today, surrounded as they are by a thousand threats and so full of confusion, the words and the hope that set us free.

Saint Augustine from 2nd Discourse on Psalm 26`{`27`}`

“Not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives”

“Such as breathe out violence have risen up against me” (Ps 26[27]:12)… The psalmist struggles in the hands of those who pursue and attack him; he is breathless, struggling, but he holds firm; he is assured since God upholds him, God helps him, God leads him, God guides him. Both transported with joy by what he has been able to admire and sing, and struck with groanings by what he has had to suffer, in the end he breathes and cries out: “I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living” (v.13). Oh, how sweet is the Lord’s bounty, immortal, incomparable, eternal, unchanging! And when shall I see you, O bounty of the Lord? “I believe I shall see,” but not in the land of mortals but “in the land of the living.” The Lord will bring me out of the land of mortals who deigned for my sake to accept this land of mortals and die at the hands of mortals…

May we listen also to the voice of the Lord which, from on high, exhorts and consoles us. Let us listen to the voice of him whom we have for father and mother (cf. v.10). For he has heard our groaning, he has seen our sighs, he has sounded the desires of our hearts for “the one thing we ask” (v.4). Thanks to Christ’s intercession, he has favorably received our one prayer, our one request. And while we are completing our pilgrimage in this world, even the road is a long one, he will not refuse what he has promised. He says to us: “Hope in the Lord.” He who has promised is all powerful, he is trustworthy, he is faithful. “Hope in the Lord, be stouthearted” (v.14 alt.). Therefore do not let yourself be troubled.

Saint Augustine from Discourses on the psalms, Ps 95`{`96`}`, 14-15 (CCL 39, 1351)

“Let the earth rejoice…before the Lord for he comes” (Ps 95:11)

“All the trees of the forest will exult for joy” (Ps 95[96]:12). A first time he came, and the trees of the forest exulted for joy. He will come again “to rule the world with justice” (v.13) and will find those who believed at his first coming exulting for joy, for he has come, … “He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with his truth.” Because you are unjust, shall not the judge be just? Because you are untruthful, shall not the truth be truthful? But if you want to meet a merciful judge, be merciful yourself before he comes. Forgive if someone has sinned against you; give away the possessions you possess in abundance.

And what will you give if not that which you have from him? If you were giving from your own possessions then it would be generosity. But since you are giving what you have from him, it is restitution. “What do you possess that you have not received?” (1Cor 4:7) These are the sacrifices most pleasing to God: mercy, humility, thanksgiving, peace, charity. If these are what we bring, we shall wait with assurance for the coming of the judge, he who will “rule the world with justice and the peoples according to his truth.”

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 1st Sermon of Advent

“Know that the Kingdom of God is near”

Grateful thanks to you, Lord Jesus! We stand before you, we wait for you… “Yet a little while, and again a little while”: I for one have made a single act of belief in all your rulings. But do you “help my lack of belief” so that I may wait for you, ever wait there for you unmoved, until I see what I believe. For I believe that “I shall see the Lord’s bounty in the land of the living.”

Do you believe this too, my brother? Then “wait for the Lord, behave courageously, strengthen your heart and wait in patience for the Lord”… For although he does command that he should be awaited with patience in another place he promises that he will be coming quickly. On the one hand he is giving some idea of the great persistence needed, on the other he is strengthening the faint-hearted, terrifying the improvident, and rousing up the lazy. “Look,” he says, “I am coming quickly and bringing with me rewards to bestow on everyone in proportion to his labors.” Further, to Jerusalem he says: “Your salvation shall soon come; why should you be consumed with grief?”

The time truly is short, though it may seem very long to any of us who are in turmoil, whether from labor or from love… But certainly he shall come, that Lord of ours, our dread and our desire, the rest and the reward of his laborers, the sweetness and embrace of his lovers, the blessedness of all, our Savior Jesus Christ.

(Biblical references: Jn 16:16; Mk 9:24; Ps 26[27]:13-14; Rv 22:12; 1Co 7:29)

Benedict XVI from General audience of 14/06/06

Saint Andrew, apostle of the Greek world

The first striking characteristic of Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, is his name: it is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored… In Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion, some Greeks had come to the holy city… to worship the God of Israel at the Passover Feast. Andrew and Philip, the two Apostles with Greek names, served as interpreters and mediators of this small group of Greeks with Jesus… Jesus said to the two disciples and, through them, to the Greek world: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn12, 23-24). What do these words mean in this context? Jesus wants to say: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place, but not as a simple, brief conversation between myself and a few others, motivated above all by curiosity. The hour of my glorification will come with my death, which can be compared with the falling into the earth of a grain of wheat. My death on the Cross will bring forth great fruitfulness: in the Resurrection the “dead grain of wheat” – a symbol of myself crucified – will become the bread of life for the world; it will be a light for peoples and cultures… In other words, Jesus was prophesying about the Church of the Greeks, the Church of the pagans, the Church of the world, as a fruit of his Pasch.

Some very ancient traditions see in Andrew… the Apostle to the Greeks in the years subsequent to Pentecost. They enable us to know that for the rest of his life he was the preacher and interpreter of Jesus for the Greek world. Peter, his brother, travelled from Jerusalem through Antioch and reached Rome to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, instead, was the Apostle of the Greek world. So it is that in life and in death they appear as true brothers – a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special reciprocal relations of the Sees of Rome and Constantinople, which are truly Sister Churches.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint Matthew's Gospel, no. 78, 2-3

The parable of the talents

One of the servants said: “Lord, you entrusted to me five talents,” and another mentioned two. They acknowledge that they had received from him the means to carry out their duties well; they give witness to their great gratitude and render their accounts to him. What does the master reply? “Well done, my good and faithful servant (for it is the property of kindness to notice one’s neighbor); you have been faithful in small matters, I will set you over great; enter into the joy of your Lord.” Thus Jesus refers to entire blessedness.

As for him who only received one talent, he went off and buried it. “This good for nothing servant, throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” So you see, it isn’t just the thief, the miser, the wrongdoer who will be punished at the end, it is also the person who fails to do good… Indeed, what are those talents? It is the power each one holds, the authority one enjoys, the fortune one possesses, the teaching one is able to give, and anything else of a similar kind. So let no one come and say: I’ve nothing but one talent, I can’t do anything. For even with only one talent you can act in a praiseworthy manner.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from Something Beautiful for God

“Give aims, and behold, everything will be clean for you”

We shouldn’t be satisfied by giving money. Money isn’t enough because it can always be found. It’s our hands the poor need if they are to be helped; it’s our hearts they need to be loved. Christ’s religion is a religion of love, contagious love.

People who propose a comfortable life for themselves undoubtedly have their reasons. Perhaps they have acquired it by their work. I’m not upset by it; only by waste, by those who throw in the garbage what could be useful to us. The difficulty is that very often the rich – or even those who are comfortably off – don’t really know what being poor means. That’s why we can forgive them because knowledge can only lead to love and love to service. It’s because they don’t know them that they aren’t moved by them.

I try to give the poor through love what the wealthy are able to acquire by money. True, I would not touch a leper for a million, but I willingly care for him for love of God.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola from Letter 17/11/1555

“Do not be afraid”

It seems to me you ought to resolve to carry out peacefully what you can. Don’t worry about all the rest but entrust to divine Providence what you are unable to accomplish on your own. What is pleasing to God is the reasonable care and attention we give to accomplishing well whatever business we must undertake through duty. What is not pleasing to God is anxiety and disquiet of mind. The Lord wants our limitations and weaknesses to find their support in his strength; he wants us to hope that his goodness will make up for the imperfectness of our means.

Those who take on numerous responsibilities, even with an upright intention, must resolve to do simply what lies within their power… If it is necessary to set certain things aside, arm yourselves with patience and don’t think that God expects of us what we are unable to do. He doesn’t want a man to distress himself on account of his limitations…; there is no need to tire ourselves out excessively. More, if we have tried hard to do our best, we can abandon all the rest to Him who has the power to accomplish what he will.

May the divine goodness always be pleased to communicate the light of wisdom to us so that we may clearly see and firmly accomplish his good pleasure, for ourselves and for others… so that we may accept from his hand whatever he sends us, taking due note of what is the most important: patience, humility, obedience and charity.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 2nd Sermon for Advent SC 166, p. 109

“Many prophets and kings longed to see what you see”

Come then, Lord, “save me and I shall be saved” (Jer 17:14). Come and “smile upon us and we shall find deliverance” (Ps 79[80]:4,8,20). We have waited for you, “be our stronghold, our deliverer in time of trouble” (Is 33:2). In this fashion did the prophets and holy men, with great desire and longing, run to greet the Christ who was to come, hoping if possible to see with their eyes what they foresaw in their hearts. Hence the words of the Lord to his disciples: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see; I tell you there have been many prophets and holy men who longed to see what you see and never saw it, to hear what you hear and never heard it.” Abraham, our father, “was full of joy to see the day” of Christ. “He saw it” — but in the lower regions — “and rejoiced” (Jn 8:56).

In that day the coldness and hardness of our hearts will be greatly punished—I mean, if we do not look forward with joy of spirit to the anniversary of Christ’s birth which, we are promised, we shall, God willing, see very soon. In fact Holy Scripture seems to insist we have such joy so that our spirit, lifted out of itself, may run to meet the arrival of Christ in transports of joy, and, straining forward impatient of delay, may strive to pierce the future even now.

Saint Gaudentius of Brescia from Sermon 2; (PL 20, 859)

Bread for the way: “Every time you eat this bread… you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” (1. Cor 11:26)

On the night when he was delivered to be crucified, Jesus handed us the token of his presence as heritage of the New Alliance: the provisions for our trip. We are nourished and fortified by it till the time when we will come to him after having left this world. That is why the Lord said: “If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you” (Jn 6:53). He wanted to leave us the sacrament of his Passion. And for that reason he ordered his faithful disciples, the first priests he instituted for his Church, always to celebrate these mysteries of eternal life which are to be accomplished by all the priests in all the churches of the whole world till the day Christ comes again. This way all of us, priests and faithful, have the example of Christ’s Passion before our eyes each day; we hold him in our hands, we take him to our mouths and into our breast.

Origen from Homilies on St. Luke's gospel, no. 26, 4-5

Founded on Christ, the rock

When your soul is overcome by some temptation, it is not the temptation that turns you into chaff. No, you were chaff already, that is to say fickle and faithless; the temptation simply discloses the stuff you are made of… “Do you think I had any other purpose in making you,” said the Lord to Job, than to reveal your virtue?” (Jb 40:3 LXX) In another text he declares: “I humbled you and made you feel the pangs of hunger in order to find out what was in your heart” (Dt 8:3-5).

In the same way, a storm will not allow a house to stand firm if it is built upon sand. If you wish to build a house, you must build it upon rock. Then any storms that arise will not demolish your handiwork; whereas the house built upon sand will totter, proving thereby that it is not well founded. So while all is yet quiet, before the storm gathers, before the squalls begin to bluster or the waves to swell, let us concentrate all our efforts on the foundations of our building and construct our house with the many strong, interlocking bricks of God’s commandments. Then when cruel persecution is unleashed like some fearful tornado against Christians, we shall be able to show that our house is built upon Christ Jesus our rock (1Cor 3:11).

Saint Bonaventure from The Tree of Life, no. 3

When Jesus took flesh in Mary

Finally, the fulness of time (Gal. 4:4) had come. Just as man was formed from the earth on the sixth day by the power and wisdom of the divine hand, so at the beginning of the sixth age of the world, the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin. When she gave her consent to him, the Holy Spirit came upon her like a divine fire inflaming her soul and sanctifying her flesh in perfect purity. But “the power of the Most High overshadowed her” (Lk 1:35) so that she could endure such fire. By the action of that power, instantly his body was formed, his soul created, and at once both were united to the divinity in the Person of the Son, so that the same Person was God and man, with the properties of each nature maintained.

Oh, if you could feel in some way the quality and intensity of that fire sent from heaven, the refreshing coolness that accompanied it, the consolation it imparted; if you could realize the great exaltation of the Virgin Mother, the ennobling of the human race, the condescension of the divine Majesty; if you could hear the Virgin singing with joy; if you could go with your Lady into the mountainous region; if you could see the sweet embrace of the Virgin and the woman who had been sterile and hear the greeting in which the tiny servant recognized his Lord, the herald his Judge and the voice his Word, then I am sure you would sing in sweet tones with the Blessed Virgin that sacred hymn: “My soul magnifies the Lord…” (Lk 1:46) and with the child prophet you would exalt, rejoice and adore the marvelous virginal conception!

Saint Augustine from On the Coming of Christ, sermon 19, 7.8

“Make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick”

Brothers, I can hear someone murmuring against God today: “Lord, how hard these times are; what a difficult period this is to go through!”… O man who would not correct you? Aren’t you a thousand times harder than the times we are living through! You who sigh after luxury, for what is nothing other than vanity, whose cupidity is always insatiable. You who want to make bad use of the things you desire, you will gain nothing…

Let us cure ourselves, brothers! Let us correct ourselves! The Lord is coming. Because he has not yet appeared we mock him, nevertheless he is not going to delay coming and then it will no longer be the time to ridicule him. Brothers let us correct ourselves! Better times are coming but not for those who live in a bad way. Already the world is aging, it is turning to decay, and are we ourselves going to become young again? What are we hoping for, then? Brothers, don’t let us hope any longer for times other than those of which gospel speaks. They are not bad at all since Christ is coming! If they seem hard to us, difficult to pass through, Christ is coming to comfort us…

Brothers, it is necessary that times be hard. Why? So that we don’t look for happiness in this world. This is our remedy: this life needs to be troubled so that we attach ourselves to the other life. How? Listen… God sees people becoming miserably agitated under the grip of their desires and the worries of this world which bring death to their souls, then the Lord comes to them like a physician bearing the cure.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa from Sermons on the Song of Songs, no. 11, 1

“Watch! for you do not know when the lord of the house is coming”

This is one of the Lord’s great precepts: that his disciples should shake off everything earthly as though it were dust… so as to let themselves be carried heavenward in one great impetus. He exhorts us to overcome sleep, to seek what is above (Col 3:1), to keep our spirits constantly on the alert and cast from our eyes seductive sleepiness. I’m talking about that torpor and lethargy that lead people into error and fabricate the images of dreams: honor, wealth, power, grandeur, pleasure, success, profit or prestige…

So as to forget such dreams, our Lord asks us to rise above this heavy sleep: don’t let us allow reality to vanish in a frantic pursuit of nothingness. He asks us to keep watch: “Gird your loins and light your lamps” (Lk 12:35).The light that dazzles our eyes casts out sleep, the belt that clasps our waist keeps our body alert. It expresses a striving that does not tolerate any torpor.

How clear the meaning of this image is! To gird ones loins with temperance is to live in the light of a pure conscience. The lighted lamp of sincerity lightens one’s face, makes the truth break forth, keeps the soul awake, makes it impermeable to falsity and foreign to the futility of our feeble dreams. Let us live according to Christ’s demands and we will share the life of angels. For he unites us to them in this precept: “Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12:36). They are the ones who are seated by the gates of heaven with watchful eye so that the King of glory (Ps 23[24]:7) may pass through on his return from the wedding.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross from Hidden life and Epiphany

“Christ is our peace: he made of both, Israel and the Gentiles, one people and broke down the dividing wall of enmity” (Eph 2:14)

The people gathered around the crib offer us already an image of the Church and of its spreading. The representatives of the ancient royal line to whom the Savior of the world had been promised and the representatives of the faithful form the link between the Old and the New Alliance. The kings from the Far East represent the pagan people who were to receive the salvation of Judah. In this way, we already have here represented “the Church stemming from the Jews and the pagans”.

At the crib, the three Wise Men represent those who, from all countries and nations, seek God. Grace led them long before they belonged to the visible Church. They were inspired by a plain desire for truth that went past the limits of the teachings and traditions of their countries. Because God is truth and he wants to be found by those who seek him with all their heart (Jer 29:13), the star sooner or later had to shine at the eyes of these wise men to show them the way to truth. This is how they found themselves in front of Truth made man, they prostrated themselves before him to adore him and they laid down their crowns at his feet, because compared to him, all the riches of the world are just a bit of dust.

Saint Romanos Melodios from 2nd hymn for Epiphany, §15-28 (SC 110, p. 289f.)

“They brought to him all who were sick”

Let us all raise our eyes to the Lord in heaven, crying out like the prophet: “He who has been made visible on earth is our God who, through an act of his will, has spoken with men”… He who showed himself to the prophets in various forms, whom Ezekiel beheld beneath the appearance of a man on a fiery chariot (1:26) and Daniel saw as Son of Man and Ancient of Days, both old and young at the same time (7:9.13), showing forth in himself a single Lord: he it is who has appeared and who has illumined all things.

He has dispersed the shades of night: thanks to him all is as midday. The light with no evening, Jesus our savior, has shone over the world. The land of Zabulun flourishes in imitation of Paradise, for “you give them to drink from the torrent of your delights” (Ps 36[35]:9)… We behold in Galilee “the fountain of life” (v.10) who has appeared and illumined all things.

And I too, O Jesus, I shall then see you enlightening my mind and saying to my thoughts: “You who are always thirsty, come to me and drink” (cf. Jn 7:37). Water this humbled heart, broken by my wandering ways. They have consumed it with hunger and thirst: not a hunger for bread or thirst for water but for hearing the Spirit’s word (Am 8:11)… That is why it groans softly as it waits for your judgments, you who have appeared and illumined all things…

Grant me a clear sign, purify my hidden faults, for my secret wounds are undermining me… I fall at your knees, O Savior, like the woman with the flow of blood. I, too, seize hold of the fringe of your garment, saying: “If I but touch it, I shall be saved” (Mk 5:28). Do not disappoint my faith, O healer of souls…; I shall find you for my own salvation, you who have appeared and illumined all things.

Saint Jerome from Homilies on Saint Mark's gospel, 1C, SC 494

The baptism of Jesus

“And he was baptized in the Jordan by John.” How great is his mercy: he who was sinless was baptized as a sinner! In the baptism of the Lord all sins are forgiven. However it is only a kind of prefiguration of the Savior’s baptism since the real remission of sins is in the blood of Christ, in the mystery of the Trinity.

“And on coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open.” This is all written for our sakes. For before receiving baptism our eyes are closed and we do not see heavenly realities.

“He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” We witness the mystery of the Trinity: Jesus is baptized; the Holy Spirit descends under the appearance of a dove; the Father speaks from the heights of heaven.

“He saw the heavens torn open.” The expression “he saw” indicates that the others had not seen. Let no one go so far as to imagine the skies as being simply and materially open: we ourselves, standing now in this place, according to the diversity of our worthiness, see the heavens either open or shut. Complete faith sees the heavens open but a faith that doubts sees them shut.

“He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him.” (Jn 1 32) Take note of what Scripture is saying: “remain” means not to go away. The Holy Spirit has come down and remained on Christ, whereas on us he comes down but does not remain. Indeed, do we expect the Holy Spirit to remain on us when we hate our brother or have evil thoughts? So if we have good thoughts we should know that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, but if we have evil ones then it is the sign that the Holy Spirit has withdrawn from us. This is why it is said concerning the Savior: “On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one.” (Jn 1:33)

Saint John of the Cross from Living Flame of Love, stanza 2

“Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him”

O divine life, you never kill unless to give life, never wound unless to heal. When you chastise, your touch is gentle, but it is enough to destroy the world. When you give delight you rest very firmly, and thus the delight of your sweetness is immeasurable. You have wounded me in order to cure me, O divine hand, and you have put to death in me what made me lifeless, what deprived me of God’s life in which I now see myself live. You granted this with the liberality of your generous grace, which you used in contacting me with the touch of “the splendor of your glory and the figure of your substance” (Heb 1:3), which is your only begotten Son, through whom, he being your substance, “you touch mightily from one end to the other” (Wis 8:1). And your only begotten Son, O merciful hand of the Father, is the delicate touch by which you touched me with the force of your cautery and wounded me.

O you, then, delicate touch, the Word, the Son of God, through the delicacy of your divine being, you subtly penetrate the substance of my soul and, lightly touching it all, absorb it entirely in yourself in divine modes of delights and sweetnesses unheard of in the land of Canaan and never before seen in Teman (Bar 3:22)! O, then, very delicate, exceedingly delicate touch of the Word, so much more delicate for me insofar as, after overthrowing mountains and smashing the rocks to pieces on Mount Horeb with the shadow of the might and power that went before you, you gave the prophet Elijah the sweetest and strongest experience of yourself in the gentle breeze (1Kgs 19:11-12)! O gentle breeze, since you are a delicate and mild breeze, tell us: How do you, the Word, the Son of God, touch mildly and gently, since you are so awesome and mighty? O happy is the soul that you… gently and lightly touch… “You hide them in the secret of your face,” which is the Word, “from human disturbance” (Ps 31[30]:21)

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 2851-2854

“Have you come to destroy us?”

“But deliver us from evil”: in this petition of the Lord’s Prayer, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ. “A murderer from the beginning, . . . a liar and the father of lies,” (Jn 8:44) Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rv 12:9). Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be “freed from the corruption of sin and death” (EP IV). Now “we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1Jn 5,18-19)…

Victory over the “prince of this world” (Jn 14:30) was won once for all at the Hour when Jesus freely gave himself up to death to give us his life. This is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world is “cast out” (Jn 12:31). “He pursued the woman” but had no hold on her: the new Eve, “full of grace” of the Holy Spirit, is preserved from sin and the corruption of death… “Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring” (Rv 12:13.17). Therefore the Spirit and the Church pray: “Come, Lord Jesus,” (Rv 22:17.20) since his coming will deliver us from the Evil One.

When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator. In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world. Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return By praying in this way, she anticipates in humility of faith the gathering together of everyone and everything in him who has “the keys of Death and Hades,” who “is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rv 1:18.8).

Saint Augustine from Discourse on Psalm 85, (CCL 30,1176)

“He prayed in a deserted place”

God could not have bestowed a greater gift on men than his Word through whom he created all that there is. He made him their leader, that is to say their head, and out of them he made his members (Eph 5:23.30), so that he might be both Son of God and Son of man: one in divinity with the Father, one in humanity with men. He made this gift to us so that while we are speaking to God in prayer we would not separate his Son from him and so that, while we are praying, the body of the Son should not be separated from its head… Thus it would be the only saviour of his Body, our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, who would both pray for us, pray in us and be prayed to by us.

He prays for us as our priest; he prays in us as our leader, the head of the Body; he is prayed to by us as our God. So let us recognise our words in him and his words in us… He has had no hesitation in uniting himself to us. All creation is subject to him because all creation has been made by him: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be,” (Jn 1:1f.)… Yet if we afterwards hear in Scripture the voice of this same Christ groaning, praying, confessing, we should not hesitate to ascribe those words to him. Let us contemplate him “who was in the form of God” taking on “the condition of a slave, coming in human likeness and humbling himself, becoming obedient to death,” (Phil 2:6f.). Let us listen to him who, while hanging on the cross, makes his own the prayer of one of the psalms… And so we pray to Christ in the form of God while he prays in the form of a slave: on the one hand, as Creator, on the other, as a man in union with creation, forming one single person with us – head and body. Thus it is him to whom we are praying as we pray through him and in him.

Basil of Seleucia from Sermon in praise of Saint Andrew, 4

“We have found the Messiah!”

Taking Peter with him, Andrew led his brother according to the flesh to the Lord, so that he, like himself, might become a disciple. This was Andrew’s first achievement. He enabled the number of disciples to grow; he introduced Peter, in whom Christ found the head of his disciples. This was so true that later, when Peter behaved admirably, he owed this to what Andrew had sown. The praise given to the one is also reflected on the other for the advantages of the one belong to the other and the one glories in the other’s merits.

What joy Peter obtained for all when he immediately answered the Lord’s question, breaking the disciples’ embarrassed silence… Peter alone said: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” (Mt 16:16) He spoke in the name of all; in one sentence, he proclaimed the Savior and his plan of salvation. How greatly does this proclamation agree with that of Andrew! The words which Andrew spoke to Peter when he led him to Christ – “We have found the Messiah” – were confirmed by the heavenly Father when he himself inspired Peter with them (Mt 16:17): “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori from 6th Address for the Octave of Christmas

“The man got up and followed him”

O my beloved Redeemer, behold my heart. I give it wholly to you: it is no longer mine, but yours. When you came into the world you offered to the Eternal Father, offered and gave your whole will as you taught us through the mouth of David: «In the scroll of the book it is written that I should do your will. My God, I delight in your law» (Ps 40[39]:8-9). Therefore, O beloved Savior, I offer you my whole will today. Formerly it rebelled against you; through it I offended you. But now, with all my heart, I regret the use I made of it: all those sins that have so wretchedly deprived me of your friendship. I am deeply sorry and now dedicate this will to you, holding nothing back.

“Lord, what would you have me do?” (Acts 22:10). Lord, tell me what you want of me: I am ready to carry out everything you desire. Do with me and with all that is mine as is pleasing to you: I accept all, I consent to all. I know that you seek what is best for me: “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Ps 31[30]:6). In your mercy help it, keep it, enable it to be always yours and all for you, since “You have redeemed it, Lord, God of truth” (Ps 31[30]:6) at the cost of your blood.

Odes of Solomon from No. 3

“The bridegroom is with them”

[Through baptism] I am putting on the love of the Lord (Gal 3:27)…
and he loves me.
For I should not have known how to love the Lord
if he had not continuously loved me…
I love the Beloved and my soul loves him.

Where his rest is, there also am I (cf. Sg 1:7).
And I shall be no foreigner
because there is no jealousy with the Lord Most High and Merciful.
I have been united to him
because the lover has found the Beloved.

Because I love him who is the Son,
I shall become a son.
Indeed, he who is joined to him who is immortal
truly will be immortal.
And he who delights in the Life
will become living.

This is the Spirit of the Lord, which is not false,
which teaches the sons of men to know his ways.
Be wise and understanding and vigilant.
Alleluia!

Vatican Council II from ``Lumen Gentium``, §18-19

“He summoned those whom he wanted”

This Sacred Council, following closely in the footsteps of the First Vatican Council, with that Council teaches and declares that Jesus Christ, the eternal Shepherd, established His holy Church, having sent forth the apostles as He Himself had been sent by the Father; and He willed that their successors, namely the bishops, should be shepherds in His Church even to the consummation of the world. And in order that the episcopate itself might be one and undivided, He placed Blessed Peter over the other apostles, and instituted in him a permanent and visible source and foundation of unity of faith and communion…

The Lord Jesus, after praying to the Father, calling to Himself those whom He desired, appointed twelve to be with Him, and whom He would send to preach the Kingdom of God; and these apostles He formed after the manner of a college or a stable group, over which He placed Peter chosen from among them. He sent them first to the children of Israel and then to all nations, so that as sharers in His power they might make all peoples His disciples, and sanctify and govern them, and thus spread His Church, and by ministering to it under the guidance of the Lord, direct it all days even to the consummation of the world. And in this mission they were fully confirmed on the day of Pentecost in accordance with the Lord’s promise: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and even to the very ends of the earth”.

And the apostles, by preaching the Gospel everywhere, and it being accepted by their hearers under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gather together the universal Church, which the Lord established on the apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, Christ Jesus Himself being the supreme cornerstone. That divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world, since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church.

Biblical references: Jn 20:21; Mk 3:13-19; Mt 10:1-42; Lk 6:13; Jn 21:15-17; Rom 1:16; Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15; Lk 24:45-48; Jn 20:21-23; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:1-36; Acts 1:8; Mk 16:20; Rev 21:14; Mt 16:18; Eph 2: 20; Mt 28:20.

The Imitation of Christ from Book IV, ch. 11

Handed over to men and to his Father, Christ provides for us with his Word and the Bread of life

Lord God, thou art my witness that nothing can give me comfort nor no creature may give me rest but thou my Lord God whom I desire eternally to behold. But that is a thing to me not possible while that I am in this mortal life… In the meantime… I have full virtuous and holy books for the consolation and mirror of my life and also above all these things thy sacred body for my singular refuge and remedy.

I feel that two things be unto me right necessary without which this miserable life should be unto me insupportable. For as long as I shall be holden in this present body I confess me to have need of two things, that is to know [say] of meat and light. But therefore thou hast given unto me which am poor and sick thy holy body to the refreshing of my soul and body, and also thou hast put before my faith the light of the holy word; and without these two things I may not well live spiritually; for thy word, my Lord and God, is the light of my soul and the holy sacrament is the bread of my life.

These two things so necessary may also be called the tables set on either side in the treasury of holy church; the one table is of the holy altar having this lovely bread, that is to say, the precious body of Jesus Christ; the other is the Law of God containing the holy doctrine and showing the right faith and surely guiding me unto the inward sacrifice where are the holy jewels called Sancta Sanctorum [Holy of Holies].

I yield unto thee thanks to Jesus Christ which art the very clearness of eternal light for this table of holy doctrine which thou have ministered unto us by thy servants, prophets, apostles and other doctors; and I yield unto thee thanks again, creator and redeemer of mankind, which hast declared thy great charity unto all the world and hast prepared this royal supper in the which thou hast not purposed to be eaten the figurative lamb but thy most holy body and precious blood rejoicing all thy creatures by that sacred banquet and sweetly fulfilling them with that healthful chalice, wherein be hid all the delights and joys of Paradise.

Saint Jerome from Homilies on the Gospel of Mark

“They left and became his followers”

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me; I will make you fishers of men.’” Happy transformation of fishing! Simon and Andrew are what Jesus caught fishing… These men are made similar to fish, caught by Christ, before going themselves to catch other people. “They immediately abandoned their nets and became his followers.” True faith knows no delay. As soon as they heard him, they believed, they followed him, and they became fishers. “They immediately abandoned their nets.” I think that with those nets, they abandoned all the vices of the life of this world…

“Proceeding a little farther along, he caught sight of James, Zebedee’s son, and his brother John… He summoned them on the spot. They abandoned their father Zebedee, who was in the boat with the hired men, and went off in his company.” You will tell me: faith is daring. What indication did they have, what sublime characteristic had they noted that made them follow him as soon as he called them? We realize that evidently something divine came forth from Jesus’ gaze, from the expression on his face, which incited those who looked at Jesus to turn towards him… Why am I saying all this? It is to show you that the Lord’s word was active, and that through the least of his words, he was working on his task: “He commanded and they were made.” (Ps 148:5) With the same simplicity, he called and they followed…: “Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear, forget your people and your father’s house. So shall the king desire your beauty.” (Ps 45:11-12)

Listen well, brother, and follow the path of the apostles; listen to the Savior’s voice, ignore your father according to the flesh and see the true Father of your soul and your mind… The apostles left their father, left their boat, left all their riches of that time; they abandoned the world and its countless riches; they renounced all that they owned. However, God does not consider the mass of riches, but rather the soul of the person who renounces them. Those people who left only a few things would also have renounced a large fortune if the need had arisen.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Union with God in Christ according to the Letters of direction of Dom Marmion

Doing God’s will

You know that when we are in a state of grace Jesus always abides in our hearts. His great desire is to be all for us. It seems like a dream too beautiful to be true that Jesus, so good, so powerful, so gentle, should wish to be our brother, and yet it is He himself who says to us: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, my sister, my mother.” These are Jesus’ own words.

Therefore, to come to the happiness of having Jesus as our brother and closest friend, we have to do his Father’s will. Well then! What is this will? First of all to shun sin and, if we fall into it through weakness, immediately to ask forgiveness. Then, to do all our actions for Him. He is so good that he accepts our least action done for Him. You know what you have to do; it only remains to sanctify it by dedicating it to God.

Saint Josémaria Escriva de Balaguer from Homily for 28th May 1964, the Feast of Corpus Christi (Es Cristo que pasa 15, 150)

Sowing throughout the world

“A sower went out to sow his seed.” It is a vivid scene. The divine sower is also sowing his seed today. The work of salvation is still going on, and our Lord wants us to share that work. He wants Christians to open to his love all the paths of the earth. He invites us to spread the divine message, by both teaching and example, to the farthest corners of the earth. He asks us, as citizens of both ecclesial and civil society, to be other Christs by fulfilling our duties conscientiously, sanctifying our everyday work and the responsibilities of our particular walk of life.

If we look around, if we take a look at the world, which we love because it is God’s handiwork, we will find that the parable holds true. The word of Jesus Christ is fruitful, it stirs many souls to dedication and fidelity. The life and conduct of those who serve God have changed history. Even many of those who do not know our Lord are motivated, perhaps unconsciously, by ideals which derive from Christianity.

We can also see that some of the seed falls on barren ground or among thorns and thistles; some hearts close themselves to the light of faith. Ideals of peace, reconciliation and brotherhood are widely accepted and proclaimed, but all too often the facts belie them. Some people are futilely bent on smothering God’s voice. To drown it out they use brute force or a method which is more subtle but perhaps more cruel because it drugs the spirit: indifference.

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Summa theologiae

The Prince of this world has been cast out

Christ’s miracles were ordained to manifest his divinity. However, this had to remain hidden from the demons, otherwise the mystery of the passion would have been hindered by them: “If they had known the Lord of glory, they would not have crucified him,” (1Cor 2:8). It would seem, then, that Christ should not work miracles over the demons… Yet the prophet Zechariah predicted these wonders when he cried out: “I will take away the spirit of uncleanness,” (Zec 13:2). Indeed, Christ’s miracles were proofs demonstrating the faith he taught. Now, through the power of his divinity, was it not fitting for him to do away with the demons’ power in those who would believe in him, according to Saint John’s words: “Now the ruler of this world is driven out”? (Jn 12:31).

Thus it was fitting that, among his other miracles, Christ should deliver from demons those men who were possessed by them… Besides, Saint Augustine writes: “Christ made himself known to the demons for as long as he wished to do so, and he wished to do so for as long as it was necessary… through certain material consequences of his power.” At the sight of his miracles the devil came to believe through conjecture that Christ was the Son of God: “the demons… knew he was the Christ” says Saint Luke (Lk 4:41). If they confessed he was Son of God, “it was by way of conjecture rather than by way of knowledge,” Saint Bede comments. As for the miracles Christ accomplished when he cast out demons, he did not do these for their own usefulness but for that of men, so that they might give glory to God. That is why he prevented the demons from speaking about anything affecting his praise. Saint John Chrysostom observes: “It was not fitting that the demons should take to themselves the glory proper to the function of the apostles, nor that lying tongues should preach the mystery of Christ.”

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe from A sermon attitbuted to, no. 59 Appendix, PL 65, 929

“On his journey, as Paul was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him” (Acts 9:3)

Saul was sent on the road to Damascus to become blind since, if he was blinded, it was to see the real Way (Jn 14:6)… He lost his bodily sight but his heart was enlightened so that the true light might shine in the eyes of both his heart and his body… He was sent into his own interior to seek himself… He was straying in his own company, an unthinking traveller, and he did not find himself because, interiorly, he had lost his way.

Therefore he heard a voice saying to him…: “Turn aside from the way of Saul to find the faith of Paul. Take off the tunic of your blindness and clothe yourself with the Savior (cf. Gal 3:27). . . In your flesh I have wanted to manifest the blindness of your heart that you might see what you did not see and might not be like those who “have eyes but see not and ears and hear not” (Ps 115[113]:5-6). Let Saul return with his futile letters (Acts 22:5) that Paul might write his most necessary letters. Let the blind Saul vanish… that Paul might become the light of believers”…

Paul, who has transformed you in this way? “Would you like to know who has done this? The man people call Christ… He anointed my eyes and said to me: ‘Go to the pool of Siloam, wash and you will see.’ I went; I washed, and now I see (Jn 9:11). Why this surprise? Behold, he who created me has re-created me and with the same power with which he created me he has now healed me. I had sinned but he has cleansed me.”

Come along, then, Paul; leave old Saul behind; soon you will see Peter, too… Ananias, touch Saul and give us Paul; dismiss the persecutor far away from us, send out the preacher on his mission. The lambs will no longer be afraid, Christ’s sheep will be full of joy. O touch the wolf who used to pursue Christ so that now, with Peter, he may lead the sheep to pasture.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 863-865

Timothy and Titus, successors of the apostles

The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is “sent out” into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. “The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.” Indeed, we call an apostolate “every activity of the Mystical Body” that aims “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.” (Vatican II: AA – Apostolicam actuositatem, The apostolate of the laity– 2).

“Christ, sent by the Father, is the source of the Church’s whole apostolate”; thus the fruitfulness of apostolate for ordained ministers as well as for lay people clearly depends on their vital union with Christ. In keeping with their vocations, the demands of the times and the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostolate assumes the most varied forms. But charity, drawn from the Eucharist above all, is always “as it were, the soul of the whole apostolate.” (AA 3)

The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,” already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him in love,” (Eph 1:4) will be gathered together as the one People of God, the “Bride of the Lamb,” “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.” For “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Rv 21:9-11.14).

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

On using temptations well

Just as the good soldier is not afraid of battle so the good Christian has no fear of temptation. (…) The greatest temptation is not to have one! It might even be said that we are fortunate to have temptations: these are the times of spiritual harvest when we gather up for heaven. (…) If we were thoroughly saturated with God’s holy presence it would be easy for us to resist the enemy. With the thought ‘God sees you!’ we would never sin.

There was a saint who complained to our Lord after being tempted and said to him: “Where were you, my most loveable Jesus, during that awful storm?” Our Lord answered: “I was in the center of your heart…”

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Meditations on the Gospels, no. 194

“As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him. But he would not permit him.”

The only true perfection is not that we should be leading this or that lifestyle but doing God’s will; it is to lead the kind of life that God wants, where he wants, and to lead it as he would have done himself. When he leaves the choice to us then, yes, let us try to follow him as closely as possible, step by step, to share in his life just as his apostles did both during his life and after his death. Love presses us on to such imitation. If God leaves this choice, this freedom to us then it is precisely because he wants us to trim our sails to the breeze of pure love so that, blown on by it, we might «run after him in the odour of his fragrance» (Sg 1:4 LXX) in perfect imitation as Saint Peter and Saint Paul did…

And if one day God wishes to take us out of this beautiful and perfect way, whether for a while or for always, let us not be troubled or surprised. His designs are without fathoming. He can do for us, in the middle or at the end of the course, what he did for the Gerasene at the beginning. Let us obey him, let us do his will…, let us go wherever he wishes and lead the kind of life his will purposes for us. But let us everywhere draw close to him with all our might and, in every state, in every condition, let us be as he would have been and acted if his Father’s will had placed him as it has placed us.

Saint Jerome from Commentary on Saint Mark's Gospel, 2; PLS 2, 125f.

“What is this? A new teaching”

“The unclean spirit convulsed him with a loud cry.” This was his way of expressing his distress: by convulsing him. Since he could not ruin the man’s soul, the devil wrought his anger on his body. Besides, these physical manifestations were the only means he had to show that he was coming out. When the spirit of purity makes his presence known, the spirit of impurity beats a retreat…

“All were amazed and asked one another: ‘What is this?'” Let us look at the Acts of the Apostles and the signs given by the first prophets. What did Pharaoh’s magicians say when confronted by Moses’ marvellous deeds? “This is the finger of God” (Ex 8:15). It was Moses who carried them out but it was the power of another they recognised. Later on the apostles performed further marvels: “In the name of Jesus Christ, rise and walk!” (Acts 3:6); “Paul… said to the spirit: ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of this woman'” (Acts 16:18). Jesus’ name is always used. Here, however, what does he himself say? “Come out of this man” without any further precision. It is in his own name that he orders the spirit to come out. “All were amazed and asked one another: ‘What is this? A new teaching.'” Now, in itself, the expulsion of the demon had nothing new about it: Hebrew exorcists were doing the same thing at that time. But what does Jesus say? What is this new teaching? And where is the novelty? It is that he gives the command to the unclean spirits by his own authority, referring to no one else. He himself gives the order; he does not speak in another’s name but by his own authority.

Origen from Homily 4 on Leviticus, PG 12, 442-443 (cf SC 286)

“If I can touch even his clothes, I shall be well again”

With regard to the offering of the firstfruits, the Law stated: “Whatever touches the oblations becomes holy” (Lv 6:11). The immolated Christ is the one, perfect sacrifice of which all the sacrifices of the Old Law were the symbol and prefiguration. Whoever touches the flesh of this sacrifice is immediately made holy: if he is impure, he is purified; if he is wounded, his wound is healed. This is indeed how the woman who suffered from an issue of blood understood it… Because she understood that the flesh of the Holy of Holies was truly there, she drew near. She did not dare touch the flesh itself because as yet she had not grasped the perfect thing to do; but she touched the fringe of the garment that touched that most holy flesh. And because she touched with faith “power went out” from Christ’s humanity to purify her of her impurity and cure her complaint…

And so do you not believe that this text of the Law should be understood in this way: if someone touches the flesh of Jesus with the dispositions we have just spoken about, if with all his faith, all his obedience, he draws close to Jesus as Word made flesh, then that person has touched the very flesh of the sacrifice and is sanctified.

Venerable Francis Liberman from Spiritual Letters (vol. IV)

Exhortation to missionaries: “Take nothing for the journey”

To live the apostolic life you need to have truly great self-denial… What is needed is to possess one’s soul in peace, in cheerfulness, in the midst of continual and powerfully felt privations, not just bodily privations which are easy enough to bear, but spiritual or moral privations. These latter are far more painful and sadden, disturb and discourage a weak and self-interested soul. To a strong soul they give a courage, a serenity and wholly new energy by firm self-denial and perfect attachment to God alone…

If you only knew what value patience holds among the apostolic virtues you would employ all the strength of your soul to acquire it. If you know now how to wait then you are sure of success and a firm and stable success… Plants that grow up quickly do not develop far and promptly perish. Trees whose growth is slow become tall and strong and last for centuries. If you should ever happen to have quick and easy success in a mission, tremble for that mission; but when, to the contrary, it takes time and creates difficulties, anticipate good things from it if you feel within yourselves the strength and perseverance of a holy patience… If you have patience then you are sure to gain prudence and godly wisdom in your conduct and undertakings.

Vatican Council II from Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, 1-2

“The woman was a Greek”

In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.

One is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26). One also is their final goal, God. His Providence, his manifestations of goodness, his saving design extend to all men (cf. Wis 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:6-7; 1 Tim 2:4), until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in his light (cf. Rev 21:23ff.).

Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today even as in former times deeply stir the hearts of men… Religions…try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing “ways,” comprising teachings, rules of life and sacred rites.

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19).

Saint Teresa of Avila from The Book of her Life, ch. 25 §17

“If you wish, you can”

O my Lord, how you are the true friend; and how powerful! When you desire you can love, and you never stop loving those who love you! All things praise you, Lord of the world! Oh, who will cry out for you, to tell everyone how faithful you are to your friends! All things fail; you, Lord of all, never fail!

Little it is, that which you allow the one who loves you to suffer! O my Lord! How delicately and smoothly and delightfully you treat them! Would that no one ever pause to love anyone but you! It seems, Lord, you try with rigor the person who loves you so that in extreme trial he might understand the greatest extreme of your love. O my God, who has the understanding, the learning, and the new words with which to extol your works as my soul understands them? All fails me, my Lord; but if you do not abandon me, I will not fail you…

I already have experience of the gain that comes from the way you rescue the one who trusts in you alone. While in [a] great affliction … these words alone were enough to take it away and bring me complete quiet: “Do not fear, daughter; for I am, and I will not abandon you; do not fear”… And behold, by these words alone, I was given calm together with fortitude, courage, security, quietude and light, so that in one moment I saw my soul transformed.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 156-159

It is those who believe who see the signs

Faith and understanding. What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived”. So “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit” (Vatican I). Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church’s growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability “are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all”; they are “motives of credibility”, which show that the assent of faith is “by no means a blind impulse of the mind” (Vatican I).

Faith is certain. It is more certain than all human knowledge because it is founded on the very word of God who cannot lie. To be sure, revealed truths can seem obscure to human reason and experience, but “the certainty that the divine light gives is greater than that which the light of natural reason gives» (St Thomas Aquinas). “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt” (Bl. John Henry Newman). “Faith seeks understanding” (St Anselm): it is intrinsic to faith that a believer desires to know better the One in whom he has put his faith, and to understand better what He has revealed…

Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth” (Vatican I).”Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. the humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are” (Vatican II).

Saint John-Paul II from Message for Lent 1997

“Follow me”

The season of Lent recalls the forty years spent by Israel in the desert while on its way to the promised land. During that time the people experienced what it meant to live in tents, without a fixed abode, totally lacking security. How often they were tempted to return to Egypt, where at least there was a supply of bread even though it was the food of slaves. In the insecurity of the desert God himself provided water and food for his people, protecting them from every danger. For the Hebrews the experience of being total dependent on God thus became the path to freedom from slavery and the idolatry of material things.

The Lenten season is meant to help believers, through a commitment to personal purification, to relive this same spiritual journey, by becoming more aware of poverty and of life’s uncertainties and by rediscovering the providential presence of the Lord who invites us to open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters in need. In this way Lent also becomes a season of solidarity with individuals and peoples in so many parts of the world who find themselves in very difficult situations…

It is from God’s own love that Christians learn to help the needy… But there is a higher motivation which Christ indicated to us by his own example when he said: “The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). By these words the Lord wished to show his total openness to his Heavenly Father, whose will he was determined to carry out without letting himself be hindered by the possession of worldly goods… In this journey Christ goes before us. His presence is a source of strength and encouragement: he sets us free and makes us witnesses of Love.

Saint Peter Chrysologus from A homily on prayer, fasting and almsgiving; PL 52, 320

“This, rather, is the fasting that I wish… sharing your bread with the hungry” (Is. 58, 6-7)

Whoever fasts must understand what fasting is: they should sympathize with the hunger of others if they would have God sympathize with their own and whoever hopes for mercy should show mercy… What we have lost through indifference we should win by fasting, so let us lay down our lives with our fasts since there is nothing more important we can offer God, as the prophet testifies when he says: “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn” (Ps 51[50],19). So offer your life to God, offer the oblation of your fasting so that it may become a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim pleading on your behalf…

But if these gifts are to be accepted, mercy must follow them. Fasting bears no fruit unless watered with compassion. Mercy makes it less arid and what rain is to the earth, mercy is to fasting. Someone who fasts may well cultivate his heart, purify his flesh, weed out vice, sow virtue, but unless he pours over it the waters of mercy, it will give him no fruit.

So you who fast: your field will fast too if deprived of mercy. You who fast: whatever you pour away in mercy will spring up again in your barn. If you are not to waste everything with your greed, garner through your generosity. In giving to the poor it is to yourself that you give for whatever you do not hand over to your neighbour you will not have yourself.

Isaac the Syrian from Discourse, 1st series, 71/74

“Follow me”

The Lord our God handed over his own son to die on a cross, because of his passionate love for his Creation… Not because he could not have saved us in another way, but because in this way he wanted to reveal to us his overflowing love as our instruction. And through the death of his only Son he drew us closer to him. Yes, if he had had something more precious than this he would have given it to us so that we might fully belong to him.

Because of his great love for us he did not want to violate our liberty even though he could have done so, but he preferred us to come closer to him through love, love of what we could understand.

Because of his love for us and in obedience to his Father, Christ joyfully accepted insults and distress… As the saints become perfect, In the same way, they reach this same degree of perfection and so, by spreading their love and compassion abundantly on all, they become similar to God.

Saint Leo the Great from 10th Homily for Lent (SC 49 rev)

Lenten exercises: “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God” (Jl 2:13)

The Lord has said “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mt 9:13).Therefore no Christian is allowed to hate another since no one is saved otherwise than thanks to the forgiveness of their sins… So let the people of God be holy and upright: holy so as to turn away from what is forbidden and upright so as to fulfil what is commanded. It is certainly estimable to have right faith and holy doctrine; it is very praiseworthy to repress gluttony and to be gentle and irreproachable in chastity, but these virtues are nothing worth without charity…

And so, beloved, although any time is suitable for the exercise of the virtue of charity, it is more especially urged on us by this present season. Thus, those who long to receive the Lord’s Pasch with bodies and souls made holy must strive earnestly to acquire this grace which includes the sum of all virtues and “covers a multitude of sins” (1Pt 4:8). Therefore as we are about to celebrate that most eminent of all mysteries, in which the blood of Jesus Christ wiped away all our sins, let us first of all prepare to offer the sacrifice of mercy so that, what we have been given by the mercy of God, we ourselves may show to those who have sinned against us. May wrongs be cast into oblivion, sins not draw down punishment, and may all those who have trespassed against us no longer fear to be repaid in kind…

Each one should be well aware that he himself is a sinner and so as to receive forgiveness himself he should be glad to have found someone to forgive. In this way, whenever we say according to the Lord’s command: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Mt 6:12) we shall be sure of obtaining God’s mercy.

Saint Augustine from DIscourse on the Psalms, Ps 60; CCL 39, 766

“He has been tested in every way like us, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15)

“Hear, O God, my cry; listen to my prayer! From the earth’s end I call to you as my heart grows faint” (Ps 60[61]:2-3). “Earth’s end”, namely everywhere… So it isn’t only one person who is saying these things; and yet, yes it is one person because there is only one Christ whose members we are (Eph 5:30)… He who is calling from earth’s end feels faint but is not abandoned. For it is we ourselves, that is, his body, whom the Lord willed to prefigure in his own body…

He represented us in his own person when he willed to be tempted by Satan. In the Gospel we read that our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the desert. In Christ it was you who were tempted since from you Christ took his flesh to give you his salvation, from you he took his death to give you his life, from you he underwent his mockery to give you his honor. So it was also from you he took his temptations to give you his victory. If we are tempted in him, it is in him, too, that we triumph over the devil.

Have you noticed how Christ was tempted but failed to notice that he won the victory? Recognize yourself as being tempted in him, recognize yourself as the victor in him. He might well have prevented the devil from approaching him but if he had not been tempted, how could he have taught you how to triumph over temptation? So there’s nothing surprising about it if, buffeted by temptations, he calls from earth’s end, according to this psalm. But why isn’t he overcome? The psalm continues: “You will set me high upon a rock”… Let us recall the Gospel: “Upon this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18). So what he wanted to build on the rock was the Church who calls from earth’s end. But who has become a rock so that the Church might be built on the rock? Hear Saint Paul telling us: “The rock is the Christ” (1Cor 10:4). Thus it is on him that we are built. And yet see how the rock on which we were built was the first to be buffeted by winds, floods and rain when Christ was tempted by the devil (Mt 7:25). See the unshakeable foundation on which he wished to set you!

Saint Anselm from Proslogion, ch. 16

“Do you not yet understand or comprehend?”

I cannot look directly into your light; it is too great for me. But whatever I see, I see through it, like a weak eye that sees what it does by the light of the sun, though it cannot look at the sun itself.

My understanding cannot take it in, it is too bright, I cannot receive it; the eye of my soul cannot bear to turn towards it for too long. It is dazzled by its glory, mastered by its fullness, crushed by its immensity, confounded by its extent.

Light, entire and inaccessible! Truth, whole and blessed! How far you are from me who have come so close to you. How remote you are from my sight, while I am thus present in your sight. Everywhere you are entirely present, and I cannot see you. In you I move and have my being, and I cannot come to you. You are within me and around me, and I have no experience of you.

Saint Augustine from Discourses on the Psalms, Ps 99 §5

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

Who created everything? Who created you yourself? What are all these creatures? What are you? And how are we to say who he is who created all this? To speak it your thought must conceive it…: so let your thought move towards him, draw close to him. If you want a close look at something, you draw close to it… But God is not discerned except by the mind, he is not grasped except by the heart. And where is this heart with which one can see God? «Happy the pure in heart, they shall see God» (Mt 5:8)…

In one of the Psalms we read: “Come close to him and you will be enlightened” (Ps 34[33]:6 Vg). To come close so as to be enlightened you must hate the darkness… You are a sinner, you must become righteous. But you won’t be able to receive righteousness if evil still gives you pleasure. Destroy it within your heart and cleanse it; cast sin from your heart where He whom you desire to see desires to dwell. The human soul, our “inner self” (Eph 3:16), draws as close to God as it can: that inner self recreated in God’s image which was created in God’s image (Gn 1:26) but fell away from God into unlikeness.

It is true that we don’t either draw nearer or fall away from God in space: you distance yourself from God if you no longer resemble him; if you come close to him then you do resemble him. Notice how our Lord wishes us to draw close to him: first of all he makes us like him so that we can be near him. He tells us: “Be like your heavenly Father for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good.” Therefore, love your enemies (Mt 5:45.44). To the extent that this love increases within you it will bring you back and reshape you in God’s likeness…; and the closer you come to this likeness by growing in love, the more you will begin to feel the presence of God. But who is it you are feeling? The One who is coming to you or the One to whom you are returning? He has never been far from you; it is you who fell away from him.

Saint Augustine from Tractate on Saint John's Gospel 25, §15 (end) and 16

“Isn’t he the carpenter?”

Whereas pride does its own will, humility does the will of God… The physician, perceiving the cause, purges away the humor, removes the cause. Cure pride and there will be no more iniquity. Consequently, that the cause of all diseases might be cured, namely, pride, the Son of God came down and was made low. Why are you proud, O man? God, for you, became low. You would perhaps be ashamed to imitate a lowly man; at any rate, imitate the lowly God. The Son of God came in the character of a man and was made low. You are taught to become humble, not asked to become a brute. He, being God, became man; do thou, O man, recognize that you are man. Your whole humility is to know yourself.

Hear God teaching humility. He said: “I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” (Jn 6:38)… I came humble, I came to teach humility, I came a master of humility: he that comes to me is made one body with me; he that comes to me becomes humble; he who adheres to me will be humble, because he does not his own will, but the will of God. Therefore he shall not be cast out (Jn 6:37), for when he was proud he was cast out.

Benedict XVI from Apostolic Exhortation « Sacramentum caritatis » §72

“Lord of the sabbath” : the freedom brought by Christ

From the beginning Christians were clearly conscious of this radical newness which the Eucharist brings to human life. The faithful immediately perceived the profound influence of the eucharistic celebration on their manner of life. Saint Ignatius of Antioch (?-c.110) expressed this truth when he called Christians “those who have attained a new hope,” and described them as “those living in accordance with the Lord’s Day”. This phrase of the great Antiochene martyr highlights the connection between the reality of the Eucharist and everyday Christian life. The Christians’ customary practice of gathering on the first day after the Sabbath to celebrate the resurrection of Christ – according to the account of Saint Justin Martyr (c.100-160) – is also what defines the form of a life renewed by an encounter with Christ.

Saint Ignatius’ phrase – “living in accordance with the Lord’s Day” – also emphasizes that this holy day becomes paradigmatic for every other day of the week. Indeed, it is defined by something more than the simple suspension of one’s ordinary activities, a sort of parenthesis in one’s usual daily rhythm. Christians have always experienced this day as the first day of the week, since it commemorates the radical newness brought by Christ. Sunday is thus the day when Christians rediscover the eucharistic form which their lives are meant to have. “Living in accordance with the Lord’s Day” means living in the awareness of the liberation brought by Christ and making our lives a constant self-offering to God, so that his victory may be fully revealed to all humanity through a profoundly renewed existence.

Saint Caesarius of Arles from Sermon 25 (SC 243, p. 75)

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”

If we consider it well, my brethren, the fact that Christ is hungry in those who are poor has something to say to us… Look: on one side a tiny coin and on the other, the Kingdom. What is the comparison? You give a small coin to a poor man and receive the Kingdom from Christ; you give a scrap of bread and receive eternal life from Christ; you give an item of clothing and receive forgiveness for your sins from Christ.

So let us not despise the poor but rather seek them out and make haste to present ourselves before them because the wretchedness of the poor is medicine to the rich, as our Lord himself said: “Give alms of what you have and everything will be clean for you” and again: “Sell your possessions and give alms” (Lk 11:41; 12:33). And the Holy Spirit calls out to us through the prophet: “Water quenches a flaming fire and alms atone for sins” (Sir 3:29)…. And so, my brethren, do works of mercy and, with Christ’s help, let us hold fast to the bond of his warranty, especially to what I reminded you of when he said: “Give and gifts will be given to you” (Lk 6:38) and again: “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).

Let each one of you, according to his means, try not to come to church empty handed: for anyone who hopes to receive must offer something. Let those who are able clothe the poor man with a new garment; let those who are unable at least offer him an old one. As for those who do not feel themselves to be sufficiently well off for that, let them offer a scrap of bread, let them welcome a traveller, prepare him a bed and wash his feet so that they may be worthy to hear Christ saying to them: “Come, you who are blessed, take possession of the Kingdom; for I was hungry and you gave me food, a stranger and you welcomed me.”

Saint Bonaventure from Commentary on the gospel of Luke, ch. VII

Calling on the name of Father

Jesus said to his apostles: “When you pray, say: Father.” That is, call on the Father first of all. Speak, not just with your voice but with your heart also for fear it should be said about you as Isaiah said: “This people honors me with their lips alone though their hearts are far from me” (Is 29:13). Don’t just speak with your heart but also with your mouth because vocal prayer is accepted by God according to the psalm: “I will give fervent thanks to the Lord with my voice” (Ps 108[109]:30). And this because it serves both to awaken the memory, stir up from drowsiness, inflame desire, prepare one to obey, express joy, and give an example.

So let us call on the name of the Father. For he is Father according to the condition of his nature, according to Ephesians: “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). About whom Malachi says: “Have we not all one Father?” (Mal 2:10). He is also Father because of the gift of grace whereby, in Romans: “You all received a spirit of adoption through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Rom 8:15) and in Galatians: “As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6). And he is Father because of the realization of glory, according to Jeremiah: “You would call me “My Father,” I thought, and you would never stop walking with me” (cf. Jer 3:19).

Since, then, under the name of Father, God is grasped as being the foundation of nature, giver of grace and realization of glory, by this alone we are enabled to grasp that he is the one to whom alone we are to pray.

Matthew and Luke agree about addressing the name of Father in prayer, so that in this name alone we might be stirred up to reverence and trust, those two wings without which there is no effective prayer.

Vatican Council II from ``Lumen gentium`` §22 (Libreria vaticana editrice)

“You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”

Just as in the Gospel, the Lord so disposing, St. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, so in a similar way the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are joined together. Indeed, the very ancient practice whereby bishops duly established in all parts of the world were in communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome in a bond of unity, charity and peace, and also the councils assembled together, in which more profound issues were settled in common, the opinion of the many having been prudently considered, both of these factors are already an indication of the collegiate character and aspect of the Episcopal order; and the ecumenical councils held in the course of centuries are also manifest proof of that same character. And it is intimated also in the practice, introduced in ancient times, of summoning several bishops to take part in the elevation of the newly elected to the ministry of the high priesthood. Hence, one is constituted a member of the Episcopal body in virtue of sacramental consecration and hierarchical communion with the head and members of the body.

But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head. This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff. For our Lord placed Simon alone as the rock and the bearer of the keys of the Church, and made him shepherd of the whole flock;(Jn 21,15f.) it is evident, however, that the power of binding and loosing, which was given to Peter,(Mt 16,19) was granted also to the college of apostles, joined with their head.( Mt 18,18; 28,16-20) This college, insofar as it is composed of many, expresses the variety and universality of the People of God, but insofar as it is assembled under one head, it expresses the unity of the flock of Christ.

Saint Jerome from On Jonah, II 2, 5, 6, 11 (SC 43)

Jonah, a prefiguration of Christ

If Jonah is a prefiguration of the Lord who evokes the Savior’s Passion by his dwelling in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, then his prayer, too, must be an expression of the Lord’s prayer.

“I am banished from your sight. I will again look upon your holy Temple” (Jon 2:5) When I was with you, rejoicing in your light, then I would not say: “I am banished”. But once I am at the bottom of the sea and clothed in human flesh then I take human feelings and say: “I am banished from your sight.” I said this as man but what follows I say as God: “I who, being in your form, did not regard my equality with you (Phil 2:6) because I wanted to raise up humankind to you. But I will again look upon your holy Temple.” In the same way the gospel text says: “Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began” (Jn 17:5), and the Father answers: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again” (Jn 12:28). One and the same Lord asks as man and promises as God and is certain of the possession that was always his.

“The waters surged around me up to my neck; the deep enveloped me” (Jon 2:6). May hell not imprison me! May it not refuse me a way out! I made the descent freely, may I freely make the ascent. I came as a captive voluntarily and I have to set free the captives so that this verse may be accomplished: “He ascended on high and took prisoners captive” (Eph 4:8; cf. Ps 68:19). Those, in fact, who formerly were captives in death have been conquered for life by him.

“Then the Lord commanded the fish to vomit Jonah upon dry land” (Jon 2:11). And so he commanded this large whale to restore the Savior to the dry land from the deep and from hell. Thus He who had died to free those held in the bonds of death is able to lead back a great crowd to life together with him.

Saint Cyprian from The Lord's prayer

“Go first and be reconciled with your brother”

God has ordained that men should dwell peaceably and of one accord with each other, that they should live “of one mind in his house” (Ps 67,7 Vulg.). He desires that, once reborn in baptism, we should persevere in that condition in which our second birth has placed us. He desires that, since we are children of God, we should remain in God’s peace and that, since we have received the one Spirit, we should live in unity of heart and mind.

This is the reason why God does not receive the sacrifice of the man who lives in dissension. He decrees that we should leave the altar to be reconciled first of all with our brother so that God may accept the prayers offered to him in peace. The greatest sacrifice we can offer to God is our peace; it is fraternal harmony; and it is a people gathered together by that unity which exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Saint Jerome from Homilies on Saint Mark's gospel, no. 6, SC 494

Christ, foretold by the Law and the prophets, only Savior of humankind

“Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.” When I read Scripture and spiritually understand some sublime teaching neither do I want to descend to humbler realities. I want to make a tent in my heart for Christ, the Law and the prophets. But Jesus, who came to save what was lost, who did not come to save those who are saints but those who are sick, knows that if he remains on the mountain, if he does not go back down to earth, humankind will not be saved.

“Suddenly looking around, they no longer saw anyone.” When I read the gospel and see the testimonies of the Law and the prophets there, it is Christ alone that I consider: I haven’t seen Moses, I haven’t seen the prophets except to understand that they are speaking of Christ. When in the end I reach the splendor of Christ and perceive, as it were, the resplendent light of the sun’s radiance, I cannot see the light of a lamp. If one lights a lamp in full daylight, can it cast light? If the sun is shining then lamplight is invisible. In the same way, the Law and the prophets are completely invisible by comparison in the presence of Christ. I am not criticizing the Law and the prophets, rather I praise them because they announce Christ, but I read the Law and the prophets without wanting to enclose myself in the Law and the prophets but so as to come, by means of the Law and the prophets, to Christ. To Him, with the Father and Holy Spirit, all glory and honor to endless ages for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love

“Be merciful just as your Father is merciful”

I have the impression that the passion of Christ is being relived everywhere. Are we willing to share in this passion? Are we willing to share people’s sufferings, not only in poor countries but all over the world? It seems to me that this great poverty of suffering in the West is much harder to solve. When I pick up some starving person off the street and offer him a bowl of rice or a piece of bread, I can satisfy his hunger. But a person that has been beaten or feels unwanted or unloved or fearful or rejected by society experiences a kind of poverty that is much more painful and deep. The cure is much more difficult to find.

People are hungry for God. People are hungry for love. Are we aware of that? Do we know that? Do we see that? Do we have eyes to see? Quite often we look but we don’t see. We are all just passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see.

Saint Augusine from Confessions, XIII, 9

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem”

Give Thyself to me, O my God, give Thyself once more to me… The Holy Spirit is your gift. It is in your gift that we rest, it is there that we enjoy you. Our rest is our peace. So high does love raise us up and your Holy Spirit lifts up our lowness from the gates of death (Ps 9,14). In goodness of will is our peace.

A body tends by its weight towards the place proper to it; ­weight does not necessarily tend towards the lowest place but towards its proper place. Fire tends upwards, stone downwards… each seeks its proper place. Oil poured over water is borne on the surface of the water, water poured over oil sinks below the oil: it is by their weight that they are moved and seek their proper place. Things out of their place are in motion: they come to their place and are at rest.

My love is my weight: wherever I go my love is what brings me there. By your gift we are on fire and borne upwards: we flame and we ascend… It is by your fire, your beneficent fire, that we burn and we rise, rise towards the peace of the heavenly Jerusalem, since I have rejoiced when they said to me: “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Ps 122[121],1). There our good will shall place us, so that we shall desire nothing but to remain there for eternity.

Saint Gregory Nazianzen from 14th homily on love for the poor, 38.40

“Lying at his door was a poor man”

“Blessed are the merciful, says the Lord, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7). Mercy is high in the list of the beatitudes. “Blessed is he who shows pity to the needy and the poor.” And again: “It is good for the man gracious in lending.” We read elsewhere: “All day long he is gracious and lends.” (Ps 71[72]:13; 111[112]:5; 36[37]:26). Let us lay hold of this blessing and earn a name for understanding; let us be kind.

Even the night must not interrupt your works of mercy. Do not say: “Go, come back tomorrow and I will give it to you” (Prv 3:28). Nothing must come between your intention and your carrying out your act of kindness… “Share your bread with the hungry; bring the afflicted and the homeless into your house” (Is 58:7) and do so with joy and alacrity. “One who does acts of mercy, says Saint Paul, let him do so with cheerfulness” (Rom 12:8). Then your good deed is doubled by your readiness. On the other hand, what is offered reluctantly and under constraint is unwelcome and unadorned. Good deeds must be cheerful, not doleful… “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your wound shall be quickly healed” (Is 58:8). No who is there who does not long for light and healing?…

If you are willing to listen to me, then, servants of Christ, his brothers and co-heirs (cf. Gal 4:7) I say that we should visit Christ while there is opportunity, take care of him and feed him. We should clothe Christ, welcome Christ, honor Christ (cf. Mt 25:31f.). Not only at our table, like some; not only with ointments, like Mary… nor with things that have to do with his burial, like Nicodemus… nor finally with gold, incense and myrrh, like the Magi… But, as the Lord of all “desires mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13), and as compassion is better than “thousands of rams” (Mi 6:7), let us offer him this mercy through the needy and those who are at present cast down on the ground. Let us do this so that, when we depart hence, they may “welcome us into eternal dwellings” (Lk 16:9) in the same Christ our Lord.

Saint Jerome from Commentary on the Letter to the Galatians, L3 ch.6

Love of neighbor: mutual assistance and kindness; drawing from the source of divine goodness

“So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith” (Gal 6:10). This present time, the time during which the course of our life runs, is the time of sowing. During this life we can sow whatever we wish. When this life has run its course the time of activity will be taken away. That is why our Savior says: “Work while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work” (Jn 9:4).

Whether we are sick or well, of low or high degree, poor or rich, starving or well fed, let us do everything patiently in the name of the Lord with equanimity of soul. Then the words of Scripture will be accomplished in us: “All things work for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28). Even anger, passion, insults that cry out for revenge, become so many occasions of victory for me if I master myself, if I maintain silence for God’s sake, if, through each wounding sting and under the pressure of vice, I think of God looking at me from on high.

When we distribute gifts don’t let us say: this one is a friend, that one I don’t know, this one deserves to receive, that one should be overlooked. Let us imitate our Father “who makes his sun rise on the bad and the good and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:45). The source of his bounty is open to all. Slave and free, commoner and king, rich and poor, all drink freely from it. The lighted lamp in the house gives light to all without distinction.

At the end of his life, when he could no longer express his thoughts in an extended narrative, Saint John the Evangelist only had this word to offer: “My little children, love one another” (cf. Jn 13:34). In the end his disciples said to him: “Master, why are you always telling us this?” John replied with this statement worthy of himself: “Because this is the teaching of the Lord; only fulfil it and that is enough.”

Saint Bonaventure from The Mystical Vine, ch. 3, § 5-10

“They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him”

“I am the true vine,” Jesus says (Jn 15:1)… People dig trenches around this vine; that is to say, cunningly dig traps. When they plot to make someone fall into a snare it is as if they dug a pit in front of him. That is why he mourns about it, saying: “They have dug a pit before me” (Ps 56[57]:7)… Here is one example of these snares: “They brought a woman who had been caught in adultery” to our Lord Jesus, “saying: ‘Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?’ ” (Jn 8:3f.)… And here is another: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to the Emperor or not?” (cf. Mt 22:17)…

However they discovered that these traps caused no harm to the vine. To the contrary, in digging these pits they themselves fell into them (Ps 56[57]:7)… Then they kept on digging: not just his hands and his feet (Ps 21[22]:17) but they pierced his side with a lance (Jn 19,34) and uncovered the interior of that sacred heart, which had already been wounded by the spear of love. The Bridegroom says in the song of his love that: “You have wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse” (Sg 4:9 Vg.). O Lord Jesus, your heart has been wounded with love by your spouse, your friend, your sister. Why, then, was it necessary for your enemies to wound you again? O you enemies, what are you doing?… Do you not know that this heart of our Lord Jesus’, already pierced, is already dead, already open and cannot be touched by any other suffering? The heart of the Bridegroom, our Lord Jesus, has already received the wound of love, the death of love. What other death could touch him?… The martyrs also laugh when they are threatened, rjoice when they are struck, triumph when they are killed. Why? Because they have already died through love in their hearts, “dead to sin” (Rm 6:2) and to the world…

Thus Jesus’ heart has been wounded and put to death for our sake… Physical death triumphed for a moment but only to be conquered for ever. It was blotted out when Christ rose from the dead because “death has no power over him any more” (Rm 6:9).

Isaac of Stella from 2nd. sermon for All Saints § 13-20

“Coming to his senses he thought… ‘Here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father’ ”

“Happy are they who mourn, they shall be comforted” (Mt 5:5). It is as if our Lord were saying: The way to joy is through sorrow, desolation leads to comfort; by losing your life you find it, by making little of it you possess it, by hating it you love it and by despising it you save it (cf. Lk 9:23f.). If you desire to know yourself and to possess yourself, go into yourself and do not search for yourself outside… Return, then, transgressor to your heart, within, where you are truly yourself. Outwardly you are an animal, fashioned as the world is fashioned… but inwardly your are made in the image of God (Gn 1:26) and so are capable of being deified.

Now when a man comes to himself as did that young prodigal son, where does he find himself? Is it not in a far country, in the Land of Unlikeness, and in a strange land where he sits down and weeps as he remembers his father and his home?… “O Adam, where are you?” (Gn 3:9). Still in the shadows, perhaps, so that you cannot see yourself? Sewing together foolish fig leaves to cover your shame? Your eyes are only too open to what is around you and what belonngs to you. But look within, see yourself: there you will find things that are much more shameful…

It must be acknowledged, brethren, that we are truly outside of ourselves… So it has ever been prudent Wisdom’s intention to invite to the house of mourning rather than to a house of feasting, that is, to call back into himself the man who had been outside himself, saying: “Happy are they who mourn”, and in another passage: “Woe to you that laugh now” (Lk 6:25)… Accordingly, brethren, let us weep before the Lord, who is bounteous in pardon… “Happy are they who mourn.” Happy, not because they mourn, but because “they shall be comforted”. Sorrow is the road and happiness the comfort.

Saint Francis de Sales from Sermon for Good Friday, 25/03/1622

Forgiving our brothers with all our heart

The first word our Lord spoke on the cross was a prayer for those who were crucifying him; thus he carried out what Saint Paul wrote: «In the days of his flesh he offered prayer and sacrifice» (Heb 5:7). It is true that those who were crucifying our divine Savior did not know him… for if they had known him they would not have crucified him (1Cor 2:8). Therefore our Lord, seeing the ignorance and weakness of those torturing him, began to make excuses for them and offer this sacrifice to his heavenly Father for them – for prayer is a sacrifice…: «Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do» (Lk 23:34). How great was the flame of love burning in our sweet Savior’s heart, since amidst the strongest of his pains, at the time when the strength of his sufferings seemed to take from him even the ability to pray for himself, he came, through the strength of charity, to forget himself but not those he had created…

By this he wanted to make us understand the love he bore for us, a love that could not be lessened by any kind of suffering, and to teach us, too, what our hearts ought to be with regard to our neighbor…

Now, since this divine Lord had been occupying himself in asking forgiveness for us, it is absolutely certain that his request was granted. For his divine Father honored him too much to refuse him anything he asked.

Saint Robert Bellarmine from The Soul's Ascent to God

“From that day on the Sanhedrin planned to kill him”

O Lord, everything you teach us might seem too difficult, too heavy to bear, if you were to speak to us from another level, but since you teach us more by example than in speech, you who are “Master and Teacher” (Jn 13:14), how could we venture to contradict you, we who are servants and pupils. What you say is perfectly true, what you command is perfectly just: the cross from which you speak is a proof of it. This blood flowing down in torrents is also its witness: it cries out with all its might (Gn 4:10). And finally, this death itself: if it could tear apart the veil of the Temple from a distance and split the hardest of rocks (Mt 27:51), how could it not do the same – and still more – to the hearts of believers? How could it not lead them to surrender themselves?

Lord, we would repay you with love for love, and if our desire to follow you does not as yet come from our love for you, frail as it is, may it at least come from our love for your love. If you draw us after you “we will run to the fragrance of your sweet odors” (Sg 1:4 LXX). Not only do we wish to love and follow you but we are determined to despise this world… when we see how you, our leader, did not concern yourself with the enjoyments of this life. We behold you confronting death, not on your bed but on the wood that renders justice. King though you were, you wanted no other throne than this gallows… Drawn by the wisdom of your example as king we repel the call of this world and its pleasures and taking your cross on our shoulders we determine to follow you alone… Only grant us the help we need; make us strong enough to follow you.

Saint Andrew of Crete from Sermon for Palm Sunday; PG 97, 1002

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel!” (Jn 12:13)

Have courage, daughter of Zion, do not be afraid. “Behold, your king comes to you, humble and mounted on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden” (Zec 9:9). He is coming who is everywhere present and pervades all things; he is coming to achieve in you his work of universal salvation. He is coming “who came to call to repentance not the righteous but sinners” (Lk 5:32), coming to recall those who have strayed into sin. Do not be afraid, then: “God is in the midst of you, and you shall not be shaken” (Ps 46[45]:6) Receive him with open, outstretched hands, for it was on his own hands that he sketched you. Receive him who laid your foundations on the palms of his hands. Receive him, for he took upon himself all that belongs to us except sin, to consume what is ours in what is his… Rejoice exceedingly, daughter of Jerusalem, sing and leap for joy… “Be enlightened, for the light has come to you and the glory of the Lord has risen over you” (Is 60:1).

What kind of light is this? It is that “which enlightens every man coming into the world” (Jn 1:9). It is the everlasting light… revealed in time, the light manifested in the flesh although hidden by nature, the light that shone round the shepherds and guided the Magi. It is the light that was in the world from the beginning, through which the world was made yet the world did not know it. It is that light which came to its own, and its own people did not receive it.

And what is this glory of the Lord? Clearly it is the cross on which Christ was glorified, he, the radiance of the Father’s glory, even as he said when he faced his passion: “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him, and will glorify him at once” (Jn 13:31). The glory of which he speaks here is his lifting up on the cross, for Christ’s glory is his cross and his exaltation upon it, as he plainly says: “When I have been lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:32).

Saint Bernard from Selected sermons, no. 22, 5-6

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

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

When I have dedicated to him all that I am, all of which I am capable, it will still be like a star compared to the sun, a drop of water to a river, a single stone to a tower, a grain of sand to a mountain. I have nothing but two small things, very small indeed: my body and my soul or, rather, only one, small thing: my will. And am I not going to give it to him who has gone before so small a being as I with such blessings, to him who, in giving himself wholly has wholly redeemed me? Otherwise, were I to keep my will for myself, with what face, what eyes, what spirit or conscience would I take my refuge in the merciful heart of our God? How could I dare to pierce that strong rampart guarding Israel and cause, not just a few drops, but torrents of the blood that flows from the five parts of his body, to flow at the price of my redemption?

Philoxenes of Mabbug from Letter on the monastic life

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12,32)

Understand and take it to heart, brother…, that there are many serpents in the desert which bite into the multiplicity of your thoughts: namely, insults, malicious gossip, worries, murmuring, disputes, calumnies directed against you… But if you want to escape them then do what the Israelites did…: they looked at the bronze serpent Moses had set up at the top of the mountain and all those who obeyed and looked at it were healed. When you see yourself bitten by one of these serpents, you too should gaze at our Lord Jesus Christ lifted up on the cross… As the apostle Paul says: “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame” (Heb 12:2)…

Now here in few words is how you ought to have your eyes fixed on him when you are bitten by the serpents: when you are disgraced, fix your eyes on him; he was also disgraced for your sake, treated as possessed and a Samaritan (Jn 8:48)…, he was mocked and struck, people spat in his face, he was given bitter wine and vinegar to drink, he was struck over the head with a reed. If you are bitten by some vain thought because you have been entrusted with important business, remember our Lord’s words: “When you have done all you have been commanded, say: We are unprofitable servants” (Lk 17:10). If you feel like despising your brother on account of his weakness, fix your eyes on him who showed more solicitude for sinners, publicans and prostitutes in order to convert them through his encounter, rather than for the just who have no need of conversion (Lk 5:30-32). And when natural preferences and demons attack you, fix your eyes on him stretched out on the cross with hands and feet fixed with nails…

Meditate on these things in your heart without ceasing and the poison of the serpents will disappear from your heart. For by his crucifixion Jesus is closer to you than the bronze serpent was to the Hebrew people: he dwells within your heart and the light of his glorious face shines in the secret recesses of your soul.

Benedict XVI from General audience for 18/10/06

“One of you will betray me”

Why does Judas betray Jesus? The question raises several theories. Some refer to the fact of his greed for money; others hold to an explanation of a messianic order: Judas would have been disappointed at seeing that Jesus did not fit into his programme for the political-militaristic liberation of his own nation. In fact, the Gospel texts insist on another aspect: John expressly says that “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him” (Jn 13:2). Analogously, Luke writes: “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve” (Lk 22:3). In this way, one moves beyond historical motivations and explanations based on the personal responsibility of Judas, who shamefully ceded to a temptation of the Evil One. The betrayal of Judas remains, in any case, a mystery. Jesus treated him as a friend (cf. Mt 26:50); however, in his invitations to follow him along the way of the beatitudes, he does not force his will or protect it from the temptations of Satan, respecting human freedom…

Let us remember that Peter also wanted to oppose him and what awaited him at Jerusalem, but he received a very strong reproof: “You are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mk 8:33)! After his fall Peter repented and found pardon and grace. Judas also repented, but his repentance degenerated into desperation and thus became self-destructive… Let us remember two things. The first: Jesus respects our freedom. The second: Jesus awaits our openness to repentance and conversion; he is rich in mercy and forgiveness.

Besides, when we think of the negative role Judas played we must consider it according to the lofty ways in which God leads events. His betrayal led to the death of Jesus, who transformed this tremendous torment into a space of salvific love by consigning himself to the Father (cf. Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25). The word “to betray” is the version of a Greek word that means “to consign”. Sometimes the subject is even God in person: it was he who for love “consigned” Jesus for all of us (Rm 8:32). In his mysterious salvific plan, God assumes Judas’ inexcusable gesture as the occasion for the total gift of the Son for the redemption of the world.

Saint Leo the Great from Sermon 58, 7th on the Passion, § 3-4; SC 74 bis

“Now the Son of Man is glorified and in him God is glorified”

When the Lord declared: “In truth I tell you, one of you will betray me”, he showed that he had penetrated the conscience of the one who was going to betray him. He did not foil the conspirator with severe, public accusations but tried to reach him by a tender and veiled warning: in this way repentance would have better restored the one whom no prohibition had deposed.

Oh why, unhappy Judas, did you not profit by so great a kindness? See, the Lord is all ready to forgive your course of action. Christ does not denounce you to anyone except yourself. Neither your name nor your person were mentioned, but with this word of truth and pity the secret of your heart alone was touched. Neither your title of apostle nor participation in the sacrament were denied you. Turn back, abandon your foolishness and repent! Sweetness invites you, salvation moves you, Life calls you. See how your companions, who are pure and without sin, are horrified by the announcement of the crime, and since the author of such an evil has not been revealed each one fears for himself. They are plunged into dismay, not because their conscience accuses them but because human inconstancy troubles them: they fear that what each knows of himself may be less true than what the Truth in person sees beforehand. But you, in the midst of this anguish of the holy ones, take advantage of the Lord’s patience, you think your audacity hides you…

Then seeing that all Judas’s thoughts remained set on his unhappy plan, the Lord says to him: “What you are going to do, do quickly”. By speaking in this way he is not giving an order, he is letting events take their course: these are not the words of a man who trembles but of one who is prepared. He who holds all times in his power shows that he is not trying to delay the traitor and that he enters into the Father’s will for the redemption of the world, without either provoking or dreading the crime his persecutors are preparing.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 4th sermon for Palm Sunday (cf. SC 202, p. 211f.)

“Happy are all who take refuge in him!” (Ps 2:12)

Blessed may he be who let his hands, his feet and side be pierced that I might make my nest “in the clefts of the rock” (Sg 2:14). Blessed may he be who has fully opened himself up to me so that I might go in to the sanctuary of God (cf Ps 42[41],5) and “conceal myself in the shelter of his tent” (Ps 27[26]:5). This rock is our refuge… the doves’ sweet place of rest, since the sanctifying holes of those wounds covering his body hold out forgiveness to sinners and grant grace to the just. It is a sure abode, my brethren, “a tower of strength against the enemy” (Ps 61[60]:4), when we dwell within the wounds of Christ our Saviour by means of loving and constant meditation, when we seek a sure shelter for our souls in faith and love for the Crucified: a shelter against the rebellion of the flesh, the tempests of the world, the attacks of the devil. The protection of this sanctuary lifts it above all worldly esteem…

So enter into this rock, hide yourself…, take refuge in the Crucified… What is the wound in Christ’s side if not the door of the ark, open to all who will be rescued from the flood? Noah’s ark, however, was only a symbol; here is the reality. In this case it is no longer a question of restoring mortal life but of receiving the immortal…

Thus it is wholly right that today Christ’s dove, his beautiful one (Sg 2:13-14),… should joyfully sing his praise. From the remembrance or the imitation of the Passion, from meditation on the holy wounds as from the clefts of the rock, his sweetest voice resounds in the Bridegroom’s ears (Sg 2:14).

Saint Bonaventure from The Tree of Life §16

Jesus, the consecrated bread

Among all the memorable events of Christ’s life, the nost worthy of remembrance is that last banquet, the most sacred supper. Here not only the paschal lamb was presented to be eaten but also the immaculate Lamb, who takes away the sins of the world. Under the appearance of bread “having all delight and the pleasantness of every taste” (Wis 16:20), he was given as food.

In this banquet the marvelous sweetness of Christ’s goodness shone forth when he dined at the same table and on the same plates with those poor disciples and the traitor Judas.

The marvelous example of his humility shone forth when, girt with a towel, the King of Glory diligently washed the feet of the fishermen and even of his betrayer.

The marvelous richness of his generosity was manifest when he gave to those first priests, and as a consequence to the whole Church and the world, his most sacred body and his true blood as food and drink so that what was soon to be a sacrifice pleasing to God and the priceless price of our redemption would be our viaticum and sustenance.

Finally the marvelous outpouring of his love shone forth when, “loving his own to the end” (Jn 13:1), he strengthened them in goodness with a gentle exhortation, especially forewarning Peter to be firm in faith and offering to John his breast as a pleasant and sacred place of rest.

O how marvelous are all these things, how full of sweetness, but only for that soul who, having been called to so distinguished a banquet, runs with all the ardor of his spirit so that he may cry out with the Prophet: “As the stag longs for the springs of water so my soul longs for you, O God!” (Ps 41[42]:2).

Saint Leo the Great from 1st sermon on the Ascension; SC 74 bis

“With that their eyes were opened”

The days that intervened between the Lord’s resurrection and ascension have not passed by uneventfully, but great mysteries have been ratified in them, deep truths revealed in them. In them the fear of awful death was removed and the immortality, not only of the soul but also of the flesh, established…

It was during these day that the Lord joined two disciples as a companion along the way, and, to the sweeping away of all clouds of uncertainty, upbraided them with the slowness of their timorous hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of the bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How far more blessed is the opening of their eyes, to whom the glorification of their nature is revealed, than that of our first parents whose eyes were opened to the shame of their disobedience (Gen 3:7).

Amidst the course of these and other miracles and when the disciples were disturbed by bewildered thoughts, the Lord appeared in the midst of them and said: “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:26). And that they might not remain with the thoughts that were disturbing them… he held out before their eyes the marks of the cross that remained in his hands and feet… so that, not with wavering faith, but with the most steadfast knowledge they might comprehend that the nature which had been laid in the sepulcher was to sit on God the Father’s throne. Accordingly, dearly-beloved, throughout the time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resur­rection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in view: to teach and impress upon both the eyes and hearts of his own people that the Lord Jesus Christ could be acknowledged to have just as truly risen as he was truly born, suffered, and died.

Saint Gregory the Great from Homily 25 on the Gospel

“Why are you weeping?”

Mary, in tears, bent down and looked inside the tomb. But she had already seen that it was empty, she had announced the Lord’s disappearance. Why does she still bend down; why does she still want to see? Because love is not satisfied with just one look; love is an ever more ardent quest. She already looked for him, but in vain; she is obstinate, and she ends up discovering him… In the Song of Songs, the Church said of the same Spouse: “On my bed at night I sought him whom my heart loves – I sought him but I did not find him. I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and crossings I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought him but I did not find him… Have you seen him whom my heart loves?” (Song 3:1-3) Twice she expresses her disappointment: “I sought him but I did not find him.” But finally, success crowns her efforts: “The watchmen came upon me as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves? I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves.” (Song 3:3-4)

And we, when do we seek the Beloved as we lie on our bed? During the brief times of rest during this life, when we sigh because our Redeemer is absent. We seek him during the night, for even if our spirit is already watching over him, our eyes so far only see his shadow. But since we do not find the Beloved there, let us rise; let us make the rounds of the city, that is to say, the holy assembly of the elect. Let us seek him with all our heart; let us look in the streets and crossings, that is to say, in life’s steep passages or on the spacious paths; let us open our eyes and seek there the steps of our Beloved… This desire caused David to say: “Athirst is my soul for God, the living God. When shall I go and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42:3)

Saint Francis de Sales from Collected works, vol. 9

“Peace be with you”

Our Lord’s apostles and disciples having withdrawn inside a house for fear, like children without a father or soldiers without a captain, the Lord appeared to them to console them in their affliction and said: “Peace be with you.” As though he wanted to say: “Why are you so fearful and afflicted? If it is doubt that what I promised you concerning my resurrection would not happen: peace be with you, rest in peace, may peace be formed within you, for I am risen. See my hands, touch my wounds; it is I indeed, no longer be afraid, may peace be in you”…

As though he wanted to say: “What is the matter with you? I can well see, my apostles, that you are all fearful and afraid; but from now on you no longer have any cause since I have won the peace for you which I am giving you. Not only does my Father owe it to me because I am his Son, but still more because I bought it at the price of my blood and of these wounds I show you. From now on no longer be cowardly or fearful because the war is over. These past days you had good reason to be afraid when you saw me whipped… beaten, crowned with thorns, wounded from head to foot and bound to the cross. I suffered all kinds of disgrace, dereliction, ignominy… Now, however, do not be afraid anymore; peace be in your hearts; for I am victorious and have struck down all my adversaries: I have overcome the devil, the world, the flesh… Up until now I have frequently given you my peace; now I am showing you how I gained it for you… Peace is everything that I give to those who are dearest to me and so: peace be with you and all those who will believe in me.”

Symeon the New Theologian from 13th catechesis (SC 104, p. 199)

“Behold, Jesus met them on their way”

Many believe in Christ’s resurrection but few see it clearly. How is it, then, that those who have not seen him are able to adore Christ Jesus as the Holy One, the Lord? As it is written: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1Cor 12:3), and again: “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24). How is it, then, that the Holy Spirit presses us to say today [in the liturgy]: “We have seen the resurrection of Christ. Let us adore the Holy one, the Lord Jesus, who alone is without sin”? How is it that it invites us to claim him as though we had seen him? Christ was raised once and for all a thousand years ago, and even then no one saw him rise. Does Holy Scripture mean us to lie?

Not on your life! To the contrary, it exhorts us to bear witness to the truth, that truth which reproduces Christ’s resurrection in each one of us, his faithful people, not just once but when, so to speak, the Master in person, Christ, rises within us, clothed in white and shining with the lightning flashes of incorruptibility and divinity. For the luminous coming of the Spirit makes us catch a glimpse, as in his morning, of the Master’s resurrection. Or rather, it grants us the favor of seeing him in person, he, the risen one. That is why we sing: “The Lord is God and has appeared to us” (cf. Ps 118[117]:27) and, alluding to his second coming, we add: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (v.26)… It is thus spiritually, for their spiritual perception, that he shows himself and lets himself be seen. And when that is brought about in us by the Holy Spirit, he raises us from the dead, he brings us to life and grants that we may see him wholly, living within us, he, the immortal and imperishable one. He grants us the grace of knowing him clearly, he who raises us up with him and makes us enter with him into his glory.

Saint Gregory Nazianzen from Sermon I, 1,4-5, PG 36, 623; 35, 395

“You were raised with Christ; seek what is above” (Col 3:1)

Christ has been raised from the dead: you also, arise! … It is the Day of the Resurrection, and this beginning of a new world has good auspices! Let us then keep the feast with joy: let us embrace one another with the kiss of peace!… Yesterday the Lamb was slain… and Egypt bewailed her firstborn… but we were protected by a precious blood. Today we have clean escaped from Egypt and from Pharaoh, that cruel tyrant… We have been delivered from our servitude and there is none to hinder us from keeping the feast of our exodus in honor of our God or from celebrating that feast, “not with the old leaven… but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”…

Yesterday I was crucified with Christ; today I am glorified with him; yesterday I died with him; today I live again with him; yesterday I was buried with Christ; today I rise with him. So let us bring our offerings to him who suffered and rose again for us… Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting. Let us give back to the image of God within us the beauty that belongs to this image. Let us recognize our dignity; let us honor our archetype. Let us know the power of the mystery, and for what Christ died. Let us make ourselves like Christ since he made himself like us; let us become God through him since he became man for our sake.

He assumed the worse that he might give us the better; he became poor that we through his poverty might be rich; he took upon himself the form of a servant that we might receive back our liberty; he came down that we might be exalted; he was tempted that we might conquer; he was dishonored that he might glorify us; he died that he might save us; he ascended that he might draw us to himself who were lying in sin. Let us give all, offer all that we are to him who gave himself as a ransom for us. Conscious of the Easter mystery we can do nothing better than offer ourselves by becoming for Christ all that he became for us.

(Biblical references: Ex 12 ; Ex 5:2 ; 1Cor 5:8 ; Gn 1:26 ; 2Cor 8:9 ; Phil 2:7)

Saint Chromatius of Aquilaea from Sermon 17, 2nd for the Easter Vigil; Sc 154

“Behold I make all things new” (Rv 21:5)

The whole world, celebrating the paschal vigil throughout this night, bears witness to this night’s splendor and solemnity. And rightly so, for on this night death was conquered, Life lives, Christ was raised from the dead. In former days, Moses said to the people regarding this Life: “You will see your life suspended on the wood both day and night” (Dt 28:66 Vg)… That this refers to Christ our Lord, he himself show us in the Gospel when he says: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6). He calls himself the Way because he leads us to the Father; the Truth, because he condemns lies; and Life, because he rules over death… “Death, where is your sting? Death, where is your victory?” (1Cor 15:55). For death, which used always to be victorious, has been overcome by the death of its victor. Life consented to die to put death to rout. Just as shadows fade away at the rising of the sun, so death was wiped out when eternal Life arose…

So here is the season of Easter. In former times Moses spoke about it to the people when he said: “This month will be the first month of the year for you” (cf Ex 12:2)… Thus the first month of the year is not January, when all is dead, but Easter, when everything comes back to life. Because this is the time when the grass of the field rises up from death, so to speak, the time when trees are in blossom and the vines in bud, the time when the very air seems happy to begin a new year… Therefore this time of Easter is the first of months, the new season… and on this day humankind itself is also renewed. And so we, who believe that the Easter season is indeed the New Year, are to celebrate this holy day with all joy and exultation and spiritual rejoicing so that in all truth we can say this refrain to the psalm: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Ps 118[117]:24).

Saint Francis de Sales from Collected Works vol. 10 (in 'The Book of the Four Loves,' Annecy edition)

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son”

Could God not supply the world with any other remedy than that of the death of his Son?… Most certainly. And he was able to redeem us by a thousand other means than the death of his Son. But he did not wish to because what was sufficient for our salvation was not so for satisfying his love. And to show us how much he loved us this divine Son died from the most harsh and ignominious of deaths as that of the cross.

What remains, then, and what consequence can we draw from this if not that, since he died for love of us, we too should die for love of him, or, if we are unable to die for love, at least we should not live otherwise than for him?… This is what the great Saint Augustine lamented about: “Lord,” he said, “is it possible someone should know you died for their sake and not live for you?” And that great lover, Saint Francis, used to say with sobs: “Ah, you died for love and no one loves you in return!”…

There is no other redemption but by this cross. O my God, how useful and what profit it is for us to contemplate the cross and Passion! Is it possible to contemplate this humility of our Savior without becoming humble and loving humiliations? Can anyone see his obedience without being obedient? No indeed, none has ever looked at our crucified Savior and remained dead or sick. And on the other hand, all those who die do so because they refuse to look at him, like those among the children of Israel who did not wish to look at the serpent Moses caused to be set up on the pillar.

Saint Leo the Great from Sermon 48, 1; PL 54, 298

“He was speaking about the temple of his body”

If we consider what the whole world has received through the cross of the Lord, then we shall recognize that if we are to celebrate Easter then it is only right to prepare ourselves with a fast of forty days…

It is not just bishops or priests or only the ministers of the sacraments but the whole body of the Church, it is the entire assembly of the faithful who are to purify themselves from every blemish so that God’s temple, whose foundation is its own founder (see 1Cor 3:11.16), may be beautiful in all its stones and radiant in all its aspects… There is no doubt that no one can undertake or complete this temple’s purification without its builder, yet he who built it also allowed him to be able to seek for its growth through his own labor. For it was living and intelligent material that served for the construction of this temple and it is the Spirit of grace that prompts it to adhere willingly into a single edifice…

And so, since all the faithful as a whole and each one in particular form one and the same temple of God, it has to be just as perfect in each as it must be in its entirety. For even if its beauty cannot be identical in all its members nor its merits the same in such a great variety of parts, yet the bond of charity obtains communion in beauty. Even if they have not received the same gifts of grace, those who are united by holy love enjoy their blessings together and what they love in others cannot be foreign to themselves since they themselves increase their riches by finding their joy in the progress of others.

Blessed John Henry Newman from PPs Vol. 8, no. 2

“It is the Lord!”

We are slow to master the great truth, that Christ is, as it were, walking among us, and by His hand, or eye, or voice, bidding us follow Him. We do not understand that His call is a thing which takes place now. We think it took place in the Apostles’ days; but we do not believe in it, we do not look out for it in our own case. We have not eyes to see the Lord; far different from the beloved Apostle, who knew Christ even when the rest of the disciples knew Him not. When He stood on the shore after His resurrection, and bade them cast the net into the sea, “that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord.” [John 21:7.] Now what I mean is this: that they who are living religiously, have from time to time truths they did not know before, or had no need to consider, brought before them forcibly; truths which involve duties, which are in fact precepts, and claim obedience. In this and such-like ways Christ calls us now. There is nothing miraculous or extraordinary in His dealings with us. He works through our natural faculties and circumstances of life.

Saint Romanos Melodios from Hymn « The mission of the apostles », 13f.; SC 283

“Proclaim the gospel to every creature”

“I say to my saints, once for all: Go out to the whole world and make disciples of nations and kingdoms. For all things have been handed over to me by the One who begot me (Mt 28:18-19), the world above as well as the world beneath, whose Lord I was before ever I took flesh. Now I have taken possession of my kingship over the whole world and I, who alone know the depths of the heart, have a council of sacred ministers in you.

“Go to all nations. Having cast the seed of repentance on the earth, water it with your teaching.” When they heard these words the apostles looked at one another, shaking their heads: “Where shall we get the speech and language to speak to all of these? Who will give us the strength, we who have neither learning nor sophistication, who are but humble fishermen, to struggle with peoples and nations as you have given us command, you who alone know the depths of the heart?”

“Do not be anxious in your hearts any more; do not allow the Foe to trouble your spirit. Do not think like children any more… I do not want to overcome by strength; it is with the weak that I carry away the victory. I am not looking for those who philosophise: I have chosen “what this world counts folly” (1Cor 1:27), I who know the depths of the heart.

“Therefore, go out to all creation. Water the seed of repentance you have sown with your teaching. Take care that not a single repentant soul remains outside your net. I delight in those who come back to me as you yourselves well know. Ah! If only the man who betrayed me had come back to me after he had sold me! Wiping away his sin, I would have restored him to you, I who alone know the depths of the heart…

“Say that I am God and that I, the unutterable One, “have assumed the condition of a slave” (Phil 2:7). Show them how I made my own the wounds of the flesh… Buried because I had been condemned, I sacked hell because I am Lord…” Strengthened by these words, the apostles said to the Creator: “You are the God who existed before the ages began and you will have no end… We will preach you as you have commanded. Be with us; be our protector, you who alone know the depths of the heart.”

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross From a Pentecost Novena

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

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

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

Saint Vincent de Paul from Spiritual discourse of 19/01/1642

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

God gives us his grace according to our needs. God is a fountain in which anyone can draw water according to the need he has of it. As someone who needs six buckets of water, draws six; or of three, three; a bird that only needs a a drop in its beak merely pecks with its beak; a pilgrim, to quench his thirst, with the cockleshell he holds: so it is with us in the case of God.

We should have a great deal of enthusiasm for making ourselves faithful to the reading of a chapter of the New Testament and, right from the start, bring forth acts of devotion from it: adoration, worshipping God’s word and truth; entering into the sentiments with which our Lord spoke them and accepting these truths; making a resolution to practice these same truths… Above all, we should beware of reading it as a study, saying to ourselves: “This passage will be useful to me for some sermon or other,” but we should only read for our own improvement.

We should not lose heart if, when we have read it several times over – for one month, two months, six months – we have not been touched by it. Sometime it will happen that we will get a little bit of light, another day a greater one, and greater still when we have need of it. A single word can change us; just one is necessary.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on Saint John's gospel, no. 25, 2.

“Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountains alone”

Why make him a king? Wasn’t he already a king who was afraid of becoming one? Yes, he was. But not a king like the ones that men make. He was a king who gave the power of reigning to men. Perhaps in this case too, Jesus, whose actions are teachings, wanted to give us a lesson… Perhaps that “take him by force” was a wanting to advance the moment of his reign. But he had not come to reign at that particular moment as he will do later and as we say to him: “May your kingdom come!” As Son of God and as Word of God, Word through whom all things were made, he is always reigning with the Father. But the prophets also foretold his reign as Christ made man who made Christians of his faithful. Thus there is to be a kingdom of Christians which is taking shape at the present moment, which is being prepared, which Christ’s blood has bought.

This kingdom will become manifest later when the splendor of the saints will shine out, following the judgement declared by Christ. The apostle said of this kingdom: “He will hand over the kingdom to his God and Father” (1Cor 15:24). And he himself spoke of it, saying: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34). But the disciples and crowds who believed in him thought he had come to reign at that very moment. This was to want to advance his time, which he was concealing within himself so as to make it known and cause it to break forth at the right time, at the end of the ages.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on Saint John's Gospel, Bk 12; PG 74, 704

“Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”

By his miraculous entry through closed doors Christ proved to his disciples that by nature he was God and also that he was none other than their former companion. By showing them his side and the marks of the nails, he convinced them beyond a doubt that he had raised the temple his body, the very body that had hung upon the cross (cf Jn 2:19). He had destroyed death’s power over the flesh, for as God, he was life itself…

We have only to recall Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain in the presence of his holy disciples (Mt 17:1f.), to realize that mortal eyes could not have endured the glory of his sacred body had he chosen to reveal it before ascending to the Father… And so, before allowing the glory that belonged to it by every right to transfigure the temple of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ in his wisdom appeared to his disciples in the form that they had known. He wished them to believe that he had risen from the dead in the very body that he had received from the blessed Virgin, and in which he had suffered crucifixion and death, as the Scriptures had foretold…

When Christ greeted his holy disciples with the words: “Peace be with you,” by peace he meant himself, for Christ’s presence always brings tranquility of soul. This is the grace Saint Paul desired for believers when he wrote: The ”peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.” (Phil 4:7) The peace of Christ which passes all understanding, that Saint Paul wrote about, is in fact the Spirit of Christ, who fills all those who share in him with every blessing.

Saint Jacob of Sarug from Hexameron: Homily for the first and second days

“God separated the light from the darkness” (Gn 1:4)

While the astonished angels dared not ask for anything, God’s command rang out: “Let there be light!” (Gn 1:3). And light drove out the darkness… This took place on the Sunday, the first day, first-born of its kind, a day bearing mysteries and symbols. God had created two twin beings with nothing in common: night in its total darkness and the clarity of day. Night was the elder of the two but day drove it out and replaced it.

This first of days, foundation of creation, did not flow past, hour after hour; light did not rise in the East to set in the West… It underwent no changes; it simply was, as it is written: “And there was light”. Thus a day was born, formed of night and daylight; evening and morning followed each other… Then God drew back the first day and summoned the second. He set the evenings and mornings on their hinges so that the great entranceway, which daily opens and shuts, might revolve.

Saint Faustina Kowalska from Diary, § 1323

“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent”

I bow down before you, O Bread of Angels,
With deep faith, hope and love,
And from the depths of my soul I worship you
Though I am but nothingness.

I bow down before you, O hidden God,
And love you with all my heart.
The veils of mystery hinder me not at all;
I love you as do your chosen ones in heaven.

I bow down before you, O Lamb of God
Who take away the sins of my soul,
Whom I receive in my heart each morning,
You who are my saving help.

Saint Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 50, 1.2.3; PL 52, 339-340

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

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

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

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint John's gospel, vv. 31-36

The true bread which has come down from heaven

The Jews said: “Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness”. Our Savior might have replied: “But I have wrought far greater wonders than Moses, requiring no rod, having no need of prayer (cf. Ex 9:23; 17:9f), but doing everything by my own authority. And if you are remembering the manna, see, have I not given you bread in abundance?” However, this was not the time for such speeches. The one thing Jesus earnestly desired was to draw them to himself so that they would ask him for a spiritual food… “It was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven”…

Jesus called the bread that the Father gives “the true bread”, not because the miracle of the manna was false but because it was the type of a greater and more wonderful bread…: “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Not just to the Jews but to all the world, not just bread but life, another and completely different life: this bread gives the true life… Jesus is himself this bread because he is the Word, just as here and now in our churches he becomes heavenly bread through the descent of the Holy Spirit.

Saint John XXIII from Osservatore Romano 20/09/59

“Whoever comes to me will never hunger”

The economic problem is the frightening unknown quantity in our tormented time. The problem of daily bread, of wellbeing, is the anguishing uncertainty oppressing us amongst the masses who are anxious, unsatisfied and sometimes, unfortunately, starving. It is an obligation for us to unite our efforts, to make the necessary sacrifices according to the catholic doctrine issuing from the Gospel and the Church’s clear and solemn teachings, to take part in seeking a just solution for all. Yet it is useless for us to strive to fill stomachs with bread and satisfy their other sometimes desperate desires if we don’t succeed in feeding souls with the bread of life, true, substantial, divine, to feed them with that Christ for which they hunger and thanks to which one is able, alone, to reassume the way “to the mountain of God” (1Kgs 19:8).

But it is in vain that we shall ask economists and legislators for new forms of social life if they remove from people’s eyes Mary’s gentle, maternal smile, whose arms are open wide to welcome all her children. On her breast pride is cast down, hearts are pacified in the holy poetry of christian peace and love. Let us join our efforts so that the heart of man may never be separated from what God, in catholic doctrine and world history, has so marvelously united: the eucharist and the Virgin.

Vatican Council II from Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium), 47-48 (c. Liberia Vaticana Editrice)

“The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

At the Last Supper, on the night when He was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of His Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until He should come again, and so to entrust to His beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of His death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is eaten, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.

The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally “God may be all in all” (1Cor 15,28).

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

This gift of God: the Mass

All our good works together do not equal the holy Sacrifice of the Mass because these are human works and the Mass is God’s work. Martyrdom is nothing by comparison: it is the sacrifice a person makes of his life to God; the Mass is the Sacrifice that God makes to us of his Body and Blood.

At the word of the priest Our Lord descends from heaven and is enclosed within a tiny host. God arrests his gaze upon the altar. “This is my beloved Son,” he says, “in whom I place all my delight” (cf. Mt 3:17; Mt 17:5). To the merits of the offering of this Victim He cannot refuse anything.

How wonderful it is! After the consecration God is there as he is in heaven!… If we really knew this mystery we would die of love. God arranges things for us on account of our weakness.

Oh, if only people had faith, if they understood the value of the holy Sacrifice, they would have a great deal more enthusiasm for assisting at it!

Saint Augustine from Homily 25 on Saint John, 14-16

“Do you also want to leave?”

“I am the bread of life, the true bread, that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33)…You hunger for this bread from heaven? You have it in front of you but you don’t eat it! “But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe” (Jn 6:36). For all that, I do not reject you: has your infidelity nullified the fidelity of the Lord? (Rom 3:3) Look then: “Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me” (Jn 6:37). What is this intimate relationship from which we cannot be excluded? A profound contemplation, a sweet secret. A secret that does not tire, free of the bitterness of evil thoughts, free from the torments of temptation and sorrow. Isn’t a secret such as this the one that the faithful servant will be invited to share, as it is said: “Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21)?…

As for him, you will not cast him out for you came down not to do your own will but the will of the one who sent you (Jn 6:38). What a great mystery! …Yes, to cure the cause of all sins, meaning pride, the Son of God humbled himself and came down. Why boast, O Man? God humbled himself because of you. You might be embarrassed to imitate the humbleness of a man, then imitate God’s humility. God made himself man; you, O man, recognize that you are a man: all your humility consists in recognizing what you are. It is because God wants to teach you humility that he says: “I have come to do the will of the one who sent me…I have come, a humble one, to teach humility as a master of humility. The one who comes to me becomes a member of my Body; the one who comes to me becomes humble…He doesn’t do his own will but the will of God; that is why he will not be cast out as he was when he was proud.”

Saint John-Paul II, from Mulieris dignitatem

“When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4)

[In reply] to the aspirations of the human spirit in search of God… the “fullness of time” emphasizes the response of God himself… The sending of this Son, one in substance with the Father, as a man “born of woman” (Ga 4:4), constitutes the culminating and definitive point of God’s self-revelation to humanity… A woman is to be found at the centre of this salvific event. The self-revelation of God, who is the inscrutable unity of the Trinity, is outlined in the Annunciation at Nazareth. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High” – “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” – “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God… For with God nothing will be impossible”.

It may be easy to think of this event in the setting of the history of Israel, the chosen people of which Mary is a daughter, but it is also easy to think of it in the context of all the different ways in which humanity has always sought to answer the fundamental and definitive questions which most beset it. Do we not find in the Annunciation at Nazareth the beginning of that definitive answer by which God himself “attempts to calm people’s hearts”? It is not just a matter here of God’s words revealed through the Prophets; rather with this response “the Word is truly made flesh” (Jn 1:14). Hence Mary attains a union with God that exceeds all the expectations of the human spirit. It even exceeds the expectations of all Israel, in particular the daughters of this chosen people, who, on the basis of the promise, could hope that one of their number would one day become the mother of the Messiah. Who among them, however, could have imagined that the promised Messiah would be “the Son of the Most High”? On the basis of the Old Testament’s monotheistic faith such a thing was difficult to imagine. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, who “overshadowed” her, was Mary able to accept what is “impossible with men, but not with God” (Mk 10: 27).

Saint Augustine from Sermon 258 (SC 116, p.347f.)

“And God said: ‘Let there be light'” (Gn 1:3)

“This is the day the Lord has made” (Ps 118[117]:24). Call to mind what the world was like in the beginning: “Darkness covered the abyss while God’s Spirit swept over the waters. Then God said: ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’” (Gn 1:2f.)… “This is the day the Lord has made.” It is the day the apostle Paul spoke about: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8)…

Isn’t it true to say that Thomas was a man, one of the disciples, one of the crowd so to speak? His brethren said to him: “We have seen the Lord”. But he said: “Unless I touch him, unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” The evangelists bring you the news and you don’t believe it? The world believed but a disciple did not believe?… The day the Lord has made had not yet happened; darkness still covered the abyss, the depths of darkness of the human heart. Let him come who is the sign of day, let him come and, without anger, let him who brings healing patiently, gently say: “Come. Come, touch and believe. You declared that: ‘Unless I touch him, unless I put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ Come, touch, put in your hand and do not be unbelieving but believe. I understand your wounds; it is for you I have kept my scars.”

In putting out his hand this disciples is able to bring his faith to full completion. Indeed, what is faith’s completion? Not to believe that Christ is only man, not even to believe that Christ is only God, but to believe that he is man and God… And so the disciple whom the Saviour granted to touch his bodily members and scars, cried out: “My Lord and my God.” He touched the man, he recognised the God. He touched the flesh, he turned towards the Word, for “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). The Word permitted his flesh to be hung on the wood…; the Word permitted his flesh to be placed in the tomb. The Word raised up his flesh, showed it to the disciples’ face, offered it to their touch. They touched, they cried out: “My Lord and my God!”

This is the day the Lord has made!

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Commentary on Saint John's Gospel, no, 3

“Whoever enters through me will be saved”

“I am the good shepherd”. It is obvious that the title of ‘shepherd’ is appropriate for Christ. For just as a shepherd leads his flock to pasture, so Christ refreshes the faithful with the spiritual food of his own body and blood… On the other hand, Christ has said that the shepherd goes in by the door and that he himself is that door. So from this we must understand that it is he who goes in through himself. This is certainly true. It is indeed through himself that he enters in. In his own self he reveals himself and it is through himself that he shows he knows the Father, whereas we, on our part, go in through him and it is he who gives perfect happiness to us.

The door is none other than he for none other is “the true light which enlightens everyone” (Jn 1:9)… That is why no one says of themselves that they are the door; to Christ alone is this name reserved as belonging to him by right. The title of shepherd, however, he has passed on to others, having given it to certain of his members. Thus Peter also has it (Jn 21:15f.) and the other apostles, as also all bishops. Scripture says: “I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart,” (Jer 3:15)… No shepherd is good unless he is united to Christ by charity, thus becoming a member of the true shepherd.

For the good shepherd’s office is charity. That is why Jesus says that he “lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11)… Christ has set us an example: “he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1Jn 3:16).

Basil of Seleucia from Homily 26, on the Good Shepherd; PG 85, 299

The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Both Pilate and the Jews saw this shepherd led to the cross for his sheep as the prophets had clearly foretold long before his Passion: “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers” (Is 53:7). He did not refuse death, he did not flee judgement, and he did not repulse those crucifying him.

He did not undergo the Passion: he willed it for the sake of his sheep: “I have power to lay down my life,” he said, “and the power to take it up again.” He destroyed suffering with the suffering of the Passion, death with his death. With his grave he opened graves. He shook the dwelling of the dead and made its bolts spring open. Graves are sealed and the prison shut so long as the Shepherd does not descend into death to preach liberation to those of his sheep who are asleep (cf 1Pt 3:19). We see him in the dwelling of the dead: he gives the command to come out; even there we see him renew the call to life. “The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep”: this is how he seeks the love of his sheep. Whoever loves Christ is the one who hears his voice.

Saint Aelred of Rielvaux from The prayer of a pastor, 1.7

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me”

O Jesus, Good Shepherd, a shepherd who is truly good, shepherd full of lovingkindness and gentleness, the cry of a poor and wretched shepherd rises up to you: a weak and clumsy shepherd, an unprofitable shepherd (cf. Lk 17:10) and yet, in spite of all, a shepherd of your flock. Yes, Good Shepherd, the cry of this shepherd who is far from being good rises up to you. He cries to you, uneasy for himself, uneasy for your flock… You know my heart, Lord, you know my wish is to spend entirely for those you have entrusted to me all you have given to your servant …, and more than anything, to spend myself for them without counting the cost (2Cor 12:15)…

Even you yourself did not disdain to spend yourself for them. Therefore teach me, Lord, even me your servant, teach me through your Holy Spirit how to expend myself for them… By your inexpressible grace grant me, Lord, to bear their weaknesses with patience, to sympathize with kindness, to help them with discretion. May your Spirit’s instruction teach me to console the afflicted, strengthen the fearful, raise up those who fall, to be weak with the weak, to share the shame of those who stumble, to make myself all things to all to gain them all (2Cor 11:29; 1Cor 9:19.22). Put true words on my lips, words that are upright and just so that they may grow in faith, hope and love, in chastity and humility, in patience and obedience, fervor of spirit and purity of heart. Since it is you who have given them this blind guide (Mt 15:14), this ignorant teacher, this incapable leader, teach him whom you have installed as their professor, guide the one you have commanded to guide others.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies, III 1,1; 10,6

“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature”

After our Lord had been raised from the dead and the apostles had been clothed with power from on high by the coming of the Holy Spirit (Lk 24:49), they were filled with assurance concerning everything and understood perfectly. Then they, who together and individually had possession of the Gospel of God, went out to all the ends of the world (Ps 19[18]:5), proclaiming the Good News that has come to us from God and announcing peace on earth to men.

Thus Matthew made known a written form of the Gospel to the Hebrews in their own language, while Peter and Paul preached the Gospel in Rome and founded the Church there. After their death Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter (1Pt 5:13), himself handed on in writing Peter’s preaching. While Luke, in his turn, the companion of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by the latter. Finally, John, the disciple of the Lord, the same who rested on his breast, also published the Gospel during his stay at Ephesus…

Mark, who was Peter’s interpreter and companion, presented the beginning of his version of the Gospel in this way: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophets: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way’”… As can be seen, Mark makes the words of the holy prophets the beginning of his Gospel, and the one whom the prophets proclaimed as God and Lord, Mark places at the head as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ… At the end of his Gospel, Mark says: “And the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God”. This confirms the prophet’s words: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies your footstool’” (Ps 110[109]:1).

Saint Vincent de Paul from Conference of 02/05/1659

“Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these”

Our Lord said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3), by which eternal Wisdom shows us how the workers of the gospel should avoid all flamboyance in deed and word and adopt a humble, easy, straightforward manner of acting and speaking. It’s the devil who delivers us over to the tyranny of wanting to be a success and who, when he sees us drawn to comport ourselves simply and plainly, says: “What a base fellow he is! He’s so dull and thoroughly unworthy of christian dignity.” What a trick of the devil! Watch out, Messieurs, turn away from these vanities… Keep our Lord’s behavior before your eyes, so humble and unassuming.

He might well have given brilliance to his works and a lordly authority to his words, but he did not. “You will do the same things as I do,” he said to his disciples, “and even greater things than these.” Now, Lord, why do you want them to do even more than you when they do what you have done? Because our Lord wants to be surpassed in what is done publicly so that he might excel in what is humble and hidden. He desires the fruits of the Gospel, not the acclaim of the world. And so he has done more through his servants than by himself.

He wished Peter to convert, on one occasion three thousand, and on another occasion five thousand people (Ac 2:41; 4,4), and for all the earth to be illumined by the apostles. Whereas, although he was the light of the world (Jn 8:12), he preached only in Jerusalem and the countryside round about, and he preached there knowing he would be less successful than elsewhere… He achieved little enough, then, while his poor disciples, ignorant and common fellows, filled with his power, achieved more than he. Why? Because he wanted to be humble in this respect.

Venerable Pius XII from Pius XII Radio message 23 March 1952

Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, is the light of the conscience

The conscience is man’s most interior and intimate core. That is where he takes refuge with his spiritual faculties in complete solitude: alone with himself or, rather, alone with God whose voice is to be heard in the conscience. That is where he decides good or evil, that is where he chooses the path of victory or defeat. Even if he wanted to, man could not succeed in getting rid of it. With it, whether it approves or whether it condemns, he makes his way along the entire path of life, and again, with it, the truthful and incorruptible witness, he presents himself before the judgment seat of God.

Thus conscience is a sanctuary on the threshold of which everyone must halt, everyone, even fathers or mothers in the case of a child. Priests alone enter there as physicians of souls, but the conscience does not cease to be a jealously guarded sanctuary for all that, of which God Himself desires the privacy should be preserved under the seal of the most sacred of silences. In what sense can one speak of the education of conscience? Our divine Savior has brought his truth and his grace to ignorant and weak mankind: truth to show him the way that leads to his goal; grace to confer on him the strength for being able to attain it. Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, not just for everyone taken together but for each one individually.

Pope Francis from Apostolic Exhortation « Evangelii Gaudium / The Joy of the Gospel » § 24

“No messenger is greater than the one who sent him”

The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast (Lk 14:23). Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved.

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17). An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice (Jn 10:3).

Saint John XXIII from Speeches, V

“My peace I give to you”

O Prince of peace, risen Jesus, look kindly upon all humankind. It is from you alone that it looks for aid and rescue. Just as in the days of your earthly life, you always prefer the small, the humble, those who suffer. You step constantly in front of sinners. Grant that all may call upon you and find you that they may have in you their way, their truth, their life (Jn 14:6). Grant us your peace, O Lamb sacrificed for our salvation (Rv 5:6; Jn 1:29): “O Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world; grant us your peace!”

This is our prayer, O Jesus: Banish from men’s hearts everything that could compromise their peace; confirm them in truth, justice, love for each other. Enlighten all leaders: may their efforts on behalf of peoples’ well-being be united in the task with a view to ensuring them peace. Stir up the wills of all to overthrow the barriers that divide us and to strengthen the bonds of charity. Stir up the wills of all to be ready to understand, to sympathize, to forgive; that all may be united in your name, and that in hearts, in families, in the whole world, peace, your peace, may triumph.

Saint John Climacus from The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Taking the precious from the worthless, or loving one’s neighbor

There are men who, through spiritual charity, assume the burdens of others over and above their own strength, remembering this word: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for those one loves” (cf. Jn 15:13).

And there are others who, even though they have doubtless received from God the strength to bear responsibility for others do not willingly take this burden upon themselves for the salvation of their brethren. I am very sorry for these since they do not possess charity.

As for the first, to them I apply these words: “If you utter what is precious and not what is worthless, you shall be my mouth” (Jer 15:19), and “As you have done, so will it be done to you” (Ob 1:15).

I have seen a sick man heal the infirmity of another sick man with his faith by using a praiseworthy impudence towards God on behalf of the other and giving his soul for the soul of his brother in all humility. And while healing him, he himself was healed. And I have seen another do the same but through pride, who heard this reprimand: “Physician, cure yourself” (Lk 4:23).

Saint Vincent de Paul from Addresses to the Daughters of Charity

How Jesus formed his apostles

As you know, Sisters, conferences served our Lord for the establishment of his Church. From the day when he brought together his apostles he gave them to them. Then, when his Company became larger and had both apostles and disciples, he sometimes held assemblies with them. And it was during a conference like that that Saint Philip, whose feast day we keep today, said to our Lord: “Lord, you talk to us about your Father but let us see your Father.” And our Lord replied: “Whoever sees me sees my Father; my Father and I are one.”

In those conferences the apostles put forward their difficulties and our Lord gave them his answer. He dealt with the promotion of the Church and the means God would use to enable it to flourish in such a way, my dear Sisters, that one could say – and indeed it is true – that Jesus Christ himself instituted conferences and made use of them for the beginnings, the progress and the perfection of his Church. And after his death and glorious ascension he did not enable any other instruction among the faithful through the apostles and priests except in the form of a conference. There was no sermon at all; when the Christians were assembled, the conference began.

Saint Louis-Marie Gringnion de Montfort from Treatise on the true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, (Article one; First Truth)

Jesus, our All

[Jesus] is our only master, who must teach us; our only Lord, on whom we must depend; our only head, to whom alone we should belong; our only model, whom we should imitate; our only physician, who must heal us; our only shepherd, who must feed us; our only Way, who must lead us; our only Truth, whom we must believe; our only Life, who must be our life; and our sole sufficiency in all things, that in him we may have all in All. Except the Name of Jesus, there is no other name given under Heaven whereby we must be saved; and apart from Jesus Christ, God has given us no other foundation of our salvation, our perfection and our glory: “for other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus” (1Cor 3:11). Every house which is not built upon this firm rock, is founded on the shifting sands, and will inevitably fall sooner or later. Every soul who is not united with Christ as a branch to the stem of the vine, will fall off, wither and become fit only for the fire. If we are in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ in us, we need not fear damnation; neither angels in heaven nor men on earth, neither demons in hell nor any other creature can harm us because they cannot separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (cf. Rm 8:38-39).

Saint Athanasius from On the Incarnation of the Word, 27-29; PG 25, 143; SC 199

“You do not belong to the world because I have chosen you out of the world”

Death, having now been conquered and exposed by the Savior on the cross and bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample on it as they pass by and, witnessing to Christ, scoff at death, jesting at it and say what has been written against it of old: “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting” (1Co 15,55; Hos 13,14)… Is it a slight demonstration of the victory won over it by the Savior when young boys and girls in Christ despise this life and prepare to die? For we are by nature afraid of death and the dissolution of the body; yet there is this most startling fact, that whoever has put on the faith of the cross despises even what is naturally fearful and, for Christ’s sake, is not afraid of death…

If – whereas previously death was strong and for that reason terrible – yet now, after the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of his body, it is despised, it must be evident that death has been brought to nought and conquered by the very Christ who ascended the Cross. For just as, following the night, when the sun rises and the whole region of the earth is illuminated, it is not to be doubted that it is the sun which has revealed its light everywhere, has driven away the dark and given light to all things, so in the same way… it must be quite plain that it is the very Savior who appeared in the body who has brought death to nought and displays signs of victory over it every day through his own disciples… Is anyone who is an eye-witness of men, women and children rushing towards and seizing death for their faith in Christ, so stupid or incredulous or so maimed in mind as not to see and infer that Christ, to whom these people bear witness, himself supplies and gives to each the victory over death, depriving death of its power in each one of those who have faith in him and bear the sign of his cross?

Saint John-Paul II from Apostolic Letter ``Salvifici Doloris``, 25

“They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God”

The Gospel of suffering speaks first in various places of suffering “for Christ”, “for the sake of Christ”, and it does so with the words of Jesus himself or the words of his Apostles. The Master does not conceal the prospect of suffering from his disciples and followers. On the contrary, he reveals it with all frankness, indicating at the same time the supernatural assistance that will accompany them in the midst of persecutions and tribulations ” for his name’s sake”. These persecutions and tribulations will also be, as it were, a particular proof of likeness to Christ and union with him. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you…; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you… A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me they will persecute you… But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me” (Jn 15:18-21)..

“I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”(Jn 16:33). This first chapter of the Gospel of suffering, which speaks of persecutions, namely of tribulations experienced because of Christ, contains in itself a special call to courage and fortitude, sustained by the eloquence of the Resurrection. Christ has overcome the world definitively by his Resurrection. Yet, because of the relationship between the Resurrection and his Passion and death, he has at the same time overcome the world by his suffering. Yes, suffering has been singularly present in that victory over the world which was manifested in the Resurrection. Christ retains in his risen body the marks of the wounds of the Cross in his hands, feet and side. Through the Resurrection, he manifests the victorious power of suffering, and he wishes to imbue with the conviction of this power the hearts of those whom he chose as Apostles and those whom he continually chooses and sends forth. The Apostle Paul will say: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Tm 3:12).

Symeon the New Theologian from Catechsis, 33; SC 113

“When he comes, the Spirit of trust, he will guide you to all truth”

What is the key to knowledge if not the grace of the Holy Spirit conferred by faith? Its illumination truly gives knowledge, divine knowledge, and opens our closed and veiled minds, as we frequently experience with regard to many parables and figures, to say nothing of clearer demonstrations. Pay careful attention, therefore, to the spiritual meaning of the word. If the key does not open the door – for Scripture says, to him the doorkeeper opens – it remains unopened; and if the door is not opened, no one enters the Father’s house. As Christ says: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).
Now the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who first opens our minds and teaches us about the Father and the Son is again stated by Christ himself: “When the Spirit of truth comes, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me and he will lead you to the whole truth” (Jn 15:26; 16:13). Do you not see how through the Spirit, or rather in the Spirit, the Father and the Son come to be known inseparably?…

The Holy Spirit is called the key because it is through him and in him that we first receive spiritual illumination, and being purified, are enlightened with the light of knowledge, and baptized from above, and born again, and called children of God. As Paul says: “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groans” (Rm 8:26); and again, “God has given his Spirit to our hearts and he cries out, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Gal 4:6). It is the Spirit, therefore, who shows us the door which is light, and the door teaches us that he who inhabits the dwelling is himself also light inaccessible.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from Sermon for the Ascension

“Your life is hidden now with Christ in God.”

“Father, all those you gave me I would have in my company where I am, to see this glory of mine.” (Jn 17:24) Happy are they who now have as their advocate before God their judge in person; happy are they who have interceding for them the one whom we must adore equally with the Father, to whom he himself addresses this prayer. The Father cannot refuse to grant this desire which his lips expressed (Ps 21:3), for he is united with him in his will, in his power, since he is one and the same God… “All those you gave me I would have in my company where I am.” What assurance for those who have faith, what confidence for the believers! … The saints, whose “youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Ps 103:5) “soar as with eagles’ wings.” (Isa 40:31) …

On that day, Christ “was lifted up before the eyes of the disciples in a cloud which took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9) … He strove to draw their hearts to follow him by making himself loved by them, and he promised them through the example of his body that their body could be lifted up in the same way… Today, Christ in truth “mounted a cherub and flew, borne on the wings of the wind,” (Ps 18:11) which is to say, he goes beyond the power of the angels. And yet, in his condescendence before your weakness, “as an eagle… hovering over its brood,” he wants to “receive you and to bear you up on his pinions.” (Deut 32:11) … Some people fly with Christ by means of contemplation; for you, let it at least be through love.

Brother, since Christ your treasure was lifted up to heaven today, may your heart also be there (Mt 6:21). Your origin is from there, and that is where you will find your inheritance (Ps 16:6); from there you are awaiting the Savior (Phil 3:20).

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Commentary on Saint John's gospel, BK. II § 2134

The joy of the vision of the risen Lord, the joy of the vision of glory

After having applied the comparison (of the woman in labor) to the sadness of the Apostles, the Lord applies it to their future joy.

First of all he promises them they will see him again when he says: “But I will see you again.” He does not say “you will see me” but “I will see you” because the fact of himself showing himself derives from his mercy, as shown by his look. And so he says: “But I will see you again” at the Resurrection and, in future glory: “Your eyes will see the king in his beauty” (Is 33:17).

He then promises them gladness of heart and rejoicing, saying: “and your hearts will be full of joy,” namely the joy of seeing me at the Resurrection. Therefore the Church sings: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps 117[118]:24). “And your hearts will be full of joy” also because of the vision of glory: “You will fill me with joy in your presence” (Ps 15[16]:11). Indeed, it is natural for every living being to find their joy in contemplation of the beloved reality. Now, no one can see the divine essence without loving it. Therefore joy necessarily accompanies this vision: you will “see it” when you know it with the mind, “and your hearts will rejoice” (Is 60:5) and this joy will itself rise up again even as far as the body when it is glorified. And so Isaiah adds: “and your bones will flourish” (Is 66:14). “Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Mt 25:21).

Finally, the Lord promises a joy that will last forever when he says: “and your joy”, that which you will have at the Resurrection because of me – “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord” (Is 61:10) – “no one will take away from you” because “rising from the dead. Christ dies no more; death no longer has power over him” (Rm 6:9). Or again: “your joy” the joy of enjoying glory, “no one will take away from you” because it cannot be lost, it is everlasting: “everlasting joy will be on their heads” (Is 35:10).

In fact no one takes this joy away himself through sin because, in this instance, each one’s will has been confirmed in virtue; and no one, either, will take this joy away from another because in that place there will be no violence and none will bear a grudge against another.

Saint John-Mary Vianney from Catechism of prayer

“Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you”

Children, your heart is small but prayer expands it and make is capable of loving God. Prayer is a foretaste of heaven, an outflow from paradise. Never does it leave us without sweetness. It is a honey that comes into the soul and sweetens everything. All our troubles melt away before a well-made prayer like snow before the sun. Prayer makes the time pass speedily and with such enjoyment that we don’t notice its length…

You can tell well enough who they are who lose themselves in prayer like a fish in water because they belong entirely to God. There is no division in their hearts. How I love generous souls like those! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Collette saw our Lord and talked to him as we talk to each other. But as for us, how often do we come to church not knowing what we’ve come for and what we want to ask! And yet, when we visit someone’s house we know perfectly well why we’re going there. There are some people who appear to be saying to the good God: “I’ve just come to say a word or two so that I can be done with you.” How often I have thought that we would obtain everything we want if, when we come to worship our Lord, we were to ask him for it with a truly living faith and pure heart.

Blessed John Henry Newman from PPS, vol. 6, no.15 ``Rising with Christ``

“They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world”

Start, now, with this holy season of Easter, and rise with Christ. See, He offers you His hand; He is rising; rise with Him. Mount up from the grave of the old Adam; from grovelling cares, and jealousies, and fretfulness, and worldly aims; from the thraldom of habit, from the tumult of passion, from the fascinations of the flesh, from a cold, worldly, calculating spirit, from frivolity, from selfishness, from effeminacy, from self-conceit and highmindedness. Henceforth set about doing what it is so difficult to do, but what should not, must not be left undone; watch, and pray, and meditate…

Show that your heart and your desires, show that your life is with your God. Set aside every day times for seeking Him… I am not calling on you to go out of the world, or to abandon your duties in the world, but to redeem the time; not to give hours to mere amusement or society, while you give minutes to Christ; not to pray to Him only when you are tired, and fit for nothing but sleep; not altogether to omit to praise Him, or to intercede for the world and the Church; but in good measure to realize honestly the words of the text, to “set your affection on things above;” and to prove that you are His, in that your heart “is risen with Him”, and “your life is hid in Him” (Col 3:1-3).

Saint Bernard from 3rd sermon for Pentecost

“It is better for you that I go”

The Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:35) and strengthened the apostles on the day of Pentecost. In her case it was to soften the impact on her virginal body of the coming of the divinity and, in theirs, to “clothe them with power from on high” (Lk 24:49), that is with burning charity… In their weakness how could they have fulfilled their mission of conquering death without that “love as strong as death” or not allowed the “gates of hell to prevail against them” without that “passion fierce as Sheol” ? (Mt 16:18; Sg 8:6). However, when they saw such enthusiasm, some thought they were drunk (Acts 2:13).

They were indeed drunk, but with new wine…, that which the “true Vine” poured down from the heights of heaven, that which “gladdens the human heart” (Jn 15:1; Ps 104[103]:15)… This was a new wine for the dwellers on earth but it is found in abundance in heaven…, it runs in streams in the streets and squares of the holy city where it spreads gladness of heart…

And so in heaven there was a special wine of which earth was ignorant. Yet earth, too, had something of its own that was its glory – Christ’s flesh – and heaven thirsted for the presence of that flesh. Could anyone stand in the way of so reliable and grace-filled an exchange, between heaven and earth, angels and apostles, as that by which earth possesses the Holy Spirit and heaven the flesh of Christ?… “If I do not go away,” Jesus says, “the Advocate will not come to you.” That is to say, if you do not allow what you love to leave you, you will not obtain what you desire. “It is to your advantage that I go” and that I should carry you over from earth to heaven, from flesh to spirit, for the Father is spirit, the Son is spirit and the Holy Spirit is also spirit… And the Father “who is spirit seeks worshipers who will worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23-24).

Benedict XVI from Homily of the 14th May 2010

Be witnesses!

“One of these men, then […] must become a witness with us to his resurrection” (Acts 1:20-22). These were the words of Peter… My brothers and sisters, you need to become witnesses… to the resurrection of Jesus. In effect, if you do not become his witnesses in your daily lives, who will do so in your place? Christians are, in the Church and with the Church, missionaries of Christ sent into the world. This is the indispensable mission of every ecclesial community: to receive from God the Father and to offer to the world the Risen Christ, so that every situation of weakness and of death may be transformed, through the Holy Spirit, into an opportunity for growth and life.

We impose nothing, yet we propose ceaselessly, as Peter recommends in one of his Letters: “In your hearts, reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). And everyone, in the end, asks this of us, even those who seem not to. From personal and communal experience, we know well that it is Jesus whom everyone awaits. In fact, the most profound expectations of the world and the great certainties of the Gospel meet in the ineluctable mission which is ours, for “without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and who encourages us: ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20)” (cf.Caritas in Veritate, 78)…

Yes! We are called to serve the humanity of our own time, trusting in Jesus alone, letting ourselves be enlightened by his word: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16). How much time we have lost, how must work has been set back, on account of our lack of attention to this point! Everything is to be defined starting with Christ, as far as the origins and effectiveness of mission is concerned: we receive mission always from Christ, who has made known to us what he has heard from his Father, and we are appointed to mission through the Spirit, in the Church. Like the Church herself, which is the work of Christ and his Spirit, it is a question of renewing the face of the earth starting from God, God always and alone!

Saint Josémaria Escriva de Balaguer from Homily of 26/03/1967 in Es Cristo que pasa

“My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”

Christ dwells in his Church: in its sacraments, liturgy, preaching, and all its activities. Christ remains present among us in a special way in the daily gift of the holy eucharist. That is why the Mass is at the centre and root of christian life. In every Mass the whole Christ is always there, Head and Body (Eph 1:22-23). “Through him, with him, in him.” For Christ is the Way, the Mediator: in him we find our all; without him our lives are empty…

Christ lives within the Christian. Faith tells us that the person in a state of grace is divinised. We are men and women, not angels, beings of flesh and bone, with heart and emotion, sadness and joy. But divinisation is accomplished within the whole person as an anticipation of our glorious resurrection. “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1Cor 15:20-22).

Christ’s life is our life as he promised his apostles at the Last Supper. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Therefore Christians must live as Christ lived, making Christ’s feelings their own so that they too can exclaim with Saint Paul: “I live, no longer I but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Saint Vincent de Paul from Address to the Daughters of Charity, (Conference of 31 July 1634 rev.)

Love one another

The way to observe your Rule is by living in great friendship and charity towards each other. The ones who are chosen for the same duty should also be united in everything. These are chosen for the fulfilment of a design but the building will not last if you do not mutually love each another, and this bond will prevent it breaking. Our Lord said to his apostles: “My apostles, if you want the design I have had from all eternity, live in great charity.”

Daughters, it is true you are weak, but bear with one another’s imperfections. Unless you do this the building will fall apart and others will be put in your place. And because there may be antipathies there it will be good for you to change, with the permission of the superiors and senior ladies. Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Barnabus had a good many disagreements and for this reason you should not be surprised if some poor, weak women should have them. You should have the readiness to go wherever you are commanded and even of asking for it and saying: “I don’t belong either here or there but wherever it pleases God I should be.”

Saint Peter Damian from Opuscule 11 ``Dominus vobiscum``, 6 (Migne 1992, p.22 rev.)

“May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you”

Holy Church, although diverse in multiplicity of persons, is brought into unity by the fire of the Holy Spirit. If, from the physical point of view, she seems to be divided among several families, yet the mystery of her profound unity loses nothing of its integrity: “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us,” (Rom 5:5). There is no question that this Spirit is both one and many at the same time: one at the core of its majesty; many in the gifts and charisms granted to the Holy Church filled by his presence. And it is this same Spirit that enables the Church to be at one and the same time single in its universal extent yet wholly present in each of its members…

So if those who believe in Christ are one, no matter where any particular one of them happens physically to be, the whole body of the Church is there through the sacramental mystery. And everything suitable to the whole body seems suitable to each one of its members… Hence it is that, when several of the faithful are together, they can say: “Incline your ear, O Lord; answer me, for I am afflicted and poor. Keep my life, for I am devoted to you” (Ps 86[85]:1-2). And when we are alone, we can still sing: “Let us all sing joyfully to God our strength; acclaim the God of Jacob” (Ps 81[80]:2). It is not misplaced for us all to say together: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth” (Ps 34[33]:2) nor, when I find myself alone, to proclaim: “Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol his name” (v.4) and many other, similar expressions. Solitude prevents nobody from speaking in the plural while the mass of the faithful can just as well express themselves in the singular. The Holy Spirit’s power, which dwells in each of the faithful and encircles them all, means that in the latter case there is a peopled solitude and in the former a great many who form but one.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on Saint John's Gospel, 11, 11; PG 74, 558

“That they may be one just as we are”

When Christ became as we are, that is to say when he became man, even though he was God by nature the Spirit anointed and consecrated him… He himself sanctified his own body and the whole of creation became worthy of sanctification. The mystery effected in Christ is the rule and way towards our own participation in the Spirit.

So that we, too, might be made one and dissolved in union with God and each other, divided though we may be by our different individualities, souls and bodies, the Son of God designed and prepared a means of bringing us together thanks to the wisdom that is his and in accordance with his Father’s plan. Through one single body, his own, he bestowed blessing on those who believe in him and made of them one body with him and amongst themselves in a mystical communion.

Who, then, could divide or deprive of their physical union those who, through this sacred body and it alone, are united in the unity of Christ? If we share the one bread then we make a single body (1Cor 10:17). For Christ cannot be divided. And so the Church is also called the body of Christ and we are its members according to Saint Paul’s teaching (Eph 5:30). All of us united to the one Christ by his sacred body; we receive him, unique and undivided, into our own bodies. We are to think of our own bodies as belonging to ourselves no more.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on Saint John's Gospel, no. 104-105

“Father, glorify your son that your son may glorify you”

There are some people who think that the Son was glorified by the Father in that he did not spare him but delivered him up for us all (Rm 8:32). But if he was glorified in his Passion, how much more in his Resurrection! In his Passion his humility appeared more than his splendor… So that “the mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5), should be glorified in his resurrection, he was first of all humbled in his Passion… Let no Christian have any doubt about it: clearly the Son has been glorified in the form of the slave that the Father has raised up and seated at his right hand (Phil 2:7; Acts 2:34).

But our Lord did not just say: “Father, glorify your Son”, he added: “that your Son might glorify you”. Very rightly, then, we ask how it was that the Son glorified the Father… In fact the Father’s glory, in itself, can neither grow nor diminish. Nevertheless, it was less so amongst us when God was only known “in Judah” and his servants did not “praise the name of the Lord from the rising of the sun to its setting” (Ps 76[75]:2; 113[112]:1-3). This was brought about by the Gospel of Christ, which made the Father known to all nations by the Son: this is how the Son glorified the Father.

If the Son had done nothing but die and was not raised up again he would not have been glorified by the Father, nor the Father by him. But now, glorified by the Father in his resurrection, he glorifies the Father by the preaching of his resurrection. This is manifest in the very order of words: “Father, glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you”, as though he were saying: “Raise me up so that, through me, you may be made known to the whole world”… Even in this life God is glorified when our preaching makes him known to others and when he is preached through the faith of those who believe in him.

Saint John-Paul II from Homily given in Paris 30/05/08

“Simon, do you love me?”

In his hour of trial Peter denied his Lord three times. And so his voice was trembling when he answered: “Lord, you know that I love you.” Yet he did not say: “All the same, Lord, I let you down”, but: “Lord, you know that I love you.” When he said that, he already knew that Christ is the cornerstone (Acts 4:11) on which, despite his human frailty, there might grow in him, Peter, that building whose form would be love through every situation, every trial, to the end. That is why there would come a time when he would write…: “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pt 2:5).

This means nothing else than that we should always and at all times be responding, tenaciously and consistently, to that single question: “Do you love? Do you love me? Do you love me more than these?” For in fact it is this answer, that is to say this love, that makes of us “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people whom God has chosen for his own”. It is this that causes us to proclaim the wonderful works of him who “has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1Pt 2:9). And Peter knew all this in the absolute certainty of his faith, and he knows and continues to confess it also in those who succeed him.

Jean-Pierre de Caussade from Self-abandonment to divine providence, ch. 11, § 191f.

“The whole world would contain the books that would be written”

Jesus lives and works among us, throughout our lives, from the beginning of time to the end… The life he began continues in his saints for ever… When “the world itself cannot contain everything that could be written about Jesus,” about what he did and said, about his own life; when the gospels have only sketched in a few details; when the first hour is so unknown and yet so fateful – what an infinite number of gospels would be required to record the history of every moment of that mystical life of Jesus Christ whose miracles continually multiply! They will continue till the end of time, since, in fact, time is but .the history of divine action! The Holy Spirit has picked out in clear and unmistakable characters a few moments of that. vast duration of time, preserved in the scriptures a few drops of that ocean, revealed the secret and mysterious way in which Jesus appeared on earth…

So the rest of the story, which consists of the whole mystical life of Jesus in the souls of saints, remains a matter of our faith… The Holy Spirit no longer writes gospels, except in our hearts; saintly souls are the pages, suffering and action the ink. The Holy Spirit is writing a living gospel with the pen of action, which we will only be able to read on the day of glory when, fresh from the presses of life, it will be published.

O what a beautiful story! What a beautiful book the Holy Spirit is now writing! It is in the press, not a day passes when the type is not being set, the ink not applied, the pages not being printed. But we remain in the night of faith, the paper is darker than the ink…, it is in the language of another world which we cannot understand; it is a gospel we will only be able to read in heaven.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 153-155

“I do believe! Help my lack of trust!”

Faith is a grace.
When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come “from flesh and blood,” but from “my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 16:17) Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. “Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.’” (Vatican II, DV 5)

Faith is a human act.
Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed are contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions or to trust their promises (for example when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to “yield by faith the full submission of … intellect and will to God who reveals,” (Vatican I) and to share in an interior communion with him.

In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: “Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Saint Bonaventure from The Tree of Life, no. 39

The Fire of Pentecost

When seven weeks had passed since the resurrection, on the fiftieth day, “when the disciples were gathered in one place with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a violent wind blowing,” (Acts 1:14, 2:1-2).

Then the Spirit descended upon the group of a hundred and twenty persons and appeared in the form of tongues of fire to give speech to the mouth, light to the intellect and ardor to the affection. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak different languages as the prompting of the Holy Spirit dictated, who taught them all truth and inflamed them with all love and strengthened them in every virtue. For aided by his grace, illumined by his teaching and strengthened by his power, although they were few and simple, “they planted the Church with their own blood” (Roman Breviary) throughout the world, partly by their fiery words, partly by their perfect example, partly by their astonishing miracles.

Purified, illumined and perfected by the power of the same Holy Spirit, the Church became loveable to her Spouse and his attendants for being exceedingly beautiful and adorned with a wonderful variety; but to Satan and his angels she became “awe-inspiring like an army in battle array” (Sg 6:10).

Saint Gregory Nazianzen from Homily for the Feast of Easter; PG 36, 624

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all”

Some people are puzzled by the marks of the Passion on Christ’s body and ask themselves: “Who is this king of glory?” (Ps 24[23]:8). Answer them that it is the Lord strong and mighty in all he has done and will continue to do… Show them the beauty of the robe worn by Christ’s suffering body, bejewelled by the Passion and transfigured by the brilliance of the divinity, that robe of glory that offers the object that is the most beautiful and most worthy of love in the world… Does the fact that he humbled himself for your sake make him small? Does the fact that he, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his flock (Jn 10:1), who came to seek out the lost sheep and, when he had found it, set it on those shoulders of his that had borne the cross for her, and who, when he had brought her back, placed her among the faithful sheep who had remained in the fold (Lk 15:4f): does this make him contemptible? Do you think the less of him because he girded himself with a linen towel to wash his disciples’ feet, thus showing them that the surest way of being exalted is to humble oneself? (Jn 13:4; Mt 23:12). For, by turning his soul to the earth, he humbles himself so as to raise up with him all those who are bowed down beneath the weight of sin. Are you going to blame him for having eaten with publicans and sinners for their salvation? (Mt 9:10).

He knew weariness, hunger, thirst, anguish and tears in accordance with the law of our human nature. Yet, as God, what did he not do?… We need a God made man who has taken mortal nature, if we are to live. We have shared in his purifying death; through his death he enables us to share his resurrection; through his resurrection he enables us to share his glory.

Vatican Council II from Dogmatic Constitution on the Church « Lumen gentium », §16

Do they follow us?

Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(Rm 9:4-5). “On account of their fathers” this people remains most dear to God, for “God does not repent of the gifts he makes nor of the calls he issues” (Rm 11:28-29). But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.

Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is he who gives to all men life and breath and all things, (Acts 17: 25-28) and as Savior wills that all men be saved (1Tim 2:4). Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do his will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with his grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint Matthew's gospel, no. 3

The salt of humanity

If you wish to be great don’t take pride in it like the Pharisee in the parable (Lk 18:9) and then you will be truly great. Believe yourself to be without merit and then you will have it. As for the publican, he recognized himself to be a sinner and thus became just. How much more will the righteous who recognize themselves to be sinners see their righteousness and merits increase! For humility makes a righteous person out of a sinner by recognizing the truth about his life, and in the souls of the just genuine humility works even more powerfully.

So don’t lose through vainglory the fruit you would have acquired by your deeds, the wages for your efforts, the reward for your life’s labors. God knows the good you do better than you know it yourself. A simple glass of water will be rewarded. God acknowledges the smallest alms, or if you are unable to give anything, even just a sigh of compassion. He accepts everything, he will recall everything so as to repay you a hundredfold.

So let us stop counting our merits and displaying them openly. If we crow over our merits we will not be praised by God. Let us rather groan about our failure and God will raise us up in the sight of all. He doesn’t want the fruit of our labors to be lost. In his ardent love he wants to crown our smallest actions; he seeks out every means of delivering us from hell.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love, p. 95-96

Leaving everything to follow him

Riches, both material and spiritual, can choke you if you do not use them fairly. For not even God can put anything in a heart that is already full. One day there springs up the desire for money and for all that money can provide – the superfluous, luxury in eating, luxury in clothing, trifles. Needs increase because one thing calls for another. The result is uncontrollable dissatisfaction. Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can fill us up.

Our Lord gives us a living example: From the very first day of His human existence He was brought up in a poverty which no human being will ever be able to experience, because “being rich He made Himself poor” (2Cor 8:9). Christ being rich emptied Himself. This is where the contradiction lies. If I want to be poor like Christ, who became poor even though He was rich, I must do the same. It would be a shame for us to be richer than Jesus, who for our sake endured poverty.

On the cross Christ was deprived of everything. The cross itself had been given Him by Pilate; nails and the crown, by the soldiers. He was naked. When He died He was stripped of the cross, the nails, and the crown. He was wrapped in a piece of canvas donated by a charitable soul, and He was buried in a tomb that did not belong to Him. Despite all that, Jesus could have died like a king and could even have been spared death. He chose poverty because He knew that it was the genuine means to possess God and to bring His love to the earth.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 1st sermon for Christmas

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.

O 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.

(Biblical references: Is 9:5; 1Co 1:25; Jn 12:31; Wsd 10:21; 1Co 13:1; Ps 93:10; Mt 18:3-4; Jn 10:9)

Venerable Pius XII from Allocution to the priests of Rome and the preachers during Lent, 17 February 1942

I am with you always, until the end of the age

Christ, our advocate (1Jn 2 :1), sits at the right hand of the Father. He is no longer visible amongst us in his human nature but he condescends to remain with us until the consummation of the world, invisible under the appearances of bread and wine in the sacrament of his love. This is the great mystery of a God who is present and hidden, who will come one day to judge the living and the dead.

It is towards this great day of God that the whole of humanity progresses from ages past, present and future. It is towards this day that the Church advances, mistress of faith and morals for all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And we, insofar as we believe in the Father, creator of heaven and earth, in the Son, redeemer of humankind, so we believe in the Holy Spirit.

This is the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son as their consubstantial love, promised and sent to the apostles by Christ on the day of Pentecost, the virtue from on high who fills them. He is the Paraclete and Comforter who remains with them always, the invisible Spirit, unknown to the world, who teaches them and reminds them of all that Jesus said to them.

Show Christians the infinite divine power of the creator Spirit, gift of the Most High, giver of every spiritual charism, most kind consoler, light of the heart who washes what is soiled within our souls, waters what is arid, heals what is wounded.

From him, eternal love, descends the fire of that charity which Christ wishes to see kindled here below; the charity that makes the Church one, holy, catholic, that animates her and makes her invincible in the midst of the assaults of the synagogue of Satan: the charity that unites in the communion of saints; the charity that renews our friendship with God and remits sin.

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori from 6th Discourse for the Octave of Christmas

The Son of Man has come to give his life

The everlasting Lord deigned to make himself known to us: first of all as a child in a stable, then as a simple worker in a workshop, later as a criminal breathing his last on a gibbet and, finally, as bread on the altar. Several different ways; ways that were intentional on Jesus’ part; ways that have but one end: that of showing us the love he bears for us.

Ah, Lord, can you think of something new to make yourself loved by us again? “Proclaim among the peoples, acclaim the great deeds of our God,” cried Isaiah (Is 12:4). O souls who have been redeemed, proclaim everywhere this loving God’s loving deeds! He designed and realized them to make himself loved by all; he who, having filled us with his blessings, gave himself up in so many ways!

“Sick or wounded, do you want to be cured? Jesus is your doctor; he heals you with his blood. Are you burning with fever? He is your refreshing spring. Are you tormented by worldly passions and difficulties? He is the source of spiritual consolation and true comfort. Are you afraid of death? He is life. Do you long for heaven? He is the way (Jn 14:6).” Thus speaks Saint Ambrose. Jesus Christ did not just offer himself to people in general but aimed to give himself to each one in particular. Hence Saint Paul says: “He loved me and gave himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). And Saint John Chrysostom affirms that: “God loves each one of us as much as he loves all humankind”. And so, dear brother, even if you had been the only person in the world, the divine Redeemer would have come and given his blood, his life, just for you.

Saint Jerome from Sermons on Saint Mark's Gospel, no. 8; SC 494

It was not yet the season for figs

“It was not the season for figs.” The apostle Paul gives an interpretation of this passage in his letter to the Romans: “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come on Israel in part until the full number of the Gentiles comes in. Thus all Israel will be saved” (Rm 11:25-26). If our Lord had found fruit on this fig tree then the full number of the Gentiles would not have come in. But because the full number of Gentiles has come in, all Israel will eventually be saved… In addition, we find this passage in the Revelation of Saint John: “Seven thousand will believe from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben” and the same for the other tribes (cf. Rv 7:5-8). They were forty-four thousand in all who would believe…

If Israel had believed, our Lord would not have been crucified, and if our Lord had not been crucified, the mass of the Gentiles would not have been saved. Thus the Jews would become believers but would not believe until the end of the world. It was not yet the season for them to believe in the cross… Their unbelief is our faith; their fall, our rising. It was not the time for them that it might become the time for us.

Saint John-Mary Vianney from The spirit of the Curé d'Ars in his Catechetical teachings, Sermons, Conversations

God gives Himself as food

To have an idea of our dignity we need often to remind ourselves of heaven, calvary and hell. If we have understood what it means to be a child of God we should be unable to commit evil, we should be like angels on earth. To be a child of God, what a dignity!

When the angels rebelled against God, this God who is so good, seeing they were unable to enjoy the happiness for which he created them, made man and this little world we see in order to nourish our bodies. However it is very necessary to nourish one’s soul also and since nothing created can nourish the soul, which is spirit, God wished to give Himself as food.

But the great misfortune is that people neglect to have recourse to this divine Food in order to pass through the desert of this life. Like someone dying of hunger beside a well laden table there are those who remain fifty or sixty years without feeding their souls.

If only Christians could understand these words of our Lord saying to them: “In spite of your wretchedness I desire to see from near this beautiful soul I have created for Myself. I have made it so great that there is none but Me who is able to fill her. I have made it so pure that there is only my Body capable of feeding it.”

Saint Pio of Pietralcina ``Padre Pio`` from Ep. 3; 586, 588, 62

“Go out and work in the vineyard today” (Mt 21:28)

With all my heart I bless God for having let me know really good souls. I could announce to them that they are also the Lord’s vineyard: their faith is the cistern; their hope is the tower; their love is the press; the law of God is the hedge which separates them from the children of darkness.

I’ll stop there because the bell is calling me; I am going to the Church’s press, to the altar. That is where the sacred wine of this delicious and unique grape’s blood flows constantly and from which very few have the good fortune to be able to become intoxicated. There, you know that – because I cannot do otherwise – I will present you to the Father of Heaven united with his Son; it is in him and with him that I am entirely yours in the Lord.

Lord Jesus, save them all. I offer myself as a victim for all of them. Make me stronger; take my heart, fill it with your love, and then ask of me whatever you want.

Saint Ambrose from Commentary on St. Luke's gospel, 2, 19-27; PL 15, 1559; SC 45

Proclaim the greatness of the Lord, rejoice in God.

The angel announced mysterious things to the Virgin Mary. To strengthen her faith he shared the news of the maternity of an aged and sterile woman about to take place, the proof that everything is possible to God (Lk 1:37). As soon as she heard this Mary took to the mountains… in a joyful outburst of her desire, in her fidelity at offering her services and in the haste of her joy…: the Holy Spirit’s grace knows nothing of delays… And at once the blessings of Mary’s arrival and the presence of the Lord made itself known: “The infant leaped in Elizabeth’s womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit”…

“Most blessed are you who believed!” she said. And most blessed are you, too, who have heard and believed for every soul that has faith conceives and gives birth to the word of God and acknowledges his work. May the soul of Mary dwell in each of us to proclaim the greatness of the Lord, in each of us the spirit of Mary to rejoice in God! If Christ has only one mother according to the flesh, Christ is the fruit of us all according to faith. For every soul is able to receive the Word of God provided that at least they are pure and free from sin. Every soul that has reached this state proclaims the greatness of the Lord as Mary’s soul proclaimed the greatness of the Lord and as her spirit rejoiced in the Savior God. Elsewhere we read: “Magnify the Lord with me” (Ps 33[34]:4).

The Lord is magnified not because a human voice adds something to him but because he grows greater in us. For Christ is the image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15) and so, if people act devoutly and uprightly, they makes this image of God grow greater within them – in whose likeness they were created (Gn 1:26) – and by making it grow greater they are raised to a kind of participation in his greatness.

Saint Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 167; CCL 248, 1025; PL 52, 636

“John the Baptist came to you…, but you did not believe him” (Mt 21:32)

“John the Baptist proclaimed: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Mt 3:2)… O blessed John, who desired that conversion precede judgment, that sinners should not be condemned but rewarded, that the unrighteous should enter the Kingdom and not undergo punishment… When did John preach this nearness of the Kingdom of heaven? The world was still in its infancy…; but for us who are announcing this nearness today, the world is extremely antiquated and worn out. It has lost its strength, lost its faculties, suffering weighs it down…, it cries out its exhaustion, it bears all the symptoms of its end…

We are being towed along by a world that passes away, forgetting the world to come. We are greedy for present things but do not take into account the coming judgment. We will not run to meet the Lord as he comes…

Let us turn back, brethren, let us turn back… By the very fact of his delay, of his still waiting, our Lord proves his desire to see us come back to him, his desire that we should not perish. In his great goodness he continues addressing these words to us: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked but would rather that they change their ways and live” (Ez 33:11). So let us turn back to him, brethren, not fearing that time is running short. The time that belongs to time’s Author cannot be shortened. The proof of it lies in the criminal in the Gospel who, at the moment of dying on the cross, got away with his pardon, grabbed hold of life and, breaking into paradise like a burglar, managed to make his way into the Kingdom (cf. Lk 23:43)!

Saint Catherine of Siena from Dialogues, chapter 13

“Whose image is this?” In becoming man, God restored in us the image of the Trinity

Eternal Love…, I ask this grace of you: have mercy on your people in the name of the eternal love, which pushed you to create the human being in your image and likeness (Gen 1:26)… You only did that, o eternal Trinity, because you yourself wanted to let the human being participate in everything. That is why you gave him memory, so that he might remember your kindnesses and thus participate in your power, o eternal Father. That is why you gave him intelligence, so that he might understand your goodness and thus participate in the wisdom of your only Son. That is why you gave him will, so that he might love what he sees and know your truth, and thus participate in the love of your Holy Spirit. Who pushed you to give such dignity to the human being? The inexhaustible love with which you looked at your creature in yourself…

[But] because of sin, your creature lost this dignity… Pushed by that same fire with which you had created us, you then… gave us the Word, your only Son… He fulfilled your will, eternal Father, when you clothed him with our humanity, in the image and likeness of our nature. O abyss of love! Which heart could defend itself for not giving in to your love when seeing the Most High joining the lowliness of our humanity? We are your image and you are ours through the union that you consummated in man by covering your divinity with Adam’s clay (Gen 2:7)… What pushed you to do that? Love! You, God, became man, and man became God. By that unspeakable love I beg you, have mercy on your creatures.

Saint Justin from Treatise on the resurrection, 2.4.7-9

“I believe in the resurrection of the flesh” (Creed)

People who are in error say there is no resurrection of the body and that it is impossible for it to be restored to its integrity once it has been destroyed and reduced to dust. According to these same people the salvation of the flesh would not only be impossible but even harmful. They blame the flesh, accuse its faults and make it responsible for sin and thus they say that, if this flesh is to rise again, its faults will rise with it… Further, our Savior said that: “Those who rise from the dead do not marry but are like angels in heaven”. But angels, they say, have no flesh, nor do they eat or unite in marriage. Therefore, they say, there will be no resurrection of the flesh…

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

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

Saint Gregory the Great from Homilies on the Gospel, no. 30; PL 76, 1220

There is no other commandment greater than these

We cannot truly love God without loving our neighbor, nor can we truly love our neighbor without loving God. This is why… the Holy Spirit was given a second time to the disciples. First it was given by the Lord while he was still dwelling on earth, and later while he was watching over us in heaven (Jn 20:22; Acts 2). He was given to us on earth that we may love our neighbors, from heaven that we may love God. Why first on earth and later from heaven except for the reason given us openly by John: “How can anyone who does not love his brother whom he sees love God whom he does not see?”

So let us love our neighbors, my friends, let us love the one who is near us so that we may be able to attain the love of the one who is above us. Let our hearts reflect on what our neighbors hold up to God so that they may be found completely worthy to rejoice in God with them. Then shall we reach the happiness of the heavenly multitude, the happiness of which we have received an assurance from the Holy Spirit. Let us move forward toward that goal where we shall be happy without end with all our love. There is the holy community of heavenly citizens, there is the sure and solemn observance, there untroubled rest, there the true peace which is no longer dependent on us but given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ (Jn 14:27).

Saint Vincent de Paul from Discourses to the Daughters of Charity, 31/07/1634

And he was obedient to them

As obedience perfects all my works it is necessary that there should always be one amongst you who assumes the place of superior. Sometimes one, sometimes the other. This is what we do in the missions also, doesn’t it seem necessary to you? May God hold as pleasing the submission you show her in honor of the submission of his Son to Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin! Take care, my daughters, always to look on her who hold the place of superior towards you as on the Holy Virgin, indeed, even see God in her, and you will benefit more in a month than you would in a year without it. By obeying you will learn holy humility, and by commanding through obedience you will profitably teach others. I should like to tell you, to motivate you to the practice of holy obedience, that when God sets me before Madame the general, I determine to myself to obey her as to the Blessed Virgin. And God knows how much good that does me!

Saint Bonaventure from The mystical Vine no.2

The heart’s wound

The soldiers not only pierced and penetrated through Jesus’s hands but also through his feet; the lance of their fury even pierced his side and, right to its depth, the sacred Heart already pierced by the lance of love.

“You have wounded my heart, my sister, my spouse; you have wounded my heart!” he said (Sg 4:9). O most loving Jesus, your bride, your sister, your friend having wounded your heart, was it really necessary that your enemies should also wound it in their turn? And you enemies of his, what do you think you are doing? If the heart of that most gentle Jesus is already wounded or, rather, since it is already wounded, why inflict another wound on it? Do you not know that at the first wound the heart became lifeless and, as it were, insensible?

The heart of my most sweet Lord Jesus has died because it has been wounded; a wound of love has overwhelmed the heart of Jesus our Spouse, a death of love has overcome it, so how can a second death enter in? Yet “Love is strong as death” (Sg 8:6), even more, it is truly stronger than death itself.

It is impossible to drive out the first death, that is to say the love of so many dead souls, from the heart it inhabits since its sovereign wound has conquered it. Out of two equally strong enemies, one inside the house and the other outside, who will doubt that the one within carries off the victory? See, then, how strong is love, which inhabits the heart and slays it with a wound of love, and this is true not only of the Lord Jesus but of his disciples too.

This is how the heart of the Lord Jesus was first wounded and died: “For you we are slain all the day long, considered only as sheep to be slaughtered” (Ps 23[44]:23). Nevertheless, bodily death takes place and triumphs for a season but only in order to be overcome for eternity.

Saint John-Paul II from Encyclical ``Dominum et vivificantem`` § 46

The sin against the Holy Spirit

Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable? How should this blasphemy be understood ? St. Thomas Aquinas replies that it is a question of a sin that is “unforgivable by its very nature, insofar as it excludes the elements through which the forgiveness of sin takes place.” According to such an exegesis, “blasphemy” does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers us through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the “convincing concerning sin” which comes from the Holy Spirit (Jn 16,8) and which has the power to save, he also rejects the “coming” of the Counselor (Jn 16:7) – that “coming” which was accomplished in the Paschal Mystery, in union with the redemptive power of Christ’s Blood: the Blood which “purifies the conscience from dead works” (Heb 9:15).

We know that the result of such a purification is the forgiveness of sins. Therefore, whoever rejects the Spirit and the Blood (cf. 1Jn 5:8) remains in “dead works,” in sin. And the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists precisely in the radical refusal to accept this forgiveness, of which he is the intimate giver and which presupposes the genuine conversion which he brings about in the conscience. If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or in the next, it is because this “non-forgiveness” is linked, as to its cause, to “non-repentance,” in other words to the radical refusal to be converted…

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is the sin committed by the person who claims to have a “right” to persist in evil – in any sin at all – and who thus rejects Redemption. One closes oneself up in sin, thus making impossible one’s conversion, and consequently the remission of sins, which one considers not essential or not important for one’s life. This is a state of spiritual ruin, because blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not allow one to escape from one’s self-imposed imprisonment.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 577-581

The fulfillment of the Law

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus issued a solemn warning in which he presented God’s law, given on Sinai during the first covenant, in light of the grace of the New Covenant: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets: I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.”…

Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and therefore the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, was to fulfil the Law by keeping it in its all embracing detail – according to his own words, down to “the least of these commandments”. He is in fact the only one who could keep it perfectly… The perfect fulfilment of the Law could be the work of none but the divine legislator, born subject to the Law (Ga 3:10) in the person of the Son. In Jesus, the Law no longer appears engraved on tables of stone but “upon the heart” ( Jr 31:33) of the Servant who becomes “a covenant to the people” (Is 42:6), because he will “faithfully bring forth justice” (Is 42:3). Jesus fulfils the Law to the point of taking upon himself “the curse of the Law” (Ga 3:13) incurred by those who do not “abide by the things written in the book of the Law, and do them” (Ga 3:10), for his death took place to redeem them “from the transgressions under the first covenant” (Heb 9:15)…

Jesus taught the people “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Mt 7:29). In him, the same Word of God that had resounded on Mount Sinai to give the written Law to Moses, made itself heard anew on the Mount of the Beatitudes. Jesus did not abolish the Law but fulfilled it by giving its ultimate interpretation in a divine way: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old. . . But I say to you. . .” (Mt 5:33-34). With this same divine authority, he disavowed certain human traditions of the Pharisees that were “making void the word of God” (Mc 7:8.13).

Sermon attributed to Saint Maximus of Turin

“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world”

The Lord said to his apostles: “You are the light of the world.” How accurate they are, those analogies our Lord uses in referring to our fathers in the faith! He calls “salt” those who teach us God’s wisdom and “light” those who dispel from our hearts the blindness and obscurity of our doubt. So it is very right that the apostles should receive this name of light. In the darkness of this world they proclaim the brightness of heaven, the splendor of eternity. Didn’t Peter become a light for the whole world and for all the faithful when he said to the Lord: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”? (Mt 16:16) What greater enlightenment could the human race have received than to learn through Peter that the Son of the living God was the creator of its own light?

And Saint Paul was no less a great light for the world. While all the earth was blinded by the darkness of its misdeeds, he was raised even to heaven (2Cor 12:2) and, on his return, made known the mysteries of the everlasting glory. That is why he could neither hide himself, as in the case of the city set on a hilltop, nor let himself be put under a bushel measure, since Christ, by the light of his majesty, had set him alight like a chosen lamp filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit. Hence, my friends, if, renouncing the illusory things of this world, we have at heart to seek out the savor of God’s wisdom, let us taste the salt of the apostles.

Saint Gregory the Great from Homilies on the Gospel, no.30; PL 76, 1220

Saint Barnabas, the apostles who announces that the Kingdom of heaven is near

“How can I love one I do not know?”… While we cannot see God, there is something we can do to open a way for the eye of our understanding to come to him. It is certain that we can see now in his servants one whom we can in no way see in himself. When we see them doing astonishing things, we can be sure that God dwells in their hearts… None of us can look directly at the rising sun by gazing at its orb. Our eyes are repelled as they strain to see its rays. But we look at mountains bathed in sunlight and see that it has risen. Because we cannot see the Sun of righteousness (Mal 3,20) himself, let us see the mountains bathed in his brightness, I mean the holy apostles. They shine with virtues and gleam with miracles… The power of his divinity is in itself like the sun in the sky; in human beings it is like the sun shining on earth…

We make our way by foot on earth without stumbling if we love God and our neighbor with our whole heart (Mt 22,37f.)… That is why the Holy Spirit was given a second time to the disciples. First it was given by the Lord while he was still dwelling on earth, and later while he is watching over us in heaven (Jn 20,22; Acts 2,2): on earth that we may love our neighbors, from heaven that we may love God. Why first on earth and later from heaven, except for the reason given us openly by John: “How can one person who does not love his brother whom he sees love God whom he does not see?” (1Jn 4,20). Let us love our neighbors, my friends, let us love the one who is near us, so that we may be able to reach the love of the one who is above us… so that they may be found completely worthy to rejoice in God with them.

Blessed John Henry Newman from PPS II, Sermon 2. ``Faith without Sight``

The weakness of Thomas’s faith is a source of blessing for the Church

We must not suppose that St. Thomas differed greatly from other apostles. They all, more or less, mistrusted Church’s promises when they saw him led away to be crucified. When he was buried, their hopes were buried with him; and when the news was brought them, that he was risen again, they all disbelieved it. On his appearing to them, he “unbraided them with their disbelief and hardness of heart.” (Mark 16:14)… Thomas was convinced latest, because he saw Christ latest. On the other hand, it is certain that, though he disbelieved the good news of Christ’s resurrection at first, he was no cold-hearted follower of his Lord, as appears from his conduct on a previous occasion, when he expressed a desire to share danger, and to suffer with him…: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (Jn 11:16)… It was at the instance of Thomas that they hazarded their lives with their Lord.

St. Thomas then loved his Master, as because an apostle, and was devoted to his service; but when he saw him crucified, his faith failed for a season with that of the rest… and more than the rest. His standing out alone, not against one witness only, but against his ten fellow disciples, besides Mary Magdalene and the other women is evidence of this… He seems to have required some sensible insight into the unseen state, some infallible sign from heaven, a ladder of angels like Jacob’s (Gn 28:12), which would remove anxiety by showing him the end of the journey at the time he set out. Some such secret craving after certainty beset him. And a like desire rose within him on the news of Christ’s resurrection.

While our Saviour allowed Thomas his wish and satisfied his senses that he was really alive, he accompanied the permission with a rebuke: “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”… All his disciples minister to him even in their weaknesses, that so he may convert them into instruction and comfort for his Church.

Vatican Council II 9-10

“The people begged him to leave their district”

The modern world shows itself at once powerful and weak, capable of the noblest deeds or the foulest; before it lies the path to freedom or to slavery, to progress or retreat, to brotherhood or hatred. Moreover, man is becoming aware that it is his responsibility to guide aright the forces which he has unleashed and which can enslave him or minister to him. That is why he is putting questions to himself.

The trust is that the imbalances under which the modern world labors are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man. For in man himself many elements wrestle with one another. Thus, on the one hand, as a creature he experiences his limitations in a multitude of ways; on the other he feels himself to be boundless in his desires and summoned to a higher life. Pulled by manifold attractions he is constantly forced to choose among them and renounce some. Indeed, as a weak and sinful being, he often does what he would not, and fails to do what he would (Rm 7:15) Hence he suffers from internal divisions, and from these flow so many and such great discords in society…

Nevertheless, in the face of the modern development of the world, the number constantly swells of the people who raise the most basic questions or recognize them with a new sharpness: what is man? What is this sense of sorrow, of evil, of death, which continues to exist despite so much progress? What purpose have these victories purchased at so high a cost? What can man offer to society, what can he expect from it? What follows this earthly life?

The Church firmly believes that Christ, who died and was raised up fro all, can through His Spirit offer man the light and the strength to measure up to his supreme destiny. Nor has any other name under the heaven been given to man by which it is fitting for him to be saved. (Acts 4:12) She likewise holds that in her most benign Lord and Master can be found the key, the focal point and the goal of man, as well as of all human history. The Church also maintains that beneath all changes there are many realities which do not change and which have their ultimate foundation in Christ, Who is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. (Heb 13:8).

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint Matthew, 30, 1-2

“I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Why did Jesus not call Matthew at the same time as he called Peter, John and the others? Just as he came on earth when he felt that people were inclined to obey him, he called Matthew when he knew that he would follow him. For the same reason, he attached Paul to himself only after the resurrection (Acts 9). For in plumbing the hearts and penetrating to each person’s most inward soul, he knew well at which moment each person was inclined to follow him. If Matthew was not called in the beginning, it is because his heart was still too hard; but after many miracles, when Jesus’ reputation had grown, he was more inclined to listen to the Master, and Jesus knew this.

It is also fitting to admire the virtue of this apostle, who did not hide his past life… His job was shameful and lacking in conscience; there was no excuse for the profits he made from it. In spite of all that, Jesus called him. He did not blush at calling a publican, just as he did not blush at speaking to a prostitute and even allowing her to kiss his feet and to wash them with her tears (Lk 7:36f.). For if he came it was not just to care for bodies, but also to heal souls. That is what he had just done for the paralytic; after showing clearly that he had the power to forgive sins, he went to Matthew, so that people would no longer be surprised to see him choose a publican as his disciple.

Saint Leo the Great from Sermon 95, 2-3; PL 54, 461-462

The poverty that makes rich

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3)… Of this generous poverty the Apostles first, after the Lord, have given us example. Unhesitatingly leaving all they had at the voice of the heavenly Master, they were joyfully converted and abandoned the catching of fish to become fishers of men (Mt 4:18f.). Among the latter many became like themselves by imitating their faith; for with those first-children of the Church, “the community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). Stripped of all their possessions, they were enriched with eternal goods thanks to holy poverty. Welcoming the Apostles’ preaching they rejoiced to have nothing in this world and yet possess all things in Christ. (2Cor 6:10).

Hence the blessed apostle Peter, when he was going up to the temple and was asked for aims by a lame man, said “I have neither silver nor gold but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk” (Acts 3″6)… Peter healed him with a word; and he who did not have a coin with Caesar’s image on it, restored on the man the image of Christ. And by the riches of this treasure not only was that one person aided whose power of walking was restored but also the five thousand men who then believed the apostle’s preaching because of this miracle (Acts 4:4). And Peter, that poor man who did not have anything to give him who asked for aims, bestowed so great a gift of divine grace that, not content with setting one man upright on his feet, he healed those many thousands of believers in their hearts by giving them faith.

Saint Jerome from Commentary on Mark's Gospel, 2; PL 2, 125f.

“I say to you, arise!”

“He did not allow anyone to accompany him inside except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James.” We might wonder why Jesus always takes with him these particular disciples and why he leaves the others behind. In the same way, when he was transfigured on the mountain, it was these three who would accompany him… The ones who were chosen were Peter, on whom the Church was built; James, the first apostle to have received the palm of martyrdom; and John, the first to extol virginity…

“Then he entered the room where the child was and, taking the child by the hand, said to her: ‘Talitha koum’. The girl arose immediately and walked around.” Let us desire Jesus to touch us and at once we too will walk. Whether we are paralysed or whether we commit wrongful deeds, we find ourselves unable to walk. Perhaps we are lying on the bed of our sins as if on a real bed. No sooner will Jesus touch us than we shall at once be healed. Peter’s mother-in-law was suffering from high fever: Jesus took her by the hand, she got up and at once began to wait on them (MK 1:31)… “And he told them to give her something to eat.” By your grace, Lord, touch our hands, we who are lying down; raise us up from the bed of our sins; cause us to walk. When we have walked, give the command that we should be given something to eat. Lying down, we cannot receive the body of Christ, to whom be glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for endless ages.

Origen from Homilies on Leviticus, no. 7

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

Christ said: “I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now until the day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s house.” (Mt 26:29) If anyone among you listens with purified ears, he can perceive the ineffable mystery…” the Lord is waiting to drink wine with us; he is waiting for us to rejoice. How long will he wait? Until he has accomplished his word, until we have all submitted to Christ and ‘Christ to his Father (I Cor 15:28). Since we are all members of his Body, we can say that in a sense he has not submitted until we have submitted with perfect submission, until I, the last of sinners, have submitted. But when we will have accomplished his word and brought every creature to its perfect fulfillment, then we will be able to say that “he has submitted” in those whom he submits to his Father, those in whom he has accomplished the work his Father entrusted to him, so that God might be all in all (1 Cor 15:28)…

And the saints who preceded us are also waiting for us, slow and lazy as we are. Their joy is not perfect so long as there is reason to weep over our sins. The apostle testifies to this for me when he says: “Without us, they were not to be made perfect.”(Heb 22:40) So see: Abraham is waiting, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets are waiting for us to possess perfect beatitudes with us,,, If you are holy, you will have joy when you leave this life, but that joy will only be complete when not one of the members of the Body we are all to form together is missing anymore. You will also wait for others in the same way as you were awaited. Now if you who are only one member cannot have perfect joy if another member is absent, how much more our Lord and Savior who is both the author and the head of the entire Body… Then we will have come to the maturity of which the apostle Paul said: “The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me.” (Gal 2:20) Then our pontiff will drink the new wine in the new heaven on the new earth, in the new human person, with the new human persons, with those who sing the new song.

Blessed Paul VI from Exhortation on Christian Joy, 1975

“On this rock I will build my church.”

In this Holy Year, we have invited you to make, either materially or in spirit and intention, a pilgrimage to Rome, that is, to the heart of the Catholic Church. But obviously Rome does not constitute the goal of our pilgrimage in time. No holy city here below constitutes this goal. This goal is hidden beyond this world, in the heart of God’s mystery which is still invisible to us…

And so it is with Rome where the holy Apostles Peter and Paul gave with their blood their final witness. The vocation of Rome is of apostolic origin, and the ministry which it is our lot to exercise here is a service for the benefit of the entire Church and of mankind. But it is an irreplaceable service, because it has pleased the Wisdom of God to place the Rome of Peter and Paul, so to speak, on the road that leads to the eternal City, by the fact that Wisdom chose to confide to Peter — who unifies in himself the College of Bishops — the keys of the kingdom of heaven. What remains here, not through the effect of man’s will but through the free and merciful benevolence of the Father and the son and the Holy Spirit, is the soliditas Petri, such as our predecessor Saint Leo the Great extolled in unforgettable terms: “Saint Peter does not cease to preside over his See, and preserves an endless sharing with the Sovereign Priest. The firmness that he received from the Rock which is Christ, he himself, having become the Rock, transmits it equality to his successors.

Saint Caesarius of Arles from Sermons to the people, no. 23, 4-5; which draws its inspiration from Saint Augustine; SC 243

“But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil”

“Whoever keeps the whole Law but falls short in one particular has become guilty in respect to all of it” (Jas 2:10). What is this one law if not true love, perfect charity? It is of this that Saint Paul also said: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one statement, namely: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:14)…

For true charity is patient in adversity and moderate in prosperity; strong in painful suffering, joyful in good works; completely safe in temptation. It is very gentle among genuine brothers, very patient among the false. It is innocent in the midst of snares, groans in the midst evildoing, and breathes naturally in the truth. It is chaste in the married woman, Susannah, in the widow, Anna, in the virgin, Mary (Dn 13:1f.; Lk 2:36). It is humble in Peter’s obedience and free in Paul’s arguments. It is human in the witness of Christians, divine in the forgiveness of Christ. For true charity, beloved brethren, is the soul of the whole of Scripture, the strength of prophecy, the structure of knowledge, the fruit of faith, the wealth of the poor, the life of the dying. So keep it faithfully; cherish it with all your heart and all the strength of your soul (cf Mk 12:30).

Saint Hilary from On Matthew IV, 27

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”

“You have learnt what is said: Love your neighbor and hate your enemy…” In fact the Law required love of neighbor but allowed freedom to hate one’s enemy. Faith demands that we love our enemies. By means of a universal feeling of charity it breaks the movements of violence in man’s spirit, not just by restraining its vengeful anger but even more by pacifying it to the point of making us love those in the wrong. To love those who love you belongs to the pagan and we all have an affection for those who show it to us themselves. So Christ is calling us to live as children of God and imitate Him who, through the coming of his Christ, gives sun and rain to the good and the guilty alike in the sacraments of baptism and the Spirit. In this way he forms us according to the perfect life by means of this bond of kindness to all by calling us to imitate a heavenly Father who is perfect.

Saint John-Mary Vianney from The spirit of the Curé d'Ars in his Catechetical teaching, Sermons, Conversations

The “Our Father”

“Our Father, who art in heaven”: how wonderful it is, children, to have a Father in heaven! — “Your kingdom come.” If I allow God to reign in my heart, he will make me reign with him in his Glory. — “Your will be done.” There is no sweeter thing than to do God’s will and nothing so perfect. To do things well we should do them as God wishes in complete conformity with his designs. — “Give us this day our daily bread.” Within us we have two sides: the soul and the body. We are asking God to feed our poor bodies and he answer us by causing the earth to yield all that is necessary for our subsistence. But we are also asking him to feed the most beautiful aspect of ourselves, our souls, and the earth is too small to provide enough to satisfy our soul. It is hungry for God, there is none but God who is able to fill it. And so God did not think it too much by living on earth and taking a Body so that this Body might become nourishment for our souls. When the priest holds up the host and shows it to you your soul can say: This is my food! Oh children, we are overwhelmed with happiness! We will only understand it in heaven!

Benedict XVI from Encyclical « Caritas in veritate », § 1.5

“Remove the wooden beams from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye”

Love — caritas — is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth. Each person finds his good by adherence to God’s plan for him, in order to realize it fully: in this plan, he finds his truth, and through adherence to this truth he becomes free (cf. Jn 8:32)…

Charity is love received and given. It is “grace”. Its source is the wellspring of the Father’s love for the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Love comes down to us from the Son. It is creative love, through which we have our being; it is redemptive love, through which we are recreated. Love is revealed and made present by Christ (cf. Jn 13:1) and “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). As the objects of God’s love, men and women become subjects of charity, they are called to make themselves instruments of grace, so as to pour forth God’s charity and to weave networks of charity.

This dynamic of charity received and given is what gives rise to the Church’s social teaching…: the proclamation of the truth of Christ’s love in society. This doctrine is a service to charity, but its locus is truth… Development, social well-being, the search for a satisfactory solution to the grave socio-economic problems besetting humanity, all need this truth. What they need even more is that this truth should be loved and demonstrated. Without truth, without trust and love for what is true, there is no social conscience and responsibility, and social action ends up serving private interests and the logic of power, resulting in social fragmentation, especially in a globalized society at difficult times like the present.

Saint Maximus of Turin from Sermon 99; PL 57, 535

“He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30)

Rightly indeed can John the Baptist say of the Lord our Savior: “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). The statement is being fulfilled at this very moment: at Christ’s birth the days grow longer, at John’s they grow shorter… When the Savior appears it is clear that the day increases and it declines at the birth of the last of the prophet’s, for it is written: “The Law and the prophets lasted until John” (Lk 16:16). Inevitably the observance of the Law sank in shadow when the grace of the Gospel began to shine. The glory of the New Testament takes the place of the prophecy of the Old…

The evangelist says with regard to our Lord Jesus Christ: “He was the true light who enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9)… It was when the duration of the night was extending over almost the whole of the day that our Lord’s coming suddenly cast all its brightness. If his birth cast out the darkness of humankind’s sins, his coming put an end to night and brought us light and day…

Our Lord says that John is a lamp: “He was a burning and shining lamp” (Jn 5:35). But the light of a lamp pales when the sun shines: its flame dies down, overcome by an even more radiant light. What sensible person uses a lamp in full sunlight?… Who would still come for John’s baptism of repentance (Mk 1:4) when Jesus’ baptism brings salvation?

Saint Bonaventure from The Soul's Journey into God

How wonderful are your works, Lord!

The beauty of things in the variety of light, shape and color, such as the heavenly bodies and minerals, stones and metals, plants and animals, clearly proclaims the attributes of God.

Their order in the book of creation clearly indicates the primacy, sublimity and dignity of the First Principle and thus the infinity of his power. In this way order itself leads us most clearly into the first and highest, the most powerful, wisest and best.

Whoever, therefore, is not enlightened by such splendor of created things is blind; whoever is not awakened by such outcries is deaf; whoever does not praise God because of all these effects is dumb; whoever does not discover the First Principle from such clear signs is a fool.

Therefore, open your eyes, alert the ears of your spirit, open your lips and apply your heart (Prv 22:17) so that in all creatures you may see, hear, praise, love and worship, glorify and honor your God lest the whole world rise against you. For because of this “the whole world will fight against the foolish” (Wis 5:21 Vg.). On the contrary, it will be a matter of glory for the wise, who can say with the Prophet: “You have gladdened me, Lord, by your deeds and in the work of your hands I will rejoice. (Ps 91[92]:5). How great are your works, Lord! You have made all things in wisdom; the earth is filled with your creatures.” (Ps 103[104]:24).

Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort from The secret of Mary I, 3-4

Called to holiness

O soul, living image of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God’s will for you is that in this life you become holy as he is holy and in the life to come that you become glorious as he is.

Acquring the holiness of God is your assured vocation and it is to this that all your thoughts, words and deeds, your sufferings and all the movements of your life should tend. Otherwise you resist God by not doing that for which he has created you and now keeps you in being.

Oh! what a wonderful work: dust changed to light, filth to purity, sin to sanctity, the creature into the Creator and man into God! Oh what wonderful work! I say it again, yet it is a work that is difficult in itself and impossible to nature alone. There is only God who, by a grace, and an overflowing and extraordinary grace, is able to bring it to its end. And the creation of the whole universe is not so great a masterpiece as this one…

O soul, what will you do? What means will you choose to rise up to the God who is calling you? The ways to holiness are known to all, are set out in the Gospel, are explained by masters of the spiritual life, practiced by the saints and necessary to all those who wish to be saved and come to perfection. Such are: humility of heart, continual prayer, mortification in everything, abandonment to divine Providence, conformity to the will of God.

Saint Augustine from Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Bk. II, 3, 11

“Pray to your Father in secret”

Jesus says, “When you pray, go into your chamber.” Now, what are these chambers but the heart signified in the Psalm where it is said: “The things you say in your hearts, be sorry for in your room.” He then continues: “And closing the doors, pray in secret to our Father.” Our entering the room is not enough if the door is left open to the importunate, for external things enter brazenly in through this door, and lay hold on our interior affections. Temporal and visible penetrate through this door, that is, one of the senses, they enter our thoughts and by a swarm of fancies noisily disturb us while engaged in prayer. Therefore, the door must be closed; that is to say, the bodily sense must be resisted, so that a wholly spiritual prayer may be offered to the Father. For this prayer is formed in the depths of the heart where a man prays in secret to the Father. “And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you…”

The Lord does not admonish us to pray but teaches us how to pray, just as the preceding passage does not admonish us to give alms but tells us what our intention ought to be when we are giving them. This is due to the fact that he demands the purity of heart that one can only obtain by a continuous and undivided striving for eternal life through no other motive than a pure love of wisdom.

Saint Chromatius of Aquilaea from Sermon 30, 2

The grain that has fallen to the ground produces much fruit (Jn 12:24)

Our Lord compared himself to a mustard seed, for although he was the God of glory and eternal majesty he became completely small in that he willed to be born of a virgin in the body of a child. Thus he was placed in the earth when his body was laid in the tomb but, when he had risen from the dead through his glorious resurrection, he grew great on earth until he became a tree in whose branches nest the birds of the air.

This tree stands for the Church, which Christ’s death has raised up in glory. As for its branches, these must be understood as the apostles since, just as branches are the tree’s natural adornment, so the apostles are the adornment of Christ’s Church through the beauty of grace they have received. And on these branches, as we know, dwell the birds of the air. Allegorically speaking, the birds of the air designate ourselves who, coming to Christ’s Church, perch on the teaching of the apostles like birds on the branch.

Dorotheus of Gaza from Instructions, no. 1, 6-8; SC 92

“The New Law: But I say to you”

God gave us instructions… concerning those evil dispositions which come from our inner man (Eph 3:16). He instilled into man’s inner conscience the power to judge good and evil; he woke it from sleep; he showed the causes from which sins arise and he says to us: “The Law says, “Do not commit adultery” but I say to you, do not entertain desire. The Law says “Do no murder”, but I say, do not give way to anger.” (Mt 5:27.21) If you do entertain a fleshly desire but today you do not commit adultery, nevertheless it does not cease inwardly troubling you until it whips you into action. If you are irritated and stir up your anger against your brother there comes a time when you will speak evil against him, then plot against him and so go on little by little until you finally come to murder him.

Again the Law says: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” (Ex 21:24) but Our Lord admonishes us not only to bear patiently the blows of one who strikes us, but humbly to turn to him the other cheek. (Mt 5:39) And so the object of the Law is to teach us not to do to others what we do not wish to suffer, and therefore it cuts away our wrong-doing through our fear of suffering. But now the object must be to cast away our hatred, our love of pleasure, our vainglory and the rest of our unruly desires.

I repeat that the aim of Christ, our Master, is precisely to teach us how we come to commit all our sins; how we fall into evils. First he sets us free through holy baptism, giving us the forgiveness of our sins, then he gives us the power to do good if we desire it and no longer to be dragged down into sin, so to speak, by force.

Blessed Paul VI from Humanae vitae, 8-9

“God created man in his image…male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27)

Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who is love… Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves alone… develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church (Eph 5:32).

In the light of these facts the characteristic features and exigencies of married love are clearly indicated. This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.

It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage… Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being.

Saint Teresa of Avila from Interior Castle, 4th Mansion, ch. 3

Listening within the castle built on rock

When God grants the favor, it is a great help to see him within, where he is found more easily and in a way more beneficial to us than when sought in creatures, as St. Augustine says after having looked for him in many places. Don’t think this recollection is acquired by the intellect striving to think about God within itself, or by the imagination imaging him within itself. Such efforts are good and an excellent kind of meditation because they are founded on a truth, which is the God is within us. But this isn’t the prayer of recollection because it is something we can do — with the help of God, as should be understood of everything. But what I’m speaking of comes in a different way. Sometimes before one begins to think of God, the~ people are already inside the castle, I don’t know in what way…

In the case of this recollection, it doesn’t come when we want it but when God wants to grant us the favor. I, for myself, hold that when His Majesty grants it, he does so to persons who are already beginning to despise the things of the world… in desire; for he calls such persons especially so that they might be attentive to interior matters. So I believe that if we desire to make room for His Majesty, he will give not only this but more, and give it to those whom he begins to call to advance further.

May whoever experiences this within himself praise God greatly because it is indeed right to recognize the favor and give thanks, for doing so will dispose one for other, greater favors. And this recollection is a preparation for being able to listen… so that the soul, instead of striving to engage in discourse, strives to remain attentive and aware of what the Lord is working on it… In this work of the spirit the one who thinks less and has less desire to act does more. What we must do is beg like the needy poor before a rich and great emperor and then lower our eyes and wait with humility. When, through his secret paths, it seems we understand that he hears us, then it is good to be silent, since he has allowed us to remain near him.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Union with God in Christ according to the letters of direction of Dom Marmion (Dom R. Thibaut, Eds DDB, p.3, rev)

“By their fruits you will know them”

Three spirits strive for mastery in every soul. There is the spirit of falsehood and blasphemy that, since the beginning, has always suggested the contrary to whatever God whispers in our ear. There is the spirit of the world that inclines us to judge things according to the precepts of the senses and fleshy prudence. “The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God” (1Cor 3:19).

There is the Spirit of God that constantly inspires us to lift up our hearts (“sursum corda” *) above nature and to live by faith (Heb 10:38). This Spirit unceasingly inclines us towards a purely loving faith and the abandonment of ourselves into the hands of God, “It fills us with peace and joy in believing” (Rm 15:!3) and beings forth the fruits of which Saint Paul speaks. Our Lord said: “You will know these spirits by the fruits” they produce in your soul (cf. Mt 7:16).

I recommend great fidelity to the movements of the Holy Spirit, Your baptism and confirmation have implanted it like a living fountain in your soul, Listen to its whisperings and put to flight all other inspirations with one blow. If you keep this fidelity, little by little the divine Spirit will become your guide and will bear you along with Him into the bosom of God.

*”Sursum corda”: “Lift up your hearts”, the introductory words to the preface of the Mass.

Saint Vincent de Paul from Conference of 30/5/1659

“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.

Saint Jerome from Letter

“Renouncing all things so as to gain them all”

We have received more than we have given; leaving small things behind we find great ones. Christ replays a hunderdfold what we do for him: “If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give it to the poor. Then come, follow me.” “If you wish to be perfect” — the great things are always left to our own free choice. In the same way Paul the apostles doesn’t make a commandment of virginity (1Cor 7) for Jesus said: “Whoever can accept this ought to accept it! This gift comes from the mercy of God” (cf. Mt 19:12). “If you wish to be perfect”; it is not imposed on you so that the merit of the sacrifice, being voluntary becomes all the greater. Even so, to reach perfection it is not enough simply to despise riches and give ones possessions, to free oneself from what one may lose or gain in a moment. This is something the philosophers have done, but Christians ought to do more.

It is not enough to abandon worldly goods, we must follow Christ. But what does it mean to follow Christ? It means renouncing all sin and cleaving to all virtue. Christ is eternal Wisdom, that treasure we find in a field (Mt 13:44), the field of Holy Scripture; the pearl of great value for which we must sacrifice many others (Mt 13:46). Christ is also holiness, the holiness without which no one can see the face of God. Christ is our redemption, our redeemer, he is our ransom (1Tm 2:6). Christ is all: therefore whoever consents to leave everything for his sake will find everything in him. Such a one can say: “The Lord is my allotted portion” (Ps 14[16]:5)… Don’t just give your money if you wish to follow Jesus Christ. Give him yourselves; imitate the Son of Man who did not come to be served but to serve (cf. MK 10:45).

Saint John Chrysostom from Homily on the abundant harvest, 10, 2-3; PG 63, 519-521

“The harvest is abundant”

All the farmer’s work naturally leads towards the harvest. So how could Christ call a ‘harvest’ a work that was still in its initial stages? Idolatry reigned over all the earth… Everywhere there was fornication, adultery, debauchery, greed, theft, wars… The earth was filled with so many evils! No seed had yet been sown there. The thorns, thistles and weeds that covered the ground had not yet been pulled up. The ground had not yet been plowed, no furrow had yet been drawn.

So how could Jesus say that the harvest was abundant?… The apostles were probably distressed and frustrated: “How are we going to be able to say anything, to stand upright before so many people? How can we, the Eleven, correct all the inhabitants of the earth? Will we who are so ignorant be able to approach scholars; will we who are so stripped of everything be able to meet armed men; will we who are subordinate be able to approach people in authority? We know only one language — will we be able to argue with the barbarians who speak foreign languages? Who will bear with us if they don’t even understand our languages?”

Jesus did not want such reasoning to discourage them. So he called the Gospel a harvest. It is as if he told them: “Everything is prepared, all the preparations have been made. I am sending you out to harvest the ripe grain. You will be able to sow and reap on the same day.” When the farmer leaves his home to go out and gather the harvest, he is brimming over with joy and shining with happiness. He thinks neither of the suffering nor the difficulties that he might encounter… Christ says, lend me your tongue, and you will see the ripe grain going into the king’s granaries. And so he then sends them out, telling them: “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Mt 28:20)

Saint Augustine from Sermon 210

“Then they will fast”

“The day will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them and then they will fast.” Since the Bridegroom has been taken away from us, this is indeed our time for mourning and weeping. This Bridegroom is “the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon his lips” (PS 44[45]:3) and yet, under then hands of his tormentors he lost all comeliness, all beauty and was cut off from the land of the living (Is 53:2.8). However, our mourning is right if we burn with desire to see him. How happy they were who were able to enjoy his presence before his Passion, to question him as they wished and listen to him as necessary…As for us, we see the fulfilment of what he said: “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it” (Lk 17:22)…

Who would not say with the prophet; “My tears have been my food day and night while people say to me continually: Where is your God?” (Ps. 41[42]:3). Certainly we believe him to be already seated at the right hand of the Father, but so long as we are in this body we walk apart from him (2Cor 5:6) and are unable to show him to those who doubt his existence or even deny him, saying: “Where is your God?”…

“A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while and you will see me” (Jn 16:19). But now this is the hour of which he said: “You will weep and mourn but the world will rejoice…But, he added, I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you” (v.22). The hope thus given us by him who is faithful in his promises never now leaves us without a certain joy — until that overwhelming joy comes on the day when we will be like him because we will see him as he is (1Jn 3:2)… “When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her hour has come,” says the Lord, “but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world” (Jn 16:21). This is the joy no one can take away from us and with which we will be satisfied when we pass to eternal light from our present conception in faith. So let us fast and pray since we are still on the threshold of birth.

Saint Bonaventure from Life of Saint Francois, Legenda major, ch. 3

“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

One day while he was devoutly hearing a Mass of the Apostles, the Gospel was read in which Christ sends out his disciples to preach and gives them the Gospel form of life, that they may not keep “gold or silver or money in their belts, nor have a wallet for their journey, nor may they have two tunics, nor shoes, nor staff.” Hearing, understanding and committing this to memory, this friend of apostolic poverty was then overwhelmed with an indescribable joy. “This is what I want,” he said, “this is what I desire with all my heart!” Immediately, he took off the shoes from his feet. put does his staff, denounced his wallet and money, and, satisfied with one tunic, threw away his leather belt and put on a piece of rope for a belt. He directed all his heart’s desire to carry out what he had heard and to conform in every way to the rule of right living given to the apostles.

Through divine prompting the man of God began to become a model of evangelical perfection and to invite others to penance. His statements were… filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, they penetrated the marrow of the heart, so that they moved those hearing them in stunned amazement. In all his preaching, he announced peace by saying: “May/he Lordgiveyou peace.” Thus he greeted the people at the beginning of his talk. As he later testified, he had learned this greeting by the Lord revealing it to him…

Therefore, as the truth of the man of GOd’s simple teaching and life became known to many, some men began to be moved to penance and, abandoning all things, joined him in habit and life.

Saint John XXIII from Journal of a soul

“Be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves”

Everyone must be treated with respect, prudence evangelical simplicity…

The example of Jesus is more closely followed in the most appealing simplicity, not dissociated from the God-given prudence of wise and holy men. Wiseacres may show disrespect, if not scorn, for the simple man. But those wiseacres are of no account; even if their opinions and conduct inflict some humiliations, no notice should be taken of them at all: in the end everything ends in their defeat and confusion. The ‘simple, upright, Godfearing man’ is always the worthiest and the strongest. Naturally he must always be sustained by a wise and gracious prudence.

He is a simple man who is not ashamed to profess the Gospel, even in the face of men who consider it to be nothing but weakness and childish nonsense, and to profess it entirely, no all occasions, and in the presence of all; he does not let himself be deceived or prejudiced by his fellows, nor does he lost his peace of mind, however they may treat him.

The prudent man is he who knows how to keep silent about that part of the truth that it would be inopportune to declare, provided that this silence does not affect the truth he utters by gainsaying it; the man who knows how to achieve his own good purpose, choosing the most effective means of willing and doing…; who, in all circumstances, knows how to choose the middle way which presents fewer difficulties and dangers; the man who, looks to God alone, in whom he trusts, and this trust is the foundation of all he does.

Simplicity contains nothing contrary to prudence, and the converse also is true. Simplicity is love: prudence is thought. Love prays: the intelligence keeps watch. ‘Watch and pray’ (Mt 26:41): a perfect harmony. Love is like the cooing dove; the active intelligence is like the snake that never falls to the ground or bruises itself, because before it glides along it first probes with its head to test the unevenness of the ground.

Saint Hilary from De Trinitate, XII, final prayer

“He was not able to perform any mighty deed there because of their lack of faith”

Father, Almighty God, keep, i pray, my faith undefiled, and till my last breath, grant that I may always confess my deepest convictions. May I ever hold fast to everything which I professed in the creed of my new brith, when I was baptized in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. May I always adore you our Father, and your Son who is one with you; give me always your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you, through your Only-begotten Son.

For I have a convincing witness to my faith, who says, “Father, everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine” (Jn 17:10). This witness is my Lord Jesus Christ, for ever God in you, and from you, and with you, who are blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Athanasius from On the Incarnation of the Word, 8-9 (cf SC 190, p. 288f.)

“He came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose”

The incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God came to our realm, although he was not far from us before. For no part of Creation is left void of him: he has filled all things everywhere, remaining present with his own Father. But he came in condescension to show us loving-kindness and visit us… He took pity on our race, and had mercy on our infirmity, and condescended to our corruption, and, unable to bear it that death should have the mastery— lest the creature should perish, and his Father’s handiwork be spent in vain — he took to himself a body no different from ours. For He did not simply will to become embodied, or will merely to appear. For if he had willed merely to appear, he would have been able to effect his divine appearance by some other and higher means as well. But he took a body of our kind…

The Word took a body capable of death so that it… might remain incorruptible because of the Word which had come to dwell in it and, from now on, all might be delivered from corruption by the grace of the Resurrection. Whence, by offering to death the body he himself had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from stain, the Word straightway obliterated death by delivering from death all those who shared his likeness by the offering of that body like theirs.

For it is only right that the Word of God, who is above all and who offered his own temple, his body, for the life of all, should satisfy our debt by His death. And thus he, the incorruptible Son of God, being united with all by a like nature, naturally clothed us all with incorruption by the promise of the resurrection. For the actual corruption in death has no power against us any longer by reason of the Word that by has come to dwell among us in his singular body.

Saint Vincent de Paul from Spiritual conference of 21/03/1659

“You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned; you have revealed them to the childlike”

Simplicity is so pleasing to God! As you know, Scripture says that his delight is to converse with the simple, with those who have simplicity of heart and who behave unaffectedly and simply: “With the upright is his friendship” (Prv 3:32). Do you want to find God? He speaks with the simple. O my Savior! O my brothers! You who feel the need to be simple; what happiness! what happiness! Take heart, because you have the assurance that God’s delight is to be with the simple.

Something else that wonderfully recommends simplicity to us are these words of our Lord: “I bless you, Father, for having hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to the childlike.” Father, I acknowledge and thank you that the teaching I have learned from your divine Majesty and pass on to others is known only to the simple and that you do not allow the prudent of this world to understand it. For you have concealed from them, if not the words then at least the spirit.

O my Savior and my God! This ought to astonish us. We run after knowledge as if all our happiness depended on it. Woe to us if we don’t have it! We certainly need it, but in its fullness; we ought to study, but in moderation. Other people claim understanding of business and pass for people of substance and negotiation in the world. These are the ones from whom God takes away perception of Christian truths: from the learned and knowing of this world. Who does he give it to, then? To simple, ordinary people… Gentlemen, true religion is to be found among the poor. God enriches them with living faith; they believe, touch, taste the words of life… For the most part they preserve their peace in the midst of trouble and distress. What is the reason for this? Faith. Why? Because they are simple God causes those graces to abound in them that he refuses to the rich and learned of this world.

Saint Vincent de Paul from Conferences to the Daughters of Charity (Volume XI. Conference of 31 July 1634)

God takes care of those who care for the poor

A further means of staying faithful, Daughters, is perfect detachment from father, mother, relations and friends in such a way that you are God’s alone. And to possess this great good you have to strip yourself of everything and have nothing of your own. The apostles had just such a detachment. For one cent you will have a hundred: as many women, as many mothers which Providence, Daughters, will never fail you. Don’t you have any courage at all to give yourselves to the God who is so mindful of you? Never claim you are saving something for your own livelihood; always put your trust in Providence. Rich people can fall into need through the accidents that often happen, but they will never be in want who intend to rely solely on God

Isn’t it good, Daughters, to live like this? What is there to fear? For God has promised that people who care for the poor will never lack anything. O my Daughters, would you not love God’s promises better than the world’s deceits? God is obliged to provide for all our needs.

Saint Francis Xavier from Letter of 05/11/1549, no. 90, 34-36

“Without me you can do nothing”

Don’t let anyone nourish the illusion of thinking they will be outstanding in great things if they aren’t outstanding in humble things. Believe me, there are a good many different kinds of enthusiasm and, to be blunt, temptation… Some people, so as not to have to give up their own will when carrying out what obedience requires, want to do other, more important things without observing that if we lack the virtue for small things we shall have even less for the great. Indeed, when they throw themselves into great and difficult things, with little self-restraint and strength of soul, there will come a point when they will recognize their enthusiasms for temptations because they will then find themselves without strength…

I don’t write this to you so as to turn your hearts away from the most demanding of enterprises, in which you will shine out as great servants of God and through which you will leave the memory of yourselves to your successors. I am simply saying this so that you will show yourselves great in little things, make good progress in understanding temptation and your own true worth, and setting all your strength in God. If you persevere along this road I have no doubt but that you will grow constantly in humility and the interior life and will bring about much fruit in souls, living in peace and security wherever you find yourself.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint Matthew's gospel, no. 65, 2-4; PG 58, 619 (cf. Breviary : 07/25)

To drink his cup so as to sit at his right

Through their mother’s meditation, the sons of Zebedee press Christ as follows in the presence of their fellow apostles: “Command that we may sit, one at your right side and one at your left” (cf. Mk 10:35f.)… Christ hastens to free them from their illusions, telling them they must be prepared to suffer insults, persecutions, even death. “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink?” Let no one be surprised to see the apostles displaying such imperfect dispositions, Wait until the mystery of the cross has been fulfilled and the strength of the Holy Spirit given to them. If you want to see the strength of their souls, take a look at them later on and you will see them to be above all human weakness. Christ does not conceal their pettiness so you will be able to see what they become later on by the power of the grace that will transform them…

“You do not know what you are asking; you do not know how exceedingly great this honor is, how wonderful, or how it surpasses the heavenly powers themselves.” Then he adds: “Are you speaking to me of honor and wreaths, he says, but I am speaking of contests and sweat. For this is not the time for prizes, nor will my glory be revealed now. Instead this present life is one of slaughter, war and dangers.

Notice how he does not ask them directly: “Can you endure death? Can you shed your blood?” How then does he put it? “Can you drink the cup?” Then he coaxes them with the words: “The cup that I drink”, so that they may be the more ready as they will be partners with him… Later on you will see this same John, who here approached Christ with the petition, gave precedence always to Saint Peter… James, however, did not live long after, From the beginning he was moved with great zeal. He gave up all earthly interests and attained such an inexpressible degree of excellence that from among the apostles he was killed the first (Acts 12:2).

Saint Jacob of Sarug from Poem

To be converted and return to the Lord

I will go back to my Father’s house like the prodigal son (LK 15:18) and he will welcome me. I shall do what he himself has done: will he not grant it me?…For I was dead through sin as though by sickness; raise me up from my distress that i may praise your name! O Lord of heaven and earth, come to my help and show me your way that I may come to you. Draw me to you, Son of the Most Good, and bring your compassion to completion. I will set out towards you and there be filled with joy. Knead for me now the grain of life at this time when I am crushed.

I set out in search you and the Evil One spied on me like a thief (cf. LK 10:30). He bound and chained me in the pleasure of this wicked world: he imprisoned me in its pleasures and slammed the door in my face. there was no one to free me so that I might set out in search of you, O Lord, my good!… O Lord, I long to be yours and walk your way. See how I meditate your commandments by day and by night (Ps 1:2). Grant my request and accept my prayer, O merciful one! Do not cast off the hope of your servant, for he is waiting for you.

Saint Columbanus from Instruction 1, 2-4; PL 80, 231-232

“Herod sought to see him”

God is everywhere, complete, immense. He is nea rat hand according to the testimony he gives of himself: “I am a God near at hand and not a God far off,” (Jr 23:23). So the God we are seeking does not dwell far away from us; we already have him among us. He lives in us as the soul lives in the body, provided that at least we are healthy members of his whom sin has has not killed… As Saint Paul says: “In him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28).

But who is able to penetrate the inexpressible and incomprehensible being of the Most High? Who can search out the depths of God? Who would risk treating the eternal origins of the universe? Who would pride themselves in knowing the infinite God who contains and fills all things, penetrates and surpasses all things, embraces all things and conceals himself from all things, he whom “no one has ever seen” as he is? (1 Tm 6:16) Let no one have the presumption to examine the impenetrable depths of God, the how, the why, and the wherefore of his being. It cannot be expressed or examined or penetrated. Only believe, but with conviction, that God is such as he was and as he will be, for in him there is no alteration.

Saint John-Paul II from Redemptoris missio § 30

“He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God”

On our time, with humanity on the move and in continual search, demands a resurgence of the Church’s missionary activity. The horizons and possibilities for mission are growing ever wider, and we Christians are called to an apostolic courage based upon trust in the Spirit. He is the principal agent of mission!

The history of humanity has known many major turning points which have encouraged missionary outreach, and the Church, guided by the Spirit, has always responded to them with generosity and farsightedness. Results have not been lacking… We celebrated the millennium of the evangelization of Russia and the Slav peoples, and… the five hundredth anniversary of the evangelization of the Americas. Similarly, there have been recent commemorations of the centenaries of the first missions in various countries of Asia, Africa and Oceania. Today the Church must face other challenges and push forward to new frontiers, both in the initial mission ad gentes and in the new evangelization of those peoples who have already heard Christ proclaimed. Today all Christians, the particular churches and the universal Church, are called to have the same courage that inspired the missionaries of the past, and the same readiness to listen to the voice of the Spirit.

Isaac of Stella from Sermon 51, 25-27; PL 194, 1862; Sc 339

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it”

“Among all these I sought a resting place,” says the Wisdom of God, “And I will abide in the Lord’s inheritance” (Sir 24:7). In its totality the Lord’s inheritance is the Church, but above all it is Mary and, in particular, the souls of the faithful… The text continues: “Then the Creator of all gave me his command, and he who formed me chose the spot for my tent, saying, ‘In Jacob make your dwelling’” (v.8). For after searching all around for a resting place and failing to find one, the Wisdom of God, his Word, first chose the Jewish people as his inheritance, to whom he “gave his command” through Moses… And he who by this re-creation created the Synagogue, mother of the Church, “fixed his resting place” in his tent – the tent of the Covenant. But now, in the Church, he abides in the sacrament of his Body.

And since he had sought, so to speak, amongst all women for the one from whom he would be born, he particularly chose Mary, who from then on is called “blessed among women” (Lk 1:28)… Christ, who made a new creature of her (cf. 2Cor 5:17), came to dwell in her womb.

In the same way, it is to every faithful soul predestined to salvation that this Wisdom “gives the command and speaks”, when it will and how it will. Either it speaks interiorly by means of our natural intellect, through which it “enlightens everyone coming into the world” (Jn 1:9), and by the inspiration of grace…; or exteriorly with teaching and by means of creation (cf. Rm 1:20)… And the Wisdom of God who thus creates and forms this soul “in Christ Jesus for the good works he has prepared” (Eph 2:10), comes to dwell in its understanding.

Saint Josémaria Escriva de Balaguer from Homily in Amigos de Dios

Placing our lamp on the lampstand

“Christ,” wrote a Father of the Church [Saint 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.

Saint John-Mary Vianney from Sermon

“Some seed fell on good soil, and… produced fruit a hundredfold.”

If you ask me what Jesus Christ means by this sower who goes out early to cast his seed over his field then, my brethren, that sower is the good God himself, who began the work of our salvation form the beginning of the world by sending us his prophets began the coming of Christ to teach us what was needed if we would be saved. Not content with sending his servants, he came himself; he marked out the way we should take; he came to make known his holy word.

Do you know what a person is like who is not fed by this holy word? … Such a person is like a patient without a doctor, a traveller who is lost and without a guide, a poverty stricken person without means of help. Brethren, it is absolutely impossible to love and please God unless we are fed by this divine word. What can draw us to follow him unless by knowing him? And who enables us to know him, with all his perfections, beauty and love for us, if not the word of God, who teaches us about everything he has done for us and the good things he has in store for us in the next life?

Saint Ephrem from Commentary on the Gospel, or Diatessaron, 5, 17 (SC 121, p.115 rev.)

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Our Lord chose Matthew, the tax collector, to encourage his fellows to join him. He looked on sinners, called them, and brought them to sit beside him. What a wonderful sight! Angels stand trembling while publicans, seated, rejoice. The angels are struck with awe before the Lord’s greatness while sinners eat and drink with him. The scribes choke with hatred and indignation, the publicans rejoice because of his mercy. The heavens saw the sight and were filled with wonder; hell saw it and was maddened. Satan saw it and was enraged; death saw it and withered; the scribes saw it and were much troubled.

There was joy in heaven and happiness among the angels because the rebellious had been persuaded, the recalcitrant quieted and sinners reformed, and because publicans had been made righteous. Just as our Lord did not turn away from the shamefulness of the cross in spite of the entreaties of his friends (Mt 16:22) so he did not refuse the company of publicans in spite of the taunts of his enemies. He despised mockery and scorned praise, thus accomplishing all that is for mankind’s good.

Saint Bernard from Sermon 7 on the Song of Songs

“She has shown great love”

“Let him kiss me,” she says, “with the kiss of his mouth” (Sg 1:1). Who is speaking? The Bride. But why “Bride”? She is the soul which thirsts for God. And to whom does she speak. To her God… For no names can be found as sweet as those in which the Word and the soul exchange affections, as Bridegroom and Bride, for to such everything is common. Nothing is the property of one and not the other, nothing is held separately. They share one inheritance, one table, one house, one bed, one flesh. For this she leaves her father and her mother and clings to her husband and they two are one flesh (Gn 2:24)…

So then love especially and chiefly belongs to those who are married and it is not inappropriate to call the loving soul a Bride. For she who asks a kiss feels love. She does not ask for freedom or payment or an inheritance or learning, but for a kiss, in the manner of a most chaste bride, who sighs for holy love; and she cannot disguise the flame which is so evident…

She love most chastely who seeks him whom she loves and not some other thing which belongs to him. She loves in a holy way, because she does not love in fleshly desire but in purity of spirit. She loves ardently, because she is drunk with love so that she cannot see his majesty. What? He it is “who looks on the earth and causes it to tremble” (Ps 103:32). And she asks him for a kiss? Is she drunk? Indeed she is drunk with love for God!… Oh, what force of love! What great confidence of spirit! What freedom! What is more evident than that perfect love casts out fear? (1Jn 4:18).

Saint Albert the Great from De natura boni, Florete flores

The two poles of the world

Heaven has two pivots around which the whole sky turns: these are its two poles. One of them is the Savior, situated at the center because he is full of light and in him there is no darkness; the other is the womb in which he was made flesh.

Around these two poles the sky turns, with the help of the intercession of the Mother and of the redemption on the Cross. Indeed, through the intercession of Mary and through the blood and the body of the Redeemer, the Lord exercises his justice over the peoples.

The axis of mercy that upholds the world revolves around these two pivots or poles because, through the Mother we gain access to the Son and, through the Son, to the Father. Thus guided we have no fear of seeing reconciliation denied us.

These two stars, the pivots or poles of heaven, are immobile. The whole circumference of heaven revolves around them as if around two necessary fixed points.

Saint Ambrose from A treatise on the Gospel of Saint Luke, 5, 89, 91-92

“Young man, I tell you, arise!”

Even if the signs of death have removed all hope of life, even if the bodies of the dead lie beside the tomb, yet, at the voice of God, the corpses of those ready to decompose will rise and recover speech. The son is restored to his mother, he is called back from the tomb, snatched out of it. And what is this tomb? Your own. Your bad habits, your lack of faith. This is the tomb from which Christ delivers you, this is the tomb from which you will return to life if you listen to the Word of God. Even if your sin is so grave that you are unable to wash it clean for yourself with your tears of repentance, the Church, your mother, she who intercedes for each one of her children like a widowed mother for her only son, will weep for you. For she feels for it with a kind of spiritual suffering natural to her when she sees her offspring dragged down to death by lamentable vices…

Let her weep, then, this pious mother; let the crowd accompany her – and not just a crowd accompany her ¬ and not just a crowd but a large crowd ¬ and may it show compassion towards this tender mother. Then you will come to life again in your tomb and will be delivered; the bearers will stop and you will start to speak the words of the living; everyone will be astonished. The example of one will correct the many and they will praise God for having granted such remedies to us for escaping death.

Saint John-Paul II from Encyclical « Dives in Misericordia » § 13

In the Church Christ calls us to conversion

The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy-the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer-and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savior’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser. Of great significance in this area is constant meditation on the Word of God, and above all conscious and mature participation in the Eucharist and in the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation.

The Eucharist brings us ever nearer to that love which is “more powerful than death” (Sg 8:6): “For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup,” we proclaim not only the death of the Redeemer but also His resurrection, “until he comes” in glory (Roman Missal; cf. 1Cor 11:26). The same Eucharistic rite, celebrated in memory of Him who in His messianic mission revealed the Father to us by means of His words and His cross, attests to the inexhaustible love by virtue of which He desires always to be united with us and present in our midst, coming to meet every human heart.

It is the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation that “prepares the way” (Lk 3:3; Is 40:3) for each individual, even those weighed down with great faults. In this sacrament each person can experience mercy in a unique way, that is, the love which is more powerful than sin.

Saint Augustine from Sermon on Saint Matthew's gospel, no. 25, 7-8; PL 46, 937

“Blessed is the womb that carried you”

I beg you to listen to what Christ had to say when he stretched out his hand towards his disciples: “Here are my mother and my brethren”; and, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Mt 12:49-50). Are we to take it from this that the Virgin Mary did not do the will of the Father, she who by faith believed, by faith conceived?… Indeed and indeed she did the Father’s will and… consequently, blessed is Mary who bore her Lord in her body before she gave him birth.

See if it isn’t as I say. The Lord was journeying on and the crowds were following him. He did a work of divine power and this woman in the crowd cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that you sucked.” But they must not think that blessedness lay in bodily relationship, so what did the Lord answer? “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” There­fore Mary is blessed because she “heard the word of God and kept it.” Her mind was filled more fully with Truth than her womb by his flesh. Christ is the truth, Christ is made flesh: Christ the truth is in Mary’s mind, Christ made flesh is in her womb. Greater is that which is in her mind than that which she carried in her womb. Mary is holy. Mary is blessed indeed!…

Brothers, listen very closely: you are members of Christ’s body and you are the body of Christ (1Co 12:27)… “Whoever hears and does the will of God is my brother, and. sister, and mother”… We have a common heritage and Christ’s heart of love would not be separated from us, though he is the Only-Begotten: he would have us to be heirs of his Father and co-heirs with himself (Rm 8:17).

Benedict XVI from Encyclical letter ``Deus caritas est``, § 9-11

“The two shall become one flesh”

In the world of the Bible, God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution… But God’s eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives… In this biblical vision, on the one hand we find ourselves before a strictly metaphysical image of God: God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being; but this universal principle of creation—the Logos, primordial reason—is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love. Eros is thus supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape… The first novelty of biblical faith consists… in its image of God. The second, essentially connected to this, is found in the image of man.

The biblical account of creation speaks of the solitude of Adam, the first man, and God’s decision to give him a helper… The idea is certainly present that man is somehow incomplete, driven by nature to seek in another the part that can make him whole, the idea that only in communion with the opposite sex can he become “complete”. The biblical account thus concludes with a prophecy about Adam: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh” (Gen 2:24).

Two aspects of this are important. First, eros is somehow rooted in man’s very nature; Adam is a seeker, who “abandons his mother and father” in order to find woman; only together do the two represent complete humanity and become “one flesh”. The second aspect is equally important. From the standpoint of creation, eros directs man towards marriage, to a bond which is unique and definitive; thus, and only thus, does it fulfil its deepest purpose. Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 691-693; 699-700

The finger of God

“Holy Spirit” is the proper name of the one whom we adore and glorify with the Father and the Son. the Church has received this name from the Lord and professes it in the Baptism of her new children. The term “Spirit” translates the Hebrew word “ruah”, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God’s breath, the divine Spirit (Jn 3,5-8). On the other hand, “Spirit” and “Holy” are divine attributes common to the three divine persons…

When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side”. “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler. The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”… We also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Lord, and the Spirit of God – and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.

The symbols of the Holy Spirit: [Water. Anointing. Fire. Cloud and Light. Seal. Dove.]

The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them. In his name the apostles will do the same. Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given. The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the “fundamental elements” of its teaching. The Church has kept this sign of the all-powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses.

The finger. “It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] casts out demons.” If God’s law was written on tablets of stone “by the finger of God” (Ex 31,18), then the “letter from Christ” entrusted to the care of the apostles, is written “with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2Cor 3,3). The hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus” invokes the Holy Spirit as the “finger of the Father’s right hand.”

Saint Bonaventure from Commentary on the gospel according to St. Luke

“My friend, lend me three loaves of bread”

“Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ ”. According to its spiritual interpretation, we understand this friend to be Christ. “I no longer call you slaves… I have called you friends” (cf. Jn 15:15). We have to meet this friend by night, that is to say in the silence of the night, just as Nicodemus went of whom it is said that “he came to Jesus by night” (Jn 3:2). And first of all, because it is under the silent concealment of the night that we should knock in prayer, according to Isaiah: “my soul yearns for you at night” (Is 26:9). Alternatively, in the night, that is in tribulation, as Hosea says: “In their afflictions they will rise before daybreak” (cf. Hos 5:15 Septuagint).

Now the friend who returns from a journey is our spirit, which returns to us as often as it has been drawn away by temporal possessions. Enjoyment causes this friend to go far off but affliction brings it back, as it is said further along in Luke concerning the prodigal son, who went far off motivated by worldly living and who returned because of need (cf. Lk 15:11 – 32). Whoever comes back returns into himself but finds himself empty of the consolation of spiritual food.

So we need to ask our true friend for three loaves for this starving friend, namely knowledge of the Trinity, that is of the name of the three Persons, so that our friend may find his nourishment in knowing the one God. Or else these three loaves may be faith, hope and love, by which a threefold virtue in the soul is designated. On this subject we read in the book of Kings: “When you arrive at the oak of Tabor, three men will meet you as they go up to God at Bethel: one will be bringing three young goats another, three loaves of bread, and the third a skin of wine” (1Kgs 10:3 Septuagint = 1 Sam 10:3) so that in these may be comprised the unity of the grace of the trinity of those virtues by which the image of God is formed in the soul.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Letters of direction of Dom Marmion

Filial confidence

Consideration of your faults is absolutely right. Faults coming from weakness and that are genuinely rejected do not prevent God from loving us. They stir up his compassion: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him… for he remembers that we are dust” (Ps 102[103]:13, 14b).

It was St. Paul’s great devotion to stand before the heavenly Father with all his infirmities and, as he always saw himself to be a member of Jesus Christ, those infirmities were Christ’s: “I will rather boast most gladly in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2Cor 12:9). Strive to be filled with this spirit of childlike confidence towards God.

It seems to me that the more I am united intimately with our divine Lord, the more he draws me to his Father – and the more, too, he wants me to be filled with his filial spirit. This is the whole spirit of the New Law: “You have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but you have received a Spirit of adoption through which we cry out: Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15).

Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity from Complete Works, vol. 1; ICS Publications, 1984

“Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listened to him speak.”

So that nothing may draw me out of this beautiful silence within, I must always maintain the same dispositions, the same solitude, the same withdrawal, the same stripping of self! If my desires, my fears, my joys or my sorrows, if all the movements proceeding from these “four passions” are not perfectly directed to God, I will not be solitary: there will be noise within me. There must be peace, sleep of the powers, “the unity of being.” “Listen, my daughter, lend your ear, forget your people and your father’s house, and the King will become enamored of your beauty.” (Ps 44[45]:11-12)… To forget “your people” is difficult, I think, for this people is everything which is, so to speak, part of us: our feelings, our memories, our impressions, etc.… when the soul has made this break, when it is free from all that, the King is enamored of its beauty…

The Creator, seeing the beautiful silence which reigns in His creature, and gazing on her wholly recollected in her interior solitude… leads her into this immense, infinite solitude, into this “spacious place” sung of by the prophet (Ps 17[18]:20), which is nothing else but Himself… “I will lead her into solitude and speak to her heart.” (Hos 2:16) The soul has entered into this vast solitude in which God will make Himself heard I “His word,” St. Paul says, “is living and active, and more penetrating than a two-edged sword: extending even to the division of soul and spirit, even of joints and marrow. “(Heb 2:16) It is His word then that will directlv achieve the work of stripping in the soul…

But it is not enough just to listen to this word, we must keep it! (Jn 14:23) And it is in keeping it that the soul will be “sanctified in the truth,” (Jn 17:17) and that is the desire of the Master… To the one who keeps His word has He not made this promise: “My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home in him”? (Jn 14:23) It is the whole Trinity who dwells in the soul that loves Him in truth, that is, by keeping His word.

Saint Gregory the Great from Exposition on the seven penitential psalms (PL 79, 581)

“When he saw him he was seized with pity”

O Lord Jesus, stirred by pity may you have the goodness to draw near me. Going down from Jerusalem to Jericho you fall from the heights to our own lowest depths, from a state where people are full of life to a land of the sick. Look, I have fallen into the hands of the angels of darkness who have not only stripped off my garment of grace but, having beaten me with their blows, have left me half dead. May you treat the wounds of my sins when you have given me hope of recovering my health, lest they should triumph if I ever lose hope of healing. May you anoint me with the oil of your forgiveness and pour over me the wine of contrition. If you set me on your own mount it is then that you “raise up the needy of the earth”, that you “lift the poor from the ash-heap” (Ps 112[113]:7).

For you are the one who bore our sins, the one who paid a debt for us that you yourself did not contract. If you have led me into the inn of your Church, it is there that you would feed me with the food of your Body and Blood. If you were taking care of me then I should no longer disobey your commands, I should no longer draw down on myself the fury of raging beasts. For I have great need of your care so long as I bear this flesh subject to sin. Hear me then, I who am the Samaritan stripped and wounded, weeping and groaning, calling you and crying with David: “Have mercy on me , God, according to your merciful love!” (Ps 50[51]:3).

Letter of the church of Smyrna concerning its martyrs (c.155)

“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.

Saint Pio of Pietralcina 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.

Saint John Chrysostom from 3rd Homily on the inscriptionto the Acts of the Apostles; PG 51, 87

Saint Luke, the evangelist: «I have decided…to write it down in an orderly sequence» (1:3)

The reading of holy Scripture is a spiritual meadow and paradise of pleasure, far more agreeable than the paradise of former times. God has not planted this paradise on earth but in the souls of the faithful. He has not set it in Eden nor in some precise location in the East (Gn 2:8) but has spread it all over the earth and displayed it to the ends of the inhabited world. And since you understand that he has spread out holy Scripture through all the inhabited world, listen to the prophet who says: “Their voice resounds through all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Ps 18:5; Rm 10:18)…

This paradise also has a source like the former one (GN 2:6.10), a source from which innumerable rivers flow… Who says so ? God does, who made us the gift of all these rivers : « Whoever believes in me, » he says, « as Scripture says : rivers of water will flow from within him » (Jn 7:38)… This source has no equal, not only for its abundance but still more by its nature. In effect, these are not rivers of water but gifts of the Spirit. This source is shared amongst the souls of all the faithful yet it is not lessened. It is divided but not stanched… Wholly in all and wholly in each: these are indeed the gifts of the Spirit.

Do you want to know what the abundance of those rivers means ? Do you want to know the nature of these waters? How they differ from waters here below because they are superior and more splendid? To understand the abundance of the source listen again to Christ speaking to the Samaritan woman: “The water I shall give to one who believes will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14)… Would you like to know its nature as well? Use it! In fact it is of no use for life here below but for eternal life. So let us spend our time in this paradise: let us receive an invitation to drink from this source.