treasure in earthly vessels:
wisdom from the catholic tradition iv

John Tauler from Sermon 39 for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity

“A good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing”

Here our Lord speaks of four different measures which will be given to men: a good measure, a measure heaped up, a measure pressed down, a measure overflowing… Now the first thing to understand about the good measure is that we must turn our will to God and live according to his commandments and the laws of Holy Church, in the practice of the sacraments and holding to the faith, repenting of our sins… fearing God and loving him in our neighbors. This is what it is to be a Christian and to lead a life that is Christian in truth… Yet this is the lowest grade of all…  When a man makes a beginning in the spiritual life, he plans to perform all kinds of good outward exercises: prayers, prostrations, fasting and many such pious practices. But then presently he is given the measure heaped up, that is, exercises of interior devotion, when with all his power he seeks God in his soul, for that is God’s Kingdom (Lk 17,21). My children, there is as much difference between this and the first way of life as there is between running and sitting still… 

Next comes the measure pressed down, which is an outpouring of love which draws to itself everything else: all good works, all your life, all sufferings, everything which you have in your vessel, and everything good done by everyone, good and evil…; all is in charity…  Love absorbs all the good there is in heaven, in all the saints and all the angels and all the sufferings of the martyrs; love draws to itself all the good which all creatures possess in heaven and on earth. So much of this good is lost, or seems to be lost, but love does not let it perish…

Then there comes the overflowing measure, the measure which is so full and abundant and generous that it overflows on every side. Our Lord has touched this measure with his finger and so everything stored up and kept inside it has flowed over… Everything has overflowed and is lost in God and is one with Him. In such souls God finds his own perfect love, and whatever they do is done by Him in them… This is how the overflowing measure of such perfected souls flows all through Holy Church.

Saint Ephrem from Sermon 3, 2.4-5

“Then you will see clearly”

O Lord, drive away the darkness from our minds 
with the light of your wisdom, 
so that enlightened in this way 
we may serve you with renewed purity. 
The beginning of the sun’s passage through the sky 
marks the beginning of the working-day for us mortals: 
we ask you, Lord, to prepare in our minds 
a place where the day that knows no end may give its light.

Grant that we may have within us this light, 
the life of the resurrection, 
and that nothing may take away our delight in you. 
Mark us with the sign of that day that does not begin 
with the movement and the course of the sun, 
by keeping our minds fixed on you.

In your sacraments we welcome you every day 
and receive you in our bodies. 
Make us worthy to experience within us 
the resurrection for which we hope. 
Be the wings for our thoughts, O Lord,
Drawing us lightly to the heights
And bearing us up to our true home.

By the grace of baptism we conceal within our bodies 
the treasure of your divine life… 
Let us appreciate the great beauty that is ours 
through the spiritual beauty that your immortal will 
arouses in our mortal nature…
May your resurrection, Jesus, 
cause the spiritual man to grow in us (cf Eph 3,16)
and may the contemplation of your mysteries
become the mirror in which we come to recognise you (1Cor 13,12).

Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true home, 
and, like Moses on the mountain-top
seeing the promised Land, (Dt 34,1)
let us possess it even now through contemplation.

Saint Raphael Arnaiz Baron from To know how to wait

We lack virtue not because it’s difficult, but be-cause we don’t wish for it. We lack patience because we don’t want it. We lack moderation and chastity for the same reason. If we were to wish it we would become saints; it’s much more difficult to be an engineer than to be a saint. If only we had faith!…

Interior life, life of spirit, life of prayer. My God that is what must be hard! It isn’t so. Remove the impediment from your heart and there you will find God. Everything is now done. Many times we go looking for what isn’t there, and on the other hand pass by a treasure and don’t see it. This happens to us with God, whom we seek… through a jungle of things which, the more complicated they are, the better they appear to us. And yet we carry God within the heart, and don’t look for Him there. Retire within yourself, look at your nothingness, at the nothingness of the whole world, place
yourself at the foot of a Cross, and if you are guileless you will see God…

If God is not there in our souls sometimes, it’s because we don’t wish it. We have so many affairs on hand, distractions, predilections, vain desires, presumptions, so much of the world within us, that God withdraws Himself; but it is sufficient to love Him, for God fills the soul in such a way that one must be blind not to see it. Does a soul wish to live according to God? Let it cast out everything that is not Him, and then it is achieved. It is relatively easy. If we were to wish for it, and if we were to ask God with simplicity, we should make great advances in the spiritual life. If we were to wish it we would become saints, but we are so stupid that we don’t want it, we would rather waste our time over foolish vanities.

Pope Francis from General Audience of 2/10/2013

Christ calls everyone to open themselves to God’s forgiveness

You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity…

In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable (Lk 15,11). You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates. That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is.

The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost.

Blessed John Henry Newman from Sermon ``The Christian Ministry``, PPS, vol. 2, n˚25

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

St. Peter’s ministerial office continues… in the persons of those who come after him, we are bound to understand our Lord’s blessing, pronounced in the first instance upon him, as descending in due measure on the least of us His ministers who “keep the faith,” (1Tm 6,20) Peter being but the representative and type of them all…

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah: it is not flesh and blood that have revealed this to you but my Father who is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” August and glorious promise! Can it be, that it is all expended on St. Peter, how great soever that noble Apostle? Is it inserted in the “everlasting Gospel,” (Rv 14,6) to witness merely of one long since departed? Is it the practice of the inspired word to exalt individuals? Does not the very exuberance of the blessing resist any such niggardly use of it? Does it not flow over in spite of us, till our unbelief is vanquished by the graciousness of Him who spoke it? Is it, in short, anything but the prejudices of education, which prevent so many of us from receiving it in that fullness of grace in which it was poured out? … If the promises to Christ’s Apostles are not fulfilled in the Church for ever after, why should the blessing attaching to the Sacraments extend after the first age?

Isaac the Syrian from Ascetical discourses, 1st series, no. 34

“Whoever humbles himself will be exalted”

Anyone who acknowledges his own sins… is greater than one who raises the dead by his prayer. Anyone who mourns over the state of his soul for an hour is greater than one who embraces the world in contemplation. Anyone to whom it has been given to see the truth about himself is greater than one to whom it has been given to see angels.

Saint Francis of Assisi from Earlier Rule, § 23

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

Let us all love the Lord God with all our heart, all our soul, with all our mind and all our strength and with fortitude and total understanding, with all of our powers, with every effort, every affection, every emotion, every desire, and every wish. He has given and gives to each one of us our whole body, our whole soul, and our whole life. He created us and redeemed us, and will save us by his mercy alone. He did and does every good thing for us who are miserable and wretched, rotten and foul-smelling, ungrateful and evil. 

Therefore let us desire nothing else let us wish for nothing else, let nothing else please us and cause us delight except our Creator and Redeemer and Savior, the one true God, who is the fullness of good, all good, every good, the true and supreme good. Who alone is good, merciful and gentle, delectable and sweet. Who alone is holy, just and true, holy and right. Who alone is kind, innocent, pure; from whom and through whom and in whom is all pardon, all grace, all glory of all the penitent and the just and of all the blessed who rejoice together in heaven. 

Therefore, let nothing hinder us, nothing separate us or nothing come between us. Let all of us wherever we are, in every place, at every hour, at every time of day, everyday and continually believe truly and humbly and keep in our heart, and love, honor, adore, serve, praise and bless, glorify and exalt, magnify and give thanks to the most high and supreme eternal God, Trinity and Unity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John Tauler from Sermon 74, in honor of Sainte Cordula

“Come to the feast”

“Everything is ready. Come to the feast.” But the people invited asked to be excused. They went “one to his farm, another to his business”… This astonishing busyness and constant agitation which stir the world are seen, alas, only too often. The prodigious amount of clothing, food, buildings that we have, and the many things, half of which would be ample enough, make one dizzy. This life should be nothing other than a passage to eternity. With all our strength we have to pull ourselves away from this exuberant activity and diversity, from all that is not absolutely necessary, and we must become recollected in ourselves, become attached to our vocation, consider where, how, and in what manner the Lord has called us: one to interior contemplation, the other to activity, and a third… to interior quiet, in the calm silence of divine darkness, in unity of spirit.

Even these latter are sometimes called by God to exterior, sometimes to interior actions, according to his good pleasure, yet the man pays no attention to his call. But if the person who is called interiorly to noble and calm silence in the emptiness of the dark cloud (Ex 24:18) was always wanting to forgo all charitable work because of it, then it would not be good. And unfortunately the numbers of those today who wish to carry out extra works of charity are very rare… The Gospel tells us that the master found one of his guests seated at the banquet who was not wearing the wedding garment. The wedding garment, which this guest was lacking, is pure, true and divine charity, the true intention of seeking God that excludes all love of self and of all that is foreign to God; it wants only what God wants… To those who seek themselves our Lord says: “My friend, how did you come in here without the garment of true charity?” They sought the gifts of God rather than God himself.

Satin Augustine from Sermon 87, 1.4-6; Pl 38, 530-533

The reward is eternal life

The earliest righteous people like Abel and Noah, called as it were at the first hour, will receive the joy of resurrection at the same time as we do. So also will others who came later, Abraham Isaac, and Jacob, and those contemporary with them, called as we may say at the third hour; Moses and Aaron and those called with them at the sixth hour; and after them the holy prophets, called at the ninth hour. 

At the end of the world all Christians called at the eleventh hour, will receive the joy of resurrection together with those who went before them. All will be rewarded at the same time, but the first comers will have had the longest to wait Therefore, if they receive their reward after a longer period and we after a shorter one, the fact that our reward is not delayed will make it seem as though we were receiving it first even though we all receive it together.

In that great reward, then, we shall all be equal — the first to the last and the last to the first. For the denarius stands for eternal life.

Saint John of the Cross from Counsels and mixes, nos. 352, 355, 356, 364, 1693 edition

Spirit of ownership or poverty of spirit?

Have no other desire but to enter, for love of Jesus, upon detachment, emptiness and poverty in everything in the world… You will never have to do with necessities greater than those to which you submit your heart. The poor in spirit (Mt 5,3) are most happy and joyous in a state of privation, and whoever desires nothing finds fullness everywhere.

The poor in spirit give generously all they have and their pleasure consists in being thus deprived of everything for God’s sake and out of love for their neighbor (Mt 22,37f.)… Not only do temporal goods, the delights and the tastes of sense, hinder and thwart the way of God, but spiritual delights and consolations also, if sought for or clung to eagerly.

Saint Augustine from Letter 130, to Probe on prayer, 14-15

“He spent the night in prayer to God”

Whoever asks “one thing” of the Lord, and “seeks it” (Ps 26[27],4), is asking in security and certainty… It is the true and only happy life, the eternal contemplation of God’s delight in immortality and incorruptibility of body and spirit.   All things are desired and not unreasonably asked for on account of this one thing. Whoever has this will have everything he can desire, nor can he desire anything he ought not to have.

There is the fountain of life which we have now to desire in prayer, as long as we are living in hope and do not see the object of our hope. We are concealed “under the protection of his wings, who beholds all our desire” (Ps 35[36],8), that we may be “inebriated with the abundance of his house, and drink of the torrent of his delight”, because “with him is the fountain of life, and in his light we shall see light” (Ps 35[36],8f.). Then our desire will be filled with good, and we shall have no need of seeking anything with tears, we shall have only joyful possession. 

Still, as it concerns the “peace which passes all understanding” (Phil 4,7), we “know not how to pray for it even it as we ought” (Rm 8,26). For we are totally ignorant of that which we are unable to think of as it is… The apostle Paul writes: “The Spirit comes to help us in our infirmity. For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the same Spirit pleads for us with ineffable groanings” (Rm 8,25f.).

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 1st Sermon for the Nativity of Mary, passim; SC 202

“Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called the Messiah”

Today we celebrate the birthday of the blessed Virgin Mother from whom the Life of all things took his birth. Today is the birthday of that Virgin from whom the Savior of all men willed to be born in order that he might give to all who were born to death the power to be reborn to life. Today is the birthday of that new Mother who has destroyed the curse brought by the first mother so that all those who, through the fault of the first, had been born under the yoke of eternal condemnation might instead, through her, inherit a blessing. She is indeed the new Mother, for she has brought new life to her children already hardening with age and has healed the defect of both inborn and acquired senility. Yes indeed. She is the new Mother who by an unheard of miracle has given birth in such a way that, becoming a mother, she has not ceased to be a Virgin and has given birth to the Child who created all things…

It is indeed a wonderful new thing, this fruitful virginity, but far more wonderful is the novelty of the Child born of it… Do you want to know how virginity gave birth to the Savior? In the same way as the flower of the vine produces its fragrance. Long before the birth of Mary, the Spirit that was to dwell in her… said in her name: “Like the vine I have brought forth a food odor” (Sir 24,17 Vg). If ever you find the flower corrupted through giving off its sweet odor, then you may hold that my virginity was violated in giving birth to my Savior…”

In you, too, if chastity reaches perfection, not only will the bloom of it show in your body, but a certain divine holiness will take possession of your whole being. There will be no petulant or wandering gaze, but a demeanour radiant with modesty…; your whole being will be adorned with the flowers of grace and purity.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homily 8 on the Letter to the Romans, 8

“There am I in the midst of them”

If I tell you to imitate the apostle Paul, that is not to say: “Raise the dead, heal lepers.” Do better than that: have charity. Have the love that animated Saint Paul, for this virtue is far superior to the power to perform miracles. Where there is charity, God the Son reigns with his Father and the Holy Spirit. He has said: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” The nature of a friendship that is as strong as it is real, is to enjoy being together.

You will say, are there people who are so miserable that they do not want to have Christ in their midst? Yes, my children, we ourselves. We cast him out of our midst when we fight one against the other. You will say: “What are you talking about? Don’t you see that we are gathered together in his name, all within the same walls, inside the same church, attentive to our pastor’s voice? Not the least dissension in our unity in song and prayer, listening together to our pastor. Where is the discord?”

I know we are in the same fold and under the same shepherd. That only makes me weep all the more bitterly… For if you are calm and quiet at this moment, when you leave the church one person criticizes the other; one publicly insults the other; this one is devoured by envy, jealousy or avarice; another is meditating on revenge, another on sensuality, duplicity or fraud… So have respect. Respect this holy table at which we are all in communion; respect Christ who was sacrificed for us; respect the sacrifice that is offered on this altar in our midst.

Saint John-Paul II from Apostolic Letter ``Mulieris dignitatem/ The Dignity of woman`` § 25

“Your Maker is your husband”

If God’s love for the human person, for the Chosen People of Israel, is presented by the Prophets as the love of the bridegroom for the bride, such an analogy expresses the “spousal” quality and the divine and non-human character of God’s love: “For your Maker is your husband … the God of the whole earth he is called” (Is 54,5). The same can also be said of the spousal love of Christ the Redeemer: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3,16). It is a matter, therefore, of God’s love expressed by means of the Redemption accomplished by Christ…

According to the Letter to the Ephesians, the bride is the Church, just as for the Prophets the bride was Israel. She is therefore a collective subject and not an individual person. This collective subject is the People of God, a community made up of many persons, both women and men. “Christ has loved the Church” (5,25) precisely as a community, as the People of God. At the same time, in this Church, which in the same passage is also called his “body”, he has loved every individual person. For Christ has redeemed all without exception, every man and woman.

It is precisely this love of God which is expressed in the Redemption; the spousal character of this love reaches completion in the history of humanity and of the world. Christ has entered this history and remains in it as the Bridegroom who “has given himself” (v.25). “To give” means “to become a sincere gift” in the most complete and radical way: “Greater love has no man than this” (Jn 15,13). According to this conception, all human beings – both women and men – are called through the Church, to be the “Bride” of Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

Saint Maximus of Turin from Sermon 39, attrib.

“From now on you will be catching men”

When the Lord, seated in the boat, said to Peter : “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for the catch” he was advising him, less to throw out his fishing implements into deep water, than to cast his words of preaching into the depths of people’s hearts. Saint Paul penetrated this heart’s abyss when he cast out the words: “How great are the depths and the richness of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”… Just as the net brings back to the boat the fish it has caught in its folds, so faith leads to rest in its bosom all the people it has gathered together.

So as to make us understand that the Lord was talking about a spiritual fishing, Peter said: “Master, we have worked hard all night long without a catch, but at your word I will let down my nets” … This Word is the Lord our Savior… Since Peter let down his net according to the Word, he spreads his eloquence everywhere according to Christ. He handles nets woven according to his master’s instructions; he casts out in the name of the Lord words even more clear and efficacious than before to enable him to save, not irrational creatures but men.

“We have toiled all night and caught nothing.” Yes, Peter had indeed toiled all night…; when the Savior’s light shone out the darkness was dispersed and his faith allowed him to distinguish, in the depths of the water, what his eyes could not see. Peter had, as it were, suffered from night until the day that is Christ came to his rescue. This is what was said to the apostle Paul: “The night is far gone; the day is at hand” (Rm 13,12).

Saint Jerome from Homilies on Saint Mark's Gospel, no. 2C; PLS 2, 125s, SC 494

Christ the physician

“Simon’s mother-in-law was lying on her bed with a fever.” O may Christ come into our house, enter and, with one word, heal the fever of our sins. Each of us is taken with fever. We have a fever every time we get angry; all our faults are just as much a flaring up of fever. Let us ask the apostles to pray to Jesus to come to us and take us by the hand for, as soon as he takes our hand, the fever will leave us.

He is the true, the great physician, first amongst all physicians. Moses is a physician, Isaiah and all the saints are physicians, but as for Jesus, he is the first amongst them all. He knows perfectly well how to take our pulse and penetrate the mysteries of our sicknesses. He touches neither ear, nor face, nor any other part of the body but takes the hand…, namely our evil deeds. First he heals our deeds and then the fever vanishes.

Saint John-Paul II from Apostolic Exhortation ``Christifideles laicai / The Lay Faithful`` § 13-14

“He has sent me to proclaim glad tidings”

The Second Vatican Council introduces baptism to us in these terms: “By regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the baptized are consecrated into a spiritual house”(LG 10). The Holy Spirit “anoints” the baptized, sealing each with an indelible character (cf. 2 Cor 1,21-22), and constituting each as a spiritual temple, that is, he fills this temple with the holy presence of God as a result of each person’s being united and likened to Jesus Christ. With this spiritual “unction”, Christians can repeat in an individual way the words of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me”…

“The mission of Christ -Priest, Prophet-Teacher, King-continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission”…  The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist… “For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life… all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pt 2,5). During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body.” (LG 34)…

Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ… the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed… They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin (cf. Rom 6,12), and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve… Jesus who is himself present in all his brothers and sisters, above all in the very least (cf. Mt 25,40). But in particular the lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value. In ordering creation to the authentic well-being of humanity in an activity governed by the life of grace, they share in the exercise of the power with which the Risen Christ draws all things to himself and subjects them… to the Father, so that “God might be everything to everyone” (cf. 1 Cor 15,28; Jn 12,32).

The Imitation of Christ from Book II, ch. 12

“Let him take up his cross, and follow me”

If you gladly bear the cross, then it will bear you, and guide you to the goal you long for, where suffering will end: which will not happen here. If you suffer in spite, you create your own burden and load yourself the more heavily; and still you must bear it. Throw off one cross, you will surely find another; and it may be heavier.

Do you expect to by-pass what no mortal man can escape? Which of the Saints lacked cross or affliction in the world? Indeed, Jesus Christ our Lord was not without the pain of the Passion for one hour of his life: It behoved Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and so to enter into his glory. And how is it that you seek sonic other than the royal way, the way of the holy cross?…

But such a one as this, in so manifold affliction, is not without comfort to ease him; for he is aware that great fruit accrues to him from the suffering of his cross. For as he spontaneously submits, the whole weight of his affliction is transformed into assurance of God’s comforting… It is not your human strength, but the grace of Christ that has such potent effect on the frail flesh; stirring it to go out and love with spiritual ardour what naturally it ever avoids with horror.

It is not in our nature to bear the cross, to love the cross… Look at yourself: of yourself you can do none of this. But if you trust in the Lord, strength will be given you from heaven, and authority over the world and the flesh. Not even our enemy the devil will you fear, if you are armed with faith and signed with the cross of Christ.

Saint Bede the Venerable from Hymn for the Martyrdom of John the Baptist; PL 94, 630

Forerunner in death as in life

The great forerunner of grace and messenger of truth,
John the Baptist, Christ’s shining torch,
Now becomes the preacher of eternal Light.
The prophetic witness that he never ceased to show
In his message, life, and all his mighty works,
Is signed today by the blood of his martyrdom.

He always went before his Lord:
In birth he declared his coming to the world;
By his baptism of sinners in the Jordan
He foretold the one by whom baptism would be instituted;
And by shedding his blood for him with love,
John the Baptist also experienced beforehand
The death of Christ our Savior, who gave life to the world.

A cruel tyrant may well conceal him in a prison, bound with irons,
Yet in Christ such chains could never bind a man
Whose heart in freedom opens to the Kingdom.
How could the darkness and torments of a dungeon dim
Gain mastery over one who sees Christ’s glory
And receives from him the Holy Spirit’s gifts?
Willingly he gives his head to the executioner’s sword;
How could he lose his head
Whose Head is Christ?

Happy is he who wins today his forerunner’s title
By his departure from this world of ours.
Today his death proclaims what he testified while living:
Christ who comes and now is here.
Could hell hold fast the messenger who escapes it?
The just, the prophets and the martyrs are full of joy
As they go with him to meet the Savior.
All surround John with their praises and their love
And, with him, beg Christ to come at last to those who are his own

O great forerunner of the Redeemer, he delays no longer
Who sets you free from death for evermore.
Led by your Lord,
Enter into glory with the saints! 

Saint John-Paul II from Testament

“So too, you also must be prepared”

“Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” – these words remind me of the last call that will come at whatever time the Lord desires. I want to follow Him and I want all that is part of my earthly life to prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will come but I place this moment, like all other things, in the hands of the Mother of my Master: Totus Tuus. In these same motherly hands I leave everything and everyone with whom my life and my vocation have brought me into contact. In these hands I above all leave the Church, and also my nation and all humankind. I thank everyone. I ask forgiveness of everyone. I also ask for prayers, so that God’s Mercy may prove greater than my own weakness and unworthiness (06/03/1979)…

Everyone should keep the prospect of death in mind and be ready to go before the Lord and Judge – and at the same time Redeemer and Father. So I keep this continuously in my mind, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church – to the Mother of my hope…

I would like once again to entrust myself entirely to the Lord’s grace. He Himself will decide when and how I am to end my earthly life and my pastoral ministry. In life and in death [I am] Totus Tuus through Mary Immaculate. I hope, in already accepting my death now, that Christ will give me the grace I need for the final passover, that is, [my] Pasch. I also hope that He will make it benefit the important cause I seek to serve: the salvation of men and women, the preservation of the human family and, within in it, all the nations and peoples (among them, I also specifically address my earthly homeland), useful for the people that He has specially entrusted to me, for the matter of the Church and for the glory of God Himself (01/03/1980).

Pope Francis from General Audience of 02/10/2013

Christ calls everyone to open themselves to God’s forgiveness

You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity…

In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable (Lk 15,11). You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates. That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is.

The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Meditations on the passages of the holy gospels referring to the fifteen virtues, Nazareth 1897-98; no. 15

“Blessed are you who are now weeping”

Let us hope, let all those of us who weep and shed innocent tears keep on hoping; let us hope whether we are weeping for the pains of body or of soul: these will serve as our purgatory. God will make use of them to… make us raise our eyes to him, purify us and sanctify us.

Let us hope even more if we are weeping for the pains of others, for this act of charity is inspired by God and pleasing to him. Let us hope even more if we are weeping for our own sins since this compunction has been placed into our souls by God himself. Let us hope even more if, with a pure heart, we are weeping for the sins of others, for this love for the glory of God and sanctification of souls has been inspired by God and is a great grace.

Let us hope if we are weeping with desire to see God and pain at being separated from him, for this loving desire is God’s work in us. Let us hope even more if we are weeping simply because we love, without either desire or fear, desiring completely what God wishes and nothing more, happy in his glory, suffering from his former sufferings, weeping sometimes for compassion at the remembrance of his Passion, sometimes for joy at the thought of his Ascension and glory, sometimes simply from emotion because we are dying for love of him!

O sweetest Jesus, make me weep for all these reasons; make me weep all those tears that cause love in you, through you and for you to spread abroad. Amen.

Saint Augustine from Letter 130, to Probe on prayer, 14-15

“He spent the night in prayer to God”

Whoever asks “one thing” of the Lord, and “seeks it” (Ps 26[27],4), is asking in security and certainty… It is the true and only happy life, the eternal contemplation of God’s delight in immortality and incorruptibility of body and spirit.   All things are desired and not unreasonably asked for on account of this one thing. Whoever has this will have everything he can desire, nor can he desire anything he ought not to have.

There is the fountain of life which we have now to desire in prayer, as long as we are living in hope and do not see the object of our hope. We are concealed “under the protection of his wings, who beholds all our desire” (Ps 35[36],8), that we may be “inebriated with the abundance of his house, and drink of the torrent of his delight”, because “with him is the fountain of life, and in his light we shall see light” (Ps 35[36],8f.). Then our desire will be filled with good, and we shall have no need of seeking anything with tears, we shall have only joyful possession. 

Still, as it concerns the “peace which passes all understanding” (Phil 4,7), we “know not how to pray for it even it as we ought” (Rm 8,26). For we are totally ignorant of that which we are unable to think of as it is… The apostle Paul writes: “The Spirit comes to help us in our infirmity. For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the same Spirit pleads for us with ineffable groanings” (Rm 8,25f.).

Saint Augustine from Sermon 279

A persecutor transformed into a preacher

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

And Paul, who had put all his energy into his persecuting, is already preparing to obey: “What do you want me to do?” The persecutor is already transformed into preacher, the wolf has become a sheep, the enemy a defender. Paul learns what he is to do: if he has become blind, if this world’s light is held back from him for a while, it is so as to make the light within shine in his heart. Light is taken away from the persecutor so that it may be given to the preacher; at the very moment he no longer saw anything of this world, he saw Jesus. This symbolizes the believer: those who believe in Christ must fix the eyes of their soul on him without paying attention to outward things…

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

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love

“The man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him… but he told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”

We have been called to love the world. And God loved the world so much that he gave Jesus to it (Jn 3,16). Today, he loves the world so much that he gives you and me to the world to be his love, his compassion and his presence through our lives of prayer, sacrifice and self-surrender. The response that God is waiting for from you is to become a contemplative, to be a contemplative.

Let us take Jesus at his word and we will be contemplatives at the heart of the world, because if we have faith then we are his permanent presence. In contemplation the soul draws directly from God’s heart the graces that the active life has been entrusted to distribute. Our very existence is to be intimately bound to the living Christ within us. If we do not live in God’s presence, we cannot keep going.

What is contemplation? It is to live the life of Jesus. That is how I understand it. To love Jesus; living his life at the heart of our own; living our own at the heart of his… Contemplation has nothing to do with shutting oneself up in a dark cupboard but in allowing Jesus to live his Passion, his love and his humility in us, to pray with us, to be with us and to make holy through us. Our lives and our contemplation are one. It’s not a question of doing but of being. In fact it is about the complete happiness of our spirit through the Holy Spirit who breathes God’s fullness into us and send us out into all creation as his own, personal message of love (Mk 16,15).

Saint Athanasius from Letter to Epictetus, 5-9

“Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?”

The Word, God’s eternal Utterance, “gave help to the descendants of Abraham; therefore he had to become like his brothers in every way” (Heb 2,16-17) and assume a body like our own. That is why Mary was truly needed for him to assume this body in her and offer it as his own on our behalf… Gabriel had announced this to her in carefully chosen words. He didn’t say in the ordinary fashion: “He who will be born in you”… but said: “He who will be born of you”…

All these things came to pass so that the Word, in taking on our nature and offering it in sacrifice, would make it wholly his own. Afterwards, he wanted to reclothe us in his own, divine nature, allowing Saint Paul to say: “That which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality” (1Cor 15.53). Nor, as certain heretics imagined, was this carried out in simulated fashion – not a bit of it! Our Savior became true man and mankind’s whole salvation came from that… Our salvation is not in appearance only, it is not for the body only, but it is for the whole person, soul and body, and this salvation came from the Word himself.

So that which came from Mary was human in nature, according to Scripture, and the Lord’s body was a true body: yes, a true body since it was in every respect like our own. For Mary is our sister since we all descend from Adam.

Saint Bede the Venerable from Homily 23 (Book 2); Ccl 122, 354, 356-357

John the Baptist, a martyr for the truth

It is without question that Saint John the Baptist underwent imprisonment for our Redeemer’s sake, whom he preceded with his witness, and that it was for him he gave his life. For even if his persecutor did not ask him to deny the Christ but to keep the truth quiet, still it was for Christ’s sake that he died. Indeed, Christ himself said: “I am the truth” (Jn 14,6). Since, then, it was for the truth that he shed his blood, it was for Christ. By being born John witnessed that Christ would be born; by preaching he witnessed that Christ would preach; by baptizing that he would baptize. By his being the first to suffer his Passion he showed that Christ, too, would have to suffer…

Thus this greatest of men came to the end of his life, after a long and painful imprisonment, with the shedding of his blood and he who had proclaimed the good news of the freedom of a higher peace was thrown into prison by the ungodly. He who came to bear witness to the light was shut in the darkness of a dungeon… He who had been granted to baptize the Redeemer of the world, to hear the Father’s voice speaking to Christ and to see the Holy Spirit’s grace descend upon him, was baptized in his own blood.

How well the apostle Paul spoke: “To you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1,29). And if he said that suffering for Christ is his gift to his chosen ones that is because, as he says elsewhere: “The sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8,18).

Saint Anthony of Padua from Sermons for Sundays and feasts of the saints

“And there was a great calm”

“Jesus got into a boat.” No sooner has a person got into the boat of repentance than the sea is stirred up. The sea is our heart. “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy: who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9) ; “Powerful are the breakers of this sea” (cf. Ps 92[93]:4). Pride puffs it up, ambition carries it beyond its bounds, depression covers it with its cloud, vain thoughts cast disquiet over it, sensuality and greed make it foam. However, it is only those who get into the boat of repentance who feel this swell of the sea, violence of the wind, tossing of the waves. People who remain on land notice nothing… It is the devil who, as soon as he feels himself despised by the penitent, breaks into outcries and rouses the tempest. He does not go away except “shouting and in convulsions” (Mk 9:26).

“Then Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea.” God said to Job: “Who shut within doors the sea?… I said to it: Thus far you shall come but no farther, and here your proud waves shall be stilled” (38:8-11). The Lord alone can set limits to the bitterness of persecution and temptation… When he causes temptation to cease, he says: “Here your proud waves shall be stilled.” Temptation gives way before the mercy of Jesus Christ. When the devil tempts us, we are to say with all the devotion of our souls: “I command you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who commanded the winds and the sea, to come out of me” (cf. Acts 16:18).

“And there was a great calm.” This is what we read in the book of Tobit: “I know, O Lord, that he who honors you will be crowned after being tempted in this life; if he experiences temptation he will be delivered and if he has to suffer he will meet with your mercy, for you find no joy in our loss. After the tempest you will restore our calm; after tears and weeping you will flood us with joy” (3:21-22 Vg.).

Saint Ambrose from Commentary on St Luke's Gospel, 7, 183f. (SC 52)

“So that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

The Lord himself is a mustard seed… But if Christ is a mustard seed, in what way is he the smallest and how does he become great? It is not in his nature but according to his outward appearance that he regains greatness. Do you want to know in what way he is the least? “Without majesty, without beauty, we saw him,” (Is 53:2). Now learn how he is the greatest: “Fairer in beauty is he than the sons of men” (Ps 45 [44]:3). Truly, he who was without show or beauty has become superior to the angels (Heb 1:4), surpassing the glory of all Israel’s prophets… He is the least of all the seeds because he did not come with majesty, nor with wealth, nor the wisdom of this world. But suddenly, like a tree, he unfurled the topmost point of his might so that we now say: “I delight to rest in his shadow,” (Sg 2:3).

In my view, he often appeared as both tree and seed together. He is seed when we say: “Is he not Joseph, the carpenter’s, son?” (cf Mt 13:55). But even while these words are being spoken he suddenly becomes greater… “Where,” they say, “did this man get such wisdom?” (v.54). Thus he is seed in appearance but tree by his wisdom. Amongst the foliage of his branches can rest secure the night-bird in its habitation, the lonely sparrow on the housetop (102 [101]:8), he who was caught up into Paradise, he who will be caught up in the air on the clouds” (1Thes 4:17). There rest the heavenly powers and angels together with all those whose spiritual deeds have allowed them to take their flight. There Saint John reposed when he leaned on Jesus’ breast (Jn 13:25)…
And we “who were far off” (Eph 2:13), gathered from among the nations, tossed about for so long in the emptiness of the world by the tempests of the spirit of evil, we direct our flight, spreading the wings of the virtues, so that the shadow of the saints may shelter us from the burning heat of this world. Already we regain new life, in the peace and security of that rest, no sooner than our soul, up to now bent down beneath the weight of sin, is “rescued like a bird from the snare of the fowlers” (124 [123]:7) and has been carried up onto the branches and mountains of the Lord (cf. Ps 11 [10]:1).

Blessed Guerric of Igny from Sermon for All Saints, 3.5-6

“Theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5: 3). Clearly those who are truly blessed are they who throw off the cheap but heavy burdens of this world and renounce all desires for any wealth save the richness of the Creator of the world alone. For his sake they are like those who, having nothing, yet possess all things in him (2Cor 6:10). Do they not truly possess all things if they have God for their portion and inheritance (Ps 141[142]:6) and possess him who contains all things and disposes of them all? This is the God who, lest there be anything lacking to those who fear him (Ps 33[34]:10), gives to them for their use all things outside himself in the measure that he knows is good for them, and keeps his own self for their ultimate enjoyment… Let us therefore rejoice, brethren, that we are poor for Christ, but let us also take care that we are humble for Christ. No one is more worthy of our scorn than a poor man who is proud…
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rm 14:17). If we feel we have all this within us, why do we not proclaim confidently that the kingdom of God is within us? (Lk 17:21). Now what is within us truly belongs to us, for nobody can take it away from us against our will. This is why, when he proclaims the happiness of the poor, the Lord is right to say: “The kingdom of God is theirs” and not that it “will be theirs.” It is theirs by an unimpeachable right. But it is also theirs because of a most certain pledge and their happy enjoyment of it. It is theirs not only because the kingdom was prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Mt 25:34), but also because they have already begun to enter into some sort of possession of it. They already have heavenly treasure in earthen vessels (2 Co 4:7); they already bear God in body and heart.

Saint Josémaria Escriva de Balaguer from homily of April 5, 1957

“It gives light to all in the house”

The Lord described his disciples’ mission as filling the world with light, being salt and light, carrying the good news of God’s love to the furthest confines of the earth. It is to this that all Christians must dedicate their life in one way or another… The grace of faith was not given us so as to remain hidden, but on the contrary, in order to shine before people…

Some will perhaps ask themselves how they can communicate this knowledge of Christ to others. I shall answer: with naturalness, with simplicity, by living exactly as you do in the midst of the world, devoted as you are to your professional work and to the care of your family, participating in all the noble aspirations of people, respecting the legitimate freedom of each person… Ordinary life can be holy and filled with God. The Lord calls us to sanctify our usual tasks, because that is also where Christian perfection dwells.
Let us not forget that almost all the days Mary spent on this earth were spent in a way very like the days of millions of other women who are also dedicated to their family, to the education of their children, to household tasks. All of that, which many wrongly consider to be insignificant and of no value, Mary sanctified even to the smallest detail… An ordinary blessed life, which can be so full of the love of God! For this is what explains the life of Mary: her love lived to the point of forgetting herself, completely happy as she was to be in her place where God wanted her. That is why her smallest gesture was never banal, but on the contrary, can be seen as full of meaning… It is up to us to try to be like her in the exact circumstances in which God wants us to live.

Commentary on the Song of Songs, II, 4, 17f.

“He began to teach them many things”

     “Tell me, O you whom my soul has loved, where you feed and where you have your couch?’ I think that in Psalm 23[22] the prophet likewise is speaking of this place, concerning which the Bride desires of the Bridegroom to learn, set as he is under the same Shepherd. He says: “The Lord is my shepherd and I shall want nothing” (v.1). And because he knew that other shepherds, through sloth or inexperience, assemble their flocks in the drier places, he says about the Lord, this best of shepherds: “In a green place, there he has set me; he has brought me up to the water of refreshment” (v.2), thus making it clear that this Shepherd provides His sheep with water that is not only plentiful but also wholesome and pure and utterly refreshing …

That first life, the pastoral, was a preparatory one, in order that, being set in a green place, he might be brought up to the water of refreshment. But the things that follow have to do with progress and perfection. And, since we have brought up the subject of pastures and of greenness, it seems fitting to support what we say out of the Gospels also. There, too, I have encountered this Good Shepherd talking about the pastures of the sheep; there is a passage where He styles Himself the Shepherd, and even calls Himself the Door, saying: I am the Door. By me, if anyone enters, he shall be saved; and he shall go in and go out, and shall find pastures” (Jn 10,9). Him, therefore, the Bride now plies with questions… And what she calls ‘midday’ denotes those secret places of the heart in which the soul pursues the clearer light of knowledge from the Word of God; for midday is the time when the sun is at the zenith of its course. So when Christ, the Sun of Justice (Mal 3,20), shows to his Church the high and lofty secrets of his power, then he will be teaching her where lie His pleasant pastures and his places of repose at noon.

For when she has only begun to learn these things and is receiving from Him the rudiments, so to speak, of knowledge, then the prophet says: “And God will help her in the morning early” (Ps 46[45],6). At this time, however, because she is now seeking things that are more perfect, and desiring higher things, she asks for the noonday light of knowledge.

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Prayer before the Crucifix

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

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

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

Saint Augustine from Sermon 293, 7th for the Nativity of John the Baptist

“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert”

John was the voice but “in the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1,1). John was a voice for a time; Christ, the Word from the beginning, the eternal Word. Take away the word and what is the voice? Where there is nothing to understand there is only an empty sound. A voice without a word may strike the ear, it does not edify the heart. However, let us examine how things are put together in our hearts when they are to be edified. If I think about what I have to say, the word is already in my heart; but when I want to address you then I consider how to cause what is already in my heart to pass over into yours. So if I am seeking how the word already in my heart can meet up with you and take root in your heart, then I make use of the voice. And it is with this voice that I speak to you: the sound of my voice conveys to you the idea contained in the word. Then, it is true, the sound of it evaporates, but the word that the sound conveyed to you is henceforth in your heart without having left mine.
When the word has reached you doesn’t its sound seem to say, like John the Baptist: “He must increase; I must decrease”? (Jn 3,30). The sound of the voice rang out to accomplish its task, then vanished away as if to say: “My joy is complete” (v.29). So let us hold on to the Word; do not let us allow the Word conceived in the depths of our hearts to pass away.

The Roman Missal from Rite for celebrating a marriage during Mass: Nuptial blessing, no. 4

“The two shall become one flesh”

Let us pray to the Lord for this bride and groom, who come to the altar as they begin their married life, that partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ they may always be bound together by love for one another.

Lord, our God, you have called N. and N. by name so that, in giving themselves to one another, they may become one flesh and one spirit; give them the body of your Son through whom their unity is brought to fulfillment. You alone are the source of their love and have set within them the desire for happiness that animates them; grant them the blood of your Son, which will sanctify their love and their joy.

As they receive the bread of life and the cup of blessing may they learn to give their lives for others, to raise in faithfulness to the Gospel the children who will born of their love, to seek above all else the Kingdom of God and its justice. May they be of service to the world in which they live, may they show themselves hospitable to the poor, may they give you thanks at all times and come frequently to renew their covenant by sharing together in communion with the risen body of Jesus Christ.

We ask you this in his name: since he sanctified the wedding feast at Cana and purified his Church by giving himself for her, we are assured that he is interceding to you for these our friends, N. and N. all the days of their life, both now and forever and in eternity. Amen.

Saint Pacian of Barcelona from Homily on Baptism 7

Set free by the Son of Man who was handed over into the hands of men

All peoples have been set free from the powers that held them captive by our Lord Jesus Christ. He it is – yes, he! – who has redeemed us. As the apostle Paul says: “Having forgiven all our transgressions, obliterating the bond against us, nailing it to the cross, he despoiled the principalities and powers, he made a public spectacle of them, leading them away in triumph,” (Col 2,13-15). He has set the captives free and broken our bonds, as David said: “The Lord secures justice for the oppressed; the Lord sets captives free; the Lord gives sight to the blind.” And again: “You have loosed my bonds; to you I will offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,” (Pss. 146[145],7-8; 116[115].16-17).

Yes, we have been released from our bonds, those of us who have been brought together at the Lord’s call by the sacrament of baptism…; we have been set free by the blood of Christ and the invocation of his name… And so, my beloved, we were washed by the waters of baptism once for all; once for all we were set free; once for all we were welcomed into the undying Kingdom. Once for all, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered,” (Ps32[31].1; Rom 4,7). Bravely hold fast to what you have received; keep it to your own happiness; sin no more. From henceforth, keep yourselves pure and without fault for the day of the Lord.

Saint Bernard from 3rd Sermon for the Assumption

Martha and Mary

Who better than those who have charge of communities merit to have these words applied to them : “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things”? Who is anxious about many things if not he to whom it falls to concern himself just as much with the contemplative Mary as with her brother Lazarus and others too? You recognize the anxious Martha, overburdened with numerous cares, in the apostle who has “the care of all the churches” (2Cor 11:28), keeping watch that the shepherds tend their flocks. “Who is weak and I am not weak?” he says: “who is led into sin and I am not indignant?” (v.29). So let Martha welcome the Lord into her house since to her is entrusted the direction of the household… Let those who share her tasks also receive the Lord, each according to their particular service. Let them welcome Christ and serve him, helping in the person of his members the sick, the poor, travelers and pilgrims.

While they are undertaking these ministries, let Mary remain at rest, knowing “how good is the Lord” (Ps 33[34]:9). Let her take great care to take her place at Jesus’ feet, her heart full of love and her soul in peace, without losing him from her sight, attentive to all his words, admiring his beautiful face and his speech. “Fairer in beauty are you than the sons of men; grace is poured out upon your lips” (Ps 44[45]:3), he is even more beautiful than the angels in their glory. O Mary, acknowledge your joy and give thanks, you who have chosen the better part. Happy the eyes that see what you see, the ears that are worthy of hearing what you hear! (cf. Mt 13:16). How happy you are above all to hear the beating of the heart of God in that silence where it is good to wait upon the Lord!

Saint Cyprian from The Lord's Prayer, 14-15

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is not that God can do what he wants, but that we can do what he wants. Who can prevent God from doing what he wants? But we others, we who are thwarted by the devil, who prevents us from obeying the will of God in everything, both interiorly and exteriorly. So we ask that his will be done in us. But so that it might be done, we need his help. Nobody is strong through their own resources, but rather, their strength lies in the goodness and mercy of God… 
The will of God is what Christ did and taught: humility in his conduct, solidity in his faith, modesty in his words, justice in his actions, mercy in his works, discipline in his habits. It is the will of God not to act wrongly towards anyone, to bear the wrong that is done to us, maintain peace with our brethren, love God with all our heart, love him because he is the Father and fear him because he is God; not to prefer anything to Christ since he preferred us to all else, to adhere inviolably to his love and remain beneath the cross with courage and trust. When it is a matter of fighting for his name or his honor we should show constancy in our words; we should prove that we trust him in the midst of our difficulties so as to bear the struggle, being patient in death so as to obtain the crown. This is what wanting to be co-heirs with Christ means: to fulfill God’s precepts and do God’s will.

Saint Catherine of Siena from Dialogue 24

“I am the true vine and my Father is the vine grower” (Jn 15,1)

Do you know what course I follow, once my servants have completely given themselves to the teaching of the gentle loving Word? I prune them, so that they will bear much fruit-cultivated fruit, not wild. Just as the gardener prunes the branch that is joined to the vine so that it will yield more and better wine, but cuts off and throws into the fire the branch that is barren, so do I the true gardener act (Jn 15,2). When my servants remain united to me I prune them with great suffering so that they will bear more and better fruit, and virtue will be proved in them. But those who bear no fruit are cut off and thrown into the fire (Jn 15,6).

These are the true workers. They till their souls well, uprooting every selfish love, cultivating the soil of their love in me. They feed and tend the growth of the seed of grace that they received in holy baptism. And as they till their own vineyards, so they till their neighbors’ as well, for they cannot do the one without the other. You already know that every evil as well as every good is done by means of your neighbors. You, then, are my workers. You have come from me, the supreme eternal gardener, and I have engrafted you onto the vine by making myself one with you… All of you together make up one common vineyard…; are all united in the vineyard of the mystic body of holy Church from which you draw your life. In this vineyard is planted the vine, which is my only-begotten Son, into whom you must be engrafted.

Blessed Henry Suso from The Book of Eternal Wisdom

“That you may find peace in me”

“Lord, since the days of my youth my mind has sought an I-don’t-know-what with impatient thirst. So what was it, Lord? I still haven’t understood it entirely. It is many years now that I have ardently desired it, and I have not yet been able to grasp it… And yet that is what draws my heart and my soul and without which I cannot settle down in true peace. Lord, I wanted to find happiness in the creatures of this world, as I saw so many people doing all around me. But the more I sought, the less I found; the closer I got, the further away I was. For everything told me: “ I am not what you are seeking.” So is it you, Lord, whom I have sought for so long? Has the attraction of my heart always and constantly been struggling to reach you? Then why did you not show yourself to me? How could you put off this meeting for so long? On how many exhausting paths have I got bogged down? For the person whom you anticipate with so much love, is truly happy, the person whom you do not let rest until he seeks his rest in you alone.

Saint Clement of Alexandria from Stromata 7, 7; PG 9, 450f.

“Ask and you will receive: and you will be filled with joy”

To reverence and honor him whom we believe to be Word, Savior, and Leader, and by him, the Father, not on special days, as some others do, but doing this continually throughout our whole life and in every way: this is our duty. The chosen people cries out: “Seven times a day have I praised you” (Ps 118[119],164). Whence not in a specified place, or selected temple, or at certain festivals and on appointed days, but during his whole life and in every place, the truly spiritual person… honors God, that is, acknowledges his gratitude for the knowledge of the way to live. And if the presence of someone good, through the respect and reverence which they inspire, always improves those with whom they associate, with much more reason do not they who always hold uninterrupted converse with God by their knowledge, life, and thanksgiving not improve at every step in everything: conduct, words, disposition?… Holding festival, then, in our whole life, persuaded that God is wholly present everywhere, we cultivate our fields, singing; we sail the sea to the sound of hymns and, in all our other conversation we conduct ourselves like “citizens of heaven” (Phil 3:20)… Prayer is, then, to speak more boldly, intimate converse with God. Even if we whisper softly and, not opening the lips, speak in silence, yet we cry inwardly. For God constantly hears our interior voice… Indeed, the genuinely spiritual person prays throughout his whole life, endeavoring by prayer to have fellowship with God. And he leaves behind him all that is of no service, as having now received the perfection of one who acts by love… His whole life is a sacred liturgy.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa from Against Eunomius IV; PG 45, 633-638

“The whole of creation has been groaning in labor pains until now” (Rom 8:22)

The apostle Paul… testified concerning the only Son that he had not only created everything, but that it is also he who brings about a new creation, because the former creation has become old and obsolete. And thus, through the Gospel proclaimed to humankind, Christ himself is the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15)… How did Christ become the “firstborn of a multitude of brothers and sisters” (Rom 8:29)? … For us, he became like us, sharing in our flesh and blood so as to transform us from corruptible beings to incorruptible ones through birth from on high by water and the Spirit (Jn 3:5). He showed us the path to such a birth when, by his baptism, he drew down the Holy Spirit upon the water. Thus, he became the firstborn of all who are reborn spiritually, and all who have a part in this rebirth by water and the Spirit are called brothers and sisters. After giving our nature the power of the resurrection from the dead, Christ also became the first fruit of those who have died and the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18). Being the first, he opened to us the path of liberation from death. Through his resurrection, he destroyed the bonds of death, which held us captive. Thus, through this double rebirth of holy baptism and of the resurrection from the dead, he became the firstborn of the new creation. This firstborn has brothers and sisters. He said to Mary Magdalen: “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn 20:17) That is why the mediator between God and humankind (1 Tim 2:5), when he opened the cortege of the whole of humankind, sent his brothers this message and told them: “By means of the first fruits which I have assumed, in myself I am bringing back everything that is human to our God and Father.”

Saint Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on Saint John's Gospel, 9; PG 74, 182-183

Christ opens the way for us

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (Jn 14:2)…, The Lord knew that many such dwelling places already prepared were awaiting the arrival of those who love God. Therefore he did not give this as the reason for his departure, but rather his desire to open the way for our ascent to those heavenly places and to prepare a safe passage for us by making smooth the road that had previously been impassible. For heaven was then completely inaccessible to us — human foot had never trodden that pure and holy country of the angels. It was Christ who first prepared the way for our ascent there. By offering himself to God the Father as the firstfruits of all who are dead and buried, he gave us a way of entry into heaven and was himself the first human being the inhabitants of heaven ever saw. The angels in heaven, knowing nothing of the sacred and profound mystery of the incarnation, were astonished at his coming and almost thrown into confusion by an event so strange and unheard of. “Who is this coming from Edom?” they asked (Is 63:1); that is, from the earth. But the Spirit did not leave the heavenly throng ignorant… Commanding them to open the gates of heaven in honor of the King and Master of the universe, he cried out: “Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up you everlasting doors, that the king of glory may come in!” (Ps 23[24]:7 LXX). And so our Lord Jesus Christ has opened up for us “a new and living way”, as Paul says, “not by entering a sanctuary made with hands, but by entering heaven itself to appear before God on our behalf” (Heb 10:20; 9:24).

Saint Anthony of Padua from Sermons for Sundays and the feasts of the saints

“He will lead you into all truth”

The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, is he whom the Father and the Son send like a breath into the souls of the just. It is by him that we are sanctified and made worthy of becoming saints. Human breath is the life of the body, divine breath is the life of the soul. Human breath makes us sensitive, divine breath makes us holy. This Spirit is Holy because without him no spirit, whether angelic or human, is able to be holy. “The Father will send him to you in my name,” Jesus says (Jn 14:26), that is to say in my glory, to make my glory known. Or again, because he has the same name as the Son: he is God. “He will glorify me” because he will make you spiritual, understanding how the Son is equal to the Father and not just a man as you see him to be, or because he will take away your fear and cause you to proclaim my glory to the whole world. Thus man’s salvation is what my glory is. “He will teach you all things.” “O children of Zion be glad!” says the prophet Joel, “For the Lord your God has given you the one who teaches righteousness” (2:23 Vulg.), he will teach all of you everything that pertains to salvation.

Saint Hilary from On the Trinity, 7, 34-36

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus said: “If you know me, you know the Father too. From now on you know him and have seen him.” We see Jesus Christ, the man. The apostles had his outward appearance before their eyes, that is to say, his human nature, whereas God, who is without flesh of any kind, cannot be discerned in a wretched fleshly body. In what way, then, can it be said that to know him is to know the Father? These unexpected words trouble the apostle Philip…; the weakness of his human mind makes him unable to understand so strange a statement… So, with the impetuousness allowed by familiarity and his faithfulness as an apostle, he questions his Master: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied!”… It isn’t that he wants to look on the Father with his physical eyes, but he asks to have an understanding of the one whom he sees with his eyes. Since, seeing the Son in his human form, he fails to understand how, by this, he has seen the Father… Then the Lord answers him: “Have I been so long with you, Philip, and still you do not know me?” He reproaches him for not realizing who he is… Why had no one recognized him when they had been seeking him so long? It was because, in order to recognize him, they had to recognize the divinity, the Father’s nature, within him. Indeed, all the works he had done were properly God’s works: walking on the water, commanding the winds, accomplishing things impossible to understand such as changing water into wine or multiplying the loaves… putting demons to flight, banishing sickness, bringing healing to bodily ills, correcting disabilities from birth, forgiving sins, restoring the dead to life. All these things are what he has done in the flesh and these are what allow him to call himself Son of God. Hence his reproaches and lamentation: because no one recognized through the mysterious reality of his human birth the divine nature which was accomplishing these miracles through the human nature the Son had assumed.

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross `{`Edith Stein`}` from Essays on Women, ch. 6

“I am the vine, you are the branches”

The notion of the Church as community of the faithful is the most accessi· ble to human reason. Whoever believes in Christ and His gospel, hopes for the fulfillment of His promises, clings to Him in love, and keeps His commandments must unite with all who are like-minded in the deepest communion of mind and heart. Those who adhered to the Lord during His stay on earth were the early seeds of the great Christian community; they spread that community and that faith which held them together, until they have been inherited by us today through the process of time. But, if even a natural human community is more than a loose union of single individuals, if even here we can verify a movement developing into a kind of organic unit, it must be still more true of the supernatural community of the Church. The union of the soul with Christ differs from the union among people in the world: it is a rooting and growing in Him (so we are told by the parable of the vine and the branches) which begins in baptism, and which is constantly strengthened and formed through the sacraments in diverse ways. However this real union with Christ implies the growth of a genuine community among all Christians. Thus the Church forms the Mystical Body of Christ. The Body is a living Body, and the spirit which gives the Body life is Christ’s spirit, streaming from the head to all parts (Eph 5,23.30). The spirit which Christ radiates is the Holy Spirit; the Church is thus the temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2,21-22).

Saint Anselm from Proslogion, 26

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete”

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 let it be fulfilled, so that here my joy may be in a 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” (Jn 16,24). That which you counsel through our “wonderful counsellor” (Is 9,5) is what I am asking for, Lord. Let me receive that which you promised through your truth, “that my joy may be full”. God of truth, I ask that I may receive, so that my joy may be full. Meanwhile, let my mind meditate on it, let my tongue speak of it, let my heart love it, let my mouth preach it, let my soul hunger for it, my flesh thirst for it, and my whole being desire it, until I enter the joy of my Lord (Mt 25,21), who is God, one and triune, blessed forever. Amen.

Dorotheus of Gaza from Instructions, VI, 76-78 (SC 92)

Love of God and neighbor

The more we are united to our neighbor, the more we are united to God. So that you can understand the meaning of this saying I’m going to give you an image taken from the Fathers: imagine a circle drawn on the ground, that is to say a line drawn into a round shape with a compass, having a centre. We refer to the middle of the circle as being the exact centre. Now give your attention to what I am saying. Imagine that this circle is the world, its centre is God and each radius represents different ways or kinds of lifestyle. When the saints, desiring to draw near to God, move towards the middle of the circle, then to the degree to which they penetrate further into its interior they draw closer to each other even as they draw closer to God. The closer they draw to God, the closer they draw to each other; and the closer they draw to each other, the closer they draw to God. From this you will understand that the same thing applies conversely when we turn away from God to withdraw outside the circle: then it becomes obvious that, the more we withdraw from God, the more we withdraw from each other, and the more we withdraw from each other, the more we also withdraw from God.. Such is the nature of charity. To the extent that we stand outside and do not love God, to the same extent each one of us stands apart with regard to their neighbor. But if we love God, then insofar as we come closer to God through our love for him, we also participate in love of neighbor to the same extent. And insofar as we are united to our neighbor we are equally so to God.

Saint John-Paul II from Homily for the ecumenical commemoration of the witnesses to the faith in the twentieth century on May 7, 2000

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first”

“Whoever loves his life loses it and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:25)… They contain a truth which today’s world often scorns and rejects, making love of self the supreme criterion of life. But the witnesses to the faith, who also this evening speak to us by their example, did not consider their own advantage, their own well-being, their own survival as greater values than fidelity to the Gospel. Despite all their weakness, they vigorously resisted evil. In their fragility there shone forth the power of faith and of the Lord’s grace.        The precious heritage which these courageous witnesses have passed down to us is a patrimony shared by all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities… The ecumenism of the martyrs and the witnesses to the faith is the most convincing of all; to the Christians of the twenty-first century it shows the path to unity. It is the heritage of the Cross lived in the light of Easter: a heritage which enriches and sustains Christians as they go forward into the new millennium…        In the century and the millennium just begun may the memory of these brothers and sisters of ours remain always vivid. Indeed, may it grow still stronger! Let it be passed on from generation to generation, so that from it there may blossom a profound Christian renewal! Let it be guarded as a treasure of consummate value for the Christians of the new millennium, and let it become the leaven for bringing all Christ’s disciples into full communion! … I pray to the Lord that the cloud of witnesses which surrounds us (He 12:1) will help all of us who believe to express with no less courage our own love for Christ, for him who is ever alive in his Church: as he was yesterday, and is today, and will be tomorrow and for ever!

Saint Bernard from Sermon 27, 8-10

“We will come to him and make our dwelling with him”

“My Father and I will come to him,” that is to say, to the holy of heart, says the Son of God, “and we will make our home with him.” It seems to me that when the psalmist said to God: “You make your dwelling in the holy place, you who are Israel’s praise,” he had no other heaven in mind than the hearts of the saints (Ps 21:4 Vulg). The Apostle Paul expresses it quite clearly: “Christ lives in our hearts through faith” (Eph 3:17). Surely it is no wonder that the Lord Jesus gladly makes his home in such a heaven because, unlike the other heavens, he did not bring it into existence by a mere word of command. He descended into the arena to win it; he laid down his life to redeem it. And so after the battle was won he solemnly declared: “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I have chosen to dwell” (Ps 131[132]:14)… “Why, then, are you sorrowful, my soul, and why are you troubled within me?” (Ps 41[42]:6). Are you trying to find a place for the Lord within yourself? Who among us can provide a fitting place for the Lord of glory, a place worthy of his majesty! O that I might be counted worthy to worship at his footstool, that I might at least cling to the feet of some saintly soul whom “the Lord has chosen to be his dwelling place!” (Ps 32[33]:12). However, the Lord has only to anoint my soul with the oil of his mercy for me in my turn to be able to say: “I have run the way of your commandments because you have enlarged my heart” (Ps 118[119]:32). Then perhaps, even if I cannot usher him into a large and richly furnished room in my heart where he may eat with his disciples (Mk 14:15), I shall at least be able to offer him “a place to lay his head” (Mt 8:20).

Saint Gregory the Great from Homily 14 on the Gospel, PL 76, 1129-1130

“I give them eternal life”

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own – by which I mean, I love them – and my own know me”. In plain words: those who love me are willing to follow me, for anyone who does not love the truth has not yet come to know it. My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to his flock, whether you know him, whether the light of his truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that “anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar” (1Jn 2:4). Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: As the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. Clearly he means that laying down his life for his sheep gives evidence of his knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of him. In other words, by the love with which he dies for his sheep he shows how greatly he loves his Father.

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

“The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

Christ is the way that leads to interior life and to the choirs of the blessed who sing the eternal Sanctus. Christ’s blood is the curtain in the Temple through which we penetrate into the Holy of Holies of divine life (Heb 9:11f.; 10:20). In baptism and the sacrament of penance, he purifies us of sin, he opens our eyes to the eternal light, he opens our ears to perceive the divine Word, he opens our lips so that we begin to sing the song of praise, so that we pray the prayer of reconciliation, of petition, of thanksgiving; and all those prayers are nothing but various forms of the one adoration… But it is above all the sacrament in which Christ is personally present, which makes us members of his body. By participating in the sacrifice and in the sacred meal, by being nourished with the flesh and blood of Jesus, we ourselves become his flesh and his blood. And only when we are members of his body, and to the extent to which we are that in truth, his Spirit can give us life and reign in us… We become members of the body of Christ “not only through love…, but also really and truly by being one with his flesh. That is realized through the food he gave us in order to prove to us his desire for us. That is why he lowered himself even to the point of coming to us, and that he formed his own body in us, so that we might be one, as the body is united with the head.” (St. John Chrysostom) As members of his body, animated by his Spirit, we offer ourselves in sacrifice “through him, with him and in him,” and we unite our voices to the eternal thanksgiving.

Saint Teresa of Avila from The Book of Her Life, Chapter 12

“They shall all be taught by God”

“When the Lord suspends the intellect and causes it to stop, He Himself gives it that which holds its attention and makes it marvel; and without reflection it understands more in the space of a Creed than we can understand with all our earthly diligence in many years. Trying to keep the soul’s faculties busy and thinking you can make them be quiet is foolish… Many years passed by in which I read a lot of things and didn’t understand anything of what I read. For a long time, even though God favored me, I didn’t know what words to use to explain His favors; and this was no small trial. In a way amazing to me, His Majesty when He desires teaches me everything in a moment. One thing I can truthfully say: although I spoke with many spiritual persons who wanted to explain what the Lord was giving me so that I would be able to speak about it, my dullness was truly so great that their explanations benefited me neither little nor much. Or maybe, since His Majesty has always been my Master, it was the Lord’s desire that I have no one else to thank. May He be blessed forever because it is very disconcerting for me to speak in all truth about His favors. Without my desiring or asking … , God gave me in a moment completely clear understanding so that I knew how to explain His favor in a way that amazed me more than it did my confessors; for I understood better than they my own dullness… Once again I counsel that it is very important for the spirit not to ascend unless the Lord raise it up. What this statement means is quite apparent.

Saint 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.

Saint Columbanus from Spiritual Instruction, 13,3

“Lord, give us this bread always”

The prophet says: “You who are thirsty, come to the water” (Is 55:1). This is the water of those who are thirsty, not those who have drunk their fill. It calls out to those who hunger and thirst, those whom it also calls blessed (Mt 5:6), whose thirst is never satisfied and whose thirst increases all the more in that they have already been watered at its source. Therefore, brethren, we ought to long for the fountain of wisdom, the Word of God in the heights: we should seek it, we should love it. Within it are hidden, as the apostle Paul says: “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) and it invites all those who are thirsty to drink them in. If you are thirsty, go, drink at the fountain of life. If you are hungry, eat the bread of life. Blessed are those who hunger for this bread and thirst for this fountain. Endlessly drinking and eating they still desire to drink and eat; this food is sweet and sweet is this drink. We eat and we drink but we are still hungry and we thirst still more; our desire is satisfied and we do not cease desiring. Therefore the prophet-king David cries out: “Taste and see how good the Lord is” (Ps 33[34]:9). That is why, brethren, we follow our call. Life, the fountain of living water, the fountain of eternal life, the fountain of light and source of brightness itself invites us to come and drink (Jn 7:37). There we shall find wisdom and life, eternal light. There we shall drink the water of life, springing up to eternal life (Jn 4:14).

Saint Ignatius of Antioch from Letter to the Philadelphians

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

You, who are children of the true light, flee from quarrelling and false teachings. Like sheep, follow your shepherd wherever you go. For it often happens that wolves, seemingly worthy of credence, lead astray those who are running God’s race. But if you stay united they will find no place amongst you. So take care to participate only in the one eucharist. Indeed, there is only one flesh of our Lord, one cup uniting us in his blood, one altar, just as there is only one bishop in the midst of his priests and deacons. In this way, all that you do will be done according to God… My refuge is the Gospel, which so far as I’m concerned is Jesus himself in the flesh, and the apostles who incarnate the Church’s priesthood. Let us also love the prophets since they, too, have preached the Gospel: they hoped in the Christ and waited for him; believing in him, they were saved and, remaining as saints worthy of love and admiration in the unity of Jesus Christ, they were accounted worthy to receive the testimony of Jesus Christ and to have a share in the Gospel, our common hope… God does not dwell where division and anger reign. But the Lord forgives all those who repent if repentance brings them back to unity with God and communion with the bishop. I believe in the grace of Jesus Christ, who will set us free from every chain. I beseech you never to act in a quarrelsome spirit but according to Christ’s teaching. I have heard of those who said: “Whatever I don’t find in the ancient books. I won’t believe in the Gospel”… Where I’m concerned, the ancient books are Christ; the inviolable archives are his cross, his death and resurrection and the faith coming from him. See, then,from where I expect my whole justification, with the help of your prayers.

Saint Hilary from On the Trinity, 12, 55f.; PL 10, 472

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

O Almighty God: according to the apostle Paul your Holy Spirit “scrutinizes and knows the depths of your being” (1 Cor 2, 10-11) and intercedes for me by speaking to you with “inexpressible groanings” (Rom 8,26)… But nothing apart from you can scrutinize your mysteriousness; nothing foreign to you is powerful enough to sound the depths of your infinite majesty. All that enters into you is part of you; nothing outside yourself is able to fathom you… I firmly believe that your Holy Spirit comes from you through your only Son. Even if I fail to understand this mystery yet I am firmly convinced of it. For my spirit is contained within spiritual mysteries that are your province, as your only Son assures: “Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” I believe in my new birth without understanding it and stand firm in a faith I cannot pin down. I know I have the ability to be born again yet I do not know how it is carried out. The Spirit is not restricted by anything: he speaks when he wishes, says what and where he wishes. The reasons for his coming and going are unknown to me, but I am profoundly sure of his presence.

Saint Anthony of Padua from Sermons for Sundays and feasts

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

The Father has sent us his Son who is the “good and perfect gift” (Jas 1:17). He is the better gift that nothing can surpass, the perfect gift to which nothing can be added. Christ is the better gift because he whom the Father thus bestows on us is his Son, sovereign and eternal like himself. Christ is the perfect gift because, as the apostle Paul says, he “gives us everything else along with him” (Rm 8:32)… He has given us the one who is “the head of the Church” (Eph 5:23). He could not have given us more. Christ is the perfect gift because, in giving him to us, the Father has brought all things to their perfection through him. “The Son of Man,” says Saint Matthew, “has come to save that which was lost” (18:11). This is why the Church cries out: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Ps 97[98]:1) as though to say: O people of faith, you whom the Son of Man has saved and renewed, sing a new song, for you must “discard what is old now that new crops have been given you” (Lv 26:10). Sing, because the Father “has worked wonders” when he sent us his Son, his perfect gift in its entirety. “In the sight of the nations he revealed his justice” (Ps 97[98]:2) when he gave us his perfect gift, his only Son, who justifies the nations and brings all things to perfection.

Aphrahat from Expositions, no.6 (SC 349, p. 394)

“God does not ration his gift of the Spirit”

If from one fire you light other fires in a great many different places, the first fire is not lessened in the least… It is just the same with God and his Christ: although they are one, yet they dwell within each of the great multitude of men. In the same way the sun is not a whit diminished in heaven because its power is poured out on the earth. How much greater, then, is God’s power, since it is by the power of God that the sun itself subsists… When it was a grievous burden to Moses to lead the camp alone, the Lord said to him: “I will take some of the spirit that is on you and will bestow it on the seventy elders of Israel” (cf. Nb 11,17). But when He took away some of Moses’ spirit and the seventy men were filled with it, was Moses deprived in any way? Did anyone notice that he had less spirit? Moreover the blessed apostle Paul also said: God distributed the Spirit of his Christ and sent it into the [New Testament] prophets (cf. 1Cor 12,11.28). But Christ was not in any way hurt by this, for his Father did not ration his gift of the Spirit. It is in this sense… that Christ dwells in faithful men. And he suffers no loss though He is divided among so many. For the Prophets received of the Spirit of Christ, each as much as he was able to bear. And today, too, it is the same Spirit of Christ who is poured forth upon all flesh so that sons and daughters, old men and youths, menservants and maidservants might prophesy (Jl 3,1; Acts 2,17). Something of Christ is in us, yet he is in heaven at the right hand of his Father. And Christ did not receive the Spirit by measure, but his Father loved him and delivered all things into his hands, and gave him authority over all his treasure… And also our Lord said: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father” (Mt 11,27)… And finally the apostle Paul said: “Everything will be subjected to Christ excluding the Father who subjected everything to him. When everything is subjected to him then he himself will be subjected to God his Father who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all” (1Cor 15,27-28).

St. Hilary from On the Trinity, 7, 34-36

“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus said: “If you know me, you know the Father too. From now on you know him and have seen him.” We see Jesus Christ, the man. The apostles had his outward appearance before their eyes, that is to say, his human nature, whereas God, who is without flesh of any kind, cannot be discerned in a wretched fleshly body. In what way, then, can it be said that to know him is to know the Father? These unexpected words trouble the apostle Philip…; the weakness of his human mind makes him unable to understand so strange a statement… So, with the impetuousness allowed by familiarity and his faithfulness as an apostle, he questions his Master: “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied!”… It isn’t that he wants to look on the Father with his physical eyes, but he asks to have an understanding of the one whom he sees with his eyes. Since, seeing the Son in his human form, he fails to understand how, by this, he has seen the Father… Then the Lord answers him: “Have I been so long with you, Philip, and still you do not know me?” He reproaches him for not realizing who he is… Why had no one recognized him when they had been seeking him so long? It was because, in order to recognize him, they had to recognize the divinity, the Father’s nature, within him. Indeed, all the works he had done were properly God’s works: walking on the water, commanding the winds, accomplishing things impossible to understand such as changing water into wine or multiplying the loaves… putting demons to flight, banishing sickness, bringing healing to bodily ills, correcting disabilities from birth, forgiving sins, restoring the dead to life. All these things are what he has done in the flesh and these are what allow him to call himself Son of God. Hence his reproaches and lamentation: because no one recognized through the mysterious reality of his human birth the divine nature which was accomplishing these miracles through the human nature the Son had assumed.

Saint Columbanus from Spiritual Instruction, 13,3

“Lord, give us this bread always”

The prophet says: “You who are thirsty, come to the water” (Is 55:1). This is the water of those who are thirsty, not those who have drunk their fill. It calls out to those who hunger and thirst, those whom it also calls blessed (Mt 5:6), whose thirst is never satisfied and whose thirst increases all the more in that they have already been watered at its source. Therefore, brethren, we ought to long for the fountain of wisdom, the Word of God in the heights: we should seek it, we should love it. Within it are hidden, as the apostle Paul says: “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3) and it invites all those who are thirsty to drink them in. If you are thirsty, go, drink at the fountain of life. If you are hungry, eat the bread of life. Blessed are those who hunger for this bread and thirst for this fountain. Endlessly drinking and eating they still desire to drink and eat; this food is sweet and sweet is this drink. We eat and we drink but we are still hungry and we thirst still more; our desire is satisfied and we do not cease desiring. Therefore the prophet-king David cries out: “Taste and see how good the Lord is” (Ps 33[34]:9). That is why, brethren, we follow our call. Life, the fountain of living water, the fountain of eternal life, the fountain of light and source of brightness itself invites us to come and drink (Jn 7:37). There we shall find wisdom and life, eternal light. There we shall drink the water of life, springing up to eternal life (Jn 4:14).

Saint Ignatius of Antioch from Letter to the Philadelphians

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

You, who are children of the true light, flee from quarrelling and false teachings. Like sheep, follow your shepherd wherever you go. For it often happens that wolves, seemingly worthy of credence, lead astray those who are running God’s race. But if you stay united they will find no place amongst you. So take care to participate only in the one eucharist. Indeed, there is only one flesh of our Lord, one cup uniting us in his blood, one altar, just as there is only one bishop in the midst of his priests and deacons. In this way, all that you do will be done according to God… My refuge is the Gospel, which so far as I’m concerned is Jesus himself in the flesh, and the apostles who incarnate the Church’s priesthood. Let us also love the prophets since they, too, have preached the Gospel: they hoped in the Christ and waited for him; believing in him, they were saved and, remaining as saints worthy of love and admiration in the unity of Jesus Christ, they were accounted worthy to receive the testimony of Jesus Christ and to have a share in the Gospel, our common hope… God does not dwell where division and anger reign. But the Lord forgives all those who repent if repentance brings them back to unity with God and communion with the bishop. I believe in the grace of Jesus Christ, who will set us free from every chain. I beseech you never to act in a quarrelsome spirit but according to Christ’s teaching. I have heard of those who said: “Whatever I don’t find in the ancient books. I won’t believe in the Gospel”… Where I’m concerned, the ancient books are Christ; the inviolable archives are his cross, his death and resurrection and the faith coming from him. See, then,from where I expect my whole justification, with the help of your prayers.

St. Leo the Great from 15th Sermon on the Passions, 3-4

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

The person who truly venerates the Lord’s passion must look so hard at Jesus crucified with the eyes of his heart that he recognizes his own flesh in that of Jesus… No sick person can imagine himself refusing the triumph of the cross and there is no one who does not find help in Christ’s prayer. If this prayer benefited many of his torturers, how much more will it help those who turn to him! By the fact that the divinity adopted our nature, because of which “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” (Jn 1:14) was any person excluded from his mercy unless he refused to believe? If we welcome him who assumed it and are regenerated by the Spirit who begot him, do we not have a nature that we share with Christ? In addition, who would not recognize their own weaknesses in him… who “took the form of a slave” (Phil 2:7)? … This lifeless body that lay in the tomb but rose on the third day and ascended up above all the heavenly heights to the right hand of the Father’s majesty, this body is ours. If we walk in the way of his commandments and are not ashamed to profess all he did for our salvation in emptying himself in the flesh, then we also shall be lifted up to share in his glory. For what he announced will be radiantly fulfilled: “Whoever acknowledges me before men I will acknowledge before my father in heaven.” (Mt 10:32)

Saint Clement of Alexandria from Stromata

“I am the light of the world”

When you yourself lead me to the light, Lord Jesus Christ, and it is thanks to you I find God and receive the Father, I become co-heir with you (Rm 8:17) since you were not ashamed to have me as your brother (Heb 2:11). So let us remove forgetfulness of the truth, let us take away ignorance and, when we have dispersed the darkness surrounding us like mist over the eyes, let us behold the true God, crying: “Hail, thou true light!” For light has arisen upon us who have been plunged in darkness and enclosed in the shadow of death (Lk 1:79), light purer than the sun and more beautiful than this life here below. This light is eternal life and all those who share in it live. Night flees from the light and, hiding itself for fear, gives way to the day of the Lord. The light that cannot be extinguished is shed abroad everywhere and the West has reunited with the East. This is what is meant by the “new creation”. Indeed, the sun of justice (Mal 3:20) who illumines all things shines upon humankind after the example of his Father who makes the sun to rise on all men (Mt 5:45) and waters them with the dew of truth.

Symeon the New Theologian from Hymn 45; SC 196

“Neither do I condemn you… I am the light of the world” (Jn 8,11-12)

O my God, my Creator, who love to forgive, Make the brightness of your inaccessible light grow greater over me To fill my heart with joy. Be not angry; do not forsake me! But make my soul radiant with your light, For your light, O my God, is you… I have gone aside from your straight road, the divine road, And have fallen lamentably from the glory that had been given me. I have been stripped of the shining robe, the divine robe, And fallen into the darkness; now I lie in darkness And do not realize I am deprived of light… For if you have shone from on high, if you have appeared in the shadows, If you have come into the world, O Merciful One, If you have desired to live with men In our human condition, for love of humankind, If… you are said to be the light of the world (Jn 8:12) And we do not even see you, Is this not because we are completely blind And more unfortunate than the blind, O my Christ?… As for you, who are all good things, you give them unceasingly to your servants, to those who see your light… Whoever possesses you, truly possesses in you all other things. May I not be deprived of you, O Lord! May I not be deprived of you, Creator! May I not be deprived of you, O Merciful One, I, the humble stranger… I beg you, set me with you, Even if I have multiplied sins more than everyone else. Receive my prayer like that of the publican (Lk 18:13) Or like that of the sinful woman, Lord, even though I weep not as she did (Lk 7:38)… Are you not the source of pity, the spring of mercy and river of goodness? Therefore, on this account have pity on me! Ah yes, you who had hands and feet nailed to the cross And your side pierced with the lance, you the All-Compassionate, Have pity on me and snatch me away from the eternal burning… That on that day I may stand before you without condemnation To be welcomed into your wedding chamber In which I shall share your happiness, good Master, In inexpressible joy throughout the ages. Amen.

Saint Augustine from A Commentary on the Psalms, Ps 139`{`138`}`, 5-6; CCL 40, 1992-1993

“While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him”

“O Lord, you have read my thoughts from afar; you have marked my path and my journey’s end; you have foreseen all my ways.” In other words, while I am still a pilgrim and have not yet reached my true country, my thoughts are an open book to you. Think of the younger son of the parable… Not so the elder son; he stayed at home and worked in the fields, representing those holy men of the Old Testament who carried out the duties imposed by the law and obeyed its precepts. But the rest of the human race by its lapse into idolatry, had left for a distant country. Nothing, in fact, re moves us further from the God who made us than the false gods we make! for ourselves. The younger son, then, left for a distant country, taking his money with him, and, as the gospel tells us, he squandered it… When he was worn out by hard labor, affliction, and want, his thoughts turned to his father, and he made up his mind to return to him. “I will arise,” he said, “and go to my father”… But is not he whom I have forsaken everywhere? “You have read my thoughts from afar.” In the gospel story the Lord tells us that the boy’s father went out to meet him because he had read his thoughts from afar, he had marked all his paths. What was this path but the ill-chosen road which the boy took when he left his father, furtively trying to escape observation and punishment? Would he have been worn out by hardship or sent to feed pigs unless his father had wanted him to be punished in his absence so that he could welcome him on his return?… So he was caught like a runaway slave, overtaken by the well-deserved chastisement of God who punishes us for our unlawful desires, no matter where we go or how far we travel. So, like a slave caught on the run, the son says: “You have marked my path and seen all my ways.” However long my path, it could not hide me from your eyes. I had walked a great distance but you were there at my destination. Before I had even entered, before I had even set out, you saw it all beforehand. And you allowed me to follow my paths in hard labor so that, if I should not want to labor any more, I might return to your ways… I confess my sin before you: I went my own way and wandered far from you; I left you with whom my best interests lay, and it was for my own good that everything went wrong for me without you, for if all had gone well for me without you, the chances are that I would never have returned to you.

Baldwin of Ford from Tractate 6, on Her 4, 12

“The man believed what Jesus said to him”

“The word of God is living and effective, more piercing than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4,12). What greatness of power, what wealth of wisdom in the Word of God is shown by these words of the Apostle to those that seek Christ, who is himself the word, the power, and the wisdom of God. In the beginning, this word was with God, coeternal with him; in his time he was revealed to the prophets, proclaimed by them, and received humbly in the faith of his believing people. We have, therefore, the word in the Father, the word in the mouth, and the word in the heart. The word in the mouth is the expression of the word that is in the Father and also the expression of the word that is in the heart of man. The word in the heart of man is either the understanding of the word or faith in the word or the love of the word when the word is either understood or believed or loved. When these three are united in one heart so that the word of God is at one and the same time understood, believed and loved, then Christ, who is the word of the Father… dwells in the heart by faith. And with wonderful condescension he who is God in the heart of the Father descends even to the heart of men… This Word of God… is living, and the Father granted to him that he should have life in himself as the Father has life in himself (Jn 5,26). On this account he is not only living, but life; as he says of himself: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14,6).Because he is life, he lives in such a way that he is able to give life, for “as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (Jn 5,21).

Saint Augustine from Sermon 124

“Do you want to be healed?”

Christ’s miracles are symbols of the different events of our eternal salvation…, this pool is the symbol of the precious gift the Lord’s Word gives us. To sum up, this water is the Jewish people; the five porticos are the Law that Moses wrote in five books. And so this pool was surrounded by five porticos like the people enclosed by the Law. The water that was stirred and troubled is the Savior’s Passion in this people’s midst. Whoever went down into this water was healed – but only one person so as to express unity. Those who were unable to bear anyone speaking to them about the Passion are the proud; they do not want to go down and are not healed. “What!” says that arrogant man: “Believe a God to be incarnate, that a God was born of a woman, that a God has been crucified, scourged, covered in wounds, that he died and has been buried? No, I would never believe in these humiliations of a God, they are unworthy of him.” Let your heart speak here rather than your head. The humiliations of a God seem unworthy to the arrogant and that is why they are very far from a cure. So protect yourself from this pride; if you desire your healing, accept to go down. There would be something to be worried about if someone said to you that Christ had undergone some sort of change in becoming incarnate. But no… your God remains what he was, have no fear; he does not perish and he prevents you yourselves from perishing. Yes, he remains what he is; he is born of a woman but according to the flesh… it is as man that he has been seized, bound, scourged, mocked and finally crucified and put to death. Why be afraid? The Word of the Lord remains forever. Anyone who refuses these humiliations of a God does not want to be cured of the mortal swelling of his pride. By his incarnation our Lord Jesus Christ has therefore restored hope to our flesh. He assumed the fruits of this earth that are only too well known and common: birth and death. Birth and death: here indeed are goods that the earth possesses in abundance! But in them were found neither resurrection nor eternal life. He found here the unfortunate fruits of this unfruitful earth and gave us in exchange the possessions of his heavenly kingdom.

Saint Augustine from Tractate 49 on the Gospel of John, 1-3

Jesus called loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” (Jn 11,43)

Among all the miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection of Lazarus holds a foremost place in preaching. But if we consider attentively who it was who did it, our duty is to rejoice rather than to wonder. A man was raised up by him who made man: for he is the only-begotten of the Father, by whom, as you know, all things were made. And if all things were made by him, what wonder is it that someone was raised up by him when so many are daily brought into the world by his power?… You have just heard that the Lord Jesus raised a dead man to life; and that is sufficient to let you know that, were he so pleased, he might raise all the dead to life. And, indeed, this is the very work he has kept in his own hands untll the end of the world. For while you have heard that by a great miracle he raised someone from the tomb who had been dead four days, “the hour is coming,” as he himself says, “when all who are in the grave shall hear his voice and come forth.” He raised up a body that was putrid, and yet in that putrid carcase there was still the form of human limbs. But at the last day he will reconstitute ashes into human flesh with a word . At that time, however, there was only a need to do a few such deeds so that we, receiving them as tokens of his power, might put our trust in him and prepare for that resurrection which is to be to life and not to judgment. So, indeed, he says: “The hour is coming when all that are in the grave shall hear his voice and shall come forth; those who have done good to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation.”… If we turn our thoughts to the still more wonderful works of Christ, every one who believes rises again. If we all consider and understand that more horrifying kind of death, every one who sins dies. But everyone is afraid of the death of the flesh; few of the death of the soul. With regard to the death of the flesh, which must certainly come sometime, all are on their guard against its approach: this is the origin of all their labor. Man, destined to die, labors to avert his dying; and yet man, destined to live for ever, labors not to cease from sinning. And when he labors to avoid dying, he labors to no purpose, for its only result will be to put off death for a while, not to escape it; but, if he refrains from sinning, his toil will cease and he shall live for ever. Oh that we could rouse people – and ourselves be aroused along with them – to be as great lovers of the life that abides as people are of that which passes away!

Saint Jerome from Letter 53 to Saint Paulinus, Bishop of Nola

“If you believed in Moses you would then believe me, for it was about me that he wrote.”

There is a “wisdom of God, mysterious and hidden, which God decided in advance, before the ages.” This wisdom of God is Christ. He is “the power of God and the wisdom of God”… For in the Son “all treasures of wisdom and of knowledge are hidden.” Hidden in mystery, decided in advance, before the ages, he was predestined and prefigured in the Law and the Prophets. That is why the prophets were called “seers”; they saw him who was hidden and unknown to others. Abraham also “saw his day and rejoiced.” For Ezekiel, the heavens opened while the sinful people remained ignorant. David said: “Remove the veil from my eyes, and I will contemplate the marvels of your law.” For the law is spiritual, and to understand it, the veil must be lifted and “the glory of God must be contemplated with unveiled vision.” In the Book of Revelation, a sealed book with seven seals is shown… How many people today who claim to be educated hold a sealed Book in their hands! And they are incapable of opening it unless it is opened by “him who has the key of David; if he opens, no one will close, and if he closes, no one will open.” In the Acts of the Apostles, the eunuch was reading the prophet Isaiah… However, without knowing him, he was ignorant of him whom he was venerating in that book. Philip came and showed him Jesus hidden under the letter… So understand that you cannot get involved in Holy Scripture without a guide who will show you the way. (Biblical References: 1 Cor 2:7; 1 Cor 1:24; Col 2:31; 1 Sam 9:9; Jn 8:56; Ps 118:18; 2 Cor 3:16-18; Rev 5:1; Rev 3:7; Acts 8:26ff.)

John Tauler from Sermon 12, for the Tuesday before Palm Sunday

“Jesus himself also went up… but … in secret”

Jesus said: “My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you… You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast because my time has not yet been fulfilled” (Jn 7,6-8). Now what is this feast to which our Lord tells us to go up and whose time is always ready? The highest, truest feast, the supreme feast, is the feast of eternal life, which is to say the everlasting happiness where we shall always be face to face indeed with God. This we cannot have here below; but the feast that we can have is that of a foretaste of the one there: an experience in spirit of God’s presence through an interior rejoicing, giving us a secret intimation of it. The time that is always ours is that of seeking God and pursuing this sense of his presence in all our works, life, willing and loving. This is how we are to rise up above ourselves and all that is not God, in all purity wanting and loving him alone and nothing else. This time is ready at every moment. This truly festal season of eternal life is what every person desires with a natural desire since everyone naturally wants to be happy. But desire alone is not enough. We should seek after God for himself alone and search for him for his own sake. Many would dearly love to have a foretaste of that true and great feast day and they are miserable because it isn’t granted them. When they don’t have the experience of a feast day within themselves when they pray and don’t feel God’s presence, this disappoints them. They pray even less and do so with bad grace, saying that they don’t feel God and that it is for this reason that action and prayer upset them. Now this is what someone should never do. We should never carry out any work with a zeal turned cold, for God is always present there, and even if we don’t feel him yet he has always entered secretly for the feast.

Blessed Titus Brandsma from Invitation to heroism in faith and love

“Have you also been deceived?”

We live in a world where love itself is condemned: people call it weakness, something to grow out of. Some are saying: «Love is of no importance, we should rather develop our strength; let each one become as strong as he can and let the weak perish!» Again, they say that the christian religion with its preaching about love is a thing of the past… This is how it is: they come to you with such teaching and even find people who take it up willingly. Love is unknown; «Love is not loved,» as saint Francis of Assisi said in his own day; and, centuries later in Florence, saint Mary-Magdalene de Pazzi rang the monastery bells of her Carmel to make everyone know how beautiful Love is! I, too, would like to ring the bells to tell the world how beautiful it is to love! The neo-paganism [of the Nazis] may well cast off love but, in spite of everything, history teaches us that we shall be victors over this neo-paganism through love. We shall not forsake love. Love will win back for us the hearts of these unbelievers. Nature is stronger than philosophy. Even if a philosophy condemns and rejects love and calls it weakness, the living witness of love will always renew its power to conquer and entrance the hearts of men.

Saint Zeno of Verona from Sermon 'De spa, fide et capitate', 9; PL 11, 278

“His heart was moved with pity for them”

O charity, how good, how bountiful you are! They possess nothing who do not possess you. You it was who could make of God a man. You caused him to humble himself and forsake, for a while, his great majesty. You held him captive for nine months in the Virgin’s womb. You healed Eve in Mary, renewed Adam in Christ. For the salvation of this fallen world you prepared the cross… O love, to clothe that which was naked you were pleased to become naked. Hunger is as a lavish feast for you if some poor, starving person should eat your bread. Your fortune consists in bequeathing all you possess to works of mercy. You alone have no cause to be besought. You hasten to give succor to the oppressed even at your own expense, whatever the distress into which they have been cast. You are eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a trusty shield for widows and orphans… You so love your enemies that none can perceive in you any distinction between these and your friends. O love, it is you who unite the mysteries of heaven with the things of this world and the mysteries of this world with the things of heaven. You are the guardian of what is of God. It is you who, in the Father, govern and ordain all things; who are the obedience of the Son; who rejoice in the Holy Spirit. Because you are one in each of the three Persons, you cannot be divided… Flowing from the spring of the Father, you pour out yourself wholly in the Son without leaving the Father. With good reason it is said that “God is love” (1Jn 4,16) since you alone are the one who directs the power of the Trinity.

Saint Augustine from Sermon 43, 5-6; Ccl 41, 510-511

“Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch”

How great was Christ’s courtesy! This Peter who spoke these words was once a fisherman and in our day a public speaker deserves high praise if he is able to converse with a fisherman! Addressing the first Christians the apostle Paul says: “Brothers and sisters, remember what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise according to human standards; not many of you were influential or of noble birth. But God chose what the world regards as weak in order to disconcert the strong; God chose what the world regards as foolish in order to abash the wise; God chose what the world regards as common and contemptible, of no account whatever, in order to overthrow the existing order” (1Cor 1:26-28). If Christ had first chosen a man skilled in public speaking, such a man might well have said: “I have been chosen on account of my eloquence.” If he had chosen a senator, the senator might have said: “I have been chosen because of my rank” If his first choice had been an emperor, the emperor surely might have said: “I have been chosen for the sake of the power I have at my disposal.” Let these worthies keep quiet and defer to others; let them hold their peace for a while. I am not saying they should be passed over or despised; I am simply asking all those who can find any grounds for pride in what they are to give way to others just a little. Christ says: Give me this fisherman, this man without education or experience, this man to whom no senator would deign to speak, not even if he were buying fish. Yes, give me him; once I have taken possession of him, it will be obvious that it is I who am at work in him. Although I mean to include senators, orators, and emperors among my recruits… I shall still be surer of the fisherman. The senator can always take pride in what he is; so can the orator and the emperor, but the fisherman can glory in nothing except Christ alone. Any of these other men may come and take lessons from me in the importance of humility for salvation, but let the fisherman come first.

Saint Teresa of Avila from Exclamation 16

“As many as touched the tassel on his cloak were healed”

O true God and my Lord! It is a great consolation for the soul wearied by the loneliness of being separated from you to see that you are everywhere. But when the vehemence of love and the great impulses of this pain increase, there’s no remedy, my God. For the intellect is disturbed and the reason is so kept from knowing the truth of Your omnipresence that it can neither understand nor know. It only knows it is separated from You and it accepts no remedy. For the heart that greatly loves receives no counsel or consolation except from the very one who wounded it, because from that one it hopes its pain will be cured. When You desire, Lord, You quickly heal the wound You have caused; prior to this there is no hope for healing or joy, except for the joy of such worthwhile suffering. O true Lover, with how much compassion, with how much gentleness, with how much delight, with how much favor and with what extraordinary signs of love You cure these wounds, which with the darts of this same love You have caused! 0 my God and my rest from all pains, how entranced I am! How could there be human means to cure what the divine fire has made sick? Who is there who knows how deep this wound goes, or how it came about, or how so painful and delightful a torment can be mitigated?… How right the bride of the Canticles is in saying: “My Beloved is for me and I for my Beloved” (Sg 11,6) for it is impossible that a love like this begin with something so lowly as is my love. And yet, if it is lowly, my Spouse, how is it that it is not so lowly in rising from the creature to its Creator?

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta from Prayer: Seeking the Heart of God, with Bro. Roger

“Their hearts are far from me”

Let God’s love take entire possession of a heart; let this become like second nature to that heart; let that heart not allow anything opposed to it to enter in; let it constantly strive to nurture this love of God by seeking to please Him in everything and not refusing Him anything He asks; let it accept everything that happens to it as coming from God’s hand. Knowledge of God produces love and knowledge of self produces humility. Humility is nothing other than the truth. “What have we that we have not received?” asks Saint Paul (1Cor 4:7). But if I have received everything then what good have I of myself? If we are convinced of this we won’t ever lift up our heads in pride. If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor blame, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you won’t be discouraged. If they call you a saint you won’t set yourself on a pedestal. Self-knowledge sends us to our knees.

Saint John-Paul II from Homily for Ash Wednesday 1983

In the secret of the heart

Lent is the time to come back to our self. It is a time of particular intimacy with God, in the secret of the heart and of the conscience. It is in this private intimacy with God that the essential work of Lent is accomplished: the work of conversion. And in this inner secret, in this intimacy with God in the full truth of the heart and of the conscience, words like those of the psalms of today’s liturgy resound as one of the most profound confessions that man has ever done to God: “Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense. Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me. For I know my offense; my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned; I have done such evil in your sight that you are just in your sentence, blameless when you condemn” (Ps 50,1-6). These are words that purify, words that transform. They transform man from the inside. Let us recite them often during Lent. And above all, let us strive to renovate the spirit that leads them, the inspiration that has rightly so given these words a force of conversion. For Lent is essentially an invitation to conversion. The works of alms of which the Gospel speaks about today open the way to this conversion. Let us practice them as much as we can. But first of all, let us try to meet God interiorly in our whole life, in all it is made of, so as to reach this conversion in deepness, of which the penitential psalm of today’s liturgy is filled.

Saint Bernard from Sermon 1 for the first day of Lent 1,3,6

“Then they will fast”

Why should Christ’s fast not be common to all christians ? Why should the members not follow their Head? (Col 1:18). If we have received good things from this Head, should we not bear with the bad? Do we want to reject his sorrow but share in his joys? If that is how it is then we show ourselves unworthy of being one body with this Head. For everything he has suffered has been for our sakes. If we refuse to participate in the work of our salvation, in what are we showing ourselves to be his helpers? Fasting with Christ is little enough for one who is to sit with him at his Father’s table. Happy the member who will have held fast to this Head in everything and followed it wherever it goes (Rv 14:4). If not, if it chanced to be cut off and separated, it will necessarily be at once deprived of the breath of life… Where I am concerned, to hold completely fast to you is a blessing, O glorious Head, blessed throughout the ages, over which even the angels bend with longing (1Pt 1:12). I will follow you wherever you go. If you pass through the fire I will not leave you, and I will fear no evil for you are with me (Ps 22[23]:4). You carry my sorrows and suffer for my sake. You, the first, have passed through the narrow passage of suffering that you might offer a wide entry to the members who follow you. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (Rm 8:35)… This love is the precious ointment that runs down from the Head over the beard, that runs down, too, upon the collar of the robe to anoint its least thread (Ps 132[133]:2). It is in the Head that the plenitude of all graces are to be found and from it we receive all things. In the Head is all mercy, in the Head the overflowing of spiritual perfumes, as it is written: “God has anointed you with the oil of joy” (Ps 44[45]:8)… And what about us? What does the gospel ask of us at this beginning of Lent? “When you fast,” he says, “anoint your head” (Mt 6:17). What wonderful condescension! The Spirit of the Lord is upon him, he has been anointed with him (Lk 4:18), and yet, in order to preach the gospel to the poor he says to them: “Anoint your head”.

Lectio Divina - B16

Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged.

Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word? Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us.

Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us? In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2). Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). The word of God appears here as a criterion for discernment: it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).

We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity.

Benedict XVI from Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, 74

“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

It is particularly urgent nowadays to remember that the day of the Lord is also a day of rest from work. It is greatly to be hoped that this fact will also be recognized by civil society, so that individuals can be permitted to refrain from work without being penalized. Christians, not without reference to the meaning of the Sabbath in the Jewish tradition, have seen in the Lord’s Day a day of rest from their daily exertions. This is highly significant, for it relativizes work and directs it to the person: work is for man and not man for work. It is easy to see how this actually protects men and women, emancipating them from a possible form of enslavement. As I have had occasion to say, “work is of fundamental importance to the fulfilment of the human being and to the development of society. Thus, it must always be organized and carried out with full respect for human dignity and must always serve the common good. At the same time, it is indispensable that people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or to idolize it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life.” It is on the day consecrated to God that men and women come to understand the meaning of their lives and also of their work.

Saint Hilary from Treatise on Psalm 91, 3, 4-5, 7; PL 9, 495-498

“Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good… ? to save life ?”

Is God at work, is he laboring on the Sabbath day ? Indeed he is, for otherwise the sky would disappear, the sunlight would fade, earth would lose its compactness, all the fruits would lack their sap and human life would perish if, because of the Sabbath, the constitutive force of the universe ceased to act. But, in fact, that there is no respite. The elements of the universe continue to fulfil their function just as much on the Sabbath as during the other six days. Throughout them all, therefore, the Father is always working, but he acts in the Son, who was born of him and through whom all this is his work… Through the Son, then, the Father’s action continues on the Sabbath day. And therefore there is no rest in God since no day sees the work of God cease. This is how it is regarding God’s action. But in what does his rest consist? God’s work is Christ’s work. And God’s rest is God, the Christ, for all that belongs to God is altogether in Christ to the extent that the Father can take his rest in him.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Demonstration of the apostolic preaching

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

That he was going to be manifested to us – for the Son of God became the Son of man – and to be found amongst us, who before had no knowledge of him, the Word himself says in Isaiah, thus, “I became manifest to those that sought me not; I was found by those that asked not for me. I said: ‘Behold, I am here,’ to a nation that called not upon my name” (Is 65,1)… This is what was also said by John the Baptist: “God is able from stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3,9). For our hearts, drawn out by faith from the worship of stones, see God and become children of Abraham, who was made righteous by faith… His disciples John also says: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn 1,14). For which reason the Church bears as fruit so great a number of the saved; for it is no longer an intercessor, Moses, nor an angel, Elias, but the Lord himself who saves us, bestowing a greater number of children on the Church than on the former synagogue, as Isaiah announced, saying: “Rejoice, O barren one who did not bear” (Is 54,1; Gal 4,27)… God was pleased to bestow his inheritance on the foolish Gentiles, who were neither of the citizenship of God nor knew who God is. Since, then, by this calling, life has been given and God has recapitulated in us the faith of Abraham, we should no longer turn back, that is, I mean, to the former legislation. For we received the Lord of the Law, the Son of God, and through faith in him we learn to love God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves.

The letter to Diognetus

“To send them to preach”

I am not saying anything strange, I am not seeking what is paradoxical. Rather, docile to the teaching of the apostles, I in turn want to teach the nations. I want to pass on the tradition exactly to those who also want to become disciples of the Truth. Who… would not hasten to learn entirely all that the Word of God clearly taught his disciples? For in manifesting itself, that Word, which was not understood by those who did not believe in him, showed the truth to his disciples; speaking openly, he told his disciples everything. He recognized them to be his faithful ones, and they received from him knowledge of the mysteries of the Father. That is why the Word was sent into the world. And so that he might be shown to the whole world, … he was proclaimed by the apostles, so that the nations might believe in him. He who was from the beginning (1 Jn 1:1), manifested himself in newness, and his disciples recognized in him what was old. In the heart of his saints, he is always born anew young … Through him, the Church is filled with richness. Grace opens up, is multiplied in the saints. It gives the understanding of faith, uncovers the mysteries of the Father; it gives understanding of the times… It is offered to those who seek it and who respect the rule of faith and faithfully keep the tradition of the Fathers. Here the fear of the Law is sung; here the grace of the prophets is acknowledged, the faith of the Gospels is strengthened, the tradition of the apostles is kept; the grace of the Church leaps for joy. Do not sadden this grace. Then you will know the secrets, which the Word of God reveals through whom he wishes, when it pleases him. Draw near, listen, and you will know all that God entrusts to those who truly love him.

Saint 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.

Origen from Homilies on Saint Luke's Gospel, no. 32, 3; SC 87

“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing”

When you read that: “He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him”, take care not to consider Christ’s listeners to be blessed and to think of yourselves as deprived of his teaching. If Scripture is true then God did not just speak in former times in the meeting places of the Jews but he still speaks today in our own assemblies. And not just here, in our own assembly, but in other meeting places. And all over the world Jesus teaches and seeks out bearers of his word to pass on his teaching. Pray that he may find me both ready and able to sing it. Just as almighty God, seeking for prophets at a time when prophecy was lacking to men, finds Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, for example, so Jesus seeks out bearers of the message to pass on his word, to “teach in their synagogues and be praised by all.” Today Jesus is even more “praised by all” than at the time when he was only known in a single province.

Aquinas on John 2

347 She says to him, They have no more wine. Here we should note that before the incarnation of Christ three wines were running out: the wine of justice, of wisdom, and of charity or grace. Wine stings, and in this respect it is a symbol of justice. The Samaritan poured wine and oil into the wounds of the injured man, that is, he mingled the severity of justice with the sweetness of mercy. “You have made us drink the wine of sorrow” (Ps 59:5). But wine also delights the heart, “Wine cheers the heart of man” (Ps 103:15). And in this respect wine is a symbol of wisdom, the meditation of which is enjoyable in the highest degree: “Her companionship has no bitterness” (Wis 8:16). Further, wine intoxicates: “Drink, friends, and be intoxicated, my dearly beloved” (Sg 5:1). And in this respect wine is a symbol of charity: “I have drunk my wine with my milk” (Sg 5:1). It is also a symbol of charity because of charity’s fervor: “Wine makes the virgins flourish” (Zec 9:17).
The wine of justice was indeed running out in the old law, in which justice was imperfect. But Christ brought it to perfection: “Unless your justice is greater than that of the scribes and of the Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20). The wine of wisdom was also running out, for it was hidden and symbolic, because as it says in 1 Corinthians (10:11): “All these things happened to them in symbol.” But Christ plainly brought wisdom to light: “He was teaching them as one having authority” (Mt 7:29). The wine of charity was also running out, because they had received a spirit of serving only in fear. But Christ converted the water of fear into the wine of charity when he gave “the spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry: ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom 8:15), and when “the charity of God was poured out into our hearts,” as Romans (5:5) says.

Saint Catherine from Dialogue BK 2, para. 4-5

“He broke the loaves…, shared out the two fish amongst them all. They all ate as much as they wanted”

[Saint Catherine heard Jesus say to her:] “It is the whole divine being that you receive in that most gracious sacrament under that whiteness of bread. And just as the sun cannot be divided, so neither can my wholeness as God and as human in this white host. Even if the host is divided, even if you could break it into thousands and thousands of tiny bits, in each one I would be there, wholly God and wholly human… Imagine that many people brought candles, and one person’s candle weighed one ounce, another’s two or six, someone else’s a pound, and yet another’s more than that, and they all came to your lamp to light their candles. Each candle, the smallest as well as the largest, would have the whole light with all its heat and color and brightness… Well, this is how it goes with those who receive this sacrament. Each one of you brings your own candle, that is, the holy desire with which you receive and eat this sacrament. Your candle by itself is unlit, and it is lighted when you receive this sacrament. I say it is unlit because by yourselves you are nothing at all. It is I who have given you the candle with which you receive this light and nourish it within you. And your candle is love because it is for love that I created you. So without love you cannot have life.”

Rupert of Deutz from On the Trinity; PL 167, 787

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me”

This oil with which our Lord, the Son of God, was anointed – and that is why he is called “Anointed One” or “Messiah” in Hebrew and “Christ” in Greek – this oil is the Holy Spirit and the anointing of kings, priests and prophets was only a foreshadowing of it, a material indication… The Church received the Holy Spirit in the patriarchs, kings and prophets before the Holy of holies, the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Son of God was anointed… The ancient priesthood, symbol of the new priesthood, was first of all consecrated with oil but afterwards with blood because the High Priest of the true Tabernacle in heaven (Heb 9:11f.) was first of all consecrated with the Holy Spirit and then with his own blood.

Origen from 7th Homily on the Book of Numbers

The leprosy of malicious gossip

Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moses and for this reason were punished; Miriam was even struck by leprosy (Nm 12,1.10). A psalm says: “Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret, him will I destroy” (Ps 100,5). With the help of the Holy Scripture that is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4,12), let us remove this vice, let us avoid speaking ill of our brothers and sisters and offending the holy ones, for leprosy will strike the disparager and the slanderer… There are not only the Jews who have spoken against Moses; there are the heretics too, who do not accept the Law and the prophets. They are used to accusing him, to say that Moses was a murderer because he killed the Egyptian (Ex 2,12), and to fling out many other blasphemes both against him and against the prophets. Because of these criticisms they all have leprosy in their soul; they are lepers deep down inside of them and for this reason are confined outside the camp (Lv 13,46). Therefore the heretics who offend Moses and the members of the Church who speak against their brothers and sisters and who speak ill of their fellow men, both have – there is no doubt – a leprous soul. Thanks to the intervention of the high priest Aaron, Miriam’s leper was healed the seventh day (Nm 12,15); but we, if we are affected by the leprosy of the soul because of malicious gossip, we will have to keep our leprosy and will remain unclean till the end of the week of this world, meaning till the Resurrection, unless we repent and correct ourselves before, and that we turn ourselves towards Jesus Christ, and beg him so that we may be cleaned through penance.

Saint Augustine from 2nd Sermon for the nativity of John the Baptist, n˚288, 2; PL 38-39, 1302-1304

“He must increase, while I must decrease”

Before John the Baptist, we have seen many other great and saint prophets, worthy of God, filled with his Holy Spirit, who announced the coming of the Lord and who testified to the Truth. Nevertheless no one said of them what was said about John the Baptist: “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11,11). So why was this greatness sent before the one who is greatness in itself? To bear witness to the Precursor’s great humility. He was so great that one could have easily taken him for the Messiah. Nothing easier…for, without saying anything, it is what those who listened to him and saw him believed…Nevertheless this humble friend of the groom, zealous in defending the honor of the groom, does not want to take the place of the groom, as an adulterer would do. He bears witness to his friend, he recommends to the bride the real groom and he absolutely does not want to be loved in his place because he wants to be loved only in him. “The best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice” (Jn 3,29). The disciple listens to his master; he stands because he listens, for if he refuses to listen he will certainly fall. What enhances to our eyes John’s greatness is that he could have easily been taken for the Christ and nevertheless he preferred giving witness to Jesus Christ, proclaim his greatness and humble himself rather than to be considered the Messiah and deceive himself by deceiving the others. Therefore Jesus rightly so said of him that he was more than a prophet…John humbled himself before the greatness of the Lord so as to deserve that his humbleness be raised by this greatness…”I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals” (Mk 1,7).

Vatican Council II from Dogmatic Constitution on the Church in the Modern World ``Gaudium et Sees``, §41,45

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand”

Modern man is on the road to a more thorough development of his own personality, and to a growing discovery and vindication of his own rights. Since it has been entrusted to the Church to reveal the mystery of God, Who is the ultimate goal of man, she opens up to man at the same time the meaning of his own existence, that is, the innermost truth about himself. The Church truly knows that only God, Whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what this world has to offer. She also knows that man is constantly worked upon by God’s spirit, and hence can never be altogether indifferent to the problems of religion. The experience of past ages proves this, as do numerous indications in our own times. For man will always yearn to know, at least in an obscure way, what is the meaning of his life, of his activity, of his death. The very presence of the Church recalls these problems to his mind. But only God, Who created man to His own image and ransomed him from sin, provides the most adequate answer to the questions, and this Ho does through what He has revealed in Christ His Son, Who became man. Whoever follows after Christ, the perfect man, becomes himself more of a man… For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings.

General Audience of 10 September 2014, Francis

Mother Church teaches us to be close to those who are neglected and die alone. That is what the blessed Teresa did on the streets of Calcutta; that is what has been and is done by many Christians who are not afraid to hold the hand of someone who is about to leave this world. And here too, mercy gives peace to those who pass away and those who remain, allowing them to feel that God is greater than death, and that abiding in Him even the last parting is a “see you again”…. The blessed Teresa understood this well! They told her: “Mother, this is a waste of time!”. She found people dying on the street, people whose bodies were being eaten by mice on the street, and she took them home so they could die clean, calm, touched gently, in peace. She gave them a “see you again”, to all of them…. And so many men and women like her have done this. And they are awaiting them, there [pointing to heaven], at the gate, to open the gate of Heaven to them. Help people die serenely, in peace.

Saint Gregory of Nyssa from Life of Saint Macrina, 23-25; SC 178; Phos hilaron

Entering into light at the evening of life

The sun was going down but my sister, Macrina’s, fervor did not abate. The nearer she drew to her departure, the more she hastened towards her beloved… She no longer spoke to those of us who were present but only to him on whom her eyes were constantly fastened…: “It is you, O Lord, who have taken away our fear of death. It is you who have turned the ending of life here below into the beginning of the real life. It is you who leave our bodies resting for a period of dormition and who awaken them anew ‘at the sound of the trumpet’ (I Cor 15:52) It is you who give our clay, ‘fashioned by your hands,’ (Gn 2:7) in deposit to the earth. And it is you who bring what you have given it back to life again, transforming what is mortal and deformed in us with beauty and immortality … “Oh eternal God, ‘to you I was committed from my mother’s womb’ (Ps 21[22]:11). You whom my soul has loved with all its strength, to whom I have consecrated my flesh and my spirit since my youth, set beside me a shining angel who will lead me by the hand to the place of refreshment where are to be found the ‘waters of repose’ (Ps 22[23]:2) in the bosom of the holy patriarchs (Lk 16:22). Oh you who restored to paradise… the man crucified with you who placed his trust in your mercy, ‘remember me also in your kingdom’ (Lk 23:42), for I, too, have been crucified with you… May I be found before your face ‘without spot or wrinkle’ (Eph 5:27); may my soul be welcomed into your hands… ‘like incense before you’ (Ps 140[141]:2)… After saying this, since evening had fallen, someone brought a lamp. Then Macrina opened her eyes and turned her gaze towards its light, showing her wish to say the thanksgiving prayer for the lamp. But her voice failed her…; she gave a deep sigh and ended in the same moment both her prayer and her life. * * * “Hail gladdening light, of his pure glory poured, who is the immortal Father, heavenly blest. Holiest of holies, Jesus Christ our Lord. Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest, the lights of evening round us shine; we hymn the Father, Son and Holy Spirit divine. Worthiest art Thou at all times to be sung with undefiled tongue, Son of our God, giver of life, alone; therefore in all the world thy glories, Lord, they own.”

The treatise of St. Hippolytus On the Refutation of All Heresies

The word made flesh makes us divine

Our faith is not founded upon empty words; nor are we carried away by mere caprice or beguiled by specious arguments. On the contrary, we put our faith in words spoken by the power of God, spoken by the Word himself at God’s command. God wished to win men back from disobedience, not by using force to reduce him to slavery but by addressing to his free will a call to liberty.

The Word spoke first of all through the prophets, but because the message was couched in such obscure language that it could be only dimly apprehended, in the last days the Father sent the Word in person, commanding him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.
We know that by taking a body from the Virgin he re-fashioned our fallen nature. We know that his manhood was of the same clay as our own; if this were not so, he would hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were of a different substance from me, he would surely not have ordered me to do as he did, when by my very nature I am so weak. Such a demand could not be reconciled with his goodness and justice.
No. He wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves, and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, he slept. Without protest he endured his passion, he submitted to death and revealed his resurrection. In all these ways he offered his own manhood as the first fruits of our race to keep us from losing heart when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as he did, since we know that we possess the same humanity.
When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We shall enter the kingdom of heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven’s King. Friends of God and co-heirs with Christ, we shall be subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any affliction of body or soul, for we shall have become divine.
Whatever evil you may have suffered, being man, it is God that sent it to you, precisely because you are man; but equally, when you have been deified, God has promised you a share in every one of his own attributes. The saying Know yourselfmeans therefore that we should recognise and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image, for if we do this, we in turn will be recognised and acknowledged by our Maker.
So let us not be at enmity with ourselves, but change our way of life without delay. For Christ who is God, exalted above all creation, has taken away man’s sin and has re-fashioned our fallen nature. In the beginning God made man in his image and so gave proof of his love for us. If we obey his holy commands and learn to imitate his goodness, we shall be like him and he will honour us. God is not beggarly, and for the sake of his own glory he has given us a share in his divinity.

Saint Cyprian from On the Our Father, PL 4, 544

“Serving God day and night”

If in holy Scripture Christ is the true Sun and the true Day, there is no hour when Christians should not adore God frequently and constantly, so that we who are in Christ, that is, in the true Sun and true Day, should be persevering throughout the whole day in our petitions and prayer. And when, in the course of time the revolving night returns, there can be no harm from the nocturnal shades for those who pray, because to the sons of light (1Thes 5:5) even in the night there is day. For when is he without light who has light in his heart? Or when does he not have sun and day to whom Christ is Sun and Day? Let us, therefore, who are always in Christ who is in the light, not cease praying even in the night. In this way the widow Anna, always petitioning and watching without a break, persevered in prayer, as it is written in the Gospel: “She did not leave the temple, serving with fasting and prayer night and day.”… Let no sloth or carelessness prevent us from praying. Let us who, by God’s mercy have been recreated spiritually and reborn in the Spirit, imitate what we are destined to be. We are to inhabit a kingdom where there will be no more light, where the day will shine without setting, therefore let us be just as alert at night as in the day. Destined to pray and give thanks to God in heaven, let us not cease here also to pray and to give thanks.

Saint Hippolytus against the Noetic heresy

The hidden sacrament is revealed

There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures and from no other source. Whatever things the Holy Scriptures declare, at these let us look; and whatever they teach, let us learn it; and as the Father wills our belief to be, let us believe; and as he wills the Son to be glorified, let us glorify him; and as he wills the Holy Spirit to be bestowed, let us receive him. Not according to our own will, nor according to our own mind, nor yet storming by force the things which are given by God, but even as he has chosen to teach them by the Holy Scriptures, so let us discern them.

God, subsisting alone, and having nothing coeval with himself, chose to create the world. And conceiving the world in mind, and willing and uttering the Word, he made it; and at once it appeared, formed it in the way he desired. For us it is sufficient simply to know that nothing was coeval with God. Outside him there was nothing; but he, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality. For he did not lack reason, or wisdom, or power, or counsel. All things were in him, and he was the All. At a time and in a manner chosen by him he made his Word manifest, and through his Word he made all things.

He bears this Word in himself, as yet invisible to the created world. He makes him visible, uttering the voice first, and begetting him as Light of Light. He presents him to the world as its Lord; and whereas the Word was visible formerly to God alone, and invisible to the world which is made, God makes the Word visible in order that the world might see him and be able to be saved.

This is the mind which came forth into the world and was manifested as the Son of God. All things came into being through him, and he alone comes from the Father.

He gave us the Law and the prophets; and in giving them, he made them speak by the Holy Ghost, in order that, receiving the inspiration of the Father’s power, they might declare the Father’s counsel and will.

Thus, then, was the Word made manifest, even as the blessed John says. For he sums up the things that were said by the prophets, and shows that this is the Word, by whom all things were made. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him, and without him nothing was made. And later, The world was made by him, and the world did not know him; he came to his own, and his own did not receive him.’

Blessed John Henry Newman from Sermon 6: ``The Mind of Little Children``; PPS II, 6

“Martyrs incapable of confessing the name of your Son, and yet glorified by his birth” (Post communion)

It is surely right to celebrate the death of the Holy Innocents: for it was a blessed one. To be brought near to Christ, and to suffer for Christ, is surely an unspeakable privilege; to suffer anyhow, even unconsciously. The little children whom He took up in his arms, were not conscious of His loving condescension; but was it no privilege when He blessed them? Surely this massacre had in it the nature of a Sacrament; it was a pledge of the love of the Son of God towards those who were included in it. All who came near Him, more or less suffered by approaching Him, just as if earthly pain and trouble went out of Him, as some precious virtue for the good of their souls; —and these infants in the number. Surely His very presence was a Sacrament; every motion, look, and word of His conveying grace to those who would receive it: and much more was fellowship with Him. And hence in ancient times such barbarous murders or Martyrdoms were considered as a kind of baptism, a baptism of blood, with a sacramental charm in it, which stood in the place of the appointed Laver of regeneration. Let us then take these little children as in some sense Martyrs, and see what instruction we may gain from the pattern of their innocence.

Saint John-Paul II from Christmas message, 25 December 1994 (Osservatore Romano)

The Holy Family and our families

My Christmas message this year is addressed especially to families. At the end of the year particularly dedicated to them, our thoughts return to the mystery of the Holy Family… Jesus prays to the heavenly Father that all may be one. This prayer came to his lips on the eve of his Passion, but from his birth he already bore it within him: “Father, grant that they may be one as we are one” (Jn 17,11). Was he not also praying at that very moment for the unity of human families? True, he was praying in the first place for the unity of the Church; but, sustained by a particular sacrament, the family is a vital cell of the Church and even, according to the teaching of the Fathers, a little domestic Church. Jesus, therefore, prayed from his coming into the world that those who believe in him would express their communion from the profound unity of their families, a unity which, besides, was part of God’s design “from the beginning” (Mt 19,4) with regard to the conjugal love at the family’s origin… He who made a “free gift of himself” when he came into the world prayed that all people, when they establish a family, should make a reciprocal and disinterested gift of themselves: husbands and wives, parents and children, and every generation of which the family is composed, each contributing its own proper gift. May the family, so closely united to the mystery we contemplate on the day of the Lord’s birth, guide all the families on earth with its example!… Son of God, come amongst us amidst the warmth of one family, grant that all families may grow in love and contribute to the wellbeing of all humanity… Teach them for this reason to renounce egoism, deceit, the unbridled desire for personal gain. Help them to develop the immense resources of heart and mind which grow greater when it is you who inspire them.

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

“Behold, I come to do your will” (He 10,7)

Again we kneel before the manger… Closest to the newborn Savior we see St. Stephen. What secured the first martyr of the Crucified this place of honor? In youthful enthusiasm he accomplished what the Lord said upon his entrance into the world, “A body you have prepared for me. Behold, I come to fulfill your will.” He practiced complete obedience that is rooted in love and revealed in love. He followed the Lord in what may be by nature the most difficult for the human heart, and even seems impossible: He fulfilled the command to love one’s enemies as did the Savior himself. The Child in the manger, who has come to fulfill his Father’s will even to death on the cross, sees before him in spirit all who will follow him on this way. His heartbeat goes out to the youth whom he will one day await with a palm as the first to reach the Father’s throne. His little hand points him out to us as an example, as if to say, “See the gold that I expect of you.”

Saint Gregory Nazianzen from Sermon 38, on the Nativity of Christ

“Lord God, we praise you for creating man, and still more for restoring him in Christ” (Opening Prayer)

Christ is born, glorify him. Christ from heaven, go out to meet him. Christ on earth; exalt him: “Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice !” (Ps 96:1.11), for him who is of heaven and now of earth. Christ has made his dwelling among the human race; rejoice with trembling and with joy: with trembling because of sin, with joy because of our hope… Today the darkness is over and light is made anew; as in Egypt once plunged into darkness, today a pillar of fire enlightens Israel. O people that sat in the darkness of ignorance, come and see the great light of full knowledge for “the old things are passed away, behold all things are become new”. (2 Co 5:17) The letter gives way, the Spirit comes to the front. (Rm 7:6) The shadows flee away, the Truth comes in upon them. (Col 2:17) The one who gives us our being today also gives us well-being, or rather restores us by his incarnation, for by wickedness we had fallen from wellbeing… Such is this great feast: it is this which we are celebrating today, the Coming of God to humankind, that we might go forth, or rather that we might go back to God— so that putting off the old man, we might put on the New (Col 3:9); and that as we died in Adam, so we might live in Christ (1 Co 15:22)… Therefore let us keep this Feast, not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own but as belonging to him who is ours, our Master’s; not as of weakness, but of healing; not as of the old creation, but of our re-creation.

Saint Bernard from 5th Sermon for Christmas Eve

“The glory of the Lord shone around them”

Before the true light rose, before the birth of Christ, night shrouded the whole world. Night reigned in each one of us, too, before our conversion and inner rebirth. Was it not deepest night, the most thick darkness over the earth when our ancestors used to worship false gods?… And was there not another kind of dark night within ourselves when we were living without God in this world, following our passions and earthly desires, doing those things that now make us blush as being so many deeds of darkness?… But now you have come out of your sleep, you have been sanctified, have become children of light, children of the day, and no longer of darkness or of the night (1Thes 5,5)… “Tomorrow you will see the majesty of God in your midst.” Today, the Son has become for us the righteousness come from God; tomorrow he will be revealed as our life that we may appear with him in glory. Today a child has been born for us to keep us from vaunting ourselves in vainglory and so that, by our repentance, we may become like little children (Mt 18,3). Tomorrow he will show himself in all his greatness to stir us up to praise, so that we, too, may be glorified and praised when God bestows on each one of us his glory… “We shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1Jn 3,2). For today we do not actually see him as he is but as in a mirror (1Cor 13,12). Now he receives what belongs to us, but tomorrow we will see him within ourselves when he gives us what belongs to him, when he reveals himself as he is and take us up to raise us up to him.

Saint Augustine from Sermon 293, 3, for the nativity of John the Baptist

“His mouth was opened, his tongue freed: … he blessed God”

Zachary fell silent and lost the power of speech until John, the Lord’s precursor, was born and restored his speech. Is Zachary’s silence a hidden prophecy, kept secret and, as it were, pent up before Christ could be proclaimed? His speech was restored at John’s birth, his voice was made clear when he came as had been foretold. The restoration of Zachary’s power of speech is like the rending of the veil of the temple when Christ was crucified (Mt 27,51). If John proclaimed himself, he could not have restored his father’s speech. Zachary’s tongue was loosened because a voice was born. When John was announcing our Lord’s coming he was asked: “Who are you?” He replied: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” John was a ‘voice’, but in the beginning the Lord was the Word. John was a voice for a time: but Christ, who in the beginning was the Word, is the Word in eternity.

Adam of Perseigne from Letter to Andrew, canon of Tours, 13-15

“The Almighty has done great things for me”

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. But how can you magnify him? Could you maybe make greater the one whose greatness is unlimited? “Great is the Lord and worthy of high praise; God’s grandeur is beyond understanding” (Ps 144,3). He is great, and so great that nothing else can bear comparison with him nor may his greatness be measured. In what way then do you magnify him, since you do not make him greater than what he is? You magnify him by praising him. You magnify him for, in the darkness of this world, you show the glory of God, brighter than the sun, more beautiful than the moon, more perfumed than a rose, whiter than snow. You magnify him not because you add to his greatness, that is beyond measure, but because, in the darkness of this world, you bring the light of the true God…You magnify him as you are raised to such a high dignity that you receive grace in fullness (Lk 1,28), that you earn the visit of the Holy Spirit and that, having become Mother of God, while remaining an inviolate virgin, you give birth to a Savior for the world that dies. How may we explain this? By the fact that the Lord is with you (Lk 1,28), the Lord who turned his gifts into your merits. This is why it is said that you magnify him: because you yourself are magnified in Him and by Him. Therefore your soul magnifies the Lord only in the sense that you yourself are magnified by Him…for you are the receptacle of the Word, the storeroom for the new wine that inebriates the sobriety of the faithful. You are the Mother of God”

Saint Bernard from Sermon for the Octave of the Assumption, On the twelve prerogatives of Mary

“Blessed is she who has believed”

Mary is blessed, as her cousin Elizabeth has said to her, not simply because God has looked on her, but because she believed. Her faith is the most beautiful of the fruits of divine goodness. But it required the inexpressible art of the Holy Spirit to take place in her if such greatness of soul was to be united to such humility in the intimacy of her virginal heart. Mary’s humility and greatness of soul, like her virginity and fruitfulness, are like two stars shining on each other. For, in Mary, the depth of her humility does not in the least retract from the generosity of her soul, and vice versa. Even though Mary had so lowly an estimate of herself, she was no less generous in her faith in the promise made her by the angel because of it. She, who looked upon herself entirely as a poor and insignificant servant, in no way doubted herself to be called to this incomprehensible mystery, this tremendous union, this unfathomable secret. And she believed instantly that she was truly about to become the mother of God-made-man. It is God’s grace that produces this marvel in the hearts of the elect; humility does not make them fearful and timorous any more than their generosity of soul makes them proud. To the contrary, where the saints are concerned, these two virtues reinforce one another. Greatness of soul not only does not open the door to any pride, but it is this above all that allows it to penetrate the mystery of humility even further. Indeed, those who are the most generous in their service of God are also the most penetrated by the fear of the Lord and the most grateful for the gifts they have received. Similarly, when it is a question of humility, no trace of cowardice insinuates into the soul. The less someone is accustomed to presume on his own strength, even in the smallest things, the more he entrusts himself to the power of God, even in the greatest.

Saint John Chrysostom from A Homily attributed to,

“The infant in my womb leaped for joy”

O what a novel and wonderful mystery! John has not yet been born but already he gives voice with his bounds; he has not yet appeared but already he manifests signs of his presence; he cannot yet cry and already he is heard through what he does; as yet he has not begun his life and already he is preaching about God; he does not yet see the light and is already pointing to the sun; he has not yet been brought forth and already he hastens to act as forerunner. The Lord is there! John cannot restrain himself; he is not going to be restricted by the limitations set by nature but strives to break out of the prison of his mother’s womb and make known beforehand the Savior’s coming. “He who breaks our bonds has come,” he says. “and am I to remain shackled? Am I still bound to remain here? The Word comes to re-establish all things and am I still to remain captive? I will come out and run ahead of him and announce to all: Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1,29). But tell us, John, held fast as you are in the darkness of your mother’s womb, how is it that you see and hear? How can you behold divine things? How can you be leaping and rejoicing? “The mystery that is taking place is great indeed,” he says. “It is something beyond human understanding. It is with good reason that I am doing something new in the natural order on behalf of him who is to do something new in the supernatural order. I see even before my birth because I see the Sun of Justice gestating (Mal 3,20). I perceive by ear because, in coming into the world, I myself am the voice that goes before the great Word. I cry out because I behold the only Son of the Father clothed in his flesh. I rejoice because I see the world’s Creator receive human form. I leap for joy when I think that the Redeemer of the world has taken a human body. I am the forerunner of his coming and precede your testimony with my own.

Saint Augustine from Sermon 293, 1-2

“You have not trusted my words.” (Lk 1:20) “Blest is she who trusted.” (Lk 1:45)

John the Baptist’s mother was an old and sterile woman; Christ’s mother was a young girl in the fullness of her youth. John was the fruit of sterility; Christ that of virginity… The one was announced through the message of an angel; the other was conceived upon the angel’s announcement. John’s father did not believe in the news of his birth and he became mute; Christ’s mother believed in her son, and through faith, she conceived him in her womb. The Virgin’s heart first welcomed faith and then, becoming mother, Mary received a fruit in her womb. The words spoken to the angel by Mary and Zechariah are, however, more or less similar. When the angel announced the birth of John to him, the priest answered: “How am I to know this? I am an old man; my wife too is advanced in age.” Mary responded to the angel’s announcement: “How can this be since I do not know man?” Yes, they are almost the same words… Yet the former is reprimanded, the latter is enlightened. Zechariah is told: “Because you have not trusted…” But Mary is told: “This is the answer you demanded.” However again, the words of the one and of the other are almost the same… But the one who heard the words also saw the hearts; for him, nothing is hidden. Each one’s language concealed what he thought; but if this thought was hidden from human beings, it was not hidden from the angel, or rather, it was not concealed from him who spoke through the angel’s mediation.

Isaac the Syrian from Spiritual Discourses, 1st series, no. 21

“A clean heart create for me, O God” (Ps 51:12)

It is said that only God’s help saves. When a person knows that there is no other help, he prays a lot. And the more he prays, the more his heart becomes humble, for it is not possible to pray and make requests without being humble. “A heart contrite and humble, O God, you will not spurn.” (Ps 51:19) So long as the heart has not become humble, it is impossible for it to escape being scattered; humility gathers the heart together.
When a person has become humble, compassion immediately surrounds him and his heart then feels God’s help. He discovers a strength rising up within him, the strength of trust. When a person thus feels God’s help, when he feels that God is there and that he comes to his aid, immediately his heart is filled with faith and he then understands that prayer is the source of our help, the source of salvation, the treasure of our trust, the port that has been freed of the storm, the light of those who are in darkness, the support of the weak, shelter in time of trial, help at the crisis point of illness, shield that saves in combat, arrow sent out against the enemy. In a word, a multitude of good enters into him by means of prayer. So from then on, he finds his delight in the prayer of faith. His heart glows with trust.

Guigo II the Carthusian from Letter on the contemplative life, 6-7

“She came and fell at his feet”

“Lord, you are not seen except by the pure of heart. I seek by reading and meditating what is true purity of heart and how it may be attained, so that with its help I may know you, if only a little. Lord, for long have I meditated in my heart, seeking to see your face. It is the sight of you, Lord. that I have sought (Ps 27[26],8); and all the while in my meditation the fire of longing. the desire to know you more fully, has increased. When you break the bread of sacred Scripture for me, you have shown yourself to me in that breaking of bread (Lk 24,30-35), and the more I see you, the more I long to see you, not just in the outward rind of the letter but in the taste of experience.


“Nor do I ask this, Lord, because of my own merits, but because of your mercy. I too in my unworthiness confess my sins like the woman who said that “even the little dogs eat of the fragments that fall from the table of their masters.” So give me, Lord, some pledge of what I hope to inherit, at least one drop of heavenly rain with which to refresh my thirst, for I am on fire with love.”
So the soul, by such burning words… seeks to call its spouse. But the Lord, whose eyes are upon the just and whose ears can catch not only the words but the very meaning of their prayers, does not wait until the longing soul has said all its say, but breaks in upon the middle of its prayer, runs to meet it with all haste, sprinkled with sweet heavenly dew, anointed with the most precious perfumes, and he restores the weary soul. He slakes its thirst, he feeds its hunger, he makes the soul forget all earthly things. By making it die to itself he gives it new life in a wonderful way, and by making it drunk he brings it back to its true senses.

الطوباوي بيّوس التاسع from Decree ``Urbi et orbi`` of 8 December 1870

Saint Joseph, husband of Mary, Jesus’ fatherly provider, patron of the Church

Just as God appointed the patriarch Joseph, son of Jacob, as governor of Egypt so as to assure the grain required for life to the people (Gn 41,40f.), so, when the times were fulfilled when the Eternal One would send his only Son to earth to redeem the world, he chose another Joseph of whom the first was a prefiguration. He appointed him as Lord and prince over his house and goods, he entrusted his richest treasures to his care. Thus Joseph wed the Immaculate Virgin Mary from whom, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, who wished to pass for the son of Joseph and deigned to be subject to him, was born. He whom so many prophets and kings longed to see (Lk 10,24), Joseph not only saw but he conversed with him, embraced in his arms with fatherly tenderness and covered with kisses. With immense care and incomparable solicitude he fed the one whom the faithful would eat as the bread of eternal life. Because of this sublime dignity to which God raised his most faithful servant, the Church has always exalted and honoured Saint Joseph with a special celebration, even though it is of lower rank than the one she renders the Mother of God. In times of special need she has always begged his help… This is why we will solemnly declare Saint Joseph to be the Patron of the Catholic Church.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Adversus Haereses, IV, 20, 4-5

“Here is the book of the genesis of Jesus Christ”

There is one God, who by his word and wisdom created all things and set them in order…Because of his greatness, he is unknown by all the beings created by him: no one in fact has seen his origin. Nevertheless, because of his love, since the creation of the world he is known by the one by which he has created all things (Rom 1,20); this one is His Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in this last age became man among men to unite end and beginning, that is, man and God. That is why the prophets, receiving the gift of prophecy from this same Word, foretold his coming in the flesh, which brought about the union and communion between God and man ordained by the Father. From the beginning the word of God prophesied that God would be seen by men and would live among them on earth; he would speak with his own creation (Ba 3,38) and be present to it, bringing it salvation and being visible to it… The prophets, then, foretold that God would be seen by men. As the Lord himself says: “Blessed are the clear of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5,8). Of course, in his greatness and inexpressible glory, “no one can see God and live” (Ex 33,20), for the Father is beyond our comprehension. But in his love and generosity and omnipotence he allows even this to those who love him, that is, even to see God, as the prophets foretold. For “what is impossible to men is possible to God” (Lk 18,27).

Origen from Homilies on Saint Luke's Gospel, no. 22, 1-3 (SC 87)

“Prepare the way of the Lord”

It is written about John the Baptist : “The voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” But what follows concerns the Lord our Savior alone. For it is not John who “fills up every valley” but the Lord our Savior. Let each of us consider what he used to be before he came to the faith: he will notice that he was a deep valley, sloping downwards and plunging into the depths. But our Lord Jesus came and sent the Holy Spirit in his place; then “every valley has been filled.” It has been filled with good works and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Charity does not allow valleys to last in you and, if you possess peace, patience and goodness, not only will you cease to be a valley but you will start to become a mountain of God… “Mountains and hills shall be made low.” In these lowered mountains and hills we can see the enemy powers that stand against humankind. For indeed, in order that the valleys we are talking about may be filled, the enemy powers, mountains and hills, must be made low. But let us see whether the following prophecy concerning the coming of Christ has been fulfilled. In fact the text continues: “The crooked shall be made straight”. Each one of us was crooked– at least, if it concerns what we used to be formerly and not what we still are today – and the coming of Christ, which has taken place even in our souls, has set to rights all that was crooked… Let us pray that his coming may be fulfilled in us each day and that we may be able to say: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2,20).

Saint Aelred of Rielvaux from Sermon for the Nativity

“Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

Unhappy Adam! What more could you possibly seek than the divine presence? Yet see how thanklessly you ponder your misdeed: “No! I will be like God!” (cf. Gen 3,5). What insufferable pride! You have only just been created out of clay and mud and, in your insolence, you want to be like God?… This is how pride brought forth disobedience, the reason for our misfortune… What humility is there that could make amends for such a pride? What human obedience is there that could redeem such a fault? Captives that we were, how could we set captives free? Tainted, how could we liberate those stained by sin? Is your creature to die, then, my God? “Have you forgotten pity? Do you in anger withhold your compassion?” (Ps 77[76],10). Ah no! “My thoughts are thoughts of peace, not of woe”, says the Lord (Jer 29,11). O Lord, make haste, come quickly! Behold the tears of the poor; see, “the sighs of the prisoners come before you” (Ps 79[78],11). What a happy time it will be, what a glad and desirable day, when the voice of the Father resounds: “Because of the misery of the wretched and the tears of the poor, now will I arise” (Ps 12[11],6)… Yes, “Come yourself to save us, Lord, for now there are no more saints” (cf. Ps 12[11],2).

The Roman Missal from Preface for the feast

“You let her share beforehand in the salvation Christ would bring by his death and kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.” (Opening prayer for the feast)

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks. You allowed no stain of Adam’s sin to touch the Virgin Mary. Full of grace, she was to be a worthy mother of your Son, your sign of favor to the Church at its beginning, and the promise of its perfection as the bride of Christ, radiant in beauty. Purest of virgins, she was to bring forth your Son, the innocent lamb who takes away our sins. You chose her from all women to be our advocate with you and our pattern of holiness. In our joy we sing to your glory with all the choirs of angels: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts!

Saint Bede the Venerable from Homily 12 for Pentecost Eve

“Take my yoke upon your shoulders… Your souls will find rest.”

The Holy Spirit will give the righteous perfect peace in eternity. But already now, he gives them very great peace when he enkindles the heavenly fire of love in their heart. For the apostle Paul said: “This hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5) The true and even the only peace of souls in this world consists in being filled with divine love and animated by the hope of heaven to the point of coming to consider the successes and failures of this world as unimportant, of being completely stripped of the desires and lusts of this world, and of rejoicing in the offenses and persecutions suffered for Christ, so that one can say with the apostle Paul: “We boast of our hope for the glory of God. But not only that – we even boast of our afflictions!” (Rom 5:2) The person who imagines that he will find peace in the enjoyment of the goods of this world, in riches, is mistaken. The frequent troubles here below and even the end of this world should convince that person that he has built the foundations of his peace on sand (Mt 7:26). On the contrary, all who, touched by the breath of the Holy Spirit, have taken upon themselves the very good yoke of God’s love and who, following his example, have learned to be gentle and humble of heart, begin now to enjoy a peace, which is already the image of eternal rest.

Isaac the Syrian from Ascetical discourses, 1st series, no. 19

The violence that seizes the Kingdom

May nothing prevent you any longer from uniting yourself to Christ… Pray without ceasing, implore with your whole heart, beg fervently until you receive. Don’t give yourself any break. These things will be given you if, first of all, you strive with all your faith to entrust your cares to God and exchange your own foresight with God’s providence. When he sees your good will, when he sees that in all purity of heart you have entrusted yourself to him rather than to yourself and are striving to hope in him rather than in your own soul, then this strength will come, unknown to you, to make its dwelling within you. Then you will feel in every sense the strength of the one who is unquestionably with you. Thanks to this strength many enter the fire and fear not, walk on the waters and waver not.

Latin Liturgy from Conditor alme siderum

To reform our lives in response to the repeated calls of the God who comes

Creator of the stars of night, Your people’s everlasting light, O Christ, Redeemer of us all, We pray you hear us when we call. In sorrow that the ancient curse Should doom to death a universe, You came, O Savior, to set free Your own in glorious liberty. When this old world drew on toward night, You came; but not in splendor bright, Not as a monarch, but the child Of Mary, blameless mother mild. At your great Name, O Jesus, now All knees must bend, all hearts must bow; All things on earth with one accord, Like those in heaven, shall call you Lord. Come in your holy might, we pray, Redeem us for eternal day; Defend us while we dwell below From all assaults of our dread foe. To God the Father, God the Son, And God the Spirit, Three in One, Praise, honor, might, and glory be From age to age eternally.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the heresies, III, 10-11 (SC 34)

“I tell you: Elijah has already come”

Concerning John the Baptist, we read in Luke: “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare a people fit for the Lord,” (Lk 1,15.17). For whom, then, did he prepare a people and in the sight of which Lord was he great? Without any doubt, before him who said that John had something about him that was “more than a prophet” and that “among those born of women, none has arisen greater than John the Baptist,” (Mt 11,9.11). For John prepared a people by announcing beforehand to his companions in servitude the coming of the Lord and by preaching repentance to them, so that, when the Lord came, they would be ready to receive his forgiveness and might return to him from whom they had been estranged by their sins and transgressions… This is why, by drawing them back to their Lord, John prepared for the Lord a people who were ready and willing, in the spirit and power of Elijah… John the Evangelist tells us: “A man named John was sent by God. He came for testimony, to testify to the Light. He was not the Light but came to testify to the Light,” (Jn 1,6-8). This man John the Baptist, the Forerunner, who gave testimony to the light, had undoubtedly been sent by God who… had promised by the prophets to send his messenger before the face of his Son to prepare his way, (Mal 3,1; Mk 1,2), that is to say, to give testimony to the Light in the spirit and power of Elijah… It was precisely because John was a witness that the Lord said he was more than a prophet. All the other prophets had announced the coming of the Father’s light and had longed to be accounted worthy of seeing the one they were preaching about. John prophesied as they did but saw him present; he made him known and persuaded many to believe in him, so that, at one and the same time, he filled the place of both prophet and apostle. That is why Christ said of him that he was “more than a prophet.”

Isaac the Syrian from Ascetical discourses, 1st series, no. 19

The violence that seizes the Kingdom

May nothing prevent you any longer from uniting yourself to Christ… Pray without ceasing, implore with your whole heart, beg fervently until you receive. Don’t give yourself any break. These things will be given you if, first of all, you strive with all your faith to entrust your cares to God and exchange your own foresight with God’s providence. When he sees your good will, when he sees that in all purity of heart you have entrusted yourself to him rather than to yourself and are striving to hope in him rather than in your own soul, then this strength will come, unknown to you, to make its dwelling within you. Then you will feel in every sense the strength of the one who is unquestionably with you. Thanks to this strength many enter the fire and fear not, walk on the waters and waver not.

Saint Anselm from Proslogion, 1

“My heart has said of you, “Seek his face”. O Lord, I do seek your face” (Ps 26,8)

Lord, how long will it be? (Ps 6,4). How long, Lord, will you forget us? How long will you hide your face from us? (Ps 12,2). When will you look upon us and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes and show us your face? When will you come back to us? Look upon us, Lord, hear us and enlighten us, show us your very self. Return us the good of your presence amongst us, whose life is so weary without you. Take pity on our efforts and our striving toward you, for we may do nothing without you. Since you invite us, therefore help us. I beg you, O Lord, do not leave me sighing of desperation; but rather let me breathe hope…May I at least be allowed to catch a glimpse of the light, even from faraway, even from the depths of hell. Teach me to seek you, and when I seek you show yourself to me, for I cannot seek you unless you guide me, nor may I find you unless you show yourself to me. I will seek you in desiring you and desire you in seeking you, find you in loving you and love you in finding you.

From the ``Proslogion`` of Saint Anselm

Longing to see God

Little man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.

Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.

And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.

Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your face.

What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from you? What shall your servant do, anxious in his love of you, and cast out far from your presence? He is breathless with desire to see you, and your face is too far from him. He longs to come to you, and your dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find you, but does not know where. He desires to seek you, and does not know your face.

Lord, you are my God, and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have made me and renewed me, you have given me all the good things that I have, and I have not yet met you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet done the thing for which I was made.

And as for you, Lord, how long? How long, O Lord, do you forget us; how long do you turn your face from us? When will you look upon us, and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes, and show us your face? When will you restore yourself to us?

Look upon us, Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal yourself to us. Restore yourself to us, that it may be well with us, yourself, without whom it is so ill with us. Pity our toilings and strivings toward you since we can do nothing without you.

Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.

Catechism of the Catholic Church from §1402-1405

Our bread in the desert: the Eucharist – “Pledge of the Glory To Come”

If the Eucharist is the memorial of the Passover of the Lord Jesus, if by our communion at the altar we are filled “with every heavenly blessing and grace,”( Roman Canon) then the Eucharist is also an anticipation of the heavenly glory. At the Last Supper the Lord himself directed his disciples’ attention toward the fulfillment of the Passover in the kingdom of God: “I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”‘(Mt 26:29) Whenever the Church celebrates the Eucharist she remembers this promise and turns her gaze “to him who is to come.”(Rev 1:4) In her prayer she calls for his coming: “Marana tha!”(1 Cor 16 22) “Come, Lord Jesus!”(Rev 22:20) “May your grace come and this world pass away!”(Didache 10, 6) The Church knows that the Lord comes even now in his Eucharist and that he is there in our midst. However, his presence is veiled. Therefore we celebrate the Eucharist “awaiting the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:13) asking “to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you for ever through Christ our Lord.” (EP III) There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,” (2 Pet 3:13) than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” (LG 3) and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.” (St. Ignatius of Antioch)

A sermon by St. Bernard

Let the word of the Lord come to us

We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold: the third coming is between the other two and it is not visible in the way they are. At his first coming the Lord was seen on earth and lived among men, who saw him and hated him. At his last coming All flesh shall see the salvation of our God, and They shall look on him whom they have pierced. In the middle, the hidden coming, only the chosen see him, and they see him within themselves; and so their souls are saved. The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty.

This middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last. At the first, Christ was our redemption; at the last, he will become manifest as our life; but in this middle way he is our rest and our consolation.

If you think that I am inventing what I am saying about the middle coming, listen to the Lord himself: If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and the Father will love him, and we shall come to him. Elsewhere I have read: Whoever fears the Lord does good things. – but I think that what was said about whoever loves him was more important: that whoever loves him will keep his words. Where are these words to be kept? In the heart certainly, as the Prophet says I have hidden your sayings in my heart so that I do not sin against you. Keep the word of God in that way: Blessed are those who keep it. Let it penetrate deep into the core of your soul and then flow out again in your feelings and the way you behave; because if you feed your soul well it will grow and rejoice. Do not forget to eat your bread, or your heart will dry up. Remember, and your soul will grow fat and sleek.

If you keep God’s word like this, there is no doubt that it will keep you, for the Son will come to you with the Father: the great Prophet will come, who will renew Jerusalem, and he is the one who makes all things new. For this is what this coming will do: just as we have been shaped in the earthly image, so will we be shaped in the heavenly image. Just as the old Adam was poured into the whole man and took possession of him, so in turn will our whole humanity be taken over by Christ, who created all things, has redeemed all things, and will glorify all things.

Ecclesia in America (January 22, 1999) | John Paul II

Thanks to the work of those who preached the Gospel through the length and breadth of the continent, countless sons and daughters have been generated by the Church and the Holy Spirit.(1) Now, no less than in the past, the words of the Apostle echo in their hearts: “If I preach the Gospel, I have no reason to boast. It is my duty: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This duty is founded on the Risen Lord’s command to the Apostles before he ascended into heaven: “Preach the Gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15).

This command applies to the whole Church; and, in this moment of her history, the Church in America is called to take it up and respond with loving generosity to the fundamental task of evangelization.

Saint Bernard from 2nd Sermon for the Ascension

The Son of Man will come to take us with him

“This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven,” (Acts 1,11). He will come, say these angels, in the same way. Does that mean he will come in this unique and universal procession, that he will descend preceded by all the angels and followed by all mankind to judge the living and the dead? Yes, it is quite certain he will come, but he will come in the same way as he went up to heaven and not as he first came down. For when he came formerly to save our souls, it was in humility. But when he comes to draw this body out of its sleep in death so as to “conform it to his glorious body” (Phil 3,21) and to fill with honor the vessel that is so weak today, then he will show himself in all his splendor. Then will we see, in all his power and majesty, the one who was previously hidden beneath the weakness of our flesh…

Being God, Christ cannot grow greater since there is nothing greater than God. And yet he has found the means to grow: this was by descending, by coming to make himself incarnate, to suffer and die in order to snatch us out of eternal death. “Because of this, God greatly exalted him,” (Phil 2,9). He brought him back to life; he is seated at God’s right hand. You too, then, go and do the same: you cannot ascend without beginning by descending. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted,” (Lk 14,11).

Happy will they be, Lord Jesus, who have none but you for guide! Grant that we may follow you, “we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,” (Ps 79 [78], 13); grant that we may come to you through you, for you are “the way, the truth, the life,” (Jn 14,6). The way by your example, the truth by your promises, the life because you yourself are our reward. “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” (Jn 6,68-69; Mt 16,16): God himself, higher than all things, blessed for ever.

Theodore of Mopsuestia from Commentary on St. John's Gospel, Book 2

Birth into the new creation

“Baptized into Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection,” (Rom 6, 3-5). Thus does St Paul clearly show us that our new birth through baptism is the symbol of our resurrection after death. This will be achieved in us through the power of the Spirit, as it is said: “It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body,” (I Cor 14,42f.). What this means is that, just as our body here below, so long as its soul is present, enjoys a visible life, so it will receive then, in the same way, an eternal and incorruptible life through the power of the Spirit.

The same thing applies to the birth given us in baptism, which is the symbol of our resurrection. Through it we receive grace by the same Spirit, but with moderation and in the form of a token. We will receive it in its fullness when we truly rise and incorruptibility is indeed given to us. That is why, when the apostle Paul speaks of the life to come, he tries to reassure his listeners with these words: “Not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for the redemption of our bodies,” (Rom 8,23). For if we have received here and now the firstfruits of grace, we expect to receive them in their fullness when the happiness of the resurrection is given to us.

The Roman Missal from Preface of Dedication of a church

“My house shall be a house of prayer”

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.

We thank you now for this house of prayer in which you bless your family as we come to you on pilgrimage.

Here you reveal your presence by sacramental signs, and make us one with you through the unseen bond of grace. Here you built your temple of living stones, and bring the Church to its full stature as the body of Christ throughout the world, to reach its perfection at last in the heavenly city of Jerusalem which is the vision of your peace.

In communion with all the angels and saints we bless and praise your greatness in the temple of your glory: “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might.”

Saint Augustine from Discourse on the Psalms, Ps 121`{`122`}`

“If this day you only knew what makes for peace”

“May peace reign in your walls” (Ps 121[122],7). O Jerusalem, built as a city with compact unity” (v.3), peace in your strength, peace in your love! For your strength is your love. Listen to the Song of Songs: “Love is strong as death” (8,6). What wonderful words, brethren !… Who can resist death ? People resist flames, floods, steel; they resist tyrants and kings; let death come and who can resist it? There is nothing stronger. Love alone can match up to its strength. It can be said that love is strong as death. Because love kills what we used to be to make us become what as yet we were not, it carries out in us a work of death. Saint Paul died this death. He said: “The world is crucified to me and I to the world” (Gal 6,14), and those to whom he said: “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3,3) died this death.

Love is strong as death… let peace, therefore, be in your strength, Jerusalem ; let peace be in your love. And by this strength, love, peace “may prosperity be in your towers” (Ps 121[122],7), that is to say, on your heights… Profusion of delights, countless riches, this is the God who is one, this is he with whom all this city’s inhabitants hold communion. This is he who will be our abundance in the city of Jerusalem.

Saint John-Paul II from Homily for Luxemburg Workers, May 1985

“Make them bear fruit”: Human Work and the Kingdom of God

When God created humankind, man and woman, God told them: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) That is, so to speak, God’s first commandment, which is connected with the very order of creation. Thus, human work corresponds with God’s will. When we say, “Thy will be done,” let us also include these words about the work which fills every day of our life. We become aware of the fact that we are in accord with that will of the Creator when our work and the human relations that it brings with it are penetrated with the values of initiative, courage, trust, solidarity, which are so many reflections of our divine resemblance…

The Creator gave the human person the power to subdue the earth. Thus, he asks him to bring the area that has been entrusted to him under control through his own work, to exercise all his abilities so as to be able to develop his own personality and the whole community in a good way. Through his work, the human person obeys God and responds to God’s trust. That is not foreign to the request in the Our Father: “Thy kingdom come.” The human person acts in such a way that God’s plan might be realized, aware of having been made in the likeness of God and thus of having received from God his strength, his intelligence, his aptitudes for bringing about a community of life through the disinterested love he has for his brothers and sisters. All that is positive and good in the life of the person develops and connects with his true goal in the kingdom of God. You chose your motto well: “Kingdom of God, human life,” for God’s cause and the human cause are connected with one another. The world is advancing towards the kingdom of God thanks to God’s gifts, which make human dynamism possible. In other words, to pray that God’s kingdom might come is to stretch out with all one’s being towards that reality, which is the ultimate goal of human work.

John Tauler from Sermon 68

“Zacchaeus, hurry down!”

In the gospel, we read that Zacchaeus wanted to see Our Lord, but that he was too small of stature. So what did he do? He climbed a dried up fig tree. That is what people still do. Someone wants to see the one who works marvels and who causes a whole tumult in him. But he isn’t big enough, he is too small. So what to do? He has to climb a dried up fig tree. The dead fig tree symbolizes the death of the senses and of nature and the life of the inner person, which carries God.

What does Our Lord say to Zacchaeus? “Hurry down.” You have to come down, you must not hold back a single drop of consolation from all your impressions in prayer, but come down in your pure nothingness, in your poverty, in your powerlessness…  If, from the moment truth has given you some light, there is still some natural attachment in you, you don’t yet possess it, it has not yet become your own; nature and grace still work together and you have not attained perfect abandonment …; this is not yet full purity. That is why God invites such a person to come down, that is to say, he calls him to complete renunciation, to complete detachment from nature, in everything in which nature still possesses something of its own. “For I mean to stay at your house today; today salvation has come to this house.” May this today of eternity come to us!

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint Matthew's Gospel, no. 66, 1

“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”

Let us listen to those blind men from Jericho in Saint Matthew’s gospel, who were better than many who see. For having neither a guide, nor being able to see him when he came near them, they strove nevertheless to come to him and began to shout with a loud voice, and when they were rebuked for speaking out they called all the more. For such is the nature of persistent souls; those who try to stop them only redouble their determination. Christ allowed them to be rebuked so that their earnestness might be the more manifest and you might learn that they were truly worthy of being healed. That is why he does not ask them if they have faith, as he so often does: their shouting and attempts to approach him sufficed to make their faith manifest. Learn from this, then, dear friend, that in spite of our lowliness and wretchedness, if we earnestly approach God we shall be able to obtain what we are asking for by ourselves. Anyway, look at these two blind men, how, having none of the apostles to protect them but, rather, many to stop their mouths, they were able to pass over all hindrances and come to Jesus himself. And yet the evangelist bears witness to nothing exceptional in their lives: their fervor took the place of everything else. These then let us also emulate. Even if God doesn’t immediately grant us what we ask, even if a great many people are trying to dissuade us from prayer, let us not cease beseeching him. For this is how we shall best draw down God’s favors.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1391-1395

Christ gives himself as food

The fruits of Holy Communion. The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”(Jn 6,56). Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6,57)…

What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh “given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,” preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.

Holy Communion separates us from sin. the body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is “given up for us,” and the blood we drink “shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.” For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins: «For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord» (1Cor 11,26)…

As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins… By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the heresies IV, 13, 3 (cf. SC 100, p. 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.

Saint 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.

Saint Ephrem from Commentary on the Diatessaron, 18, 15; SC 121

At an hour you do not know the Son of Man will come

To prevent his disciples from questioning him about the time of his coming Christ said: “Of that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son” (Mt 24,36). It is not for you to know the days or the hour” (Acts 1,7). He hid the time from us so that we would be on the watch and so that each of us might think that the coming will happen in his own lifetime. If he had revealed when he was to come again, his coming would have been made pointless and the peoples and ages in which it will take place would no longer yearn for it. He said that he will come again, indeed, but he did not say exactly when. Hence, all generations and ages live in eager expectation of him. The Lord pointed out the signs of his coming but we have no knowledge of when they will be completed. In many varied ways they have happened and passed away and are still happening. His last coming is, in fact, like his first: the just and the prophets longed for him, thinking that he was to appear in their day. So, today, each of the faithful wants to receive him in his own lifetime, and even more so in that Jesus did not reveal the day of his coming. His reason for this was so that no one might think that the Christ is subject to a law of time or a given hour, he who is lord over numbers and times.

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Compendium theologiae, 2nd part, ch.1

Praying confidently and with persistence

There is one difference that distinguishes prayer to God from prayers addressed to another person. Prayer addressed to another demands a certain degree of familiarity from the outset, thanks to which one gains access to the person one is begging from. Whereas prayer to God makes us, in itself, friends of God. Our souls are lifted up to him, lovingly converse with him, and adore him in spirit and truth (Jn 4,23). This close relationship that is acquired as one prays prompts a person to apply himself to prayer with confidence. Hence it is said in the psalm: “I call upon you,” that is to say, I have prayed with confidence, “for you have answered me, O God” (16[17],6). Having been taken into close relationship with God through the original prayer, the psalmist then prays with increased confidence. Thus, in prayer to God, diligence or persistence in asking is not an imposition but, rather, pleasing to God. For the gospel says: “We should always pray and never grow weary”, and elsewhere the Lord invites us to make our requests: “Ask and you will receive, he says, knock and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7,7).

Saint Hilary from Treatise on Psalm 64

“He was talking about the temple of his body”

The Lord said: “This is my resting place forever,” and he “chose Zion as the place where he will dwell.” (Ps 132:14) But the temple is destroyed. Where will God’s eternal throne be? Where will his resting place be forever? Where will his temple be for him to dwell there? The apostle Paul gives us an answer: “You are the temple of God, … the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Cor 3:16). That is the house and temple of God. They are filled with his teaching and his power. They are the dwelling place for the holiness of God’s heart.

But it is God who builds this dwelling place. If it were built by human hands, it would not last, not even if it were founded on human teaching. Our fruitless work and our worries are not enough to protect it. The Lord goes about this in a different way: he did not found it on earth or on moving sand, but it rests on the prophets and the apostles (Eph 2:20); it is built constantly out of living stones (1 Pet 2:5). It will develop to the ultimate dimension of Christ’s body. Its construction continues constantly. Many houses go up all around it and they will resemble one another in one big and happy city (Ps 122:3).

Thomas of Celano from ``Vita prima: of Saint Francis, §76

Giving up everything because Christ gave up everything for us

Francis, the poor little one and father of the poor, wanted to live like a poor man in every way. He suffered if he met someone poorer than himself, not out of vanity but because of the tender compassion he bore them. He only wanted a plain, very rough tunic, but still it very often happened that he shared it with some unfortunate creature. But he himself was a very rich poor man since, forced by his great charity to come to the help of the poor insofar as he could, he went about amongst the rich of this world during the times of greatest cold and asked them to lend him a cloak or fur trimmed coat. They would bring them to him all the more readily in that he hadn’t begun to ask for them. Then he would say: “I accept on condition that you don’t expect to see them again.” Then Francis, with a glad heart, offered what he had just received to the first poor man he encountered. Nothing caused him greater pain than to see a poor person insulted or any kind of creature blasphemed. One day a brother let fly against a poor person who asked for an alms with wounding words. “Aren’t you by any chance rich while pretending to be one of the poor?” he said to him. These words upset Francis, father of the poor, very much. He inflicted a terrible reprimand on the culprit then commanded him to take off his outer garments in the poor man’s presence and to kiss his feet while asking his forgiveness. “Anyone who speaks unkindly to a poor man,” he used to say, “injures the Christ of whom the poor represent the noble symbol, for Christ made himself poor in this world for our sake” (cf. 2Cor 8,9).

Saint Gregory Nazianzen 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.

Saint Basil from Homily 6, on wealth; PG31, 261f.

Acting prudently

Consider, O man, the one who has lavished his gifts on you. Reflect on yourself. Call to mind who you are, what business you carry out, who has entrusted it to you, why it is that you have been chosen rather than many others. You are the good God’s servant; you are responsible for your serving companions. Don’t imagine that all these benefits are intended for your own stomach. Arrange the good things you have in your hands as though they belonged to someone else; they will give you pleasure for a certain amount of time, then vanish away and disappear. But a detailed account will be asked of you… “What am I to do?” The answer was a simple one: “I will satisfy the hungry; I will open my barns and invite the poor… All you who lack bread, come to me. Let each one take a sufficient share of the gifts God has granted me. Come and draw water as though at the public well.”

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Retreat at Nazareth, November 1897

Going after the lost sheep

I was distancing myself more and more from you, my Lord and my life. My life, too, was beginning to become a death, or rather it was already death in your sight. And yet, within that state of death, you upheld me… All faith had gone but my respect and esteem remained intact. You showed me further graces, O my God: you preserved the attraction for study in me, for serious reading, beautiful things, a revulsion for vice and ugliness. I did evil yet I neither approved nor loved it… You granted me that vague uneasiness of a bad conscience, which though it may be asleep is not altogether dead.

I have never felt that same sadness, lassitude, unease except then. Oh my God, was it then your gift? How far I was from doubting it! How good you are! And while, by this invention of your love, you prevented my soul from drowning altogether, you kept my body safe: for if I had died then I should have been in hell… Those dangers of the journey, great and various as they were, from which you enabled me to come out as if by a miracle! That unchanging health in the most unhealthy of places, in spite of such great fatigue! Oh my God, how your hand was upon me and how little I was aware of it! How you protected me! How you sheltered me under your wings when I did not even believe in your existence! And while you were thus protecting me time passed by, you judged that the time was approaching to draw me back into the fold.

In spite of me you undid all the wrong attachments that would have kept me away from you; you even undid all the healthy bonds that would have prevented me from becoming all yours one day… Your hand alone carried out the beginning, middle and end in all this. How good you are! It was needed in order to prepare my soul for truth; the devil is too much master of an unchaste soul to let it enter into truth; you would not be able, my God, to enter a soul in which the demon of squalid passions reigned as lord. But you wanted to enter mine, Oh good Shepherd, and so you cast out your enemy yourself.

Saint John Cassian from Conference 3, 6-7

Renouncing all one’s possessions

The tradition and the authority of Holy Scripture show us three renunciations… The first is that by which as far as the body is concerned we make light of all the wealth and goods of this world. By the second, we reject the fashions and vices and former affections of soul and flesh. By the third, we detach our soul from all present and visible things, and contemplate only things to come, and set our heart on what is invisible. We have to do all these three at once as the Lord charged Abraham to do, when he said to him “Get out from your country, and your kinsfolk, and your father’s house.”(Gn 12:1).

First he said “from your country,” i.e., from the goods of this world, and earthly riches: secondly, “from your kinsfolk,” i.e., from this former life and habits and sins, which cling to us from our very birth and are joined to us as it were by ties of affinity and kinship: thirdly, “from your father’s house,” i.e., from all the recollection of this world, which the sight of the eyes can afford…

Let us contemplate, as the Apostle says, “not what is seen but what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Co 4:18)… “Our citizenship is in heaven,..”(Ph 3:20)… We shall go forth from the house of our former parent, who was our father from our very birth, according to the old man, when we were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest”(Ep 2:3), and we will fix our whole mind and concentration on heavenly things… Then our soul will ascend towards unseen things by constant meditation on divine things and spiritual contemplation.

The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great from Eucharistic prayer, 1st part

“‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows and make people come in that my home may be filled”

Truly You are holy and most holy, and there are no bounds to the majesty of Your holiness. You are holy in all Your works, for with righteousness and true judgment You have ordered all things for us. For having made man by taking dust from the earth, and having honored him with Your own image, O God, You placed him in a garden of delight, promising him eternal life and the enjoyment of everlasting blessings in the observance of Your commandments. But when he disobeyed You, the true God who had created him, and was led astray by the deception of the serpent becoming subject to death through his own transgressions, You, O God, in Your righteous judgment, expelled him from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken.

Yet You provided for him the salvation of regeneration in Your Christ. For You did not forever reject Your creature whom You made, O Good One, nor did You forget the work of Your hands, but because of Your tender compassion, You visited him in various ways: You sent forth prophets; You performed mighty works by Your saints who in every generation have pleased You. You spoke to us by the mouth of Your servants the prophets, announcing to us the salvation which was to come; You gave us the law to help us; You appointed angels as guardians.

And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us through Your Son Himself, through whom You created the ages. He, being the splendor of Your glory and the image of Your being, upholding all things by the word of His power, thought it not robbery to be equal with You, God and Father. But, being God before all ages, He appeared on earth and lived with humankind. Becoming incarnate from a holy Virgin, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, conforming to the body of our lowliness, that He might change us in the likeness of the image of His glory (Heb 1,2-3; Phil 2, 6-7; 3,21).

For, since through man sin came into the world and through sin death, it pleased Your only begotten Son, who is in Your bosom, God and Father, born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and ever virgin Mary; born under the law, to condemn sin in His flesh, so that those who died in Adam may be brought to life in Him, Your Christ. He lived in this world, and gave us precepts of salvation. Releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He guided us to the sure knowledge of You, the true God and Father. He acquired us for Himself, as His chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

Saint Braulion of Saragossa from Letter 19; PL 80, 665

“When the Lord saw her… he said to her: ‘Do not weep’” (Lk 7,13)

Christ, hope of the believer, does not call those who leave this world ‘dead’ but ‘sleeping’ when he says: “Our friend Lazarus is asleep” (Jn 11,11). The apostle Paul, likewise, does not want us to be grieved “about those who have fallen asleep” (1Thes 4,13). By this, if our faith holds that “everyone who believes” in Christ, according to his word in the Gospel, “will never die” (Jn 11,26), we know that he himself is not dead and we too will not die. Because “the Lord himself, with a word of command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God, will come down from heaven and the dead will rise” (1Thes 4,16). May hope in the resurrection encourage us, then, since we shall see then all those we have lost. It matters that we should firmly believe in him, that is to say that we obey his precepts, since he applies his mighty power to raising the dead with more ease than we rouse those who are asleep.

This is what we say; and yet, I don’t know through what feeling, we take refuge in tears and a feeling of regret compromises our faith. Alas! How pitiable man’s condition is, and without Christ how empty our life is! But you, O Death, who are cruel enough to break the union between spouses and separate those whom friendship unites, from henceforth your power has been shattered. From now on your pitiless yoke has been crushed by him who threatened you through the words of the prophet Hosea: “O death, I will be your death” (Hos 13,14 Vulg.). That is why we hurl our challenge together with the apostle Paul: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1Cor 15,55). He who vanquished you has redeemed us; he has delivered his beloved soul into the hands of sinners that he might make them his beloved friends.

It would take too long to call to mind everything in Holy Scripture that should bring us all consolation. It is enough to hope in the resurrection and raise our eyes to the glory of our Redeemer since it is in him that we are already raised, as our faith gives us to believe, according to the apostle Paul’s words: “If we have died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6,8).

Saint Gregory Nazianzen 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.

St. Clare from 1st Letter to Agnes of Prague, 25-29

Choosing to enter through the narrow gate

I firmly believe that you know the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor (cf. Mt 5:3), because she who loves what is temporal loses the fruit of love.

It is not possible to serve God and mammon, for either the one is loved and the other hated, or the one is served and the other despised; one clothed cannot fight another naked because she who has something to be caught hold of is more quickly thrown to the ground: someone who lives in the glory of earth cannot rule with Christ; it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 19:24).

Therefore you have cast aside your garments, that is, earthly riches, so that instead of being overcome by the one fighting against you, you will be able to enter the kingdom of heaven through the straight path and the narrow gate (cf. Mt 7:13-14).

Leo XIII from Encyclical Rerum Navarum, 20

“Follow me”

May those who have been disinherited of wealth learn from the Church that, according to the judgment of God himself, poverty is not a disgrace, and that there is no need to blush with shame if you have to earn your daily bread through work. Jesus Christ Our Lord confirmed this by his example, he who for the salvation of men “made himself poor though he was rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) He who was the Son of God and God himself wanted to be taken for the son of a worker in the eyes of the world. He went so far as to spend a large part of his life in doing paid work. “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” (Mk 6:3)

Whoever keeps his eyes on the divine model will understand… that true human dignity and excellence dwells in a person’s habits, that is to say, in his virtue. Virtue is the common patrimony of mortals; it is available to everyone, to the small and to the great, the poor and the rich. Wherever they are seen, virtue and merit alone will obtain the reward of eternal beatitude. Even more, it seems that God’s heart is more inclined towards the less fortunate classes. Jesus Christ calls the poor blessed (Lk 6:20). With love he invites all who suffer and weep to come to him so that he might console them (Mt 11:28); he embraces with a more tender charity those who are small and oppressed. These teachings are certainly given in order to humble the haughty soul of the rich and to make him more compassionate, to raise the courage of those who suffer and to inspire them with trust.

Saint Frances de Sales from Introduction to the devout life, Part three, ch. 15

“A hundred times more now in this present age”

The possessions which we have are not our own: God has given them to us to cultivate and he wishes us to render them fruitful and profitable… Always deprive yourself, therefore, of some part of your means, giving them to the poor with a willing heart… It is true that God will return it to you, not only in the next world but also in this, for there is nothing which makes a person prosper in temporal matters so much as almsgiving. But till such time as God shall repay it, you will always be impoverished to that extent. Oh! how holy and rich is the impoverishment which is caused by almsgiving.

Love the poor and poverty, for by this love you will become truly poor, since, as Scripture says: “We become like the things that we love” (cf. Hos 9:10). Love makes them that love equal to one another: “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” says St Paul (2Cor 11:29). He might have said: “Who is poor, with whom I am not poor?” For love made him become such as those whom he loved. If, then, you love the poor, you will be truly participating in their poverty and poor like them. Now, if you love the poor, be often among them; be pleased to see them in your house, and to visit them in theirs; associate willingly with them; be glad that they are near you in the churches, in the streets and elsewhere. Be poor in speech with them, speaking to them as their equal; but be rich in deed, giving them of your goods as one that possesses more abundantly.

Will you do even more?… Become a servant of the poor; go to serve them… with your own hands… and at your own expense. This service has more glory in it than a throne.

Saint Ambrose from Commentary on Saint Luke's Gospel, (II, 19f. ; SC 45)

“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste”

It is usual for those who wish to be believed to give reasons for believing. That is why the angel… announced to the Virgin Mary that an aged and barren woman was to become mother, thus showing that God can do whatever he pleases. As soon as Mary learned of this, she set out for the hill country, not through lack of faith in the prophecy, nor by uncertainty in the face of this message, nor through doubt… but in the happiness of her desire to fulfill a religious duty and in the haste of her joy. Besides, filled with God, how could she not eagerly rise up to the heights? Slow considerations are foreign to the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Until then, Mary lived alone, withdrawn from the outside world: she was not held back by her modesty from setting out in public, nor by the mountain slopes from putting her plan into action, nor by the length of the way from the service she had to offer. This virgin hastens to the heights, a virgin who is only thinking of serving and forgets her own trouble. Charity is her strength…; she leaves her house and sets out… You have learned of Mary’s sensitivity; learn too of her humility. The younger comes to the older…, what is superior comes to what is inferior: Mary to Elizabeth, Christ to John just as, later on, our Lord will come to be baptized by John so as to consecrate baptism. And immediately the blessings of Mary’s arrival and the presence of the Lord are made known, for “as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child in her womb leaped for joy and she was filled with the Holy Spirit”… The two women speak of the grace done to them; the two children fulfill this grace and lead their mothers into this mystery of mercy.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 3rd sermon for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, 1-2; PL185, 169 (SC 202, p. 339; trans. copyright Cistercian Fathers series)

“He was a burning and shining light” (Jn. 5:35)

Truly those words of Supreme Justice to Noah are no mean commendation of justice: “I have seen that you are just in my presence” (Gen 7:1). It is a mark of great merit that God declares to Abraham that on his account the promises that were made to him are to be fulfi1led… What a favor it was also that on Moses’ account he strove with and confounded his rivals (Num 12:6)… And who among them all is like David, of whom the Lord rejoices that he has found a man according to his own heart (1Sam 13:14).

Yet however great these or any others may have been, neither among these nor among other men born of women, as he declares who was born of a virgin, has there arisen one greater than John the Baptist. For although star differs from star in brightness,(1Cor 15:41) and in the choir of the holy constellations which enlightened the night of this world before the rising of the true Sun some shone forth with a wonderful brightness, none was greater or more splendid than this Morning Star, the burning and shining Lamp which the Father prepared for his Christ (Ps 132[131]:17). He is the Morning Star that anticipates the light, the Forerunner of the Sun, proclaiming to mortals that the day is at hand, crying out “to those who sleep in darkness and the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79): “Do penance; for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 3:2). As if to say: “The night has passed away, day is at hand; cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12). “Rise up, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you” (Eph 5:14).

Saint Bonaventure from The life of perfection, II, §1,3,4

The humility of the Son of God

Those who consider their own defects with the eyes of their heart should “truly humble themselves under the powerful hand of God”. Therefore I exhort you who are God’s servant, when you recognize your faults with certainty to abase your soul and show yourself scorn. Because “humility is a virtue,” Saint Bernard says, “by which we hold ourselves contemptible thanks to a very precise self-knowledge.” It was by means of this humility that our Father, blessed Francis, became contemptible in his own eyes. He loved and sought for it from the beginning to the end of his religious life. It was for this that he left the world, made them drag him naked in the streets of the city, served lepers, confessed his sins in his sermons and demanded that people should cover him with disgrace.

But it is from the Son of God above all you should learn this virtue. He himself said: “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart” for, according to blessed Gregory: “Someone who acquires virtues without humility is throwing dust into the wind.” Just as pride is the principle of all sin so humility is the foundation of all virtue.

Saint Clement of Alexandria from Protrepticos, ch. 1 (SC bis, p. 63rev.)

John the Baptist calls us to salvation

Is it not strange, my friends, that God is constantly exhorting us to virtue while we hide ourselves away from this succour and postpone salvation? Doesn’t John, too, invite us to salvation? Isn’t he altogether a voice that exhorts us? Then let us ask him: “Who are you among men and where do you come from?” He will not tell us he is Elijah and will deny himself to be Messiah but will confess that he is a voice crying in the wilderness (Jn 1:20f.). So who is John? To take an image, allow me to say: a voice to the Word, a Voice to God’s Utterance, who exhorts us by crying in the desert…: “Make straight the Lord’s paths” (Mk 1:3 par.). John is a forerunner and his voice is forerunner to God’s Word, a voice encouraging and predisposing to salvation, a voice exhorting us to seek our heavenly inheritance.

Thanks to this voice “the barren and deserted wife no longer lacks children” (cf. Is 54:1). The angel’s voice has announced this childbearing to me; this voice was also precursor to the Lord, who brought the good news to the woman without a child (Lk 1:19) as it did to John in the solitude of the desert. Therefore it is by this voice of the Word that the barren woman bears a child in joy and the desert bears its fruit. These two voices, precursors of the Lord, that of the angel and that of John, communicate to me the salvation they conceal in such a way that, after the manifestation of the Word, we gather up the fruit of fecundity, life eternal.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on the Gospel of Saint John, no. 4

“he will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk 1:17)

“Why do the scribes (that is to say, the Doctors of the Law) say that Elijah has to come first?” The Lord answers them: “Elijah has already come and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased, and if you wish to understand, he is John the Baptist.” In this way our Lord Jesus Christ expressly said: “Elijah has already come” and that this refers to John the Baptist. However, when John was questioned, he admitted that he was no more Elijah than he was the Messiah (Jn 1:20f.)… Now why did he admit: “I am not Elijah” whereas the Lord said to his disciples that he was Elijah? Our Lord wanted to speak in symbols of his future coming and say that John had come in the spirit of Elijah. What John was for the first coming, Elijah will be for the second. There are two comings for the Judge; there are also two precursors. The Judge is the same in both comings but there are two precursors… The Judge must come first of all to be judged. But he sent a first precursor before him and called him Elijah because Elijah will become for the second coming what John was for the first.

Consider, beloved brethren, how well this explanation is founded on truth. When John was conceived… the Holy Spirit made this prophecy which would be fulfilled in him: “He will go before the Most High in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk 1:17)… Who can understand these things? The person who has imitated the precursor’s humility and has known the majesty of the Judge. No one has been humbler than this holy precursor. This humility of John’s constitutes his greatest merit. So great were his grace and virtue that he could have deceived people, passed himself off as the Messiah, been thought of as the Messiah. And yet he openly declared: “I am not the Messiah. – Are you Elijah?… – I am not Elijah.”

Saint Francis de Sales from Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Advent

“Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path.”

When the pagans led the people of Israel into slavery and sent them as captives among the Persians and the Medes, after a long period of captivity, the good king Cyrus resolved to take them out of their enslavement and to bring them back to the Promised Land. With divine poetry, the prophet Isaiah broke into song with these beautiful words: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord your God. Your consolation will neither be in vain nor useless. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem… for her sinfulness is complete. And because her iniquity has reached its peak, she will be forgiven.” And that is why that great prophet told the people of Israel: “Prepare the way of the Lord… Make straight … a highway for our God!” (cf. Isa 40:1ff.)

Why does God say that he will forgive the people of Israel their iniquity because they have reached the peak of their sinfulness? The ancient Fathers… teach that these words can be understood … as if God were saying: “When they have reached their greatest affliction and when they feel intensely the burden of their iniquity in enslavement and servitude, after punishing them for their evil ways…, I looked at them and I felt compassion for them. When they had reached the worst of their days, I was satisfied with what they had suffered. And that is why now their iniquity will be forgiven… When they had reached the height of their … ingratitude, when they seemed no longer to remember anything at all of God and his kindness, then their iniquity will be forgiven.”… When God in his providence desired to show humankind his goodness, it was admirable, for in doing so, he didn’t want to be motivated by anything. Without being prompted by anything other than his goodness, he communicated himself to them in a truly marvelous way.

When he came into this world, it was the time when humankind had reached the peak of its sinfulness; when the laws were in the hands of Annas and Caiaphas…, when Herod ruled and Pontius Pilate presided over Judea, that was when God came to the world to redeem us and to deliver us from the tyranny of sin and the servitude of our enemy.

Saint Francis de Sales from Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Advent

“Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path.”

When the pagans led the people of Israel into slavery and sent them as captives among the Persians and the Medes, after a long period of captivity, the good king Cyrus resolved to take them out of their enslavement and to bring them back to the Promised Land. With divine poetry, the prophet Isaiah broke into song with these beautiful words: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord your God. Your consolation will neither be in vain nor useless. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem… for her sinfulness is complete. And because her iniquity has reached its peak, she will be forgiven.” And that is why that great prophet told the people of Israel: “Prepare the way of the Lord… Make straight … a highway for our God!” (cf. Isa 40:1ff.)

Why does God say that he will forgive the people of Israel their iniquity because they have reached the peak of their sinfulness? The ancient Fathers… teach that these words can be understood … as if God were saying: “When they have reached their greatest affliction and when they feel intensely the burden of their iniquity in enslavement and servitude, after punishing them for their evil ways…, I looked at them and I felt compassion for them. When they had reached the worst of their days, I was satisfied with what they had suffered. And that is why now their iniquity will be forgiven… When they had reached the height of their … ingratitude, when they seemed no longer to remember anything at all of God and his kindness, then their iniquity will be forgiven.”… When God in his providence desired to show humankind his goodness, it was admirable, for in doing so, he didn’t want to be motivated by anything. Without being prompted by anything other than his goodness, he communicated himself to them in a truly marvelous way.

When he came into this world, it was the time when humankind had reached the peak of its sinfulness; when the laws were in the hands of Annas and Caiaphas…, when Herod ruled and Pontius Pilate presided over Judea, that was when God came to the world to redeem us and to deliver us from the tyranny of sin and the servitude of our enemy.

Latin Liturgy from Magnificat Antiphons for December 17-23

“When John caught sight of Jesus coming toward him, he exclaimed ‘…It is he of whom I said: After me is to come a man who ranks ahead of me, because he was before me.'” (Jn. 1:29-30)

O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.

O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.

O Immanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.

[Biblical references : Deut 8:3; Prov 8:22f.; Heb 1:3; Ex 3; Ex 20; Isa 11:10; 52:15; Isa 22:22; 42:7; Lk 1:78; Mal 3:20; Lk10:24; Isa 28:16; Eph 2:14; Gen 2:6; Isa 7:14]

Origen from Homilies on Saint Luke's gospel, no. 3; SC 87

“Great in the sight of the Lord”

Zachary was stunned at the sight of the angel. Indeed, whenever some unknown figure appears to human sight, it disturbs the mind and puts hearts into dismay. That is why the angel, knowing what human nature is like, first brings comfort to its trouble with these words: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah.” He consoles his frightened soul and fills it with joy with this new message: “Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. And you will have joy and gladness”… Still, today, John’s birth is the annunciation of a joyful message for all the world. And any man who… consents to have children and take on this responsibility should beseech God that his child be able to make a similar entrance into the world and this birth also bring him great joy.

It is written of John: “He will be great in the sight of the Lord.” These words reveal the greatness of John’s soul, the greatness that appears in God’s sight. But there is also a certain smallness in the soul. This is how I, at least, understand this passage of the gospel: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones” (Mt 18:10)… I am not asked not to despise the great because what is great cannot be despised; but I am told: “Do not despise one of these little ones”… “Little one” and “small” are not words chosen by chance.

Saint Bernard from Praises to the Virgin Mary, 4, 11

“May it be done to me according to your word”

Let us all listen to the answer of the one who was chosen to be the Mother of God and who, nevertheless, did not lose her humility: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word”…By saying these words, Mary expresses above all the intensity of her desire rather than simply asking the accomplishment of something she was doubtful about. This does not mean that we may not find in these words, in her “fiat”, also a prayer: “May it be done”. For… God wants us to ask him the things he promises to give us. This is certainly why he starts by promising mostly what he has already decided to give us: the promise awakens our piety, and prayer makes us deserve what we will receive gratuitously…

The Virgin had understood this, for to the gift of the gratuitous promise she added the merit of her prayer: “May it be done to me according to your word. May the eternal Word do to me what your word tells me today. May the Word that was with God from the beginning become flesh of my flesh according to your word…May this Word be not only perceptible to my ears, but also visible to my eyes, palpable to my hands, and that I may carry it in my arms. May it be not a written and mute word, but the incarnate and living Word; not lifeless signs traced on a withered parchment, but a living Word, in the form of a man, stamped alive in my womb…”In times past, God spoke often and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets” (Heb 1:1); his word was given to them to be listened to, to be proclaimed or to be acted on… For me, I ask that it may be put in my womb… I call to the Word, silently blown into me, incarnate in a person, physically united to my flesh… May it come in me for the whole world.”

Saint Bede the Venerable from Homily 5; CCL 122, 36

“You shall name him Jesus”

The name “Jesus” in Hebrew means “salvation” or “Savior”. It is a name that for the prophets referred to a very specific vocation. From whence came these words, sung with great desire to see him: “My heart will rejoice in your salvation and will be joyful because of his salvation; my soul pines for your salvation” (Ps 12[13]:6 ;34[35]:9 ;118[119]:81). “Yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God” (Hab 3:18). And especially: “O God, by your name save me” (Ps 53[54]:3). It is as though one were to say: “O you who are called ‘Savior’, by saving me manifest the glory of your name.” And so the name of the son born of the Virgin Mary is Jesus, according to the angel’s explanation: “He will save his people from their sins”…

As for the word “Christ”, this designates priestly or royal status. Priests and kings were in fact “chrismated”, that is to say anointed with holy oil. By this means they became signs of him who, appearing in the world as true king and high priest, received the anointing of “the oil of gladness above your fellows” (Ps 44[45]:8). It is because of this anointing that he is called Christ and those who share in this same anointing, that of spiritual grace, are called Christians. May he grant through his name of Savior to save us from our sins! May he grant through his anointing as high priest to reconcile us with God the Father. Through his anointing as king may he give us the eternal kingdom of his Father.

Saint Augustine from Sermon 293, 3; for the Nativity of John the Baptist; PL 38, 1327

“His tongue was freed and he spoke, blessing God”

When at last John was born and received his name, his father’s tongue was loosened. Consider the symbolic significance of what happened and contemplate this great mystery: Zachary fell silent and lost the power of speech until John, the Lord’s precursor, was born and restored his speech. Is not Zachary’s silence a hidden prophecy, veiled and, as it were, pent up before Christ could be proclaimed? At his coming the prophecy was made known; it was made clear when he came as had been foretold.

Thus Zachary’s speech was restored at John’s birth. This event is like the rending of the veil of the temple when Christ was crucified (Mt 27:51). If John had not proclaimed another’s coming, he could not have restored his father’s speech. Zachary’s tongue was loosened because a voice was born. Would not John later say: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness”? (Jn 1:23).

Venerable Pius XII from Encyclical « Mystici Corporis Christi »

And the Word was made flesh

The only-begotten Son of God embraced us in His infinite knowledge and undying love even before the world began. And that He might give a visible and exceedingly beautiful expression to this love, He assumed our nature in hypostatic union: hence – as Maximus of Turin with a certain unaffected simplicity remarks – “in Christ our own flesh loves us.”

But the knowledge and love of our Divine Redeemer, of which we were the object from the first moment of His Incarnation, exceed all that the human intellect can hope to grasp. For hardly was He conceived in the womb of the Mother of God, when He began to enjoy the Beatific Vision, and in that vision all the members of His Mystical Body were continually and unceasingly present to Him, and He embraced them with His redeeming love.

O marvelous condescension of divine love for us! O inestimable dispensation of boundless charity! In the crib, on the Cross, in the unending glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church present before Him and united to Him in a much clearer and more loving manner than that of a mother who clasps her child to her breast, or than that with which a man knows and loves himself.

Saint Ambrose from Commentary on St. Luke's Gospel, 2, 26-27 (SC 45)

“Glorify the Lord with Me” (PS 34 [33]:4)

If only Mary’s soul might dwell in us all to praise the Lord; if only Mary’s spirit might dwell in us all to exult in God. If, physically speaking, there is only one Mother of Christ, Christ is the fruit of all of us through faith since every soul receives the Word of God provided it remains without fault, preserved from evil and sin, guarding its chastity in uncorrupted purity. For every soul to attain this state exalts the Lord just as Mary’s soul exalted the Lord and as her spirit rejoiced in God her Saviour.

The Lord is indeed glorified, as you have read elsewhere: “Glorify the Lord with me” (Ps 34 [33]:4). Not that human words can add anything to the Lord but because he is growing greater in us. For “Christ is the image of God” (2Cor 4:4) and therefore the soul who does something righteous and holy glorifies that image of God in the likeness of which it has been created. Thus too, by glorifying it, the soul participates in a certain manner in its greatness and is raised up by it. It seems to reproduce this image in itself through the brilliant colours of its good works and to imitate it in a certain way by its virtues.

Saint John Damascene from 1st Sermon on the Dormition

“How does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

“Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb…” For all ages will call you blessed, as you said (Lk 1:48). The daughters of Jerusalem, that is to say, the Church, saw you and proclaimed your happiness… For you are the royal throne near which the angels stood contemplating their Master and Creator, who was seated on it (Dan 7:9). You have become the spiritual Eden, more sacred and more divine than the former one. The earthly Adam lived in the former; in you lives the Lord who came from heaven (1 Cor 15:47). Noah’s ark was a prefiguration of you; it saved the seed of the second creation, for you gave birth to Christ, the world’s salvation, who submerged sin and pacified the floods.

It was you whom the burning bush described ahead of time, whom the tables depicted, on which God wrote (Ex 31:18), which the ark of the covenant told about; it is you whom the golden urn, the candelabra… and Aaron’s staff that blossomed (Num 17:23) obviously prefigured… I almost left out Jacob’s ladder. Just as Jacob saw heaven united with the earth by means of the two ends of the ladder, and the angels descending and ascending on it, and as the one who is really the strong and invincible one engaged in a symbolic struggle with him, thus you yourself became the mediator and ladder by which God came down to us and took upon himself the weakness of our substance, embracing it and closely uniting it to him.

Saint Amadeus of Lausanne from 4th Homily on Mary

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”

As she picked up in her arms for the first time her little baby, the Immanuel, Mary saw in him a much more beautiful light than that of the sun, she felt a rash, like fire that no water could have extinguished. She received, veiled through this little body that had just been born of her, this brilliant light that illuminates all things, and she was worthy to carry in her arms the Word of God who upholds all things that exist (Heb 1:3). How could she possibly not be “filled with the knowledge of the Lord as waters cover the sea” (Is 11,9), ravished out of herself, elevated on high in wondrous contemplation? How could she possibly not be amazed at having become mother who was a virgin, and overflowing with joy, of finding herself to be the mother of God? She understands that in her are fulfilled the promises made to the patriarchs, the oracles of the prophets, and the hopes of her ancestors who had been eagerly waiting for him.

She sees that the Son of God is given to her; she is thrilled to see the salvation of the world is entrusted to her. She hears the Lord tell her deep down in her heart: “I have chosen you amongst everything I have created; I blessed you among all women” (Lk 1:42); I gave my Son into your hands; I entrusted to you my Only Son. Do not be afraid of nursing the one to whom you gave birth, nor of raising the one to whom you gave light . He is not only your God but also your son. He is my Son and he is your son: my Son because of his divinity and your son because of the humanity he assumed in you”. With what affection and what zeal, with what humility and what respect, with what love and what dedication did Mary answer this call. We cannot know but God knows, he “who tries hearts and minds” (Ps 7:10). Blessed is she who was chosen to raise the one who protects and provides for all things and to carry the one who upholds the universe.

Saint John-Paul II from Angelus address for 28/12/1980

The mystery of the Holy Family

Brothers and sisters: on Christmas day, when we made our way in spirit to Bethlehem where the divine Word became flesh, we had the impenetrable mystery of the God made incarnate for us and our salvation under the eyes of our faith. But at the same time this mystery is clothed in the familiar form of the family, the human family. For ever since the night when Joseph’s wife, the Virgin Mary, brought Jesus into the world, that family was revealed which the Church devoutly venerates today.

Following on from this holy family of Bethlehem and Nazareth in which Christ, the very Son of the living God, became the son, the Church thinks today about each family in the world. She speaks to each one and prays for each one. This feast is the Day of the Family. Just as the family in Nazareth was the privileged place of love, the particular setting where mutual respect of people for one another and for their vocation reigned, just as it was also the first school in which the Christian message was deeply lived, so Christian families are, and must be, communities of love and life, their two fundamental values.

On this day I invite everyone to meditate and consciously live what God, the Church, the whole of humanity expect today from the family. I invite you to unite yourselves with my prayer for all families: “O God, ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’ (Eph 3:15), you, Father, who are both Love and Life, grant that through your Son Jesus Christ, born of a woman, and through the Holy Spirit, source of divine charity, every family may become a true sanctuary of life and love for ever new generations. May your grace direct the thoughts and actions of couples towards the greater good of their families; may your love, strengthened by the grace of the sacrament, overcome all weaknesses and crises. And may the Church be enabled to accomplish her mission fruitfully in and through the family.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Commentary on Saint John

The light of unchanging Truth

John’s symbol is the eagle and this is why: the other three evangelists were preoccupied by what Christ accomplished in the flesh and are designated by living creatures who move about on the earth, namely the man, the ox and the lion. John, on the other hand, flying like an eagle above the clouds of human weakness, contemplates the light of unchanging Truth with the eyes of his heart with a gaze that is the most penetrating and unswerving possible to humankind. Attentive to the very divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which he is equal to the Father, John strives above all to make it known in his Gospel as much as, a man among men, he believed it to be necessary. Concerning this flight upwards of John, it is written in the book of Job: “The eagle flies up on high” (Jb 39:27), and again: “his eyes behold from afar” (v. 29), with his spirit’s gaze he contemplates the very Word of God in the bosom of the Father.

John’s special privilege was that, among all the disciples of the Lord, it was he who was loved the most by Christ. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (Jn 21:20), as he himself said but without naming himself. Therefore Christ revealed his secrets in a very special way to this disciple who was specially loved. It is he who, seeing the light of the Word more perfectly, makes it known to us, saying: “He was the true light enlightening everyone coming into the world” (Jn 1:9).

Saint Bonaventure from The Tree of Life, no. 7

Take the Child in your arms

It was not enough for the teacher of perfect humility, who was equal to the Father in all things, to submit himself to the humble Virgin. He must submit himself also to the Law “to ransom those under the Law and set them free from slavery to corruption to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Gal 4:5; Rom 8:21). He wished, too, that his mother, although she was most pure, should observe the law of purification. And he wished that he himself, the redeemer of all men, should be redeemed as a firstborn son and should be presented to God in the temple and that an offering should be given for him in the presence of the just who were rejoicing.

Rejoice, then, with that blessed old man and the aged Anna; walk forth to meet the mother and Child. Let love overcome your bashfulness; let affection dispel your fear. Receive the Infant in your arms and say with the bride: “I held him and would not let him go” (Sg 3:4) Dance with the holy old man and sing with him: “Now dismiss your servant, Lord, according to your word in peace.”

Saint Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 147, on the mystery of the Incarnation

Now at last Anna sees God in his Temple

As for this God whom the world cannot contain, how could man comprehend him, shortsighted as he is? Love is not worried about knowing whether something is certain or convenient or possible. Love… pays no attention to limits. It does not comfort itself with the claim that it is impossible; difficulties cannot stop it… Love cannot not see what it loves… How can we believe ourselves loved by God without contemplating him? Thus love that desires to see God, even if not rationalized, is inspired by the heart’s intuition. Hence Moses dared to say: “If I have found favor with you, show me your face” (Ex 33:13f.), and the psalmist: “Show me your face” (cf.Ps 80[79]:4)…

God, then, knowing our desire to see him, found a means of making himself visible which would be greatly to the gain of earth’s inhabitants without, for all that, involving a lowering with regard to heaven. How could the creature God had made on earth in his own likeness pass into heaven by means of baseness? “Let us make man in our image and likeness” he had said (Gn 1:26)… If God had borrowed an angel’s form from heaven he would have remained just as invisible; on the other hand, if he had become incarnate on earth in a nature inferior to that of ours, he would have demeaned the divinity and cast man down rather than lifting him up. So, my beloved, let no one consider the fact that he came to men by means of a man or that he found this means amongst us of being our seeing him to be an insult to God.

Byzantine Liturgy from Akathist hymn to the Mother of God (7th century)

“Hail, favored one”

An archangel was sent from heaven to say to the Mother of God: “Rejoice!” And beholding Thee, O Lord, take bodily form, he was amazed and with his bodiless voice he stood crying to her such things as these:

Rejoice, Thou through whom joy will shine forth:
Rejoice, Thou through whom the curse will cease!
Rejoice, recall of fallen Adam:
Rejoice, redemption of the tears of Eve!
Rejoice, height inaccessible to human thought:
Rejoice, depth undiscernible even for the eyes of angels!
Rejoice, for Thou art the throne of the King:
Rejoice, for Thou bearest Him who beareth all!
Rejoice, star who make the Sun appear:
Rejoice, womb of the Divine Incarnation!
Rejoice, Thou through whom creation is renewed:
Rejoice, Thou through whom we worship the Creator!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

Seeing herself to be chaste, this holy one said boldly to Gabriel: “The marvel of thy speech is difficult for my soul to accept. How canst thou speak of a birth from a seedless conception?” And she cried: “Alleluia!”

Seeking to know knowledge that cannot be known, the Virgin cried to the ministering one: “Tell me, how can a son be born from a chaste womb?” Then he spoke to her in fear, only crying aloud thus:

Rejoice, initiate of God’s ineffable will:
Rejoice, assurance of those who pray in silence!
Rejoice, beginning of Christ’s miracles:
Rejoice, crown of His dogmas!
Rejoice, heavenly ladder by which God came down:
Rejoice, bridge that conveyest us from earth to heaven!
Rejoice, wonder of angels sounded abroad:
Rejoice, wound of demons bewailed afar!
Rejoice, thou Who ineffably gavest birth to the Light:
Rejoice, thou Who didst reveal Thy secret to none!
Rejoice, thou Who surpassest the knowledge of the wise:
Rejoice, thou Who givest light to the minds of the faithful!
Rejoice, O Bride Unwedded!

The power of the Most High then overshadowed the Virgin for conception, and showed Her fruitful womb as a sweet meadow to all who wish to reap salvation, as they sing: “Alleluia!”

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross `{`Edith Stein`}` from The Wedding of the Lamb, September 14, 1940

“Look! There is the Lamb of God.”

In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John sees “a Lamb standing, a Lamb that had been slain.” (Rv 5:6)… On the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist had called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” At that tiime the apostle John had understood this word but now he understood the image. The one who previously had walked on the banks of the Jordan and who now had shown himself to him “wearing a white robe, with eyes that blazed like fire” and with the sword of the judge who is “the First and the Last” (Rv 1:13-17), had truly accomplished everything that the rites of the Old Covenant had sketched with symbols.

When, on the holiest and most solemn day of the year, the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies, the place that was terribly holy because of the divine Presence, he had previously taken two rams: one on which to lay the sins of the people so that it would take them to the desert, the other so that its blood would be sprinkled on the tent and the ark of the covenant (Lv 16). This ram was the sacrifice that was offered for the sin of the people… Then the high priest sacrificed a burnt offering for himself and for all the people and burned all the remains of the sacrifice of reconciliation… That day of reconciliation was a solemn and holy day…

But what had brought about the reconciliation? It was not the blood of the sacrificed animals, nor was it the high priest who was a descendant of Aaron, as Saint Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews (chs 8-9). It was the ultimate sacrifice of reconciliation, the one that was prefigured in all the sacrifices prescribed by the Law, and this was the “high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Ps 110:4)… He was also the true paschal Lamb because of whom the exterminating angel passed by the houses of the Hebrews when he struck the Egyptians (Ex 12:23). The Lord himself let his disciples understand this when he ate the paschal lamb with them for the last time and then gave himself to them as their food.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on St. John's Gospel, no. 19

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas” (which is translated Peter).

“You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas” (which is translated Peter)… This, then, is the name Christ gives to Simon. As for James and his brother, these He called “sons of thunder.” (Mark 3:17). Why do such a thing? To show that it was he, Jesus, who gave the old covenant, that it was he who altered names, who called Abram “Abraham,” and Sarai “Sarah,” and Jacob “Israel,” (Gn 17:5ff.; 32:29). To many he assigned names even from their birth, as he did for Isaac and Samson, and to Isaiah and Hosea’s children (Is 8,3; Hos 1:4,6,9)…

Now we all have one name, which is greater than any, that of being called “Christians”, the name that makes us “sons of God,” “friends of God” and one “Body” with him. For the very term itself is more able than any one of those others to rouse us and make us more zealous for the practice of virtue. Let us not, then, act unworthily of the honor belonging to so great and beautiful a title, we who are called Christ’s… For if someone who is said to be descended from some famous general, or who is otherwise distinguished, is proud to be called this or that man’s son, and deems the name a great honor, and strives in every way not to bring reproach to him after whom he is called, shall not we, who are not called after the name of a general nor of any earthly prince, nor of an Angel nor Archangel nor Seraphim, but of the King Himself of all of them: shall we not freely give even our very lives so as not to insult him who has thus honored us?

Saint Clement of Alexandria from Sermon « What rich man can be saved? », § 31-32

“Make friends for yourselves”

“Whoever gives a cup of cold water to drink to one of my disciples in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward” (Mt 10,42). This is the only reward that is not lost. And again: “Make for yourself friends with dishonest gain so that, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations” The property we possess is not for the use of ourselves alone, but with the gain that is unjust we can work something just and life-giving and refresh one of those whom the Father has destined for his everlasting habitations… How admirable is the apostle Paul’s saying: “The Lord loves a cheerful giver” (2Cor 9,7), someone who delights in giving alms, sowing lavishly so that he may also reap abundantly, and who shares without murmuring, hesitation or regret… But even better than this is the saying spoken by the Lord in another place: “Give to every one that asks you” (Lk 6,30)…

Consider, then, the splendid reward for your liberality: an everlasting habitation! O excellent trade! O divine commerce! You purchase immortality for money and, by donating the empty things of the world, receive in exchange an eternal mansion in heaven! So then, you rich who have wisdom, apply yourselves to this business… Why let yourselves be transfixed by diamonds and emeralds, by houses that fire devours, time destroys, or earthquakes throw down? Aspire for nothing other than to dwell in the heavens, and reign with God. A mere man, a beggar will gain you this kingdom… The Lord did not say: “Give, be generous and bountiful, help your brothers” but: “Make friends for yourselves”. Friendship comes about not by one gift, but by long intimacy. For neither faith, nor charity nor patience are the work of one day, but “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Mt 10,22).

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from Last conversations, 15/07/1897

The communion of saints

Sister Marie of the Eucharist wanted to light the candles for a procession; she had no matches; however, seeing the little lamp which was burning in front of the relics, she approached it. Alas, it was half out; there remained only a feeble glimmer on its blackened wick. She succeeded in lighting her candle from it, and with this candle, she lighted those of the whole community. It was, therefore, the half-extinguished little lamp which had produced all these beautiful flames which, in their turn, could produce an infinity of others and even light the whole universe. Nevertheless, it would always be the little lamp which would be first cause of all this light. How could the beautiful flames boast of having produced this fire, when they themselves were lighted with such a small spark?

It is the same with the Communion of Saints. Very often, without our knowing it, the graces and lights that we receive are due to a hidden soul, for God wills that the saints communicate grace to each other through prayer with great love, with a love much greater than that of a family, and even the most perfect family on earth. How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I’ve received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, and whom I shall know only in heaven. Yes, a very little spark will be capable of giving birth to great lights in the Church, like the Doctors and Martyrs, who will undoubtedly be higher in heaven that the spark; but how could anyone think that their glory will not become his? In heaven, we shall not meet with indifferent glances, because all the elect will discover that they owe to each other the graces that merited the crown for them.

Saint Ambrose from On the death of his brother, § 6

“When Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled” (Jn 11:33)

Why do I pray for you, O my brother, who loved me so much and have been carried off from me… ? For I have not lost my relationship to you, rather it has been completely changed in my regard. Up to now it was inseparable from the body, but now it is indissoluble from feeling. You remain with me and will remain so always… Paul the apostle calls me back and places a sort of brake on my sadness with these words: “We do not want you to be unaware about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest who have no hope” (1Thes 4:13)…

But not all weeping is a sign of lack of faith or of weakness. Natural sorrow is one thing, the sadness of unbelief is another… Sorrow is not alone in having its grief and prayer bathes our bed with tears according to the prophe (Ps 6:7). When the patriarchs were enslaved their people wept bitterly for themselves as well. Thus tears are signs of affection and not incitements to sorrow. I confess that I have wept, but the Lord also wept (Jn 11:35). He wept for someone not of his own kin; I for a brother. He wept for all men in one man; as for me, I will weep for you, my brother, in every man.

Christ wept with the feeling that is ours, not his own, for divinity has no tears… He wept in that man who was “sorrowful even to death” (Mt 26:38); he wept in him who was crucified, who died, who was buried; he wept in that man… who was born of the Virgin.

Saint Francis de Sales from Treatise on the Love of God, 10:11

The love of God produces love of our neighbor

As God created man to his own image and likeness (Gn 1:26), so did he appoint for man a love after the image and resemblance of the love which is due to his own divinity. He said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart; this is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Why do we love God? “The cause for which we love God,” says S. Bernard, “is God Himself;” as though he had said: we love God because he is the most sovereign and infinite goodness. And why do we love ourselves in charity? Surely because we are the image and likeness of God; and whereas all men are endowed with the same dignity, we love them also as ourselves, that is, as being holy and living images of the divinity.

For it is on that account…that he makes no difficulty about calling himself our father and us his children; it is on that account that we are capable of being united to his divine essence by the fruition of his sovereign goodness and felicity; it is on that account that we receive his grace, that our spirits are associated to his most Holy Spirit and made, after a fashion, a participant of his divine nature (2P 1:4)… And therefore the same charity which produces the acts of the love of God produces at the same time those of the love of our neighbour. And even as Jacob saw that one same ladder which touched heaven and earth serving the angels both for descending and ascending (Gn 28:12), so we know that one same charity extends itself to both the love of God and our neighbor.

Saint Vincent de Paul from Extract from a report concerning the state of the work, 11/07/1657

“Invite the poor”

It is honoring our Lord when we enter into his sentiments, holding them in esteem, doing what he did and carrying out what he commanded. Now his principal attraction was towards care of the poor: healing, consoling, assisting and pleading for them. This was what mattered to him. He himself had wanted to be born in poverty, to welcome the poor into his company, to serve the poor and put himself in the place of the poor to the point of saying that the good and evil we do to the poor will be held by him to have been done to his own divine person (Mt 25:40). What more tender love could he have shown the poor! And what sort of love could we be showing him, I ask you, if we don’t love what he loved? So much so that loving the poor is to love him as he would wish and imitating him is to serve him rightly and honor him as we ought…

Now, if this gallant Lord ours considers himself honoring by this imitation, how much more should we consider ourselves greatly honored to become like him in this! Doesn’t it seem to you that here is a most powerful motive for renewing in yourselves your first fervor ? For myself, I think we should offer ourselves to His divine Majesty today… in such a way that from now on people will be able to say of you that “the love of Christ impels you” (2Cor 5:14).

Baldwin of Ford from The Sacrament of the altar, II, 3; PL 204, 691

“Blessed is the one who will dine in the kingdom of God.”

The psalmist says: “Bread fortifies the heart of man and wine rejoices his heart” (Ps 104[103], 15). For those who believe in him Christ is food and drink, bread and wine. He is bread when he strengthens and establishes us according to Peter’s words: “After you have suffered a little, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will restore, strengthen and establish you” (1Pt 5,10). He is drink and wine when he makes us glad according to the words of the Psalmist: “Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Ps 86[85],4).

Everything in us that is strong, steadfast, firm, happy and joyful to carry out God’s commands, bear with misfortune, act obediently, stand up for justice: all these things come from this bread’s strength, this wine’s gladness. Happy are they whose deeds are strong and joyful! And since no one can do it of themselves: happy are they who have an eager desire to cleave to what is just and right and to be strengthened in everything and rejoice through him who said: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt 5,6). If Christ is food and drink even now for the strength and joy of the righteous, how much more so will he be in the life to come when he will give to the righteous without measure?

Saint Bonaventure from The Life og Saint Francis, Legenda major, ch. 2

Saint Francis renounces everything to follow Christ

Francis’ father led his child of his before the bishop. He wanted to have Francis renounce into his hands his family possessions and return everything he had. A true lover of poverty, Francis showed himself eager to comply; he went before the bishop without delaying or hesitating. He did not wait for any words nor did he speak any, but immediately took his clothes and gave them back to his father… Drunk with remarkable fervor, he even took off his underwear, stripping himself completely naked before all. He said to his father: “Until now I have called you father here on earth, but now I can say without reservation, ‘Our Father who art in heaven’ (Matt. 6:9), since I have placed all my treasure and all my hope in him.”

When the bishop saw this, he was amazed at such intense fervor in the man of God. He immediately stood up and in tears drew Francis into his arms, covering him with the mantle he was wearing, like the pious and good man that he was. He bade servants give Francis something to cover his body. They brought him a poor, cheap cloak of a farmer who worked for the bishop. Francis accepted it gratefully and with his hand marked a cross on it with a piece of chalk, thus de signifying it as the covering of a crucified man and a half-naked beggar. Thus the servant of the Most High King was left naked so that he might follow his naked crucified Lord, whom he loved.

Saint Augustine from Sermon Mornin no.3, 4; PLS 2, 664

“He was speaking about the temple of his body”

Because Solomon was a prophet he built a temple of stone and wood… for the living God, who made heaven and earth and whose dwelling is in the skies… Why did God ask that a temple be built? Was he lacking somewhere to live? Listen to Stephen’s speech at the time of his passion: “Solomon,’ he said, “built a house but the most High does not live in man-made temples” (Acts 7:48). Why, then, did he build, or cause to be built, a temple? To prefigure Christ’s body. The first temple was only a shadow (Col 2:17): when light comes, shadows flee away. Are you now looking for the temple Solomon built? You will find a ruin. Why is this temple only a ruin? Because the reality it announced has been fulfilled. The true temple, the Lord’s body, also fell but has been raised up again, and raised up in such a way it will fall no more…

What about our own bodies? They are members of Christ. Listen to Saint Paul: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1Cor 6:15). When he says: “Your bodies are members of Christ”, what does this mean but that our bodies, joined to Christ our head (Col 1:18), together form a single temple, God’s temple. Together with Christ’s body our bodies are this temple… Let yourselves be built up in unity that you may not fall in ruins by remaining separate.

Saint Leo the Great from 3rd Homily for Epiphany

“People will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and will take their places at the feast.”

In the last days (1 Pet 1:20), God in his merciful goodness wanted to come to the aid of a world which was perishing. He decreed that the salvation of all nations should be accomplished in Christ… In times past, Abraham received the promise of countless descendants for them; they would be engendered not by the flesh, but by faith. They are also compared to the multitude of stars in the sky (Gen 15:5), for we must not await an earthly posterity from this father of all nations, but a heavenly one…

Thus, may “the full number of Gentiles enter in” (Rom 11:25), may all peoples enter into the family of the patriarchs. May the children of the promise also receive the blessing of Abraham’s race (Rom 9:8)… May all the nations of the earth come to adore the Creator of the universe. May God no longer be only “known in Judah”, but in the whole world and everywhere, as “his name is great in Israel.” (Ps 76:2)…

Brothers, since we have been taught these mysteries of divine grace, let us celebrate the call of the nations in a spirit of joy. Let us give thanks to the God of mercy, “who has made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in light. He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col 1:12-13) As the prophet Isaiah announced…: “Nations that did not know you will call upon you; peoples who did not know you shall run to you.” (55:5) Abraham saw that day and he rejoiced in it (Jn 8:56) when he knew that his children according to faith would be blessed by his descendant, that is to say, by Christ. In faith, he saw that he was “the father of many nations,” and “he gave glory to God, fully persuaded that God could do whatever he had promised.” (Rom 4:18-21)

Saint Maximus of Turin from CC Sermon 25; PL 57, 509f

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the group 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 into our human condition like a little seed, rose heavenwards like a treeat the end. Christ immersed in his Passion was a seed; he became a tree in his resurrection. Yes, he was ‘seed’ when, hungry, 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 when he said: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…” (Jn 12:24).

Saint Gertrude of Helfta from Exercises, no.6; SC 127

“Master, I want to see”

My heart and my flesh have exulted in you, my living God, and my soul has been gladdened by you, my true salvation…Oh when will my eyes see you, my God, God of gods? God of my heart, of when will you gladden me with the sight of your mellifluous face? Oh when will you bestow upon me the desire of my soul by manifesting your glory?

My God, my choicest portion, my strength and glory! Oh when will I enter into your might to see your virtue and glory? Oh when will you clothe me with the mantle of your praise instead of a spirit of sorrow so that, together with the angels, all the parts of my body may render you an exultant sacrifice? God of my life, oh when will I enter into the tabernacle of your glory in order that… my soul and heart may confess to you in the presence of all your saints that you have magnified your mercies towards me?… Oh when, after the snares of this death have been destroyed, will I personally see you without mediation…?

Who will ever be able to be sated with the sight of your brightness? How will the eye suffice to see or the ear to hear in wondering at the glory of your countenance?

(Biblical references: Ps 83[84]:3; Ps 70[71]:16; Lk 1:47; Is 61:10; Ps 26[27]:6; Gn 19:19)

Catechism of the Catholic Church §1730-1742

“This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bounds…ought she not to have been set free”

The freedom of man: God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel’ (Si 15:14) so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him”; “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts” (Saint Irenaeus)…

Man’s freedom is limited and fallible. In fact, man failed. He freely sinned, By refusing God’s plan of love, he deceived himself and became a slave to sin. This first alienation engendered a multitude of others. From its outset, human history attests the wretchedness and oppression born of the human heart in consequence of the abuse of freedom… By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.

By his glorious Cross Christ has won salvation for all men. He redeemed them from the sin that held them in bondage. “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1). In him we have communion with the “truth that makes us free” (Jn 8:32). The Holy Spirit has been given to us and, as the Apostle teaches, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2Cor 3:17). Already we glory in the “liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).

The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way of rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world.

Saint Augustine from Confessions Bk. 8

Answering God’s call to repent at last

Those trifles of all trifles, and vanities of vanities, my one-time mistress, held me back, plucking at my garment of flesh and murmuring softly: “Are you sending us away?” And ” From this moment shall we not be with you, now or forever?” And: ” From this moment shall this or that not be allowed you, now or forever?” What were they suggesting to me, O my God?… I hesitated to shake them off and leap upwards on the way I was called, for the strong force of habit said to me: “Do you think you can live without them?” But by this time its voice was growing fainter. In the direction towards which I had already turned my face and was quivering in fear of going, I could see the austere beauty of Continence honorably soliciting me to come to her and not linger, her hands full of multitudes of good examples… “The Lord their God gave me to them. Why do you rely on yourself and so fail to stand at all? Cast yourself upon Him and do not be afraid; He will not draw back and let you fall. Cast yourself on Him without fear; He will receive you and heal you”…

This disputation within my heart was nothing other than a struggle between myself against myself… When my most searching scrutiny had drawn up all my vileness from the secret depths of my soul and heaped it in my heart’s sight, a mighty storm rose up in me bringing a mighty rain of tears. In order to give release to my tears and lamentations, I got up and went out… I flung myself down somehow under a certain fig tree and no longer tried to check my tears, which poured from my eyes in a flood, an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And I spoke to you freely: “And thou, O Lord, how long? How long, Lord, will you be angry forever? Remember not our former iniquities.” (Ps 6:4; 78:5)… And I continued my miserable complaining: “How long, how long shall I go on saying tomorrow and again tomorrow? Why not now, why not this very hour?”

And suddenly I heard a voice from some nearby house, a boy’s voice or a girl’s voice, a sort of sing-song repeated again and again: “Take and read, take and read.” I stopped weeping and immediately began to search my mind most carefully as to whether children were accustomed to chant these words in any kind of game, and I could not remember that I had ever heard any such thing. Damming back my flood of tears I rose up again, interpreting the incident as quite certainly a divine command to open the book of the apostle Paul and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall… I returned hastily and took up the book and read what I had seen before: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscence,” (Rom 13:13). I had no wish to read any further, and no need. For in that instant, with the very ending of the sentence, it was as though a light of utter confidence shone in my heart, and all the darkness of uncertainty vanished away.

Saint Jerome from Commentary on Saint Matthew's gospel I, 34-37 ; SC 242

Jesus, the cause of division between people

Christ now declares what is going to follow his preaching. Confronted with Christianity the whole world was divided, some opposing others. Each house had its unbelievers and its believers; a good war was brought along to break up a false peace. It is written in Genesis that God proceeded something like this against the rebellious peoples who, having come from the East, rapidly raised up a tower so as to penetrate the heights of heaven (Gn 11:1-9): He set war amongst them. From whence David’s prayer: “Scatter the peoples who delight in war, Lord” (Ps 67[68]:31).

In all our affections order is necessary. Love your father, love your mother, love your children after God. If it becomes inevitable to place love of one’s relatives and children in the balance with love of God without it being possible to preserve them both, then not to prefer one’s own family is piety towards God.

Saint Augustine from Sermons on St. John's gospel, no. 8, 1

The water changed into wine

The miracle by which our Lord Jesus Christ changed water into wine is not at all astonishing to those who know that God is its author. Indeed, it is exactly the same thing which produced wine in those six jars on that wedding day … and which renews this transformation in the vines each year. That which the servants poured into the jars was changed into wine by the action of the Lord; in the same way the rain that falls from the clouds is changed into wine through the same action of the Lord. And yet we do not wonder at it because it is repeated every year; custom has caused astonishment to disappear. Yet it is far more worthy of our attention than what took place in the jars filled with water.

Indeed, who is there who dreams of considering the work of God who directs and governs the whole world? Isn’t that person then seized with astonishment and as it were crushed beneath the weight of these miracles? If they consider the power enclosed within a single seed of the first species to come, they will discover a great reality there that astounds the observer. But people, otherwise occupied, have become insensible to the works of God, which would daily provide motives for praising the Creator. This is why God reserves to himself the work of certain unusual wonders so as to awaken them from their sleepiness and lead them to praise him.

Saint Bede the Venerable from Homilies on the gospels I, 21; CCL 122, 149 (cf breviary 21.09)

“Follow me”

Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office and he said to him: “Follow me.” He looked at him not with the eyes of the body but rather with the eye of interior pity. He saw a tax collector, and since he looked at him in pity and choosing him as a disciple, he said: “Follow me.” ‘Follow’ meant ‘imitate’ – not by the movement of his feet, but rather by a change of life. For whoever says he is following Christ “ought himself to walk as Christ walked” (cf 1Jn ).

“Matthew rose and followed him.” It is not to be wondered at that the tax collector should leave the earthly gains he was looking after at the first command of the Lord and that, abandoning riches, he should join the company of him who, he saw, had no wealth. For the Lord, who outwardly called him with words, through a hidden instinct secretly taught him to follow him. By the gift of divine grace the Lord enlightened his mind to understand that he who on earth called him away from temporal interests, could in heaven give incorruptible treasures (cf Mt 6,20).

“And as Jesus sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.” The conversion of one tax collector provided an example of penance and forgiveness to many tax collectors and sinners. In a wonderful and true sign of the future, he who was to become the apostle and teacher of the gentiles brought with him to salvation a multitude of sinners in the first moments of his conversion!

Saint John Damascene from On the Orthodox Faith, I, 1

Herod kept tying to see Christ

“No one has ever seen God. The only Son who is at the Father’s side, has revealed hom” (Jn 1:18). Divinity is inexpressible and incomprehensible: “No one knows the Father except the Son, and no one knows the Son except the Father” (cf. Mt 11:27) and, similarly, the Holy Spirit knows what is of God… But following this original, blessed divine knowledge, no one has ever known God except those to whom God has revealed himself…

Nevertheless, God does not leave us in total ignorance since each one of us possesses the knowledge (sown by him) that God exists. Creation itself, by its cohesiveness and direction, proclaims the splendor of the divine nature (Rm 1:20). Then the Law and the prophets and, afterwards, his only Son, the Lord, “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pt 1:1), have made known the knowledge of God according as we can understand it. That is why we receive and understand and give ourselves to everything handed on to us by the Law and prophets, the apostles and evangelists. We fix our devotion on that and do not look beyond it.

God is good; he sees to it that all is well… Since he knows everything and provides what is suitable for each, he has revealed to us what we need to know and kept from us what we cannot bear. Let us be content with that, then, and remain in it.

Saint Maximus the Confessor from Question 63 to Thalassius; PG 90, 667 f.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (PS 119 [118]:105)

The lamp on the lampstand is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Father’s true light “who enlightens everyone coming into the world” (Jn 1:9): in other words, the Father’s Wisdom and Word. Having accepted our flesh, he truly became, and was called, the “light of the world”. By our faith and devotion he is honored and exalted in the Church. In this way he is made visible to all nations and shines out for “all the people in the house”, namely the whole world, as he said: “They do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand , where it gives light to all in the house” (Mt 5:15).

As we have seen, Christ calls himself a lamp. God by nature, he became flesh according to the plan of salvation: a light held within the flesh as if in a vase… This is what David was thinking when he said: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps 119[118]:105). Since he causes the darkness of ignorance and the evil of men to vanish, my Savior and my God is called a lamp in Scripture. And since he is the only one able to obliterate the darkness of ignorance and disperse the shadows of sin, he has become the way of salvation for all. He leads towards the Father all those who, through understanding and virtue, walk with him along the path of the commandments as on a road of righteousness.

The lampstand is holy Church because the Word of God shines out through her preaching. This is how the beams of its truth can enlighten the whole world… On one condition, however: so long as it is not hidden under the letter of the Law. Anyone who clings to Scripture according to the letter only is living according to the flesh; he is placing the lamp under a bushel basket. But when, to the contrary, the Church is set on the lampstand, it enlightens everyone.

Saint Gertrude of Helfta from The Herald of Divine Love, Book III, ch. 30; SC 143

A sinful woman came in (cf LK 7:37)

Gertrude understood that whenever a man commends himself to God, praying that he will keep him from sin, then, even if it seems to that man, by the hidden designs of God, that he has fallen into some grave sin, yet he will never sin in such a way that he lacks the grace of God, which will support him like a staff and lead him easily to repentance ( .… )

She presented herself to the Lord.… imploring him to give her his blessing. After this was done, the Lord himself in his turn seemed to be asking her for a blessing. Then she understood that a man is blessing God when he says in his heart that he repents of having offended his creator and implores his help to prevent him from falling again into sin. At this blessing the Lord of heaven bowed low, showing her that this was as acceptable to him as though that blessing had been responsible for all his beatitude. ( … )

One day she was having difficulty with a certain task, and she said to God the Father: “Lord, I offer you this work through your only Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to your eternal praise.” She knew the power of these words to be such that in a marvelous way thev elevate any work done with that intention far beyond human estimation, so that whatever is offered is made pleasing to God the Father. Just as that which is seen through a green glass appears to be green, or red, if seen through a red glass, and so on, whatever is offered to God the Father through his only-begotten Son becomes most pleasing and acceptable to him.

Saint Basil from Longer monastic Rules, prologue

God calls us unwearyingly to conversion

How long are we going to put off obeying Christ, who calls us into his heavenly Kingdom? Aren’t we going to purify ourselves? Won’t we resolve to forsake our customary way of life to follow the Gospel radically?… We claim to want the Kingdom of God yet without bothering to concern ourselves with the means of obtaining it.

What is more, in the conceitedness of our souls, without taking the least trouble to obey the Lord’s commandments, we think ourselves worthy to receive the same reward as those who have resisted sin to the death! But how could anyone sit and sleep at home during the time of sowing and then gather sheaves by the armful at harvest? Who has ever brought in the grapes without having planted and tended the vine? Fruit is for those who have toiled; rewards and crowns for those who have conquered. Has anyone ever crowned an athlete who did not even strip to fight his opponent? And yet, not only must we win but we must also “fight according to the rules”, as the apostle Paul says, that is to say according to the commandments we have been given…

God is good; but he is also just…: “The Lord loves justice and right” (Ps 32:5); that is why, “of kindness and judgement I will sing” (Ps 100:1)… See how wisely the Lord exercises kindness. He is not gracious without consideration, nor does he judge without mercy for, “gracious is the Lord and just” (Ps 115:5). So don’t underestimate God: his love for men should not become a pretext for negligence on our part.

Saint Ambrose from Commentary on Saint Luke's Gospel, V, 89; SC 45

A mother’s tears

God’s mercy quickly allows itself to be moved by this mother’s tears. She is a widow; the suffering or death of her only son have crushed her… It seems to me that this widow, surrounded by a crowd of people, is more than just a simple woman deserving of her young and only son’s resurrection through her tears. She is the image itself of Holy Church who, by her tears, in the midst of the funeral procession and on the brink of the grave gains a restoration to life of the youthful people of the world… For at God’s word the dead are raised (Jn 5:28), they regain their speech and the mother recovers her son. He is called back from the tomb, snatched from the sepulchre.

What is this tomb of yours if not your evil behavior ? Your tomb is your lack of faith… Christ sets you free from this sepulchre. If you listen to God’s word you will come out of the tomb. And if your sin is too serious for the tears of your repentance to cleanse it, may the tears of your mother the Church intercede on your behalf. She is, indeed, full of compassion and feels a wholly maternal, spiritual sorrow when she sees her children dragged off to death by sin.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from Last Conversations, 21/08/1897

She lived by faith just like ourselves

How I would have loved to be a priest in order to preach about the Blessed Virgin! One sermon would be sufficient to say everything I think about this subject.

“I’d first make people understand how little is known by us about her life. We shouldn’t say unlikely things or things we don’t know anything about! For example, that when she was very little, at the age of three, the Blessed Virgin went up to the Temple to offer herself to God, burning with sentiments of love and extraordinary fervor. While perhaps she went there very simply out of obedience to her parents… For a sermon on the Blessed Virgin to please me and do me any good, I must see her real life, not her imagined life. I’m sure that her real life was very simple. They show her to us as unapproachable, but they should present her as imitable, bringing out her virtues, saying that she lived by faith just like ourselves, giving proofs of this from the Gospel, where we read: “And they did not understand the words which He spoke to them” (Lk 2:50). And that other no less mysterious statement: “His father and mother marveled at what was said about him” (Lk 2:33). This admiration presupposes a certain surprise, don’t you think so?

“We know very well that the Blessed Virgin is Queen of heaven and earth, but she is more Mother than Queen; and we should not say, on account of her prerogatives, that she surpasses all the saints in glory just as the sun at its rising makes the stars disappear from sight. My God! How strange that would be! A mother who makes her children’s glory vanish! I myself think just the contrary. I believe she’ll increase the splendor of the elect very much. It’s good to speak about her prerogatives, but we should not stop at this… Who knows whether some soul would not reach the point of feeling a certain estrangement from a creature so superior and would not say: “If things are such, it’s better to go and shine as well as one is able in some little corner.”

what the Blessed Virgin has more than we have is the privilege of not being able to sin, she was exempt from the stain of original sin; but on the other hand, she wasn’t as fortunate as we are since she didn’t have a Blessed Virgin tn love. And this is one more sweetness for us!

Origen from Treatise on First Principles, II, 6, 2; PG 11, 210

“It’s meaning was hidden from them”

Of all Christ’s miracles and mighty acts, it is this one that far exceeds the limits of human wonder. It goes far beyond the weak power of the human mind to perceive or comprehend how it is supposed to believe that the divine majesty, that very Word of the Father (Jn 1:1) and Wisdom of God in which “all things were created, visible and invisible” (cf. Col 1:15), was held within the confines of the man who appeared in Judaea and, even more, that the Wisdom of God entered into the womb of a woman and was born a baby who cried and wailed just like all little babies. And it is further reported that he suffered the anguish of death, as he himself admitted by saying: “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Mt 26:38 par); and in the end he was led to that death which is reputed to be the most shameful among men, even though he did rise again on the third day…

To present this to human ears and explain it in words far surpasses our poor merits… Indeed the explanation of this mystery is probably beyond the grasp even of the whole creation of heavenly powers.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Meditations on the passages of the holy gospels, referring to the fifteen virtues, Nazareth 1987-98; no. 15

“Blessed are you who are now weeping”

Let us hope, let all those of us who weep and shed innocent tears keep on hoping; let us hope whether we are weeping for the pains of body or of soul: these will serve as our purgatory. God will make use of them to… make us raise our eyes to him, purify us and sanctify us.

Let us hope even more if we are weeping for the pains of others, for this act of charity is inspired by God and pleasing to him. Let us hope even more if we are weeping for our own sins since this compunction has been placed into our souls by God himself. Let us hope even more if, with a pure heart, we are weeping for the sins of others, for this love for the glory of God and sanctification of souls has been inspired by God and is a great grace.

Let us hope if we are weeping with desire to see God and pain at being separated from him, for this loving desire is God’s work in us. Let us hope even more if we are weeping simply because we love, without either desire or fear, desiring completely what God wishes and nothing more, happy in his glory, suffering from his former sufferings, weeping sometimes for compassion at the remembrance of his Passion, sometimes for joy at the thought of his Ascension and glory, sometimes simply from emotion because we are dying for love of him!

O sweetest Jesus, make me weep for all these reasons; make me weep all those tears that cause love in you, through you and for you to spread abroad. Amen.

Saint Vincent de Paul from Conference to the Daughters of Charity, 18 January 1648

Imitating the example of Jesus

From what I understand, Daughter, you believe that if we are reprimanded unjustly about some fault, it would be more appropriate to suffer the correction without saying anything than to justify ourselves. Yes indeed! I certainly share your sentiment and I believe, so long as the silence is not sinful or wounding to a neighbor’s interests, it is a good deal better to observe it like that. It is to imitate our Lord. How many people attacked him, criticized his life, vilified his doctrine and spewed out horrible blasphemies against his person! Yet he was never seen to excuse himself. He was led to Pilate and to Herod yet he said nothing to clear himself and, in the end, allowed himself to be crucified. There is nothing better than to imitate the example he has given us.

My dear Sisters, on this subject I will tell you that I have never seen anything disadvantageous happen to anyone for not excusing themselves — never! It is not for us to give explanations; if someone blames us for what we have not done, it is not for us to defend ourselves. God wishes us, my daughters, to leave to Him the discernment of things. He will know how to manifest the truth at the opportune time. If you only knew how good it is to abandon all these cares to Him! Ah yes, my daughters, never take it upon yourselves to justify yourselves! God sees what people are making us bear and He no doubt allows it in order to test our faithfulness. He knows how you take it, the profit you draw from it or the bad use you make of it. And if He permits you to remain burdened for the time being, oh! how well He knows how to bring the truth to light later. It is a true and infallible saying, daughters, that God always justifies those who will not justify themselves.

Saint Ephrem from Sermon 3, 2.4-5 (trans. breviary 09/06)

“Then you will see clearly”

O Lord, drive away the darkness from our minds

with the light of your wisdom,

so that enlightened in this way

we may serve you with renewed purity.

The beginning of the sun’s passage through the sky

marks the beginning of the working-day for us mortals:

we ask you, Lord, to prepare in our minds

a place where the day that knows no end may give its light.

Grant that we may have within us this light,

the life of the resurrection,

and that nothing may take away our delight in you.

Mark us with the sign of that day that does not begin

with the movement and the course of the sun,

by keeping our minds fixed on you.

In your sacraments we welcome you every day

and receive you in our bodies.

Make us worthy to experience within us

the resurrection for which we hope.

Be the wings for our thoughts, O Lord,

Drawing us lightly to the heights

And bearing us up to our true home.

By the grace of baptism we conceal within our bodies

the treasure of your divine life…

Let us appreciate the great beauty that is ours

through the spiritual beauty that your immortal will

arouses in our mortal nature…

May your resurrection, Jesus,

cause the spiritual man to grow in us (cf Eph 3:16)

and may the contemplation of your mysteries

become the mirror in which we come to recognise you (1Cor 13:12).

Grant, Lord, that we may hasten to our true home,

and, like Moses on the mountain-top

seeing the promised Land, (Dt 34:1)

let us possess it even now through contemplation.

Saint Gertrude of Helfta from Exercises VII, SC 127

By virtue of your cross, make restitution to me for all the wastefulness of my life

O Wisdom, what a game you bring to perfection, what a joke you play on my Jesus. You lay bare the king of glory, making him a spectacle of abuse. You affix to the trunk of a tree the price of the entire world. You alone weigh and mark out how much value this mystery has in paying the debt for all transgressions. From the earth you lift up on the cross the life of all that he, drawing everything to himself in his death, (cf Jn 12:32) might make them live.

O wise Love, what a remedy you prepare so that universal ruin be filled. Oh, what a plaster you apply to cure the wound of all. O Love, your counsel is help for those who are lost. You condemn the blameless man to save the miserable culprit. You pour out innocent blood to be able to placate enraged justice and to ransom the motto is relieffor those who are miserable. You plead the cause of peace. You heed the importuning mercy. By your prudent counsel you bring help for the anxiety of all through the most gracious will of your clemency. You impose an end to universal misery through the glorious work of your mercy. O Love, what you have devised is the opportunity for salvation for those who are lost.

Behold, O Wisdom, your pantry full of loving-kindness is already open. Ah, look upon me, the culprit, standing outside the door of your charity. Ah, fill the little cloak of my poverty with the blessing of your gentleness. Behold, before you is the empty little cup of my desire.” (cf Ps 37[38]:10) Ah, lay the latch of your fullness open.… Ah, do not treat me according to my sins nor repay me according to my iniquities (Ps 102[103]:10), my Jesus. Ah, just as you have truly been favorable to me with your blood, so also by virtue of your precious cross, make restitution to me for all the wastefulness of my life.

Isaac the Syrian from Spiritual Discourses, 2nd Series, no, 10, 36

“Jesus turned toward them…to reprimand them”

When someone has been made worthy to taste God’s love, he usually forgets everything else by reason of its sweetness. For once that person has tasted that love, anything visible seems of no interest. The soul joyfully draws near to the beautiful love of all people without distinction. It is never troubled by their weaknesses, which do not frighten it. Just like the blessed apostles who, in the midst of all the evils which they had to bear from their torturers were completely incapable of hating them and did not tire of loving them, this was shown by the fact that, in the end, they even bore death so as to meet them again one day in heaven.

And yet these were the very same people who, a little earlier, had begged Christ to make fire come down from heaven on the Samaritans, who had only refused to welcome them in their village. But once they had received the gift of tasting God’s love, they were made perfect even to the point of loving the wicked.

Saint Ambrose from On St. Luke's Gospel, 7, 207 (SC 52)

God in search of man astray

Since man’s weakness is incapable of maintaining a firm step in this changing world, the good doctor shows you a remedy against going astray and the merciful judge does not withhold hope of forgiveness. It is not without reason that Saint Luke put forward three parables in succession: the sheep who strayed and was found again; the coin that was lost and found; the son who died and came back to life. This is so that this threefold remedy will urge us to take care of our wounds… The weary sheep is brought back by the shepherd; the lost coin is found; the son turns back and returns to his father, repenting of his waywardness…

Let us rejoice, then, in that this sheep, which went astray in Adam, has been raised up again in Christ. Christ’s shoulders are the arms of the cross; there it is that I have laid down my sins; on that gallows I have found my rest. This “sheep” is one according to its nature but not in personality since all form a single body composed of many in members. That is why it is written: “You are Christ’s body and individually parts of it,” (1Cor 12:27). “The Son of Man has come to save what was lost” (Lk 19:10), that is to say everyone, since “just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1Cor 15:22)…

Nor is it irrelevant that the woman rejoices to have found her coin: it is no small thing, this coin on which is portrayed the image of a prince. In the same way, the good of the Church is the image of the King. We are sheep: let us then pray the Lord to lead us to restful waters (Ps 22[23]:2). We are sheep: let us ask for pasture. We are the coin: let us keep our value. We are sons: let us run to the Father.

Saint Patrick from Confession, 56-62 conclusion

“Whoever gives (…) one of these little ones a drink because he is a disciple (…) will surely not lose his reward.”

So “I will entrust my soul to my most faithful God” 1Pt 4:19), whom I serve here as his “ambassador” (Eph 6:20) in spite of my shortcomings – but God doesn’t use the world’s standards in such matters. He chose me for this job – me, one of the least of his servants (Mt 25:40) – to be his assistant. “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done to me?” (Ps 116[115]:12). But what can I say or do for God? Everything I can do comes from him…

So may God never permit me to be separated from his people “whom he formed for himself” (Is 43:21), here at the end of the earth. I pray that God will give me perseverance and allow me to be a faithful witness for him until I die. If have ever done anything worthwhile for the God I love, I ask that I might be allowed to die here for his name with these converts and slaves (…). I know if that were to happen, I would gain my soul along with a new body on that day we will undoubtedly rise again like the sun in the morning, like the son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.

My final prayer is that all of you who believe in God and respect him, whoever you may be who read this letter that Patrick, the unlearned sinner, wrote from Ireland, that none of you will ever say that I, in my ignorance, did anything for God. You must understand – because it is the truth – that it was all the gift of God. And this is my confession before I die.

Pope Francis from Evangelii Gaudium / The Joy of the Gospel`` § 174-175

“The one who hears the word and understands it, indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”

All evangelization is based on the Word of God, listened to, meditated upon, lived, celebrated and witnessed to. The sacred Scriptures are the very source of evangelization. Consequently, we need to be constantly trained in hearing the word. The Church does not evangelize unless she constantly lets herself be evangelized. It is indispensable that the word of God “be ever more fully at the heart of every ecclesial activity” (Benedict XVI). God’s word, listened to and celebrated, above all in the Eucharist, nourishes and inwardly strengthens Christians, enabling them to offer an authentic witness to the Gospel in daily life. We have long since moved beyond that old contraposition between word and sacrament. The preaching of the word, living and effective, prepares for the reception of the sacrament, and in the sacrament that word attains its maximum efficacy.

The study of the sacred Scriptures must be a door opened to every believer. It is essential that the revealed word radically enrich our catechesis and all our efforts to pass on the faith. Evangelization demands familiarity with God’s word, which calls for dioceses, parishes and Catholic associations to provide for a serious, ongoing study of the Bible, while encouraging its prayerful individual and communal reading. We do not blindly seek God, or wait for him to speak to us first, for: “God has already spoken, and there is nothing further that we need to know, which has not been revealed to us” (Benedict XVI). Let us receive the sublime treasure of the revealed word.

Benedict XVI from General Audience of 09/04/2008

Saint Benedict, a model for today

[According to Saint Benedict’s Rule]], to be able to decide responsibly, the Abbot must be a person who listens to “the brethren’s views”, because “the Lord often reveals to the youngest what is best” (ch. 3, 3). This provision makes a Rule written almost fifteen centuries ago surprisingly modern! A man with public responsibility, even in small circles, must always be a man who can listen and learn from what he hears. (…)

This Rule offers useful guidelines not only for monks but for all who seek guidance on their journey toward God. For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, it has retained its illuminating power even to today. By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe (…), Paul VI intended to recognize the marvelous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilization and culture of Europe.

Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built. Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself – a utopia which in different ways, in twentieth century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused “a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity”. Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism.

Saint Bonaventure from Life of Saint Francis, Legenda major, ch.3

“Make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ ”

At the same time, another good man entered the Order [of Saint Francis], bringing the number of the man of God’s blessed offspring to seven. Then the pious father called all his sons to himself and, as he told them many things about the kingdom of God, contempt for the world, the denial of their own wills, and the chastising of their bodies, he revealed his proposal to send them to the four corners of the world. (…)

“Go,” the gentle father said to his sons, “while you are announcing peace to the people, preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mk 1:4). Be patient in trials, watchful in prayer, strenuous in work, moderate in speech, reserved in manner, and grateful for favors, for because of all these things an eternal kingdom is being prepared for you” (Mt 5:3; Lk 6:20).

As they humbly prostrated themselves on the ground before God’s servant, they accepted the command of obedience with a spirit of joy. Then Francis spoke to each one individually: “Cast your care upon the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Ps 54[55]:23). He was accustomed to saying this phrase whenever he sent a brother under obedience. Knowing he should give himself as an example to others, he too then set out with one companion for one part of the world that he might first practice rather than preach (cf. Acts 1:1).

Vatican Council II from Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, ``Lumen Gentium``, 20

“Jesus sent out these twelve”

The divine mission, entrusted by Christ to the apostles, will last until the end of the world,(Mt 28:20) since the Gospel they are to teach is for all time the source of all life for the Church. And for this reason the apostles, appointed as rulers in this society, took care to appoint successors. For they not only had helpers in their ministry,(Acts 6:2-6; 11:30) but also, in order that the mission assigned to them might continue after their death, they passed on to their immediate co-operators, as it were, in the form of a testament, the duty of confirming and finishing the work begun by themselves, recommending to them that they attend to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit placed them to shepherd the Church of God.(Acts 20:28) They therefore appointed such men, and gave them the order that, when they should have died, other approved men would take up their ministry.

Among those various ministries which, according to tradition, were exercised in the Church from the earliest times, the chief place belongs to the office of those who, appointed to the episcopate, by a succession running from the beginning, are passers-on of the apostolic seed. Thus, as St. Irenaeus testifies, through those who were appointed bishops by the apostles, and through their successors down in our own time, the apostolic tradition is manifested and preserved.

Bishops, therefore, with their helpers, the priests and deacons, have taken up the service of the community, presiding in place of God over the flock, whose shepherds they are, as teachers for doctrine, priests for sacred worship, and ministers for governing. And just as the office granted individually to Peter, the first among the apostles, is permanent and is to be transmitted to his successors, so also the apostles’ office of nurturing the Church is permanent, and is to be exercised without interruption by the sacred order of bishops.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld from Retreat at Nazareth 1897

“Your faith has saved you”

Faith is that which makes us believe from the depths of our souls (…) all the truths that our religion teaches us, all that the Gospel holds and all that the Church sets before us. The just man lives truly by this faith (Rom 1:17), for it replaces for him the greater part of his natural senses. It so transforms all things that the senses are of little use to the soul, which through them is only deceived whilst faith shews it realities.

Where the eye sees but a poor man, faith sees Jesus (Mt 25:40). Where the ear hears curses and persecution, faith sings: “Rejoice and be glad” (cf Mt 5:12). The touch feels only blows and stonings, but faith says: “Be glad you are deemed worthy to suffer for the name of Christ” (cf. Acts 5:41). (…) The smell perceives only incense; faith tells us that the true incense is “the prayers of the saints” (Rv 8:4).

The senses lead us astray to created beauty; faith thinks of the eternal beauty and despises all created things, for they are as nothing and as dust beside that beauty. The senses hold pain in horror; faith blesses it as a marriage crown that unites it to its Beloved, like a walk with her Bridegroom hand in divine hand. The senses rebel against injuries, but faith blesses them: “Bless those that curse you” (Lk 6:28) (…); she finds them sweet, for in them she shares the lot of Jesus. The senses are full of curiosity; faith is content to know nothing: she thirsts to bury herself, and longs to pass her life motionless before the Tabernacle.

Saint John-Paul II from Apostolic Letter « Mulieris dignatatem », §26-27

The eucharist: the gift that Christ/Bridegroom gives to the Church/Bride

It is the Eucharist above all that expresses the redemptive act of Christ the Bridegroom towards the Church the Bride. (…) The Second Vatican Council renewed the Church’s awareness of the universality of the priesthood. In the New Covenant there is only one sacrifice and only one priest: Christ. All the baptized share in the one priesthood of Christ, both men and women, inasmuch as they must “present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God (cf. Rom 12:1), give witness to Christ in every place, and give an explanation to anyone who asks the reason for the hope in eternal life that is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). (…) All in the Church (…) not only share in the priestly mission but also in the prophetic and kingly mission of Christ the Messiah.

Furthermore, this participation determines the organic unity of the Church, the People of God, with Christ. It expresses at the same time the “great mystery” described in the Letter to the Ephesians (5:32): the bride united to her Bridegroom; united, because she lives his life; united, because she shares in his threefold mission, (…) united in such a manner as to respond with a “sincere gift” of self to the inexpressible gift of the love of the Bridegroom, the Redeemer of the world. This concerns everyone in the Church, women as well as men. It obviously concerns those who share in the a ministerial priesthood”, which is characterized by service. In the context of the “great mystery” of Christ and of the Church, all are called to respond – as a bride – with the gift of their lives to the inexpressible gift of the love of Christ, who alone, as the Redeemer of the world, is the Church’s Bridegroom.

Saint Anthony of Padua from Sunday in the Octave of Easter

Saintly doubt of Thomas, the disciple!

Thomas said to the Twelve: “Unless 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!” (Jn 20:25). The name ‘Thomas’ means ‘abyss’, for by his doubt he gained an even deeper understanding and became firmer in his faith. (…) It was not by chance but by divine decree that Thomas was absent and unable to believe what he heard. A splendid decree! Saintly doubt of the disciple!

“Unless I see in his hands,” he said (Jn 20:25). He wished to see raised up the fallen tent of David, of which Amos had said: “On that day I will raise up the fallen tent of David; I will repair the breaches of its walls” (cf. Am 9:11). ‘David’ stands for the divinity; the ‘tent’, Christ’s own body in which the divinity was contained as in a tent, fallen, crushed in death and the Passion. The breaches in the walls stand for the wounds of his hands, feet and side. These are the wounds that the Lord would rebuild in his Resurrection. It was of them that Thomas said: “Unless I put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe!”

The Lord, understanding, did not want to leave his honest disciple, who was to become a vessel of election, in doubt. And so he removed the smoke of doubt from his mind, in an act of kindness, just as he removed the blindness of infidelity from Paul. “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” Then Thomas said to him: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:27-28)

Saint John Chrysostom from Homilies on Saint Matthew's Gospel, no. 29, 2; PG 57, 359

“Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”

The scribes declared that God alone can forgive sins. But Jesus, even before he forgave sins, revealed the secrets of the heart thereby showing that he also possessed that other power reserved to God (…) For it is written: “You alone, O Lord, know the secrets of humankind” and “Man sees the outward appearance but God sees the heart” (2 Chr 6:30; 1 Sam 16:7). In this way Jesus reveals his divinity and equality with the Father, uncovering the depths of their hearts to the scribes and making known those thoughts they are afraid to speak openly for fear of the crowd. And this he did with great gentleness. (…)

The lame man might have made his disappointment known to Christ by saying: “OK! You have come to cure another kind of sickness and heal another kind of evil – sin. But what proof am I going to get that my sins are forgiven?” Yet he said nothing of the sort but put his trust in the one who had the power to heal him. (…)

To the scribes, Christ said: “Which is easier? To say: Your sins are forgiven, or rather: Take up your stretcher and go home?” In other words: ‘What seems easier to you? To strengthen a paralyzed body or put aside the sins of the soul?’ Obviously, to heal a body since forgiveness of sins goes as much beyond the healing as the soul is above the body. But since one of these works is visible and the other not, I am equally going to carry out the work that is visible and lesser in order to prove that which is greater and unseen. At that very moment Jesus witnessed by his works that he is “He who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29).

Saint Bernard from Sermon 17 on Psalm 90, § 4 ; PL 183, 252

“Two demoniacs who were coming from the tombs met him”

“I will be with him in distress,” saiys the Lord, “I will deliver him and glorify him” (Ps 90[91]:15); “my delights are to be with the sons of men” (Prv 8:31). Note well that Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1:23) (…) has come down to be with those whose hearts are distressed, to be with us in our distress. However, a day will come when “we shall be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1Thes 4:17) provided we try hard to have him always with us as our companion on the way who will give us our homeland in return. More: so long as he is now our way, he himself will be our homeland then.

Therefore it is good for me to be in distress, O Lord, provided you are there with me. It is better for me than to reign without you, be glad without you, be in glory without you. How much better it is for me to cling to you in my distress, to have you beside me in the crucible, than to be without you, even in heaven. In fact, “whom else have I in heaven but you and what can I desire on earth but you?” (Ps 72[73]:25). “Gold is tried in the furnace and the just in the crucible of distress” (cf. Sir 2:5). It is there that you stand, in the midst of those gathered together in your name, as in former times the three young men stood in the furnace in Babylon (Dan 3:92) (…) Why are you trembling, then? (…) “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). If God rescues us from our enemies’ hands, who can snatch us out of his hands?

Saint Bernard from First sermon for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, 1,3,5

“I have prayed that your faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:32)

Christ the Mediator “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1Pt 2:22). How could I venture to draw near him, I who am a sinner, a grievous sinner whose sins are more numerous than the sands of the sea? He is all that is most pure, I am all that is most impure (…)This is the reason why God has given me these apostles, men and sinners – very grievous sinners – who learnt for themselves, through their own experience, how merciful they should be to others. Guilty themselves of great offences, they will grant a ready pardon to great offences and repay us according to the measure meted out to them (Lk 6:38).

The apostle Peter committed a very great sin, possibly the greatest of all. He received a forgiveness for it that was as swift as it was ready, even to not losing anything of the privilege of his primacy. And Paul, who unleashed unrestrained aggression against the newborn Church, was brought to faith at the call of God’s Son himself. In return for so many evils he was filled with such great blessings that he became “a chosen instrument to carry the Lord’s name before Gentiles, kings and Israelites” (Acts 9:15) (…)

Peter and Paul are our teachers: they learned the way of life fully from the one Teacher of all and continue to teach us today.

Saint Augustine from Sermon 231

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof”

When he came here from another country, Christ found nothing here but what there is in abundance: afflictions, sorrows and death. That is what you have here; that is what there is here in abundance. He has eaten with you what is to be found in abundance in the poor house of your misfortune. He has drunk vinegar, he has tasted gall (Jn 19:29): this is what he has found in your poor house.

Yet he has invited you to his splendid table, his table in heaven, to the table of angels where he himself is the bread (Jn 6:35). Coming down to be with you and finding misfortune in your poor house, he was not too proud to be seated at your table, such as it was, and promised you his own (…) He has taken away your misfortune; he will give you his own happiness. Yes indeed, he will give it you: he has promised us his life.

And what he has accomplished is yet more unbelievable: he has given us his own death in pledge. As if he were to say to us: “I am inviting you into my life, to the place where none dies, where true happiness is to be found, where the food never stales, where it revives, where it never lacks but satisfies all. See, this is where I am inviting you: to the land of angels, to friendship with the Father and Holy Spirit, to the meal of eternity, to my brotherly friendship. In sum, I invite you to myself, to my own life. Are you unwilling to believe that I will give you my life? Take my death as your witness.”

Benedict XVI from Encyclical “Spe Salvi”, 36

“I will do it. Be made clean”

Like action, suffering [in all its forms] is a part of our human existence. Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today.

Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering. These are obligations both in justice and in love, and they are included among the fundamental requirements of the Christian life and every truly human life. Great progress has been made in the battle against physical pain; yet the sufferings of the innocent and mental suffering have, if anything, increased in recent decades.

Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering. Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world’s healing has emerged in history.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Our Faith, the Victory over the World

To live on the rock of faith

The just, (that is to say those who in baptism have put on the new man created in justice) live, insofar as they are just, by faith, by the light that the sacrament of illumination brings to them. The more they live by faith, the more they realize in themselves the perfection of his divine adoption. Notice this expression carefully: ‘EX fide’. The exact meaning of this is that faith ought to be the root of all our actions, of all our life. There are souls who live with faith (CUM fide). They have faith and one cannot deny that they practise it. But it is only on certain occasions (…) that they remember their faith to any purpose. (…)

But when faith is living, strong, ardent, when we live by faith, that is to say when in everything we are actuated by the principles of faith, when faith is the root of all our actions, the inward principle of all our activity, then we become strong and steadfast in spite of difficulties within and without, in spite of obscurities, contradictions and temptations. Why so? Because, by faith, we judge, we estimate all things as God sees and estimates them; we participate in the divine immutability and stability.

Is not this what our Lord said? “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them” – that is to live by faith – “will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse.” For Jesus Christ immediately adds: “it had been set solidly on rock” (Mt 7:24-25).

Saint Bede the Venerable from Homélie II, 20; CCL 122, 328-330

“John was not the light but came to testify to the light”(Jn 1:8)

The fact that John’s birth is commemorated when the days begin to shorten, and the Savior’s when they begin to lengthen, indicates a symbolic meaning. And indeed, John himself disclosed the hidden significance of this difference between them. The crowds were taking him to be the Christ on account of his outstanding virtues, whereas some were thinking of the Lord, not as Christ, but as a prophet because of the weakness of his bodily state. So John said: “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Our Lord certainly increased since, while they were looking on him as a prophet, he made known to all believers in the whole world that he was the Christ. John decreased and grew less in that he who was taken for the Christ came to be seen, not as the Christ, but as the one who proclaimed the Christ.

And so it is natural that daylight begins to decrease after John’s birth because his reputation for divinity is going to vanish and his baptism will soon disappear. It is equally natural that the brightness of the shortest days begins to increase following our Lord’s birth: for, in truth, he came to earth to reveal the light of his knowledge to all the pagans, of which formerly only the Jews had possessed a part, and to shed abroad the fire of his love through all the earth.

Saint Clement of Rome from Letter to the Corinthians, § 36-38

“The road that leads to life”

This, beloved, is the way in which we found our salvation, Jesus Christ, the High Priest who offers our gifts, the patron and helper in our weakness (Heb 10:20; 7:27; 4:15). It is through him that we look straight at the heavens above. Through him we see mirrored God’s faultless and transcendent countenance. Through him the eyes of our heart were opened. Through him our unintelligent and darkened mind shoots up into the light. Through him the Master was pleased to let us taste the knowledge that never fades; he who is “the radiance of his splendor, who towers as much above the angels as the title he has inherited is superior to theirs” (He 1:3-4) (…)

Let us take our body. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head. The smallest organs of our body are necessary and valuable to the whole body; in fact, all parts conspire and yield the same obedience toward maintaining the whole of the body (cf.1 Co 12:12f.). Therefore let the whole of our body be maintained in Christ Jesus, and let each submit to their neighbor’s rights in the measure determined by the special gift bestowed on them. Let the strong care for the weak, and the weak respect the strong; let the rich support the poor, and the poor render thanks to God for giving them the means of supplying their needs; let the wise show their wisdom not in words but in active help; the humble must not testify to themselves, but leave it to another to testify in their behalf. Those who are continent must not boast, knowing that it is another who confers on them the ability to remain continent.

Let us therefore reflect, brethren, of what clay we were made, what and who we were when we entered the world, out of what grave and darkness our Maker and Creator has brought us into the world, where he has prepared his benefits before our birth. Since, then, we owe all these blessings to him, we are obliged to thank him in every way.

Saint Patrick from The Confessions, § 43-47

“What you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops”

It is not I who undertook this work, but it is Christ the Lord who commanded me to come to be with these Irish pagans for the rest of my life, if the Lord shall will it and shield me from every evil (…) But I do not trust myself “as long as I am in this mortal body” (2 Pt 1:13; Rm 7:24) (… )I did not lead a perfect life like other believers, but I confess to my Lord and do not blush in his sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know him in my youth, the love of God and fear of him increased in me, and right up until now, by God’s favour, “I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7).

What is more, let anyone laugh and taunt if he so wishes. I am not keeping silent, nor am I hiding “the signs and wonders” (Dn 6:27) that were shown to me by the Lord many years before they happened, he who knew everything, even before the beginning of time. Thus, I should give thanks unceasingly to God, who has frequently forgive my folly and my negligence, in more than one instance, and has never been angry with me, who am placed as his helper, though I did not easily assent to what had been revealed to me, as the Spirit was urging. The Lord “took pity” on me “thousands upon thousands” of times, (Ex 20:6) because he saw within me that I was prepared to serve him. (…) Many were trying to prevent this mission; they were talking among themselves behind my back and saying, “Why is this fellow throwing himself into danger among enemies who do not know God?” Not from malice did they say this; as I myself can testify, they perceived my rusticity. And I was not quick to recognize the grace that was then in me; I now know that I should have done so earlier.

Now I have put it frankly to my brothers and co-workers, who have believed me because of what “I have proclaimed and still proclaim” (2 Co 13:2) to strengthen and reinforce your faith. I wish only that you, too, would make greater and better efforts. This will be my pride, for “a wise son makes a proud father”. (Pr 10:1)

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

Mary, that heart which beats for me

We often compare the Blessed Virgin to a mother, yet she is even better than the best of mothers: she is so loving that she always treats us with love.

This loving mother’s Heart is only love and mercy, all she desires is to see us happy. All we have to do is turn towards her to be answered (…)

Even though we may be sinners, the Blessed Virgin is full of tenderness and compassion for us. Isn’t the child the dearest to her heart who has cost its mother the most distress? Doesn’t a mother always run towards the feeblest, the most at risk?

All the saints had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin; no grace comes down from heaven without passing through her hands. We do not enter a house without speaking to the doorkeeper: well! the Blessed Virgin is the doorkeeper of heaven!

As long as the world lasts she is pulled from all directions. She is like a mother with many children. She is continually busy going from one to the other.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from Autobiographical Manuscript C 13 v°-14 r°

Love for one’s enemy

There is in the Community a Sister who has the faculty of displeasing me in everything: in her ways, her words, her character, everything seems very disagreeable to me. And still, she is a holy religious who must be very pleasing to God. Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most. Each time I met her I prayed to God for her, offering Him all her virtues and merits. I felt this was pleasing to Jesus, for there is no artist who doesn’t love to receive praise for his works, and Jesus, the Artist of souls, is happy when we don’t stop at the exterior, but, penetrating into the inner sanctuary where He chooses to dwell, we admire its beauty.

I wasn’t content simply with praying very much for this Sister who gave me so many struggles, but I took care to render her all the services possible, and when I was tempted to answer her back in a disagreeable manner, I was content with giving her my most friendly smile and with changing the subject of the conversation. (…) Frequently, when… I had occasion to work with this Sister, I used to run away like a deserter whenever my struggles became too violent. As she was absolutely unaware of my feelings for her, never did she suspect the motives for my conduct and she remained convinced that her character was very pleasing to me. One day at recreation she asked in almost these words: “Would you tell me, Sister Therese of the Child Jesus, what attracts you so much toward me; every time you look at me, I see you smile?” Ah! what attracted me was Jesus hidden in the depths of her soul; Jesus who makes sweet what is most bitter.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the Heresies, IV, 13, 3 (cf. SC 100, p.531)

“The perfect law of freedom: (Jas 1:25)

“If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well; from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back and do to others what you would have them do to you,” (Mt 5:40; Lk 6:30-31). In that way, we will not be dismayed like those whose possessions have been taken away against their will but, to the contrary, we will be glad like people who have willingly given, since we would rather make a free gift to our neighbor than give way to constraint. “And,” he continues, “should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.” In that way, we are not following him like a slave but going before him like a free man. So, in everything, Christ invites you to be of service to your neighbor, taking no thought for his wickedness but filling your own goodness to the brim. Thus he invites us to become like our Father “who makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,” (Mt 5:45).

All this is not the deed of someone who abolishes the Law but of someone who fulfils and develops it for us (Mt 5:17). To serve freedom is an even greater service and our liberator puts forward an even deeper submission and devotion towards him. For he has not set us free from the obligations of the old Law to make us independent of himself (…), but so that, having received his grace yet more abundantly, we might love him all the more and, in loving him all the more, might receive an even greater glory from him when we are for ever in the presence of his Father.

Saint Augustine from The Spirit and the letter, §27-33

“But I say to you” : the fulfillment of the Law

Grace hid itself under a veil in the Old Testament, but it has been revealed in the New Testament according to the most perfectly ordered dispensation of the ages (…). Now, amidst this admirable correspondence, there is at least this very considerable diversity in the cases: the people in the earlier instance were deterred by a horrible dread from approaching the place in which the law was given; whereas, in the other case, the Holy Spirit came upon those who were gathered together in expectation of His promised gift. There, it was on tablets of stone that the finger of God operated; here, on human hearts. (…)

“Love is the fulfillment of the Law.” Now this law of love was not written on tablets of stone but is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. God’s law, therefore, is love. “To this the carnal mind is not subject, neither indeed can be”; but when these works of love are written down on tablets in order to caution the carnal mind, there arises the law of works and “the letter which kills” the transgressor. But when love itself is shed abroad in the hearts of believers, then we have the law of faith, and “the Spirit which gives life” to the one who loves.

Now, observe how consonant is this diversity with these words of the apostle Paul (…): “You are shown to be a letter of Christ, administered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tablets of stone, but on tablets that are hearts of flesh.” (…) Observe the same thing also in the testimony given by the prophet Jeremiah on this subject in the clearest way: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers (…). I will place my law within them, and write it in their hearts.”

(Biblical references : Mt 5:17; Ex 19; Acts 2; Lk 11:20; Ex 31:18; Rm 13:10; 5:5; 8:17; 2 Cor 3:3; Jr 31:31)

Saint Paul VI from Address of 04/05/1970 to the Équipes Notre Dame

“God created man in his image (…), man and woman he created them” (Gn 1:27)

As holy Scripture teaches us, before being a sacrament marriage is a great, earthly reality. “God created man in his image; in the image of God he created him, man and woman he created them.” We always have to go back to that first page of the Bible if we would understand what is, what should be a human couple, a home (…) The duality of the sexes has been willed by God that, together, man and woman might be in the image of God and, like him, a source of life: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” (v. 28). A careful reading of the prophets, the Wisdom books, the New Testament, shows us, besides, the meaning of this fundamental reality and teaches us not to reduce it to physical desire (…) but to discover in it the complementarity of man and women’s values, the greatness and the fragility of conjugal love, its fruitfulness and its openness to the mystery of God’s plan of love. Today this teaching retains all its value and arms us against temptations to a destructive eroticism. (…)

As Christians know, human love is good in its origins and if, like everything in man, it is wounded and deformed by sin, it finds healing and redemption in Christ. (…) How many couples have found their way to sanctity in their conjugal life, in that community of life that is the only one to be founded on a sacrament! Work of the Holy Spirit, baptismal rebirth makes, “a new creation” of us, “so that we too might live in newness of life” (cf Tt 3:5; Gal 6:15; Rm 6:4). In this great work of renewing all things in Christ, marriage too, purified and renewed, becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. And see how, at the threshold of the New Testament as at the entrance to the Old, there stands a couple. But whereas that represented by Adam and Eve was the source of the evil unleashed on the world, that of Joseph and Mary is the summit from which holiness spreads over all the earth.

Saint Peter Chrysologus from Sermon 148, On the mystery of the Incarnation

In Christ God has caused us to pass from his image into his likeness (Gn 1:27)

Oh man! why do you despise yourself so, seeing that you are so precious to God? And why do you demean yourself in this way when God honors you by Christ’s birth in our flesh? Why search out how you were made and not enquire what you were made for? Was not this whole dwelling, this world that you see, made for you? For your sake light spreads abroad and causes darkness to fade; for your sake night is ruled and day measured; for you heaven shines with the varied splendors of sun and moon and stars; for you the earth is spangled with flowers, trees and fruits; for you was created this amazing mass of animal life, in the air, the fields, the loveliness of water, so that no dismal solitude should spoil the new world’s joy. (…)

Besides this, the Creator seeks out what else he can add to your dignity: he sets his image within you (Gen 1:27) so that your visible image might make present upon earth the invisible Creator, and to you he entrusts the care of earthly goods so that so vast a domain as this is should not be lacking a representative from the Lord. (…) And what God accomplished in you by his power he graciously assumed into himself: he wanted to be truly manifested in the man in whom, hitherto, he had only appeared in image. He enabled us to become in reality what had only been a mere likeness before. (…) And so Christ is born to restore all its integrity to fallen nature.

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Commentary on the Apostle's Creed

The Ascension into heaven of Christ

The Ascension of Christ into heaven is in accord with reason: firstly because heaven was due to Christ by his very nature. It is natural for someone to return to the place from whence they take their origin. The beginning of Christ is from God, who is above all things. Jesus says to the Apostles (Jn 16:28): “I came from the Father and have come into the world; and now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (…) The just ascend into heaven, but not in the manner that Christ ascended, namely by his own power, for they are taken up by Christ: “Draw me, we will run after thee.” (Sg 1:3) Or indeed, we can say that no one but Christ has ascended into heaven because the just do not ascend except insofar as they are members of Christ who is the head of the Church. (…)

Secondly, heaven is due to Christ because of his victory. For he was sent into the world to combat the devil, and he did overcome him. Therefore Christ deserved to be exalted above all things: “I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne” (Rv 3:21)

Finally, the Ascension was owing to Christ because of his humility. There never was humility so great as that of Christ who, although he was God yet wished to become man, and although he was the Lord yet he wished to take the form of a servant and, as Saint Paul says: “He was obedient even unto death” (Phil 2:7) and descended even into hell. Therefore he deserved to be exalted even to heaven, to God’s throne, for humility leads to exaltation. “For whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11) and, “the one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens” (Eph 4:10).

Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross `{`Edith Stein`}` from Poem: Pentecost 1937

“It is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you”

Who are you, sweet light, that fills me

and illumines the darkness of my heart? (…)

Are you the master who builds the eternal cathedral,

Which towers from the earth through the heavens?

Animated by you, the columns are raised high

And stand immovably firm.

Marked with the eternal name of God,

They stretch up to the light,

Bearing the dome

That crowns the holy cathedral,

Your work that encircles the world:

Holy Spirit, God’s molding hand! (…)

Are you the sweet song of love

And of holy awe

That eternally resounds around the triune throne,

That weds in itself the clear chimes of each and every being?

The harmony

That joins together the members to the Head,

In which each one

Finds the mysterious meaning of being blessed

And joyously surges forth,

Freely dissolved in your surging:

Holy Spirit, eternal jubilation!

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the heresies III, 17, 1-2 (cf. SC 211, p. 331 rev.)

“I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always”(Jn 14:16)

The Spirit promised by the prophets descended upon the Son of God made Son of man (Mt 3:16), accustoming himself in this way to dwell alongside Him within the human race, to rest over humankind and reside in God’s workmanship, working the Father’s will in them and renewing them by causing them to pass from their old way of life to the newness of Christ.

This is the Spirit David requested for the human race, saying: “And with your guiding Spirit, sustain me” (Ps 51[50]:14 LXX). This is also the Spirit who, as Luke says, descended upon the disciples after the Ascension on the day of Pentecost, having power to give all nations entrance to life and to open up the New Covenant to them. Stirred by one feeling, the disciples uttered the praises of God in every language while the Spirit gathered together into unity a dispersed peoples and offered the Father the first-fruits of all nations (Acts 2).

Therefore the Lord promised to send the Comforter who would bind us to God. For as a lump of dough and a single loaf cannot be formed of dry wheat without water, neither could we, being many, be made one in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 10:17) without the water come down from heaven. And as dry earth does not bring forth fruit unless it receive moisture, so we also, who were to begin with but dry wood, could never have brought forth fruit unto life without generous rain from above. For our bodies have received the union that leads to incorruptibility by the washing of baptism, but our souls, by means of the Spirit. That is why both are necessary, since both contribute towards our life in God.

Saint Cyprian from Letter 56

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

Our Lord’s will is that we should rejoice and leap for joy when we are persecuted (Mt 5:12) because, when persecutions come, it is then that crowns are given for faith (cf. Jas 1:12), it is then that Christ’s soldiers prove themselves, then that the heavens open to their witness. We aren’t employed in God’s force only to think of quiet, running away from service when the Teacher of humility, patience and suffering has himself provided the same service before us. What he taught he first of all carried out, and if he exhorts us to stand firm it is because he himself suffered before us and on our behalf.

If we are to take part in competitions in the stadium we exercise and train ourselves and think ourselves highly honored if, before the eyes of the crowd, we have the happiness of receiving the prize. But here is a trial that is both noble and outstanding in another way, in which God watches us – we, his children – take part in the combat and himself gives us a heavenly crown ( 1Cor 9:25). The angels watch us too, and Christ comes to our aid. So let us arm ourselves with all our might; let us fight the good fight with brave hearts and solid faith.

Saint Maximus the Confessor from Century on Theology, the Divine Economy and Virtue and Vice V, nos.12-14

To imitate the God who loved us so much

La loi de la grâce est la raison qui, plus haut que la nature, mène à la déification en transformant inflexiblement la nature, en montrant comme en image à la nature des hommes, le modèle qui dépasse l’essence et la nature, et en offrant la permanence de l’être éternellement bienheureux. Considérer le prochain comme soi-même, c’est prendre soin de sa seule vie dans son être : ce qui est le propre de la vie naturelle. Aimer le prochain comme soi-même, c’est par vertu, veiller sur la vie du prochain plus que soi-même, c’est tout à fait le propre de la loi de la grâce.

The law of grace directly teaches those who are led by it to imitate God himself. For – if it is permitted to speak this way – despite the fact that because of sin we were his enemies, God loved us so much more than himself that, although he is beyond being, he entered without changing into our being, took on human nature, became man and, wishing to reveal himself as man among men, did not refuse to make his own the penalty we all must pay.

And as in his providence he became man, so he deified us by grace, in this way not only teaching us to cleave to one another naturally and to love others spiritually as ourselves, but also, like God, to be more concerned for others than for ourselves, and as proof of our love for each other, readily to choose, as virtue enjoins, to die for others. For, as Scripture tells us, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend (Jn 15:13).

The law of grace is a principle transcending nature whose purpose is our deification. It transforms nature without altering its fundamental character and, in a manner which defies comprehension, reveals to human nature, as if in an image, the archetype that lies beyond being and nature and is the ground of eternal well-being. To treat one’s neighbor as oneself is to be concerned simply with his existence. This pertains to natural law. To love one’s neighbor as oneself is to care, in a way that accords with virtue, for his well-being. This is prescribed by the written law. To love one’s neighbor more than oneself is a prerogative of the law of grace.

Tertullian from De praescriptione, 20-21 ; CCL 1, 201-203

“I have told you everything I have heard from my Father”

Among his disciples Christ chose twelve chief ones whom he destined to be the teachers of the nations. Accordingly, after one of these had been struck off, he commanded the eleven others, on his departure to the Father, to “go and teach all nations” who were to be “baptized into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28,19).

So the apostles – whom this designation indicates as ‘the sent’ – on the authority of a prophecy which occurs in a psalm of David, immediately chose Matthias by lot in place of Judas. They obtained the promised power of the Holy Spirit for the gift of miracles and tongues, and after first bearing witness to faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judaea and founding churches there, they next went out into the world and preached the same teaching of faith to the nations. (…)

Now what it was they preached – in other words, what it was that Christ revealed to them – can properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches that the apostles founded in person by directly declaring the Gospel to them, first by word of mouth and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is manifest that all doctrine that agrees with the apostolic churches, which are the matrix and source of the faith, must be reckoned as true and as undoubtedly containing that which those churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ and Christ from God.

Saint Pio Pietralcina ``Padre Pio`` from Letter 549

“My peace I give to you”

God’s Spirit is a spirit of peace; even after our most serious failings he makes us feel a sorrow that is peaceful, humble and confident, precisely because of his mercy. The spirit of evil, on the other hand, agitates, irritates and makes us feel a sort of anger at ourselves when we have failed. Yet it falls very much to ourselves to practice charity in the first place. So, when you are bothered by certain thoughts, the agitation never comes from God but from the devil, since God, being a spirit of peace, brings you serenity.

Saint Augustine from The Trinity, I, 13, 30-31

“Whoever sees me sees the one who sent me”

This too is the explanation of the answer he gave the young man who called him good master and asked his advice about achieving eternal life: Why ask me about the good? No one is good except the one God (Mt 19: 17; Mk 10: 17). (…) If you understand me in that form, then I am indeed good, but if only in this visible one, why ask me about the good? If you are going to be one of those who will see him whom they have pierced (Rv 1 :7), that sight will be evil for them, because it will mean punishment for them.”

For that sight of God in which we shall behold his unchanging substance, invisible to human eyes and promised only to the saints and described by the apostle Paul as face to face (1 Cor 13: 12), of which the apostle John says, We shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2), and of which it is said, One thing have I begged of the Lord, to behold the delight of the Lord (Ps 27:4), and of which our Lord himself says, And I will love him and show myself to him (Jn 14:21), in order to be blessed the pure of heart, because they shall see God (Mt 5:8), and whatever else is said about this sight, which anyone who directs the eyes of love to seeking it may find scattered plentifully throughout the scriptures; this sight alone is our supreme good, and it is to gain this that we are bidden to do whatever we do rightly.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 232-234, 237

“The Father and I are one”

Christians are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:30). Before receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit: “I do.” “The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity”( St. Caesarius of Arles). Christians are baptized “in the name” of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not “in their names”, for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin. (…)

The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God. To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria from Commentary on Saint John's Gospel, 4, 4 ; PG 73, 613

“You have the words of eternal life”

To whom shall we go?” Peter asks. In other words: “Who else will instruct us in the divine mysteries the way you do?” or, “To whom shall we go to find anything better? You have the words of eternal life.” They are not hard words, as those other disciples say, but words that will bring us to the loftiest goal unceasing, endless life removed from all corruption. These words surely make quite obvious to us the necessity for sitting at the feet of Christ, taking him as our one and only teacher, and giving him our constant and undivided attention. (…)

That the desire to follow Christ alone and to be with him always is a good thing leading to our salvation is entirely self-evident; yet we may learn this from the Old Testament as well. When the Israelites had shaken off Egyptian tyranny and were hastening toward the promised land, God did not allow them to make disorderly marches; nor did the Lawgiver let each one go where he would, for without a guide they should undoubtedly have lost the way completely. (…) Keeping with their guide was the Israelites’ salvation then, just as not leaving Christ is ours now. For he was with those people of old under the form of the tabernacle, the cloud, and the fire (Ex 13:21; 26:1f) (…)

“Whoever serves me must follow me, so as to be with me wherever I am” (Jn 12:26) (…) But accompanying the Savior Christ and following him is by no means to be thought of as something done by the body. It is accomplished rather by deeds springing from virtue. Upon such virtue the wisest disciples firmly fixed their minds. (…) With good reason they cried out, “Where can we go?” It was as though they said: “We will stay with you always and hold fast to your commandments. We will receive your words without finding fault or thinking your teaching hard as the ignorant do, but thinking rather: “How sweet are your words to my throat! Sweeter to the mouth are they than honey or the honeycomb!” (Ps 118[119]:103).

Saint Columbanus from Spiritual instructions 12, 2, 3

“My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink”

Beloved brethren, quench your thirst at the waters of that divine spring we want to tell you about: quench it but don’t extinguish it; drink, but don’t become satisfied. The living spring, the source of life calls us and says: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink” (Jn 7:37). Understand what it is you are drinking. Let the prophet tell you and let the source itself tell you: “Listen to the word of the Lord: they have forsaken me the source of living water” (Jer 2:13). So the Lord our God himself, Jesus Christ, is he who is that source of life and that is why he invites us to come to him so that we might drink him. Whoever loves him, drinks him; whoever feeds on the Word of God, drinks him. (…) Drink, therefore, from this source that others have forsaken.

That we might eat of this bread and drink from this spring (…) he refers to himself as “the living bread that gives life to the world” (cf. Jn 6:51) which we are to eat. (…) See from where this spring flows! see from where this bread comes down! For one and the same person is both bread and spring, the Only-begotten Son, our God, Christ the Lord, for whom we should ceaselessly hunger.

It is our love that gives him as food to us, our desire that makes us eat him, and when we have been satisfied we desire him still. Let us go to him as to a fountain and drink of him in our overflowing love, let us drink him always with ever-new desire, finding our joy in the sweetness of his love. The Lord is gentle and good. We eat and drink him without ceasing to hunger and thirst for him for we cannot exhaust this food and drink. We eat of this bread yet do not run out of it; we drink at this spring yet it does not run dry. This bread is eternal; this stream flows without end.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from Autobiographical Ms. C, 35 r°

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him”

Mother, I think it is necessary to give a few more explanations on the passage in the Canticle of Canticles: “Draw me, we shall run in the odor of your ointments” (Sg 1:4 LXX). (…) “No one can come after me, unless the Father who sent me draws him,” Jesus said. Again (…) he teaches us that it enough to knock and it will be opened, to seek in order to find, to hold out one’s hand humbly to receive what is asked for (Mt 7:8f.; Lk 11:9f.). He says that everything we ask the Father in His name, he will grant it (Jn 16:23). (…)

What is it then to ask to be “Drawn” if not to be united in an intimate way to the object which captivates our heart? If fire and iron had the use of reason, and if the latter said to the other: “Draw me,” would it not prove that it desires to be identified with the fire in such a way that the fire penetrate and drink it up with its burning sub­stance and seem to become one with it? Dear Mother, this is my prayer. I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of His love, to unite me so closely to Him that He live and act in me. I feel that the more the fire of love burns within my heart, the more I shall say: “Draw me,” the more also the souls who will approach me (poor little piece of iron, useless if I withdraw from the divine furnace), the more these souls will run swiftly in the odor of the ointments of their Beloved, for a soul that is burning with love cannot remain inactive. No doubt, she will remain at Jesus’ feet as did Mary Magdalene, and she will listen to His sweet and burning words. Appearing to do nothing, she will give much more than Martha (Lk 10:39ff.).

Saint Thomas Aquinas from Sequence for the feast of Corpus Christi “ Lauda Sion ”

“I am the bread of life”

Laud, O Sion, thy salvation

Laud with hymns of exultation

Christ, thy King and Shepherd true:

Spend thyself, his honor raising,

Who surpasseth all thy praising:

Never canst thou reach his due.

Sing today, the mystery showing

Of the living, life-bestowing

Bread from heaven before thee set:

E’en the same of old provideth,

Where the Twelve, divinely guided,

At the holy table met.

Full and clear ring out thy chanting,

Joy nor sweetest grace be wanting

To thy heart and soul today (…)

Lo, the new King’s table gracing,

This new Passover of blessing

Hath fulfilled the elder rite:

Now the new the old effaceth,

Truth revealed, the shadow chaseth,

Day is breaking on the night.

What he did, at Supper seated,

Christ ordained to be repeated,

His memorial ne’er to cease:

And his word for guidance taking,

Bread and wine we hallow, making

Thus our sacrifice of peace.

This the truth to Christians given:

Bread becomes his flesh from heaven,

Wine becomes his holy Blood (Jn 6:55). (…)

Whoso of this food partaketh,

Christ divideth not nor breaketh,

He is whole to all that taste.

Whether one this bread receiveth

Or a thousand, still he giveth

One same Food that cannot waste. (…)

Lo! the Angel’s Food is given (Ps 78[77]:25)

To the pilgrim who hath striven;

See the children’s Bread from heaven

Which to dogs may not be cast (Mt 15:26).

Truth the ancient types fulfilling,

Isaac bound, a victim willing (Gn 22),

Paschal lamb, its life-blood spilling,

Manna sent in ages past.

O true Bread, good Shepherd, tend us,

Jesu, of thy love befriend us,

Thou refresh us, thou defend us,

Thine eternal goodness send us

In the land of life to see (Ps 27[26]:13)

Thou who all things canst and knowest,

Who on earth such Food bestowest,

Grant us with the saints, though lowest,

Where the heavenly Feast thou showest,

Fellow-heirs and guests to be.

Catechism from the Catholic Church §1420-1421, 1468-1469


Through the sacraments of Christian initiation [baptism, confirmation, eucharist], man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” (2 Cor 4:7) and it remains “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). We are still in our “earthly tent” (2 Cor 5:1), subject to suffering, illness, and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin. The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation (…) This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

“The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God (cf. Lk 15:32).

This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion; the sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members (cf. 1 Cor 12:26). Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ (…) The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.

Account of the three companions of Saint Francis of Assisi §11

How Saint Francis was cured by his fear by a leper

One day, when [the young] Francis was mounting his horse near Assisi, a leper came towards him. He usually had a great repugnance for lepers and so, forcing himself, he dismounted from his horse and gave the man a coin, kissing his hand. When he had received the kiss of peace from the leper he remounted and went his way. From that time on he began to rise above himself more and more until he attained complete mastery over himself by the grace of God.

Some days later, being equipped with a great deal of money, he made his way towards the leper hospital and, when he had called them all together, he gave alms to each one, kissing their hands. On his return, it is correct to say that what had formerly seemed distasteful to him – namely, to see or touch a leper – was transformed into sweetness. To see a leper, as he happened to say, was hard for him to such an extent that not only did he refuse to see them but even to go near their dwelling. If he sometimes happened to see them or to pass by their leprosarium (…), he turned his head away and blocked his nose. But God’s grace made him friendly with the lepers to such an extent that, as he attests in his Testament, he used to stay with them and serve them humbly. Visiting the lepers transformed him.

Saint Jerome from Homilies on Saint Mark's gospel, no.2; PLS 2, 125f.; SC 494

“Quiet! Come out of this man!”

“Jesus rebuked the devil and said, ‘Quiet! Come out of him!’ ” Truth has no need of the Deceiver’s testimony. “I did not come to get the confirmation of your testimony but to cast you out of what I have created…; I have no need of the recognition of one whom I have vowed to destroy. Shut your mouth! Let your silence be my praise. I want no praise from your mouth; my praise is your torture, your punishment (…) Quiet! and come out of this man!” It is as though he said: “Come out of me; what are you doing in my house? It is I who want to enter in, so shut your mouth and get out of the man, this being endowed with reason. Get out of the man! Leave the home prepared for me! The Lord wants his house: quit this man” (…)

See just how precious man’s soul is. This contradicts those who think that we human beings and animals have an identical soul and are animated by a same spirit. In another incident the devil is cast out of a single man and sent into two thousand pigs (Mt 8:32): what is precious is saved, what is unclean is lost. “Come out of the man and get into the pigs (…); go where you want, get along with you into the abyss. Leave the man, my private property, alone (…) I won’t allow you to possess the man; it would be an insult to me if you were to make your home in him in my place. I took on a human body and dwell in man: the flesh you are possessing is part of my own flesh; get out of this man!”

Pope Francis from Encyclical Lumen fidei / The Light of Faith, §8-9

“Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”

Abraham, our father in faith: Faith opens the way before us and accompanies our steps through time. Hence, if we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers, as witnessed first in the Old Testament. Here a unique place belongs to Abraham, our father in faith. Something disturbing takes place in his life: God speaks to him; he reveals himself as a God who speaks and calls his name. Faith is linked to hearing. Abraham does not see God, but hears his voice. Faith thus takes on a personal aspect. God is not the god of a particular place, or a deity linked to specific sacred time, but the God of a person, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Ex 3:6), capable of interacting with man and establishing a covenant with him. Faith is our response to a word which engages us personally, to a “Thou” who calls us by name.

The word spoken to Abraham contains both a call and a promise. First, it is a call to leave his own land, a summons to a new life, the beginning of an exodus which points him towards an unforeseen future (Gn 12:1). The sight which faith would give to Abraham would always be linked to the need to take this step forward: faith “sees” to the extent that it journeys, to the extent that it chooses to enter into the horizons opened up by God’s word.

This word also contains a promise: “Your descendants will be great in number, you will be the father of a great nation” (Gn 13:16; 15:5; 22:17). As a response to a word which preceded it, Abraham’s faith would always be an act of remembrance (…) But, as the memory of a promise, it becomes capable of opening up the future, shedding light on the path to be taken (…) It is thus closely bound up with hope.

Saint Ambrose from Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 5, 99-102

“Are you the one who is to come?”

The Lord, knowing that without the Gospel nobody’s faith may be complete – for the Bible begins from the Old Testament but is brought to fulfilment by the New – does not answer questions about him with words but by acts. “Go, he says, and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them”. This testimony is complete because it is of him they had prophesied: “The Lord sets prisoners free; the Lord gives sight to the blind. The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (…) The Lord shall reign forever, through all generations!” (Ps 145[146]:7f). These are the signs of a power that is not human, but divine (…)

And yet these are only the least examples of the testimony given by Christ. What makes the fullness of faith is the Lord’s cross, his death, his burial. This is why, after giving the answer we have quoted, he also says: “And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” In fact, the cross could have indeed provoked the fall of the Chosen ones, but there is no greater testimony of a divine person, nothing that seems to go further beyond human forces than this offering of one man for the entire world. Through this only, the Lord reveals himself fully. Furthermore, this is how John had defined him: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

Saint Augustine from Sermons on the Gospel of Saint John, no. 2, §5-7

“He came for testimony to testify to the Light”

In what way has Christ come? He appeared as man. But because he was a man such that God was concealed within him, a special kind of man was sent before him to make known that he was more than man, that he was the Messiah (…) Who was he, this man who had to give testimony to the Light in this way? The man, John, was truly remarkable, of great merit and outstanding grace, high above all others. Admire him in the way we would admire a mountain: the mountain would remain in shadow so long as the light did not come to envelop it – “He was not the Light”. Don’t take the mountain for the light; don’t break yourself against it, far less find help in it.

So what should we admire, then? The mountain, but only as a mountain. Rise up as far as him who lights up this mountain which was erected to become the first to receive the sun’s rays and to reflect them back to your eyes (…) We say of our eyes, too, that they are lights and yet, if we don’t light the lamp at night or if the sun does not rise by day, our eyes are open in vain. John himself was in the dark before he was enlightened; he only became light through this enlightenment. If he had not received the rays of this Light he would have remained as dark as other are (…).

And what about the Light itself? Where is it? “The true Light which enlightens everyone coming into the world”? (Jn 1:9). If he enlightens everyone then he also enlightened John, through whom he wished to be manifested (…) He came for the sick of mind, for wounded hearts, for souls whose eyes are weak (…), people unable to see aright. He covered John with his beams. By testifying that he himself had been enlightened, John made known He who enlightens, He who gives clarity, He who is the source of every gift.

Saint Pius X from Encyclical ``Ad diem illum laetissimum``

To contemplate the Immaculate Virgin Mary

If, as the Apostle declares, faith is nothing else than the substance of things to be hoped for” (Heb 11:1) everyone will easily allow that our faith is confirmed and our hope aroused and strengthened by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin. The Virgin was kept the more free from all stain of original sin because she was to be the Mother of Christ; and she was the Mother of Christ that the hope of everlasting happiness might be born again in our souls.

Leaving aside charity towards God, who can contemplate the Immaculate Virgin without feeling moved to fulfill that precept which Christ called peculiarly His own, namely that of loving one another as He loved us? “A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head” (Rv 12:1). Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our Head.

The Apostle continues: “And, being with child, she cried travailing in birth, and was in pain to be delivered” (Rv 12:2). John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.

This same charity we desire that all should earnestly endeavor to attain, taking special occasion from (…) feasts in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons from Against the heresies III, 2, 2 (SC 34)

“We have seen incredible things today.”

The Word of God has come to dwell in man; he became “Son of man” in order to accustom man to receive God and God to dwell in man, as it has pleased the Father. See now why the sign of our salvation, Emmanuel born of a Virgin, has been given by the Savior himself (Is 7:14). Indeed, it is the Savior himself who saves men since of themselves they cannot save themselves. (…) The prophet Isaiah has said: “Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak! Take courage, frightened hearts; be strong, fear not! Here is your God who comes with vindication; he himself comes, he comes to save us,” (Is 35:3-4). For it is only by God’s help, and not of ourselves, that we can stand up to our salvation.

And here is another text where Isaiah predicted that the one who saves us is neither simply a man nor an incorporeal being: “It was not a messenger or an angel but the Lord himself who saved his people. Because of his love and pity he forgave them; he redeemed them himself,” (Is 63:9). Yet this Savior is also truly man, truly visible: “City of Zion, behold: your eyes shall see our Savior” (…) And another prophet has said: “He will again have compassion on us and cast into the depths of the sea all our sins,” (Mi 7:19) (…) From the land of Judah, from Bethlehem (Mi 5:1) will come the Son of God, he who is also God, to pour out his praise on all the earth (…) Thus God has become man indeed and the Lord himself has saved us by giving us the sign of the Virgin.

Vatican Council II Encyclical ``Lumen fidei``, § 20-21

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

The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come “the time of the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). At that time the human race as well as the entire world, which is intimately related to man and attains to its end through him, will be perfectly reestablished in Christ (…)

This promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through Him continues in the Church in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation (Phil 2:12).

Already the final age of the world has come upon us (1 Cor 10:11) and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way; for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect. However, until there shall be “new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells”(2 Pt 3:13) the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing and she herself dwells among creatures who “groan and travail in labor pains” until now and “await the revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8:19f.).

Saint Anselm from Proslogion 1

“Of you my heart speaks: (…) your presence, Lord, I seek. Hide not your face from me” (Ps 27[26]:8)

Now, my whole heart, say to God: “I seek your face; Lord, it is your face that I seek” (Ps 27[26]:8). O Lord, my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find you. Lord, if you are not here but absent, where shall I seek you? But you are everywhere, so you must be here; why then do I not seek you? Surely you dwell in light inaccessible – where is it? And how can I have access to light which is inaccessible? Who will lead me and take me into it so that I may see you there? By what signs, under what forms, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord my God, I have never seen your face. Most High Lord, what shall an exile do who is as far away from you as this? What shall your servant do, eager for your love, cast off far from your face? He longs to see you but your countenance is too far away. He wants to have access to you, but your dwelling is inaccessible. He longs to find you but he does not know where you are. He loves to seek you but he does not know your face.

Lord, you are my Lord and my God, and I have never seen you. You have created and recreated me; all the good I have comes from you, and still I do not know you. I was created to see you and I have not yet accomplished that for which I was made. How wretched is the fate of man when he has lost that for which he was created (…) Let me seek you by desiring you, and desire you by seeking you; let me find you by loving you and love you in finding you.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Live by faith (from ``Christ the ideal of the priest``)

Faith, the foundation of our interior life

Faith is a foundational virtue. (…) Faith is the beginning, the foundation and the root in us of our life as child of God. (…) If faith is required to awaken supernatural life, it is still more necessary to ensure its growth and blossoming. Very truly, faith is the foundation and root of the interior life.

In a building, what is the reason for the foundations? They not only permit starting the construction but, surely, it is they on which depends the stability, equilibrium, even the continuation of the structure at every moment? So it is with faith confronted with every christian existence. The firm foundation of our beliefs alone affirms hope, gives flight to charity, and permits prayer to rise up to God. In time of trial, as happens in the course of normal existence, from where does our constant support come, from where do we receive the most efficacious motives for action, if not from faith? This is why Saint Paul asked the Colossians to remain “founded on faith” (Col 1:23). (…) Such is the primordial importance of the certitudes of faith. Their influence never ceases to be at work: they ennoble existence and strengthen the soul. Thanks to them the christian, (…) under the shock of the powers of evil, never doubts the victory (cf. 1 Jn 5:4).

It pleased Saint Paul to enclose within one brief formula this whole doctrine dear to him: “The just live by faith” (cf. Gal 3:2; Rm 1:17; Heb 10:38). Let us hold on to its eminently practical implications since, the more firm our faith, the more our entire life will be renewed and, by it, the bonds of our divine adoption will be tightened.

Saint John Chrysostom from Homily on Psalm 49

Christ’s two comings

At his first coming, God came without any brilliance, unknown by most, prolonging the mystery of his hidden life by many years. When he came down from the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus asked his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. Then he came like a shepherd to look for his lost sheep, and in order to get hold of the unruly animal, he had to remain hidden. Like a doctor who is careful not to frighten his patient right from the start, in the same way, the Lord avoids making himself known right from the beginning of his mission: he only does so imperceptibly and little by little. The prophet announced this event without brilliance with these words: “He shall be like rain coming down on the meadow, like showers watering the earth.” (Ps 72:6) He did not tear open the heavens so as to come on the clouds, but rather, he came in silence into the womb of a virgin and was carried by her for nine months. He was born in a manger as the son of a humble craftsman (…) He went here and there like an ordinary man; his clothing was simple, his table even more frugal. He walked without resting to the point of being tired out. But his second coming will not be like that. He will come with such brilliance that it won’t be necessary to announce his coming: “As the lightning from the east flashes to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mt 24:27) It will be the time of judgment and of sentencing. And the Lord will not appear as a doctor, but as a judge. The prophet Daniel saw his throne, the river flowing at the base of the tribunal, and that device made entirely of fire, the chariot and the wheels (7:9-10) (…) David, the prophet-king, spoke only of splendor, of brilliance, of fire flaming on all sides: “Before him is a devouring fire; around him is a raging storm.” (Ps 50:3) All these comparisons aim at making us understand God’s sovereignty, the brilliant light that surrounds him, and his inaccessible nature.

Blessed Guerric of Igny from 1st Sermon for Advent; PL 185,11; SC 166

“Know that the kingdom of God is near”

“We are waiting for the Savior,” (Latin liturgy; cf. Phil 3:20). Such waiting is truly a joy to the righteous, who are waiting for “the hope of blessedness, the glorious coming of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13). “What am I waiting for,” a righteous man may ask, “but the Lord?” (Ps 39[38]:8). “I know,” he says, turning towards him, “that you will not disappoint me after such a wait as mine (Ps 119[118]:116). Already my being is with you; for our nature, taken from amongst us and offered on our behalf, is glorified with you. This gives us hope; for all flesh will come to you (Ps 65[64]:3)” (…)

But a man can wait for the Lord the more trustfully if his conscience is so at rest as to let him say: “Every smallest possession of mine, Lord, is entirely yours, for ‘I have treasured up in heaven’ (Mt 6:20) all my powers, either by giving them to you or by renouncing them for you. At your feet I have laid down all that is mine, knowing you will (…) restore it to me multiplied a hundred-fold and add to it eternal life” (Mk 10:30). How blessed are you, poor in spirit (Mt 5:3) (…): “For,” the Lord says, “where your treasure is there your heart is also” (Mt 6:21). Let your hearts go then, let them go after their treasures; let your attention be fixed on high and your expectancy hang upon the Lord, so that you can justly say with the apostle Paul: “Our abiding place is in heaven, from where we are expecting the Savior to come” (Phil 3:20).

Saint Gertude of Helfta from The Herald of Divine Love, Book IV

Approaching Jesus in humility

[Gertrude said to the Lord]: “Alas, Beloved, I have nothing worthy of suiting you, but after all I well know that, if I possessed all you possess, I should want to renounce it all and give it to you so freely that you could (…) gratify with it whoever you wished.” To this the Lord replied with kindness: “If you find in your heart the disposition to act like this towards me then you must take it for certain that I too desire to treat you in the same way and in the same proportion as my goodness and love prevail over yours.” And she said: “And what title must I carry with me to meet you since you are deigning to come to me with such a quantity of gifts?” “I ask nothing of you,” the Lord replied, “except to come to me completely empty and ready to receive, because everything in you that will please me you will have received from me as pure gift.”

Then she understood that this emptiness was the humility by which she reckoned herself to have absolutely no merit, nor even able to do anything without a free gift from God, and, finally, considered all her own resources as nothing.

Blessed Columba Marmion from Poverty

May your kingdom come!

The Word is King. King of heaven and of earth. The Word lives and reigns in God. Christ only lives where he reigns; he is essentially King; he lives in us to the degree that he governs all in us, that he reigns over our faculties, that he rules our activity.

When all within us comes from him, that is to say when we no longer think except as he thinks, when we no longer will except as he wills, when we act only according to his good pleasure, then we place our whole self in subjection at his feet, then he reigns in us. All that is proper to us, all that is personal, disappears to give place to the thoughts and will of the Divine Word. This domination of Christ in us must be complete. We ask this a hundred times a day: “May your kingdom come!” O may that day come, O Lord, when you will reign entirely in me, when no selfish motive will hinder your power over me, when, like you, I shall be entirely yielded up to the Father and nothing within me will be opposed to the Holy Spirit’s action!

On that day we shall have done all that within us lies to bring our own personality to naught before the dominion of Christ. He will truly be for us “All in all” (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). Morally speaking we shall no longer have anything of our own: all will be subject, all will be given to him.

Catechism of the Catholic Church § 996-1001

“I believe in the resurrection of the dead”

From the beginning, Christian faith in the resurrection has met with incomprehension and opposition. “On no point does the Christian faith encounter more opposition than on the resurrection of the body” (St Augustine). It is very commonly accepted that the life of the human person continues in a spiritual fashion after death. But how can we believe that this body, so clearly mortal, could rise to everlasting life?

What is “rising”? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.

Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn 5:29).

How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself” (Lk 24:29); but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear” (Fourth Lateran Council), but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” (Phil 3:21) into a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:44). “But, someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. and what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel. (…) What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable, (…) the dead will be raised imperishable. (…) For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:35-53). This “how” exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies: “Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection” (St Irenaeus).

When? Definitively “at the last day,” “at the end of the world” (Jn 6:39-40). Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta from No Greater Love

“Since you have been faithful in this very small matter; take charger of ten cities”

Whatever you do, even if you help somebody cross the road, you do it to Jesus. Even giving some­body a glass of water, you do it to Jesus (Mt 25:35). Such a simple little teaching, but it is more and more important. We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ’s love and to love as He loved. In the work we have to do it does not matter how small and humble it may be, make it Christ’s love in action.

However beautiful the work is, be detached from it, even ready to give it up. The work is not yours. The talents God has given you are not yours; they have been given to you for your use, for the glory of God. Be great and use everything in you for the good Master.

What have we to learn? To be meek and hum­ble (Mt 11:29); if we are meek and humble, we will learn to pray. If we learn to pray, we will belong to Jesus. If we belong to Jesus, we will learn to believe, and if we believe we will learn to love, and if we love we will learn to serve.

Saint Ephrem from Commentary on the Diatessaron, XV, 20-21 (cf. SC 121, p.277)

“Today salvation has come to this house”

Zacchaeus prayed thus in his heart: “How blessed is he who is worthy to receive this Just man into his house”. Our Savior said to him: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly!” And he, seeing that the Lord knew his thoughts, said: “Since he knows about these he must also know all I have done”. That is why he declared: “All I have extorted from anyone, I shall repay it four times over”.

“Quick, come down from that fig tree, for I am going to stay with you”. Thanks to this second fig tree, that of the chief of publicans, the first fig tree, that of Adam, falls into oblivion and the name of Adam is likewise forgotten thanks to righteous Zacchaeus (…) “Today, life has come to this house” (…) Through his prompt obedience, he who was a mere thief yesterday has today become a doer of good deeds; he who yesterday was a tax gatherer today becomes a disciple.

Zacchaeus has left behind the old law and climbed an immobile fig tree, symbol of his spirit’s deafness. But this climb is the symbol of his salvation. He has forsaken baseness and climbed up to see divinity in the heights. Our Lord hastened to make him abandon that withered fig tree, his former manner of life, so that he would not remain deaf. While the flame of love for our Lord burned within him it consumed the old man in him to create in him a new man.

Venerable Pius XII from Speech of 17 January 1943, to representatives of centers of the apostolate of prayer in Italy

“And will not God show justice to those who cry out to him day and night?” (Lk 18:7)

In contemplating all of you gathered around us here, it seems to us to make our own, by reliving it, that great and moving scene that sacred Scripture presents to us. There we see Moses raised up on the summit of Mount Horeb as the people of God fought in the plain, Moses praying with arms and hands raised, a prophetic and unconscious image of the Great Mediator with his arms outstretched on the cross. At the side of the praying leader, lest he lose his strength in that testing act of imploring, here are two of his most faithful companions holding up his arms with filial solicitude, full of faith in the effectiveness of their leader’s prayer (Ex17:8).

We too, from this hill of the Vatican, are witnessing a great conflict, incomparably more vast and more important than that one, a truly immense conflict, which sets the peoples of the earth grappling with one another, a spiritual conflict which is nothing other than an episode of the permanent and intimate struggle of evil against good, of Satan against Christ. We who, our hands outstretched to heaven, feeling the burden of an indescribable responsibility on our shoulders and a profound sorrow pressing down on our heart, find our comfort in you who are so faithful in standing beside us, uniting your prayer to ours, joining your prayers to ours, your sacrifices to our sufferings, your works to our labors. (…)

The true prayer of the christian, taught by Jesus to all but which, in a special way, is yours, is an essentially apostolic prayer. It includes within itself the sanctification of the name of God, the coming and spread of his kingdom, faithful adherence to the provisions of his loving Providence and to his redeeming and beatifying will as well as to all the interests, material and spiritual, of humankind: daily bread, the forgiveness of sins, fraternal union that knows neither hatred nor resentment, the help needed so as not to be led into temptations, deliverance from all evil. (…) Immense in its brevity, the Lord’s prayer comprehends and embraces the universality of the world’s needs. And the Savior takes all these needs into consideration and recommends them to his Heavenly Father in their smallest details, because each one is particularly present to him (…) This is your model.

Saint Benedict from Rule, Prologue, 8-22

“Awake O sleeper” (Ep 5:14)

Up with us then at last, for Scripture arouses us saying: “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rm 13:11). Let us open our eyes to the divine light, and let us hear with attentive ears the warning that the divine voice cries daily to us : “Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Ps 95[94]:8). And again: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rv 2:7). And what does he say? “Come, children, hear me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps 34[33]:12). “Run while you have the light of life , lest the darkness of death overtake you” (Jn 12:35).

And the Lord, seeking his worker among the multitudes to whom he thus cries, says again: “Which of you desires life and would like to see prosperous days? (Ps 34[33]:13) And if hearing him you answer, “I am he,” God says to you: if you would have true and everlasting life, “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps 34[33]:14-15). And when you have done these things, my eyes will be upon you and my ears open unto your prayers. And before you call me, I shall say to you, “Lo, here I am” (Is 58:9).

What can be sweeter to us, dearest brethren, than this voice of our Lord inviting us? Behold in his loving mercy the Lord show us the way of life. Let us therefore gird our loins with faith and the performance of good deeds, and following the guidance of the gospel, walk in his paths so that we may merit to see him who has called us into his Kingdom (1Thes 2:12). For if we wish to live in the dwellings of his Kingdom, unless we run there with good deeds we shall not arrive.

Isaac the Syrian from Discourse, 1st series, no. 30

“The kingdom of God is among you”

Thanksgiving and the gratitude of the receiver encourages the giver to give yet more. But someone who does not say ‘thank you’ for the smallest of things can only be a liar and unjust in great ones. Someone who is sick and knows about his sickness is able to ask for healing; someone who acknowledges his suffering is close to being healed and will easily find it. (…)

Remember the fall of those who believed themselves strong and be humble in the midst of virtue. (…) Cast out your ‘self’ and your enemy will be cast far away. Set yourself at peace and heaven and earth will fill you with peace. Strive to enter into the treasure house of your heart and you will see the treasure house of heaven. For both are the same thing; entering one you will see both. The ladder to this Kingdom is within you, concealed in your soul. Plunge within yourself to uncover your sins there: it is there that you will find the steps by which to raise yourself up. (…) “The Kingdom of heaven is within you.”

Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori from What are we to converse with God about?

Set your joy in God!

Certain souls rush to God in affliction but, should prosperity come, they forget and abandon him. This is just too much infidelity and ingratitude! Do not act like that.

When you receive some kind of pleasant news, use it together with God as with a close friend who is interested in your happiness. Quick! Share your joy with him, recognize that it comes as a gift from his hand; praise him, thank him. In this joy let the better thing for you be to be to find his good pleasure in it. This is how you will set all your delight, all your consolation in God: “My heart shall rejoice in thy salvation: I will sing to the Lord who giveth me good things,” (Ps 12:6 Vg).

Speak to Jesus like this: “I bless you and will always bless you: you do me so many graces! And not graces but punishments are what I should deserve, I who have sinned against you so much.” Again, say to him with the holy Bride: “Fruits both old and new, my lover, have I kept in store for you,” (Sg 7:14).These fruits are your favors, for which I thank you; both old and new, I keep them in remembrance so as to give you glory for ever.

Saint Theodore the Studite from Catechesis 21

“We are unprofitable servants” (Lk 17:10)

My brothers, fathers and children, once again I am fulfilling what I owe you, I mean recalling the catechesis. (…) Whoever is zealous in his tasks and conscientious in the service assigned to him, who does so, even more, as if he were serving God and not man, shows himself to be a workman without reproach (cf. 2 Tim 2:15): let him take on himself the heaviest tasks, let him rejoice in watching over his neighbor, knowing that a great reward is being kept for him in the heavens. (…) whatever that task may be that we have undertaken, small or great, in an unceasing race and an inextinguishable desire for eternal blessings let us endure everything valiantly, let us bear everything with good humor, let us accomplish everything under the inspiration of God, mutually forgiving each other (cf. Eph 4:32; Col 3:13), filled with tenderness for one another to the point that each one would wish to give his life for his brother in spirit and in his body.

And if the only begotten Son of God invites and persuades you [to act] in this way, he who, in obedience to God the Father, emptied himself even to an infinite degree of abasement to the extent that from being master he became slave, he experienced death, the death of the cross (cf. Phil 2:8), then that is joy for me, a sinner and without hope, inextinguishable and ineffable gaiety! Joy for you too who fulfil his commandments and inexpressible happiness! It is not just here below you receive glowing praises from everyone who witnesses what is taking place in you, you overcome the enemy and resist his suggestions and tricks, but in the world to come as well you will dance in the presence of the glory of Christ our God and will be counted among the angelic choirs and the assembly of the saints, “there where is the dwelling of all who are in joy” (Ps 86:7 LXX) as the psalm says, O most esteemed brothers. Such is our reminder!

Saint John Henry Newman from Parochial and Plain sermons, vol.4, no.12: ``The Church a home for the lonely``

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

The Jewish Temple, visible and material, was confined to one place. It could not be a home for the whole world, nay not for one nation, but only for a few out of the multitude. But the Christian Temple is invisible and spiritual, and hence admits of being everywhere. (…) Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23). “In spirit and in truth;” for unless his Presence were invisible, it could not be real. That which is seen is not real; that which is material is dissoluble; that which is in time is temporary; that which is local is but partial.

But the Christian Temple is wherever Christians are found in Christ’s Name; it is as fully in each place as if it were in no other; and we may enter it, and appear among its holy inmates, God’s heavenly family, as really as the Jewish worshiper betook himself to the visible courts of the Temple. We see nothing; but this, I repeat, is a condition necessary to its being every where. It would not be everywhere, if we saw it anywhere; we see nothing; but we enjoy everything.

And thus is it set before us in the Old Testament, whether in prophecy or by occasional anticipation. Isaiah prophesies that “it shall come to pass, that the Mountain of the Lord’s House shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it” (Is 2:2). And it was shown by anticipation to Jacob (…) when he saw in his dream “a ladder set upon the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven, and behold the Angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Gen 28:12), and to Elisha’s servant when “the Lord opened the eyes of the young man (…) and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17). These were anticipations of what was to be continually, when Christ came and “opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers;” and what that opening consisted in, St. Paul tells us—”Ye are come,” he says, “unto Mount Sion, and unto the City of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of Angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in heaven” (Heb 12:22).

Saint Ambrose from De virginitate, PL 16, 283-286

“I held him and I would not let him go” (Sg 3:4)

You are one of the virgins who illumine the beauty of your body with the light of the mind, you are all the more fit to be compared with the Church. In the hours of the night think always on Christ and hope for his coming at every moment. (…) Christ enters at the open door. He will not fail to do so for he has promised to enter. Embrace him whom you have sought. Approach him and be illumined. Hold him and ask him not to go away quickly. Beg him not to depart. For “His Word runs swiftly” (Ps 147:15) and will not be held by the slothful or negligent soul. Let your soul run to his call and follow closely the sound of his heavenly voice, for his passing is swift. (…)

With what ties is Christ to be held? Not by force, not by chains, but rather by the bonds of charity. He is kept and held by the ties of the mind, by the love of the heart. So if you want to hold Christ, seek him continually and fear no fatigue. It is often in pain of body, amid the very hands of the persecutors, that Christ may really be found. (…) In a little while, in a brief moment, when you have escaped the hands of your persecutors and have not succumbed to the powers of the world, Christ will meet you and will not allow you to be tempted further.

Saint Clement of Alexandria from Who is the rich man who can be saved?

“You cannot serve God and mammon”

There is a kind of riches that sows death wherever it holds sway: free yourselves from it and you will be saved. Purify your soul; make it poor so that you may be able to hear the Savior’s call repeating: “Come, follow me” (Mk 10:21). He is the way on which the pure in heart walk; God’s grace does not penetrate the soul that is burdened and pulled apart by a great number of possessions.

People who look upon their fortune, their gold and silver and houses, as God’s gifts, witness to their gratitude to God by assisting the poor with their goods. They know they possess them more on account of their brethren than on their own. They remain in control of their riches rather than becoming its slave. Such as these do not shut them up within their soul any more than they place their lives in them, but they untiringly pursue a wholly divine life. And if it should happen that their fortune vanishes they accept their ruin with a free heart. God calls “blessed” such as these and calls them “poor in spirit”, certain heirs to the Kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3). (…)

On the other hand, there are those who hug their wealth, rather than the Holy Spirit, to their heart. Such as these keep all their lands for themselves, constantly add to their fortunes and have no worries about anything except to be amassing more all the time. They never lift their eyes to heaven but wallow in material things. Indeed, these are no more than dust and will return to dust (Gen 3:19). How can anyone experience a desire for the Kingdom who carries a field or a mine instead of a heart within? Death will inevitably surprise this person in the midst of their uncontrollable desires. For “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21).

Vatican Council II Constitution on the Church in the modern world, ``Gaudium et spes``, §34

“Fill the earth and subdue it” (Gn 1:28)

Man, created to God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness; a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to Him Who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. Thus, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth.

This mandate concerns the whole of everyday activity as well. For while providing the substance of life for themselves and their families, men and women are performing their activities in a way which appropriately benefits society. They can justly consider that by their labor they are unfolding the Creator’s work, consulting the advantages of their brother men, and are contributing by their personal industry to the realization in history of the divine plan.

Thus, far from thinking that works produced by man’s own talent and energy are in opposition to God’s power, and that the rational creature exists as a kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God’s grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design.

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus from Letter 197 of 17/09/1896

“Everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple”

Dear Sister, how can you ask me if it is possible for you to love God as I love Him? (…) My desires of martyrdom are nothing; they are not what gives me the unlimited confidence that I feel in my heart. They are, to tell the truth, the spiritual riches that render one unjust, when one rests in them with complacence and when one believes they are something great. (…) Ah! I really feel that (…) what pleases Him is that He sees me loving my littleness and my poverty, the blind hope that I have in His mercy (…). That is my only treasure (…)

Oh, dear Sister, I beg you, (…) understand that to love Jesus (…) the weaker one is, without desires or virtues, the more suited one is for the workings of this consuming and transforming Love. The desire alone to be a victim suffices, but we must consent to remain always poor and without strength, and this is the difficulty, for: “The truly poor in spirit, where do we find him? You must look for him from afar,” said the psalmist (cf. Prv 31:10). He does not say that you must look for him among great souls, but “from afar,” that is to say in lowliness, in nothingness.

Ah! let us remain then very far from all that sparkles, let us love our littleness, let us love to feel nothing, then we shall be poor in spirit, and Jesus will come to look for us, and however far we may be, He will transform us in flames of love. Oh! How I would like to be able to make you understand what I feel! It is confidence, and nothing but confidence that must lead us to Love. Does not fear lead to Justice? (To the severe justice that people show to sinners but not the justice Jesus will have for those who love him). Since we see the way, let us run together. Yes, I feel it, Jesus wills to give us the same graces; he wills to give us his Heaven gratuitously.

Saint Anthony of Padua from Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

“Blessed is he who will dine in the kingdom of heaven!” (Lk 14:15)

“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many,” (Lk 14:16). During this great dinner we will eat fine foods, namely the fruit that the children of Israel brought from the Promised Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates. The grapes from which we extract wine symbolizes the joy of the saints during their vision of the Incarnate Word. The figs, which are the sweetest of fruits, the sweetness the saints experience as they contemplate the entire Trinity. Pomegranates, the unity of the Church triumphant and the diversity of its rewards. (…)

The Lord calls us to the Supper in heavenly glory (…) The Lord, whose mercies are numberless, calls not only through himself but also through the order of preachers, of whom the gospel says: “When the time for dinner came, he dispatched his servant to say to those invited: ‘Come, everything is now ready'” (Lk 14:17). The time for dinner is the end of the world. During this end time, the servant, the order of preachers, is sent to those invited so that they might prepare to taste this dinner since all is ready. Indeed, now that Christ has been sacrificed, the entrance to the Kingdom is Christ’s Passion.

Regarding the latter, the Church or just man who has entered the supper of repentance and is about to enter that of glory, says (…): “The Lord was my support; he set me free in the open, he rescued me because he loves me,” (cf. Ps 17(18):19-20). When the Lord stretched out his arms on the cross he made himself my support in his Passion; in sending the Holy Spirit he set me free in the open; he rescued me from the attacks of enemies, for he wanted me to enter the dinner of eternal life.

Let us pray our Lord Jesus Christ, then, dearest brethren, to bring us in to the dinner of repentance and to transfer us from it to the Supper of eternal glory, he who is blessed and glorious through endless ages. Amen!

Saint Ephrem from Hymns on Paradise, no. 5

“All creation groans and is in agony (…) We ourselves (…) await the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:22-23)

The contemplation of Paradise delighted me by its peace and beauty. There, spotless beauty abides, there peace without alarm dwells. Happy the one who will deserve to receive it, if not through righteousness, then at least out of kindness; if not because of works, then at least out of pity (…)

When my spirit returned to the shores of earth, the mother of thorns, pain and evils of every kind presented themselves to me. Thus, I learned that our region is a prison. And yet, the captives who are locked in there weep when they leave it. I was also surprised by the fact that children cry when they leave the womb. They cry although they are going out from darkness towards the light, from a narrow space towards a vast universe. In the same way, for human beings, death is a kind of birth. Those who are born weep when they leave the universe, the mother of pain, in order to enter the Paradise of delights.

Oh Lord of Paradise, have pity on me! If it is not possible for me to enter into your Paradise, make me at least worthy of the pastures at its entrance. At the center of Paradise is the table of the saints, but the fruit from its interior falls outside like crumbs for the sinners, who even there will live by your kindness.

Saint Theodore the Studite from Catechesis 47 (The Great Catecheses)

Rejoice, assembly of God!

Rejoice in the Lord without ceasing (cf. Phil 4:4), my dear children. I beg you rejoice, citizens of heaven but exiles on earth, inhabitants of the Jerusalem on high (cf. Gal 4:26) but banished from affairs here below, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven but disinherited from taking any part at all in earthly pleasures! Rejoice, ardent travelers, at undergoing exile and maltreatment in a foreign land in the name of the commandment of God! Rejoice, you who are last in this world but lords of blessings that exceed our understanding (cf. Phil 4:7).

Rejoice, noble company, brought together by God, assembly united in heart and soul, who give life to filial and fraternal love, a replica on earth of the host of angels! (…) Rejoice, God’s workers, apostolic men. (…) Rejoice, you who set your joy in each other, each making his own the reputation of his brother, you in whom is found neither jealousy, rivalry nor envy but, in their place, peace and charity and life in common. In truth, I do not say that we are not attacked – indeed, who is crowned if not the one who struggles and fights, who exchanges thrusts and wounds with his assailants? – but I say that we should not let ourselves be brought down by the machinations of Satan.

Yes, my children, assembly of God, nourish yourselves with the food of the Spirit and drink the water given by the Lord: whoever comes to possess this water will never thirst again, but it will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life (cf. Jn 4:14). (…) Yet a little while and we shall have vanquished. And blessed shall we be; blessed also, it shall be said, are the places, family and countries that have borne you (cf. Lk 11:27-28).