treasure in earthly vessels:
wisdom from the catholic tradition iii

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.