Lord, My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

A Light for Revelation

A Light for Revelation. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to Your people Israel, Lord (Canticle of Simeon, Nunc dimittis, Luke 2: 29-32).

Yesterday, February 2, we celebrated the rich and ancient feast of Candlemas, which is commemorated in both the Western Roman Rite Church and as well as the Eastern Church. This liturgical festival is known under a variety of titles, and its early existence is verified in the homilies of many ancient bishops including: St. Methodius of Patara (C. 312), St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 360), St. Gregory the Theologian (c. 389), St. Amphilochius of Iconium (c. 394), St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 400), and St. John Chrysostom (c. 407).

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012, © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012-

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012, © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012-

In the Western Roman Catholic Latin Rite this feast is known as: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, and the Presentation of the Lord. For the Eastern Orthodox and many of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches, this feast is celebrated as one of the Twelve Great Feasts. It is the Hypapante which is Greek for “Encounter. As such, it celebrates the encounter of the Christ-Child and Simeon ( the Just Man) and the Prophetess Anna, as recounted in the Gospel (Luke 2: 22-40). For the Byzantine Catholic and Greek Orthodox this feast is also unique because it is celebrated as both a Great Feast of Our Lord, and a Great Feast of Our Lady, the Theotokos, and is known as: “Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple” or as “The Meeting of Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In the Eastern Rite, this beautiful festival is celebrated with a forefeast of one day, and an after feast of seven days (thus, I can assure myself that even though this post is late, it is still relevant….). Often candles are blessed during the liturgical rites of this celebration and distributed among the faithful.

Candlemas Celebration at Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2013 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2013.

Candlemas Celebration at Holy Hill, the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2013 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

In his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, the Holy Father, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, notes that three specific events are celebrated on the fortieth day after Christmas: “the “purification” of Mary, the “redemption of the first-born child Jesus through an offering prescribed by the law, and the “presentation” of Jesus in the Temple (p. 58).”

The Book of Leviticus (12:1-4) stipulates that after giving birth to a male child, the woman was considered to be impure (excluded from taking part in public worship) for seven days, the child himself was to be circumcised on the eighth day, and the woman was to remain at home for an additional span of thirty days, in purification of her blood. After this time, she was to present a purification sacrifice – a burnt offering – of a young lamb, as well as a sin-offering of two turtle doves or young pigeons. The poor were absolved of the need to bring the young lamb. Thus, St. Luke stipulates that Mary and Joseph brought the offering of the poor: two turtle doves or young pigeons. In his book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, Pope Benedict notes that the entire Gospel makes it clear that Jesus and His family belonged to the poor of Israel, and it was therefore through the poor that the long awaited Messiah would fulfill the promise of salvation. It is precisely through the poor that God chose to offer His gift of salvation for all humankind.

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Candlemas Celebration, Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, February 2, 2012 © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

The Holy Father goes on to state that:

“Mary does not need to be purified from the birth of Jesus: his birth ushers the purification of the world. But she obeys the law, and in this way she serves the fulfillment of the promises (p. 59).”

Our Lady is a model of poverty and obedience. She did not excuse herself from the precepts of the law rather, in her holiness, she perfectly fulfilled scripture.

Hail Full of Grace © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2013.

Hail Full of Grace © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

One might also consider that while because of her poverty, Our Lady was absolved of the requirement under the Mosaic Law to bring a young lamb to the temple as a purification sacrifice, in actuality He Whom she (and St. Joseph) brought to the temple IS the Ultimate Purification Sacrifice: the infant Lamb of GOD. It is precisely because of Our Lady’s spiritual poverty, her willingness to empty herself totally, and be filled with the grace of God (Hail Mary Full of Grace… kechatitomene – Kεχαριτωμένη-) that this privilege was bestowed upon her by Almighty God.

In Mosaic Law, the first-born male was to be redeemed, and a price of five shekels was to be paid to a priest. The first-born male child was thus to be given unreservedly to God: “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord (Exodus 13: 2).” In his text, the Holy Father points out that this prescribed action did not necessarily have to take place in the Temple. Yet, in Jesus’ case the Temple setting is absolutely essential to God’s plan. Recall, the Temple was considered to be the “footstool” of God’s presence for the people of Israel. In an authentic way the Temple was an indication of the validity of God’s presence among His people. In this encounter, The Redeemer of the World is redeemed according to the law, and by virtue of this act, Jesus is publicly handed over to God His Father. As Jesus is presented in the Temple, in a real way the Son of God is presented to God the Father. Thus, both acts are completed in this encounter in the Temple, the prescribed redemption under the law, and the Presentation of the Son to God the Father.

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2013.

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

These significant events unfold fulfilling both scripture and the letter of the law against a backdrop of prophesy. First, Simeon the “Just Man” is described in scripture as “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel (Luke 2: 25).” It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. On this particular day, Simeon came to the temple “in the Spirit of the Lord (Luke 2:27).” Upon seeing the Child Jesus, Simeon took the Child Jesus in His arms and blessed God, proclaiming:

“Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory to Your people Israel Lord (Canticle of Simeon, Nunc dimittis, Luke 2: 29-32).”

Mary and Joseph are amazed at this public proclamation regarding their infant son. As Simeon blesses them, he continues to prophesy, saying specifically to Mary:

“Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (Luke 2: 33-35).”

Simeon’s prophesy indicates the truth that the cross is intimately intertwined with the Messianic mission. Yes, the Christ-Child is the Salvation of Israel – and of all people – but to embrace the glory of Salvation, the Cross is essential.

Candlemas celebration, February 2, 2013, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011-2013.

Candlemas celebration, February 2, 2013, Holy Hill, Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Like Simeon, Anna the Prophetess, is equally pious, leading a sacrificial life of prayer and penance (Luke 2: 36-38). Like Simeon, she steps forward at the moment Jesus is presented in the Temple, to thank God, and to speak “about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2: 38).”

This beautiful feast is replete with grace and meaning. Scripture is fulfilled and we are invited to bear witness to the true Light which has come into the world. Just as Simeon and Anna encounter Christ, we too are invited to “see” Who He truly is – with the grace of the Holy Spirit – to encounter Him. Like Simeon, we are also invited to “take the child into our arms” and bless God. Embracing Christ and His Cross, we too are invited to praise God for the gift of the Incarnate Word – Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Blessed Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple; Joyous Candlemas!

M. A. JMJ

This is My Beloved Son. . . .

Caeli aperti sunt caeli et vox Patris intonuit: “Hic est Filius meus dilectus, audite illum.”

Unless One is Born of Water and The Spririt. . . . © Salve Mater Dei 2013 EA Photo

Unless One is Born of Water and The Spirit. . . . © Salve Mater Dei 2013 EA Photo

 

The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered: “This is My Beloved Son, listen to Him (Alleluia Verse, Holy Mass, Mark 9:7).”

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In this singular act, Our Lord Jesus publicly demonstrates that He is the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.” In all humility, Jesus – though sinless – nonetheless allows Himself to be counted among sinners, so that through His humility and sacrifice our fallen humanity might be redeemed.

Today’s Gospel:

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals. I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

 

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are My beloved Son, with You I am well pleased (Mark 1: 7-11).”

 

I Have Baptized You with Water. . . He will Baptize with the Holy Spirit. . . . © Salve Mater Dei 2013 EA Photo

I Have Baptized You with Water. . . He will Baptize with the Holy Spirit. . . . © Salve Mater Dei 2013 EA Photo

In this moment of Christ’s baptism, we experience the tangible presence of the Most Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are truly manifest, distinct yet unified. God the Father announces to heaven and earth that Jesus Christ is His beloved Son, the One in Whom He is well pleased. In that instant we clearly comprehend that Christ perfectly embodies the Will of the Father: Jesus accepts His role as Suffering Servant and with it anticipates His baptism into death for the remission of the sins of all humanity. The Father Loves the Son, and acknowledges that He is pleased with Jesus for perfectly conforming to His Divine Will. The Holy Spirit – the Divine reflection of the Love that exists between the first two persons of the Blessed Trinity – visibly demonstrates the reality of this unity of Supernatural Love.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. . . . © Salve Mater Dei 2013

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. . . . © Salve Mater Dei 2013

The Baptism of Jesus is replete with grace and meaning. It is the inauguration of Christ’s public ministry. Through it we are given a glimpse of the glory of God, and of the life that we are called to emulate if we are to attain the eternal joy for which we are created. Just as Christ humbly accepts His eternal role as mediator for our sins, we too must humbly accept our own baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. As Christ takes on our human flesh and blood, so we too must be willing to embrace the salvific action of His Flesh and Blood. Through the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, we are given the privilege to embrace this very mystery of our salvation each and every day.

You are a Child of God! © Salve Mater Dei 2013

Rejoice, For You are a Child of God! © Salve Mater Dei 2013

At our own Baptism, we profoundly encountered the Most Blessed Trinity, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit became truly manifest in our lives. At the moment our souls were cleansed of Original Sin, we became adopted children of the Heavenly Father. Now armed with Sanctifying Grace, we endeavor to live worthy lives, such that one day, when we shall appear before the throne of the Most High, we too may hear: “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

Blessed Feast of the Baptism of The Lord,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A.  JMJ

Beneplacitum est Domino in Populo Suo: The Lord Takes Delight in His People.

Vidimus stellam eius in Oriente et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.

Where is the Newborn King of the Jews? We Have Come to Do Him Homage. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

Where is the Newborn King of the Jews? We Have Come to Do Him Homage. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

“We have seen His star in the East, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord (Epiphany Mass, Communion Antiphon, Mt 2:2).”

Each one of us has been endowed with extraordinary gifts from Our Creator. We are immeasurably loved, and out of Love Itself, God had deigned to create each and every one of us just the way we are. Each of us possesses a unique collection of talents that God has ordained be directed to achieving the unique purpose for which He has planned our existence from all eternity. To some, God has granted musical ability, to others intellect; some are athletes, or artists, great listeners, or contemplative pray-ers.

Overjoyed They Opened Their Treasures, and Offered Him Gifts. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

Overjoyed They Opened Their Treasures, and Offered Him Gifts. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

This is the time of the year for New Year’s resolutions. Traditionally we take stock of ourselves, examine our flaws and endeavor to change those areas that are defective. While on the whole this process can be beneficial if it is directed to improving our spiritual well-being and embracing a closer relationship with God and those others with whom He has placed us on this earth, it can also be problematic. For if as our process of introspection focuses only upon superficialities – like appearance, weight, wealth, possessions, then instead of deepening our relationship with God, we may actually be tempted to lose sight of the enormous depth of God’s love for us. While concentrating on trivialities, we may ignore the spiritual reality, and inadvertently neglect to take advantage of opportunity for true growth.

Caravans of Camels Shall Fill You, Dromedaries from Midian and Epah; All From Sheba Sahll Come. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

Caravans of Camels Shall Fill You, Dromedaries from Midian and Epah; All From Sheba Shall Come. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

Comprehending that we are immeasurably loved is essential. When we truly take time to consider that God loves us as we are – fat, skinny, bald, toothless, cranky – whatever – a profound change takes place. Superficialities become less important –not only in ourselves, but in others as well. God Loves us! He created us as we are for a reason. Yes, we are expected to strive to make the best use of the gifts we have been given, and ultimately to render the greatest honor and glory to Him through appropriate use of those gifts. We are called, with His grace, to perfect the work He has begun in us. Yet, to do that efficiently, we must gratefully acknowledge the gifts we have been given.

Bearing Gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

Bearing Gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

To some degree that means not only accepting what we have, but also realizing that certain gifts are not part of His plan for us. I have a hard time imagining that Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior squabbled over their gifts. As I contemplate the journey of the Magi, I just don’t hear Melchior saying to himself, “I wanted to present the Christ-Child with the Frankincense, and now I’m just stuck with the Myrrh.” Part of the lesson of the Epiphany lies in accepting the gifts we are given to lay before the crib of the Divine Infant. For like the Magi, each of us is following a Divine Light, and one day that journey will in fact end. When it does, we will be asked to open our coffers and present the gifts with which we have been entrusted from all eternity.

One Day, We Will Each Be Called to Make Account OF The Treasures We Have Been Given.  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

One Day, We Will Each Be Called to Make Account Of The Treasures We Have Been Given. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013. EA Photo

As we embark upon this new year, let us resolve to make good use of those gifts in the service of God and our neighbor. In so doing we will adore the King of Kings in the way He has ordained for each of us from the beginning of time, and render unto Him the Glory that He is due.

Give Him the Praise that is Due. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Give Him the Praise that is Due. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Adorabunt te, Domine, omnes gentes terrae.

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.

Blessed Epiphany,

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,

MA JMJ

Lord, Every Nation on Earth Shall Adore You. . . .

Vidimus stellam eius in Oriente et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.

Lord, Every Nation on Earth Shall Adore You. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Lord, Every Nation on Earth Shall Adore You. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

“We have seen His star in the East, and have come with gifts to adore the Lord (Epiphany Mass, Communion Antiphon, Mt 2:2).”

Today we are invited to follow the Star and adore Our Infant Lord with the Magi. Scripture tells us:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold Magi from the East arrived in Jerusalem, saying “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw His star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this he was greatly troubled, and all of Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler Who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Magi From the East Arrived in Jerusalem. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Magi From the East Arrived in Jerusalem. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I may go and do him homage.” After their audience with the king they set out. And behold the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. They opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another route (Gospel, Epiphany Mass, Mt. 2: 1-12).

They Saw the Child with His Mother Mary. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

They Saw the Child with His Mother Mary. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2013.

We know from Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition that the Magi were real, and that in supreme humility they visited Our Lord, and offered tokens of their earthly wealth in Adoration of their Creator. We have come to revere the wisdom and courage of these royal visitors. They embarked on a perilous journey, forsaking the comfort of their dwellings in search of the Infant King. Deep and abiding faith fueled their sojourn. They had never seen the Divine Infant, the object of their desire, yet they searched for Him diligently.

We are commanded to “love God with our whole heart, whole mind and whole soul, and to love our neighbor as our selves (Luke 10: 27).” The Magi provide a tangible example of the Great Command in action. These wise men loved God from the depths of their being, and sought Him earnestly with their intellects, hearts, and souls. They were willing to forsake familiarity and comfort. Leaving behind the security of wealth and prestige, they embraced humility and danger while searching for the Infant King. The Magi understood that their great abundance was a product of God’s Divine Providential Love. Their saw their treasure and talents as gifts from God, and sought to express sincere gratitude to Him for such copious blessings. God had given them everything, and in return for His superabundant providence, they offered their health, wealth, and service.

We have seen His Star in the East © Salve Mater Dei 2013.

We have seen His Star in the East © Salve Mater Dei 2013.

When we contemplate the serenity of the crèche, there is a sense of silent awe. We see the Infant Jesus resting in the arms of His Mother Mary, and the Magi prostrating themselves in hushed Adoration. There is a sense of contentment – the object of their desire has been found! Now that their arduous journey is complete; like Jesus, they too can rest in placid joy.

Today, as we celebrate the Epiphany, we are offered an opportunity to partake in the visit of the Magi. We are asked to forsake the comforts of familiarity, and to truly seek the Christ-child with sincere hearts. We are asked to love God deeply, and enlist our hearts, minds, and souls profoundly in the task searching for His Kingdom among us. We are challenged to be content with the gifts we have been given, and to use our earthly treasures to render to Him the greatest honor and glory possible.

Venimus adorare Dominum - We have Come to Do Him Homage. © Salve Mater Dei 2013

Venimus adorare Dominum – We have Come to Do Him Homage. © Salve Mater Dei 2013

Like the Magi, if we earnestly seek Christ, we too shall see His Light dawn within us in radiant beauty, and rest in silent awe as we contemplate His Divine Majesty.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini: Deus Dominus et illuxit nobis

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord: The Lord is God and has given us Light (Psalm 118(117):26-27).”

Striving to Resemble Christ as a Holy Innocent

Weeping for her Children, because they were no more. . .

Weeping for her Children, because they were no more. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

A voice was heard in Rama, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Jeremiah 31:15).

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents and in so doing we honor the lives of the infants who were slaughtered at the command of King Herod.

Today’s Gospel states:

When the Magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

At The Kings Command These Innocent Babes Were Put to Death. . . .

At The Kings Command These Innocent Babes Were Put to Death. . . .

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: A voice was heard in Rama, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more (Matthew 2:13-18).

Christmas Reflects the Joy of Innocence. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Christmas Reflects the Joy of Innocence. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

In the midst of Christmas bliss, our joy is today tinged with sorrow. It is impossible to contemplate the concept of Christmas without simultaneously thinking of children. The Christ Child is integral to the nature of Christmas itself: without the Divine Babe, Christmas itself would not exist. Both religious and secular society recognize the centrality of children to Christmas. From crèche to carolers, cookies to candy canes, our cherished Christmas images reflect the joy of innocence. We treasure memories of our own youthful Christmases past, and strive to allow our progeny to experience cherished traditions with the same delight we held so long ago.

Cherished Memories of Christmas Past. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Cherished Memories of Christmas Past. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

This rhythm of innocence and joy is among the blessings of this sacred season. Fresh are the memories of our youngsters kneeling by the crèche to wish Baby Jesus a “Happy Birthday”, of wee ones enthralled with glittery festive wrap, chubby cheeks sticky with holiday sweets, and angelic choruses singing “Silent Night.” Yet, today, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents we acknowledge that the Cross and the Crib are not all that far apart. If we are to embrace the Babe in the Manager, we must also prepare ourselves accept the Cross as well.

We must be Prepared to Welcome both the Christ in the Crib and One on the Cross.

We must be Prepared to Welcome both the Christ in the Crib and One on the Cross. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Ours is an imperfect, fallen, temporary world. Eternity is forever and in His wisdom, our loving God allows us to unite our suffering with that of His beloved Son. This grace is offered to all, irrespective of age, race, or station in life. The tender babes who we remember as the Holy Innocents achieved the grace to perfectly reflect Christ to a troubled world.

The martyrs whose feast we celebrate were victims of the cruel, irrational jealousy of King Herod. Their innocence and light contrasts his evil darkness. Herod “The Great” is recorded in history as a brutal, maniacal, despot; diabolical shadows are evident throughout his entire reign. Herod was appointed Governor of Galilee by Rome at the age of 25. His cruelty was already known and condemned by high-ranking Jewish officials. He briefly lost his throne in a power struggle with his nephew, Antigonus; upon which Herod swiftly traveled to Rome to politically spar for his precious throne. Evidently he was persuasive and his history of brutal suppression of opposition was thought by Rome to be an asset; the Roman Senate declared Herod “The King of the Jews” c. 39 B.C.

Upon returning to Judea, and securing his throne, Herod promptly married the adolescent niece of Antigonus, Mariamne I, in an effort to ameliorate Jewish discontent at his return. Herod banished his own wife Doris and her children rather than deal with palace squabbles over legitimate heirs to the throne. Actually this fate was kinder than that which was in store for Mariamne and some of her sons. Fueled by jealous rage and paranoia Herod had each of them brutally murdered.

Aware that his subjects despised him, Herod “The Great” devised an elaborate plan to ensure that at his death his subjects would mourn. His final illness was described by the renowned Roman historian Josephus. He recounts details that include visible worms within his flesh, purification, and agony, – his son, Herod Agrippa’s fate included a similarly recorded death. As Herod’s health began to fail, he ordered that many of the most beloved citizens and revered rabbis be imprisoned and that upon his death they be executed. There is however some evidence that Herod’s son Archilaus failed to carry out this diabolical request.

Herod “The Great,” the Roman appointed “King of the Jews,” was an evil man. Darkness and light cannot exist simultaneously. The True Light was coming into the world, and neither Herod, nor the Evil which fueled him, could tolerate that reality. Thus, in an effort to extinguish the Light, Herod ordered the slaughter of all baby boys two years and under living in the region of Bethlehem. These children died because they resembled our Savior in gender, age, and innocence. Their senseless massacre was mourned in heaven and on earth. Truly one can sense God Himself weeping over their deaths. Two millennia later tears are still shed for their passing and their lives are remembered with great devotion. They have achieved the glory of immortality that eluded their brutal murder.

These babes were martyred because they resembled the Christ-Child. Yet, for those of us who believe, there is no greater grace than to conform perfectly to Our Savior as to be confused for Him. In reality, those of us who bear the name Christian strive daily to become living, breathing images of Christ, such that when one sees us they truly see Him alive within us. The Holy Innocents achieved this monumental task at a tender age.

Become a Living, Breathing, Image of Christ. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Become a Living, Breathing, Image of Christ. . . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

In our world today there are other holy innocents whose lives speak volumes. Last month a young boy named Andrew succumbed to an aggressive brain cancer. His faith was unwavering, and in his final weeks he was often heard praying and offering his suffering for other children with cancer. He prayed that his family might accept his death, and that they all might one day be reunited in Paradise.

Last year, another young girl prayed that closeness which through her devastating illness had bonded her troubled family would not be shattered upon her death.

A tiny babe recovering from massive surgeries to correct devastating birth anomalies clings to life surrounded by his amazing faith-filled family http://www.dominicpio.com/. (Please pray for little Dominic Pio!)

Each day in the abortion mills throughout this country and the world, thousands of precious, tiny lives are taken. Their light is extinguished by the darkness of ignorance and selfishness.

One has only to look to the recent events in Newtown Connecticut to sense the preciousness of innocent lives, and that fact that dark and disturbed people still exist.

Today, as we remember the Holy Innocents and celebrate their Feast, let us pray that we too achieve the grace to resemble Christ so closely that we might be mistaken for Him. Let us pray for all the innocent children of the world – born and unborn – that they might enjoy freedom to live in health and safety, and come to proclaim the reality of the love of Christ.

May His Light shine through them and through us for all eternity.

Merry Christmas Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A.   JMJ

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pray for Us!

Holy Mother of God, pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photographer

Holy Mother of God, pray for us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photographer

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the Americas! The origin of this feast goes back to the 16th century, when a radiant Heavenly visitor appeared to a simple Indian peasant, – a 57 year old widower named Juan Diego, who was on his way to Holy Mass in honor of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception, on December 9, 1531. As Juan passed Tepeyac Hill, he heard beautiful music, and then a lovely voice calling his name: “Juanito, Juan Dieguit.”  He then saw Our Lady wearing the raiment of an Aztec Princess – one who was with child. Our Lady spoke to Juan in his own language, and gave him the mission to request of Bishop Juan de Zumarraga that a chapel was to be built in her honor. She stated:

“Know and understand well, you the most humble of my sons, that I am the ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of Heaven and the Earth. I wish that a chapel be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a chapel be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”

Juan reluctantly carried out her request. The Franciscan Bishop, though kind, thought Juan was hallucinating. Our Lady appeared to Juan two more times, and again Juan conveyed the Blessed Mother’s requests to Bishop Juan de Zumarraga . Finally, the Bishop sent Juan away with the seemingly impossible task of bringing back a sign – Castilian roses from the Bishop’s home region in Spain (recall this was the middle of December in Mexico).

St. Juan Diego Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. Photo taken at Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI

St. Juan Diego Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. Photo taken at Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, WI

The morning of the fourth apparition, Juan’s uncle became gravely ill, and as Juan hurried to find a priest to administer the Last Rites, he purposely avoided seeing Our Lady. He skirted around Tepeyac Hill, fearing that should he run into the Heavenly visitor, she might detain him in his important task of finding a priest. Our Blessed Mother is not easily deterred, and simply found Juan on the other side of the hill. She compassionately assured Juan that his uncle would completely recover (which he did). Our dear Lady of Guadalupe gently stated again in his own tongue:

“Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. be assured that he is now cured.”

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Please Pray for Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2011. GM photographer

The Blessed Mother pointed to a patch of Castilian Roses growing in the cold and instructed Juan to pick them. After he did, her loving hands arranged them in his tilma (coarse Indian cloak). Empowered by our Lady’s words, Juan again visited the Bishop. When Juan entered the room, and opened his arms, the Castilian roses cascaded to the ground, and the amazed Bishop fell to his knees. A beautiful, inexplicable image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on the rough fiber Indian cloak. While the cloak itself should have disintegrated in about 50-75 years as others of the same time period did, this cloak, and its miraculous image have endured for 480 years.

The image itself is the object of much study and writing, and someday I’ll devote an entire post to it. This image has survived much – even an attempt to bomb it that severely damaged the church which contained the treasure. NASA scientists have analyzed the image, and find no known earthly element involved in its existence – it is not painted, nor is it a photograph. The stars on Our Lady’s mantle appear exact pattern that would have occurred in the sky on that December morning in 1531. Computer analysis of the eyes of the image  – when magnified – reveal several figures who appear to be kneeling. The number of miracles associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe and this image are uncountable. Perhaps the greatest miracle is that within a decade after Our Lady’s appearance 9 million people were converted, and the gruesome Aztec practice of human child sacrifice was abandoned.

Our Lady of Guadalupe’s miraculous intercession continues to this present day. Please join me on Her Feast in requesting her unfailing aid.

Lead Us to Your Divine Son, Jesus! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Lead Us to Your Divine Son, Jesus! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Empress of the America’s and Protector of the Unborn, please pray for us, for our beloved country which desperately needs Your Miraculous and Motherly intercession. Please give us the grace to respect each other regardless of race, handicap, income or age. Please pray that we may also end the scourge of child sacrifice performed daily under the clinical name of abortion. Please help us to convert our hearts, and mend our lives as You aided others so long ago. Recognizing that you are “the ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of Heaven and the Earth,” we place our confidence in the protection of Your Immaculate Heart. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Please pray for us!

Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

M.A. JMJ

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη)

© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

May Your Mother Intercede for Us Lord! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most beautiful celebrations in the liturgical year. Today we commemorate the singular grace and privilege that God Himself bestowed upon Our Heavenly Mother: namely that she was conceived without the stain of Original Sin. Through this feast we are invited to thank God for the tremendous grace with which He has endowed Our Lady, and also to seek Her powerful maternal intercession for ourselves.

The privilege of being the Immaculate Conception is unique in Salvation History. Never before – nor ever again – has a mere creature been given so great a gift. Yet the gift is truly fitting when one contemplates the solitary role Our Lady was to occupy within God’s Divine Plan. The Blessed Mother was to provide a pure Tabernacle of human flesh within which Our Divine Savior was to rest and grow for nine months. In anticipation of Mary’s fiat, Our Lord prevented the disfigurement of Original Sin from ever touching her Immaculate Soul- His gift of grace to Our Lady who existed absolutely and totally replete with grace from the first moment of her being.

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη), © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

“Hail Full of Grace!” (Kεχαριτωμένη), © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Indeed, the Angel Gabriel greets the Blessed Mother not with the words “Hail Mary,” but rather “Hail Full of Grace.” The Greek word, kechatitomene (Kεχαριτωμένη) is used exclusively to name the Blessed Mother, and it means full (overflowing) with grace. The connotation of this word is that Our Lady, was so brimming with the gift of God’s grace that there was not even an iota of room for anything opposed to that grace. My Koine Greek is pretty rusty, but what I remember is that kechatitomene is in the aorist tense – a past perfect tense denoting an action that was begun in the past, but continued into the present. Mary was conceived sinless, and that state continued into present.

The Lord Will Dawn on You in Radiant Beauty . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord Will Dawn on You in Radiant Beauty . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

When God uses a word in place of a person’s name or renames an individual, it bears deep significance as it reflects the very being and mission of the individual. Recall for example that: Abram (exalted father) was renamed Abraham (father of many nations), Jacob wrestled with an angel and was given the name Israel (contended with God), Simon the fisherman was renamed Peter- the Rock, and the Pharisee Saul was transformed into the Christian Paul. Thus, when the Angel of the Annunciation refers to the Blessed Mother, not by her given name of Mary, but rather as “kechatitomene,” it reflects the past of her sinless conception, the present of the moment of the Annunciation, and the future of her mission as the Immaculate Conception – a mission which continues to this very day.

The Lord has Chosen Her, His Loved on From the Beginning. . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord has Chosen Her, His Loved on From the Beginning. . © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

In the United States of America, devotion to Our Lady under the title “Immaculate Conception” has early antecedents. For example, a feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated in all the Spanish colonies, and established as a Holy Day of Obligation by the First Provincial Council of Lima in 1552. Franciscan Missions to Our Lady under this privileged title include: Convento de Inmaculada Concepcion in St. Augustine, Florida (established in 1573), and La Purisima Conception Mission in New Mexico (1629) and La Purisima Concepcion in California (1787).

The Lord is with You! “Hail Full of Grace!”  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The Lord is with You! “Hail Full of Grace!” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

The renowned Jesuit explorer, Pere Jacque Marquette explored the Mississippi River, and not only entrusted his perilous expedition to Blessed Virgin, but also renamed the Indian Village of Kaskasia “Immaculate Conception of Mary,” as well as renamed the Great River: “Conception River.” Fr. Marquette’s devotion to Our Lady under this title also included spreading a devotion to the Chaplet of Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, a chaplet he himself created in Her honor.

As early as May 17, 1846 Our Lady was proclaimed patroness of the entire country under this privileged title by the bishops if the United States at the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore. From early antiquity, a belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is evident through the writings of the early Church Fathers. Even before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was officially promulgated by Pope Pius IX December 8, 1854, in his papal bull Ineffabilis Deus, this doctrine was widely espoused and celebrated, not only in Europe, but also in the United States. In 1884, the bishops of the United States united at the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore to require that the feast be celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation by all dioceses in the United States. This decision received the full approbation of Rome in 1885.

Mary Full of Grace, Intercede of Us!  © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Mary Full of Grace, Intercede of Us! © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

We have a rich history of celebrating the immense privilege that God has bestowed upon Our Lady. Throughout the centuries She has shown Herself to be responsive to the supplications of Her beloved children, especially when they invoke Her under this title. As our nation faces unprecedented threats to Religious Liberty, let us unite on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception to thank God for the graces He has bestowed upon Mary, and to invoke Her Intercession for ourselves and nation.

Blessed Feast Day!

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. JMJ

The Lord is King, He is Robed in Majesty!

The Lord is King, He is Robed in Majesty © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photo

The Lord is King, He is robed in Majesty; the Lord is robed, girded with might. The world will surely stand in place, never to be moved. Your throne stands firm from of old; You are from everlasting, Lord (Psalm 93: 1-2).

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. On this day, we bow our heads and acknowledge the dominion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Divine authority over everything in this world, and indeed the entire universe. Scripture clearly elucidates Christ’s Kingship. For example, today’s First Reading states:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of Man coming, on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before Him, the One like a Son of Man received dominion, glory and kingship; all peoples, nations, and languages serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, His kingship shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7-13-14).

All Nations Shall Come to Adore Him. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photo

This Solemnity originated as a feast, in response to mounting cultural pressures to succumb to rising tides of secularism. In 1925, Pope Pius XI penned the Encyclical Quas Primas, thus initiating this feast, under the title “D. N. Jesu Christi Regis,” Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

Earlier that year, the Pontiff was reportedly walking in the Papal Gardens with a cardinal, who noted how dejected the pontiff seemed. In the conversation that ensued, the Holy Father discussed his frustration with the flood of –isms that were spreading darkness throughout the world. He detailed the ramifications of: Mussolini’s Fascism, Hitler’s Nazism, Stalin’s Communism, Freud’s psychological determinism, and the American materialism that was manifest in the roaring twenties. Pope Pius XI explained that Christ and His dominion remain the solitary answer to humanity’s deepest yearning. These other false doctrines fail to satisfy our longing and need for Christ and His Kingship. It is only in submission to Christ as our Sovereign, that the human soul finds fulfillment and peace.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8).” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

This exchange prompted Pope Pius XI to write the encyclical Quas Primas, and initiate the Feast of Christ the King in 1925. The Holy Father envisioned that this Feast could have multiple effects. First, He hoped that the rulers of this world would understand that they are bound to respect Christ (Quas Primas 31). Pope Pius XI also hoped that the nations of the world would accept that the Church has a right to freedom, and immunity from the state (Quas Primas, 32). Similarly, the Pontiff hoped that The Feast of Christ the King would empower Christians with courage and strength, as we are reminded that Jesus Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, bodies and wills (Quas Primas, 33).

The Alpha and the Omega, Corpus Christi © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.EA photo

As we look at recent threats to religious liberty in this country, most notably the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate requiring Catholic (as well as other) Institutions and employers to provide “health” insurance coverage which will include (without co-pay) contraceptives,abortifacients, and sterilization, we see how the antecedents envisioned by Pope Pius XI have blossomed into real threats to the religious freedom and moral life of the contentious Christian faithful. Those whose religious principles hold that all life is sacred from natural conception to natural death, have been told they will have to either violate their consciences or violate the law of the land. Our religious freedom is rapidly being confined to the 4 walls of our homes, as state sanctioned assaults on religious freedom are more commonplace. Thus, Pope Pius’ objective to urge world leaders to respect the authority of Christ, to protect the religious freedom of Christians, and to empower Christians to remain courageously stalwart while embracing the reign of Christ in our hearts, minds and bodies (Quas Primas 31-33) bears as much significance today as when Quas Primas was penned 87 years ago.

As contemporary Americans, the concept of kingship seems a bit foreign to us. Didn’t we throw that off in 1776? That staunchly independent streak of ours seems to balk at the slightest hint of subservience to royalty. We like to think of Jesus as our friend and brother (as indeed He is), and seek Him as our Merciful Savior; however, when it comes to acknowledging Jesus as our Sovereign King, and submitting ourselves to His Reign, there we find difficulty. This is especially true when it comes to personal moral decisions, those that seem to go against the grain of contemporary society, or expose us to the discomfort of appearing at odds with popular culture.

The Lord Our All-Powerful God is King © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.EA photo

It is precisely here, where that discomfort lies, that drive of autonomous rebellion to His authority begins; at this explicit juncture we must decide whether we are truly loyal Christians, or not. In this political and cultural climate, as threats to conscience and religious liberty escalate, we are in a real way being called to decide to Whom we owe our highest allegiance. Whom do we wish to serve? Will we stand with Jesus Christ? Will we acknowledge and accept His ultimate and legitimate authority over our hearts, minds, and souls? Are we embarrassed or reluctant to admit that His Dominion exists in our everyday lives? Does He reign in our homes – yes, even our bedrooms?  What about at work, in our boardrooms? How about our voting booths? Is He present when we surf the Internet, when we chat on the phone, or when we relax in front of the television? If Jesus Christ is truly our Sovereign King, then we must willingly give Him dominion over every aspect of our lives: private, public, and political.

All Power, Honor, and Glory © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA photo

Recall Jesus commands us in Sacred Scripture to: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; but render unto God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).”

Today’s Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe is an opportune time to examine our relationship with Jesus, and to recommit ourselves to His service. For whether or not we choose to acknowledge His Sovereignty, it does objectively exist: He is in fact, the Eternal King. Even a casual observer of recent global geo-political history has to admit that earthly rulers and their policies come and go, even geo-political boundaries are subject to change. The map of Eurasia appears vastly different than it did 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago. Our present world is in flux. The powerful of this world are eventually replaced by those who are more powerful; the prosperous by those with more wealth, the attractive and popular by those who are more so. These superficial realities are indeed fleeting, and allegiance to them is fidelity to the transient. However, “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).” Ultimately our time on earth is relatively short when compared against the backdrop of eternity. Our choice to submit to His authority has eternal ramifications. If we serve Him in this world, we shall enjoy perpetual peace in His Kingdom for all eternity. If we choose to rebel against His authority – and we have the free will to do just that – then we shall have all eternity to ponder that decision as well.

Lamb of God You take Away the Sins of the World. © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012.

On this Solemnity, let us consider carefully the choice before us. Recall in Revelations 3:16 how Our Lord spoke of those who failed to make a conscious choice to commit themselves to Christ: “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” With that in mind, let us renew our consecration to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Together let us recommit ourselves to serving Him in this world, working for the greatest honor and Glory of God in time and Eternity.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

MA JMJ

Pro Orantibus Day 2012 – A Moment of Gratitude for Those Who Pray

Blessed are the Pure of Heart, For they Shall See God © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. KJ photo

“The prayer of him that humbleth himself, shall pierce the clouds: and till it come nigh he will not be comforted: and he will not depart until the Most High behold (Ecclesiasticus 35: 21).”

Prayer is the ultimate gift. Its swiftness surpasses the speed of light as it moves from the heart of the suppliant to the Heart of the Divine. No human construct can compare with this acute form of communication. Human longings are transformed by the Spirit into a reality that is intelligible to God alone. Scripture assures us:

“In the same way, the Holy Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the One Who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy one’s according to God’s Will (Romans 8: 26-29).”

Prayer is the voluntary movement of the human soul in response to Divine Love. It is sublime and efficacious.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face once stated:

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy (Manuscrits and Autobiographies, C25r).”

When one offers to pray for another, it is a tremendous gift; when one offers his or her very life in the service of contemplative prayer, the gift is incomparable.

“We Share the Fruit of Life Through You, O Daughter Blessed by the Lord.” © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012 KJ Photo

Today, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Mother in the Temple of Jerusalem, it is fitting that we should celebrate the vocations of those cloistered and monastic men and women who dedicate their lives in prayerful service to the members of the Body of Christ. Pro Orantibus Day was instituted by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1997 as an ecclesial event to be annually observed worldwide on November 21. Pro Orantibusliterally translates to: “For those who pray.” In essence, we are offered an opportunity to offer a measure of prayer for those who spend their lives praying for us.

Hallowed Halls of Prayer – Carmelite Monastery Denmark © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

Today, the entire Church pauses for a moment of gratitude for those hidden religious whose prayers truly are vital to the health and well-being of the Body of Christ. These men and women live the exhortation to “pray without ceasing.”

Origen once stated:

“He ‘prays without ceasing’” who unites prayer to works and good works to prayer. Only in this way can we consider as realizable the principle of praying without ceasing (Origen, De orat. 12: PG 11, 452C, Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 658).”

As we honor Our Blessed Mother today, contemplating her purity, sacrifice and prayer, it is appropriate that we should also honor the contemplative religious whose daily labor of love sustains the work of the Universal Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church (p. 644, 2679).” Let us reciprocate the gift of prayer, both by thanking God for the contemplative religious who pray for us, and by invoking Our Lady’s intercession. Let us ask Her to protect their vocations by holding them tenderly to Her Immaculate Heart, and to send new laborers to the vineyard of Her Divine Son.

May Your Mother Intercede for us Lord © SalveMaterDei.com, 2012. EA Photographer

Please join me in prayer for our monastic and cloistered contemplative Religious, including their seculars, tertiaries and oblates. Together let us thank God for all who pray.

Happy Pro-Orantibus Day 2012!

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.

For All the Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest: Two Carmelite Feasts

The Souls of the Just are in the Hand of God…© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

“By Your own Blood, Lord, You brought us back to God; from every tribe and tongue, and people and nation, You made us a kingdom for our God (Evening Antiphon, All Saints’ Day Liturgy of the Hours).

Writing this at about midnight, I seem to have one foot in yesterday and the other in tomorrow. These two days, November 14 and November 15, bear significance for Discalced Carmelites. On November 14th, they celebrate the Feast of All Carmelite Saints, and likewise, the 15this traditionally celebrated as the Feast of All Carmelite Souls.

At this midpoint in November, we are again called to focus our attention on the magnificent doctrine of the Communion of Saints. We honor those men and women of heroic virtue who have persevered in faith, and with an abiding love for Christ, have kept their baptismal garments pure. Likewise we pray for those brothers and sisters in Christ who have been called from this earthly existence, yet whose imperfect character has temporarily deprived them of the glorious Beatific Vision. We are cognizant that these beloved souls are engaged in a process of purification, and that our prayers may assist them.

Scripture tells us:

“The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed in the eyes of the foolish to be dead; and their passing away an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed they be punished, yet their hope is full of immortality. Chastened a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of Himself. As Gold in a furnace He proved them, as sacrificial offerings He took them to Himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine. … (Wisdom 3:1-7).”

As we pray for the beloved souls in Purgatory, we are reminded of the need to remain in a state of grace for that moment when we shall meet God face to face. Thus, while glorifying God for the graces He has lavished upon both the Saints Triumphant and the Suffering Souls in Purgatory, we also contemplate the fragility of our own mortal flesh, and gaze momentarily into the vastness of eternity.

My Soul is Thirsting for the Living God; When Shall I See Him Face to Face? SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

While our All-loving God has created us with the ultimate solitary purpose of delighting in Eternal Bliss with Him in Paradise, He has also given each of us a free will. We each have the marvelous gift to choose to spend eternity with Him in perpetual joy, or to permanently sever our bond with God, and spend Eternity far from the abyss of His merciful love. Our destiny depends upon the path we take, and the choice is truly ours.

Scripture tells us:

“I call heaven and earth today to witness against you. I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life , then, that your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him (Deuteronomy 31:19-20).”

Fortified with the doctrine of the Communion of Saints, we realize that our all-loving God has provided us with the gift of companions on this journey. Not only are there companions who breathe the same air we do, and walk the face of the earth in the space and time that we share, but there are also companions who have already labored through life, and who now desire to assist us with their wisdom and prayers, as they inhabit an existence which transcends earthly space and time.

For those of us who are drawn to Carmelite sanctity, the companions are myriad. The life of each Carmelite saint reflects a unique aspect of the Carmelite spirituality; and studying their lives affords one the opportunity to apply their inimitable virtues to her own life. In my own life, I have discovered these Carmelite Companions to be an invaluable source of spiritual blessing.

The Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, Doctor of the Church …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

From the Holy Mother, St. Teresa of Jesus, I seek to learn how to pray. St. Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite reformer, is a magnificent teacher. I turn to St. Teresa, the great Doctor of the Church, via her writings, especially her autobiography (Life of St. Teresa), The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle. The more time I spend with St. Teresa, the more I find my prayer life does indeed deepen. Much of St. Teresa’s writings were penned as counsel for her sisters; guides to teach them how to pray. Her approachable manner allows the reader to comprehend theologically rigorous material with refreshing clarity. St. Teresa’s wisdom and guidance on this journey are incomparable.

Though not even canonized as a Blessed, Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection (1614-1691) remains one of the most influential Carmelite companions on my journey to the foot of the Throne of the Almighty. The letters of the wise lay-brother were collected and published into a book entitled, Practicing the Presence of God. I had the grace to stumble upon this volume in college, and it profoundly impacted the way I viewed my relationship with God. Through Brother Lawrence’s eyes, I continue to develop a more intimate relationship with Christ, and strive daily to recognize His presence in my mundane life.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face has taught me how to turn my miniscule deeds into gifts for God. The “Little Way” of this beloved Doctor of the Church is so relevant to my life! Like Therese, harsh penances scare me, and heroic deeds are well beyond my limited capabilities. However, like her, I long to give my best to God, and through her writings in The Story of a Soul, I find hope that my insignificant human struggles are actually valued by my Loving Creator. I love her passion, and resonate with her temper. Therese learned to channel those tempestuous qualities into a “Zeal for the Lord God of Hosts”. Following her example, I too hope to one day find my turbulent temperament has truly rested in the peace of Christ.

The young St. Teresa of the Andes is another of my favorite Carmelite companions. Through her biography, God, the Joy of My Soul, I am learning how our Lord gently calls us to love. In St. Teresa of the Andes, I see a paradox of youthful exuberance and mature spiritual depth. Reading her biography has caused me to become more cognizant of spiritual depth of others – especially the depth that is present in children and young adults. I see their innocence and joy, as they approach the omnipotence of God, and it makes me yearn to approach Him with these virtues as well. I have learned that I am better equipped to nurture the spiritual inclinations of my own children, when I view their intimacy with God in awe and wonder.

St. John of the Cross has taught me the value of suffering. Through his collected works, including the Dark Night of the Soul, I have come to realize that intimacy with God is not reflected in consolations and cozy feelings. When St. Paul tells us to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12),” it is clear that we are not promised a warm fuzzy feeling as a reward for union with Christ. Through St. John of the Cross, I begin to grasp the essential role of the cross in my own life, and take ever-so-tiny steps to embrace that cross, and follow the Wisdom Who has wrought it for my salvation.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The extraordinary St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross is a special companion on my journey. Philosophically, Phenomenology has never been my cup of tea. I avoided it like the plague in graduate school. However, I have learned much from this learned Carmelite philosopher. Edith Stein was born a Jew, and later became an atheist. However, her unquenchable desire for True Wisdom allowed her to reason her way to God. She possessed a magnificent mind and after earning a doctorate in Philosophy, she studied with world-renowned academic philosophers. Yet, academic success did not quell the longing of her soul. One night, Edith stumbled upon a copy of St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography- she devoured it, finishing it that very night. Finding it to be the truth, her soul found rest. Edith Stein was baptized, and she soon entered Carmel as Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, and wholly surrendered her life to God. As the Nazi regime hunted both St. Teresa and her sister Rosa (who had also become a Carmelite sister) that act of total surrender would profoundly demonstrate the glory of the One to Whom she had become espoused. In the days preceding her death in Auschwitz, St. Teresa cared for the children and other inmates with gentleness and joy. She reflected Christ’s mercy even in the shadow of the gas chambers. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross continues to teach me the value of courageous daily surrender to the Will of God.

My favorite Carmelite Saint is Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, whose feast we celebrated just last week on November 9. Blessed Elizabeth was born in a military camp in Avor, France. She lost her father at the tender age of 7, and lived in a comfortable middle-class environment with her mother and sister. Elizabeth was an accomplished pianist, and had been sent to study music at the conservatory in Dijon when she was a mere 8 years of age. She would practice for 5-6 hours a day, and was no stranger to diligent study. Though music and laughter were abundant in her life, she possessed philosophical and theological depth. From the time of her First Holy Communion, St. Elizabeth desired to give herself completely to God. In her teens, she became mystically aware of the indwelling presence of the Most Blessed Trinity. Her entire life would become a living prayer to the Trinity, Whom she truly understood lived within the depths of her soul. Elizabeth realized that as the Trinitarian God dwelled within her soul, the door to Heaven was in an authentic way, her very heart. I love the way she expressed this reality through her letters, and highly recommend these valuable spiritual writings which can be found published in the Complete Works of Elizabeth of the Trinity.

St. Simon Stock Receives the Brown Scapular from Our Lady of Mount Carmel …© SalveMaterDei.com, 2012

The Canon of Carmelite Saints is replete with heroes, martyrs and mystics. St. Simon Stock, whose vision of Our Lady of Mount Carmel has given us the Brown Scapular as a protective garment of grace is a favorite patron to many. Among my personal favorites are the brave martyrs of Compiegne. These 16 Carmelite sisters ascended the scaffold of the guillotine in Paris on July 17, 1794 signing the Veni Creator Spiritusand professing their vows in defiance of Robespierre’s Revolutionary Government. Their pure oblation is credited with ending the Reign of Terror a mere 10 days later. The ranks of powerful celestial Carmelite companions are enormous. These intercessors have so much to teach us as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, winding our way along the path to Eternity.

Yet while the number of canonized Carmelite saints is extensive, even larger is the number of hidden Carmelite saints; those who have labored quietly, living solely for Christ, and Him Crucified. Even greater still is the number of holy Carmelite men and women, engaged in the task of Purgatorial purification, whose prayers can benefit us greatly. Through these two days, as we celebrate their merits, and glorify God their Creator, let us endeavor to emulate their virtues in the hope of one day joining them all in Paradise. As we thank God for our Carmelite Saints, let us also petition Him for the repose of the souls of those Carmelites in Purgatory. With them, let us remain Zealous with Zeal for the Lord God of Hosts.

Blessings,

Ad Jesum per Mariam,

M.A. J.M.J.