November 27, 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe



Our Lady of Guadalupe is a celebrated 16th-century icon of the Virgin Mary mother of Jesus Christ. The image, also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe represents a famous Marian apparition. According to the traditional account, the image appeared miraculously on the front of a simple peasant's cloak. The image still exists; it is on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City. It is perhaps Mexico’s most popular religious and cultural image, and the focus of an extensive pilgrimage. The feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is December 12. She is said to have appeared to Saint Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac near Mexico City between December 9 and December 12, 1531.

November 24, 2009

The Manhatton Declaration


Recently, several orthodox Christians from numerous denominations formulated and signed the following declaration. To read the declaration in full and sign it go here:

Declaration

We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities. We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and nonbelievers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and nonbelievers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

November 17, 2009

Redemptive suffering


Redemptive suffering is the Roman Catholic belief that human suffering, when accepted and offered up in union with the Passion of Jesus, can remit the just punishment for one's sins or for the sins of another. Like an indulgence, redemptive suffering does not gain the individual forgiveness for their sin; forgiveness results from God’s grace, freely given through Christ, which cannot be earned. After one's sins are forgiven, the individual's suffering can reduce the penalty due for sin.

Vatican announces plenary indulgence for Year of Priests


The Vatican has decreed a plenary indulgence for the Year of Priests, which will begin on June 19, 2009: the feast of the Sacred Heart. In a decree made public on May 12, and signed by Cardinal James Stafford, the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican announced that the plenary indulgence will be available to all priests and faithful Catholics under the usual conditions. The decree stated that the indulgence will be granted to:

(A) All truly penitent priests who, on any day, devotedly pray Lauds or Vespers before the Blessed Sacrament exposed to public adoration or in the tabernacle, and ... offer themselves with a ready and generous heart for the celebration of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Penance, will be granted Plenary Indulgence, which they can also apply to their deceased confreres, if in accordance with current norms they take Sacramental Confession and the Eucharist and pray in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. Priests are furthermore granted Partial Indulgence, also applicable to deceased confreres, every time they devotedly recite the prayers duly approved to lead a saintly life and to carry out the duties entrusted to them.

(B) All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart, are granted Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff. This may be done on the opening and closing days of the Year of Priests, on the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean Marie Vianney, on the first Thursday of the month, or on any other day established by the ordinaries of particular places for the good of the faithful.

The elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are unable to leave their homes, may still obtain Plenary Indulgence if, with the soul completely removed from attachment to any form of sin and with the intention of observing, as soon as they can, the usual three conditions, "on the days concerned, they pray for the sanctification of priests and offer their sickness and suffering to God through Mary, Queen of the Apostles."

Partial Indulgence is offered to all faithful each time they pray five Our Father, Ave Maria and Gloria Patri, or any other duly approved prayer "in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life."
St. Maximus the Confessor

Thought of the Day
To harbor no envy, no anger, no resentment against an offender is still not to have charity for him. It is possible, without any charity, to avoid rendering evil for evil. But to render, spontaneously, good for evil -- such belongs to a perfect spiritual love.

-- St Maximus the Confessor

November 14, 2009

Theology of the Body, Part 2

Matthew Coffin

The Exchange of Persons in the Trinity

The three-leaf clover used in religion classes to explain the mystery of three Divine Persons in one God does not begin to penetrate the incomparable majesty, boundless love, and total communion, which the Church in her Tradition and creeds ascribes to the Godhead.

To the early Church Fathers the idea of perichoresis (the exchange of Persons in the Trinity), was indispensable to understanding God. This sublime, metaphysical concept is central to John Paul’s Theology of the Body. The inner life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Divine Love Itself, is dimly but unmistakably reflected in the beauty of the conjugal embrace, the nuptial meaning of our bodies, and the echo of original innocence that resides in the human heart.

Before continuing, the term "person" should be defined. A person has an intellect, with which to know and a will, with which to choose. As a result, a person is always a "someone," never a "something." Animals are not persons. Their intellects are governed by instinct and they do not have free will. Only persons can freely choose.

There are three types of persons: Divine Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), angelic persons (angels), and human persons (human beings). God alone possesses the Divine Nature that is the Divine Intellect and the Divine Will. As Persons, each member of the Trinity has a Divine Intellect and a Divine Will, separate from and in accordance with each other. Christ incarnate also possesses a human intellect and a human will. Angels are persons because they know and choose, as do human beings. This is what it means to say we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our personhood images the Divine Personhood of the Trinity.

The Inner Life of the Trinity

God’s perfection is to exist. This doesn’t sound very impressive until we consider the opposite of existence. Something that exists is more perfect than the mere conceptualization of that thing. Before Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa he envisioned it in his mind. What resulted from his creative powers and artistry continues to fascinate, inspiring legions of impersonators, and bring joy to beholders. Had he not painted it his masterpiece would have disappeared along with his imagination. The Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre is superior in every way to the unrealized concept.

As the perfection of all that is, God the Father’s knowledge of Himself is perfect. The perfect self-knowledge of the Father exists. It is God the Son. Since Jesus is the perfect self-knowledge of the Father, the Person of Christ has always existed. God the Father and God the Son have no beginning and no end, a truth acknowledged in the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.

The love of the Father for the Son is total. God the Father empties Himself completely, holding nothing back from the Son. The love of the Son for the Father is total. God the Son empties Himself completely, holding nothing back from the Father. The love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father exists. It is God the Holy Spirit. The love that is the exchange of Persons between Father and Son is the Life that is the Spirit, with no beginning and no end. The Creed affirms that the Third Person of the Trinity is coequal with and proceeds from the Father and the Son:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the prophets.

The love of the Holy Spirit for the other Persons of the Trinity is total. God the Holy Spirit empties Himself completely, holding nothing back from the Father and the Son. The love of the Father and the Son for the Spirit is total. God the Father and God the Son empty themselves completely, holding nothing back from the Spirit. This exchange of Persons that is the inner life of the Trinity is the first family. Before God created the world there was only the Divine Family. But the life-giving love of the Trinity is spiritual not sexual in nature.

Mirroring the Trinity, man and woman consummate their love in marriage through a free and total self-donation of their persons in the intimacy of sexual union. Pope John Paul’s exhortation to couples that a man should give himself completely in a receiving way to his wife, and a woman should receive her husband completely in a giving way, reflects this (Something contraception prevents entirely).

Our Lord raises marriage to a sacrament. The words of Jesus confer on matrimony a dignity befitting its purpose: "…from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." (Mark 10:6-9, also Matthew 19:4-6)

Christ is referring to the first covenant, in Genesis, between man and man’s Creator. It is a marriage covenant. God’s command to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it," calls attention to a profound truth. Only persons can know and choose. Because they know and choose persons alone can love. Only the human person is able to bring into this world another person capable of still more love. The gift of human sexuality allows married persons to grow in intimacy and holiness, give themselves more completely to their spouse, and be co-creators with God in the procreation, raising, and education of children.

In Part 3 we discuss Man and woman "in the beginning", after the Fall, and after the Resurrection; the sacrament of marriage and conjugal love.

November 11, 2009

Genesis - "In the beginning" Part IV


Last time we talked about the Protoevangelium or “first gospel” in which God promises to send a redeemer to save his people from the slavery of sin. Implicit in this is that sin will grow and spread bringing havoc on humanity.

The "fruits" of original sin begin with Adam and Eve's first born son, Cain, killing his brother, Abel. Cain comes from bad seed - Abel good. The murder is, of course, evil, but it also goes to show how human nature was altered and/or perverted by sin. Cain's children will grow numerous and flourish. Unfortunately, they will also spread their sinful ways. More on this in the next installment.

One Minute Catechism


from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
THE DESIRE FOR GOD

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for:

The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator. (Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World 19 § 1.)

In many ways, throughout history down to the present day, men have given expression to their quest for God in their religious beliefs and behavior: in their prayers, sacrifices, rituals, meditations, and so forth. These forms of religious expression, despite the ambiguities they often bring with them, are so universal that one may well call man a religious being:

November 10, 2009

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant (Continued)


As we discussed here the original Ark of the Covenant was a golden vessel containing the Ten Commandments, the sign of God's covenant with the nation of Israel. In a similar fashion, the Virgin Mary who bore Jesus in her very womb, is the Ark of the New Covenant that is Christ Himself.

Both Mary and the Ark of the Covenant were "overshadowed" by a cloud representing the Glory of the Lord. This happened to Mary at the Annunciation. The Ark of the Covenant was overshadowed by the Glory of the Lord on several occassions. During its installation in the Taburnacle and the Temple the Ark was overshadowed just as Mary was.

When the gospel writer Luke writes about Mary visiting her cousin Elisabeth (who is pregnant with John the Baptist) he uses suggestive language to point out Mary as the new Ark of the Covenant. Luke reminds us of when King David brought the Ark to Jerusalem. The parallels are unmistakable:

"David arose and went" to bring up the Ark (2 Sm 6:2) just as "Mary arose and went" to visit Elisabeth (Luke 1:39). David said, "How can the ark of the Lord come to me? (2 Sm 6:9) just as Elizabeth proclaimed "And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me. (Luke 1:43). David was "leaping and dancing before the Lord." (2 Sm 6:16) just as the baby in Elisabeth's womb leapt for joy when the Mother of Christ appeared. (Luke 1:44)Finally, there is this parallel: "And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obeddedom the Gittite for three months." (2 Sm 6:11) is compared to "And Mary remained with her (Elizabeth) for about three months." (Luke 1:56)

LET US PRAY

Saint Francis of Assisi (pictured above) was born into a wealthy Italian family in c 1182. He is the founder of the Franciscans. Francis is the patron saint of animals, the environment, and Italy.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair hope;
where there is darkness light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
Additional information on the life of St. Francis may be found here.

November 9, 2009

Genesis - "In the beginning" Part III


As we discussed last time, Adam's sin was his failure to protect his wife Eve. Following the first sin, Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden. Barely had man transgressed, however, when God warns the serpent: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel." (Genesis 3:15)

This is the Protoevangelium or “first gospel” in which God promises to send a redeemer to save his people from the slavery of sin. The "woman" is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Her "offspring," (sometimes translated as seed), is Jesus Christ. He (Christ) will strike and ultimately defeat the serpent/evil. The forces of evil will attack Christ culminating in His passion and death.

Fortunately for us, Christ is Resurrected, defeating death and overcoming sin. His victory is our victory. His Resurrection is our hope and our salvation.

November 4, 2009

The Virgin Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant

From "Mary the Ark of the New Covenant" by Steve Ray


(Editor's note: As explained below, the Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments the sign of the Covenant God made with Moses. The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been compared to a new Ark of the Covenant in carrying Christ in her womb. Just as the Ark of the Covenant bore the Ten Commandments; Mary bears Christ within her. Parallels between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary are found throughout Scripture. Any first century Jew would recognize the similarities.)

God loved his people and wanted to be close to them. He chose to do so in a very special way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "The prayer of the people of God flourished in the shadow of the dwelling place of God’s presence on earth, the ark of the covenant and the temple, under the guidance of their shepherds, especially King David, and of the prophets" (CCC 2594). God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle surrounded by heavy curtains (cf. Ex. 25–27). Within the tabernacle he was to place an ark made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out. Within the Ark of the Covenant was placed a golden jar holding the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant (cf. Heb. 9:4).

When the ark was completed, the glory cloud of the Lord (the Shekinah Glory) covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34–35; Num. 9:18, 22). The verb for "to cover" or "to overshadow" and the metaphor of a cloud are used in the Bible to represent the presence and glory of God. The Catechism explains:
In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory—with Moses on Mount Sinai, at the tent of meeting, and during the wandering in the desert, and with Solomon at the dedication of the temple. In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and "overshadows" her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus. On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the "cloud came and overshadowed" Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and "a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’" Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his Ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming. The glory of the Lord "overshadowed" the ark and filled the tabernacle (CCC 697).
It’s easy to miss the parallel between the Holy Spirit overshadowing the ark and the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, between the Ark of the Old Covenant as the dwelling place of God and Mary as the new dwelling place of God.

God was very specific about every exact detail of the ark (Ex. 25–30). It was a place where God himself would dwell (Ex. 25:8). God wanted his words—inscribed on stone—housed in a perfect container covered with pure gold within and without. How much more would he want his Word—Jesus—to have a perfect dwelling place! If the only begotten Son were to take up residence in the womb of a human girl, would he not make her flawless?

More on this in the next post installment.

November 2, 2009


All SOULS DAY REFLECTION

If you were to collect all the passages about death and the afterlife in the Bible, you would still not have a clear picture about what the experience of death is like or what we can expect life to be like after we have died. Obviously God has had no intention of revealing very much about these two basic experiences, even though humans have speculated and written much about them. Death is an impenetrable wall or abyss that exists between us and the afterlife, at least as our knowledge is concerned.

We are, however, asked to reflect on what precedes and what follows the experience of death itself. With regard to what precedes death, we are encouraged to reflect on God's mercy and goodness, not on our failures, torments, and trials of the past. The prophet Jeremiah rejects the thoughts that bring despair, regret, and depression; instead he fills his heart with the positive qualities of God: "His mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning."

We ought to think these thoughts not just about ourselves but also about the deceased we commemorate. There is an ancient expression that advises us to "have only good thoughts about the dead." The feast of All Souls teaches us to approach death without fear and anxiety, but with confidence and hope for our own life beyond death and for those who have preceded us in death.