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Showing posts from March, 2021

Christ the Divine Embryo, the Turning-Point of History

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The angels are immeasurably more powerful and holy than any of us. We would quake in terror were we to meet an angel face-to-face. Yet the Holy Gabriel bows down in humility before the Blessed Virgin to acknowledge his Queen. When we repeat his words in the Rosary, the Angelus, the Liturgy of the Church, and on many other occasions, we should try to make that salutation in the same spirit of humility before the one who was chosen to be the vessel of honour who carried the living God in her womb. The Archangel Gabriel continues by addressing her as “ gratia plena ”, that is, full of grace as a past, existing, and enduring state. As we know from the teaching of the Church, Our Lady was conceived immaculate, so she was full of grace from the first moment of her life. She was also able to grow in grace throughout her life, because a person’s capacity can grow if that person is, like Our Lady, actively holy and virtuous in complete accord

The Day of Reflection: The Traditional Prayer for the Living and the Dead

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The end-of-life charity Marie Curie , has proposed that today be a day of reflection. It is the first anniversary of the beginning of lockdown last year. (I remember the date, because I moved to Lewisham the following day, when the regulations took effect.) Marie Curie ’s summary is as follows, "Join Marie Curie for this moment of reflection, as guests share their thoughts, words and songs. Together, we’ll honour loved ones who have died and reflect on the challenges we have overcome. During this session we’ll pause to observe the national minute of silence at 12 noon." The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has supported this initiative , emphasising that we should make it a day of prayer. They suggest joining in with the minute of silence at midday, and taking some time in the day to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. Where I live, there is the joy of hearing the Angelus bell at 12noon and

Saint Patrick, an Example and Intercessor for those on the Threshold of Cultural Change

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The popular image of Saint Patrick has suffered a fate similar to that of Saint Nicholas. His image has degenerated into a soft toy character, with notes of condescending “oirishness”, associated with the colour green, leprechauns, Guinness, and silly hats. Each year, priests and laity who love him as a saint and respect the great cultural influence that he had in his time, and which lasted for centuries in the land he evangelised, try to put the record straight. I hope to do my bit. Saint Patrick is justly credited with a major role in the conversion of Ireland from Celtic Polytheism to Christian truth. This may seem remote from our present concerns, but we need only consider the rise of new age spirituality, often indeed garnished with the popular adjective association of "Celtic", to see that the problem has resurfaced. Nowadays it is not so much that many gods are worshipped, as that a gnostic, supposedly supe

Psalm 121 and longing for the house of the Lord

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The Jewish people naturally hated their seventy years’ captivity in Babylon. Essentially, they had been ethnically cleansed from Jerusalem and taken to Iraq. In Psalm 121 we can feel their joy and expectation at being set free and finally making their way back to Jerusalem. Their joy was focussed particularly on being able to go to the Temple and worship God once again according to their ancient rites. The psalm verse of the Introit on Laetare Sunday is, “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.” (Ps 121:1) It was not a happy-clappy jaunt to meet friends, share the good news and have a cup of coffee afterwards. The ritual celebration of the sacred liturgy was everything. It had been torn from them and they longed to worship once again in the way God had given them. The young people who had never experienced it were excited to take part for the first time in their lives; we can only imagi

The Majestic Wisdom of Christ in Answering the Pharisees

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Our Lord took the Pharisees to task many times over their application of the law to particular circumstances. For example, He criticised them for ruling that if someone sets aside the money that should they should have spent on their parents in need, and promises it to the Temple treasury, they no longer have an obligation to support their parents. He says that they have effectively broken the solemn duty that the owe to their parents before God. (Matt 15:3-6) Our Lord explicitly goes further than correcting the Pharisaical interpretation of the law. In the sermon on the mount He claims to have authority over the law itself when He says, “You have heard it said of old … But I say to you.” Our Lord does this because He is the Word made flesh. The Word can also stand for the Torah , the law given by God in His infinite wisdom. Our Lord is the Torah made flesh. When God gave the law to Moses on Mount Sinai, it was a terrifying

Mass of the Most Holy Shroud of Our Lord, and Preparation for Holy Communion

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In the older Roman Missal in the section of Missae pro Aliquibus Locis , there are texts of a Mass of the Holy Shroud of Our Lord, to be said on the Friday after the second Sunday of Lent. In the Collect, we thank God for leaving us the vestigia or vestiges of the passion of Christ. We have such vestiges in the holy shroud itself preserved at Turin. Despite the amazing photograph-like image for which there is no evidence of forgery, it is still doubted. Were it any human discovery with evidence of this sort, there would be general public agreement about its authenticity. It is only because people do not want to believe in a miracle that they have to doubt it. We need not ourselves have any scruple in treating it as a genuine relic of Christ. The Latin word vestigium means first of all a track or footprint. The shroud is a “footprint” left on earth, of Christ, crucified for our sins to win us heaven. Our part is to follow in the footstep

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