Sixth Sunday of Easter



“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.” (John 14:26.)

Saint Basil the Great offers the following insight on this verse from today’s First Reading:

“The Spirit is simple in being. His powers are many. They are entirely present everywhere and in everything. He is distributed but does not change. He is shared yet remains whole. Consider the analogy of the sunbeam: each person on whom its kindly light falls rejoices as if the sun existed for him alone, yet it illumines land and sea and is master of the atmosphere. In the same way, the Spirit is given to each one who receives him as if he were the possession of that person alone, yet he sends forth sufficient grace to fill the entire universe. Everything that partakes of his grace is filled with joy according to its capacity—the capacity of its nature, not of his power.

The Spirit does not take up his abode in someone’s life through a physical approach. How could a corporeal being approach the bodiless One? Instead, the Spirit comes to us when we withdraw ourselves from evil passions that have crept into the soul through its friendship with the flesh, alienating us from a close relationship with God. Only when a person has been cleansed from the shame of his evil and has returned to his natural beauty, and [only when] the original form of the royal image has been restored in him, is it possible for him to approach the Paraclete. Then, like the sun, he will show you in himself the image of the invisible, and with purified eyes you will see in this blessed image the unspeakable beauty of its prototype. Through him hearts are lifted up, the infirm are held by the hand, and those who progress are brought to perfection. He shines on those who are cleansed from every spot and makes them spiritual people through fellowship with himself. When a sunbeam falls on a transparent substance, the substance itself becomes brilliant and radiates light from itself. So too Spirit-bearing souls, illumined by him, finally become spiritual themselves, and their grace is sent forth to others. From this comes knowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of hidden things, distribution of wonderful gifts, heavenly citizenship, a place in the choir of angels, endless joy in the presence of God, becoming like God, and the highest of all desires, becoming God.” (On the Holy Spirit, 9.)



Collect
Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate
with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,
which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,
and that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 







God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation



Bishop and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Commentary on II Corinthians

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Those who have a sure hope, guaranteed by the Spirit, that they will rise again lay hold of what lies in the future as though it were already present. They say: “Outward appearances will no longer be our standard in judging other men. Our lives are all controlled by the Spirit now, and are not confined to this physical world that is subject to corruption. The light of the Only-begotten has shone on us, and we have been transformed into the Word, the source of all life. While sin was still our master, the bonds of death had a firm hold on us, but now that the righteousness of Christ has found a place in our hearts we have freed ourselves from our former condition of corruptibility.”

This means that none of us lives in the flesh anymore, at least not in so far as living in the flesh means being subject to the weaknesses of the flesh, which include corruptibility. Once we thought of Christ as being in the flesh, but we do not do so any longer, says Saint Paul. By this he meant that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; he suffered death in the flesh in order to give all men life. It was in this flesh that we knew him before, but we do so no longer. Even though he remains in the flesh, since he came to life again on the third day and is now with his Father in heaven, we know that he has passed beyond the life of the flesh; for having died once, he will never die again, death has no power over him any more. His death was a death to sin, which he died once for all; his life is life with God.

Since Christ has in this way become the source of life for us, we who follow in his footsteps must not think of ourselves as living in the flesh any longer, but as having passed beyond it. Saint Paul’s saying is absolutely true that when anyone is in Christ he becomes a completely different person: his old life is over and a new life has begun. We have been justified by our faith in Christ and the power of the curse has been broken. Christ’s coming to life again for our sake has put an end to the sovereignty of death. We have come to know the true God and to worship him in spirit and in truth, through the Son, our mediator, who sends down upon the world the Father’s blessings.

And so Saint Paul shows deep insight when he says: This is all God’s doing: it is he who has reconciled us to himself through Christ. For the mystery of the incarnation and the renewal it accomplished could not have taken place without the Father’s will. Through Christ we have gained access to the Father, for as Christ himself says, no one comes to the Father except through him. This is all God’s doing, then. It is he who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 





Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter



“During [the] night Paul had a vision. A Macedonian stood before him and implored him with these words, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts 16:9.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us.” Look, no longer through an angel, as it was with Philip and Cornelius. But how? Through a vision it appears to him, in a manner now more human, no longer as divine. For where obedience came more easily, revelation was of a more human sort; where much force was needed, of a more divine sort. Thus when he was only urged to preach, a dream appeared to him; but when he could not bear not to preach, it was the Holy Spirit who revealed it to him. So it was with Peter. “Arise, go down.” For the Holy Spirit did not work what was easy; a dream was enough in his case. Also for Joseph, who obeyed readily, it was in a dream, but for others, including Cornelius and Paul himself, it was in a vision. And notice how it says “a man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying.” Not “ordering” but “beseeching,” that is, on behalf of the very people in need of caring. What does “concluding” mean? It means they made an inference. From the fact that Paul saw him and not someone else, that Paul was “forbidden by the Holy Spirit” and that they were at the borders—from all this they reached their conclusion.” (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 34.)



Collect
Almighty and eternal God,
who through the regenerating power of Baptism
have been pleased to confer on us heavenly life,
grant, we pray,
that those you render capable of immortality
by justifying them
may by your guidance
attain the fullness of glory.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 




The Easter Alleluia



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Treatise on Psalm 148

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Our thoughts in this present life should turn on the praise of God, because it is in praising God that we shall rejoice for ever in the life to come; and no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains himself for it now. So we praise God during our earthly life, and at the same time we make our petitions to him. Our praise is expressed with joy, our petitions with yearning. We have been promised something we do not yet possess, and because the promise was made by one who keeps his word, we trust him and are glad; but insofar as possession is delayed, we can only long and yearn for it. It is good for us to persevere in longing until we receive what was promised, and yearning is over; then praise alone will remain.

Because there are these two periods of time—the one that now is, beset with the trials and troubles of this life, and the other yet to come, a life of everlasting serenity and joy—we are given two liturgical seasons, one before Easter and the other after. The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future. What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess. This is why we keep the first season with fasting and prayer; but now the fast is over and we devote the present season to praise. Such is the meaning of the Alleluia we sing.

Both these periods are represented and demonstrated for us in Christ our head. The Lord’s passion depicts for us our present life of trial—shows how we must suffer and be afflicted and finally die. The Lord’s resurrection and glorification show us the life that will be given to us in the future.

Now therefore, brethren, we urge you to praise God. That is what we are all telling each other when we say Alleluia. You say to your neighbor, “Praise the Lord!” and he says the same to you. We are all urging one another to praise the Lord, and all thereby doing what each of us urges the other to do. But see that your praise comes from your whole being; in other words, see that you praise God not with your lips and voices alone, but with your minds, your lives and all your actions.

We are praising God now, assembled as we are here in church; but when we go on our various ways again, it seems as if we cease to praise God. But provided we do not cease to live a good life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from justice and from what is pleasing to God. If you never turn aside from the good life, your tongue may be silent but your actions will cry aloud, and God will perceive your intentions; for as our ears hear each other’s voices, so do God’s ears hear our thoughts.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter



“... who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 15:26.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“As they are “beloved,” they will not be dismissed. As they “have risked their lives,” they have a right to be believed. “We have sent” them as well, it says, to announce the same things by word of mouth. For it was necessary that there be more than the letter alone, lest they should say that they said one thing instead of another. The praise bestowed on Paul stopped their mouths. For Paul came neither by himself nor with Barnabas alone but was accompanied by others from the church (and not only by those from Jerusalem), so that he should not be suspected. It shows that they have a right to be believed.” (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 33.)



Collect
Grant us, Lord, we pray,
that, being rightly conformed
to the paschal mysteries,
what we celebrate in joy
may protect and save us with perpetual power.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 




Firstborn of many brothers



Cistercian Monk

An excerpt from his Sermon 42

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Just as the head and body of a man form one single man, so the Son of the Virgin and those he has chosen to be his members form a single man and the one Son of Man. Christ is whole and entire, head and body, say the Scriptures, since all the members form one body, which with its head is one Son of Man, and he with the Son of God is one Son of God, who himself with God is one God. Therefore the whole body with its head is Son of Man, Son of God, and God. This is the explanation of the Lord’s words: Father, I desire that as you and I are one, so they may be one with us.

And so, according to this well-known reading of Scripture, neither the body without the head, nor the head without the body, nor the head and body without God make the whole Christ. When all are united with God they become one God. The Son of God is one with God by nature; the Son of Man is one with him in his person; we, his body, are one with him sacramentally. Consequently those who by faith are spiritual members of Christ can truly say that they are what he is: the Son of God and God himself. But what Christ is by his nature we are as his partners; what he is of himself in all fullness, we are as participants. Finally, what the Son of God is by generation, his members are by adoption, according to the text: As sons you have received the Spirit of adoption, enabling you to cry, Abba, Father.

Through his Spirit, he gave men the power to become sons of God, so that all those he has chosen might be taught by the firstborn among many brothers to say: Our Father, who are in heaven. Again he says elsewhere: I ascend to my Father and to your Father.

By the Spirit, from the womb of the Virgin, was born our head, the Son of Man; and by the same Spirit, in the waters of baptism, we are reborn as his body and as sons of God. And just as he was born without any sin, so we are reborn in the forgiveness of all our sins. As on the cross he bore the sum total of the whole body’s sins in his own physical body, so he gave his members the grace of rebirth in order that no sin might be imputed to his mystical body. It is written: Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no sin. The blessed man of this text is undoubtedly Christ, who forgives sins insofar as God is his head. Insofar as this man is the head of the body, no sin is forgiven him. But insofar as the body that belongs to this head consists of many members, sin is not imputed to it.

Just in himself, it is he who justifies himself. He alone is both Savior and saved. In his own body on the cross he bore what he had washed from his body by the waters of baptism. Bringing salvation through wood and through water, he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world which he took upon himself. Himself a priest, he offers himself as sacrifice to God, and he himself is God. Thus, through his own self, the Son is reconciled to himself as God, as well as to the Father and to the Holy Spirit.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter



“He made no distinction between us and them, for by faith he purified their hearts.” (Acts 15:9)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“Faith in God purifies the heart, the pure heart sees God. But faith is sometimes defined as followed by people who wish to deceive themselves; as if it were enough merely to believe — some people, you see, promise themselves the vision of God and the kingdom of heaven for believing while living bad lives. Against these the apostle James indignantly took umbrage out of spiritual charity, so he says in his letter, “You believe that God is one.” You pat yourself on your back for your faith; you observe that many godless people assume there are many gods, and you congratulate yourself for believing that there is only one God. “You do well. The demons also believe — and shudder.” Shall they too see God? Those who are pure of heart shall see him. Whoever would say that the unclean spirits are pure of heart? And yet, “they believe—and shudder.”

So our faith must be distinguished from the faith of demons. Our faith, you see, purifies the heart, their faith makes them guilty. So let us distinguish our faith and see that believing is not enough. That is not the sort of faith that purifies the heart. “Purifying their hearts,” it says, “by faith.” But which faith, what sort of faith? The one, surely, which the apostle Paul defines when he says “faith that works through love.” This faith is different from the faith of demons, different from the morals of dissolute and desperate people. “Faith,” he says. “Which faith?” The one “that works through love,” hopes for what God promises. You could not have a more perfect, a more carefully thought-out definition than that.” (Sermon 53)



Collect
O God, by Whose grace,
though sinners, we are made just
and, though pitiable, made blessed,
stand, we pray, by Your works,
stand by Your gifts,
that those justified by faith
may not lack the courage of perseverance.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the
unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The Eucharist is The Lord’s passover



Bishop

An excerpt from his Tractate 2

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

One man has died for all, and now in every church in the mystery of bread and wine he heals those for whom he is offered in sacrifice, giving life to those who believe and holiness to those who consecrate the offering. This is the flesh of the Lamb; this is his blood. The bread that came down from heaven declared: The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. It is significant, too, that his blood should be given to us in the form of wine, for his own words in the gospel, I am the true vine, imply clearly enough that whenever wine is offered as a representation of Christ’s passion, it is offered as his blood. This means that it was of Christ that the blessed patriarch Jacob prophesied when he said: He will wash his tunic in wine and his cloak in the blood of the grape. The tunic was our flesh, which Christ was to put on like a garment and which he was to wash in his own blood.

Creator and Lord of all things, whatever their nature, he brought forth bread from the earth and changed it into his own body. Not only had he the power to do this, but he had promised it; and, as he had changed water into wine, he also changed wine into his own blood. It is the Lord’s passover, Scripture tells us, that is, the Lord’s passing. We are no longer to look upon the bread and wine as earthly substances. They have become heavenly, because Christ has passed into them and changed them into his body and blood. What you receive is the body of him who is the heavenly bread, and the blood of him who is the sacred vine; for when he offered his disciples the consecrated bread and wine, he said: This is my body, this is my blood. We have put our trust in him. I urge you to have faith in him; truth can never deceive.

When Christ told the crowds that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, they were horrified and began to murmur among themselves: This teaching is too hard; who can be expected to listen to it? As I have already told you, thoughts such as these must be banished. The Lord himself used heavenly fire to drive them away by going on to declare: It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 





Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter



“Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.”” (Acts 15:1.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed at Mass today.:

“Observe what he alleges as a proof of his statement: “Christians at first were few in number and held the same opinions, but when they grew to be a great multitude, they were divided and separated, each wishing to have his own individual party. This was their object from the beginning.” That Christians at first were few in number, in comparison with the multitudes who subsequently became Christian, is no doubt true.

He also says that “all the Christians were of one mind,” not noticing, even in this particular, that from the beginning there were differences of opinion among believers regarding the meaning of the books held to be divine. At all events, while the apostles were still preaching and eyewitnesses of Jesus were still teaching his doctrine, there was no small discussion among the converts from Judaism regarding Gentile believers and whether they ought to observe Jewish customs or reject the burden of clean and unclean meats as not being obligatory on those who had abandoned their ancestral Gentile customs and had become believers in Jesus.” (Against Celsus, 3.)



Collect
O God,
Restorer and Lover of innocence,
direct the hearts of Your servants
towards Yourself,
that those You have set free
from the darkness of unbelief
may never stray
from the light of Your truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You in the
unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The Christian in the world



An excerpt from A Letter to Diognetus

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.


To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen