Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent



“Azariah stood up in the midst of the fire and prayed aloud...” (Daniel 3:25.)

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

“Regarding prayer, we have examples in Daniel, “And Azariah, standing up, prayed in this way, and opening his mouth in the middle of the fire he said...” And in Tobit, “And I prayed with tears saying, ‘You are just, O Lord, and all your works are just, and all your ways are mercy and truth. And your judgments that you offer are true and just forever.’” Since the passage cited in Daniel has been obelized because it is not found in the Hebrew and those of the circumcision reject the book of Tobit as not canonical, I will quote the words of Anna from the first book of Kings: “And she prayed to the Lord and cried with many tears and made a vow saying, ‘Lord of hosts, if you will look down on the lowliness of your servants,’ etc.” Also, in Habakkuk, “A prayer of Habakkuk, the prophet, with song, ‘Lord, I have heard your voice, and I was afraid. Lord, I considered your works, and I was astonished. In the middle of two animals you will be known; in the approaching of the years you will be known.’” This example illustrates very well the definition of the term proseuchē in that it combines prayer with the attempt to give glory. But also in the book of Jonah, “Jonah prayed to the Lord his God out of the belly of the fish, saying, ‘I cried in my tribulation to the Lord my God, and he listened to me; from the heart of the grave you heard the screams of my voice; you threw me into the depths, in the heart of the sea, and the waters encircled me.’” (On Prayer, 14.)




Collect
May your grace not forsake us, O Lord, we pray,
but make us dedicated to your holy service
and at all times obtain for us your help.
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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Prayer knocks, fasting obtains, mercy receives



Bishop

An excerpt from his Sermon 43

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other.

Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself.

When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.

Let this be the pattern for all men when they practice mercy: show mercy to others in the same way, with the same generosity, with the same promptness, as you want others to show mercy to you.

Therefore, let prayer, mercy and fasting be one single plea to God on our behalf, one speech in our defense, a threefold united prayer in our favor.

Let us use fasting to make up for what we have lost by despising others. Let us offer our souls in sacrifice by means of fasting. There is nothing more pleasing that we can offer to God, as the psalmist said in prophecy: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; God does not despise a bruised and humbled heart.

Offer your soul to God, make him an oblation of your fasting, so that your soul may be a pure offering, a holy sacrifice, a living victim, remaining your own and at the same time made over to God. Whoever fails to give this to God will not be excused, for if you are to give him yourself you are never without the means of giving.

To make these acceptable, mercy must be added. Fasting bears no fruit unless it is watered by mercy. Fasting dries up when mercy dries up. Mercy is to fasting as rain is to the earth. However much you may cultivate your heart, clear the soil of your nature, root out vices, sow virtues, if you do not release the springs of mercy, your fasting will bear no fruit.

When you fast, if your mercy is thin your harvest will be thin; when you fast, what you pour out in mercy overflows into your barn. Therefore, do not lose by saving, but gather in by scattering. Give to the poor, and you give to yourself. You will not be allowed to keep what you have refused to give to others.

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

 






Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord



“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!” (Isaiah 7:14.)

Saint Jerome offers the following insight on this verses from today’s First Reading:

“By no means will God speak in many and various ways, according to the apostle Paul, nor according to another prophet will he be represented through the hands of the prophets, but he who previously spoke through others will himself say “Here I am.” The bride in the Song of Songs also asked in this regard: “O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!” For “the Lord of hosts is himself the King of glory.” He will descend to a virginal womb and will enter and exit through the eastern gate that always remains closed, concerning which Gabriel said to the virgin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the one who will be born to you is holy and will be called the Son of God.” And Proverbs writes, “Wisdom built itself a home.” Thus when it is said, “The Lord himself will give you a sign,” this should refer to something new and marvelous.” (Commentary on Isaiah, 3.)



Collect
O God, Who willed that Your Word
should take on the reality of human flesh
in the womb of the Virgin Mary,
grant, we pray, that we,
who confess our Redeemer to be God and man,
may merit to become partakers
even in His divine nature.
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


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The mystery of man’s reconciliation with God



Bishop of Rome and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Letter 28 to Flavianus

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Lowliness is assured by majesty, weakness by power, mortality by eternity. To pay the debt of our sinful state, a nature that was incapable of suffering was joined to one that could suffer. Thus, in keeping with the healing that we needed, one and the same mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, was able to die in one nature, and unable to die in the other.

He who is true God was therefore born in the complete and perfect nature of a true man, whole in his own nature, whole in ours. By our nature we mean what the Creator had fashioned in us from the beginning, and took to himself in order to restore it.

For in the Savior there was no trace of what the deceiver introduced and man, being misled, allowed to enter. It does not follow that because he submitted to sharing in our human weakness he therefore shared in our sins.

He took the nature of a servant without stain of sin, enlarging our humanity without diminishing his divinity. He emptied himself; though invisible he made himself visible, though Creator and Lord of all things he chose to be one of us mortal men. Yet this was the condescension of compassion, not the loss of omnipotence. So he who in the nature of God had created man, became in the nature of a servant, man himself.

Thus the Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven, yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born in a new condition, by a new birth.

He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time began, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be a man, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.

He who is true God is also true man. There is no falsehood in this unity as long as the lowliness of man and the pre-eminence of God coexist in mutual relationship.

As God does not change by his condescension, so man is not swallowed up by being exalted. Each nature exercises its own activity, in communion with the other. The Word does what is proper to the Word, the flesh fulfills what is proper to the flesh.

One nature is resplendent with miracles, the other falls victim to injuries. As the Word does not lose equality with the Father’s glory, so the flesh does not leave behind the nature of our race.

One and the same person—this must be said over and over again—is truly the Son of God and truly the son of man. He is God in virtue of the fact that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He is man in virtue of the fact that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.



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

 





Third Sunday of Lent



The Scriptures are for the celebration of the First Scrutiny.

“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”” (John 4:7.)

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

“Jesus says to her: Give me water to drink. For his disciples had gone to the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman therefore says to him: How is it that you, though a Jew, ask me for water to drink, though I am a Samaritan woman? For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.

The Samaritans were foreigners; Jews never used their utensils. The woman was carrying a pail for drawing water. She was astonished that a Jew should ask her for a drink of water, a thing that Jews would not do. But the one who was asking for a drink of water was thirsting for her faith.

Listen now and learn who it is that asks for a drink. Jesus answered her and said: If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” perhaps you might have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (Treatise on John)




Collect
O God,
Author of every mercy and of all goodness,
Who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving
have shown us a remedy for sin,
look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,
that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,
may always be lifted up by Your mercy.
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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A Samaritan woman came to draw water



Bishop and Great Latin Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Treatise on John

Sunday of the Third Week of Lent

A woman came. She is a symbol of the Church not yet made righteous but about to be made righteous. Righteousness follows from the conversation. She came in ignorance, she found Christ, and he enters into conversation with her. Let us see what it is about, let us see why a Samaritan woman came to draw water. The Samaritans did not form part of the Jewish people: they were foreigners. The fact that she came from a foreign people is part of the symbolic meaning, for she is a symbol of the Church. The Church was to come from the Gentiles, of a different race from the Jews.

We must then recognize ourselves in her words and in her person, and with her give our own thanks to God. She was a symbol, not the reality; she foreshadowed the reality, and the reality came to be. She found faith in Christ, who was using her as a symbol to teach us what was to come. She came then to draw water. She had simply come to draw water, in the normal way of man or woman.

Jesus says to her: Give me water to drink. For his disciples had gone to the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman therefore says to him: How is it that you, though a Jew, ask me for water to drink, though I am a Samaritan woman? For Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans.

The Samaritans were foreigners; Jews never used their utensils. The woman was carrying a pail for drawing water. She was astonished that a Jew should ask her for a drink of water, a thing that Jews would not do. But the one who was asking for a drink of water was thirsting for her faith.

Listen now and learn who it is that asks for a drink. Jesus answered her and said: If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” perhaps you might have asked him and he would have given you living water.

He asks for a drink, and he promises a drink. He is in need, as one hoping to receive, yet he is rich, as one about to satisfy the thirst of others. He says: If you knew the gift of God. The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. But he is still using veiled language as he speaks to the woman and gradually enters into her heart. Or is he already teaching her? What could be more gentle and kind than the encouragement he gives? If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” perhaps you might ask and he would give you living water.

What is this water that he will give if not the water spoken of in Scripture: With you is the fountain of life? How can those feel thirst who will drink deeply from the abundance in your house?

He was promising the Holy Spirit in satisfying abundance. She did not yet understand. In her failure to grasp his meaning, what was her reply? The woman says to him, Master, give me this drink, so that I may feel no thirst or come here to draw water. Her need forced her to this labor, her weakness shrank from it. If only she could hear those words: Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Jesus was saying this to her, so that her labors might be at an end; but she was not yet able to understand.



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 Second Week of Lent



“Who is a God like you, who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but instead delights in mercy ...” (Micah 7:18.)

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

“For what was it Jesus’ detractors said? “No man can forgive sins, but God alone.” Inasmuch then as they themselves laid down this definition, they themselves introduced the rule, they themselves declared the law. He then proceeded to entangle them by means of their own words. “You have confessed,” he says in effect, “that forgiveness of sins is an attribute of God alone; my equality therefore is unquestionable.” And it is not these men only who declare this but also the prophet Micah, who said, “Who is a God like you?” and then indicating his special attribute he adds, “pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression.” (Homily on the Paralytic Let Down Through the Roof)




Collect
O God,
who grant us by glorious healing remedies
while still on earth
to be partakers of the things of heaven,
guide us, we pray, through this present life
and bring us to that light in which you dwell.
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

 




Hold fast to God, the one true good



Bishop and Great Latin Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Flight from the World

Saturday of the Second Week of Lent

Where a man’s heart is, there is his treasure also. God is not accustomed to refusing a good gift to those who ask for one. Since he is good, and especially to those who are faithful to him, let us hold fast to him with all our soul, our heart, our strength, and so enjoy his light and see his glory and possess the grace of supernatural joy. Let us reach out with our hearts to possess that good, let us exist in it and live in it, let us hold fast to it, that good which is beyond all we can know or see and is marked by perpetual peace and tranquillity, a peace which is beyond all we can know or understand.

This is the good that permeates creation. In it we all live, on it we all depend. It has nothing above it; it is divine. No one is good but God alone. What is good is therefore divine, what is divine is therefore good. Scripture says: When you open your hand all things will be filled with goodness. It is through God’s goodness that all that is truly good is given us, and in it there is no admixture of evil.

These good things are promised by Scripture to those who are faithful: The good things of the land will be your food.

We have died with Christ. We carry about in our bodies the sign of his death, so that the living Christ may also be revealed in us. The life we live is not now our ordinary life but the life of Christ: a life of sinlessness, of chastity, of simplicity and every other virtue. We have risen with Christ. Let us live in Christ, let us ascend in Christ, so that the serpent may not have the power here below to wound us in the heel.

Let us take refuge from this world. You can do this in spirit, even if you are kept here in the body. You can at the same time be here and present to the Lord. Your soul must hold fast to him, you must follow after him in your thoughts, you must tread his ways by faith, not in outward show. You must take refuge in him. He is your refuge and your strength. David addresses him in these words: I fled to you for refuge, and I was not disappointed.

Since God is our refuge, God who is in heaven and above the heavens, we must take refuge from this world in that place where there is peace, where there is rest from toil, where we can celebrate the great sabbath, as Moses said: The sabbaths of the land will provide you with food. To rest in the Lord and to see his joy is like a banquet, and full of gladness and tranquility.

Let us take refuge like deer beside the fountain of waters. Let our soul thirst, as David thirsted, for the fountain. What is that fountain? Listen to David: With you is the fountain of life. Let my soul say to this fountain: When shall I come and see you face to face? For the fountain is God 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

 




Friday of the Second Week of Lent



“Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long ornamented tunic.” (Genesis 37:3.)

Saint Jerome offers the following insight on this verses from today’s First Reading:

“And so we are taught the proper nature of parental love and filial gratitude. It is pleasant to love one’s children and very pleasant to love them exceedingly, but often even parental love does harm to the children unless it is practiced with restraint; for it may give the beloved child free rein out of excessive indulgence or, by preference shown to one child, may alienate the others from the spirit of brotherly love. That son gains more who gains the love of his brothers. This is a more splendid manifestation of generosity on the part of the parents and a richer inheritance for the sons. Let the children be joined in a like favor, who have been joined in a like nature.

What wonder if quarrels arise among brothers over an estate or a house, when enmity blazed up among the sons of holy Jacob over a tunic?3 What then? Should we find fault with Jacob because he preferred the one son to the others? But we cannot take from parents their freedom to love the more those children whom they believe to be the more deserving, nor ought we to cut off the sons from their eager desire to be the more pleasing. To be sure, Jacob loved the more that son in whom he foresaw the greater marks of virtue; thus he would not appear to have shown preference so much as father to son but rather as prophet to a sacred sign. And Jacob was right to make for his son a tunic of many colors, to indicate by it that Joseph was to be preferred to his brothers with his clothing of manifold virtues.” (On Joseph, 2.)




Collect
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that, purifying us
by the sacred practice of penance,
you may lead us in sincerity of heart
to attain the holy things to come.
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


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The covenant of the Lord



Bishop, Father of the Church and Martyr

An excerpt from a Against Heresies (Book 4)

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

In the book of Deuteronomy Moses says to the people: The Lord your God made a covenant on Horeb; he made this covenant, not with your fathers but with you. Why did God not make this covenant with their fathers? Because the law is not aimed at the righteous. Their fathers were righteous: they had the power of the Decalogue implanted in their hearts and in their souls. That is, they loved the God who made them and did nothing unjust against their neighbor. For this reason they did not need to be admonished by written rebukes: they had the righteousness of the law in their hearts.

When this righteousness and love for God had passed into oblivion and had been extinguished in Egypt, God had necessarily to reveal himself through his own voice, out of his great love for men. He led the people out of Egypt in power, so that man might once again become God’s disciple and follower. He made them afraid as they listened, to warn them not to hold their Creator in contempt.

He fed them with manna, that they might receive spiritual food. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses says: He fed you with manna, which your fathers did not know, that you might understand that man will not live by bread alone but by every word of God coming from the mouth of God.

He commanded them to love himself and trained them to practice righteousness toward their neighbor, so that man might not be unrighteous or unworthy of God. Through the Decalogue he prepared man for friendship with himself and for harmony with his neighbor. This was to man’s advantage, though God needed nothing from man.

This raised man to glory, for it gave him what he did not have, friendship with God. But it brought no advantage to God, for God did not need man’s love. Man did not possess the glory of God, nor could he attain it by any other means than through obedience to God. This is why Moses said to the people: Choose life, that you may live and your descendants too; love the Lord your God, hear his voice and hold fast to him, for this is life for you and length of days.

This was the life that the Lord was preparing man to receive when he spoke in person and gave the words of the Decalogue for all alike to hear. These words remain with us as well; they were extended and amplified through his coming in the flesh, but not annulled.

God gave to the people separately through Moses the commandments that enslave: these were precepts suited to their instruction or their condemnation. As Moses said: The Lord commanded me at that time to teach you precepts of righteousness and of judgment. The precepts that were given them to enslave and to serve as a warning have been cancelled by the new covenant of freedom.

The precepts that belong to man’s nature and to freedom and to all alike have been enlarged and broadened. Through the adoption of sons God had enabled man so generously and bountifully to know him as Father, to love him with his whole heart, and to follow his Word unfailingly.



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