ADVENT, Week 2: Saturday



“Then the disciples asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”” (Matthew 17:10.)

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

“Unless we know the reasons why the disciples asked about the name of Elijah, their questioning seems foolish and extraordinary. For what does asking about Elijah’s arrival have to do with what was written above? The Pharisees’ tradition, following the prophet Malachi of the twelve minor prophets, is that Elijah comes before the end. He turns the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers and restores everything to its ancient state. So the disciples think that the transfiguration of glory is the one that they have seen on the mountain and say, “If you now have come in glory, why does your precursor not appear?” especially since they had seen Elijah disappear. But when they say, “The scribes say that Elijah must first come,” by the word first they are saying that unless Elijah comes, it is not the advent of the Savior according to the Scriptures.” (Commentary on Matthew, 3.)



Collect
May the splendor of your glory dawn in our hearts,
we pray, almighty God,
that all shadows of the night may be scattered
and we may be shown to be children of light
by the advent of your Only Begotten 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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Mary and the Church



Cistercian Monk

An excerpt from Sermon 51

ADVENT, Week 2: Saturday

The Son of God is the first-born of many brothers. Although by nature he is the only-begotten, by grace he has joined many to himself and made them one with him. For to those who receive him he has given the power to become the sons of God.

He became the Son of man and made many men sons of God, uniting them to himself by his love and power, so that they became as one. In themselves they are many by reason of their human descent, but in him they are one by divine rebirth.

The whole Christ and the unique Christ—the body and the head—are one: one because born of the same God in heaven, and of the same mother on earth. They are many sons, yet one son. Head and members are one son, yet many sons; in the same way, Mary and the Church are one mother, yet more than one mother; one virgin, yet more than one virgin.

Both are mothers, both are virgins. Each conceives of the same Spirit, without concupiscence. Each gives birth to a child of God the Father, without sin. Without any sin, Mary gave birth to Christ the head for the sake of his body. By the forgiveness of every sin, the Church gave birth to the body, for the sake of its head. Each is Christ’s mother, but neither gives birth to the whole Christ without the cooperation of the other.

In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary, and what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is rightly understood in a general sense of the virgin mother, the Church. When either is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both, almost without qualification.

In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s Word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, in a special sense of Mary, in a particular sense of the individual Christian. They are used by God’s Wisdom in person, the Word of the Father.

This is why Scripture says: I will dwell in the inheritance of the Lord. The Lord’s inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; in an individual sense, the Christian. Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell for ever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.


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

 


ADVENT, Week 2: Friday



“If only you would attend to my commandments, your peace would be like a river, your vindication like the waves of the sea ...” (Isaiah 48:18.)

Saint Ambrose of Milan offers the following insight on this verse from today’s Gospel:

“Set before yourself any river. It springs from its fountain but is of one nature, of one brightness and beauty. And you assert rightly that the Holy Spirit is of one substance, brightness and glory with the Son of God and with God the Father. I will sum up everything in the oneness of the qualities without any dispute over degrees of greatness. For in this point also Scripture has provided for us. For the Son of God says, “Whoever shall drink of the water that I will give him, it shall become in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.” This well is clearly the grace of the Spirit, a stream proceeding from the living Fountain. The Holy Spirit, then, is also the fountain of eternal life.

You observe, then, from his words that the unity of the divine greatness is pointed out and that Christ cannot be denied to be a fountain even by heretics, since the Spirit, too, is called a fountain. The Spirit is called a river, too, just as the Father said, “Behold, I come down on you like a river of peace, and like a stream overflowing the glory of the Gentiles.” And who can doubt that the Son of God is the river of life from whom the streams of eternal life flowed forth?” (On the Holy Spirit, 1)



Collect
Grant that Your people,
we pray, almighty God,
may be ever watchful
for the coming of your Only Begotten Son,
that, as the author of our salvation
Himself has taught us,
we may hasten, alert and with lighted lamps,
to meet him when He comes.
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





Eve and Mary



Bishop, Father of the Church and Martyr

An excerpt from Against Heresies (Book 5)

ADVENT, Week 2: Friday

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.

As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve.

Christ gathered all things into one, by gathering them into himself. He declared war against our enemy, crushed him who at the beginning had taken us captive in Adam, and trampled on his head, in accordance with God’s words to the serpent in Genesis: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall lie in wait for your head, and you shall lie in wait for his heel.

The one lying in wait for the serpent’s head is the one who was born in the likeness of Adam from the woman, the Virgin. This is the seed spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Galatians: The law of works was in force until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.

He shows this even more clearly in the same letter when he says: When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman. The enemy would not have been defeated fairly if his vanquisher had not been born of a woman, because it was through a woman that he had gained mastery over man in the beginning, and set himself up as man’s adversary.

That is why the Lord proclaims himself the Son of Man, the one who renews in himself that first man from whom the race born of woman was formed; as by a man’s defeat our race fell into the bondage of death, so by a man’s victory we were to rise again to 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

 






SOLEMNITY: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary



“And coming to her [Mary], he [Gabriel] said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)

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

“The angel greeted Mary with a new address, which I could not find anywhere else in Scripture. I ought to explain this expression briefly. The angel says, “Hail, full of grace.” I do not remember having read this word elsewhere in Scripture. An expression of this kind, “Hail, full of grace,” is not addressed to a male. This greeting was reserved for Mary alone. Mary knew the Law; she was holy, and had learned the writings of the prophets by meditating on them daily. If Mary had known that someone else had been greeted by words like these, she would never have been frightened by this strange greeting. Hence the angel says to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary! You have found grace in God’s eyes. Behold, you will conceive in your womb. You will bear a son, and you will name him ‘Jesus.’ He will be great, and will be called ‘Son of the Most High.’” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 6.)




Collect
O God,
Who by the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin prepared a worthy dwelling
for your Son, grant, we pray,
that, as you preserved her from every stain
by virtue of the Death of your Son,
which you foresaw,
so, through her intercession, we, too,
may be cleansed and admitted to your presence.
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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Virgin Mary, all nature is blessed by you



Priest, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

An excerpt from Oration 52

SOLEMNITY: Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Blessed Lady, sky and stars, earth and rivers, day and night — everything that is subject to the power or use of man — rejoice that through you they are in some sense restored to their lost beauty and are endowed with inexpressible new grace. All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols. Now all creation has been restored to life and rejoices that it is controlled and given splendor by men who believe in God. The universe rejoices with new and indefinable loveliness. Not only does it feel the unseen presence of God himself, its Creator, it sees him openly, working and making it holy. These great blessings spring from the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.

Through the fullness of the grace that was given you, dead things rejoice in their freedom, and those in heaven are glad to be made new. Through the Son who was the glorious fruit of your virgin womb, just souls who died before his life-giving death rejoice as they are freed from captivity, and the angels are glad at the restoration of their shattered domain.

Lady, full and overflowing with grace, all creation receives new life from your abundance. Virgin, blessed above all creatures, through your blessing all creation is blessed, not only creation from its Creator, but the Creator himself has been blessed by creation.

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

God, then, is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed.

Truly the Lord is with you, to whom the Lord granted that all nature should owe as much to you as to 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

 





MEMORIAL: Saint Ambrose of Milan, Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church



“Lift up your eyes on high and see who created these: He leads out their army and numbers them, calling them all by name. By his great might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing!” (Isaiah 40:26.)

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

“Lift up your eyes” occurs in many places in Scripture when the divine Word admonishes us to exalt and lift up our thoughts, to elevate the insight that lies below in a rather sickly condition, and is stooped and completely incapable of looking up, as it is written, for instance, in Isaiah: “Lift up your eyes on high and see. Who has made all these things known?” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 13.)




Collect
O God,
Who made the Bishop Saint Ambrose
a teacher of the Catholic faith
and a model of apostolic courage,
raise up in Your Church
men after Your own heart
to govern her with courage and wisdom. 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









By the grace of your words win over your people



Bishop and Great Latin Father of the Church

An excerpt from Letter 2

MEMORIAL: Saint Ambrose of Milan

You have entered upon the office of bishop. Sitting at the helm of the Church, you pilot the ship against the waves. Take firm hold of the rudder of faith so that the severe storms of this world cannot disturb you. The sea is mighty and vast, but do not be afraid, for as Scripture says: he has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church’s foundation is unshakeable and firm against the assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. Although the Church is tossed about on the sea, it rides easily on rivers, especially those rivers that Scripture speaks of: The rivers have lifted up their voice. These are the rivers flowing from the heart of the man who is given drink by Christ and who receives from the Spirit of God. When these rivers overflow with the grace of the Spirit, they lift up their voice.

There is also a stream which flows down on God’s saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace. Whoever has received from the fullness of this river, like John the Evangelist, like Peter and Paul, lifts up his voice. Just as the apostles lifted up their voices and preached the Gospel throughout the world, so those who drink these waters begin to preach the good news of the Lord Jesus.

Drink, then, from Christ, so that your voice may also be heard. Store up in your mind the water that is Christ, the water that praises the Lord. Store up water from many sources, the water that rains down from the clouds of prophecy.

Whoever gathers water from the mountains and leads it to himself or draws it from springs, is himself a source of dew like the clouds. Fill your soul, then, with this water, so that your land may not be dry, but watered by your own springs.

He who reads much and understands much, receives his fill. He who is full, refreshes others. So Scripture says: If the clouds are full, they will pour rain upon the earth.

Therefore, let your words be rivers, clean and limpid, so that in your exhortations you may charm the ears of your people. And by the grace of your words win them over to follow your leadership. Let your sermons be full of understanding. Solomon says: The weapons of the understanding are the lips of the wise; and in another place he says: Let your lips be bound with wisdom. That is, let the meaning of your words shine forth, let understanding blaze out. See that your addresses and expositions do not need to invoke the authority of others, but let your words be their own defence. Let no word escape your lips in vain or be uttered without depth of meaning.



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

 






Optional Memorial: Saint Nicholas, Bishop



“A voice says, “Proclaim!” I answer, “What shall I proclaim?” “All flesh is grass, and all their loyalty like the flower of the field.” (Isaiah 40:6.)

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

“The voice of the Lord is on the waters.” In many places you might find the word voice occurring. Therefore, for the sake of understanding what the voice of the Lord is, we should gather, as far as we are able, from the divine Scripture what has been said about the voice; for instance, in the divine warning to Abraham: “And immediately the voice came to him: He shall not be your heir.” And in Moses: “And all the people saw the voice and the flames.” Again in Isaiah: “The voice of one saying, Cry.” With us, then, voice is either air that has been struck or some form that is in the air against which he who is crying out wishes to strike. Now, what is the voice of the Lord? Would it be considered the impact on the air? Or air, which has been struck reaching the hearing of him to whom the voice comes? Or neither of these but that this is a voice of another kind, namely, an image formed by the mind of people whom God wishes to hear his own voice, so that they have this representation corresponding to that which frequently occurs in their dreams? Indeed, just as, although the air is not struck, we keep some recollection of certain words and sounds occurring in our dreams, not receiving the voice through our hearing but through the impression on our heart itself, so also we must believe that some such voice from God appeared in the prophets.” (Homilies on the Psalms (Psalm 28), 13.)



Collect
We humbly implore your mercy, Lord:
protect us in all dangers
through the prayers
of the Bishop Saint Nicholas,
that the way of salvation
may lie open before us.
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

 







The strength of love ought to overcome the fear of death



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from A Treatise on John

OPTIONAL MEMORIAL: Saint Nicholas, Bishop

When the Lord asks Peter if he loves him, he is asking something he already knows. Yet he does not ask only once, but a second and third time. Each time Peter’s answer is the same: You know I love you. Each time the Lord gives him the same command: Tend my sheep.

Peter had denied Christ three times, and to counter this he must profess his faith three times. Otherwise his tongue would seem quicker to serve fear than love, and the threat of death would seem to have made him more eloquent than did the presence of life. If denying the shepherd was proof of fear, then the task of love is to tend his flock.

When those who are tending Christ’s flock wish that the sheep were theirs rather than his, they stand convicted of loving themselves, not Christ. And the Lord’s words are a repeated admonition to them and to all who, as Paul writes sadly, are seeking their own ends, not Christ’s.

Do you love me? Tend my sheep. Surely this means: “If you love me, your thoughts must focus on taking care of my sheep, not taking care of yourself. You must tend them as mine, not as yours; seek in them my glory, not yours; my sovereign rights, not yours; my gain, not yours. Otherwise you will find yourself among those who belong to the ‘times of peril,’ those who are guilty of self-love and the other sins that go with that beginning of evils.”

So the shepherds of Christ’s flock must never indulge in self-love; if they do they will be tending the sheep not as Christ’s but as their own. And of all vices this is the one that the shepherds must guard against most earnestly; seeking their own purposes instead of Christ’s, furthering their own desires by means of those persons for whom Christ shed his blood.

The love of Christ ought to reach such a spiritual pitch in his shepherds that it overcomes the natural fear of death which makes us shrink from the thought of dying even though we desire to live with Christ. However distressful death may be, the strength of love ought to master the distress. I mean the love we have for Christ who, although he is our life, consented to suffer death for our sake.

Consider this: if death held little or no distress for us, the glory of martyrdom would be less. But if the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for his sheep, has made so many of those same sheep martyrs and witnesses for him, then how much more ought Christ’s shepherds fight for the truth even to death and to shed their blood in opposing sin? After all, the Lord has entrusted them with tending his flock and with teaching and guiding his lambs.

With his passion for their example, Christ’s shepherds are most certainly bound to cling to the pattern of his suffering, since even the lambs have so often followed that pattern of the Chief Shepherd in whose one flock the shepherds themselves are lambs. For the Good Shepherd who suffered for all mankind has made all mankind his lambs, since in order to suffer for them all he made himself a lamb.

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