LENT


Ash Wednesday


“Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind a blessing, grain offering and libation for the LORD, your God.” (Joel 2:14)

Saint Gregory of Nazianzus reflects on this verse from today’s First Reading:

“We should enter his house in sackcloth and lament night and day between the porch and the altar, in piteous array, and with more piteous voices. [We should] cry aloud without ceasing on behalf of ourselves and the people, sparing nothing, either toil or word, which may propitiate God. [We should] say, “Spare, O Lord, your people, and give not your heritage to reproach,” and the rest of our prayer; surpassing the people in our sense of the affliction as much as in our rank, instructing them in our own persons in compunction and correction of wickedness, and in the consequent longsuffering of God, and cessation of the scourge. Come then, all of you, my brethren, “let us worship and fall down, and weep before the Lord our maker”; let us appoint a public mourning in our various ages and families; let us raise the voice of supplication. Let this, instead of the cry which he hates, enter into the ears of the Lord of Sabbaoth. Let us anticipate his anger by confession; let us desire to see him appeased, after [his wrath]. Who knows, he says, if he will turn and choose again, and leave a blessing behind him?” (On His Father’s Silence [Oration 16], 13)


Collect
Grant,
O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
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

 

Repent!


(Apostolic Father, Bishop of Rome and Martyr)
An excerpt from Letter to the Corinthians

LENT: ASH WEDNESDAY


Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father”, and I will listen to you as a holy people.

In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarreling and jealousy which only lead to death.

Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.

Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.

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

 






ORDINARY TIME


Week 5: Tuesday


Saint Ephrem the Syrian
“Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly of Israel, and stretching forth his hands toward heaven...” (1 Kings 8:22.)

Saint Ephrem the Syrian offers the following insight on these verses from today’s First Reading:

“Now notice that Solomon did not only pray for his people but also for the foreigners and the strangers who distrusted the nation of Israel and were often hostile to it, so that the son of David might show the God of David to everyone in general, by praying for his enemies and by speaking ahead of time for us those future words: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”” (On the First Book of Kings, 8.)


Collect
Keep Your family safe, O Lord,
with unfailing care,
that, relying solely
on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always
by Your protection.
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 sacrifice of Abraham


(Priest and Ancient Christian Writer)
An excerpt from Homily on Genesis

ORDINARY TIME WEEK 5: Tuesday


Abraham took wood for the burnt offering and placed it upon Isaac his son, and he took fire and a sword in his hands, and together they went off. Isaac himself carries the wood for his own holocaust: this is a figure of Christ. For he bore the burden of the cross, and yet to carry the wood for the holocaust is really the duty of the priest. He is then both victim and priest. This is the meaning of the expression: together they went off. For when Abraham, who was to perform the sacrifice, carried the fire and the knife, Isaac did not walk behind him, but with him. In this way he showed that he exercised the priesthood equally with Abraham.

What happens after this? Isaac said to Abraham his father: Father. This plea from the son was at that instant the voice of temptation. For do you not think the voice of the son who was about to be sacrificed struck a responsive chord in the heart of the father? Although Abraham did not waver because of his faith, he responded with a voice full of affection and asked: What is it, my son? Isaac answered him: Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust? And Abraham replied: God will provide for himself a sheep for the holocaust, my son.

The careful yet loving response of Abraham moves me greatly. I do not know what he saw in spirit, because he did not speak of the present but of the future: God will provide for himself a sheep. His reply concerns the future, yet his son inquires about the present. Indeed, the Lord himself provided a sheep for himself in Christ.

Abraham extended his hand to take the sword and slay his son, and the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said: Abraham, Abraham. And he responded: Here I am. And the angel said: Do not put your hand upon the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God. Compare these words to those of the Apostle when he speaks of God: He did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. God emulates man with magnificent generosity. Abraham offered to God his mortal son who did not die, and God gave up his immortal Son who died for all of us.

And Abraham, looking about him, saw a ram caught by the horns in a bush. We said before that Isaac is a type of Christ. Yet this also seems true of the ram. To understand how both are figures of Christ—Isaac who was not slain and the ram who was—is well worth our inquiry.

Christ is the Word of God, but the Word became flesh. Christ therefore suffered and died, but in the flesh. In this respect, the ram is the type, just as John said: Behold the lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. The Word, however, remained incorruptible. This is Christ according to the spirit, and Isaac is the type. Therefore, Christ himself is both victim and priest according to the spirit. For he offers the victim to the Father according to the flesh, and he is himself offered on the altar of the cross.

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

 

 





ORDINARY TIME


Week 5: Monday


Saint Ephrem the Syrian
“Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the princes in the ancestral houses of the Israelites. They came to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the LORD’S covenant from the city of David (which is Zion).” (1 Kings 8:1.)

Saint Ephrem the Syrian offers the following insight on these verses from today’s First Reading:

“The two weeks [of festivity] and the two solemn celebrations were accomplished by the people of the Lord with the greatest joy. The former prefigured the festivals of our church, which Christ began with the mystical dedication of his temple and the transferring of the flesh which he had assumed, to heaven; the latter foreshadowed the last day, the greatest of all solemn days, that will dawn for all saints after the resurrection of the flesh. And the distribution of the ministries and offices in the heavenly and everlasting temple will follow that day.” (On the First Book of Kings, 8.)


Collect
Keep Your family safe, O Lord,
with unfailing care,
that, relying solely
on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always
by Your protection.
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





He who knows Jesus Christ
can understand all sacred Scripture



(Bishop and Doctor of the Church)
An excerpt from Prologus

ORDINARY TIME WEEK 5: Monday


The source of sacred Scripture was not human research but divine revelation. This revelation comes from the Father of Light from whom the whole concept of fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives. From him, through Jesus Christ his Son, the Holy Spirit enters into us. Then, through the Holy Spirit who allots and apportions his gifts to each person as he wishes, we receive the gift of faith, and through faith Christ lives in our hearts. So we come to know Christ and this knowledge becomes the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all sacred Scripture. It is impossible, therefore, for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in Christ. This faith is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and a key to its understanding. As long as our earthly state keeps us from seeing the Lord, this same faith is the firm basis of all supernatural enlightenment, the light guiding us to it, and the doorway through which we enter upon it. What is more, the extent of our faith is the measure of the wisdom which God has given us. Thus, no one should overestimate his wisdom; instead, he should soberly make his assessment according to the extent of the faith which God has given him.

The outcome or the fruit of reading holy Scripture is by no means negligible: it is the fullness of eternal happiness. For these are the books which tell us of eternal life, which were written not only that we might believe but also that we might have everlasting life. When we do live that life we shall understand fully, we shall love completely, and our desires will be totally satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled, we shall truly know the love that surpasses understanding and so be filled with the fullness of God. The purpose of the Scriptures, which come to us from God, is to lead us to this fullness according to the truths contained in those sayings of the apostles to which I have referred. In order to achieve this, we must study holy Scripture carefully, and teach it and listen to it in the same way.

If we are to attain the ultimate goal of eternal happiness by the path of virtue described in the Scriptures, we have to begin at the very beginning. We must come with a pure faith to the Father of Light and acknowledge him in our hearts. We must ask him to give us, through his Son and in the Holy Spirit, a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and along with that knowledge a love of him. Knowing and loving him in this way, confirmed in our faith and grounded in our love, we can know the length and breadth and height and depth of his sacred Scripture. Through that knowledge we can come at last to know perfectly and love completely the most blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment.

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

 

 



ORDINARY TIME


— The Lord’s Day —


Week 5: Sunday


Pondering Jesus’ victorious Word



εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“They cried one to the other, “Holy, holy, holy (קָדֹשׁ, qadosh) is the LORD of hosts (צָבָא tsabaʾ)! All the earth is filled with his glory (כָּבוֹד kabowd)!” At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.”


θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

Actions, words, images and thoughts abound when it comes to a discussion of holiness. What exactly is holiness? Many will certainly acknowledge that it is an important element of Christian living. Yet nailing down a meaning that assists the human living of holiness in an authentic way is a bit harder. Christian history is filled with episodes of movements seeking holiness that actually do more harm than good. While we may not welcome a burning ember touched to our lips, Isaiah’s recollection of his call to prophetic ministry is significant in getting on the proper track of holiness.


When the sight of “the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne” unfolds before Isaiah, he cries out in a way similar to praise: holy, holy, holy. For Isaiah, the ‘thrice holy’ (trisagion in Greek and in various Eastern Rite Liturgies) is essentially a proclamation of Who God is and thus who Isaiah is not. “Holy,” as used here in the Isaian Text, translates the Hebrew word קָדֹשׁ (qadosh). Early in the history of the word’s usage, qadosh expressed ‘difference.’ It did not speak fundamentally about moral qualities or goodness in general; aspects of the word we now tend to view synonymously with ‘holiness.’ In Hebrew usage, “difference” gradually expressed cultic and covenant realities. Thus in time, qadosh came to refer to ‘anyone or anything set apart for a particular purpose’ and for Israel ‘a particular purpose’ involved living the covenant and one’s God-given mission.

In Isaiah’s experience of being called, he knows (sees) how different he is from God. God is the LORD of hosts (צָבָא tsabaʾ). tsaba’ is part of a vocabulary of Hebrew military words. In Isaiah’s day, not only did tsaba’ refer to a large group fit for military service, tsaba’ expressed the order, obedience and loyalty that all in the group had to the leader. The mighty power of ‘the hosts’ came not strictly from its massive quantity of individuals, although that certainly helped, but rather from the cohesiveness or the oneness the mass of individuals formed. Gradually tsaba’ included not only the uncountable number of angels ready to battle anyone or anything contrary to the Lord’s covenant or mission but also all of the stars of the nighttime sky. For Isaiah and other prophets, even these ‘heavenly bodies’ obeyed the ‘Creator of the stars of night’ and sang His praises.

Qadosh and tsaba’ – courtesy of Isaiah and the Lord’s call to him – provide sound elements to respond to the Creator’s effective Word summoning all to a life of holiness. The Lord first and foremost initiates holiness. That is our only starting point for a life of holiness. No amount of work or effort, no technique, no amount of spiritual reading, no amount of ‘saying prayers,’ etc … will ever effect (cause) one to be holy. The grace of holiness is pure gift that cannot be earned, only received graciously. As a gift graciously received, holiness is being or existing not primarily doing (although there will be some ‘doing’ in its proper sequence and time). Like Isaiah, holiness is seeing (knowing) the otherness of God and knowing (seeing) that I [and others!] have been called into that relationship. It is then from that perspective of being-in-relationship that any ‘doing’ is done. Thus the disciplines of holy living – prayer, fasting, almsgiving – are all done, not to earn, but to respond to the One Who has been seen (known). This response then ‘sets one apart for mission and praise’ since holiness is never a God-and-me affair. Mission and praise can be confidently done knowing (seeing) the ‘army of one’ is at our sides continuously ‘lest you dash your foot against the stone.’”







ORDINARY TIME


Week 5: Sunday


“One cried out to the other: “Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3.)

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

“My Hebrew master used to say that the two seraphim, which are described in Isaiah as having six wings each and as crying one to another and saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” were to be understood to mean the only-begotten Son of God and the Holy Spirit.

My Hebrew teacher also used to teach as follows, that since the beginning or the end of all things could not be comprehended by any except our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, this was the reason why Isaiah spoke of there being in the vision that appeared to him two seraphim only, who with two wings cover the face of God, with two cover his feet and with two fly, crying one to another and saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of your glory.” For because the two seraphim alone have their wings over the face of God and over his feet, we may venture to declare that neither the armies of the holy angels, nor the holy thrones, nor the dominions, nor principalities nor powers can wholly know the beginnings of all things and the ends of the universe.” (On First Principles)


Click for a reflection on this Sunday’s First Reading from Isaiah.


Collect
Keep Your family safe, O Lord,
with unfailing care,
that, relying solely
on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended always
by Your protection.
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


Top





Let us understand the workings of God’s grace



(Bishop and Father of the Church)
An excerpt from an Explanation of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

ORDINARY TIME WEEK 5: Sunday


Paul writes to the Galatians to make them understand that by God’s grace they are no longer under the law. When the Gospel was preached to them, there were some among them of Jewish origin known as circumcisers—though they called themselves Christians—who did not grasp the gift they had received. They still wanted to be under the burden of the law. Now God had imposed that burden on those who were slaves to sin and not on servants of justice. That is to say, God had given a just law to unjust men in order to show them their sin, not to take it away. For sin is taken away only by the gift of faith that works through love. The Galatians had already received this gift, but the circumcisers claimed that the Gospel would not save them unless they underwent circumcision and were willing to observe also the other traditional Jewish rites.

The Galatians, therefore, began to question Paul’s preaching of the Gospel because he did not require Gentiles to follow Jewish observances as other apostles had done. Even Peter had yielded to the scandalized protests of the circumcisers. He pretended to believe that the Gospel would not save the Gentiles unless they fulfilled the burden of the law. But Paul recalled him from such dissimulation, as is shown in this very same letter. A similar issue arises in Paul’s letter to the Romans, but with an evident difference. Through his letter to them Paul was able to resolve the strife and controversy that had developed between the Jewish and Gentile converts.

In the present letter Paul is writing to persons who were profoundly influenced and disturbed by the circumcisers. The Galatians had begun to believe them and to think that Paul had not preached rightly, since he had not ordered them to be circumcised. And so the Apostle begins by saying: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you to the glory of Christ, and turning to another gospel.

After this there comes a brief introduction to the point at issue. But remember in the very opening of the letter Paul had said that he was an apostle not from men nor by any man, a statement that does not appear in any other letter of his. He is making it quite clear that the circumcisers, for their part, are not from God but from men, and that his authority in preaching the Gospel must be considered equal to that of the other apostles. For he was called to be an apostle not from men nor by any man, but through God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.

Click for a reflection on holiness from Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah).

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 Paul Miki and his companions



Saint Ephrem the Syrian
“I now do as you request. I give you a heart so wise and discerning that there has never been anyone like you until now, nor after you will there be anyone to equal you.” (1 Kings 3:12.)

Saint Ephrem the Syrian offers the following insight on this verse from today’s First Reading:

“Since the narrative [of the book of Kings] is accurate in the facts, nobody can have any doubt that Solomon received his noble sovereignty, his elevated thought and extraordinary power as a gift from God, thus it is evident that no one among those kings who were dead, nor among those who would succeed him, could be compared with him. It is certain, nevertheless, that these qualities, and others, which are described in the psalms about Solomon, mostly are to be transferred to Christ; otherwise the words [of these biblical passages] would not be in absolute and complete agreement with their meaning and truth. Therefore Christ is that prince of peace whose wisdom and royal power were never preceded in time or overcome in greatness. And before him no Son was born of an eternal nature or equal to the Father, nor after him will there ever be someone similar to him, as the Word, God says through another prophet: “Before me no god was formed, nor will be after me.” (On the First Book of Kings, 3.)


Collect
O God,
strength of all the Saints,
who through the Cross were pleased to call
the martyrs Saint Paul Miki and companions to life,
grant, we pray, that by their intercession
we may hold with courage even until death
to the faith we profess.
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