Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church



“Whoever has ears ought to hear...” (Matthew 11:15)

In commenting on these verses from today’s Gospel proclamation, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“Jesus did not stop even at this praise of John but said, “He is Elijah who is to come.” Then he added, to underscore the need for deeper understanding, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus said this to stir them up to inquire further. By this they were awakened so that everything might be plain and clear. Thus no one could claim that Jesus was unapproachable or that they did not dare ask him questions. For they were asking all sorts of questions and testing him in many small matters. Even when their mouths were stopped a thousand times, they did not turn away from him. For if they did not hesitate to inquire of him about these common things, they surely would be inquiring about indispensable things in whatever way they wanted to learn. In this way he himself was encouraging them and drawing them on to ask such questions.” (The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 37)



Collect
O God,
Who gave the Priest Saint John
an outstanding dedication
to perfect self-denial
and love of the Cross,
grant that,
by imitating him closely at all times,
we may come to contemplate eternally
Your 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 knowledge of the mystery hidden in Christ Jesus



Priest and Doctor of the Church

An excerpt from his Spiritual Canticle

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Though holy doctors have uncovered many mysteries and wonders, and devout souls have understood them in this earthly condition of ours, yet the greater part still remains to be unfolded by them, and even to be understood by them.

We must then dig deeply in Christ. He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit. Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.

For this reason the apostle Paul said of Christ: In him are hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The soul cannot enter into these treasures, nor attain them, unless it first crosses into and enters the thicket of suffering, enduring interior and exterior labors, and unless it first receives from God very many blessings in the intellect and in the senses, and has undergone long spiritual training.

All these are lesser things, disposing the soul for the lofty sanctuary of the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ: this is the highest wisdom attainable in this life.

Would that men might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

Saint Paul therefore urges the Ephesians not to grow weary in the midst of tribulations, but to be steadfast and rooted and grounded in love, so that they may know with all the saints the breadth, the length, the height and the depth—to know what is beyond knowledge, the love of Christ, so as to be filled with all the fullness of God.

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

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 of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr



“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves...” (Matthew 11:29)

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

“You are to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” You are not learning from me how to refashion the fabric of the world, nor to create all things visible and invisible, nor to work miracles and raise the dead. Rather, you are simply learning of me: “that I am meek and lowly in heart.” If you wish to reach high, then begin at the lowest level. If you are trying to construct some mighty edifice in height, you will begin with the lowest foundation. This is humility. However great the mass of the building you may wish to design or erect, the taller the building is to be, the deeper you will dig the foundation. The building in the course of its erection rises up high, but he who digs its foundation must first go down very low. So then, you see even a building is low before it is high and the tower is raised only after humiliation. ” (Sermon 69)



Collect
May the glorious intercession
of the Virgin and Martyr Saint Lucy
give us new heart, we pray, O Lord,
so that we may celebrate her heavenly birthday
in this present age
and so behold things eternal.
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

 






You light up your grace of body with the radiance of your mind



Bishop and Great Latin Father of the Church

An excerpt from his work, On Virginity

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr

You are one of God’s people, of God’s family, a virgin among virgins; you light up your grace of body with your splendor of soul. More than others you can be compared to the Church. When you are in your room, then, at night, think always on Christ, and wait for his coming at every moment.

This is the person Christ has loved in loving you, the person he has chosen in choosing you. He enters by the open door; he has promised to come in, and he cannot deceive. Embrace him, the one you have sought; turn to him, and be enlightened; hold him fast, ask him not to go in haste, beg him not to leave you. The Word of God moves swiftly; he is not won by the lukewarm, nor held fast by the negligent. Let your soul be attentive to his word; follow carefully the path God tells you to take, for he is swift in his passing.

What does his bride say? I sought him, and did not find him; I called him, and he did not hear me. Do not imagine that you are displeasing to him although you have called him, asked him, opened the door to him, and that this is the reason why he has gone so quickly; no, for he allows us to be constantly tested. When the crowds pressed him to stay, what does he say in the Gospel? I must preach the word of God to other cities, because I have been sent for that. But even if it seems to you that he has left you, go out and seek him once more.

Who but holy Church is to teach you how to hold Christ fast? Indeed, she has already taught you, if you only understood her words in Scripture: How short a time it was when I left them before I found him whom my soul has loved. I held him fast, and I will not let him go.

How do we hold him fast? Not by restraining chains or knotted ropes but by bonds of love, by spiritual reins, by the longing of the soul.

If you also, like the bride, wish to hold him fast, seek him and be fearless of suffering. It is often easier to find him in the midst of bodily torments, in the very hands of persecutors.

His bride says: How short a time it was after I left them. In a little space, after a brief moment, when you have escaped from the hands of your persecutors without yielding to the powers of this world, Christ will come to you, and he will not allow you to be tested for long.

Whoever seeks Christ in this way, and finds him, can say: I held him fast, and I will not let him go before I bring him into my mother’s house, into the room of her who conceived me. What is this “house”, this “room”, but the deep and secret places of your heart?

Maintain this house, sweep out its secret recesses until it becomes immaculate and rises as a spiritual temple for a holy priesthood, firmly secured by Christ, the cornerstone, so that the Holy Spirit may dwell in it.

Whoever seeks Christ in this way, whoever prays to Christ in this way, is not abandoned by him; on the contrary, Christ comes again and again to visit such a person, for he is with us until the end of the world.

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

 

 



Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe



“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45.)

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

“You see that Mary did not doubt but believed and therefore obtained the fruit of faith. “Blessed are you who have believed.” But you also are blessed who have heard and believed. For a soul that has believed has both conceived and bears the Word of God and declares his works. Let the soul of Mary be in each of you, so that it magnifies the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each of you, so that it rejoices in God. She is the one mother of Christ according to the flesh, yet Christ is the Fruit of all according to faith. Every soul receives the Word of God, provided that, undefiled and unstained by vices, it guards its purity with inviolate modesty.” (Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 2)



Collect
O God, Father of mercies,
who placed Your people
under the singular protection
of Your Son’s most holy Mother,
grant that all who invoke
the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe,
may seek with ever more lively faith
the progress of peoples
in the ways of justice and of peace.
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 Voice of the Turtledove has been heard in our land



(Native American author, 16th century)

An excerpt from a Report

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My Lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.”

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

 






Monday of the Second Week of Advent



“The wilderness and the parched land will exult; the Arabah will rejoice and bloom ...” (Isaiah 35:1.)

Saint Gregory of Nyssa (part 2 of the background of Saint Gregory of Nyssa is found here) offers the following insight on this verse from today’s First Reading:

“I said, “What are the fire, the gulf, or the other things which are mentioned, if they are not what they are said to be?”

“And where shall we place that oracle of Isaiah, which cries to the wilderness, “Be glad, O thirsty wilderness. Let the desert rejoice and blossom as a lily, and the desolate places of Jordan shall blossom and shall rejoice”? For it is clear that it is not to places without soul or sense that he proclaims the good tidings of joy, but he speaks, by the figure of the desert, of the soul that is parched and unadorned.

And “the excellence of Carmel” is given to the soul that bears the likeness to the desert, that is, the grace bestowed through the Spirit. For since Elijah dwelt in Carmel, and the mountain became famous and renowned by the virtue of him who dwelt there, and since moreover John the Baptist, illustrious in the spirit of Elijah, sanctified the Jordan, therefore the prophet foretold that “the excellence of Carmel” should be given to the river.

And “the glory of Lebanon,” from the similitude of its lofty trees, he transfers to the river. For as great Lebanon presents a sufficient cause of wonder in the very trees that it brings forth and nourishes, so is the Jordan glorified by regenerating people and planting them in the paradise of God. And of them, as the words of the psalmist say, ever blooming and bearing the foliage of virtues, “the leaf shall not wither,” and God shall be glad, receiving their fruit in due season, rejoicing, like a good planter, in his own works.” (On the Baptism of Christ)



Collect
May our prayer of petition
rise before you, we pray, O Lord,
that, with purity unblemished,
we, your servants, may come, as we desire,
to celebrate the great mystery
of the Incarnation 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

 


In Christ, God has spoken to us



Priest and Doctor of the Church

An excerpt from The Ascent of Mount Carmel

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

Under the ancient law prophets and priests sought from God revelations and visions which indeed they needed, for faith had as yet no firm foundation and the gospel law had not yet been established. Their seeking and God’s responses were necessary. He spoke to them at one time through words and visions and revelations, at another in signs and symbols. But however he responded and what he said and revealed were mysteries of our holy faith, either partial glimpses of the whole or sure movements toward it.

But now that faith is rooted in Christ, and the law of the gospel has been proclaimed in this time of grace, there is no need to seek him in the former manner, nor for him so to respond. By giving us, as he did, his Son, his only Word, he has in that one Word said everything. There is no need for any further revelation.

This is the true meaning of Paul’s words to the Hebrews when he urged them to abandon their earlier ways of conversing with God, as laid down in the law of Moses, and set their eyes on Christ alone: In the past God spoke to our fathers through the prophets in various ways and manners; but now in our times, the last days, he has spoken to us in his Son. In effect, Paul is saying that God has spoken so completely through his own Word that he chooses to add nothing. Although he had spoken but partially through the prophets he has now said everything in Christ. He has given us everything, his own Son.

Therefore, anyone who wished to question God or to seek some new vision or revelation from him would commit an offense, for instead of focusing his eyes entirely on Christ he would be desiring something other than Christ, or beyond him.

God could then answer: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear him. In my Word I have already said everything. Fix your eyes on him alone for in him I have revealed all and in him you will find more than you could ever ask for or desire.

I, with my Holy Spirit, came down upon him on Mount Tabor and declared: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear him. You do not need new teachings or ways of learning from me, for when I spoke before it was of Christ who was to come, and when they sought anything of me they were but seeking and hoping for Christ in whom is every good, as the whole teaching of the evangelists and apostles clearly testifies.

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

 

 



When preparing is preparing ...



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

“The beginning of the gospel (Αρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου) of Jesus Christ [the Son of God]. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare (κατασκευάσει) your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
Prepare (ἑτοιμάσατε) the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.’”
John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert (ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ)
proclaiming a baptism of repentance (μετανοίας) for the forgiveness of sins.”
(Mark 1:1-4)


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

Do you have a favorite Advent Text from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah? For many, this Sunday’s proclamation from the Prophet of Hope is the signature Word of Advent found in the Old Testament only overshadowed by Isaiah 7:14 (“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign, the virgin will be with child and you shall name him Emmanuel.”) George Frederick Handel enshrined Isaiah 40 as the opening movement in Messiah.




As for the Sacred Text at hand, all four Evangelists employ some aspects of Isaiah 40 as Jesus’ Public Ministry commences in the region of Galilee. The Synoptic Evangelists also include the command “Prepare (ἑτοιμάσατε) [Mark 1:2, Matthew 3:3 and Luke 3:4].” Take note of the verses in this Sunday’s proclamation from Mark: “Behold, … he will prepare (κατασκευάσει) your way (Mark 1:2)” and “A voice … ‘Prepare (ἑτοιμάσατε) the way of the Lord’ (Mark 1:3).” The English word prepare appears twice in 2 verses, yet the Greek verbs are different: κατασκευάζω (kataskeuazo in verse 2) and ἑτοιμάζω (hetoimazo, in verse 3). Is the Evangelist making a point here by using two separate verbs or is he simply availing himself of a theological thesaurus, varying the words to keep our attention?




Considering the myriad of insights one could bring to the Marcan Gospel, ‘fluff’ is not one of the Evangelist’s characteristics. In fact, when one examines the Greek Text of what is perhaps the first written Gospel, one quickly discovers difficulty in reading. Saint Mark’s favorite word is AND (καί, kai in Greek). It seems he grammatically has confused the word and with a period. Many note that he writes in ‘run-on’ sentences and the over use of and joining 1 thought to another is a nightmare for teachers and professors of writing. But this gives us an insight into the Evangelist. For Mark, time is short – not necessarily chronologically but time in the sense of acting now to prevent a situation from getting worse. One might liken this to an infection in the body: far better to ‘nip it [the infection] in the bud’ because if it is permitted to fester, one runs the risk of a loss of limb or even one’s physical life despite aggressive antibiotics. The Evangelist bluntly, boldly and urgently records the events of Jesus’ Words and Deeds with the intent that one will permit the Person Jesus to transform the hard heart and open one’s heart to God the Father's way of living, known in the Gospels as the Kingdom of God (more on the Kingdom of God, to repent and to believe when we return to Ordinary Time in January).

This background is meant to form a basis not only for our reception of Mark’s Gospel this Liturgical Year, but also to make a case, from a human perspective, that the 2 distinct verbs – both translated into English as prepare – is intentional on Saint Mark’s part. In verse 3, notice the proximity of the command (yes, a command!) ἑτοιμάσατε (hetoimasate) to the verse concerning John the Baptist’s proclamation of “baptism of repentance (μετανοίας) for the forgiveness of sins.” While μετάνοια (metanoia) is often translated “repentance,” it is composed of 2 Greek words: “beyond (μετά, meta)” and “mind (νοῦς, nous).” To go “beyond the mind” in antiquity was the equivalent of “going to/from the heart.” ἑτοιμάσατε (hetoimasate) is about putting ‘heart’ into your thoughts, your words and your actions. Permitting your heart to invade thoughts, words and actions minimally raises the bar of attentiveness. Increasing attentiveness is more properly perceived and received as recognizing that the Holy Spirit is guiding our lives. When you and I are inattentive and attempt to run life according to personal agendas, life gets messed-up and messed-up big time! Recall what happened in the Garden: when humanity stopped listening to the words of the Creator our guard dropped. Our inattentiveness to the words and instructions for life from the Creator resulted in listening to another voice, a divided voice that brought division and alienation into human nature requiring the incarnate and consubstantial intervention of Jesus the Christ.

Speaking of the Garden … there is still another prepare verb to consider: κατασκευάζω (kataskeuazo in verse 2). Many English translations of the Sacred Scriptures render this verb prepare, and do so perhaps because the verb is not frequently used in the New Testament. Literally κατασκευάζω (kataskeuazo) means ‘to create’ or ‘to fashion vessels necessary for persons to live.’ This verb has a decidedly concrete, touchable, tangible – CREATED focus. Notice the proximity of this verse to the opening verse: “The beginning of the gospel (Αρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου) of Jesus Christ” (verse 1). Biblically, Αρχὴ (arche, beginning) has a connection with THE beginning, Genesis. This is the same Greek word that Saint John uses to begin the Fourth Gospel and it is the same word that is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX). The Creation motif is certainly not out of place here and it ties in well with Advent being both a time and a way of living in which something is new, something new is being created. Naturally the question arises, what? What is being created? What is new?

In one way, Advent is a time of a new creation – a creation that is not only spiritual (change of heart) but also something that is quite touchable, tangible and visible. While the Season is about being made ready for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, the readiness for His Nativity requires the creation of a new attitude in us who bear His Name. The attitude or disposition is this: as a Christian is Jesus the singularly, unique Person Who grounds my life and the life of our parishes? This is one of the fundamental questions the εὐαγγελίον (euaggelion, Good News, Gospel) - Who is Jesus? Those who self-identify as “Christian” may have varying levels of intellectual, catechetical, and cultural ‘knowledge’ ABOUT Jesus. But timely Advent question is, ‘has this knowledge been permitted to become love FOR, WITH and OF Jesus?’ Knowing what we have done and do for people we love can be a pattern for growing in love that Christ offers. Being with Him, hanging out in silent prayer, attentive celebration of the Sacraments and pondering His Word, saying NO to anything not of Him and charitable service in His Name are some of the simple acts to respond to His invitation of love. Accepting this invitation permits His work of loving creation to continue in our lives and the lives of our communities. These graced works prepare and prepare each of us for Jesus.


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






Sunday of the Second Week of Advent



“A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)

Origen of Alexandria comments on these verses from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“The Lord wants to find in you a path by which he can enter into your souls and make his journey. Prepare for him the path of which it is said, “Make straight his path.” “The voice of one crying in the desert” — the voice cries, “prepare the way.

Now the way of the Lord is made straight in two ways: by contemplation, which is clarified by truth unmixed with falsehood, and by activity, which follows sound contemplation of the appropriate action to be taken, which is conformed to the correct sense of these things to be done.” (Homilies on Gospel of Luke, 21)


A reflection on preparing in light of this Sunday’s Scriptures.

Collect
Almighty and merciful God,
may no earthly undertaking hinder those
who set out in haste to meet Your Son,
but may our learning of heavenly wisdom
gain us admittance to His company.
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