Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Cross – our hope and salvation

Remember that the Crucifixion of Christ bought our salvation. Remember that there is no Resurrection without a Good Friday.

“Let no one, my brethren, blush at those sacred and adorable marks of our redemption. The cross of Jesus Christ is the source of every blessing; it is through that we live, through that, we are what we are. Let us carry the cross of Jesus, and adorn ourselves with so glorious a crown. It is the zeal and fulfillment of everything which appertains to our salvation. If we are regenerated in the waters of baptism, the cross is there present; if we approach the table of the Lord to receive His holy Body, it there appears; if we receive the imposition of hands to consecrate us as ministers of God, it is still there; in fact, we see in everything that adorable sign which is, at once, the cause and emblem of our victory. We have it in our houses, we hang it and paint it on our walls, we engrave it on our doors, and we should ever carry it in our hearts; for the cross is a sacred monument which recalls to memory the work of our salvation, the regaining of our ancient freedom, and the infinite mercy of Jesus Christ. When, then, you make the sign of the cross on the forehead, arm yourself with a saintly boldness, and reinstall your soul in its old liberty; for you are not ignorant that the cross is a prize beyond all price. Consider what is the price given for your ransom, and you will never more be slave to any man on earth. This reward and ransom is the cross. You should not, then, carelessly make the sign of the forehead, but you should impress it on your heart with the love of a fervent faith! Nothing impure will dare to molest you on seeing the weapon which overcometh all things. Be not, then, ashamed of the cross, in order that Jesus Christ be not ashamed of you, when He will come, clothed in the Majesty of His glory, accompanied by this sign of our redemption, which will then, shine more brilliant than the sun. Engrave it in your heart; lovingly embrace that which procured the salvation of our souls; for it is the cross which has saved and converted all the world is that which has banished heresy and unbelief, which has reestablished truth, which has made a heaven on earth, and which has transformed men into angels. It is by means of the cross that the devils have ceased to appear formidable, and are now only to be despised; it is through that, that death is now no longer death, but only a long sleep. In fine, it is through the cross that all our enemies have been conquered. If you find, then, any one who says, ‘What! you worship the cross?’ answer him with a tone of voice that betokens firmness, Yes, I do worship it, and shall never cease to do so. If he laugh at you, pity him, and shed tears for his blindness; and say boldly, We protest before heaven and earth that our glory is in the cross, that it is the source of all our blessings, our every hope, and that it is that which has crowned every saint.”   ~St. John Chrysostom

Mother Angelica passes away!

http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=13464

https://churchpop.com/2016/03/27/photos-from-the-holy-life-of-mother-angelica/

Mother Angelica passed away today, March 27th, Easter Sunday, at 5:00p, CT. What a glorious day for her to go after the “Good Friday” of her Purgatory to be “resurrected” at Easter. May She rest in peace. Thank you, Mother, for your unwavering love and fidelity to the truth of the Catholic Faith, despite all odds against you. The Church has lost a great warrior of the Church Militant. She had a great, great love for Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin. She will be missed and lovingly remembered for all time!  Please pray for the repose of Mother’s soul.

Some of her beautiful quotes and prayers:

“If you’re not a thorn in somebody’s side, you aren’t doing Christianity right.”

“It’s your obligation to speak the truth, and everyone can either take it or leave it. But truth must be in us. We live in such a poverty of truth today.”

“We did not happen to be–we were chosen by God to exist.”

“Pray with love. Pray as you love. Love as you pray. Prayer is your heartbeat in rhythm with His.”

“If you have a problem in your life that you cannot fathom or understand, you have to examine your prayer life, not the problem.”

“If you’re Catholic, keep going. If you’re a Protestant, come home. If you’re an atheist, shape up!”

“When they want an excuse for killing a baby, they call it a fetus”

“Jesus is giving you such an opportunity to be holy, holier than all the saints that have ever been, because the world is in such need of shining lives, beacons to see by.”

“I love you enough to tell you the truth. You can judge someone’s love for you by their willingness to tell you the truth.” – Mother Angelica

“The way it is today with the priest facing the people, it’s something between the people and the priest. Too often, it’s just some kind of get together, and Jesus is all but forgotten.”

“Latin is the perfect language for the Mass. It is the language of the Church, which allows us to pray a verbal prayer without distraction. So much is spoiled in the vernacular.”

“We [priests] hide the truth from people because we want them to be pastoral. There’s nothing pastoral about leading souls to Hell.”

“Most Blessed and Immaculate Mother of Jesus, I place myself entirely under thy protection. Instruct, enlighten, and direct me. Support me in my weakness, and adore our dear Lord for me, since thou art my only refuge….pray for me and obtain the grace that this may be a day of true conversion. May it be so spent as if it were my last here on earth, thus serving as preparation for a blessed eternity, for which my soul longs, in order for ever to adore, love, and possess my God. Amen.”

“Be courageous and brave. Fight for your Mother the Church. You are on the winning side. You have nothing or no one to fear. Be Catholic, and be proud of it.”

“This is it. I’ve had all I’m going to take … You know, as Catholics we’ve been quiet all these years…. I’m tired, tired of being pushed in the corners. I’m tired of your inclusive language that refuses to admit that the Son of God is a man. I’m tired of your tricks. I’m tired of your deceit. I’m tired of you making a crack, and the first thing you know there’s a hole, and all of us fall into it. No, this was deliberate… I am so tired of you, liberal Church in America. You’re sick…. You have nothing to offer. You do nothing but destroy. You don’t have vocations, and you don’t even care — your whole purpose is to destroy… You can’t stand Catholicism at its height, so you try to spoil it, as you’ve spoiled so many things in these thirty years….”

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Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Our Lord Jesus Christ has risen just as he said! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

He is risen! Christ has triumphed over satan, sin and death.  He has left us the means of salvation, the Church.  He remains for a short while and then returns to Heaven, His mission in this world having been accomplished through His Passion, Death and Resurrection.  Our Redemption has been accomplished.

Indeed, He is risen as he said! Alleluia! Come, Lord Jesus, renew the earth and restore Your Holy Catholic Church and make her triumphant over her enemies.

A Blessed, Holy and Happy Easter to all of my readers and followers!

A traditional sermon by Fr. Thomas F. Burke, C.S.P.

I. No other fact has been such a power in the world as that which we commemorate today, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In the annals of religion and its progress, in the records of faith and its victories, in the history of morality and its advancement, in the story of charity and its achievements, there has been no factor so influential. It is bound up most intimately and closely with human life. Even those who deny it as a myth are living today under conditions which would not exist had not centuries of Christian people believed in this great fact.

The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith, because it is the proof supreme of His Divinity. Throughout His whole life, indeed, Christ was the revelation of God unto man.” God, who, at sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days hath spoken to us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world.” The greatness, the beauty, the holiness, the majesty, the love, the mercy, the justice of God were manifested in the human life and actions of our Divine Lord upon earth. When an afflicted woman touched the hem of His garment and He cured her of her sickness; when the blind man cried out to Him, “Lord, that I may see,” and He gave him sight; when a ruler begged that his child might not die, and Jesus infused new vigor and health; when a sister and again a mother were in grief over the loss of a loved one, and He called the dead back to life; when a thief dying on a cross sought for pardon, and Jesus washed away the guilt of sin– in these and in many other instances He gave proof that He was divine.

All these, however, are subordinate to the one grand, triumphal fact which is the corner-stone of Christianity, and upon which all the rest of the structure depends–the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. So could the Apostle say: “If Christ be not risen from the dead, vain is our preaching, vain is your faith.”

He who admits the Resurrection must hold to Christ’s Divinity, and consequently to His divine right to be the Guide and Teacher of man. On the other hand, he who denies the Resurrection will not hesitate to sacrifice altogether belief in the divine prerogatives and the divine mission of Jesus Christ.

II. Relying upon the Gospel narrative, my dear brethren, and upon the innumerable references throughout the New Testament, we must conclude that no fact in the world’s history is more incontestably established than the Resurrection of Christ; and yet we are brought face to face with the denial of this, by some at least.

The New Testament gives us evidence after evidence of the Truth, God Himself foretold His resurrection. The spirit of prophecy rested upon Him, and at times, for the sake of His followers, He lifted the veil that hangs beyond and revealed the vision, dimly it may have been, of future triumph and glory. When some would ask Him for a sign. He spoke of the sign of Jonas the prophet: ” For as Jonas was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matt. xii. 40).

When about to go up to Jerusalem for the last time. He foretold what would happen to the Son of man: “The scribes and Pharisees . . . shall deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, and the third day he shall rise again” (Matt. xx. 18, 19).

At the time of His glorious transfiguration, when His favored Apostles would have rushed through the world proclaiming the miracle, “he charged them not to tell any man what things they had seen, till the Son of man shall be risen again from the dead” (Mark ix. 8).

Again, “Destroy,” said He, “this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. But he spoke of the temple of His body” (John ii. 19, 21).

These are but examples of His declarations to the effect that His suffering would be followed by joy, His night by day, His death by victory. His words were so understood and acted upon by the rulers of the Jews. “Sir,” they said to Pilate “we have remembered, that that seducer said, while he was yet alive: After three days I will rise again. Command therefore the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day: lest perhaps his disciples come and steal him away, and say to the people: He is risen from the dead” (Matt. xxvii. 63, 64). The Jews therefore were prepared for any trickery.

The lifeless body was placed in the tomb; a special detachment of Roman soldiers, with instructions to more than ordinary watchfulness, was placed on guard and the tomb itself was officially sealed. Despite these measures, defying the seal of Rome and its Roman guardians, Christ rose triumphantly from the dead. On the very day of His resurrection He appeared unto the repentant and the rejoicing Mary Magdalen. Then to Peter, His chosen vicar, and to John, His especially beloved. In the evening of the same day He walked with two of His followers to the town of Emmaus, and later appeared unto His assembled Apostles.

After the first day, at least six separate appearances are recorded. As before His death, now after His resurrection, He conversed with His Apostles, spoke to His disciples, ate and drank with them. He brought certainty to the doubting Thomas, the sceptic apostle whose fault begot those consoling words, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” Upon a mountain in Galilee, in the midst of five hundred people, beside the sacred shores of the Lake of Tiberias, He appeared and spoke the words of light before which all lingering shadows of doubt were dispelled, and the flower of hope was newborn.

In reality, my dear brethren, if there be one fact in history which is better entitled to credit than any other, I do not hesitate to say that that fact is the glorious resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. Never, no, never, within the memory of man was any transaction transmitted through every successive generation, from the period of its occurrence to the present day, amid such a blaze of evidence. It is attested by the positive and unexceptionable testimony of persons of the highest integrity, who were themselves eyewitnesses of it, who saw Jesus dead, and who afterward beheld Him alive; who beheld Him not once or twice only, but frequently; not transiently, but for a considerable time; who not only beheld Him but who heard Him, conversed with Him, touched Him, ate and drank with Him, and had every imaginable certainty, both of the reality and identity of His person which it was possible for the evidence of the senses to convey, and who proved, moreover, their honesty and sincerity by that best of arguments, the shedding of their blood.

Had Christ not risen from the dead, there would be no Christianity. Had not Christ risen from the dead, the preaching of the Apostles would have been vain, and the people’s faith would ‘have been vain. A vain preaching and a vain faith would have failed long since. Nineteen centuries would not have passed to find that preaching and hope as strong as ever. Had it been a vain preaching, it would have been annihilated in the ten great persecutions which the power of mighty Rome concocted for its destruction. Had it been a vain preaching, it would have succumbed to the efforts of him who when dying was forced to cry out: ” Galilean, Thou has conquered.” Had it been a vain preaching, it would have been swept from the face of the earth in the avalanche of paganism that from the north broke through the gates of the empire. Had it been a vain preaching, the third, second, yes, the first century would have stood beside its grave.

III. Yet in the light of these evidences, there are those today who deny the Resurrection. Upon theoretical grounds they declare its impossibility, because they hold that miracles in general are impossible. It is a question of fact more than theory. They would say: ” God cannot interfere with the established laws of the universe and the decrees of nature.”

God cannot interfere? What kind of a God? An impotent abstraction of the mind? But God is more than this. He is a reality, a personality. We are free agents. Our freedom is a perfection. If there be a God, He too must be free, and this implies the right and the power to make exceptions to His own laws.

IV. We can see that loss of faith in the Resurrection has brought with it the loss of belief in Jesus Christ, God and man, and is leading to the entire giving up of faith in God and the life to come. What is the cause of this ? One cause is disbelief in the records of the Resurrection, disbelief in the Scriptural account. Now, I maintain that the only place where belief in the Scriptures is securely retained, and the only place therefore where the fact of the Resurrection is safely guarded, is within the Catholic Church. She is the bulwark of the Resurrection. She is the one living witness of the fact that Christ rose from the dead.

Look about the world Today and you will find no body of people among whom there is the same respect, the same reverence, for the Scriptures as among the members of the Catholic Church. You will find no other church that holds with the same steadfastness to the sacredness of their character.

While among Christians outside the Catholic Church the principle of private interpretation of the Scriptures has led men to believe what they like, and has opened the way not only to difficulty but no doubt, she has stood in calm serenity and has held to her position as the teacher of men, the authoritative interpreter of Scriptures, appointed by Jesus Christ. While outside of her fold men are gradually coming to look upon the Scriptures as any other literature, she has unflinchingly declared them to be supreme over all other writings, to be the inspired truth of God. While at the best many will accord them only the credence given to human history, with its liability to prejudice and error, she proclaims them to be without error, because they are a Divine record of facts, stamped with the seal of heaven itself. While among skeptics the Scriptures are considered to be only a legendary legacy of bygone days, she, filled with the consciousness of her identity through the ages, can tell the world Today, as she has told it through nineteen centuries, “I know that these things are true.” And when, as the time goes on, amid those who have sacrificed belief in the Divine character of the Scriptures, they shall lose for them even the regard that is paid to human documents, she will stand, as heretofore, their staunchest defender.

V. Church of Christ, Thou art the one witness upon earth Today of the Resurrection. Thou alone hast breasted the storms of the centuries. Thou canst thus speak to the world: “Before Rationalism was, I am; before the Unitarian and the Socinian, I am; before Renan and Strauss, I am. Nations have lived and died; people have risen and fallen: ages have come and gone, I have witnessed their coming and their going. I have stood firm and unshaken amidst the storms of persecution, the assaults of infidelity, the ravages of licentiousness. I can carry the mind back to the time when the ‘smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon and camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian Amphitheater.’ I have witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem, the downfall of Constantinople, the conquest of Rome. I have witnessed the formation of the Christian nations of Europe; I have seen the savage civilized, the barbarian educated, the wild warrior subdued. I can link the twentieth century with the first. I have witnessed many of the events recorded in the New Testament. I am the living witness of all Christian ages, and I bear my testimony unto this day that Christ has risen.”

VI. Today, then, is the day of Christ’s triumph, the day of the Church’s rejoicing, that Church to which has been committed the preaching of the faith founded on His Resurrection. On the day of His death the world triumphed. Beside the cross the voice went up: “Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again: save thyself, come down from the cross.” Even then a word would have brought an army of smiling angels bearing fiery swords; even then a word would have struck down His persecutors; even then, did He desire it, that scene of death and defeat could have been changed into a heavenly victory. He could, but He would not, for then He was suffering for a guilt that was not His own. On the morn of the Resurrection another voice spoke. When the holy woman arrived at the tomb, an angel clothed in white stood before them and cried out, ” He is risen, he is not here.”

“Vah, . . . save thyself, come down from the cross.”

And the triumphant answer rolls on through the centuries: “He is risen, He is not here.”

Through the world it echoes: “He is risen, as He said.” It is the foundation of Christianity. The Apostles preached it and they knew whereof they spoke.

He is risen! It is confusion to the deniers of Christ’s Divinity, for, well founded as it is, it cannot be reasonably denied.

He is risen! It is the sign of Faith, inspiring that belief without which there is no salvation.

He is risen’ It is the promise and the hope of our resurrection upon the last day.

As we take a broad general view of the centuries, we seem to be standing in the nave of some vast cathedral. Over the distant altar we can see the inscription, ” He is risen, as he said.” From within this cathedral there issues forth the Christian song of triumph. Within its confines are gathered the hosts of witnesses from all times. We hear again the Evangelists chanting solemnly the simple story of Easter morn. We hear the whole body of the Apostles taking up the refrain and sounding it into all their followers. We hear St. Paul reiterating the sacred words and proclaiming that there is no Christianity without faith in the Resurrection. We hear the witnesses of the first centuries, the martyrs, clothed in blood-red garments, telling how with their life they bore testimony to the Resurrection of Christ. We hear Athanasius, the Saint of the Divinity, using the fact of the Resurrection against his adversaries; we hear his followers, the defenders of Christianity, smiling in their turn with the unanswerable argument of the Resurrection. From each century a song, and all unite in one grand symphony. The mighty anthem goes up; the song of triumph cleaves the sky: Resurrexit sicut dixit, “He has risen, as he said.”

And if by some miraculous power it were given us to look into the court of heaven; if for a moment, on this day, the eternal gates were lifted, we could hear issuing forth the song of the myriad angels, companions of those who stood within the tomb, the song of heaven’s triumph: Resurrexit sicut dixit, “He has risen, as he said.”

Right, then, is it that the Church on earth should on this day, above all others, rejoice. She sings today the triumph of her Founder. She chants today the glory of the Son of God. Our hearts, our wills, our minds, our souls are with her. The faith which springs up lively within our souls, the fountain of justification; the hope that inspires us in consequence of the great fact we commemorate; the charity towards God and man which is to be found only in the Christian heart; the joy that is the fruit of all these; the joy of sympathy with Jesus Christ the Victor, the Conqueror–all these are summed up in that cry which our beloved Church in her raptures of love repeats again and again: Resurrexit sicut dixit,” He said he would arise, and he has risen.”

A Twofold Feast

http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2016/03/march-25-date-of-incarnation-and.html

Today is significant because Good Friday coincides with the Feast of the Annunciation.

“Traditionally the conjunction of the two dates was considered to be both deliberate and profoundly meaningful. The date of the feast of the Annunciation was chosen to match the supposed historical date of the Crucifixion, as deduced from the Gospels, in order to underline the idea that Christ came into the world on the same day that he left it: his life formed a perfect circle. March 25 was both the first and the last day of his earthly life, the beginning and the completion of his work on earth.”

Read the article for more.

This won’t happen again until 2157. Looks like we’ve made history!

~Damsel of the Faith

Good Friday 2016

Today is Good Friday, the day of our salvation, the day God died to redeem sinful man.  Let us spend this day in prayer and penance in thanksgiving to Our Lord for paying such a great price for our sins.  Keep sacred the hours of 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock, the hours of Christ’s bitter Passion and Death. Satan was defeated and the Kingdom of God established. Let us rejoice in that. Behold the wood of the Christ upon which hung the God of the Universe, paying a price for our crimes that we couldn’t pay.

A Holy Good Friday to all!

Here is Fr. Prosper Gueranger on Good Friday:

Holy Church will soon be calling us once more to join with her in the holy Offices: meanwhile, let us, as it behoves us, keep our hearts and thoughts upou our Redeemer, for these are the very Hours when he wrought our Salvation. Our morning’s meditation brought us to Calvary, where we were considering how the executioners stripped Jesus of His clothes, preparatory to their nailing Him to the Cross. Let us reverently assist at the consummation of the Sacrifice, which He offers, for us, to the Justice of His Eternal Father.

The executioners led Jesus to the spot where the Cross is lying on the ground: it is the Eleventh Station. Like a lamb destined for a holocaust, He lays himself on the wood that is to serve as the Altar. They violently stretch His hands and feet to the places marked for them, and fasten them with nails to the wood. The Blood gushes forth from these four life-giving founts, wherein our souls are to find their purification. This is the fourth Bloodshedding. Mary hears the strokes of the hammer, and every blow wounds her heart. Magdalene’s grief is intensified by her incapability of helping her tortured Master. Jesus is heard to speak: it is his first Word on Calvary: Father forgive them, for they know not what they do (St. Luke, xxiii. 34). O infinite goodness of our Creator! He has come into this world, which is the work of His hands, and men nail Him to a Cross: and on that Cross He prays for them, and in His prayer he seems to excuse them!

The Victim is fastened to the wood, whereon He is to die. But the Cross is not to be left, as it is, lying on the ground. Isaias has foretold that the Root of Jesse is to be raised up as a Standard of all nations (ls. xi.10.). Yes, our Crucified God must be raised up, and, by that elevation, purify the polluted atmosphere of this world, infested as it is by the spirits of wickedness. He is the Mediator between God and men; He is our High Priest; our Intercessor; He is lifted up (St. John, xii. 32) between earth and heaven, making reconciliation between them (Rom. v. 11). Not far from the spot where the Cross now lies on the ground, they have made a hole in the rock, wherein to fix it, so that all may have a sight of Him that hangs upon it. It is the Twelfth Station. It needs a great effort to raise and plant the Tree of the world’s Redemption. The soldiers lift it up, and then, with impatient vehemence, let it fall into the hole. The shock tears the four wounds. Oh! see Him now exposed naked before the multitude, this good Jesus Who is come to clothe the nakedness that sin has caused in us! The soldiers have done their work, and now they claim His Garments.

They tear them into four lots, and each takes a share: but a strange feeling induces them to respect His Tunic, which was without a seam, and, as we are told by a pious tradition, was woven by the hand of His Blessed Mother. Let us not cut it, say they: but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be (St. John, xix. 24.). It is a symbol of the unity of the Church, which is never to be broken under any pretext whatsoever.

Above our Redeemer’s head there are written these words, in hebrew, greek, and latin: JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS. The people read this Inscription, and say it to each other; without wishing it, they are once more proclaiming the Royalty of the Son of David. The enemies of Jesus are quick enough to perceive this: they hasten to Pilate, and beseech him to have the Title changed. The only answer he deigns to make them is: What I have written, I have written (Ibid. 22.). The Holy Fathers have noticed a circumstance of the Crucifixion, which expresses, how this King of the Jews is, indeed, rejected by His chosen people, but that He will reign all the more gloriously over the Nations of the earth, whom the Father has given to Him for His inheritance. The circumstance we allude to is this: the soldiers, when fixing the Cross in the rock, have so placed it, that Jesus has His back to Jerusalem, and is stretching out His arms towards the countries of the west. The Sun of Truth is setting on the deicide City, and rising upon the new Jerusalem, that proud Rome, which feels that she is destined to be “The Eternal City,” yet knows not that she is to be so by the Cross.

The Tree of our Salvation, as it falls into the hole prepared for it, strikes against a tomb: and the Tomb is that of our First Parent. The blood of the Redeemer flows down the Cross, and falls upon a skull: it is the skull of Adam, whose sin has called for this great expiation. In His mercy, the Son of God wills that the instrument, wherewith He has gained pardon for the guilty world, should rest amidst the very bones of Him that first caused its guilt. Thus is Satan confounded: the creation is not, as he has hitherto thought, turned, by his own artifice, to the shame of its Creator. The hill, on which is raised the Standard of our Salvation, is called Calvary, which signifies a skull. Here, according to the tradition of the Jews, was buried our First Parent, the first Sinner. Among the Holy Fathers of the early Ages, who have handed down this interesting tradition to us, we may cite St. Basil, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, St. Epiphanius, St. Jerome. Origen, too, who had such opportunities of knowing the Jewish traditions, mentions this among the number. At a very early period, Christian Art introduced the custom of placing a human skull at the feet of Jesus’ image on the Cross: it was done to commemorate the great fact, to which we have been alluding.

But let us look up and see this Jesus of ours, Whose life is so soon to end upon this instrument of torture. Here we behold Him exposed to the view of the Jewish people, as the Serpent was, of old, lifted up, by Moses, in the desert (St. John, iii. 14). His enemies pass before Him, making insulting gestures, and saying: Vah! Thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it, save Thine own self! If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross (St. Matth. xxvii. 40)! The Chief Priests and the Ancients continue the blasphemy, but adding their own emphasis to it: He saved others; Himself He cannot save! If He be King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusted in God; let Him now deliver Him, if He will have Him; for He said: I am the Son of God (St. Matth. xxvii. 42, 43). The two thieves, who were crucified with Him, insulted Him in like manner.

Never had God conferred on His creatures a blessing comparable to this: and yet, never did man so boldly insult His God! Let us Christians, who adore Him Whom the Jews blaspheme, offer Him, at this moment, the Reparation He so infinitely deserves. These impious men cite His own words, and turn them against Him: let us reverently remind our Jesus of an expression He once deigned to use, which should fill us with hope: And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to Myself (St. John, xii. 32.). Sweet Jesus! the time is come: Thou art lifted up from the earth: fulfil Thy promise, draw us to Thyself! Alas! this earth has such hold upon us, we are chained fast to it by so many ties; self-love fetters us; and when we attempt to fly towards Thee, our flight is checked. Oh! break our chains, and draw us to Thyself, that we may at length reach Thee, and Thou be consoled by the conquest of our souls!

It is the Sixth hour, or, as we call it, mid-day. The sun immediately withdraws his light, and darkness covers the face of the earth. The stars appear in the heavens, and a gloomy silence pervades throughout the world. It is said, that the celebrated Denys the Areopagite of Athens, who was afterwards a disciple of St. Paul, exclaimed, on witnessing this awful eclipse: “Either the God of nature is suffering, or the world is coming to an end.” Phlegon, a pagan author, who wrote a century after, tells us, that this sudden darkness spread consternation throughout the Roman Empire, and that the Astronomers owned it baffled all their calculations.

So terrible an indication of the wrath of heaven produced a panic of fear among the spectators on Calvary. Blasphemers are struck dumb, and the blasphemies of them, that were just now insulting our Redeemer, cease. All is silent as death. The Thief, whose cross was at the right of Jesus’, feels himself touched with repentance and hope. Turning to his companion, he upbraids him for what he had been saying: Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation? And we, indeed, justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done no evil (St. Luke, xxiii. 40, 41).

Jesus defended by a Thief, at the very time that He is being insulted by them who boast that they know every iota of God’s Law, and are sitting in the Chair of Moses! Nothing could give us a clearer idea of the blindness, to which the Synagogue has voluntarily brought itself. This poor criminal, whose name is Dimas, represents the Gentile world, which now is steeped in ignorance and crime, yet is soon to be cleansed from all its abominations by confessing Jesus Crucified to be the Son of God. Turning his head towards our Saviour’s Cross, he thus prays to Him: Lord! remember me, when thou shalt come into Thy kingdom! He believes Jesus to be King; and the Chief Priests and Ancients were, but a moment ago, making jests with this King! Dimas sees the divine calmness and dignity of the innocent Victim: it is evidence enough; he gives Him his faith, and begs a remembrance from Him when the day of His glory comes. Grace has made him a true Christian: and who can doubt, but that the grace was asked and obtained for him by Mary, the Mother of Mercy, who is now uniting herself in sacrifice together with her Jesus? Jesus is pleased to find in this poor criminal the faith He had vainly sought for from Israel: He thus grants his humble prayer: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise (St. Luke, xxiii. 42, 43). It is the second of Jesus’ Words on the Cross. The happy penitent is filled with joy, and awaits in patient silence the blissful moment when death shall set him free.

Meanwhile, Mary draws near to the Cross, whereon hangs her Son. She recognises Him, in spite of all the darkness; her love was her light. The eclipse has dispersed the crowd; all is silent; and the Soldiers can find no reason for keeping the afflicted Mother from approaching her Son. Jesus looks with tenderest affection upon Mary; the sight of her sorrow is a new grief to His sacred Heart. He is dying, and His Mother cannot console or embrace Him. Magdalene, too, is there, distracted with grief. Those feet, which, a few days before, she had anointed with her most precious perfumes, are now pierced through with nails, and the Blood is clotting round the wounds. They are near enough to the ground for her to reach and bathe them with her tears; but her tears cannot stay the pain. She is come to see the Death of Him that forgave her all her sins. John, the Beloved Disciple, the only Apostle that has followed Jesus to Calvary, is overwhelmed with sorrow. He thinks of the favour bestowed upon him last night, when he rested his head on the Breast of this dear Master, and the remembrance intensifies his grief. He grieves for the Son, he grieves for the Mother. He little knows the reward he is soon to receive for this his love! Mary of Cleophas has followed the Holy Mother up to the foot of the Cross. At some distance off, there stands a group of women, who loved Jesus, and had ministered unto Him during His life (St. Matth. xxvii. 55).

The silence is again broken: Jesus speaks His third Word, and it is to His Mother: but He does not call her by that dear name, for it would redouble her pain: Woman! He says, behold thy son! Then looking upon John, He says to him: Son! behold thy Mother (St. John, xix. 26, 27)! What an exchange was here for Mary! but, O what a blessing it brought upon John, and through him to all mankind! the Mother of God was made our Mother! This was the subject of our meditation on the Friday of Passion Week: let us, today, gratefully receive this last Testament of our Jesus, Who, having by His Incarnation made us the adopted Children of His Heavenly Father, now, in His dying moments, makes us Children of His own Blessed Mother.

It is close upon the Ninth hour, the third hour after mid-day, and it is the one fixed by the eternal decree of God for the Death of Jesus. The feeling of abandonment, which had caused our Redeemer to suffer an Agony in the Garden, now returns. He has taken upon Himself the sins of mankind: the whole weight of God’s justice now presses on His soul. The bitter Chalice of God’s anger, which He is drinking to the very dregs, extorts from His lips this plaintive cry: My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken Me (St. Matth. xxvii. 46)? It is the fourth Word. He does not say My Father! He speaks as though He were but a poor Sinner, trembling before the judgment seat of God. A burning thirst elicits from Him the fifth Word: I thirst (St. John, xix. 28). Whereupon, one of the soldiers presents to His dying lips a sponge full of vinegar; and this is all the refreshment He receives from that earth, on which He daily pours a heavenly dew, and to which He has given ever-flowing fountains and rivers.

The moment is at length come, when Jesus is to yield up His Soul to His Father. He has fulfilled every single prophecy that had been foretold of Him, even that of His receiving vinegar when parched with thirst. He therefore speaks this His sixth Word: It is consummated (St. John, xix. 30)! He has, then, but to die; His Death is to put the finishing stroke to our Redemption, as the Prophets assure us. But He must die as God. This man, worn out by suffering, exhausted by His three hours agony, Whose few words were scarce audible to them that stood round His Cross, now utters a loud cry, which is heard at a great distance off, and fills the Centurion, Who commands the guard, with fear and astonishment: Father! into Thy hands I commend My spirit (St. Luke, xxiii. 46)! This is His seventh and last Word; after which He bows down His head, and dies.

At this awful moment, the sun reappears in the heavens, and darkness ceases: but the earth is shaken by an earthquake, and the rocks are split. The space between the Cross of Jesus and that of the bad Thief is violently rent asunder, and the opening is shown to this day. The Jewish Priests, who are in the Temple, are terrified at seeing the Veil, which hides the Holy of Holies, torn from top to bottom: the time for figures and types is over, the great realities are come. Many holy personages arise from their graves, and return to life. But it is in hell itself that the Death of Jesus is most felt. Satan now sees Who He is, against Whom He has excited all this persecution. He sees, that the Blood which He has caused to be shed, has saved mankind and opened the gates of heaven. This Jesus, Whom he dared to tempt in the desert, He now recognises as the Son of God, Whose precious Blood has purchased for men a Redemption that was refused to the rebel Angels!

O Jesus! Son of the Eternal Father! we adore Thee now lying dead on the wood of thy Sacrifice. Thy bitter Death has given us Life. Like those Jews who saw Thee expire, and returned to Jerusalem striking their breasts, we, also, confess that it is our sins which have caused Thy Death. Thou hast loved us, as none but God could love. Henceforth, we must be Thine, and serve Thee, as creatures redeemed at the infinite price of Thy Blood. Thou art our God; we are Thy people. Accept, we beseech Thee, our most loving thanks for this final proof of Thy goodness towards us. Thy holy Church now silently invites us to celebrate Thy praise. We leave Calvary for a time; but will soon return thither, to assist at Thy holy Burial. Mary, Thy Mother, remains immoveable at the foot of Thy Cross. Magdalene clings to Thy feet. John and the holy women stand around Thee. Once more, dearest Jesus! we adore thy sacred Body, Thy precious Blood, and Thy holy Cross, that have brought us Salvation.

THE EVENING
Let us return to Calvary, and there close this mournful day. We left Mary there, with Magdalene and other holy women, and the Beloved Disciple John. An hour has scarcely elapsed since Jesus died, when a troop of soldiers, led on by a Centurion, come up the hill, breaking the silence with their tramp and voices. They are sent by Pilate. The Chief Priests lost no time in returning to the Governor’s house; and he, at their request, has sent these men to break the legs of the three Crucified, detach them from their crosses, and bury them before night. The Jews count the days of their week from sunset; so that the great Sabbath-day of the Parasceve is close upon them. The soldiers come to the Crosses; they begin with the two thieves, and put an end to their sufferings and life by breaking their legs. Dimas dies in saintly dispositions, for the promise made to him by Jesus is his consolation: his companion dies blaspheming. The soldiers now advance towards Jesus: Mary’s heart sinks within her: what fresh outrage are these men about to offer to the lifeless and bleeding body of her Son? On inspection, they find that he is dead; but, that no doubt may be left, and no blame for neglect of orders fall upon them, one of the company raises up his spear and thrusts it into the right Side of the divine Victim, even to the Heart; and when he draws his spear out, there gushes forth a stream of Water and Blood. This is the fifth Bloodshedding, and the fifth Wound inflicted on our Jesus upon the Cross. The Church honours this mystery on the Feast of the Sacred Heart; let us reserve our reflections till then. The soul of the Holy Mother is pierced by this cruel Spear; and they that are with her redouble their sobs and tears. How is this terrible day to end? Who shall take the Body of her Jesus from His Cross? Who will enable her to give it a last embrace? The soldiers return to the City, and with them Longinus, he that pierced Jesus’ Side, but is already feeling within himself the workings of that faith, for which he is one day to lay down his life as a Martyr. But lo! two other men are seen coming towards the Cross: they are not enemies, they are faithful Disciples of Jesus: one is the wealthy counsellor Joseph of Arimathea; the other is Nicodemus, a ruler among the Jews. Mary gratefully welcomes their arrival: they are come to take the body of Jesus from the Cross, and give it an honourable burial. They have the requisite authorisation, for Pilate has given permission to Joseph to take the Body of Jesus (St. John, xix. 38).

They lose no time in doing so, for the sun is near to setting, and then begins the Sabbath. Within a few yards from where stands the Cross, at the foot of the hillock which forms the summit of Calvary, there is a garden, and in this garden a sepulchre cut into the rock. No one has yet been buried in this tomb. It is to be Jesus’ Sepulchre. Hither Joseph and Nicodemus carry the sacred Body: they lay it upon a slab of stone, near to the Sepulchre. It is here that Mary receives into her arms the Body of her Jesus: she kisses each wound, and bathes it with her tears. John, Magdalene, and all that are present, compassionate the holy Mother. She resigns it into the hands of the two Disciples, for they have but a few moments left. Upon this slab, which, even to this day, is called the Stone of the Anointing, and designates the Thirteenth Station of the way of the Cross, Joseph unfolds a piece of fine linen (St. Mark, xv. 46), and Nicodemus, whose servants have brought a hundred pound weight of myrrh and aloes (St. John, xix. 39), makes every arrangement for the embalming. They reverently wash the Body, for it was covered with Blood; they remove the Crown of Thorns from the Head; and, after embalming it with their perfumes, they wrap it in the Winding-Sheet. Mary gives a last embrace to the remains of her Jesus, Who is now hidden under these swathing-bands of the Tomb.

Joseph and Nicodemus take the Body into their arms, and enter the Sepulchre. It is the Fourteenth Station of the Way of the Cross. It consists of two open cells; it is into the one on the right hand that they enter, and there, in a cavity cut into the side of the rock, they lay the Body of Jesus. They then retire; and, with the assistance of their servants, they close up the entrance of the Sepulchre with a large square stone, which Pilate, at the request of the Jews, orders to be fastened with his own seal, and guarded by a patrol of soldiers.

The sun is just setting; the great Sabbath, with its severe legal prescriptions, is just about to begin. Magdalene and the other women carefully notice the place where Jesus’ Body has been laid, and return with all speed to Jerusalem, that they may have time to purchase and prepare a quantity of materials for a more careful embalming of the Body early on the Sunday morning, that is, immediately after the Sabbath is over. The holy Mother takes a farewell-look at the Tomb wherein lies her Jesus, and then follows the rest into the City. John, her adopted son, keeps close to her. He is the guardian of Her, who, without ceasing to be Mother of God, has been made, also, Mother of Men. But oh! how much this second Maternity cost her! She was standing at the Foot of the Cross, seeing her Jesus die, when she received us as her children. Let us imitate St. John, and keep our Blessed Mother company during these trying hours which she has to pass before her Son is risen from the Grave.

How, O most merciful Redeemer! shall we leave thy Holy Sepulchre, without offering Thee the tribute of our adoration and repentance? Death, which is the consequence of sin, has extended its dominion over Thee, for thou didst submit thyself to the sentence pronounced against Thee, and wouldst become like to us even to the humiliation of the tomb. It was Thy love for us, that led to all this! What return can we make Thee? The holy Angels stand around Thy Body, thus lying in its rocky grave. They are lost in amazement at Thy having loved, to such an excess as this, Thy poor ungrateful creature, man. Thou hadst made them, as well as us, out of nothing, and they loved Thee with all the intensity of their mighty spirits; but the sight of Thy Tomb reveals to them a fresh abyss of Thine infinite goodness: Thou hast suffered death, not for their fallen fellow-angels, but for us men, who are so inferior to the Angels! Oh! what a bond of love between us and Thee must result from this Sacrifice of Thy Life for us! Thou hast died, O Jesus, for us! we must, henceforth, live for Thee. We promise it upon this Tomb, which, alas! is the handiwork of our sins. We, too, wish to die to sin, and live to grace. For the time to come, we will follow Thy precepts and Thine examples; we will avoid sin, which has made us accomplices in Thy Passion and Death. We will courageously bear, in union with Thine own, the crosses of this life: they are indeed light compared with Thine, but our weakness makes them heavy. And our death, too, when the moment comes for us to undergo that sentence which even Thou didst submit to, we will accept it with resignation. Terrible as that last hour is to nature, our faith tells us, that Thy Death has merited for it graces rich enough to make it sweet. Thy Death, dearest Jesus! has made our death become but a passing into life: and as, now, we leave Thy holy Sepulchre with the certain hope of speedily seeing Thee glorious in Thy Resurrection; so, when our body descends into the tomb, our soul shall confidently mount up to Thee, and there blissfully await the day of the Resurrection of the flesh made pure by the humiliation of the grave.

 

Holy Thursday 2016

The Sacred Triduum begins.  Today Our Lord Jesus Christ gives us Himself in the Holy Eucharist by instituting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Catholic Priesthood to continue His saving work. For Our Lord, His Love was so great that it wasn’t enough that He died a most gruesome and agonizing death for our eternal salvation, He also left us His very Self under the appearances of bread and wine.  To represent Him on earth, He left us the Priests to continue His everlasting Priesthood and to act in His Name. Let us give thanks to God for His great Love for us!

Meditation from Fr. Francis Xavier Weinger:

The Church observes the fast of Lent with the intention of preparing her children, in as perfect a manner as possible, for the glorious Easter-tide, that they may arise from a sinful, tepid, and imperfect state to a pure, holy, and even saintly life–a life most precious in the sight of the Lord. It is, therefore, the earnest wish of this most tender mother, that each of her children be penetrated with the greatest horror of sin, and, that every Christian, as he arises from the death of sin, shall also make fast the sepulcher of tepidity in which his soul has been for years, perhaps, buried. To this wish, and to the manner in which its realization can be accomplished, I will direct the attention of all whom I address during these three days of grace, asking them to consider with me the lives of three persons of whom Holy Scripture makes special mention in the history of the passion.

The first of the three is Judas, as he sat with the Lord at the Last Supper. Let us follow him until we behold him commit the dreadful crime which sealed his eternal ruin.

That the infinite merits of Christ may be effectually bestowed upon us, the first and most essential condition is, that we renounce sin entirely and forever, and thus, with hearts perfectly cleansed from the dust thereof, render ourselves worthy of the Table of the Lord, and thus, at this holy Easter-time, receive His precious Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. A glance at Judas, the traitorous Apostle, will promote this condition of heart.

He is a mirror in which we may behold sin in all its depravity; in which every sinner, especially if he be a member of our Holy Church, may see reflected his own image, disfigured and distorted by the malignity of the crimes he has committed. This will be made clear to you today,–the day, upon which, in ages long gone by, our loving Saviour bequeathed to us His sacred Body and Blood.

O Mary, refuge of sinners, obtain for us a perfect knowledge of our sins and the grace of true repentance, that we may make a sincere confession of all our offenses against the law of God! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

Several circumstances conspired to render the sin of Judas so enormous, the first one of which was his exalted position. He had been selected from among the millions of men who had lived up to that period on earth, and who would live until the end of time, to be constantly in the society of Jesus. Oh, what an honor! In proportion to it, therefore, his fall was immeasurably great.

Another serious aggravation of his crime was his abuse of the graces bestowed upon him to fit him for his vocation as one of the twelve Apostles,–one of the favored few who, for three years and a half, enjoyed the privilege of walking with the Saviour of mankind. He had, therefore, before him the most perfect example of virtue; he heard all His admirable discourses; witnessed His many miracles; beheld even the body of Lazarus, already touched with the blight of decay, arise at the word of the Lord, and yet all this was without effect! Oh, what emptiness of heart! what an abuse of grace! For his sin there was no excuse!

The next aggravating circumstance was the terrible indifference of Judas. Christ, in order to watch over and rescue the soul of this ungrateful sinner, endeavored to win his love and awaken his interest by selecting him from the twelve Apostles as the one to whom He entrusted the care of His own temporal affairs and those of the other Apostles. As a mark of confidence, He gave into his charge the alms they received to procure the necessities of life. This gave him occasion to speak often with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who followed Jesus, with other holy women, to minister to the wants of the little band. And yet Judas remained cold and indifferent to all these proofs of the searching love of Christ for him. Unhappy wretch!

Thirdly, the sin of Judas was enormously aggravated by his astonishing obduracy. Even, though already guilty of the basest treason, he dared to place himself, with the rest of the Apostles, at the table of the Lord– the Last Supper! There Christ, elevating His voice, pronounced those awful words: “One of you is about to betray Me!” Awe-stricken, the disciples asked, in trembling tones: “Is it I, Lord?” Judas remained obdurate. And again the Son of God broke the deep silence, saying: “The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of Him: but woe to that man by whom He shall be betrayed; it were better for him if he had not been born.” Terrible sentence! Mighty enough to move the mountains to their very foundations, and to penetrate to the inmost recesses of the ocean caves! And still that obdurate heart remained untouched; nay, he even dared to ask: “Is it I?” Then the divine eyes of the dear Saviour rested with loving pity upon him, as He replied: “Thou hast said it!” Obdurate still, his heart closed to the softening influence of grace; he received the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily; and thus, for the first time, was the sacrilege of an unworthy communion committed, and in that moment Satan took possession of his heart!

Fourthly, the crime of Judas was enormously aggravated by the incredible baseness of the treason. To betray his Lord and Master–his Saviour, who had given him such testimonials of His love–for thirty pieces of silver, the price demanded for slaughtering a head of cattle!–Can more unprecedented baseness be imagined? The enemies of Christ would gladly have paid him ten, fifty, a hundred times more for his most abominable treason had he but asked it. And with what bold assurance did he perpetrate the crime! He kissed the Saviour–the token of friendship to become the signal of treason! What greater hypocrisy can be imagined!

The last and most terrible characteristic of the crime of Judas was that hardness of heart which, culminating in despair, condemned him on the very day of redemption, when Christ gave Himself a willing sacrifice to die that he and all sinners might enter eternal life. This miserable being, unable to bear the weight of his crime, perished by his own vile hand! Oh, horrible sin! Oh, incomprehensible atrocity! Yes, well might Christ declare that it were better for that man had he never been born.

O sinner, you who, while listening to my voice, endure the gnawings of that worm which never dies– the reproaches of a guilty conscience–do you not shudder at the picture of that monster who, chosen of Christ to be one of His dearest friends, betrayed his Lord, and then put an end to his own wretched life? He longed to escape from the night of despair which darkened his wretched life; but the refuge he found was the deepest, blackest pit in the abyss of hell! Oh, that the tree upon which the despairing suicide ended his days, and the halter which deprived him of his life, were here before you, that you might witness the agony and pain of the faithless Apostle who betrayed the innocent Jesus! What a mirror of sin in all its blackest deformity! What a hideous reflection is therein presented! Sinner, do you not recognize it as your own? Do you not find it a perfect representation of your iniquitous soul? And O! may the grace of God so touch your hearts tonight that you repent, and tears entirely blot out that hideous image!

Many of you have, perhaps, heard an anecdote connected with a celebrated painting of the “Last Supper.” One who had been a dear friend of the painter happened to offend him so deeply that the painter, in order to make him feel his wrath, in depicting the traitor Judas upon the canvass, gave to him the face of the friend whom he had loved so well. When the king, who had ordered the picture and was well aware of the recent enmity, first saw and examined it, he smiled, and, turning toward the knight, said: “Excellent, my lord; you are drawn to the very life!”–Yes, sinner, look at the picture of Judas; you, too, are drawn to the very life!

What increased the malignity of the sin of this traitorous Apostle was the sublimity of his election. Sinner, Christ has also chosen you from among the multitude of nations who have lived and are living still in the darkness of infidelity and heresy! You are a Catholic! Glorious dignity to which you have been elevated through the infinite mercy of God; and yet, through your own choice, by the commission of mortal sin, you became a child of Satan. Oh, what a deep and damning fall!

What also aggravated the guilt of Judas was his wanton abuse of the graces granted him by the Saviour, that he might live and die as became a worthy Apostle of the Lord. What a multitude of graces, O sinner, has not God bestowed upon you through your call to the true Church? With what frequent instructions and encouragement have you been favored! how many confessions and holy communions have been vouchsafed to you! how many holy masses have you heard! and yet these graces have yielded no fruit! Oh, fatal instability of the human heart!

The treachery of Judas was aggravated by the manner in which he abused the grace of God. Imitate him not; but pause before it is too late! Judas was coldly indifferent to that love which impelled the Son of God to go in search of him, that He might win a return of love. Sinner, you know how mercifully Divine Providence has followed you! how lovingly the Saviour has gone in quest of you! Take courage from the very fact of your having come hither tonight. It is an effect of the endearing love of the Good Shepherd, who longs to bring you once more to the protecting shelter of His fold. Oh, hide no longer; but meet that loving Guardian, and let Him guide you home.

What rendered the sin of Judas so terrible in its enormity was his shocking obduracy of heart. You, also, are guilty in this regard; for, although you have received all the graces with which he was favored, you have also been endowed with many which were never bestowed on him. Judge, therefore, whether his obduracy was greater than yours.

Furthermore, Judas never had an opportunity of approaching the Sacrament of Penance. You enjoy that privilege; yet, perhaps, for years you have looked upon it with cold indifference, if not contempt. It may be that you have allowed years to pass without making a confession; or that, when you have attempted to blot out the sins of your life, you have but added to the long list of your crimes the damning guilt of sacrilege. And why, O sinner, is this? Because your heart refuses to give up its darling passions, and you continue to commit the same offenses as of yore. Judas did not, of himself, petition for the Holy Communion; while you have presumed to challenge the priest to open the tabernacle and place the Sacred Host upon your guilty tongue, that you may drag the Body of our Lord into the mire of your heart. When the agony of despair drove Judas to hang himself, he knew not of the prayer that went up that day from the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive!” Neither had he the example of the millions who, for nineteen centuries, have been guilty of grievous sin, yet repented and found grace, as you have ever before your eyes, O faithless child of the Church!

Judas betrayed his Lord but once, and upon that very day the grace of God forsook him and he perished miserably, while for you Christ has waited for years; and oh, for His dear sake–for the love of Him who, for three and thirty years, suffered cold and hunger, contempt and derision, and, at last, a painful death on the cross–let Him not wait in vain!

The crime of Judas was increased by the unprecedented baseness of his selling his Divine Master for thirty pieces of silver; but is there not some sinner in this very Church whose darling passion is impurity? who would betray his Saviour for the gratification of the most shameful desires? Is there no drunkard listening to my words who, to gratify his depraved and vicious appetite for drink, would give, if not his own existence, why, then, the lives of his wife and little children? Yes, I say the lives of those whom he is bound to love and cherish, for he is slowly murdering them by his neglect! You, then, O drunkard, betray your Master for a price even more base than thirty pieces of silver! Yes, sinners, by your crimes–be they what they may–you have all betrayed Him over and over again for the basest considerations!

Judas betrayed the Son of man with a kiss–the token of friendship and love; and the faithless Catholic would fain pretend to be a friend–an adorer of Christ–while he crucifies Him by his interior life.

Judas yielded to despair and hanged himself; but, for the love of God and His blessed mother, I beseech you, poor sinners, let the resemblance between you and the wretched suicide stop before you yield to the temptation of despair! He forgot Mary! Had he hastened to her, and implored her to intercede with Jesus for him, she would, doubtless, have done so, and Judas would have been saved. Do not imitate him in this forgetfulness of Mary. Fly to her; throw yourselves at the feet of the Mother of Mercy and refuge of sinners. Judas did not hear the words of Christ upon the cross: ” Woman, behold thy Son; thy Child.” You, beloved Christians, who have yielded to the tempter’s voice, may listen to them in spirit and in faith.

O Mary, Mother of Mercy, grant to my fervent prayer a gracious answer, and obtain tonight for every Christian present here, who, listening to the tempter, has betrayed thy Son, the grace of sincere conversion, that in these days of grace he may be reconciled to God, and no longer be deaf to the voice of grace. Pray for him, O dearest Mother, that, when appalled at the weight of his sins, the demon of despair draws nigh, he may remember the dreadful fate of Judas, and fly for refuge to thy maternal love–the surest haven for all repentant souls. Amen!


“Now, there was leaning on Jesus’s bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.”–John xiii, 23.

 

We all know the four divisions of the day–midnight, day-break, noon, and eventide; and each of them is marked by a special divine fact which speaks in the most emphatic manner to the heart. At midnight Christ entered the world; He was born in a poor stable at Bethlehem; and in the birth of this little Infant we behold the coming of Him Who was the Expected and Desired of nations. At midday was raised aloft the cross by which He redeemed the world. At earliest dawn the Saviour, bursting the trammels of the grave, arose to life once more, and gave to the world a splendid proof of His divine power. But there remains an eventide, glorified indeed through the divine love of the Saviour, which led Him thereon to leave us the most precious, the most sweet, the most consolatory legacy that a God could bestow. It is the evening of Holy Thursday, when the Sacrifice of the New Law was instituted to bless the children of men.

Where is the Christian who can speak or even think of this evening without the most holy sentiments of love arising in his heart as the scene of the Holy Paschal Table, round which Jesus and His disciples were seated, rises up before his spiritual view? What mighty love was that which impelled the Son of God to institute this Most Holy Sacrament, that He might remain with us even to the consummation of the world! What a pledge of this faithful love! And, of all the Apostles, none more fully realized this than St. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved; and who, on that evening, enjoyed the privilege and happiness of being nearest the Lord at the Last Supper, and of leaning his head on the bosom of Jesus. In the whole course of his life St. John never forgot that evening. He styles himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, and to whom this great grace was granted; but gives us to understand that we also are permitted to participate therein in its plenitude, for he says expressly: “Those whom Jesus loved, He has loved until the end of time.”

Yes, we may all, through the grace of Holy Communion, not only rest on the bosom of our Lord, but receive Him into our hearts. That we may do so with the purity of soul and fervor of love which distinguished the communion of the beloved disciple, let us glance at him as he sat at the Paschal Table on this happy eve. O Mary, obtain for us some portion of that ardent love which inflamed the heart of the beloved disciple toward thy divine Son! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

To receive the Blessed Eucharist in as perfect a manner as St. John, depends, first, upon the preparation we make to approach the Table of the Lord; and, secondly, on the manner in which we make use of His presence in our hearts, rendering to Him our gratitude after the example of St. John.

But, alas! with too many Christians, the first requisite is wanting. Even in the time of St. Paul, as the Epistle for today asserts, many of the faithful did not make due preparation, so that there were frequently communions which, if not unworthy, yielded but little spiritual fruit. St. Paul writes: “Therefore many among us sleep, because they do not judge themselves, before they approach the Table of the Lord, whether they are worthy to receive His Body and Blood; “from which we are to understand that, even if they were not in a state of sin, the coldness of their hearts, and the little degree of fervor they evinced, prevented them from deriving the benefits and graces which were poured forth upon St. John after his fervent reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. I said: “Even if they were not in a state of sin;” but, of course, if the sin were mortal, such a communion would not only be ineffectual, but a fearful sacrilege.

That our reception of the Holy Communion, therefore, may be indeed like that of the beloved disciple, it suffices not that we are free from the guilt of mortal sin; but we must leave nothing undone to cleanse our souls from the dust of venial sins and deliberate imperfections.

The ceremonies attendant upon the institution of the Most Holy Sacrament, as described by St. John, are a proof of this. Jesus washes the feet of all His disciples; and our Lord’s answer to St. Peter shows that this act is emblematic of the removal of every defect and imperfection from the soul. Therefore, did St. Peter exclaim: “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” But even yet this is not the perfect preparation for Holy Communion. St. John was next to Jesus. This illustrates the ardor and fidelity with which he followed the Lord from the very moment he was called by Him. He was one of those three highly-favored Apostles who were permitted to be in the closest proximity to Jesus, and who enjoyed the privilege of beholding Jesus in His transfiguration on Mt. Tabor; and, even among those three, he was the only one who followed Him to Calvary, and beheld Him on the cross.

This feature in the life of St. John–“the disciple whom Jesus loved”–should awaken in us the desire and resolution to make the most earnest efforts to please God, and so become more and more like that Divine Model, and, like St. John, to be faithful unto death.

But the generality of Christians care not to follow the admonition of Christ: “Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect;” and here we can find the cause of so many tepid and fruitless communions. Should any one ask why we feel so little fear of venial sins and trifling imperfections, I would say: As the fervent love of St. John is wanting, so also are the hunger and thirst of his heart after sanctity, lacking in the hearts of many who go forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Whosoever loveth truly, my dear brethren, avoids everything, great or little, that might grieve or offend the beloved object; and the more ardent the love, the more earnest the effort to please. St. Paul tells us, in the most explicit manner, that there is no communication between light and darkness, between Christ and Satan, between heaven and hell.

The very ceremonies made use of in the administration of Holy Communion show how essential to its worthy reception is a repentant heart; for the Church has prescribed that the “Confiteor” be recited aloud, so that every communicant may make another act of sorrow for the most venial imperfection which rests upon his soul before he opens his lips to welcome the Lord of heaven and earth into his heart. But what urges us on and strengthens us to emulate the saints in their zealous imitation of Jesus is love. “The love, of Christ urges us,” cries out the Apostle.

But many Christians are wanting in this divine virtue; and thus it became necessary to proclaim that precept, the very existence of which should be considered a reproach by the lukewarm children of the Church: “Thou shalt receive the Blessed Eucharist at least once a year.” O dearest Christians! the soul of a St. John, burning with ardent love for God, required no such command. He hungered and thirsted after that divine food as the heart panteth after the fountains of water. St. Catherine of Sienna, frequently said to her confessor: “Father, I am hungry.”

When this love consumes our hearts, the second condition necessary to receive all those graces and blessings, conferred by a worthy reception of Holy Communion, will not be wanting–thanksgiving. But if it be a sad truth that many approach the Table of the Lord without due preparation, it is equally to be lamented that a still greater number receive the Body of Christ and turn away without a word.

This was not the case with St. John. Judas received Holy Communion, and his soul was instantly enshrouded in the deepest gloom of a night wherein there glimmered not the faintest ray of hope; and, after having received it from the hands of the Lord Himself, he arose, and rested not until the purchase-money, for which he had betrayed the loving Redeemer, was clutched fast in his avaricious hand! What a contrast! St. John, absorbed in love and joy, can find no words to express his gratitude.

Yes, Judas is also a type of those who receive Holy Communion without a sigh of thanksgiving. With the cold hand of despair clutching his treacherous heart, he leaves the abode of love and peace, and rushes away to satisfy his greed for gold! Behold these models of a worthy and an unworthy communion, and consider well which one shall be your choice!

Yet Judas is not to serve merely as a warning to the unworthy communicant; but also to those who, after receiving, plunge directly into the stir of worldly affairs and schemes to increase their wealth. Alas, that temporal interests should so soon draw them away from Jesus! We may well be astonished, and exclaim, with St. John Chrysostom: “How can it be possible that Christ becomes so soon indifferent to you, that you can devote but a few brief moments to render to Him acts of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving for a grace so infinitely great, for a happiness so exquisite as to render man an object of envy even to the angels, and for which a lifetime of thanksgiving would not be sufficient!”

And if, my brethren, you again ask whence arises this neglect, I would again reply: From a want of that love which burned in the heart of St. John. Those who love, long to be with the object of their love. When blessed Armella, whose dearest joy it was to spend hours and hours before the Blessed Sacrament, even when she had not the happiness of receiving Holy Communion, was asked why she did so, replied: “Because I love.” And, beloved in Christ Jesus, by frequently visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament we will grow ever in the love and knowledge of Him.

St. John knew and loved Him in a greater degree than the other Apostles, because he was always nearest Him; and, at the Last Supper, his resting-place was the Sacred Heart.

Obtain for us, therefore, we beseech thee, St. John, some faint reflection of the ardent fire of thy love, that we may, by lives modeled upon thy own, show our gratitude and love to God; and, when we approach the Table of the Lord, may we taste the happiness which filled thy heart when thou didst receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Then will we, while still on earth, already taste the bliss of heaven, to which celestial joy the Church refers when she prays: “Lord, grant that we may forever rejoice in the delight of Thy Divine Majesty, which a worthy reception of Thy Body and Blood will afford us even here below.”–Amen!

 

 

Spy Wednesday 2016

A repost from last year’s meditation for Spy Wednesday.

Meditation from Fr. Posper Gueranger on this Wednesday during Holy Week:

The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people, are met today, in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon Him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favorable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days back? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in His defense? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.

But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees,–which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world’s salvation,–have fixed this very year’s Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, tomorrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus’ Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.

But how are Jesus’ enemies to get possession of their divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations, they are told that one of Jesus’ Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me, and I will deliver Him unto you (St. Matth. xxvi. 15.)? They are delighted at this proposition: and yet, how is it, that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David, in the 108th Psalm? They know the Scriptures from beginning to end;–how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver (Idem, xxvii. 9. Zach. xi. 12.). Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow, Jesus will be in Jerusalem, eating the Pasch with his Disciples. In the evening, He will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize Him, be able to distinguish Him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!

Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem. To testify her detestation at it, and to make atonement to the Son of God for the outrage thus offered him, the Holy Church, from the earliest ages, consecrated the Wednesday of every week to penance. In our own times, the Fast of Lent begins on a Wednesday; and when the Church ordained that we should commence each of the four Seasons of the year with Fasting, Wednesday was chosen to be one of the three days thus consecrated to bodily mortification.

On this day, in the Roman Church, was held the sixth Scrutiny, for the admission of Catechumens to Baptism. Those, upon whom there had been previous doubts, were now added to the number of the chosen ones, if they were found worthy. There were two Lessons read in the Mass, as on the day of the great Scrutiny, the Wednesday of the fourth Week of Lent. As usual, the Catechumens left the Church, after the Gospel; but, as soon as the Holy Sacrifice was over, they were brought back by the Door-Keeper, and one of the Priests addressed them in these words: “On Saturday next, the Eve of Easter, at such an hour, you will assemble in the Lateran Basilica, for the seventh Scrutiny; you will then recite the Symbol, which you must have learned; and lastly, you will receive, by God’s help, the sacred laver of regeneration. Prepare yourselves, zealously and humbly, by persevering fasts and prayers, in order that, having been buried, by this holy Baptism, together with Jesus Christ, you may rise again with Him, unto life everlasting. Amen.”

At Rome, the Station for today is in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Let us compassionate with our Holy Mother, whose Heart is filled with poignant grief at the foresight of the Sacrifice, which is preparing.

How terrible is this our Defender, Who tramples His enemies beneath His feet, as they that tread in the wine-press; so that their blood is sprinkled upon his garments! But is not this the fittest time for us to proclaim His power, now that He is being treated with ignominy, and sold to His enemies by one of His Disciples? These humiliations will soon pass away; He will rise in glory, and His might will be shown by the chastisements, wherewith He will crush them that now persecute Him. Jerusalem will stone them that shall preach in His name; she will be a cruel step-mother to those true Israelites, who, docile to the teaching of the Prophets, have recognized Jesus as the promised Messias. The Synagogue will seek to stifle the Church in her infancy; but no sooner shall the Church, shaking the dust from her feet, turn from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, than the vengeance of Christ will fall on the City, which bought, betrayed, and crucified Him. Her citizens will have to pay dearly for these crimes. We learn from the Jewish historian, Josephus, (who was an eye-witness to the siege,) that the fire which was raging in one of the streets, was quenched by the torrents of their blood. Thus were fulfilled the threats pronounced by our Lord against this faithless City, as He sat on Mount Olivet, the day after His triumphant Entry.

And yet, the destruction of Jerusalem was but a faint image of the terrible destruction which is to befal the world at the last day. Jesus, Who is now despised and insulted by sinners, will then appear on the clouds of heaven, and reparation will be made for all these outrages. Now He suffers Himself to be betrayed, scoffed at, and spit upon; but, when the day of vengeance is come, happy they that have served Him, and have compassionated with Him in His humiliations and sufferings! Woe to them, that have treated Him with contempt! Woe to them, who not content with their own refusing to bear His yoke, have led others to rebel against Him! For He is King; He came into this world that He might reign over it; and they that despise His Mercy, shall not escape his Justice.