Jesus, Man of Sorrows from the Womb of His Mother

For us, He was willing to subject himself to the outrages & sufferings of mankind, to atone for sin.

Damsel of the Faith

Taken from The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus by St. Alphonsus Liguori:

Virum dolorum et scientem infirmitatem.

“A man of sorrows, acquainted with infirmity.”—–Isaiah 53:3

Thus does the prophet Isaias designate our Lord Jesus Christ “the man of sorrows;” yes, because this man was created on purpose to suffer, and from His infancy began to endure the greatest sorrows that any man ever suffered. The first man, Adam, enjoyed for some time upon this earth the delights of the earthly paradise; but the second Adam, Jesus Christ, did not pass a moment of His life without sorrows and anguish; for even from a child He was afflicted by the foresight of all the sufferings and ignominy that He would have to endure during His life, and especially at His death, when He was to close that life immersed in a tempest of sorrow and opprobrium, as David had…

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The benefits of the Incarnation

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On the Benefits which the Son of God
Brings to us by His Incarnation

by Bp. Richard Challoner, 1807

Consider, first, that man in his first creation was highly favoured by his maker, and elevated by Him to a supernatural end; he was enriched with the treasures of original grace, justice, and sanctity; and destined to an eternal life with the living God. In the meantime he was placed in the earthly paradise, as in a shadow of that happy life, where if he had kept the law of his great creator, he might have fed upon the tree of life, and so have passed to a better paradise of a true and everlasting life, without going through the gate of death. But alas! by falling from his God by sin, he forfeited all these treasures, and all these advantages: he was stript at once of all the goods of grace; he was strangely wounded in all the powers and faculties of his soul; his understanding was overclouded with ignorance, and deluded with a variety of errors; his memory and imagination was distracted with empty toys and vanities, and hurried away from the remembrance of his God; his will was perverted with malice; his inferior appetite disordered with rebellious passions; and his whole soul became weak beyond expression to everything of good, and strongly bent upon all evil. Thus had unhappy man, by his apostasy from God, lost both his God, and all his good; and had incurred all kind of evils, both of soul and body, for time and for eternity: thus in losing his God he had fallen into the hands of four merciless enemies, sin and Satan, death and hell. Now the Son of God, by His incarnation, came down amongst us in order to deliver us from all these evils which we had incurred by sin; to reconcile us to our God, and to restore us, with infinite advantage, to all that good for which we were first created. What reasons then have we, my soul to rejoice in this incarnation of the Son of God, the sovereign means of all our good, and the source of all mercy, grace, and salvation to us! O what praise and thanksgiving, what perpetual love and service do we owe to this our great deliverer!

Consider 2ndly, how the Son of God coming amongst us, by His incarnation, has brought us from heaven most sovereign and effectual remedies for all our evils. He brought light to us, who were sitting before in darkness, and in the shadow of death; coming in quality of our teacher, (both by word and example) of the great prophet sent to us from God; of our lawgiver, and our apostle; and declaring to us the whole will of God. He brought with Him also our ransom, to redeem us from our slavery to Satan and sin, and to make us free indeed: ‘He was sent to preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, and to preach the acceptable year of our Lord,’ even the great jubilee, of a general remission of all our debts, and a general loosing of all our bands, Luke iv. 19. He came as our physician, to heal our maladies with medicines, made up with his own most sacred blood. ‘We were wandering in a wilderness, in a place without water,’ Ps.cvi. ‘We could find no way to a city for our habitation (our true and everlasting home); we were hungry, and thirsty, (destitute of all proper food for our souls,) and were bound in want, and in irons: we were brought low with labours, and weakened; and there was none to help us.’ And he came to deliver us in all these our distresses; to lead us to the right way, to conduct us to our true country; to feed our hungry souls with good things; to break our bonds asunder; to bring us refreshment, comfort, and rest from our labours; to satisfy all our wants; to redress all our miseries; to cure our weakness with His strength; and to raise us up form death to life. All this and much more has the Son of God effected in our favour, by coming down from heaven to be our Emmanuel, that is, to be ‘God with us’. And shall we not then, my soul, join with the palmist, in frequently repeating, in admiration at all the wonders of the divine goodness, that sacred hymn: ‘Let the mercies of the Lord give glory to Him: and His wonderful work to the children of men. Let them exalt Him in the church of the people, and praise Him in the hair of the ancients: Let them sacrifice to Him a sacrifice of praise, and declare His works with joy. O give glory to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever. Let them say so that have been redeemed by the Lord; whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of all countries.’ (Ps. cvi.) Yea, let them say so, and sing forth the mercies of the Lord for all eternity! Amen. Amen.

Consider 3rdly, that however great and inexpressible all these graces and benefits are which the Son of God has brought with Him by His incarnation, in order to deliver us from all our evils, and to communicate to us all His goods; yet none of them all, nor all of them together, will effectually save us, without our consent and concurrence, and a due correspondence on our part with His mercy and grace, by our yielding ourselves up entirely to him by faith and obedience. For what will it avail us to have the light come down from heaven to shine upon us if we shut our eyes against it, and love the darkness more than light? Or what shall we be the better for the ransom which our redeemer brings with Him, and lays down for us, if we prefer our slavery and our chains before the liberty of the children of God, and rather choose to stay with our old master, Satan and sin, amongst the husks of swine, than to go along with our deliverer, who desires to carry us home with Him to his Father’s house? Alas! so far from being the better for all these graces and benefits brought us by our redeemer, we should indeed be much the worse if we received them all in vain, and, by our ingratitude an obstinacy in sin, pervert them to our greater condemnation. For what greater perversity can there be than that we should know that the way, the truth, and the life is come down from heaven in our favour, and should still choose to go astray from the way, and to follow the father of lies into the regions of death.

Conclude to embrace in such manner your great deliverer, who comes by His incarnation to be your Emmanuel, (God with us,) by a faithful and diligent correspondence with all His mercies and graces, as that he may be always with you, and you may be always with Him, and that nothing in life or death may ever separate you from Him any more.

The Two Guadalupes

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Excellent article taken from onepeterfive.com on this the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Happy Feast!

Today is the feast day of our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. She holds particular significance to the Catholic Church in America, as her appearance to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac hill in Mexico was the first Marian apparition in the New World. She is dearly beloved by Mexican Catholics, and wherever there is a Mexican community, a statue or picture of her will be found. Another less well-known fact about Our Lady of Guadalupe is that she is connected to the Spanish Reconquista and their ultimate defeat of the centuries-long Islamic invasion of their homeland.

The story begins shortly after Jesus’ death with St. Luke. He was not only a gospel writer, but an artist and craftsman. He painted the first icons, and created the first statues of Jesus and Mary. One of these statues of the Blessed Virgin was eventually brought to Spain three centuries later by St. Leander and enshrined in a church in Spain’s Extremadura province, where it stayed for several additional centuries.

Tariq Ibn Ziyad and the armies of Islam invaded Spain in 711 AD. They embarked on a reign of terror which included not only the complete military conquest of the Iberian peninsula by 718, but the destruction and transformation of many churches into mosques, and the conversion at the point of a sword of many Catholics to Islam. Faithful Catholics — priests, religious, and laity alike — attempted to preserve their sacred places and objects as much as possible from Islam’s destruction. The Church where this ancient statue of Mary was located was destroyed and turned into a mosque along with everything in it.

Everything, that is, except the statue.

It was said that a few Catholics took the statue and hid it in an iron casket in the banks of the nearby Guadiana River, also known as the Wolf River, or in Latin, lupe. However, none could verify the story. The Extremadura province was a hotbed of fighting for centuries between Catholics and Muslims, and when the Muslims controlled the area, they kept the name given by the Spanish but referred to the local river as a wadi, or oasis. Hence, the river and the surrounding area came to be known as wadi lupe, orGuadalupe.

The statue’s story drifted away into history and legend for six centuries. The Extramadura province was re-Christianized during this time, but the statue remained lost. One day around 1326, a shepherd named Gil Cordero from the nearby city of Caceres had a vision of the Blessed Mother while tending to his cattle along the banks of the Guadalupe river. She told him about the statue and where to find it. He went and told the local bishop, who sent a team of priests to dig in the location told to him, where they found her in tact, just as she had said.  The rediscovery of the lost statue along with the miracles that accompanied it enlivened the local Catholic community, and a new Church and monastery were constructed at the location.

Cloister of the Real Monasterio de Santa María

At the same time, the Muslim Marinid Empire in Morocco was planning to attempt a major invasion of Spain as had been done in previous centuries to re-invigorate the Andalusian Caliphate and overturn the long, hard-won victories of the Spanish Catholics. Such had already been done twice by Muslims in the past, first with the Almoravids in 1084 and then with the Almohads in 1146. However, this time the Spanish were aware and ready. Portuguese King Alfonso IV and Castilian King Alfonso XI united and in 1340 made pilgrimage to the new Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, entrusting the battle to her. They and the Catholic armies met the forces of Islam at the Salado River in Seville, where after a fierce battle they routed the Muslims and drove them back into Morocco. The Battle of Rio Salado marks the final attempt by Muslims at a massive land invasion of Spain. It would only be a matter of time before the Muslim Kingdom of Granada would fall a century and a half later in 1492. However, the thanks given to Our Lady of Guadalupe for the victory she brought the Catholics was not forgotten.

The reason Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, Mexico’s first bishop and recipient of the tilma of St. Juan Diego gave Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico this same title was not a mere coincidence. He began his ecclesiastical life as a Franciscan monk in the monastery at Guadalupe in Extremadura, so he was quite familiar with her story. In the image given on Tepeyac hill, Mary came in a form that is literally taken from the pages of scripture:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars… (Revelation 12:1)

Yet if one looks at the feet of the image of Our Lady imprinted on the tilma, one sees that she is standing upon the crescent moon, which is the symbol of Islam – a symbol that has been carried historically on the flags of many Muslim armies throughout history. To a man like Zumarraga, this would have carried great significance.

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Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico bears a resemblance to another statue, Our Lady of the Almudeña. The latter’s story was that her statue was originally brought to Spain by St. James and was housed in a Church in Madrid for centuries until the Islamic conquests. The church was desecrated and turned into a mosque, but faithful Catholics hid the statue under a local granary. Nearly four centuries later when Madrid was reconquered in 1085, the statue was discovered by locals. The mosque was destroyed, the church rebuilt, and the statue restored to its rightful place. Notice that as with Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of the Almudeña is likewise standing on the crescent moon of Islam:

almudena

Our lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of the Americas and the Mexican people. However, her very name and image are inseparable from her roots as the woman who exterminated the Islamic serpent beneath her feet in Spain. In Mexico, millions of converts were won for the faith in just a few years, the vicious Aztec plumed serpent-god Quetzalcoatl defeated by the beautiful lady from the heavens. Like those of Islam before it, the cruel excesses of the Aztec religion were no match for the loving power of Our Lady.

That the moon beneath our Lady’s feet has at times taken the shape of the crescent serves as a reminder of her intercessions against Islam, whether at Lepanto, for the Spanish people in conquered Spain, or in this age of Islamic expansion. It continues to serve as a source of hope to those who seek her intercession.

Catholics would be wise to seek her prayerful inspiration when conversing and contending with Muslims today, just as did the Spanish Catholics of ages past.

The Immaculate Conception

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Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, that great miracle, namely the preservation of the Mother of God from any stain of original or actual sin. A beautiful meditation by Cardinal Corsi (1633-1697):

Acting upon the inspiration which the Holy Ghost is daily imparting to her, the Church has instituted feasts in commemoration of the chief mysteries in the Blessed Virgin’s life. She celebrates in an especial manner the Immaculate Conception, the holy birth, the divine Motherhood, the sufferings, and the glorious death and assumption into heaven of the sweet Mother of Christ. Today the Church is celebrating the feast of her Immaculate Conception, and I wish to point out to you wherein the exalted privilege consists by which Mary was thus distinguished, and how she corresponded with this extraordinary grace with which God adorned her. Alone among all mankind Mary, by a special grace, was conceived without the stain of original sin, because it was befitting the dignity of Jesus Christ that His human mother should never be sullied by sin; never, not even for a moment, subjected to the dominion of Satan. This the Church has solemnly declared and prescribed for our belief.

It is truly a glorious privilege which was bestowed upon the Blessed Virgin at her conception. In order to form a proper idea of it, let us contemplate the unhappy state in which we all were born. Upon us rests the penalty of the fatal fall of our first parents. At our conception we were burdened with the stain of original sin and with its awful penalty. We all were born sinners, children of wrath, slaves of the devil.

Mary, alone of all mankind, has been exempt from this misfortune from the moment of her conception. Among mankind the Lord has at various times selected specially favored friends, but notwithstanding His love for them, notwithstanding His manifestations of grace bestowed upon these privileged souls, not one of them was ever freed from this baneful inheritance. It was their fate, as it was the fate of all children of Adam, to suffer the penalty.

How different was Mary’s happy lot! Although a child of Adam, like the rest of us, although the offspring of a father fallen into sin, she did not inherit the penalty ordained for the rest of mankind. What an honor, indeed, is this prerogative of grace! Had God been pleased to sanctify her just before her birth, she would have shared this great grace with John the Baptist. Had God satisfied Himself with pouring out upon her His graces, she would have shared such honor with the apostles’ and other saints. But God wished to make a marked difference even between the elect souls and His Mother, even between the saints and their queen, by exempting her from original sin, a privilege which no one ever shared with her.

And what were the results of this distinct sanctification of Mary ? The first result was this: that she never experienced an inclination to evil, she never experienced this direful consequence of original sin. From the first moment she was, in body and soul, completely subject to the spirit of God. From that very moment she could exclaim, ” All generations shall call me blessed, for He that is mighty hath done great things in me.”

The second blessed result of the special sanctification of the Immaculate Virgin was, that she ever remained zealous in preserving and increasing the grace which she had received. Although exempt from human infirmities and confirmed in God’s grace from her conception, still she incessantly strove to be most faithful in the fulfillment of all her duties, and spent much time in prayer. Although absolutely free from sin, she accepted adversity and suffering with humility and patience. She had her full share in the sufferings of her divine Son and in the great sorrows of Golgotha. In such manner she daily even increased the grace with which she had been endowed from the very moment of her conception.

Let us rejoice, dear brethren, in this glorious Immaculate Conception. Let us thank the Lord that He has distinguished the blessed Virgin by so great and extraordinary a privilege; and let us in confidence seek our refuge in the purest of Virgins, so that she may obtain for us, through her powerful intercession, purity of body and soul, and victory over all temptations. Let us address to her in the hours of temptation that brief prayer: “Through thy most holy Immaculate Conception, O Mary, preserve my body and soul from all impurity.” Let us often during the day salute the blessed Virgin with the short ejaculation: “Hail Mary, conceived without sin,” and we may be sure that she, who is not only the Virgin of Immaculate Conception but also the Mother of God, will graciously hear our prayers and that she will intercede for us with her divine Son; and a more powerful mediator we could not desire. Amen.

The One Church

Excerpts from a sermon by Archbishop John Hughes, on the laying of the cornerstone of the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Brooklyn, NY, 1853, wherein he speaks profoundly on unity of Faith in the One Church established by Christ.

MY DEAR BRETHREN— I can have no hope that my voice will be able to reach the boundaries of an assemblage as this which I see before and around me. With silence on your part, the few words which I have to address you may be heard to a certain distance; but should there be the least disturbance, it will be impossible for you to hear me, although I should wish my voice to be trumpet-loud, so that you might know the sentiments which this auspicious occasion has awakened. Who will say henceforth that the love of God, the faith of God’s Church, the zeal for His glory, are diminished on the soil of freedom and liberty? Who will dare to say so, seeing as I see such a multitude of people as now surrounds me? And what, dear brethren, has brought you to this scene? Was it mere curiosity? No doubt some have been attracted even by curiosity to come here, but who knows whether they shall not carry away with them something more solid, something more advantageous to themselves, than the gratification of an appetite for novelty. We have just laid the coner-stone of a Church, not a temple, for the Pagans had temples, but we have none. We have a Church composed of many buildings, if you will, of many multitudes, if you will, but still only one Church, neither more nor less; and therefore this is not the laying of a new temple, or a mere temple of worship. It is that, if you will, but it is more; it is part of the universal and everlasting Church which Jesus Christ founded on earth, and which is called the Catholic Church. It is one Church; the worshippers in that one Church being of various lineage, various climates, various colors and complexions even, but still the people of one divine, universal, and eternal Church. And if there could be, by possibility, an edifice on earth capacious enough to hold them all– one single Church– they would find themselves perfectly in harmony as to every rite of worship, and a second Church would not be necessary.

Such, dearly beloved brethren, is the thought awakened in my mind by the circumstances of this occasion, in which it would seem as if everything cooperated to make it one of the most solemn, one of the most stirring instances of Catholic zeal that has been witnessed, I will not say simply in the city of Brooklyn, but I will say in the Archdiocese of New York.  For though I have been present on many similar occasions – ceremonies of laying cornerstones – I confess I have seen nothing before that has approximated to the ideal of the solemnity of such a ceremony, or to be compared with what I now witness, and with what is around me.  And what, dearly beloved brethren, is the meaning of this?  Oh, I infer from it a glorious meaning; I infer from it that no change of skies, no transition from one place to another, can, by possibility, destroy or diminish in the heart of the Catholic the feeling of love which he has for his God, and the feeling of zeal he has for his religion. The more the religion is persecuted on earth, the dearer it becomes to him; and hence, sometimes the attempt is made to account for Catholic zeal, where Protestant governments attempt to crush and persecute our religion. But there is nothing of the kind here; we are free as all the rest – as free as the Mormons, as free as the Presbyterian, as free as the Methodist, as free as any people who call themselves by any name. And, in the absence of all persecution, why is it that such a multitude, such a sea of upturned faces, present themselves before me today? Why is it? Because of the instinct of Catholic Faith, the divine instinct communicated in its germ in baptism, and which abides in the hearts of those who have been baptized; because, although we, you and I, are but the beings of the day, still we do not separate ourselves from our ancestors in the faith for eighteen hundred years who have passed away, nor are we separated from our ancestors in the faith for eighteen hundred years to come. Who will limit the time? Through all ages of the world in which our successors may still preach the same everlasting doctrines of truth which the Son of God originally communicated to His Apostles, and through them to the whole world.

We, Catholic brethren, live in an age in which there is a tendency abroad to dispute everything, from the existence of God Himself downwards. And those who do not recognize the communion of saints have become stupid dupes of spiritual rappers, and all such things; and you must preserve the faith for them and for their posterity. You are the guardians; you are the depositories of the truth. Though they yield to these astonishing deceptions, let them see by the steadiness, the nobleness, the consistency, the order, and the mind which has influenced the Catholic faith.

Oh! that faith in the Catholic Church! Oh! that glorious faith, from the presence of which opinions shrink away like the mists of the morning before the rising sun! Oh! that faith of everlasting truth, one and the same, universal and existing through all time, because it is the Word, the declaration from the lips of God Himself, and therefore cannot be a deception. This is your faith, and this is my explanation for the reason why you have assembled here today. For what purpose? To raise a temple. I have explained the meaning of temple. Call it a wing of the one universal Catholic Church, a mere little sacristy, a portion, an outlet, an enlargement of that one edifice which constitutes the universal Church of our divine Saviour. This is the object for which we have assembled. And there is one circumstance which I will refer to as calculated to inspire still more your zeal, not only at the commencement, but till the crowning stone and the completion of this great work – an it is this. But oh! why may I not require that an angel should touch & purify my lips before I refer to it? It is, that in this country and elsewhere, the divinity of Jesus Christ is denied; and, in proportion as the enemies of the faith multiply their blasphemies against God and against His Church, in the same proportion does the Catholic Church ever stand our firmly and strongly against every approach to such apostasy. Hence it is that we know Jesus Christ to be God and man. He is God from eternity, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is man born in time, conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin, and that Virgin’s name is Mary. And the Catholic Church has ever taught, and has ever held, that Mary, being the Mother of God, though in one sense the child of Eve – Eve’s daughter – yet, as she was to be the mother of God incarnate, He had preserved her immaculate, untouched by the stain and the defilement of original sin. And hence the Church, from the beginning, has always been accustomed to regard Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as conceived without sin. And now, so far as I know, these rude foundations are the first that have ever been laid on this continent in attestation of the conviction, and faith, and feeling of the Catholic Church.

First Sunday of Advent

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December has arrived & with it the preparation for Christmas – Advent. The following is taken from Fr. Leonard Goffine’s “Liturgical Year.”

INSTRUCTIONS ON ADVENT

What is the meaning of Advent, and what do we understand by the term?

The word Advent signifies coming, and by it is understood the visible coming of the Son of God into this world, at two different times.

It was when the Son of God, conceived of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the immaculate Virgin Mary, was born, according to the flesh, in the fullness of time, and sanctified the world by His coming, for which the patriarchs and prophets had so longed (Gen. 49:10; Is. G4:1; Lk. 10:24).

Since Christ had not yet come, how could the Just of the Old Law be saved?

Immediately after their sin, God revealed to our first parents that His only-begotten Son would become man and redeem the world (Gen. 3:15). In the hope of this Redeemer and through His merits, all in the old covenant who participated in His merits by innocence or by penance, and who died in the grace of God, were saved, although they were excluded from heaven until the Ascension of Christ.

When will the second coming of Christ take place?

At the end of the world when Christ will come, with great power and majesty, to judge both the living and the dead.

What is Advent, and why has the Church instituted it?

Advent is that solemn time, immediately preceding Christmas, instituted by the Church in order that we should, in the first place, meditate on the Incarnation of Christ, the love, patience and humility which He has shown us, and prove our gratitude to Him, because He came from the bosom of His heavenly Father into this valley of tears, to redeem us; secondly, that we may prepare ourselves by sincere repentance, fasting, prayer, alms-deeds, and other works pleasing to God, for the coming of Christ and His birth in our hearts, and thus participate in the graces which He has obtained for us; finally, that He may be merciful to us, when He shall come again as judge of the world. “Watch ye, for ye know not at what hour your Lord will come” (Mt. 5:42). “Wherefore be you also ready; because at what hour you know not, the Son of man will come” (Mt. 24:44).

How was Advent formerly observed?

Very differently from now. It then commenced with the Feast of St. Martin, and was observed by the faithful like the Forty Days’ Fast, with strict penance and devotional exercises, as even now most of the religious communities do to the present day. The Church has forbidden all turbulent amusements, weddings, dancing and concerts, during Advent. Pope Sylverius ordered that those who seldom receive Holy Communion should, at least, do so on every Sunday in Advent.

How should this solemn time be spent by Christians?

They should recall, during these four weeks, the four thousand years in which the just under the Old Law expected and desired the promised Redeemer, think of those days of darkness in which nearly all nations were blinded by saran and drawn into the most horrible crimes, then consider their own sins and evil deeds and purify their souls from them by a worthy reception of the Sacraments, so that our Lord may come with His grace to dwell in their hearts and be merciful to them in life and in death. Further, to awaken in the faithful the feelings of repentance so necessary for the reception of the Savior in their hearts, the Church orders that besides the observance of certain fast days, the altar shall be draped in violet, that Mass shall be celebrated in violet vestments, that the organ shall be silent and no Gloria sung. Unjust to themselves, disobedient to the Church and ungrateful, indeed, to God are those Christians who spend this solemn time of grace in sinful amusements without performing any good works, with no longing for Christ’s Advent into their hearts.