31 July 2010

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23
Qoheleth is the Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes. The name has many meanings: One who conveys an assembly, member of an assembly, official speaker in an assembly, head of an assembly of wise men, preacher, debater, and the great collector of sayings. The author is unknown although up until the nineteenth century it was believed to have been written by Solomon because Qoheleth is referred to in this book as King David's son. There are social conditions mentioned in this book which are contrary to what is known about the Israelites in Solomon's day, therefore, Solomon's authorship is unlikely. The date of this book is fixed somewhere around the close of the third century B.C. The word "Vanity" is translated as "a breath" or "a vapor" and "Vanity of vanities" is the Hebrew way of saying "the merest breath". In order to comprehend the meaning of this Reading, it's important to note that at the time of this writing, the idea of an afterlife was not widely accepted or taught in the Hebrew creed. The theology of the time was that the infinitely good God rewarded obedience to His laws with temporal goods and punished disobedience by denying or taking away temporal riches. This theology is perplexing to Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth and is the general theme of the entire book. The rewarding of temporal gifts which reflect the teachings of that particular time in history led Qoheleth to believe that wealth, riches and the pleasures of this life were an inadequate reward for obedience to the Mosaic Law. In the grand scheme of things the author felt that humanity's labor, the accumulation of wealth and living for the pleasures of this life, only to have it all come to a screeching halt because of death was unfulfilling and disappointing.

Second Reading, Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Saint Paul is referring to that mystical death and rising to a new life which occurs at Baptism when he writes, "If you were raised with Christ". At Mass during the Eucharistic Prayer the priest says: "Sursum corda -- Lift up your hearts". Saint Paul assures us that we are called to that constant lifting up of our hearts to our Lord, keeping our thoughts on what is above and not what is on earth until that day when we the members are joined with our Head in eternal glory. Review once again the parts that Paul refers to as earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed. We are not strangers to any of these things. We are either guilty of these things ourselves or at least are unfortunate witnesses of such things in our culture. In our present existence, we're all labeled in one way or another: Black, white, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, conservative, liberal, moderate, blue-collar, white-collar, and the list goes on and on. While these labels may help to identify who we are, humanity's brokenness also makes them a source of division and prejudice. Saint Paul exhorts us to put these things to death and focus on the new self, which is being renewed and transformed. In the end, when all is said and done, all of us will have only one label that really matters: "A child of God". And surely it is more beneficial for us to make that the only label that really matters now.

Gospel, Luke 12:13-21
There are possibly two meanings to being "rich in what matters to God". Most certainly it can be applied to storing up treasure in heaven, living one's life focused on eternal riches. It could also be referring to how the riches or material goods of this life are handled. In other words, are the abundances of this life hoarded because of greed or are they distributed to help those who are less fortunate? Saint Ambrose says that the hands of the poor, the houses of widows, are storehouses that endure forever. In this Gospel, Jesus uses a parable which is a reminder that all the material wealth possessed in this life cannot add a single minute to our lives. Jesus has the answer to Qoheleth's concerns in the First Reading: Yes there is indeed much more to life than the material rewards obtained; and there is without a doubt an afterlife. The message in the Gospel since beginning this "Journey Narrative" several weeks ago is to stay focused on heaven. If heaven is to be our focus, then surely this life has inflicted all of us from time-to-time with attention deficit disorder. It's that old battle of flesh versus spirit. The flesh has a distinct advantage because it can behold its desires with the physical senses. What the spirit desires is intangible and can seem elusive. Exercising the spirit requires a certain denying of the senses. For heaven to be our focus and desire, the physical senses cannot be permitted to dictate policy. When we deny ourselves the influence of the senses, the eyes of faith see with confidence, for example, that what we behold is not bread -- it is Jesus. What we behold is not wine -- it is Jesus. This is why prayer is so important. At prayer, the affairs of the spirit are in charge while the flesh takes on a role of a disruptor by means of distractions. But through perseverance, the spirit grows in love for the Lord; and this growth renders the flesh less obtrusive. Consider what happens whenever you go to the cinema to watch a movie. You have to sit through all the previews of other films before you get to the feature film. Whether the previews are good or bad, in reality your thoughts and desires are focused on the feature film. Heaven and eternal life is our feature film. While it is necessary to experience the previews of this life, it is much easier to bear its pains while also not being dependent upon its rewards when one's ultimate desire is the beatific vision.

28 July 2010

Praying: How and Why

The following is taken from a chapter of ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’ by Pope John Paul II. His Holiness not only teaches us about prayer but also reminds us who we are, what our vocation is. This reminder of our identity and our responsibility can seem a bit frightening for those who are serious about the spiritual life.

Question: I would like to take the liberty to ask you to share with us, at least in part, the secret of your heart. Given the conviction that within you – as within every Pope – lives the mystery which is believed in faith, the following question automatically arises: How can you bear such a weight, which, in human terms, is almost unbearable? No man on earth, not even the highest religious leaders, has a comparable responsibility. No one is placed in such a close relationship with God.

Your Holiness, how does one address Jesus? How does one have a dialogue, in prayer, with Christ, who gave Peter the ‘keys to the Kingdom of Heaven’ (which have reached you through the apostolic succession), giving him the power to ‘bind and loose’ all?

Response: Your question concerns prayer; you are asking the Pope how he prays. And I thank you. Perhaps it is worth starting with Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans. The apostle comes to the heart of the matter when he writes: ‘The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings’ (cf. Romans 8:26).

What is prayer? It is commonly held to be a conversation. In a conversation there are always an ‘I’ and a ‘thou’ or ‘you’. In this case the ‘Thou’ is with a capital T. If at first the ‘I’ seems to be the most important element in prayer, prayer teaches that the situation is actually different. The ‘Thou’ is more important, because our prayer begins with God. In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul teaches precisely this. According to the apostle, prayer reflects all created reality; it is in a certain sense a cosmic function.

Man is the priest of all creation; he speaks in its name, but only insofar as he is guided by the Spirit. In order to understand profoundly the meaning of prayer, one should meditate for a long time on the following passage from the Letter to the Romans: ‘For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labour pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved’ (Romans 8:19-24). And here again we come across the apostle’s words: ‘The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings’ (cf. Romans 8:26).

In prayer, then, the true protagonist is God. The protagonist is Christ, who constantly frees creation from slavery to corruption and leads it toward liberty, for the glory of the children of God. The protagonist is the Holy Spirit, who ‘comes to the aid of our weakness’. We begin to pray, believing that it is our own initiative that compels us to do so. Instead, we learn that it is always God’s initiative within us, just as Saint Paul has written. This initiative restores in us our true humanity; it restores in us our unique dignity. Yes, we are brought into the higher dignity of the children of God, the children of God who are the hope of all creation.

One can and must pray in many different ways, as the Bible teaches through a multitude of examples. The Book of Psalms is irreplaceable. We must pray with ‘inexpressible groanings’ in order to enter into rhythm with the Spirit’s own entreaties. To obtain forgiveness one must implore, becoming part of the loud cries of Christ the Redeemer (cf. Hebrews 5:7). Through all of this one must proclaim glory. Prayer is always an opus gloriæ (a work, a labour, of glory). Man is the priest of all creation. Christ conferred upon him this dignity and vocation. Creation completes its opus gloriæ both by being what it is and by its duty to become what should be.

In a certain sense science and technology also contribute to this goal. But at the same time, since they are human works, they can lead away from this goal. In our civilisation in particular there is a risk, making it difficult for civilisation to be one of life and love. Missing is precisely the opus gloriæ, which is the fundamental destiny of every creature, and above all of man, who was created in order to become, in Christ, the priest, prophet, and king of all earthly creatures.

Much has been written about prayer, and further, prayer has been widely experienced in the history of humankind, especially in the history of Israel and Christianity. Man achieves the fullness of prayer not when he expresses himself, but when he let’s God be most fully present in prayer. The history of mystical prayer in the East and West attests to this: Saint Francis, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, and, in the East, for example, Saint Serafim of Sarov and many others.

27 July 2010

Be Simple as Doves

God would not be infinite Goodness and Wisdom if, seeking and even demanding our love, He had not at the same time made it possible for us to enter into this intimacy with Himself. The means He has provided, and of which we can be absolutely certain, to enter into immediate contact with Him, are the theological virtues and the gifts which accompany them.

By faith we adhere to the truth of the divine life offered to us. By charity this life becomes ours. By hope we are certain, with the help of grace, to live this life more and more, and finally to possess it forever in eternity.

This is the essence of all true and real prayer. Instead of frittering away our time of prayer on various points; instead of philosophizing about God, multiplying acts of the intellect, of the will and the imagination, in order to conjure up ‘pictures’ of what we are thinking about, how simpler it is to go to God directly in our hearts. Seek Him in simplicity of heart ~ Wisdom 1:1. It is Our Lord Himself Who gives us the invitation. Be simple as doves ~ Saint Matthew 10:16. Man is a complex being, but it would be a pity if he introduced his complications into his relations with God. God, on the contrary, is simplicity itself. The more complicated we are, therefore, the farther we stray from Him; the simpler we are, on the other hand, the closer we come to Him.

We have seen that God, our Father, is present in us. When a child wants to talk to his father he does not make use of a manual of etiquette or a code of manners: he speaks in a simple and unaffected way, without formality; and we must do the same with our heavenly Father. He Himself said: Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven ~ Saint Matthew 18:3. A mother never grows tired of hearing her little one say: ‘Mother, I love you’. It is the same with God. The more childlike our prayer, the more it is pleasing to Him. After all it was He Who chose for Himself the name of Father. It is the Holy Spirit Who cries in us: Abba, Pater ~ Galatians 4:6. It is the Holy Spirit also Who places on our lips the inspired words of Scripture and of other liturgical texts.

Our prayer, then, must be quite simple – as simple as possible. All we have to do is to place ourselves on our knees, and with complete sincerity make our acts of faith, hope and love. There is no method of prayer more certain, more elevated, and more salutary than this.

~ Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion ~

24 July 2010

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Genesis 18:20-32
"The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah" is one that calls to heaven for vengeance. Obviously the Lord does not really need to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if their actions correspond to the cries for vengeance. God is all-knowing and all-seeing. It is done this way so that this exchange between Abraham and the Lord could occur. This is a test for Abraham who has been called by God to be a father of nations. We're all tested many times in this life. God allows these temptations not because He needs to see how we will respond -- He already knows how we will respond. It's more for our own benefit -- an opportunity for us to be able to see for ourselves how we will respond. It is these tests and temptations that help us to grow in the spiritual life. Because of our fallen nature, however, pride and ego could get in the way and delude the mind and heart into believing that the pinnacle of spiritual growth has been reached or that there really is no need to grow more spiritually. A secular society such as our own might suggest that spirituality has little to do with real life, day-to-day activity. But when considering the needs of the human body, for example, it doesn't make sense, nor is it healthy, to focus on quenching thirst but ignoring hunger. Likewise, the human make-up of flesh and spirit for overall health requires that consideration is given to both. The tests in life not only shed light on what areas need growth but also gives aid to the struggles with humility. Abraham who is to be a father of nations was able see for himself that he will be a concerned and loving father of nations, one who reaches out and cares for the safety of both the innocent and the guilty. Abraham does not ask the Lord to spare all the innocent and wipe out the guilty. Instead, he asks for the entire city to be spared even if only ten innocent people are to be found. This points towards Christ's salvific act in which He willingly handed over His innocence to the guilty. God's affirmation to Abraham's request shows Abraham and us that we have been called to serve a merciful God. For many of us, Abraham's line of questioning might be annoying. It would seem more appropriate if he had asked God to spare the city for the sake of ten innocent people right from the start. It does demonstrate, however, how patient our Lord is with human weakness and our own imperfect prayers. This Reading depicting God's mercy offers a level of comfort when attempting to comprehend the love He has for each and every one of us; and Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate, beyond a shadow of a doubt would still have come to offer Himself as a living Sacrifice even if only one of us were in need of His saving grace.

Second Reading, Colossians 2:12-14
Saint Paul's message here is one of forgiveness. He stresses that Christ brought us to life with Him, forgiving us of the transgressions that rendered us dead. "Obliterating the bond against us" -- the Latin translates to mean: "Blotting out the handwriting of the decree which was against us". "Handwriting" is meant to express a contract or law that legally binds us to something. Paul is probably referring to the Mosaic Law which was unable to remove transgressions. He also could be referring to the eternal death that humanity was sentenced to by the fall of Adam. Whichever meaning applies here, the point is that Christ was able to take away its clutches from us by "nailing it to the Cross".

Gospel, Luke 11:1-13
Saint Luke's version of the "Our Father" is shorter than we're accustomed to praying at Mass. For liturgical purposes Saint Matthew's version is used. All of us have been granted the privilege to call God "Father". The world's standards may judge humanity as individuals; that is, one's worth and effectiveness being greater than someone else's, but we're all equal in the gift of heavenly nobility. Saint John Chrysostom points out that "Our Father, Who art in heaven" is not meant to insinuate that heaven is the only place He can be found. Jesus wants us to pray this way to keep our minds fixed on heaven. Jesus is not saying that this prayer is the only prayer we literally need to pray, but there are intimations that all other prayers should be identifiable with the "Our Father". That is to say, for example, if praying for a specific need, then it must be exactly that -- a real need and not something that could be considered a luxury. This way, it is harmonious with "give us this day our daily bread". The Greek text translates as "our daily bread" which supports the meaning of the necessities for this life. The Latin, however, translates as "super-substantial bread" which could refer to the needs of this life but also seems to point to the Eucharist. In the "Hail Mary" we ask our Blessed Mother to "pray for us sinners" -- all sinners. This conforms to "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". In our prayer to our Lady we add, "now and at the hour of our death". Here, we are praying for the Queen of heaven's own perseverance in prayer. We are children of God. Jesus says that we must become like little children (cf. Matthew 18:3). If you've ever raised a child then you already know that no one is more persevering about getting what they want than a child. "Hallowed be Thy Name" is a reflection of how we conduct ourselves in this life. Does our life reflect the holiness of almighty God or is it one of luke-warmness and indifference? In a homily on the "Our Father", Saint John Chrysostom said: "Those who desire to arrive at the Kingdom of heaven must endeavour so to order their life and conversation, as if they were already conversing in heaven." The parable Jesus uses in this Gospel is found only in Saint Luke's Gospel. Christ first teaches His disciples how to pray and then with the use of this parable, shows them the efficacy of prayer. Jesus impresses upon us the need to persevere in prayer. Our Lord would not want us to make requests if He wasn't prepared to give. In all truthfulness He is more ready to give than we are to receive. Saint Cyril explains that after our Savior teaches this form of prayer, He already knows we would recite it with remissness and negligence, and then after not being heard, we would become slothful. In order to avoid this indolence in prayer, it is more advantageous to be persistent in prayer. There's also the need to understand that God's time is not always our time. God intends to grant our earnest petitions but only at a time when it is most beneficial to us. You simply don't set before a child a jar of cookies right before dinner. Our own summation that God perhaps doesn't see our needs as pressing usually causes impatience and then finally leads to a tendency to give up. Fortunately, in all of these moments of human weakness God is patient and merciful with us.

22 July 2010

Raised by God's Fire

God is a brazier of love. Prayer brings us near to Him, and in coming near to Him we are caught by His fire. The soul is raised by the action of this fire, which is a kind of spiritual breath that spiritualizes and carries it away. The soul frees itself from all that weighs it down, keeping it attached to this wearisome earth. The Psalmist compares this breath to incense: Let my prayer be directed as incense in Your sight ~ Psalm 140:2. Now incense is a symbol universally known and exceptionally rich. But from all the substances that fire penetrates under the form of flame or heat, there follows a movement by which it spreads, causing it to increase by communicating itself to all that surrounds it.

The movement of the soul that prays has something special about it. It goes out from itself and yet remains in itself. It passes from its natural state to its supernatural state; from itself in itself to itself in God. At first glance, these expressions may seem strange. The mystery is not in the realities but in our understanding of them. Our mind is not used to these realities; we have to become accustomed to them.

Our soul is a dwelling with many apartments. In the first, it is there with the body: that is to say, with all the body's sensitiveness. It sees when the eye sees, hears when the ear hears. It moves with the muscles; it remembers, imagines and appreciates distances, when we take part in all the activities which are the common ground of its action with the body. In the second, the soul is alone and acts alone. The body is there -- it is always there -- but it no longer acts, it has no part in the soul's action. The soul alone thinks and loves. The body with its senses prepares the matter and elements, the conditions of this spiritual activity, but it has no part in producing it. That room is closed: the soul is there alone, and dwells there alone.

In that spiritual dwelling there is a part still more remote. It is the dwelling-place of Being, Who communicates Himself and makes us to ‘be’. We are so accustomed to live turned outwards; we hardly ever open the door of that chamber, and scarcely give it a glance; many die without ever suspecting its existence. Men ask: Where is God? God is there -- in the depths of their being, and He is there communicating being to them. They are not ‘Him Who is’ and Who gives being to all other things. They receive being; they receive a part of being which does not depend upon themselves. They receive it for a certain time, and under certain forms. And from His ‘beyond’ God gives them existence. They exist only by His power, and are only what He enables them to be. He is at the source of all they do and, no matter how much they may desire to continue those activities, they cannot do so if He is not there. To understand this, we have to think a great deal, and reflection -- perhaps the highest form human act can take -- has given place to exterior action and to local movement, both of which are common to animals and matter.

The soul that prays enters into this upper room. It places itself in the presence of that Being Who gives Himself and enters into communication with Him. To ‘communicate’ means to have something in common, and by this common element to be made one. We touch, we speak, we open out to one another. Without this ‘something’ we remain at a distance; we do not ‘communicate’. God is Love. We enter into communication with Him when we love, and in the measure of our love. The soul that loves and that has been introduced by Love into that dwelling-place where Love abides, can speak to Him. Prayer is that colloquy. God will not resist that love which asks. He has promised to do the will of those who do His will: He will do the will of them that fear Him ~ Psalm 144:19.

It is to love that is due these divine communications which have drawn from those happy recipients the most amazing exclamations. ‘Lord, stay, I beg you, the torrent of Your love: I can bear no more’. The soul, submerged and ravished, has fainted under the weight of these great waters, and has asked to be allowed to take breath for an instant, in order the better to renew its welcome. The anchorite in the desert, when he prayed, had to forbear extending his arms, so as not to be rapt in his prayer. Saint Mary the Egyptian, Saint Francis of Assisi, were raised up from the ground and remained upheld by a power greater than the weight of their body.

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~

21 July 2010

Being Equipped for Mass

The following reflection is from Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. These are wonderful words to reflect upon in preparation for the holy Sacrifice of the Mass. These saintly words teach us about postures, what our interior and exterior disposition should be, and this reflection also teaches us about where we really are during Mass – which is – Calvary.

The best way of hearing Mass is to unite ourselves with the priest in all he says, and to follow all his actions.

Be like penitents pierced with the keenest sorrow for their sins, and take for your model the publican in the temple. The Gospel says that he stood at the bottom of the temple, with his eyes on the ground, not daring to look at the altar, striking his breast, and saying to God, Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.

He stood at the bottom of the temple, in the least conspicuous place, thinking himself unworthy to enter. He was very different, then, from those nominal Christians who are never in a good enough place.

He kept his eyes on the ground, so ashamed was he at the sight of his sins. He did not behave like those Christians who enter our churches with a proud, arrogant air and a kind of contempt for God’s presence, and who seem to approach Him like people who have nothing on their conscience that can humble them before their Creator.

Be like ministers who offer Jesus Christ to God His Father and make Him the Sacrifice of all they are.

What progress he makes during the three hours that he finds himself in the company of his dying Saviour! First, he opens the eyes of his soul to recognize his Deliverer; then fastened to the cross, and having nothing that remains free but his heart and tongue, he offers both to Jesus Christ. He consecrates his heart to Him by faith and hope, and humbly asks of Him a place in Paradise; and he consecrates his tongue to Him by proclaiming His innocence and holiness: ‘It is just that we should suffer’, he says to his companion, ‘but as for Him, He is innocent’. He makes himself Christ’s panegyrist at a time when others think only of outraging Him, and so great is his charity that he does all he can to convert the other.

Consider yourselves as those who are to participate in Christ’s adorable Body and precious Blood, and be inspired with the sentiments of the Centurion in order to communicate spiritually and sacramentally.

The Centurion’s example is so admirable, that the Church seems to take pleasure in putting it before our eyes each day at holy Mass. Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, said that humble officer, but speak only the word and my servant shall be healed. Oh, if the good God saw in us this same humility and realisation of our nothingness, with what gladness, with what abundance of graces would He come into our hearts; what strength and courage would He give us to overcome the enemy of our salvation!

20 July 2010

The Way of Faith

What follows is from the Preface of a book written by a Carthusian monk which is out of print. The Preface was written from Saint Hugh’s Charterhouse at Parkminster, in the year 1964, on the feast of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Remaining true to the Carthusian way of anonymity, all the writer of the Preface tells us about the author of the book is that he was a Carthusian monk who spent years ‘in charge of old lay-brothers’. Here’s an excerpt of the Preface.

There are miracles and miracles, down to this very day; and all answer to real prayer is, after all, a miracle in a sense, since it is none other than the supernatural coming down into this very natural world; a continuation – may we not say – of the Incarnation itself. There is no reason why prayer should be answered, or that the poor anxious souls of this world, involved, whether they will or not, in the battle that is continually going on ‘in high places’, should have their Memorare heard. But when it is heard, and they are comforted and helped on their way, then we term it at least a kind of a miracle, for which we can only very humbly say, Deo gratias!

Let no one think that life in a Charterhouse consists of returning to cell after three hours spent in choir on a cold winter’s night, to find our Lady waiting with the holy Child in her arms. The Carthusian way of life, like life in any monastery – for men or women – is sterner stuff than that! Indeed, as time goes on and the monk begins to feel age creeping on him, it may be that the life becomes purely one of faith, and all thought of miracles in the sense of visions and such like has long since departed from his memory – or his hope! It is doubtful if he would believe them if he saw them: the way of faith is surer.

Yet the writer of these lines has witnessed many near-miracles, shall we say, of an intellectual order, during years spent in charge of old lay-brothers, grown very close to God in the course of their long and faithful service. One instance alone must suffice. An old French lay-brother lay dying. For many a long month he had been able to do nothing but sit immobilized in a chair, saying his Rosary – Rosary after Rosary: he could do no more. On this day, in the event to be his last on earth, normally unable to move, he was seen to sit up, utterly alert. Then he said, speaking to someone he seemed to see at the end of his bed: ‘Qui êtes vous, Madame? . . . Who are you, Madam’? Then he himself was heard to answer: ‘Je suis Marie, ta Mère . . . I am Mary, your Mother’. The words were heard, but nothing was seen. Imagination? Perhaps. But, if so, a very good kind of imagination on the part of a dying man, for which he might well be envied.

17 July 2010

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Genesis 18:1-10a
Mamre is near Hebron which is about twenty miles south of Jerusalem. The Lord appeared to Abraham there apparently in the form of three men. Saint Augustine refers to them as men in appearance only, but in reality they were angels. This part of the story will probably forever remain in obscurity. If these are angels that look like men, how does Abraham immediately identify them as angels or representatives of God? Some have suggested that Abraham didn’t know, but only that it was his nature to be hospitable. The fact that Abraham bowed to the ground and referred to himself as a servant just doesn’t seem to support this theory. In the New Testament, however, there is a passage in the Letter to the Hebrews that could at least lead one to consider this theory: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by that means some have entertained angels without knowing it’ (Hebrews 13:2). Another theory is that one of the men is Jesus Christ and Abraham bows only in adoration of Him because the story seems to hint that by the use of the word ‘Sir’ Abraham is addressing only one of the men. This theory continues by stating that this is a presage of the Trinity as Abraham adores One in Three Persons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the message to Abraham concerning his wife Sarah foreshadows the Annunciation of the true Son of the promise (cf. CCC 2571). As we read of the promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah, it is here that we can start to watch God's plan for the salvation of humanity unfold.

Second Reading, Colossians 1:24-28
The opening verse is often misunderstood. It does not mean that Christ’s sufferings are insufficient or that somehow He didn’t finish the job. Saint John Chrysostom explains: ‘Jesus Christ loves us so much that He is not content merely to suffer in His own Person, but He wishes also to suffer in His members; and thus we fill up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.” Notice he says ‘what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.’ ‘Wanting’ is a more accurate translation of the Greek and perhaps even more appealing because it suggests a desire of Christ whereby ‘lacking’, the word used in this Reading, although not intending to, could easily lead one to think along the lines of insufficiency or that Christ really didn’t finish what He came to do. Saint John Chrysostom continues: ‘The wisdom, the will, the justice of Jesus Christ requires and ordains that His Body and members should be companions of His sufferings, as they expect to be companions of His glory’. Let’s face it -- no one can question the fact we are sinful creatures with a limited capacity for comprehension. We really can’t fully understand the boundless love that intimately connects us to our Lord through something as inconvenient as suffering. We won’t fully appreciate this until we get to heaven. It should be understood, however, that suffering in itself is not a means of sanctification unless it is endured patiently and accepted in obedience to God’s will. Saint Paul continues his letter with a reference to ‘the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past, but now it has been manifested to His holy ones’. This mystery is Christ's Incarnation.

Gospel, Luke 10:38-42
The unwritten law of hospitality in the ancient East would require that both Martha and Mary serve the meal for their guests. This is why Martha takes exception with Mary. One of the angles to this Gospel, which has been alluded to by so many of the saints is that this story shows the two paths of life: the contemplative life and the active life. Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory and many others agree that nothing could be found more proper for the illustration of these two states of life. Another angle to consider is that for those of us who do not live behind the walls of a monastery, the example of both Martha and Mary is necessary in our lives to help us maintain a healthy spiritual life. Mary represents the interior life, one of prayer, meditation and contemplation. Martha represents charitable works. A good prayer life helps to relieve the anxieties that cause worry and stress. You know the old saying: ‘Charity begins at home.’ Anyone who has grown up in a loving household or has ever been a parent knows how true that statement is. Parents spend countless hours trying to make a good life for their children as well as teaching them holy values. This is not an easy vocation. It requires love, patience, sacrifice and rest. All four of these attributes can be sought out through prayer. Is there anyone more equipped to learn and experience love from, than the One Who is Love Himself? Do we need to go any further than the pages of the Gospels to see the greatest Example of patience? Who better to seek out to try to understand sacrifice than He Who made the ultimate Sacrifice? Is there a more valuable way to seek rest other than Mary’s example of sitting at the Feet of Jesus? Whether our charity is inside or outside of the home, it is very difficult to be Jesus for others and see Jesus in others if priority is not given to setting aside time to experience His Love, Companionship and Wisdom – or as Our Lord calls it – the better part.

15 July 2010

The Natural Presence of God

The following is from the Carthusian, Dom Jean-Baptiste Porion, a twentieth-century monk of La Grande Chartreuse. If we were able to grasp and act out at each moment of our lives what is written here, the world and its current condition would be a very different place.

In order that we may fully understand more clearly God’s supernatural presence, let us first consider His natural presence in all things.

God is everywhere – a simple truth all too easily forgotten. Yet it is a thought which could change the whole tenor of our lives.

We tire ourselves at times by trying to imagine God as someone far away, and our prayer suffers accordingly. God is a Spirit, Whose presence is not limited to any one place but is to be found in all things. So shall the true adorers of God, we are told, adore Him ‘in spirit and in truth’ (Saint John 4:23). So, too, the apostle says: In Him we move and live and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28). This is the first truth that strikes us at the beginning of our spiritual life, and it would achieve amazing results if only we could make this thought of God’s actual presence in all things a reality in our lives.

Even apart from and before all supernatural revelation, reason tells us that God knows and sees us completely and constantly, since He knows and sees all things. Where shall I go from Your Spirit, or where shall I flee from Your Face? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I descend into the abode of the dead, You are present (cf. Psalm 138:7-8). Not only is God present to us by simple knowledge, but He governs and directs us in all our ways. It is He Who gives us ‘both to will and to accomplish’ (Philippians 2:13). Apart from Him we cannot lift a finger. There is nothing, literally nothing, which is not subject to His governance – not even sin. Even when we sin, God is present, since it is He Who gives us the power to act and sustains us in the act: the only thing which does not come from Him is the depravation of our will. Were we able to do the slightest thing without Him, He would not be the first and universal Cause: in other words, He would not be God! ‘If I take my wings in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Your Hand lead me, and Your right Hand shall hold me’ (Psalm 138:9-10).

But that is not all. It is enough that God should watch over us and direct our ways. As the sole and sovereign source of all being He must keep us in existence, giving us at each moment all we are. Were this divine action to cease for one instant, we and the universe itself would vanish like a dream. Once we have understood the necessity for this divine intervention, preserving all that God has created, the tiniest object for us assumes a singular greatness, since it is the omnipotent God and He alone Who, present in this little creature, saves it from falling into nothingness.

Who would deny that a shadow is the frailest of realities? Our shadow is nothing compared to ourselves. But compared with God, present within us, we ourselves are even less real: indeed, in the presence of the divine Reality, we are not even shadows!

14 July 2010

Submitting Ourselves to Mary

The two paragraphs below are taken from a Carthusian publication (out of print), but every word is credited to Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort and his ‘True Devotion’.

God Who became man found His freedom in being hidden within the womb of Mary. He made His omnipotence shine forth in letting Himself be carried by the Blessed Virgin. He found His own and His Father’s glory in hiding His splendours from all creatures here below, and revealing them alone to Mary. He glorified His independence and His Majesty in depending upon that sweet Virgin, in His conception, His birth, in His Presentation in the Temple, in His hidden life of thirty years, and even in His death, where she was to be present, in order that He might make with her but one same Sacrifice and be immolated to His Father by her consent, just as Isaac of old was offered to the will of God by Abraham’s consent.

O admirable and incomprehensible dependence of a God, which the Holy Spirit could not pass in silence in the Gospel, although He has hidden from us nearly all the admirable things which that Incarnate Wisdom did in His hidden life, as if He would enable us by the revelation of that at least, to understand something of its price! Jesus Christ gave more glory to God the Father by His submission to His Mother during those thirty years than He would have given Him in converting the whole world by the working of the most stupendous miracles. Oh how highly we glorify God when, to please Him, we submit ourselves to Mary, after the example of Jesus!

13 July 2010

The Battle of the Soul

The saints and spiritual writers constantly return to this idea of the disorder within us, which is the consequence of sin, and they are right in doing so. Life is not literature. Before we can assimilate anything, we have to turn it over in our minds again and again. To take in and to assimilate is a slow process. The mind has to concentrate on its object a long time, if it is to take on its form and live it.

This object is a positive one: it is God, the ideal form and the perfect model. But it is also, on the other hand, all that is opposed to His pure Image, and to His communication of life. God wants to transform us into sons of light, but He finds us children of darkness. He wants His Spirit, the Spirit of Love, Who is the Gift of Self, to live in us, but He finds us possessed by another spirit which is the love of self. This negative element, which surrounds only after a struggle, must disappear. Life is a battle, a battle between God and the spirit of evil. When a soul ceases to fight, it may be counted as hopelessly lost. And a soul that does not pray is one that has given in without a struggle. It possesses a kind of peace, but it is the peace of an occupied territory, conquered by the invader and resigned to his domination.

What we find blameworthy in spiritual writers is not that they insist on this too much, but that they do not insist on it enough. We are living in an age of knowledge rather than of understanding. Pure reasoning and memory hold the day. The whole object of so much of our writing is to satisfy these cravings, to provide men with ideas rather than to enrich their souls and deepen their lives. It is the fashion today to write popular works and articles in magazines for people living in the world. They must know everything, and be able to talk about the latest book or the most recent discovery. Men's minds are like those artificial floral displays we see on festive occasions. We arrange beautiful flowers, which we enjoy without having cultivated them. We do not even know their names and by the morrow we have forgotten all about them.

With prayer it is not just a matter of having read and realized for the moment its necessity, its grandeur, the immense blessings it confers, its increasing comfort, the glory it gives to God and its mission to the world. We must return to these thoughts again and again; we must constantly reflect on them and live them. This is what the Holy Spirit does in the Scriptures, what the Church does in its offices, and the saints in their daily prayers and constant meditations. We must continually look for the essential Beauty behind the external beauty of things. We must turn from the weakness of our fallen nature to the strong tenderness of the Son of God, Who became our Redeemer and is ever ready to receive us back into His favour. We must turn from the perpetual menace of the devil and of the world which hangs over us, to the unfailing help which is offered us by our Saviour, Whose great desire is to rescue us from their tyranny.

Our principal danger is a spiritual one, the danger of losing our true life; all other dangers are directed towards this. They are the various ways in which each of us may be put to the test. We must pray, therefore, before all else, that God may live in us and we in Him. We must pray that our trials may contribute to that divine life, which is the only true life and the only true good. We may ask that God will in His goodness preserve us from persecutions, injustices, calumnies, attacks of one kind and another on our interests and rights, illnesses of body and mind -- but always subject to the designs of His love, which must be our chief rule in all we ask for.

In His loving plan, God has foreseen that we must be tested, but He knows also that the patience with which we bear such trials in union with our divine Lord can prove an exceptionally rich and pure source of merit and of grace to expiate our sins. He knows that our natural and supernatural growth will in general be proportioned to such trials, and that the divine image, the reflection of the model of infinite Beauty, will shine resplendent in us as a result of these trials. In spite of myself, I return to these thoughts again and again; they do not exclude others, but they seem to me to embrace and assimilate them.

~ Dom Augustin Guillerand ~

12 July 2010

Prayer is the Work of God

The world is not a machine, a mechanism in which every movement is determined, but a place of life, that has come from a living intelligence, and is impregnated by it, open to the action of God, and borne by a finality of love. In this world in which we live, the effects of prayer are objective and can be verified.

Prayer is a gift of God. From all eternity God has wanted this prayer that I am making here and now, at this point in time, in view of a particular effect, which He has also willed from all eternity.

And yet I make this prayer freely; on my part, it is an act of faith and love that is meritorious. And it is freely that God answers my prayer.

God, by His grace, by the action of His Spirit, inspires me to pray. I pray. God answers my prayer.

Why did God create prayer? In order to bestow the dignity of causality upon His creatures: real causality, placed between an initiative of God and His fulfilment of it.

God in His mercy has freely decreed that it is only with the collaboration of humanity that He will accomplish His plan of salvation: and prayer is an example of this.

~ From the book titled: ‘Interior Prayer’ by a Carthusian ~

10 July 2010

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading, Deuteronomy 30:10-14
What Moses is saying to the Israelites is that there is no excuse to plead ignorance of the commandments and statutes of the Lord. This sounds harsh but it is actually a loving plea from Moses. God’s will for them is not ambiguous -- it is clearly written in the book of the Law, therefore, Moses pleads with the people of Israel to return to the Lord with all their heart and soul. This message is timeless. Today, there’s really no reason to be in the fog when it comes to understanding what our Faith teaches. It’s in Sacred Scripture; it’s in the Catechism. Church documents, papal encyclicals, writings of the saints and early Fathers are all over the internet. All that is required is the same that was required of the Israelites -- returning to the Lord with the full extent of heart and soul. What would Moses say of our age of political correctness? Can you even begin to imagine him saying something like: 'It's a good idea to return to the Lord with all your heart and soul, assuming that’s what you really want and it doesn’t interfere with your schedule, and it’s not going to agitate your family or offend your friends'? While this sort of diplomacy will not likely pluck anyone’s nerves, in reality it is a disservice to the hearer. If truth is to be offered with a sincere expression of love it can never be watered down. Truth is not always popular, but it will set us free.

Second Reading, Colossians 1:15-20
'Christ Jesus is the Image of the invisible God'. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reads: 'By His revelation, the invisible God, from the fullness of His love, addresses men as His friends, and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into His own company' (CCC 142). Saint Thomas Aquinas relates 'Image' with 'prototype' and says that Image has three qualities at the same time:
It must have a likeness with the original prototype.
It must be derived from the prototype.
It must belong to the same species as the prototype.
This explanation of 'Image' delineates that mere likeness alone would not be sufficient. A photograph, for example, is a likeness but it is not an image in the sense that is applied here. By Saint Paul writing that 'Jesus is the Image of the invisible God', he most certainly means God the Father. Therefore, Christ is the Image of God the Father because He exemplifies the Father. Saint John Damascene explains that image in itself does not demand equality with the original model, but we know that Christ, the Image, is identical and equal to the Father in every way. The only difference is that Jesus is begotten. Saint Paul continues this letter by writing that Christ is 'the firstborn of all creation'. This is not a reference to being born of the Virgin Mary. Paul’s meaning is that Jesus was before all creatures, proceeding from all eternity from the Father. Firstborn, then, as it is applied here is a metaphor for pre-existence before creation. Christ is Supreme, Eternal and the final revelation of God because 'all things were created through Him and for Him'. He is the reason and cause of all things and yet as our Creator He does not distance Himself from us, but instead, He thirsts for intimacy with His brothers and sisters by means of His boundless love. Christ is 'the Head of the Body, the Church', and yet His Sovereignty over the members does not deter Him from a close and intense union with them. He is 'the firstborn from the dead' in the sense that He is the first to rise to a new life and in His glorious triumph He is the cause of our resurrection. 'For in Him all the fullness was pleased to dwell'. Generally, 'fullness' is synonymous with 'totality'. In this case, however, fullness more appropriately means 'all existence'. Being reconciled to God through Christ with those on earth primarily means the human race; but what does Paul mean by reconciliation with those in heaven? Saint John Chrysostom defines those in heaven as angels. This doesn't mean, however, that Christ sacrificed Himself for angels. Angels in heaven are totally and unequivocally devoted to the cause and glory of Almighty God. This suggests, then, that before Christ’s redeeming Sacrifice the angels were at enmity with the human race because our sins separated us from God. Christ put an end to this division by restoring us to God’s favor through the Blood of His Cross.

Gospel, Luke 10:25-37
A scholar asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus refers him to the Law, of which this man, because he is a scholar, would know like the back of his hand. The scholar quotes the part of the Law that is found in Deuteronomy (6:5). Most likely, any Jew of Christ's day would have answered the same way since these words of the Law are the beginning of what is known as the 'Shema'. This is the ritual prayer that was required to be said by every Jew twice a day. What’s interesting about the scholar’s answer, though, is that he added the words 'and your neighbor as yourself'. This is not part of the Deuteronomy text or the Shema but is found in the Book of Leviticus (19:18). The Law did require neighborly love but was almost never referenced by the doctors of the Law. The combination of the two biblical texts is found nowhere in the rabbinical writings. It would seem that Saint Luke is presenting this scholar to us as a man who is not committed to the Law in the traditional sense, but who was able to discern the spirit of the old Law and thus surmised that Jesus was a kindred Soul. Jesus, Who knows what’s in the heart of every human being obviously saw that this man was indeed a scholar beyond the traditional sense because the parable that Jesus tells involves a Samaritan; and the relationship between Jews and Samaritans was not pleasant as Saint John's Gospel makes note of: 'Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans' (John 4:9). Keep in mind, though, Samaritans also followed the Pentateuch and regarded Moses as their teacher. The contrast in Christ’s story is vivid. On one hand, there is a wounded man, presumably a Jew. He was stripped, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite, both of whom earn their living from the offerings of the people, at least by human standards and conscience would be more obligated to the command of neighborly love and concern. Both, however, ignore the wounded man and pass him by. On the other hand, a Samaritan who is not well-liked as it is, and who is also walking in unfriendly territory, shows compassion to the wounded man. This story makes it abundantly clear that our neighbor is anyone and everyone in need. Upon further review, which has already been done for us by many of the early Church Fathers, this reveals that there’s more to this Gospel passage than meets the eye. The Fathers teach us that Jesus is also speaking allegorically and this story has a much deeper meaning. The Samaritan is actually a representation of Christ. The wounded man represents the condition of the human race before our Lord's Supreme Sacrifice on the Cross. The robbers represent the devil that stripped the human race of their supernatural gifts and wounded our relationship with our heavenly Father. The priest and Levite represent the Old Covenant. The oil and wine represents the Sacraments while the inn where the wounded man was taken to receive care represents the Church. Finally, the innkeeper represents Saint Peter, his successors, the bishops and priests. Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, Origen and many others are all in agreement on this. The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes this Gospel with the following: 'Our Father desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. His commandment is that you love one another. This commandment summarizes all the others and expresses His entire will' (CCC 2822).

09 July 2010

A New Warmth

Below are the thoughts of a very prolific Carthusian writer: he is sometimes called Dionysius and at other times he is listed as Denys the Carthusian. His love for Our Lady is evidenced here, and his words are taken from his work, ‘De Prœconio’. Our Blessed Mother, according to Denys loves all her children, even those who seem unlovable. We all fall from time-to-time, but Our Lady is always ready and willing to embrace us with her tender mercy.

You are the consolation and the hope of the most guilty of men. He who has recourse to you can never complain of your severity and harshness. To your sons, even to the most ungrateful, you are kindness and tenderness itself; for all you have the heart of a compassionate and indulgent Mother.

Despite your high estate and the indulgent privileges which you enjoy in heaven, if the most wretched, the most impure, the most despised of sinners appeals to you for help with a truly contrite and humbled heart, far from disdaining him you welcome him with a Mother’s love. You take him into your arms and, holding him close to your heart, you communicate to him a new warmth and then make his peace with the Judge he fears.

How many are the afflicted, the sinners, the utterly abandoned, who rejoice that they have found in you, O Mary most merciful, salvation and life.

08 July 2010

The Divine Cellar

Here is another reflection on Our Blessed Lady by a Carthusian monk who borrows from the writings of a well-known Carthusian writer: Lanspergius. What is quoted here is from the fourth volume of his ‘Opera Omnia’. This particular reflection focuses not so much on being a servant of Mary, but instead being a loyal child of Mary – that is, to be what Jesus is.

We have abandoned all into the hands of Mary, even breaking, like the Magdalene, the alabaster vase containing the perfume which we have poured over her feet. By our consecration, we have cut off all possibility of taking back our love; what will Mary give us in return?

‘Mary has not chosen us’, wrote our own Lanspergius, ‘to be her servants, but to be her sons! Sons whom she is not satisfied with protecting and defending, but whom she wishes to cherish in her heart, to nourish with exquisite tenderness. For our part, do not let us attach ourselves to her service as servants but as her most loving children; she herself has set no bounds to her maternal solicitude for us. Let us honour her and love her with truly filial affection, by meditating constantly on her life and her virtues’.

Let us bless God, then, for His inestimable gift to us; for bringing us into His divine cellar, wherein He has hidden the most exquisite delights, and where, as man, He Himself experienced such deep joys. Mary was the paradise of His Heart, the heaven of His affections, the abyss hollowed out by the almighty Hand of God to receive the full outpouring of His created love.

There was nothing in the full course of His life on earth that He did with more constancy than to love this sweet Virgin to whom He owed His life.

06 July 2010

Thirsting for Heaven

At the Canonization Mass of Maria Goretti, Pope Pius XII said: ‘There is still in this world, apparently sunk and immersed in the worship of pleasure, not only a meagre little band of chosen souls who thirst for heaven and its pure air -- but a crowd, nay, an immense multitude on whom the supernatural fragrance of Christian purity exercise an irresistible and reassuring fascination. Know that above the unhealthy marshes and filth of the world, stretches an immense heaven of beauty. It is the heaven which fascinated little Maria; the heaven to which she longed to ascend by the only road that leads there, which is, religion, the love of Christ, and the heroic observance of His Commandments. We greet you, O beautiful and lovable saint! Martyr on earth and angel in heaven, look down from your glory on this people, which loves you, which venerates, glorifies and exalts you. On your forehead you bear the full brilliant and victorious Name of Christ.’

In more recent times, Pope John Paul II, speaking about Saint Maria Goretti, said: ‘Her martyrdom reminds us that the human being is not fulfilled by following pleasurable impulses, but by living his life in love and responsibility’.

That perhaps is the lesson that cries out from this saintly youth more than all others: Being responsible Christians, being all that God made us to be, following in the Footsteps of Christ, hearing and accepting the call to holiness.

No doubt, if Maria Goretti were living in our world today, she would find reading the breviary, praying the Rosary, daily Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, spending time with Our Lord in the Scriptures much more preferable and fruitful activities than all those pleasurable impulses that seem to take precedence over our own reaching out to touch the garment of Jesus. Pope Pius XII spoke of an immense multitude who are fascinated by the supernatural fragrances of saintly people. Indeed, the funeral of Pope John Paul II was the largest in this world’s history. There was mass media coverage of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta when she passed from this world. The limited resources of the 1960’s, compared to today’s technology, gave its all for the passing of Padre Pio.

These great Christian heroes seem to fascinate the world, and when one passes from this life we have a tendency to wait and see who God will raise up next. The truth is that God calls all of us to extraordinary sanctity; maybe not on the world stage, for that requires supernatural humility, but certainly in our own little corner of the world.

Alessandro Serenelli, Maria’s murderer, had a major conversion experience during his incarceration which he credits to a dream he had of Maria Goretti. In the dream he said that Maria had handed to him some lilies that she was gathering, and the lilies suddenly appeared to have a heavenly radiance, and he felt her forgiveness. No surprise that he would dream of her forgiveness since she was concerned for his soul as he was attacking her. She said: ‘No Alessandro! It is a sin. You will go to hell’. Alessandro Serenelli became a model prisoner and was released from prison three years before his sentence was completed. Unfortunately Maria’s forgiveness did not stretch out to the rest of the community, and Alessandro was forced to live as a snubbed vagabond doing some gardening work at various monasteries. It was at a Capuchin community where he died at the age of 87.

Saint Maria Goretti is a model for all of us, teaching us to prefer Christ to all things. She is also a wonderful role model for our youth, teaching them the importance of chastity and their own dignity as children of God.

01 July 2010

The Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ

In Egypt, at midnight, God threatened the Egyptians with the tenth plague, by which their first-born should perish, because they kept in captivity His first-born people. But, lest the beloved Jews should share their danger, because they were all in the same place, He found, in His wisdom, a remedy. Behold then a wonderful figure, that you may learn His power in truth. The anger of the divine indignation was expected, and the Angel of Death circled over every home. What, therefore, did Moses do? Kill, he said, a yearling lamb, and sprinkle the doors with its blood. What did you say, Moses? Is the blood of a sheep likely to deliver a reasoning man? In truth, he says, not by what that blood is in itself, but because by it, there is displayed a figure of the Blood of the Lord.

For as the statues of monarchs, mindless and speechless images though they are, have sometimes been a helpful refuge to men endowed with soul and reason, not because they are made of bronze, but because the likeness they bear is a King's. And just so did this unconscious blood deliver the lives of men, not because it was blood, but because it foreshadowed the shedding of the Blood of Jesus. On that night in Egypt, when the destroying Angel saw the blood upon the lintel and on the two side-posts, he passed over the door, and dared not to enter into the house. Even so now much more will the destroyer of souls flee away when he sees, not the lintel and the two side-posts sprinkled with the blood of a lamb, but the mouth of the faithful Christian, the living dwelling of the Holy Spirit, shining with the Blood of the True Messiah. For if the Angel stopped before the type, how much more shall the enemy tremble if he should perceive the reality itself? Would you like to hear more of the power of that Blood? I am willing. Consider from what source it wells up, from what fountain it springs forth. Its fountain is the Cross itself, its source is the Side of the Lord. The soldier opened His Side, and laid open the wall of that holy Temple; and I have found that most noble treasure, and I rejoice to discover the glittering riches.

And so was it done concerning that Lamb; the Jews killed a sheep, and I have learned the value of the sacrament. From the Side flowed forth Blood and Water. I would not, my hearer, that you should pass by the depths of such a mystery as this without pausing; for I have yet a mystical and mysterious discourse to deliver. I have said that the Water and Blood showed symbolically baptism and the sacraments. For from these, the holy Church was founded by the laver of regeneration, and the renovation of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, I say, and through the sacraments, which seem to have issued from His Side. It was therefore out of the Side of Christ that the Church was created, just as it was out of the side of Adam that Eve was raised up to be his bride. This is the reason why Paul says, no doubt in allusion to his Side: We are members of His Body, and of His Bones. For even as God made the woman Eve out of the rib which He had taken out of the side of Adam, so has Christ made the Church out of the Blood and Water which He made to flow for us out of His own Side.

Saint John Chrysostom