Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Was it a Morning like This?

The universe is different this morning. All over the world the Easter Vigil was celebrated: the rite of the Lucernarium is processed and intoned, the Exsultet proclaimed, the Gloria once again resounded in creation, the Easter water blessed which culminated in our Easter Eucharistic communion. It is not a celebration of a distant memory but an Anamnesis, a holy remembering, a sacramental participation in the event which makes possible an intentional, intimate and real encounter with the resurrected Christ.

 

Noel-coypel-the-resurrection-of-christ-1700On Good Friday, sin was defeated completely at the root through His crucifixion. During Holy Saturday our Lord rescues the saints of old and creation receives Holy Communion for the first time. The Solemnity of the Resurrection defeats death definitively; the doors of heaven have been unlocked and the through the Easter water, communion with the Father has been made possible again through Holy Baptism. The Church again remembers her Bridegrooms most amazing feat. He crushed death and demonstrated that it is divine love restores all, “Behold! I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5b).

 

And then there is Ol’ Scratch. Well, let’s just say that not only has he been defeated but his reign of terror has been ended. We now share in His victory and even mock his defeat, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). For now,

…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1Peter 2:8-9)

 

IMG_0973How do we celebrate? With great joy and festivity. There are, of course, the obligatory baskets full of candy but they are only ancillary. The kids have grown to expect the ikon of the Anastasis to be placed in a prominent place and decorated appropriately with flowers and lamp to mark the octave. We like to come downstairs to Sandi Patti’s, Let the be Praise (couldn’t find the CD last year and the kids were not happy that the song was not blaring). Our oldest son greets me with “Surrexit!” to which I reply, “Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!” And finally, I greet friends and family with “Khristós Anésti!” and my friends reply, “Alithós Anésti!”

 

Deacon, what about the food? You’ll have to check out Facebook for that. Let’s just say that the Easter fast is over and “Meat is back on the menu boys!” Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

 

Please make time for recollection and prayer today for it is the Sabbath of Sabbaths! Are you able to sense His resurrection power surging through creation to vivify and restore it? Do you sense it in you? What has changed? Is anything different that yesterday? You should be able to sense it…

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song of Songs 2:10-13)

Books and the Lenten Journey

ash-wednesday-scripture-5Happy Ash Wednesday! Last evening my family celebrated Shrove Tuesday by having breakfast for dinner.  I must say that Hannah’s King’s Cake stole the show again this year.

As usual, there are always questions about fasting and abstinence once we enter Lent. Here is an abstinence explanation, “What’s Up with the Whole Friday Abstinence Thing?” for the studious out there. Fasting has also been part of our blessed Tradition. Here is a quick explanation on the why of fasting, “Vivifying our Spiritual Senses.”

I have also received a number of requests concerning some of my favorites books for Lent. So, I thought that I would list out a few books that have been helpful during my Lenten meditation and retreat:

  1. The Sadness of Christ – St. Thomas More
  2. Lukewarmness: The Devil in Disguise – Francis Fernandez Carvajal
  3. The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell – Fr. Martin von Cochem
  4. Unseen Warfare – Lorenzo Scupoli, Theophan the Recluse and Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain
  5. In Silence with God – Fr. Benedict Baur
  6. A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ As Described by a Surgeon – Pierre Barbet
  7. Life of Christ – Venerable Fulton Sheen
  8. The Ladder of Divine Ascent – St. John Climacus
  9. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence – Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure
  10. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule & The Little Way – Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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Encourage & Teach: 3 Priceless Pillars after 3 Years of Diaconal Service

GospelIt was one of the most profound moments of my life. The Bishop laid his hands on my head during the rite of ordination and everything changed. There were no fireworks, no tongues of fire, the heavens were not rent open and no voice was heard (as far as I know). My personal experience was one of a sense of peace and a sense that this was right and necessary for me to be whole…(Read more)

Remembering the Christmas Message

Close the Path to Misery: O Clavis David

Key_DavidMy sister Iwalani and I were studying for our high school finals when we heard a click come from her desk. My dad had repurposed an old metal army desk that was been thrown away. It had a great lock which my sister and I often stuck a paperclip in and tried to pick. Without even trying, Iwalani accidently locked it. With all her books in it. And no key. It took us over an hour to pick the lock and get it open – all the while our dad laughed and reminded us that he told us this would happen.

There was another lock that humanity to no success had worked to open for thousands of years. Locked through Original Sin, the gates of heaven were sealed with no apparent key to open it and give us access again to the very heart of the God the Father.

The hearts of mankind cried out for a way to enter the very house and heart of God (Psalm 84:10). The song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel sums up our heart cry:

O come, thou Key of David, come, And open wide our heavenly home; Make safe the way that leads on high, And close the path to misery.

And yet, we have come to know that it is our hearts that have been locked in sin, imprisoned in darkness and yearning for our Morning Star. This evening the Church celebrates the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy through the O Antiphon, O Clavis David:

O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and lead forth the captive who sits in the shadows from his prison.

We have heard that eternal Wisdom stepped out of eternity into time, the Mighty God has come to save, the Root of Jesse shall bloom forth a Messiah and tonight, He shall open the gates to the house of the Living God.

O Key of David, open the gates of my heart to Your radiant majesty that I may enter the gates of heaven and gain access to the very heart of God.

What Good Could Come from Nazareth: O Radix Jesse

Root_of_Jesse.theotokosOver the past eight years, my son Nicholas has devastated three lawn mowers. The main culprit is the Cherry tree roots. He has run over the root a number of times and inevitably bent the blade and the drive shaft. Several times. Three to be exact. And yet, I should not complain because I did not have to mow the lawn.

What has amazed me is the constitution of the tree. Even more amazing is that from this macerated root a Rose of Sharon bush has sprung forth producing beautiful blooms. It seems that nature always finds away – even amidst damaged roots.

Today’s O Antiphon is a great reminder of this principal. When humanity was splintered and the favored people were cut to the root, the Lord found a way and from the stump of Jesse a Savior would come:

O Root of Jesse, that stands for an ensign of the people, before whom the kings keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come, to deliver us, and tarry not.

A promise of salvation (Genesis 3:15), a once and future king (Psalm 132:11), a hopeful question (John 1:46) and a savior coming forth from the city of the branch (ne·er, נֵ֫צֶר) who became the Savior (Mark 1:9).

Tonight, Isaiah stirs our heart and reminds us to allow the gospel to dig deep and establish a strong root in Christ Jesus.

Holy Spirit, plunge your blade (Hebrews 4:12) into the fallow ground (Jeremiah 4:3 and Hosea 10:12) of my heart that your word will take root (Matthew 13). O Radix Jesse, allow a new springtime (Zechariah 10:1, Song of Songs 2:11, Isaiah 35: 1-10) to ensue as the time of your Nativity draws near.

Flame of the Burning Bush: O Adonai

o-adonaiThe first Christian song, non-liturgical, I remember learning was El Shaddai by Amy Grant. The song recounted the covenant of Abraham and our Lord with the refrain using two very specific names for God: El Shaddai (God of the Mountain) and Adonai (Master, Owner or the Lord). These titles have been engrained in my life of prayer and have been great sources of meditation and solace.

Today, the revelation of our Lord through the O Antiphons focuses on the name Adonai. This title is first found in Genesis 15:2 where Abraham addresses God as “Adonai YHWH.” It is used approximately 300 times in the Tanakh. Vespers recounts His saving power this way:

O Lord and Ruler the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

May the Adonai rule your heart bring peace to the kingdom of your heart and family. For the Lord Himself will go before you (Deuteronomy 31:8), defend you as the Valiant Warrior (Jeremiah 20:11a) and shepherd (Genesis 49:25; also Isaiah 1:24; 49:26b; cf. 60:16b) you into a lnd flowing with milk and honey.

From the Mouth of the Most High: O Wisdom!

Psalm-18-28.lampSt. Louis de Montfort described the beauty of our Lord in his classic spiritual masterpiece, The Love of Eternal Wisdom. He exclaimed:

How gentle, attractive and approachable is eternal Wisdom who possesses such splendour, excellence and grandeur. He invites men to come to him because he wants to teach them the way to happiness.

Today, the Church starts her countdown clock with the O Antiphons at Vespers (Evening Prayer). St. Louis de Montfort said that our Lord desires to teach us the way to happiness and Church reveals us this evening in her liturgy that happiness is found by way of prudence:

O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

The virtue of prudence allows us to see rightly. Fr. Hardon defined it as the, “Correct knowledge about things to be done or, more broadly, the knowledge of things that ought to be done and of things that ought to be avoided.”

This evening, the Lord invites us to see rightly and focus our attention to the order of His creation (CCC 31-35). Over the next seven days, the Church will unfold salvation history and starts, “In the beginning…”

Encourage & Teach: The Christmas Countdown – Catholic Style!

This time of year every kid, and dare I say a good number of adults, are eagerly counting down the days to Christmas. As a child, my family had one of those great window Advent calendars where you opened a window daily to reveal a thought or picture inside. It helped us to track where we were in the Advent season. The Church does the same thing through the liturgy and it starts tomorrow on December 17.

The church’s countdown system is called the “O Antiphons.” (Read more…)

Encourage & Teach: Mary, Model of Perfect Love

Statue-Ann-Mary-JesusWhen discussing the generation of our Lord within the Blessed Trinity among the youth, I sometimes explain it in this manner:

The Son is the Father’s infinite and eternal act of self-reflection from everlasting to everlasting.

“When the Father mirrored Himself in the infinite, he produced one Image with all the perfections of the Infinite,” and we call Him Jesus, the Son of God.

Creation, on the other hand, is a type of mirroring of God, but not such that it is an emanation (Catechism of the Catholic Church 300), but an expression of His wisdom and love (CCC 295). We might think, too, that the Father would need to create a perfect mirroring of Himself in the finite creation, but He does not need to see Himself thus. (Read more…)