Saturday, December 29, 2018

Feast of St. Thomas Becket


The Feast of Thomas Becket.

Help us, like Thomas, defend and preserver our Lord’s church from those who would harm it. Amen.

There is no more celebrated English saint than Thomas Becket. A strong churchman who wavered for a moment, but then learned one cannot come to terms with evil, and so became a a defender of the faith, a protector of the church, a martyr, and a saint. Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his own cathedral during Christmastide - December 29, 1170.

His career had been a stormy one. While archdeacon of Canterbury, he was made chancellor of England at the age of 36 by his friend King Henry II. Henry and Thomas had been comrades, and the king had nominated him for Archbishop of Canterbury in part because he thought he could influence him.

Thomas gave him fair warning: he might not accept all of Henry’s intrusions into Church affairs.
Nevertheless, in 1162 he was made archbishop, resigned his chancellorship, and reformed his whole way of life.  When Becket took the Chair of St. Augustine, he turned from the convivial life of a courtier to the austere life of an ascetic and became a champion of the poor and of the rights of the church.

Troubles began. Henry insisted upon usurping Church rights. He sought to control and use the church for the crown's political and economic aims. At one time, supposing some conciliatory action possible, Thomas came close to compromise. He momentarily approved the Constitutions of Clarendon, which would have denied the clergy the right of trial by a Church court and prevented them from making direct appeal to Rome.

But Thomas eventually rejected the Constitutions, fled to France for safety, and remained in exile for seven years. When he returned to England he suspected it would mean certain death.  Henry II never intended to have Becket killed, but after years of altercation the King exclaimed, "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" Four of his knights set out to oblige the king, and a few days later they fell upon the archbishop in his cathedral at Canterbury and killed him near the altar.

Thomas Becket's death signaled a victory for his cause since it resulted in the rallying of enormous public pressure against the king. The slain archbishop became a symbol of the integrity and independence of the church from an oppressive government. The sainted archbishop was laid to rest in Canterbury Cathedral, and the site of his death became a shrine. For many generations it was the most popular place of pilgrimage in the British Isles.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Feast of the Holy Innocents - December 28



The Feast of the Holy Innocents.

The importance of all life is profoundly evident today.
Herod “the Great,” king of Judea, was unpopular with his people because of his connections with the Romans and his religious indifference. Hence he was insecure and fearful of any threat to his throne. He was a master politician and a tyrant capable of extreme brutality. He killed his wife, his brother, and his sister’s two husbands, to name only a few.

Matthew 2:1-18 tells this story: Herod was “greatly troubled” when astrologers from the east came asking the whereabouts of “the newborn king of the Jews,” whose star they had seen. They were told that the Jewish Scriptures named Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would be born. Herod cunningly told them to report back to him so that he could also “do him homage.” They found Jesus, offered him their gifts, and warned by an angel, avoided Herod on their way home. Jesus escaped to Egypt.

Herod became furious and “ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.” The horror of the massacre and the devastation of the mothers and fathers led Matthew to quote Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children…” (Matthew 2:18). Rachel was the wife of Jacob (Israel). She is pictured as weeping at the place where the Israelites were herded together by the conquering Assyrians for their march into captivity.

The Church venerates these children as martyrs (flores martyrum); they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead (St. Aug., "Sermo 10us de sanctis”).

St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome is believed to possess the bodies of several of the Holy Innocents. A portion of these relics was transferred by Sixtus V to Santa Maria Maggiore.

Let us pray for life and life in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 27th. The Feast of St. John


The Feast of Saint John - the Apostle’s Story

It is God who calls; human beings answer.

St. John "the beloved disciple" was a Galilean, son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother to St. James the Greater, The vocation of John and James is stated in the Gospels: Jesus called them; they followed. The absoluteness of their response is indicated by the account. James and John “were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him” (Matthew 4:21b-22).

Jesus showed St. John particular instances of kindness and affection above all the rest. He had the happiness to be with Peter and James at the Transfiguration of Christ, and was permitted to witness His agony in the Garden. He was allowed to rest on Our Savior's bosom at the Last Supper, and and the one to whom Jesus gave the exquisite honor of caring for his mother, as John stood beneath the cross. “Woman, behold your son…. Behold, your mother” (John 19:26b, 27b). St. John was the only one of the Apostles who did not forsake the Savior in the hour of His Passion and Death.

On the first Easter, Mary Magdalene “ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, ‘They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him’” (John 20:2). John recalls, perhaps with a smile, that he and Peter ran side by side, but then “the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first” (John 20:4b). He did not enter, but waited for Peter and let him go in first. “Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed” (John 20:8).

In the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension, John and Peter were together on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1) having returned to their old calling. When Christ appeared on the shore in the dusk of morning, John was the first to recognize him.

The last words of the Gospel reveal the attachment which existed between Peter and John. It was not enough for Peter to know his own fate, he must learn also something of the future that awaited his friend. “Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’ So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die.” (John 21:22-23)
The Acts show us them still united, entering together as worshippers into the Temple (Acts 3:1).

John was with Peter when the first great miracle after the Resurrection took place—the cure of the man crippled from birth—which led to their spending the night in jail together. The mysterious experience of the Resurrection is perhaps best contained in the words of Acts: “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they (the questioners) were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus” (Acts 4:13).They were fellow-workers together in the first step of Church expansion.

St. John remained for a long time in Jerusalem with the Blessed Mother of our Lord, though tradition of no great antiquity asserts that he took her to Ephesus. When he went to Ephesus is uncertain. He was at Jerusalem fifteen years after Saint Paul's first visit there [Acts 15:6]. There is no trace of his presence there when Saint Paul was at Jerusalem for the last time. In Ephesus, he founded many churches in Asia Minor.

St. John wrote his Gospel after the other Evangelists, about sixty-three years after the Ascension of Christ; also three Epistles, and the mysterious Book of Revelation. He was brought to Rome and, according to tradition, was cast into a caldron of boiling oil by order of Emperor Domitian. The legend of the boiling oil occurs in Tertullian and in Saint Jerome. Like the Three Children in the fiery furnace of Babylon, he was miraculously preserved unhurt.

He was later exiled to labor at the mines on the Island of Patmos where he wrote the Apocalypse, but afterwards returned to Ephesus. In his extreme old age he continued to visit the churches of Asia.
St. Jerome relates that when age and weakness grew upon him so that he was no longer able to preach to the people, he would be carried to the assembly of the faithful by his disciples, with great difficulty; and every time said to his flock only these words: "My dear children, love one another.”

St. John died in peace at Ephesus in the third year of Trajan (as seems to be gathered from Eusebius' history of the Saint); that is, the hundredth of the Christian era, or the sixty-sixth from the crucifixion of Christ, St. John then being about ninety-four years old, according to St. Epiphanus.

Because of the depth of his Gospel, John is usually thought of as the eagle of theology, soaring in high regions that other writers did not enter. John’s is the Gospel of Jesus’ glory.

Compiled from a collection of sources.

December 26th. St. Stephen

The Feast of St. Stephen

The day after Christmas, let us not take our eyes off the transformative presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. A child will become great and mighty. Jesus meets violence with love, hate with peace. From the manger to cross and the resurrection, Jesus transforms lives.

Thus on the second day in the octave of Christmas the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Stephen. The first Christian martyr and one of the first deacons. Stoned outside Jerusalem, he died praying for his executioners.

In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke praises St. Stephen as “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,” who “did great wonders and signs among the people” during the earliest days of the Church. Luke's history of the period also includes the moving scene of Stephen's death – witnessed by St. Paul before his conversion – at the hands of those who refused to accept Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Stephen himself was a Jew who most likely came to believe in Jesus during the Lord's ministry on earth. He may have been among the 70 disciples whom Christ sent out as missionaries, who preached the coming of God's kingdom while traveling with almost no possessions.

This spirit of detachment from material things continued in the early Church, in which St. Luke says believers “had all things in common” and “would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

But such radical charity ran up against the cultural conflict between Jews and Gentiles, when a group of Greek widows felt neglected in their needs as compared to those of a Jewish background.
Stephen's reputation for holiness led the Apostles to choose him, along with six other men, to assist them in an official and unique way as this dispute arose. Through the sacramental power given to them by Christ, the Apostles ordained the seven men as deacons, and set them to work helping the widows.

As a deacon, Stephen also preached about Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and prophets. Unable to refute his message, some members of local synagogues brought him before their religious authorities, charging him with seeking to destroy their traditions.

Stephen responded with a discourse recorded in the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. He described Israel's resistance to God's grace in the past, and accused the present religious authorities of “opposing the Holy Spirit” and rejecting the Messiah.

Before he was put to death, Stephen had a vision of Christ in glory. “Look,” he told the court, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” The council, however, dragged the deacon away and stoned him to death.

“While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’” records St. Luke in Acts 7. “Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.”

The first Christian martyrdom was overseen by a Pharisee named Saul – later Paul, and still later St. Paul – whose own experience of Christ would transform him into a believer, and later a martyr himself.
CNA

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas


As we journey toward the holiest of nights, it is often easy to overlook the miraculous. Wonder and reverence are often relegated to the past. Yet, the reality of the Incarnation still shines out over the glare of commercialism, nationalism, secularism, and individualism. 
God, in humble submission, peered into our eyes from a manger so that our enslavement to sin and death would end. God with us; divine life so that we can have life. It is not a myth, a feel-good story or abstract theology. A child born unto Mary, a child born unto us, was laid in a manger. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High." In him the Alpha and Omega are forever one, and "His Kingdom will know no end." Jesus is the purest truth ever known. 
Let us not be flippant with the purity Christmas story. Hold each moment of Christmas in blessed contemplation. While the rest of the world moves from one social celebration to the next, or laments the supposed death of the Church, I encourage you to hold the gift of His birth in your hands. Gather around and tell the story of Bethlehem as a prayer. Gather, gather together, and recount the birth of the holy child Jesus. Yes, God is with us and eternally present. 
"Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." Approach the manger, look inside and peer into the eyes of God. It is in gazing on the face of Jesus that we awaken the holy in our lives. Like the shepherds let us share Him with the world, "glorifying and praising God for all we have heard and seen." 
Christ is about to be born into your life, and because of Christmas we will have life eternal. This is the reason we use the Greek formula of Gabriel's greeting to Mary "chaĩre - rejoice!" Rejoice, our Savior is born. Rejoice, our new relationship with God is born. Rejoice, for this is the Good News. 
Peer into the manger and it is there we find goodness, peace, hope, love and life. 
My prayers for a peaceful and holy Christmas.

Via Dolorosa, Tour of the Dome of the Rock, Relationship, Back Home.

My sisters and brothers, I returned from the Anglican Communion Pilgrimage late yesterday. This pilgrimage and every pilgrimage has the...