Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the moon of wintertime...


"Faith is contagious. One does not catch something by hearing someone speak of a virus or by studying it, but rather by entering into contact with someone who has it."

"This proposition of new life should, however, translate itself immediately, without delay, into something specific, in a change, possibly something external and visible, in our life and in our customs. If the proposal is not fulfilled, Jesus is conceived, but is not born. It would be one of so many spiritual abortions, which, unfortunately, the world of souls is full of."

Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa
Read the whole homily here

Image: Madonna
Orazio Gentleschi (1563-1639)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent moments

Cada objecto es un mundo

Jorge Carrerra Andrade


Arte Poético

Comprende, comprende, comprende:
en cada cosa guiňa un duende
o una ala invisible se tiende

Aprea en tus dedos la brisa
que pasa fugaz, indecisa,
No veas el mundo de prisa,
No aprendas efimera ciencia,
que es flor de la humana demencia.
La vida no es solo apariencia.

Las aves- lección del instante –
nos dan en su escuela volante
la clave de un mundo cambiante.
La roas es crisol de alegría.
Te ofrece tesoros el día.
Gotea el reloj ambrosia.

Comprende y venera al objeto:
Penetra en ese orbe secreto
Y ea la flor tu amuleto.


Know, know, know:
an invisible wing spreads out
or a sprite winks from every thing.

Grasp the fleeting, undecided breeze in your fingers
Pause to drink in the world.
Do not learn ephemeral science
For it is a flower of human insanity.
Life is more than appearance.

Birds - lesson of the instant –
Give us in their flying school the key to an ever-changing world.
The rose is a crucible of happiness
The day offers you treasure.
The clock drips ambrosia.

Grasp and venerate the object:
Enter that secret orb
And may the flower be your amulet.

Image: Memling: Advent and Triumph of Christ

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Dare to build

"To canonize a particular “style” of architecture only because of a historical association is an architectural aesthetic theology. However, the Modernist denial of historical styles precisely because of their historicity is also an architectural aesthetic theology. A Balthasarian solution beckons: begin by conceiving liturgical architecture as the form of Christ (Christus totus) in his sacramental, ecclesiological dimension in the liturgy. Liturgical architecture can therefore best be evaluated in light of its ability to bear the Christian message, that is, the “ontological secret” of the liturgical event, which by definition reveals beauty and results in joyfully rapturous discovery."


Dr. McNamara's new book is 2 weeks old. Do you have your copy?

Friday, November 20, 2009

"There are some who desire knowledge merely for its own sake; and that is shameful curiosity. And there are others who desire to know, in order that they may themselves be known; and that is vanity, disgraceful too. Others again desire knowledge in order to acquire money or preferment by it; that too is a discreditable quest. But there are also some who desire knowledge, that they may build up the souls of others with it; and that is charity. Others, again, desire it that they may themselves be built up thereby; and that is prudence. Of all these types, only the last two put knowledge to the right use"
(St. Bernard, Sermon on the Canticle of Canticles)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Art

"Poets aim either to benefit [enlighten, bring about insight, understanding,
compassion], or to please [delight with effects of engaging, subtle ideas, words, sounds, images]. ***
The man [or woman] who has managed to blend usefulness [not practical utility, but intellectual and spiritual deepening and eye-opening understanding] with pleasure
wins everyone's approbation
[applause, cheers, seat thumpings, sighs of admiration...], for he delights his reader [listener]as he instructs him."-- Horace, *On Poetry.*

Monday, October 12, 2009

One Art


by Elizabeth Bishop


The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.


--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Image: Robert Christie

Saturday, September 05, 2009

LACHRIMAE AMANTIS

What is there in my heart
that you should sue so fiercely for its love?
What kind of care brings you
as though a stranger to my door
through the long night and in the icy dew

seeking the heart that will not harbor you,
that keeps itself religiously secure?
At this dark solstice filled with frost and fire
your passion's ancient wounds must bleed anew.

So many nights the angel of my house
has fed such urgent comfort through a dream,
whispered "your lord is coming, he is close"

that I have drowsed half-faithful for a time
bathed in pure tones of promise and remorse:
"tomorrow I shall wake to welcome him."

Geoffrey Hill

courtesy of http://rmadisonj.blogspot.com/

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Light Water Song

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Easter Vigil, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Saint Mark tells us in his Gospel that as the disciples came down from the Mount of the Transfiguration, they were discussing among themselves what “rising from the dead” could mean (cf. Mk 9:10). A little earlier, the Lord had foretold his passion and his resurrection after three days. Peter had protested against this prediction of death. But now, they were wondering what could be meant by the word “resurrection”. Could it be that we find ourselves in a similar situation? Christmas, the birth of the divine Infant, we can somehow immediately comprehend. We can love the child, we can imagine that night in Bethlehem, Mary’s joy, the joy of Saint Joseph and the shepherds, the exultation of the angels. But what is resurrection? It does not form part of our experience, and so the message often remains to some degree beyond our understanding, a thing of the past. The Church tries to help us understand it, by expressing this mysterious event in the language of symbols in which we can somehow
contemplate this astonishing event. During the Easter Vigil, the Church points out the significance of this day principally through three symbols: light, water, and the new song – the Alleluia.

First of all, there is light. God’s creation – which has just been proclaimed to us in the Biblical narrative – begins with the command: “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:3). Where there is light, life is born, chaos can be transformed into cosmos. In the Biblical message, light is the most
immediate image of God: He is total Radiance, Life, Truth, Light. During the Easter Vigil, the Church reads the account of creation as a prophecy.

In the resurrection, we see the most sublime fulfilment of what this text describes as the beginning of all things. God says once again: “Let there be light!” The resurrection of Jesus is an eruption of light. Death is conquered, the tomb is thrown open. The Risen One himself is Light, the Light of the world. With the resurrection, the Lord’s day enters the nights of history. Beginning with the resurrection, God’s light spreads throughout the world and throughout history. Day dawns. This Light alone – Jesus Christ – is the true light, something more than the physical phenomenon of light. He is pure Light: God himself, who causes a new creation to be born in the midst of the old, transforming chaos into cosmos.

Let us try to understand this a little better. Why is Christ Light? In the Old Testament, the Torah was considered to be like the light coming from God for the world and for humanity. The Torah separates light from darkness within creation, that is to say, good from evil. It points out to humanity the right path to true life. It points out the good, it demonstrates the truth and it leads us towards love, which is the deepest meaning contained in the Torah. It is a “lamp” for our steps and a “light” for our path (cf. Ps 119:105). Christians, then, knew that in Christ, the Torah is present, the Word of God is present in him as Person. The Word of God is the true light that humanity needs. This Word is present in him, in the Son. Psalm 19 had compared the Torah to the sun which manifests God’s glory as it rises, for all the world to see. Christians understand: yes indeed, in the resurrection, the Son of God has emerged as the Light of the world. Christ is the great Light from which all life originates. He enables us to recognize the glory of God from one end of the earth to the other. He points out our path. He is the Lord’s day which, as it grows, is gradually spreading throughout the earth. Now, living with him and for him, we can live in the light.
At the Easter Vigil, the Church represents the mystery of the light of Christ in the sign of the Paschal candle, whose flame is both light and heat. The symbolism of light is connected with that of fire: radiance and heat, radiance and the transforming energy contained in the fire – truth
and love go together. The Paschal candle burns, and is thereby consumed: Cross and resurrection are inseparable. From the Cross, from the Son’s self-giving, light is born, true radiance comes into the world. From the Paschal candle we all light our own candles, especially the newly baptized, for whom the light of Christ enters deeply into their hearts in this Sacrament. The early Church described Baptism as fotismos, as the Sacrament of illumination, as a communication of light, and linked it inseparably with the resurrection of Christ. In Baptism, God says to the candidate: “Let there be light!” The candidate is brought into the light of Christ. Christ now divides the light from the darkness. In him we recognize what is true and what is false, what is radiance and what is darkness. With him, there wells up within us the light of truth, and we begin to understand.

On one occasion when Christ looked upon the people who had come to listen to him, seeking some guidance from him, he felt compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mk 6:34). Amid the contradictory messages of that time, they did not know which way to turn. What great compassion he must feel in our own time too – on account of all the endless talk that people hide behind, while in reality they are totally confused. Where must we go? What are the values by which we can order our lives? The values by which we can educate our young, without giving them norms they may be unable to resist, or demanding of them things that perhaps should not be imposed upon them? He is the Light. The baptismal candle is the symbol of enlightenment that is given to us in Baptism. Thus at this hour, Saint Paul speaks to us with great immediacy. In the Letter to the Philippians, he says that, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, Christians should shine as lights in the world (cf. Phil 2:15). Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle he has lit in us, the delicate light of his word and his love amid the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time.

The second symbol of the Easter Vigil – the night of Baptism – is water. It appears in Sacred Scripture, and hence also in the inner structure of the Sacrament of Baptism, with two opposed meanings. On the one hand there is the sea, which appears as a force antagonistic to life
on earth, continually threatening it; yet God has placed a limit upon it. Hence the book of Revelation says that in God’s new world, the sea will be no more (cf. 21:1). It is the element of death. And so it becomes the symbolic representation of Jesus’ death on the Cross: Christ descended into the sea, into the waters of death, as Israel did into the Red Sea. Having risen from death, he gives us life. This means that Baptism is not only a cleansing, but a new birth: with Christ we, as it were, descend into the sea of death, so as to rise up again as new creatures.

The other way in which we encounter water is in the form of the fresh spring that gives life, or the great river from which life comes forth. According to the earliest practice of the Church, Baptism had to be administered with water from a fresh spring. Without water there is no life. It is striking how much importance is attached to wells in Sacred Scripture. They are places from which life rises forth. Beside Jacob’s well, Christ spoke to the Samaritan woman of the new well, the water of true life. He reveals himself to her as the new, definitive Jacob, who opens up for humanity the well that is awaited: the inexhaustible source of life-giving water (cf. Jn 4:5-15). Saint John tells us that a soldier with a lance struck the side of Jesus, and from his open side – from his pierced heart – there came out blood and water (cf. Jn 19:34). The early Church saw in this a symbol of Baptism and Eucharist flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus. In his death, Jesus himself became the spring. The prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of the new Temple from which a spring issues forth that becomes a great life-giving river (cf. Ezek 47:1-12). In a land which constantly suffered from drought and water shortage, this was a great vision of hope. Nascent Christianity understood: in Christ, this vision was fulfilled. He is the true, living Temple of God. He is the spring of living water. From him, the great river pours forth, which in Baptism renews the world and makes it fruitful; the great river of living water, his Gospel which makes the earth fertile.

In a discourse during the Feast of Tabernacles, though, Jesus prophesied something still greater: “Whoever believes in me … out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38). In Baptism, the Lord makes us not only persons of light, but also sources from which living water bursts forth. We all know people like that, who leave us somehow refreshed and renewed; people who are like a fountain of fresh spring water. We do not necessarily have to think of great saints like Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and so on, people through whom rivers of living water truly entered into human history. Thanks be to God, we find them constantly even in our daily lives: people who are like a spring. Certainly, we also know the opposite: people who spread around themselves an atmosphere like a stagnant pool of stale, or even poisoned water. Let us ask the Lord, who has given us the grace of Baptism, for the gift always to be sources of pure, fresh water, bubbling up from the fountain of his truth and his love!

The third great symbol of the Easter Vigil is something rather different; it has to do with man himself. It is the singing of the new song – the alleluia. When a person experiences great joy, he cannot keep it to himself. He has to express it, to pass it on. But what happens when a
person is touched by the light of the resurrection, and thus comes into contact with Life itself, with Truth and Love? He cannot merely speak about it. Speech is no longer adequate. He has to sing. The first reference to singing in the Bible comes after the crossing of the Red Sea. Israel has risen out of slavery. It has climbed up from the threatening depths of the sea. It is as it were reborn. It lives and it is free. The Bible describes the people’s reaction to this great event of salvation with the verse: “The people … believed in the Lord and in Moses his servant” (Ex 14:31). Then comes the second reaction which, with a kind of inner necessity, follows from the first one: “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord …” At the Easter Vigil, year after year, we Christians intone this song after the third reading, we sing it as our song, because we too, through God’s power, have been drawn forth from the water and liberated for true life.

There is a surprising parallel to the story of Moses’ song after Israel’s liberation from Egypt upon emerging from the Red Sea, namely in the Book of Revelation of Saint John. Before the beginning of the seven last plagues imposed upon the earth, the seer has a vision of something “like a sea of glass mingled with fire; and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb …” (Rev 15:2f.). This image describes the situation of the disciples of Jesus Christ in every age, the situation of the Church in the history of this world. Humanly speaking, it is self-contradictory. On the one hand, the community is located at the Exodus, in the midst of the Red Sea, in a sea which is paradoxically ice and fire at the same time. And must not the Church, so to speak, always walk on the sea, through the fire and the cold? Humanly speaking, she ought to sink. But while she is still walking in the midst of this Red Sea, she sings – she intones the song of praise of the just: the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in which the Old and New Covenants blend into harmony. While, strictly speaking, she ought to be sinking, the Church sings the song of thanksgiving of the saved. She is standing on history’s waters of death and yet she has already risen. Singing, she grasps at the Lord’s hand, which holds her above the waters. And she knows that she is thereby raised outside the force of gravity of death and evil – a force from which otherwise there would be no way of escape – raised and drawn into the new gravitational force of God, of truth and of love. At present she is still between the two gravitational fields. But once Christ is risen, the gravitational pull of love is stronger than that of hatred; the force of gravity of life is stronger than that of death.

Perhaps this is actually the situation of the Church in every age? It always seems as if she ought to be sinking, and yet she is always already saved. Saint Paul illustrated this situation with the words: “We are as dying, and behold we live” (2 Cor 6:9). The Lord’s saving hand holds us up, and thus we can already sing the song of the saved, the new song of the risen ones: alleluia!

Amen.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The King Sleeps


Homily given on Holy Saturday by Bishop Melito of Sardis:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell.

Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chocolate Easter

"There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began 'Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.' This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety. But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer seem sacramental. And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They will have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life."

C.S. Lewis.
I'll remember you in my prayers during this Triduum, and may you taste Easter in your chocolate eggs!

Courtesy of the author of An Older Fashion.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Feast of St Blaise, Bishop and Martyr



"Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world."
- Blaise Pascal

Image: 'The Christians Last Prayer' Jean-Léon
Gérôme

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feast of Thomas Aquinas


It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.

If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.

Beware of the person of one book.

Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.


How is it they live in such harmony the billions of stars - when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their minds about someone they know.

Not everything that is more difficult is more meritorious.

To convert somebody go and take them by the hand and guide them.

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath and a glass of wine.

Man should not consider his material possession his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.














The things that we love tell us what we are.

Wonder is the desire for knowledge.





Wisdom: Saint Thomas Aquinas


Images:
Anschutz "Boys Playing with Crabs"
Bougereau "Compassion"
Bougereau "Charity"
Bussiere "Joan of Arc"
Benozzo di Lese di Sandro Gozzoli (1453-1478)"Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A New Year- A New Age?


The first reading invites us to reflect on a particular talent that is both natural and spiritual: the talent of femininity, the talent of being a woman. This reading contains the famous praise of women that begins with the words: "A perfect woman, who can find her?" This praise, which is so beautiful, has one defect, which does not come from the inspiration but from the epoch in which it was written and the culture that it reflects. If we pay attention, we see that the praise has entirely to do with what the woman does for the man. Its implicit conclusion: Blessed is the man who has such a woman. She makes him nice clothes, brings honor to his house, allows him to hold his head high among his friends. I do not think women today would be enthusiastic about this laud.

Putting this limitation aside, I would like to underscore the relevance of this praise of women. Everywhere there is the demand to make more room for women, to value the feminine genius. We do not believe that "the eternal feminine will save us." Daily experience shows that women can lift themselves up, but also that they can let themselves down. They also need Christ's salvation. But it is certain that, once she is redeemed and "liberated" by him, on the human level, from ancient subjections, she can help to save our society from some inveterate evils that threaten it: violence, will to power, spiritual aridity, scorn for life, etc.

After so many ages that took their name from man -- from the ages of "homo erectus" and "homo faber," to the age of "homo sapiens" today, we might hope that there will finally come, for humanity, the age of woman: the age of the heart, of tenderness, of compassion. It was devotion to the Virgin that, in past centuries, inspired respect for women and their idealization in literature and art. The woman of today, too, can look to her as a model, friend and ally in defending the dignity and the talent of being a woman.

Raniero Cantalamessa
Image: Caravaggio, Madonna of Loretto 'Madonna of the Dirty Feet'