Do I have any criticisms? Only one where Maronites and Latins are in the same boat. The bishop studied theology in the University of Salamanca. The language and thought of Salamanca is very different from the language and thought of the Maronite Liturgy, even if both are expressions of the same faith. I went to the University of Fribourg and studied St Thomas Aquinas with the Dominicans; and the language and thought of St Thomas and the concerns of those who follow him are very different from that of the Latin liturgy. Somehow or other, dogmatic theology became separated from the liturgy in mediaeval universities. St Thomas, in order to understand better the sacraments, abstracted them from the liturgy; and, in doing so, did a dis-service both to our understanding of the sacraments and to our understanding of the liturgy. All was not lost because of his deep Catholic instinct, his excellent mind, and his profound holiness (and holiness is in accordance with liturgy by definition). Nevertheless, the was an inbalance in our understanding, and this becomes important in a time of liturgical reform. We must allow the liturgy to speak to us if we wish to truly understand the sacraments. Liturgy is Tradition, the product of the synergy of the Holy Spirit and the Church. Dogmas are designed to protect our true belief which is the condition necessary for true worship, but they must inevitably lead us back to the liturgy which is the primary expression of Catholic belief.. In my post "The Meaning of Confirmation" I try to use the liturgy itself to explore the meaning of Confirmation; and I hope to do the same for all the sacraments. A theology of the Eucharist based on the Maronite Liturgy would be a true contribution of the Maronite Church for the universal Church; but this won't happen while Maronites learn their theology in Salamanca.
December 24th and 25th: The week leading up to Christmas will be remembered in our minds becaue, more than at any other time, we were broke. The abbot had visited us and had given us money, but this was immediately used in paying debts. We had no problem about the Christmas festivities because we had been showered with Christmas goodies, but we were completely without money. There were two days without milk at breakfast and no way we could buy it. Of course, we did not starve. Some of the food we were given for Christmas was used on the week before; but that still left us with plenty for Christmas night.
As superior of the monastery, I celebrated the Christmas Mass at 9.00 in the night of Christmas Eve. There is no experience more wonderful than that. We had finished all three nocturnes of Matins before the Mass. Afterwards, according to Peruvian custom, we had our Christmas dinner. Our postulant had been a chef before he joined, and he did us proud. I have never eaten a more tender turkey!! We took no photos at the Mass nor at the dinner; but there are some that were taken at the Mass at 10.00 on Christmas morning. It was celebrated by Fr Luis who is chaplain of the Confraternity of St Charbel. Both Masses were in Spanish but all the singing was in Gregorian Chant, directly from the Graduale.
The sisters in brown are a new community, founded in France, called "Servants of God's Presence". It is a community that has sprung out of a youth movement called "Point Coeur". When they presented themselves to the founder of that movement, he arranged for them to do their noviciate in a Trappist convent. Their "charisma" is "adoration and compassion". They have Divine Office (minus Matins), rosary in common, lectio divina, and one hour a day of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in a life dedicated to friendship with the poorest and most neglected. They also take an active part in the youth movement in which boys and girls dedicate up to three years of their life between university and work to "adoration and compassion" among the poor of the world. These sisters live only a short distance from us.
VATICAN CITY, 24 DEC 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the transcript of a Christmas message delivered this morning by Benedict XVI on the BBC Radio 4 programme "Thought for the Day":
"Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel , were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.
"God is always faithful to His promises, but He often surprises us in the way He fulfils them. The Child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - He was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that He brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of His shameful death on the Cross. And while He was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, He was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us He took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and He opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for His goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down: He gives us hope, He brings us life.
"Dear Friends from Scotland , England , Wales , and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days. I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful and joyful Christmas. May God bless all of you!"
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VATICAN CITY, 24 DEC 2010 ( VIS ) - The Pope tonight celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
In the course of the Eucharistic celebration, following the reading of the Gospel, the Holy Father delivered his homily.
"'You are my son, this day I have begotten you'. With this passage from Psalm 2 the Church begins the liturgy of this holy night. She knows that this passage originally formed part of the coronation rite of the kings of Israel . The king, who in himself is a man like others, becomes the 'Son of God' through being called and installed in his office. It is a kind of adoption by God, a decisive act by which He grants a new existence to this man, drawing him into His own being".
"Installation in the office of king is like a second birth. As one newly born through God's personal choice, as a child born of God, the king embodies hope. On his shoulders the future rests. He is the bearer of the promise of peace. On that night in Bethlehem this prophetic saying came true. ... Yes indeed, now it really is a child on whose shoulders government is laid. In Him the new kingship appears that God establishes in the world. ... In the weakness of infancy, He is the mighty God and He shows us God's own might in contrast to the self-asserting powers of this world.
"Truly, the words of Israel 's coronation rite were only ever rites of hope which looked ahead to a distant future that God would bestow. None of the kings who were greeted in this way lived up to the sublime content of these words. ... Thus the fulfilment of the prophecy, which began that night in Bethlehem , is both infinitely greater and in worldly terms smaller than the prophecy itself might lead one to imagine. ... The infinite distance between God and man is overcome. ... He has truly 'come down', He has come into the world, He has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to Himself. ... He has truly built islands of peace in the world-encompassing breadth of the holy Eucharist. Wherever it is celebrated, an island of peace arises, of God's own peace. This Child has ignited the light of goodness in men and has given them strength to overcome the tyranny of might. This child builds His kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart.
"But at the same time it is true that the 'rod of his oppressor' is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the 'garment rolled in blood' still remains. So part of this night is simply joy at God's closeness. We are grateful that God gives Himself into our hands as a Child, begging as it were for our love, implanting His peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots. Let the time of the garments rolled in blood come to an end. Fulfil the prophecy that 'of peace there will be no end'. We thank you for your goodness, but we also ask you to show forth your power. Establish the dominion of your truth and your love in the world, the 'kingdom of righteousness, love and peace'.
"'Mary gave birth to her first-born son'. ... In the language which developed within the sacred Scripture of the Old Covenant, 'first-born' does not mean the first of a series of children. The word 'first-born' is a title of honour, quite independently of whether other brothers and sisters follow. ... The first-born belongs to God in a special way, and is as it were destined for sacrifice. In Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In His person He brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all. ... Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man". Furthermore, "He is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection He has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God. ... Now He really is the first of a series of brothers and sisters: the first, that is, who opens up for us the possibility of communing with God. He creates true brotherhood - not the kind defiled by sin as in the case of Cain and Abel, or Romulus and Remus - but the new brotherhood in which we are God's own family".
"At the end of the Christmas Gospel, we are told that a great heavenly host of angels praised God and said: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'. The Church has extended this song of praise, which the angels sang in response to the event of the holy night, into a hymn of joy at God's glory. ... The appearing of beauty, of the beautiful, makes us happy without our having to ask what use it can serve. ... But the angels' message on that holy night also spoke of men: 'Peace among men with whom he is pleased'. The Latin translation of the angels' song that we use in the liturgy, taken from St. Jerome , is slightly different: 'peace to men of good will'. ... It would be a false interpretation to see this exclusively as the action of God, as if He had not called man to a free response of love. But it would be equally mistaken to adopt a moralising interpretation as if man were so to speak able to redeem himself by his good will. Both elements belong together: grace and freedom, God's prior love for us, without which we could not love Him, and the response that He awaits from us. We cannot divide up into independent entities the interplay of grace and freedom, or the interplay of call and response. The two are inseparably woven together".
"St. Luke does not say that the angels sang. He states quite soberly: the heavenly host praised God and said: 'Glory to God in the highest'. But men have always known that the speech of angels is different from human speech, and that above all on this night of joyful proclamation it was in song that they extolled God's heavenly glory. ... At this hour, full of thankfulness, we join in the singing of all the centuries, singing that unites heaven and earth, angels and men".
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