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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Saturday, 31 December 2016

JANUARY 1st THE SOLEMNITY TO MARY, MOTHER OF GOD AND 49TH WORLD DAY OF PEACE


"Our Lady of the Sign" by Father Alex Echeandia of Pachacamac Monastery 2015
People throughout history have made life-changing decisions, and some have even changed the course of history; but none have been so costly in their accomplishment, so profoundly enriching in their effects nor so cosmic in their importance than the life-changing decisions of our Lord Jesus Christ and of his blessed Mother Mary.

The first in importance, though not in time, was expressed in the Garden, at the very beginning of Christ's Passion.  He said, in St Luke's version, ", “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”  In these words he expressed the orientation of his whole life up to the very last drop of his blood.  By being obedient unto death, he opened the way, through death and resurrection, for all humankind to share in the very life of the Blessed Trinity and for the whole of the cosmos to be utterly transformed into "a new heaven and a new earth" by resurrection.

The other decision of cosmic importance is the reply of the Virgin Mary to Gabriel who had told her that she would be mother of the Messias by the power of the Holy Spirit. "And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.' And the angel departed from her."

At her consent, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, the divine Nature was united to our human nature, the Creator became one with his creation in Jesus Christ, all this began within the womb of Mary, as yet with little impact outside.  

By the synergy between the action of the Holy Spirit and the humble obedience of Mary, the foetus grew in her womb; the Holy Spirit enabled it to happen, and Mary,  through the obedience of faith, really became the Mother of God.

The same can be said for us, because, to be a Christian is to have Jesus Christ in our heart, to live centred on him whom we meet in so many ways, and to manifest him in our lives to the world.  We cannot live a Christian life without him and unless, through the Spirit, he uses us as his instruments.

From this perspective we can see that the Immaculate Conception was an Old Testament grace, but it was a grace of a different order, not the product of the union between the divine and the human in Christ.  New Testament grace began in the womb of Mary at the Annunciation, and it grew and strengthened unto she was able to become Mother of all the disciples at the foot of the Cross.

The icon that heads this post shows Mary the Christ Bearer.  She is Mother of all the Christ Bearers who are all those who live in Christ and Christ in them, all those who share the eucharistic cup, who identify with Christ in his suffering and already share in the new heaven and a new earth by becoming one with Christ's body.

Mary is our model of a disciple of Christ and does not just see with her eyes, hear with her ears or participate in events in an external way: she ponders them in her heart and experiences everything with the knowledge given by faith.

Just as Mary could not have fulfilled her vocation as Mother of God without the Holy Spirit and the synergy with that Spirit that is the fruit of humble obedience, we too cannot fulfil our vocation as sons of God without the same Spirit and a life of humble obedience.  Let us ask Our Lady for the grace to live as sons of God in 2017

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saturday, 31 December 2016

“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).
These words of Saint Paul are powerful.  In a brief and concise way, they introduce God’s plan for us: he wants us to live as his sons and daughters.  The whole of salvation history echoes in these words.  He who was not subject to the law chose, out of love, to set aside every privilege and to appear in the most unexpected place in order to free us who were under the law.  What is so surprising is that God accomplishes this through the smallness and vulnerability of a newborn child.  He decides personally to draw near to us and in his flesh to embrace our flesh, in his weakness to embrace our weakness, in his littleness to envelop our littleness.  In Christ, God did not put on a human mask; instead he became man and shared completely in our human condition.  Far from remaining an idea or an abstract essence, he wanted to be close to all those who felt lost, demeaned, hurt, discouraged, inconsolable and frightened.  Close to all those who in their bodies carry the burden of separation and loneliness, so that sin, shame, hurt, despair and exclusion would not have the final word in the lives of his sons and daughters.
The manger invites us to make this divine “logic” our own.  It is not a logic centred on privilege, exemptions or favours but one of encounter and closeness.  The manger invites us to break with the logic of exceptions for some and exclusion for others.  God himself comes to shatter the chains of privilege that always cause exclusion, in order to introduce the caress of compassion that brings inclusion, that makes the dignity of each person shine forth, the dignity for which he or she was created.  A child in swaddling clothes shows us the power of God who approaches us as a gift, an offering, a leaven and opportunity for creating a culture of encounter.
We cannot allow ourselves to be naïve.  We know that we are tempted in various ways to adopt the logic of privilege that separates, excludes and closes us off, while separating, excluding and closing off the dreams and lives of so many of our brothers and sisters.
Today, before the little Child of Bethlehem, we should acknowledge that we need the Lord to enlighten us, because all too often we end up being narrow-minded or prisoners of all-or-nothing attitude that would force others to conform to our own ideas.  We need this light, which helps us learn from our mistakes and failed attempts in order to improve and surpass ourselves; this light born of the humble and courageous awareness of those who find the strength, time and time again, to rise up and start anew.
As another year draws to an end, let us pause before the manger and express our gratitude to God for all the signs of his generosity in our life and our history, seen in countless ways through the witness of those people who quietly took a risk.  A gratitude that is no sterile nostalgia or empty recollection of an idealized and disembodied past, but a living memory, one that helps to generate personal and communal creativity because we know that God is with us.
Let us pause before the manger to contemplate how God has been present throughout this year and to remind ourselves that every age, every moment is the bearer of graces and blessings.  The manger challenges us not to give up on anything or anyone.  To look upon the manger means to find the strength to take our place in history without complaining or being resentful, without closing in on ourselves or seeking a means of escape, looking for shortcuts in our own interest.  Looking at the manger means recognizing that the times ahead call for bold and hope-filled initiatives, as well as the renunciation of vain self-promotion and endless concern with appearances.
Looking at the manger means seeing how God gets involved by involving us, making us part of his work, inviting us to welcome the future courageously and decisively.
Looking at the manger, we see Joseph and Mary, their young faces full of hopes and aspirations, full of questions.  Young faces that look to the future conscious of the difficult task of helping the God-Child to grow.  We cannot speak of the future without reflecting on these young faces and accepting the responsibility we have for our young; more than a responsibility, the right word would be debt, yes, the debt we owe them.  To speak of a year’s end is to feel the need to reflect on how concerned we are about the place of young people in our society.
We have created a culture that idolizes youth and seeks to make it eternal.  Yet at the same time, paradoxically, we have condemned our young people to have no place in society, because we have slowly pushed them to the margins of public life, forcing them to migrate or to beg for jobs that no longer exist or fail to promise them a future.  We have preferred speculation over dignified and genuine work that can allow young people to take active part in the life of society.  We expect and demand that they be a leaven for the future, but we discriminate against them and “condemn” them to knock on doors that for the most part remain closed.
We are asked to be something other than the innkeeper in Bethlehem who told the young couple: there is no room here.  There was no room for life, for the future.  Each of us is asked to take some responsibility, however small, for helping our young people to find, here in their land, in their own country, real possibilities for building a future.  Let us not be deprived of the strength of their hands, their minds, and their ability to prophesy the dreams of their ancestors (cf. Jl 2:28).  If we wish to secure a future worthy of them, we should do so by staking it on true inclusion: one that provides work that is worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary (cf. Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016).
Looking at the manger challenges us to help our young people not to become disillusioned by our own immaturity, and to spur them on so that they can be capable of dreaming and fighting for their dreams, capable of growing and becoming fathers and mothers of our people.
As we come to the end of this year, we do well to contemplate the God-Child!  Doing so invites us to return to the sources and roots of our faith.  In Jesus, faith becomes hope; it becomes a leaven and a blessing.  “With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, Christ makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew” (Evangelii Gaudium, 3)


HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS




1 January 2017
“Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart! (Lk 2:19).  In these words, Luke describes the attitude with which Mary took in all that they had experienced in those days.  Far from trying to understand or master the situation, Mary is the woman who can treasure, that is to say, protect and guard in her heart, the passage of God in the life of his people.  Deep within, she had learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God’s heartbeat in history.  She learned how to be a mother, and in that learning process she gave Jesus the beautiful experience of knowing what it is to be a Son.  In Mary, the eternal Word not only became flesh, but also learned to recognize the maternal tenderness of God.  With Mary, the God-Child learned to listen to the yearnings, the troubles, the joys and the hopes of the people of the promise.  With Mary, he discovered himself a Son of God’s faithful people.
In the Gospels, Mary appears as a woman of few words, with no great speeches or deeds, but with an attentive gaze capable of guarding the life and mission of her Son, and for this reason, of everything that he loves.  She was able to watch over the beginnings of the first Christian community, and in this way she learned to be the mother of a multitude.  She drew near to the most diverse situations in order to sow hope.  She accompanied the crosses borne in the silence of her children’s hearts.  How many devotions, shrines and chapels in the most far-off places, how many pictures in our homes, remind us of this great truth.  Mary gave us a mother’s warmth, the warmth that shelters us amid troubles, the maternal warmth that keeps anything or anyone from extinguishing in the heart of the Church the revolution of tenderness inaugurated by her Son.  Where there is a mother, there is tenderness.  By her motherhood, Mary shows us that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong.  She teaches us that we do not have to mistreat others in order to feel important (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 288).  God’s holy people has always acknowledged and hailed her as the Holy Mother of God.
To celebrate Mary as Mother of God and our mother at the beginning of the new year means recalling a certainty that will accompany our days: we are a people with a Mother; we are not orphans.
Mothers are the strongest antidote to our individualistic and egotistic tendencies, to our lack of openness and our indifference.  A society without mothers would not only be a cold society, but a society that has lost its heart, lost the “feel of home”.  A society without mothers would be a merciless society, one that has room only for calculation and speculation.  Because mothers, even at the worst times, are capable of testifying to tenderness, unconditional self-sacrifice and the strength of hope.  I have learned much from those mothers whose children are in prison, or lying in hospital beds, or in bondage to drugs, yet, come cold or heat, rain or draught, never stop fighting for what is best for them.  Or those mothers who in refugee camps, or even the midst of war, unfailingly embrace and support their children’s sufferings.  Mothers who literally give their lives so that none of their children will perish.  Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children.
To begin the year by recalling God’s goodness in the maternal face of Mary, in the maternal face of the Church, in the faces of our own mothers, protects us from the corrosive disease of being “spiritual orphans”.  It is the sense of being orphaned that the soul experiences when it feels motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim.  This sense of being orphaned lodges in a narcissistic heart capable of looking only to itself and its own interests.  It grows when what we forget that life is a gift we have received – and owe to others – a gift we are called to share in this common home.
It was such a self-centred orphanhood that led Cain to ask: “Am I my brother's keeper?” (Gen  4:9).  It was as if to say: he doesn’t belong to me; I do not recognize him.  This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul.  We become all the more debased, inasmuch as nobody belongs to us and we belong to no one.  I debase the earth because it does not belong to me; I debase others because they do not belong to me; I debase God because I do not belong to him, and in the end we debase our very selves, since we forget who we are and the divine “family name” we bear.  The loss of the ties that bind us, so typical of our fragmented and divided culture, increases this sense of orphanhood and, as a result, of great emptiness and loneliness.  The lack of physical (and not virtual) contact is cauterizing our hearts (cf. Laudato Si’, 49) and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion.  Spiritual orphanhood makes us forget what it means to be children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, friends and believers.  It makes us forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.
Celebrating the feast of the Holy Mother of God makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the “climate”, the “warmth” that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects meant to “consume and be consumed”.  To celebrate the feast of the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we are not interchangeable items of merchandise or information processors.   We are children, we are family, we are God’s People.
Celebrating the Holy Mother of God leads us to create and care for common places that can give us a sense of belonging, of being rooted, of feeling at home in our cities, in communities that unite and support us (cf. Laudato Si’, 151).
Jesus, at the moment of his ultimate self-sacrifice, on the cross, sought to keep nothing for himself, and in handing over his life, he also handed over to us his Mother.  He told Mary: Here is your son; here are your children.  We too want to receive her into our homes, our families, our communities and nations.  We want to meet her maternal gaze.  The gaze that frees us from being orphans; the gaze that reminds us that we are brothers and sisters, that I belong to you, that you belong to me, that we are of the same flesh.  The gaze that teaches us that we have to learn how to care for life in the same way and with the same tenderness that she did: by sowing hope, by sowing a sense of belonging and of fraternity.

Celebrating the Holy Mother of God reminds us that we have a Mother.  We are not orphans.  We have a Mother.  Together let us all confess this truth.  I invite you to acclaim it three times, standing [all stand], like the faithful of Ephesus: Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God, Holy Mother of God.

Mary, Mother of God Mother of God (Theotokos)
     
Icon of the Mother of God - Pochaevskaia

By Deacon Keith Fournier
From antiquity, Mary has been called "Theotokos", or "God-Bearer" (Mother of God). The word in Greek is "Theotokos". The term was used as part of the popular piety of the early first millennium church. It is used throughout the Eastern Church's Liturgy, both Orthodox and Catholic. It lies at the heart of the Latin Rite's deep Marian piety and devotion. This title was a response to early threats to 'orthodoxy', the preservation of authentic Christian teaching. A pronouncement of an early Church Council, The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., insisted "If anyone does not confess that God is truly Emmanuel, and that on this account the holy virgin is the "Theotokos" (for according to the flesh she gave birth to the word of God become flesh by birth) let him be anathema." (The Council of Ephesus, 431 AD)

The Council's insistence on the use of the title reflected an effort to preserve the teaching of the Church that Jesus was both Divine and human, that the two natures were united in His One Person. Not only was that teaching under an assault then, it is under an assault now, and failing to "get it right" has extraordinary implications. The reason that the early Church Council pronounced this doctrine was "Christological", meaning that it had to do with Jesus Christ. One of the threats was from an interpretation of the teachings of a Bishop of Constantinople named Nestorius. Some of his followers insisted on calling Mary only the "Mother of 'the Christ'". The Council insisted on the use of the title (in the Greek) "Theotokos," ("Mother of God" or "God-bearer") to reaffirm the central truth of what occurred in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
RUSSIAN ICON: The Iverskaya Mother of God - 1896

Rejection of the truth revealed in this beautiful title of Mary has led to a diminution in the understanding and role of Mary, impeding some Christians from grasping a deeper truth concerning the meaning of Mary's life - her Fiat, her "Yes" to God's Will. It is a privation, leading to a reduced understanding of the call to every Christian to live our lives for God as Mary did. It has undermined our mission to bring the world to the new world, recreated in her Son, the Church which is His Body on earth and a seed of the Kingdom which is to come. The Church, of which we are members through baptism, continues His redemptive mission until he returns.

When we fail to receive the gift of Mary as Mother we can also miss the call of every Christian to bear Jesus for the world as she did. It is time to re-examine the deeper implications of the treasure that is found in the life example and message of the little Virgin of Nazareth. This wonderful title, Mary, the Mother of God, "Theotokos", reveals a profound truth not only about Mary, but about each one of us. We are now invited into the very relationship that she had with her Son. We can become "God-bearers" and bring Him to all those whom we encounter in our few short days under the sun.
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