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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

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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

THE SPIRIT OF ADVENT


THE MYSTERY OF ADVENT

The Last Judgement
by Dom Prosper Gueranger o.s.b.  (Catholic)
taken from: The Liturgical Year

If, now that we have described the characteristic features of Advent which distinguish it from the rest of the year, we would penetrate into the profound mystery which occupies the mind of the Church during this season, we find that this mystery of the coming, or Advent, of Jesus is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the one same Son of God that is coining; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways.

‘In the first coming,’ says St. Bernard, ‘He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.’ [Fifth sermon for Advent].

This, then, is the mystery of Advent. Let us now listen to the explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon de Adventu: ‘There are three comings of our Lord; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at the judgement. The first was at midnight, according to those words of the Gospel: At midnight there was a cry made, Lo the Bridegroom cometh! But this first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love him, He will come unto us and will take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but whence He cometh, or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure than the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security, says the apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. So that the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, He renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with justice. In His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends.’ [De Adventu, Sermon III.]

The holy Church, therefore, during Advent, awaits in tears and with ardour the arrival of her Jesus in His first coming. For this, she borrows the fervid expressions of the prophets, to which she joins her own supplications. These longings for the Messias expressed by the Church, are not a mere commemoration of the desires of the ancient Jewish people; they have a reality and efficacy of their own, an influence in the great act of God’s munificence, whereby He gave us His own Son. From all eternity, the prayers of the ancient Jewish people and the prayers of the Christian Church ascended together to the prescient hearing of God; and it was after receiving and granting them, that He sent, in the appointed time, that blessed Dew upon the earth, which made it bud forth the Saviour.

The Church aspires also to the second coming, the consequence of the first, which consists, as we have just seen, in the visit of the Bridegroom to the bride. This coming takes place, each year, at the feast of Christmas, when the new birth of the Son of God delivers the faithful from that yoke of bondage, under which the enemy would oppress them. [Collect for Christmas day]. The Church, therefore, during Advent, prays that she may be visited by Him who is her Head and her Spouse; visited in her hierarchy; visited in her members, of whom some are living, and some are dead, but may come to life again; visited, lastly, in those who are not in communion with her, and even in the very infidels, that so they may be converted to the true light, which shines even for them. The expressions of the liturgy which the Church makes use of to ask for this loving and invisible coming, are those which she employs when begging for the coming of Jesus in the flesh; for the two visits are for the same object. In vain would the Son of God have come, nineteen hundred years ago, to visit and save mankind, unless He came again for each one of us and at every moment of our lives, bringing to us and cherishing within us that supernatural life, of which He and His holy Spirit are the sole principle.

But this annual visit of the Spouse does not content the Church; she aspires after a third coming, which will complete all things by opening the gates of eternity. She has caught up the last words of her Spouse, ‘Surely I am coming quickly’ [Apoc. xxii. 20]; and she cries out to Him, ‘Ah! Lord Jesus! come!’ [Ibid.]. She is impatient to be loosed from her present temporal state; she longs for the number of the elect to be filled up, and to see appear, in the clouds of heaven, the sign of her Deliverer and her Spouse. Her desires, expressed by her Advent liturgy, go even as far as this; and here we have the explanation of these words of the beloved disciple in his prophecy: ‘The nuptials of the Lamb are come, and His wife hath prepared herself.’ [Ibid. xix. 7].

But the day of this His last coming to her will be a day of terror. The Church frequently trembles at the very thought of that awful judgement, in which all mankind is to be tried. She calls it ‘a day of wrath, on which, as David and the Sibyl have foretold, the world will be reduced to ashes; a day of weeping and of fear.’ Not that she fears for herself, since she knows that this day will for ever secure for her the crown, as being the bride of Jesus; but her maternal heart is troubled at the thought that, on the same day, so many of her children will be on the left hand of the Judge, and, having no share with the elect, will be bound hand and foot, and cast into the darkness, where there shall be everlasting weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is the reason why the Church, in the liturgy of Advent, so frequently speaks of the coming of Christ as a terrible coming, and selects from the Scriptures those passages which are most calculated to awaken a salutary fear in the mind of such of her children as may be sleeping the sleep of sin.

This, then, is the threefold mystery of Advent. The liturgical forms in which it is embodied, are of two kinds: the one consists of prayers, passages from the Bible, and similar formula, in all of which, words themselves are employed to convey the sentiments which we have been explaining; the other consists of external rites peculiar to this holy time, which, by speaking to the outward senses, complete the expressiveness of the chants and words.
First of all, there is the number of the days of Advent. Forty was the number originally adopted by the Church, and it is still maintained in the Ambrosian liturgy, and in the Eastern Church. If at a later period, the Church of Rome, and those which follow her liturgy, have changed the number of days, the same idea is still expressed in the four weeks which have been substituted for the forty days. The new birth of our Redeemer takes place after four weeks, as the first nativity happened after four thousand years, according to the Hebrew and Vulgate chronology.

As in Lent, so likewise during Advent, marriage is not solemnized, lest worldly joy should distract Christians from those serious thoughts wherewith the expected coming of the sovereign Judge ought to inspire them, or from that dearly cherished hope which the friends of the Bridegroom [St. John iii. 29] have of being soon called to the eternal nuptial-feast.

The people are forcibly reminded of the sadness which fills the heart of the Church, by the sombre colour of the vestments. Excepting on the feasts of the saints, purple is the colour she uses; the deacon does not wear the dalmatic, nor the sub-deacon the tunic. Formerly it was the custom, in some places, to wear black vestments. This mourning of the Church shows how fully she unites herself with those true Israelites of old who, clothed in sackcloth and ashes, waited for the Messias, and bewailed Sion that she had not her beauty, and ‘Juda, that the sceptre had been taken from him, till He should come who was to be sent, the expectation of nations.’ [Prov. viii. 31]. It also signifies the works of penance, whereby she prepares for the second coming, full as it is of sweetness and mystery, which is realized in the souls of men, in proportion as they appreciate the tender love of that divine Guest, who has said: ‘My delights are to be with the children of men.’[Gen. xlix. 10]. It expresses, thirdly, the desolation of this bride who yearns after her Beloved, who is long a-coming. Like the turtle dove, she moans her loneliness, longing for the voice which will say to her: ‘Come from Libanus, my bride! come, thou shalt be crowned. Thou hast wounded my heart.’ [Cant. iv. 8, 9].

The Church also, during Advent. excepting on the feasts of saints, suppresses the angelic canticle, Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis; for this glorious song was sung at Bethlehem over the crib of the divine Babe; the tongues of the angels are not loosened yet; the Virgin has not yet brought forth her divine Treasure; it is not yet time to sing, it is not even true to say, ‘Glory be to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.’

Again, at the end of Mass, the deacon does not dismiss the assembly of the faithful by the words: Ite missa est. He substitutes the ordinary greeting:
Benedicamus Domino!  as though the Church feared to interrupt the prayers of the people, which could scarce be too long during these days of expectation.

In the night Office, the holy Church also suspends, on those same days, the hymn of jubilation, Te Deum laudamus.’ [The monastic rite retains it. Tr.] It is in deep humility that she awaits the supreme blessing which is to come to her; and, in the interval, she presumes only to ask, and entreat, and hope. But let the glorious hour come, when in the midst of darkest night the Sun of justice will suddenly rise upon the world: then indeed she will resume her hymn of thanksgiving, and all over the face of the earth the silence of midnight will be broken by this shout of enthusiasm: ‘We praise Thee, O God! we acknowledge Thee to be our Lord! Thou, O Christ, art the King of glory, the everlasting Son of the Father! Thou being to deliver man didst not disdain the Virgin’s womb!’

On the ferial days, the rubrics of Advent prescribe that certain prayers should be said kneeling, at the end of each canonical Hour, and that the choir should also kneel during a considerable portion of the Mass. In this respect, the usages of Advent are precisely the same as those of Lent.

But there is one feature which distinguishes Advent most markedly from Lent: the word of gladness, the joyful Alleluia, is not interrupted during Advent, except once or twice during the ferial Office. It is sung in the Masses of the four Sundays, and vividly contrasts with the sombre colour of the vestments. On one of these Sundays, the third, the prohibition of using the organ is removed, and we are gladdened by its grand notes, and rose-coloured vestments may be used instead of the purple. These vestiges of joy, thus blended with the holy mournfulness of the Church, tell us, in a most expressive way, that though she unites with the ancient people of God in praying for the coming of the Messias (thus paying the debt which the entire human race owes to the justice and mercy of God), she does not forget that the Emmanuel already comes to her, that He is in her, and that even before she has opened her lips to ask Him to save her, she has been already redeemed and predestined to an eternal union with Him. This is the reason why the Alleluia accompanies even her sighs, and why she seems to be at once joyous and sad, waiting for the coming of that holy night which will be brighter to her than the most sunny of days, and on which her joy will expel all her sorrow.
The Advent Revolution


The Two Comings of Christ




The following is an excerpt from The Winter Pascha, by Fr. Thomas Hopko (Orthodox)


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During the Christmas pre-feast season, the connection between the first coming of God's Son as the Suffering Servant, the Lamb of God who takes upon Himself the sins of the World, and His second coming as the triumphant King and Judge of the universe is not overtly stressed in any of the church services. But it is clearly implied in virtually all of the songs, hymns and lections. The Old Testament prophecies read at the hours, vespers and matins on the day before the Nativity quite specifically proclaim the messianic age which Jesus is born to bring, but which He will manifest in power only at the end of history. And several verses which are sung during the season directly refer to the interrelationship between the Master's two comings.

Christ our Judge commands us to be vigilant. 
We wait expectantly for His visitation, 
For He comes to be born of a Virgin.

At Your awesome second coming, O Christ, 
Number me with the sheep at Your right hand, 
For You took up Your abode in the flesh to save us.

At Your first coming to us, O Christ, 
You desired to save the race of Adam; 
When You come again to judge us, 
Show mercy to those who honour Your Holy Nativity.1

The Christmas pre-feast hymns, especially the canons, consciously refer to the hymns of the services of Holy Week before the springtime Pascha. In many of them, Easter paschal themes are replaced by Winter paschal themes, with just a few words being changed in each verse. Thus, what is effected at these services is a sort of "triple connection." Christ's Nativity, with His Epiphany in the Jordan, is referred to His Passion and Resurrection, which is then referreed to His Coming at the end of the ages. In making the triple connection, the entire Mystery of Christ is placed before the believers for their contemplation and communion.

...

Christians live between the two comings of Christ. They remember His first coming to be sacrificed. They anticipate His second coming to reign. This is vividly portrayed in traditional Orthodox church buildings where the "royal gates" of the icon screen in front of the altar table are flanked by the icons of the Theotokos and Child on the one side, and the Lord Jesus in glory on the other. To the uninitiated, it may seem as though these are simply pictures of Mary and Jesus put on the same level. This is not so. The icons which frame the Orthodox altar are images of the two comings of Christ. Mary is not alone in her icon; she is holding the Christ Child, who is not shown as a baby, but as the Son of God incarnates "in the form of a slave... in the likeness of men" (Phil 2:7). This is the icon of Christ's first coming. And the icon on the right of the doors is not a picture of Jesus as He was on the earth. It is His image in glory as King and Lord, the icon of His second coming.

The two comings of Christ are held together in Christian thought, action, and prayer at all times. They cannot be separated. When they are, it is the end of Christian faith, life and worship. The first coming without the second is a meaningless tragedy. The second coming without the first is an absurd impossibility. Jesus is born to bring God's kingdom. He dies to prove His kingship. He rises to establish his reign. He comes again in glory to share it with His people. In the kingdom of God there are no subjects. All rule with the risen Messiah. He came, and is coming, for this purpose alone.


1Ode 9 of the canon of compline of the second day of the prefeast of the Nativity, December 21

The Spirit Prepares Us to Receive the Son of God

by Irenaeus of Lyons (130-200 AD)

There is one God, who by his word and wisdom created all things and set them in order. His word is our Lord Jesus Christ, who in this last age became man among men to unite end and beginning, that is, man and God. The prophets, receiving the gift of prophecy from this same Word, foretold his coming in the flesh, which brought about the union and communion between God and man ordained by the Father. From the beginning the word of God prophesied that God would be seen by men and would live among them on earth; he would speak with his own creation and be present to it, bringing it salvation and being visible to it. He would free us from the hands of all who hate us, that is, form the universal spirit of sin, and enable us to serve him in holiness and justice all our days. Man was to receive the Spirit of God and so to attain to the glory of the Father.
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The prophets foretold that God would be seen by men. As the Lord himself says: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. In his greatness and inexpressible glory no one can see God and live, for the Father is beyond our comprehension. But in his love and generosity and omnipotence he allows even this to those who love him, that is, even to see God, as the prophets foretold. For what is impossible to men is possible to God.

By his own powers, man cannot see God, yet God will be seen by men because he wills it. He will be seen by those he chooses, at the time he chooses, and in the way he chooses, for God can do all things. He was seen of old through the Spirit in prophecy; he is seen through the Son by our adoption as his children, and he will be seen in the kingdom of heaven in his own being as the Father. The Spirit prepares man to receive the Son of God, the Son leads him to the Father, and the Father, freeing him from change and decay, bestows the eternal life that comes to everyone from seeing God. As those who see light are in the light sharing its brilliance, so those who see God are in God sharing his glory, and that glory gives them life. To see God is to share in life. 


Mother of God's Time in the Holy Of Holies

Note by Fr David: I am too western to accept the details of Mary's life as given here as historical, but I don't believe this is intended.  In the Bible, in both Old and New Testament, deep theological truth is often expressed, not in an abstract thesis, but in a narrative form, in poetry and song.  This continued in the semitic Christianity of Syria and from there it spread, especially in the East.  I believe that this is an example.   It is telling us deep truths about Christ and the Virgin Mary, very suitable for Advent.
excerpt from Orthodox Way of Life
 Saint Gregory Palamas gives us incredible insight into the mystical life of The Most Holy Mary. He tells us why she spent her early years in the inner sanctuary of the Great Temple. He lifts the reader up to appreciate the holiness of the Panagia and the purpose of silence in spiritual development. Here are some excerpts:



Prior to all these events… there were pronouncements by inspired prophets, miracles which obscurely preshadowed the great miracle to come, spiritual ordinances which prefigured in various ways the truth that was to be, changes affecting nations and history which opened the way for the new mystery to be accomplished, the promise of which God made and kept to Joachim and Anna that they would have a child in old age, although they had been childless since their youth, and this admirable couple's vow to God that they would give back the gift of their daughter to the giver. In accordance with this truly worthy and most righteous vow, they went up to the holy Temple with their promised child, and the heavenly Queen made her extraordinary entry ion the Holy of Holies, the place reserved solely for God, where He once a year received the current high priests when they went in, and where the Virgin Mother entered at three years of age, and stayed for our sake.

The holy Maid took as her home for several years the place assigned to God alone, which was consecrated as His dwelling, and out of which He gave audience at infrequent intervals to Moses, Aaron and those of their successors who were equally worthy, and where He was also believed to reside continuously between those encounters.  In this way she made it clear, and declared in advance to as many as have understanding, that she was to be the true shrine and resting-place of God…

The Holy of Holies was out of sight of almost everyone, shut off from everybody, and protected by encircling walls and curtains, with veils and hangings before the entrances, which were never opened for anyone except the high priest according to the law, and only once a year for him, when he entered to gain God's mercy for himself and those outside…. how could this virginal treasure be kept anywhere else but in this innermost sanctuary, passing her life invisible to all?

The fruit of her righteous parents' vow and supplication… the Virgin was brought by her parents to the giver, like a beloved votive offering… She was brought, like a most holy shoot sprung from a holy root… to produce Him by whose word alone everything natural and supernatural sprang to life.

The Mother of God was led up to God by her parents, not as a young girl, nor as a child, nor just slightly younger than that, but as a three-year-old who had been weaned and taken from her mother's breast only a day or two before… When they were already near the outer doors of the temple, while noble young women, dressed in a fashion worthy of their race, were surrounding her with torches in their hands and eagerly escorting her in dignified procession, she demonstrated that she was more aware than anyone else of what was happening to her and what was gong to take place. Solemn, graceful and admired, she was making her orderly way among the others, with a wonderfully calm bearing, manner and purpose defying description. Then tempering decorum with eagerness and gently quickening her pace, she left behind the choir of virgins encircling her, taking the lead in front of them all, that it might become obvious that those words of the Psalm refer to her: "The virgins that follow her shall be brought unto the king. Her companions shall be brought with gladness and rejoicing: hay shall be led into the kings temple" (Ps 45:14-15 Lxx).

As soon as the priest came out to meet her, and surely spoke that prophetic verse to her, "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and they father's house; so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty" (Ps 45:10-11), she topped reverently for a moment, then, on hearing these words, she rose up again. Immediately…she separated herself from the assembled company and went forward to the high priest, absolutely alone and full of joy….

How can these events fail to inspire amazement: the three-year-old puts herself into the hands of him who can direct her course in accordance with higher providence…. She chooses God instead of her mother and father's embrace, and prefers God's temple and its high priest to being cosseted at home… valuing God and everything pertaining to Him above all else, she ran gladly towards his temple.

When God's high priest saw that the Virgin had dwelling within her from infancy such graces as hardly enter other people's souls in the fullest prime of life….he led her into the Holy of Holies and persuaded all those present to accept what had come to pass with God's assistance and by His most righteous decision.

She who is eternally the Holy of Holies entered the temporary Holy of Holies. The tabernacle, not made with hands, of the Word, the living human ark of the bread of life truly sent down to us from heaven, came into the place of the man-made ark, which consisted of morning dew transformed by God's creative will into a type of food…

Almost the whole Temple was covered in gold and that inviolable ark was overlaid with pure gold, and shone brilliantly on every side. Surely, therefore, the virgin's beauty must have been brighter still, as God HImself desired it… But angels themselves, not statues, surrounded this true ark, and what is more, they did not just keep watch but ministered to her, and served her with food… An angel came every day with the Virgin's food, as it was potent, full of mystery, proper to angels and akin to himself, and, naturally, as far superior to manna as angels are more excellent than any. The bringer of the Virgins's food is, therefore, a clear sign of her angelic way of life at this age...

The Virgin entered the Holy of Holies. At once she looked around and, when she saw that it pleased her, she felt it was a suitable place for her to stay. Through the beauty of what she saw, she immediately cast her mind's eye to unseen beauties, and no longer counted anything on earth delightful…. This holy Maid, alone of mankind, utterly despised all these delights while still an infant, and as a reward was rightly brought food from heaven by an angel, by which she was physically strengthened, and which served as a testimony that her way of life was worthy of heaven...

She lived as though in paradise, in a place removed from the earth, or rather, as though in the courts of heaven, for that sanctuary was a symbol of those courts. Thus she led an unencumbered life without cares or occupation, free from sorrow, with no share in base passions, above that pleasure which is inseparable from pain. She lived for God alone and was sustained and preserved only by Him who was to pitch His tent among us through her. Obviously, she saw only God, making God her delight and continually waiting on Him.

With profound understanding, she listened to the writings of Moses and the revelations of the other prophets when, every Saturday, all the people gathered outside, as the law ordained. She learnt about Adam and Eve and everything that happened to them; how they were brought out of non-being, settled in paradise, and given a commandment there; about the evil one's ruinous counsel, and the resulting theft; about their expulsion from paradise on that account, the loss of immortality, and the change to this way of life of pain. In addition, she saw that as time passed, life continued under the inherited curse and grew ever worse, God's creature made in His image was estranged from the Creator and become more and more closely associated with the one who had evilly schemed to crush him… When the Holy Virgin Maid heard and understood this, she was filled with pity for humanity…. She took it upon herself to represent, to constrain Him who is above compulsion, and quickly draw Him towards us, that He might remove the curse from among us, halt the advance of the fire burning men's souls, weaken our enemies, answer our prayers, shine upon us with light that never sets and, having healed our sickness, unite His creature with Himself.

The Virgin full of grace interceded for all humanity in an amazing way defying description… She eagerly examined every type of virtue, those proclaimed in the law and those discovered by reason… She considered every aspect of each, of the principal branches of learning as though they were impressions left by a seal, her intention being to discover which was most akin to God… she invented, put into practice, and handed down to those who came after her, a practice higher than any vision and a vision as far superior to that which was formerly so highly acclaimed as the truth is superior to imagination.

The goodness she practiced while shut away encompassed every kind of virtue: all those which had been discovered before her and were openly bestowed on those men we have mentioned and adorned their characters…

It is absolutely impossible, however, to truly encounter God unless, in addition to being cleansed, we go outside, or rather, beyond ourselves, leaving behind everything perceptible to our ensues, to gather with our ability to perceive, and being lifted up above thoughts, reason, and every kind of knowledge, above even the mind itself, and wholly given over to the energy of spiritual perception, which Solomon calls divine awareness, we attain to that unknowing which lies beyond knowledge, that is to say, above every kind of much-daunted philosophy...

The Virgin found that holy stillness was her guide: stillness, in which the mind and the world stand still, forgetfulness of things below, initiation into the things above, the laying aside of ideas for something better. This is true activity, a means of approaching contemplation or, to state it more aptly, the vision of God, which is the only proof of a soul in good health… Contemplation is the fruit of a healthy soul; it aims to achieve a certain end and is of a kind that deifies; for it is through contemplation that a person is made divine, not by speculate analogies on the basis of skillful reasoning and observations – perish the thought (for that would be something base and human) – but under the guidance of stillness…

The immediate proof of this is the Virgin, who, having kept company with quietness form the earliest age, brings the greatest benefits to us, and commends to God those in need as no one else can. She alone lived in holy quiet form such early childhood in a manner surpassing nature, and who alone of the human race bore the Word, who is the God-man, without knowing man.

Once you've lifted your minds above the material concerns and resolved to meditate on the Mother of God's divine way of life in the holy sanctuary, eager to understand something of what happened there and to emulate her as far as possible, then perhaps you'll soon receive that blessed gift of those purified in heart, and indivisibly observe the honors proper to the immortal world.

She prudently understood what the apostle, too, said later: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:14). She therefore looked for something higher, a truly spiritual life unadulterated with earthly concerns, and, in a way which goes beyond the limitations of created nature, she longed for God and heavenly union with Him.

She found that the purest thing in us, the holy perfect and indivisible essence that we have, is precisely intended by nature for this holy and divine love… Although the mind can come down to the level of human reasoning... it indubitably has another, superior mode of operation, which is capable of putting into the action itself… It is enabled, by means of diligence, and assisted by divine grace, to leave behind this varied, complex and lowly way of living… If the mind did not wholly revolve without ceasing around base concerns, it should be given over to superior, more exalted activity, namely, that which is popper to it, and which is the sole means by which it can enter into union with God. This is , however, far more difficult, because it is by nature intertwined with the body, and entangled with material knowledge and all the different ties that bind this life to earthly matters, and are hard to lay aside.

The all-pure Virgin threw off those ties from the very beginning of her life and withdrew from people.  She escaped from a blameworthy way of life, and chose to live in solitude out of sight of all, inside the sanctuary… She united her mind with its turning towards itself and attention, and with unceasing prayer… Intent upon this silence, she flew high above all created things, saw God's glory more clearly than Moses, and beheld divine grace, which is not at all within the capacity of men's senses, but is a gracious and holy sight for spotless souls and minds. Partaking of this vision, she became, according to the sacred hymnographers, a radiant cloud of the truly living water, the dawn of the mystical day, and the fiery chariot of the Word.

The Virgin, the Queen of the truly pious, lifted up her mind in the Holy of Holies, utterly withdrawn from everything below or, more accurately, never having been attached to such things at all, and, saying to God, "I beseech You with this mind, which nothing earthly has ever entered", made the whole world heaven. 


More of Life of Theotokos

Above Exerpts taken from "Homily on the Entry into the Holy of Holies of our exceedingly Pure Lady Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary"(Homily 53) in Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies, Mount Thabor Publishing, Homily 53, pp. 414-444



Devotion to Mary can help us maintain our focus on Advent season
my source: From the office of the bishop       During Advent, the Church encourages us to reflect upon and invoke the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who always points us in the direction of her Son, Jesus. Under what title do you prefer to invoke Our Lady’s intercession? Through which prayer do you prefer to honor Our Lady and invoke her aid?

      The day after his election as pope, Pope Francis, without fanfare or advance notice, traveled from the Vatican to the Basilica of St. Mary Major to dedicate his papacy to Our Lady under her title “Salus Populo Romani” (Help of the Roman People). Pope Francis seeks her intercession at that shrine before each of his foreign trips.

      Pope Francis, like Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, travels to the center of Rome at the foot of the Spanish Steps to offer a bouquet of roses at the shrine dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

      Blessed Pope Paul VI placed our efforts at evangelization under the patronage of the Mother of God using the title “Star of Evangelization.” Blessed Pope Paul VI gave an even more important title to Mary 50 years ago this past November 21 at the conclusion of the third session of the Second Vatican Council when he proclaimed Mary “Mother of the Church.” Also on that occasion, Blessed Pope Paul VI promulgated the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church and the Decrees on Ecumenism and Oriental Rites.

      St. John Paul II had a great devotion to Our Lady, especially to the rosary. He attributed his recovery from his assassination attempt to Mary. His most favorite title for Our Lady was Our Lady of Czestochowa.

      A favorite title used by Pope Francis in invoking Mary is one he discovered in Germany, “Our Lady, Untier of Knots.” He likes this prayer:  “Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, and have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen.”

      As far back as I can remember, I have invoked the Mother of God through the daily recitation of the rosary, the Memorare, and the Angelus. I am particularly attentive to invoking her each day during the most solemn part of Holy Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer. While I love to honor Mary under several titles and with several hymns, the title “Mother of the Church” is my favorite. When I was appointed to the Diocese of Gary in August of 1992, I committed my ministry here to Mary, Mother of the Church.

      We are blessed to celebrate two very significant Marian feasts this week:  the Immaculate Conception on Monday, a holy day of obligation, and Our Lady of Guadalupe on Friday.

      Mary is the patroness of the United States under her title of the Immaculate Conception. To prepare her to be the dwelling place for God, the Son, God preserved Mary from the stain of Adam’s sin by letting her share beforehand in the merits of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, Mary was full of grace from the moment of her conception. She was completely with and for God. Mary was what we hope to be at the end of our journey of faith. We reflect on her unique prerogative by invoking her:  “O, Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

      At the request of the bishops of North and South America, St. John Paul II assigned Our Lady of Guadalupe as patroness of all our countries. Many of our parishes prepare for the celebration of this feast with a full novena.

      The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe recalls the apparitions of Mary to the native convert, St. Juan Diego, at the Hill of Tepeyac in the valley of Mexico City from December 9-12, 1531. In many parishes, Mary’s appearances to St. Juan are acted out. In those appearances, Mary asked St. Juan to tell the bishop to build a sacred shrine where she would console and help all those who sought her. As a sign for the bishop, the imprint of our Heavenly Lady appeared on St. Juan’s cape and from it fell fragrant flowers.

      You may recall that as Jesus was dying on the cross, He gave His mother to all of us when He said to the apostle John:  “Behold thy mother.” In Mary’s appearance to St. Juan Diego, she affirmed her desire to accompany us as a loving, compassionate mother on our continuing journey to her Son. With the Advent prophet St. John the Baptist, Mary points us to Jesus. She asks us to accept her Son, the gift of God, our Father, as our Lord and Savior.

      May our daily devotion to Mary during these Advent weeks keep us focused on the real purpose of Advent – to acknowledge in our own poverty and lowliness that Jesus alone can fulfil the deepest desires of our hearts

next - 1st Sunday of Advent


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