"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

Monday, 30 December 2013


Mary, God-bearer of Tendernous, 
to be blessed by the Abbot of Belmont after 1st Vespers
Feast of the Mother of God, January 1st, 2014.
Painted by a monk of our monastery in Peru.


 One of my favourite videos ever:

The Third Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 431 in the city of Ephesus (Asia Minor) during the reign of the emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450). The Third Ecumenical Council condemned the heresy of Nestorius and confirmed the Orthodox teaching on these matters: that it is necessary to confess the Lord Jesus Christ as One Person (Hypostasis) in two natures, the Divine and the Human, and that the All-Pure Mother of the Lord be acclaimed as Ever-Virgin and truly the Theotokos (click).

Vatican Liturgical Commission
Corrado Maggioni

The Virgin Mother not only reveals the Mystery of the Son to believers, but she gives Him to them for all time: indeed her motherhood is ordered to the continual presence of Christ among humankind. Now since Christ is present among us in a very special way in the liturgy (cf. SC 7), it is in the sacramental economy that also Mary's mediation acquires meaning.

In this perspective, St Cyril of Alexandria (+ 444) exclaimed, «Through you, Mary, believers come to the grace of Baptism» (Homily 4). Unless we want to persist in spiritualism or fall into sentimentalism, we must agree that Mary's maternal action in the life of the faithful is expressed supremely well in liturgical actions: it is here that the relationship willed by Jesus on the cross between Mary and her children is expressed and deepened (cf Jn 19,25-27).

Mary's indispensable presence in the historical event which we profess in our baptismal belief (Do you believe in Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary?), leads us to reflect on her commemoration in the sacramental event. In fact, reflection on baptismal rebirth developed from the first centuries onwards, in the light of Christ's conception by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her understanding of Baptism, the Church is naturally oriented to the mystery of Christ's conception from the Virgin who believed: the human birth of the Son of God, destined for the rebirth of men and women as God's children, led to a spontaneous connection between the mysteries.
Already in the second century, in speaking of the Incarnation, St Irenaeus praises the work of the Son of God, the "Pure One who, in a pure way, opened that pure womb that regenerates men in God" (Adversus haereses IV, 33,11). The Virgin's womb comes to coincide mystically with the Church's baptismal womb. Through Christ who re-lives in Baptism, it can be said that in a certain sense Mary's motherhood re-lives in the motherhood of the Church.

From the Christological reason for remembering the Virgin in the baptismal profession, we come to the ecclesial dimension of her commemoration in the celebration of Baptism: Mary is the icon of the Church, virgin and mother, who, by the power of the Spirit, brings Christ to new birth in the faithful. This is what the inscription in the baptistry of St John in the Lateran says: «At this font, the Church, our mother, gives birth from her virginal womb to the children she conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit».

The patristic testimony

The typological relationship between Christ's conception in Mary's womb and that of Christians in the baptismal font, was indicated sagely by the Fathers of the Church: the Spirit who begot Christ in the Virgin's womb, begets Christ in the faithful, making them his Body.

This is how St Ambrose (+ 397) comments to his neophytes about the mystery of holy Baptism: «In coming upon Mary, the Holy Spirit brought about the conception and accomplished the redemption; in the same way, by resting on the baptismal font and on those who receive baptism, the same Spirit effects the reality of rebirth» (De mysteriis 53, 59).

Also St Augustine (+ 430), introducing the newly baptized to the mystery of the Church's motherhood, feels the need to recall the Mother of the Lord: «Mary gave birth to your Head, the Church gave birth to you. Also the Church is a mother and virgin: a mother through the womb of charity, a virgin through the integrity of faith and piety. She gives birth to peoples, but they are members of one people only, of which she is the body and bride. Also in this she can be likened to the Virgin, because, though she gave birth to many, she is the mother of unity» (Sermo 195, 2).

In his famous Christmas homilies St Leo the Great (+ 461) explains that the birth of Christ is the beginning of the re-birth of Christians, showing in this regard Mary's unique role: «In the sacrament of rebirth we are united to Christ's spiritual birth, since, for every man who is reborn, the water of baptism is a little what was the Virgin's womb, in the sense that the same Spirit who filled the Virgin fills the water of the font; the sin that was abolished there by the holy conception, is abolished here by the mystic washing» (Tractatus 24, 3).
And again: "The birth that Jesus assumed in the Virgin's womb, has placed it in the baptismal font: it gives to the water what it gave to his mother; the power from the Most High and the shadow of the Holy Spirit that made Mary the Mother of the Saviour, now brings the faithful new birth through this water" (Tractatus 25, 5). The theme continues also in later tradition, as is testified, for example, by Blessed Isaac of Stella (+ 1178), who shows the complementarity between the fruitfulness of the Virgin and that of the Church: «Mary gave birth to the absolutely sinless Head for the Body; the Church gave birth, in the forgiveness of every sin, to the Body for the Head. Each is the mother of Christ, but neither without the other gives birth to the whole Christ» (Sermo 51).

Liturgical prayer

The mystic connection between Mary and the Church is also confirmed in the ancient Roman liturgy of Easter night, a baptismal time par excellence. It is significant that in the Gelasian Sacramentary, the preface of this night recalls Mary's virginal parturition, the model of the motherhood of the Church that, in Baptism, begets children for the Father: «O mystic and venerable exchanges of this night! O holy eternal blessings of our holy mother Church! (...). Mary exulted in the most holy (kind of) birth, the Church exults in the birth of her children». The most holy attitude recalls the work of the Spirit, the same Spirit who is at work in Christ's birth of the Virgin and in the birth of the members of his Body in the baptismal font. Also to be noted is the verb exulted, relating to Mary's parturition, alluding to the fact that it was painless because it was virginal: the Virgin's joy at Christmas night is the Church's joy at Easter night.

Also in the Supplement to the Gregorian Sacramentary the Preface of Easter night develops the mystery of the Church's birth in the waters of baptism following the pattern of Mary's virginal and joyful birth,. This is the text: «O night that destroyed the darkness and opened the way to eternal light. O night that deserved to see the devil defeated and Christ arise. O night when hell was despoiled, the saints freed from the underworld, the way opened to their heavenly home. On this night countless sins are washed away in the waters of baptism, and the children of light are born. Like the Mother of the Lord, our holy Mother Church conceives them without stain, she gives birth to them painlessly, and leads them with joy to the heavenly realities».

The relationship between Mary and the Church outlined by the Fathers and set forth in the ancient liturgical texts, we find today in the prayer for the blessing of a baptismal font: «Almighty God... you give us the joy of inaugurating with solemn rite this font of salvation which flows from the womb of our mother Church (...) We ask you to send the life-giving presence of your Spirit upon this font... The power of the Spirit made the Virgin Mary the mother of your Son; send forth the power of the same Spirit, so that your Church may present you with countless sons and daughters and bring forth new citizens of heaven» (Blessing, 1187). In the Church that baptizes we can discern the mysterious image of the motherhood of the Virgin, in whose womb was formed the body of Christ, «the first-born among many brethren» (Rom 8,29).

Finally, the relationship between Mary and Baptism is expressed, in the form of a prayer, in the formulary n. 16 of the Mass to the Blessed Virgin Mary, entitled Virgin Mary, source of light and life. This is the text of the entrance antiphon: «Hail, Mother of light: a Virgin, you gave birth to Christ and became the model of the Church, our Mother, bring to new birth in the chaste waters of Baptism a people of faith». It is a greeting addressed to the Virgin Mother, acclaimed as the model of the Church, our Mother, who gives life to believers. In order to understand her spiritual motherhood, the Church turns her gaze to Her who shed eternal Light on the world: Mary cannot but be present at the rebirth of the children of light, since she, with her fiat, made possible Christ's coming and in him, his Body.

Mother of the baptized in Christ

The miracle of the Spirit in Christ's Incarnation is renewed in a certain sense in the generation of his Mystical Body: Mary is the Mother of Christ, the Head, and the Mother of the members of his Body (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53). St Louis de Montfort writes: «if Jesus Christ is born of Mary, also the elect, who are members of the Head, must as a necessary consequence be born of her» (Treatise on true devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 32).

The subject was also recalled by John Paul II at the Angelus of 12 February 1984: «The blessed Virgin is intimately united to Christ and to the Church, and she is inseparable from one and the other. She is therefore united to them in what constitutes the very essence of the Liturgy: the sacramental celebration of salvation to the glory of God and for the sanctification of man. Mary is present in the memorial - the liturgical action - because she was present at the saving event. She is at every baptismal font, where in faith and in the Holy Spirit the members of the Mystical Body are born to divine life, because with faith and with the power of the Spirit, she conceived its Head, Christ» (in L'Osservatore Romano [English edition], 20 February 1984, p. 10).

The Holy Father's invitation, for this year, to a «renewed appreciation of Baptism» and the «strengthening of faith» (cf TMA, 41-42) can rightly be united to the other: to contemplate Mary «in the mystery of her Divine Motherhood» and as the «model of faith» (cf. TMA, 43). The Virgin Mother's faith lives again in the faith of the Church which baptizes and is a model for Christians in living the gift of baptismal union in Jesus Christ. The Baptismal rite for children contains significant references to Mary, which help us to perceive and show the Mother's presence beside her children, who are born again of water and the Spirit: the invocation to Mary in the litanies; the mention of the Virgin in the profession of faith; the invitation to parents and the community to sing the Magnificat as a hymn of thanksgiving; the discrete suggestion to bring the child «to Our Lady's altar»; the memory of the Mother of the Lord in the words of the final blessing.

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.
As Eve was seduced by the word of an angel and so fled from God after disobeying his word, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the word of an angel, and bore God in obedience to his word. As Eve was seduced into disobedience to God, so Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; thus the Virgin Mary became the advocate of the virgin Eve'
St Irenaeus (130 - 202)

Every Christian mystery is ultimately about "persons in relationship" by the power of the Holy Spirit, reflecting the Mystery of the Holy Trinity.  Our Blessed Lady is the personification of the Church in its relationship with Christ as the New Adam. - Fr David

Ecclesiologically Pope John Paul II speaks within “the redemptive economy of grace” of
a unique correspondence between the moment of the Incarnation of the Word and the moment of the birth of the Church. The person who links these two moments is Mary: Mary at Nazareth and Mary in the Upper Room at Jerusalem. In both cases her discreet yet essential presence indicates the path of ‘birth from the Holy Spirit'. Thus she who is present in the mystery of Christ as Mother becomes–by the will of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit–present in the mystery of the Church. In the Church too she continues to be a maternal presence. - Pope John Paul II (Redemptoris Mater)


1. Mary's part in the Incarnation

14. With the whole Church I acknowledge that Mary, being a mere creature fashioned by the hands of God is, compared to his infinite majesty, less than an atom, or rather is simply nothing, since he alone can say, "I am he who is". Consequently, this great Lord, who is ever independent and self-sufficient, never had and does not now have any absolute need of the Blessed Virgin for the accomplishment of his will and the manifestation of his glory. To do all things he has only to will them.

15. However, I declare that, considering things as they are, because God has decided to begin and accomplish his greatest works through the Blessed Virgin ever since he created her, we can safely believe that he will not change his plan in the time to come, for he is God and therefore does not change in his thoughts or his way of acting.

16. God the Father gave his only Son to the world only through Mary. Whatever desires the patriarchs may have cherished, whatever entreaties the prophets and saints of the Old Law may have had for 4,000 years to obtain that treasure, it was Mary alone who merited it and found grace before God by the power of her prayers and the perfection of her virtues. "The world being unworthy," said Saint Augustine, "to receive the Son of God directly from the hands of the Father, he gave his Son to Mary for the world to receive him from her."

The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary.

God the Holy Spirit formed Jesus Christ in Mary but only after having asked her consent through one of the chief ministers of his court.

17. God the Father imparted to Mary his fruitfulness as far as a mere creature was capable of receiving it, to enable her to bring forth his Son and all the members of his mystical body.

18. God the Son came into her virginal womb as a new Adam into his earthly paradise, to take his delight there and produce hidden wonders of grace.

God-made-man found freedom in imprisoning himself in her womb. He displayed power in allowing himself to be borne by this young maiden. He found his glory and that of his Father in hiding his splendours from all creatures here below and revealing them only to Mary. He glorified his independence and his majesty in depending upon this lovable virgin in his conception, his birth, his presentation in the temple, and in the thirty years of his hidden life. Even at his death she had to be present so that he might be united with her in one sacrifice and be immolated with her consent to the eternal Father, just as formerly Isaac was offered in sacrifice by Abraham when he accepted the will of God. It was Mary who nursed him, fed him, cared for him, reared him, and sacrificed him for us.

The Holy Spirit could not leave such wonderful and inconceivable dependence of God unmentioned in the Gospel, though he concealed almost all the wonderful things that Wisdom Incarnate did during his hidden life in order to bring home to us its infinite value and glory. Jesus gave more glory to God his Father by submitting to his Mother for thirty years than he would have given him had he converted the whole world by working the greatest miracles. How highly then do we glorify God when to please him we submit ourselves to Mary, taking Jesus as our sole model.

19. If we examine closely the remainder of the life of Jesus Christ, we see that he chose to begin his miracles through Mary. It was by her word that he sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb of his mother, Saint Elizabeth; no sooner had Mary spoken than John was sanctified. This was his first and greatest miracle of grace. At the wedding in Cana he changed water into wine at her humble prayer, and this was his first miracle in the order of nature. He began and continued his miracles through Mary and he will continue them through her until the end of time.

20. God the Holy Spirit, who does not produce any divine person, became fruitful through Mary whom he espoused. It was with her, in her and of her that he produced his masterpiece, God-made-man, and that he produces every day until the end of the world the members of the body of this adorable Head. For this reason the more he finds Mary his dear and inseparable spouse in a soul the more powerful and effective he becomes in producing Jesus Christ in that soul and that soul in Jesus Christ.

21. This does not mean that the Blessed Virgin confers on the Holy Spirit a fruitfulness which he does not already possess. Being God, he has the ability to produce just like the Father and the Son, although he does not use this power and so does not produce another divine person. But it does mean that the Holy Spirit chose to make use of our Blessed Lady, although he had no absolute need of her, in order to become actively fruitful in producing Jesus Christ and his members in her and by her. This is a mystery of grace unknown even to many of the most learned and spiritual of Christians.

Catechism on the Blessed Virgin
by Saint John Vianney

 The Father takes pleasure in looking upon the heart of the most Holy Virgin Mary, as the masterpiece of His hands; for we always like our own work, especially when it is well done. The Son takes pleasure in it as the heart of His Mother, the source from which He drew the Blood that has ransomed us; the Holy Ghost as His temple. The Prophets published the glory of Mary before her birth; they compared her to the sun. Indeed, the apparition of the Holy Virgin may well be compared to a beautiful gleam of sun on a foggy day. 

Before her coming, the anger of God was hanging over our heads like a sword ready to strike us. As soon as the Holy Virgin appeared upon the earth, His anger was appeased. . . . She did not know that she was to be the Mother of God, and when she was a little child she used to say, "When shall I then see that beautiful creature who is to be the Mother of God?" The Holy Virgin has brought us forth twice, in the Incarnation and at the foot of the Cross; she is then doubly our Mother. The Holy Virgin is often compared to a mother, but she is much better still than the best of mothers; for the best of mothers sometimes punishes her child when it displeases her, and even beats it: she thinks she is doing right. But the Holy Virgin does not so; she is so good that she treats us with love, and never punishes us. 

The heart of this good Mother is all love and mercy; she desires only to see us happy. We have only to turn to her to be heard. The Son has His justice, the Mother has nothing but her love. God has loved us so much as to die for us; but in the heart of Our Lord there is justice, which is an attribute of God; in that of the most Holy Virgin there is nothing but mercy. Her Son being ready to punish a sinner, Mary interposes, checks the sword, implores pardon for the poor criminal. "Mother, " Our Lord says to her, "I can refuse you nothing. If Hell could repent, you would obtain its pardon. " 

The most Holy Virgin places herself between her Son and us. The greater sinners we are, the more tenderness and compassion does she feel for us. The child that has cost its mother most tears is the dearest to her heart. Does not a mother always run to the help of the weakest and the most exposed to danger? Is not a physician in the hospital most attentive to those who are most seriously ill? The Heart of Mary is so tender towards us, that those of all the mothers in the world put together are like a piece of ice in comparison to hers. See how good the Holy Virgin is! Her great servant Saint Bernard used often to say to her, "I salute thee, Mary. " One day this good Mother answered him, "I salute thee, my son Bernard. " 

The Ave Maria is a prayer that is never wearisome. The devotion to the Holy Virgin is delicious, sweet, nourishing. When we talk on earthly subjects or politics, we grow weary; but when we talk of the Holy Virgin, it is always new. All the saints have a great devotion to Our Lady; no grace comes from Heaven without passing through her hands. We cannot go into a house without speaking to the porter; well, the Holy Virgin is the portress of Heaven. 

When we have to offer anything to a great personage, we get it presented by the person he likes best, in order that the homage may be agreeable to him. So our prayers have quite a different sort of merit when they are presented by the Blessed Virgin, because she is the only creature who has never offended God. The Blessed Virgin alone has fulfilled the first Commandment--to adore God only, and love Him perfectly. She fulfilled it completely. 

All that the Son asks of the Father is granted Him. All that the Mother asks of the Son is in like manner granted to her. When we have handled something fragrant, our hands perfume whatever they touch: let our prayers pass through the hands of the Holy Virgin; she will perfume them. I think that at the end of the world the Blessed Virgin will be very tranquil; but while the world lasts, we drag her in all directions. . . . The Holy Virgin is like a mother who has a great many children--she is continually occupied in going from one to the other.

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