Friday, 11 January 2019

189- Prayer To The Blessed Trinity by St. Elisabeth of the Trinity

Prayer To The Blessed Trinity

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.
May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your Mystery.
Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place.
May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You… even unto death!
But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to “clothe me with Yourself,” to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute Yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life.
Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Saviour.  O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You.
Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light.
O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.

O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, “come upon me,” and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery.
And You, O Father, bend lovingly over  Your poor little creature; “cover her with Your shadow,” seeing in her only the “Beloved in whom You are well pleased.”

O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey.

Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness. AMEN.

St Elisabeth of the Trinity OCD


St Elisabeth of the Trinity

Prayer

O Lord, the desire to listen to Your divine Word , the need to be silent is sometimes so strong that I wish not to know how to do anything else save to remain at Your feet like the Magdalen, in order to penetrate ever more deeply into that mystery of love which You came to reveal to us.
O Lord, what does it matter, when I can retire within myself, enlightened by faith, whether I feel or don’t feel, whether I am in light or darkness, enjoy or do not enjoy?  I am struck by a kind of shame at making any distinction between such things and, despising myself utterly for such want of love, I turn at once to You …above the sweetness and consolations which flow from You, because I have resolved to pass by all else in order to be united with You.
O Jesus, even though I fall at every moment, in trustful faith I shall pray to You to raise me up, and I know that You will forgive me, and will blot out everything with care. More than that: You will deliver me from my miseries, from everything that is an obstacle to Your divine action; and will draw all my powers to Yourself, and make them Your captive…Then I shall have passed completely into You and shall be able to say: It is no longer I that live ; my Master lives in me.
Lord, how I long to labour for Your glory! I long to give myself entirely to You, to be pervaded by Your divine life; be the life of my life, the soul of my soul, and grant that I may always remain under the influence of Your divine action.
O, Jesus…I no longer wish to live by my own life, but be transformed in You, so that my life may be more divine than human, and that, inclining unto me, the Father may recognize Your image, the image of His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased.
I am praying fervently for you, that God may invade all the powers of your soul, that He may make you live in communion with His whole mystery, that everything in you may be divine and marked with His seal, so that you may be another Christ working for the glory of the Father! …I want to work for the glory of God, and for that I must be wholly filled with Him; then I will be all-powerful: one look, one desire [will] become an irresistible prayer than can obtain everything, since it is, so to speak, God whom we are offering to God.  May our souls be one in Him, and while you bring Him to souls, I will remain like Mary Magdalene, silent and adoring, close to the Master, asking Him to make your word fruitful in souls.
O faithful Virgin, when you uttered your “fiat”, the greatest of all mysteries was accomplished in you.  In what peace and recollection did you live and act! Teach me to sanctify my most trivial actions and to spend myself for others when charity requires it, yet all the while to remain like you the constant adorer of God within me.
O my Guiding Star, the fair light of faith enlightens me to see You.  What does it matter if I feel or do not feel, if I am in the light or darkness, if I enjoy or do not enjoy.  Only let me so fix my gaze on You, that I may never wander from Your light…
O my God, I ask You to make us genuine in our love, that is, men and women of sacrifice.  It is our mission to prepare the way of the Lord by our union with Him.  In contact with Him our soul will become like a flame of love, spreading through all the members of the body of Christ which is the Church.
A Day With Elisabeth of the Trinity (5 Videos):



Monday, 31 December 2018

188- The Practical use of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

This article is a continuation of a previous article: "184- The Immaculate Conception in the Light of Christ our Saviour" It is a practical approach to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, that helps us see its impact on our daily spiritual life.



“In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
God makes salvation its walls and ramparts.”
(Isaiah 26:1)


The dogma of the “Immaculate Conception” of Mary is essential to our daily life and we don’t necessarily see it or use it as such. Why would the Church proclaim something that is not useful for us? Therefore, an intelligent approach would be to dig deeper in order to understand the real daily use of a “Dogma”.

In fact, the “Immaculate Conception” is not a Dogma about Mary only. It is a fundamental element for our “Spiritual Life”. How can this be?
At the Cross, Jesus gives us Mary: “Woman, behold, your son!” (see John 19:26-27). This means that this privilege of Mary benefits us in many ways, since Mary “belongs to us”. In fact, we know that Mary, in the Annunciation and throughout her life said “yes” to God, for herself and for each one of us. (“She uttered her yes “in the name of all human nature”. By her obedience she became the new Eve, mother of the living” (Catechism 511))
“Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”(Catechism 491)
The huge gap that lies between Mary and each one of us is not only at the level of her Conception (from the first moment of her conception she is preserved immune from all stain of original sin) but at the level of its practical consequences: being able to believe. The insistence in St. Luke’s Gospel on “Mary’s Faith” versus “our lack of faith” (or better said our “incapacity to believe”) is something really staggering.
Early on in his Gospel, St. Luke presents us with two annunciations, one that “didn’t work”, and one that did. One was unfruitful (Zachariah didn’t believe) and the other one was fruitful (Mary did believe for herself and for Zachariah).
The parallelism Luke makes is deliberately done, and is very powerful: it is meant as well to be the Portal of his Gospel. The conclusion of this asymmetrical presentation of the “capacity to believe” in Chapter 1 reaches its high peak when Mary and Elisabeth meet. Not Zachariah this time, but his wife, has a very deep dialogue with Mary where she will utter central truths for us who are seeking to believe:
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil what has been said to her!” (Luke 1:45)

The Lord said things through the Angel to Zachariah, he didn’t believe.
The Lord said things through the Angel to Mary, and she believed.
Not only that, but Mary brings us the light of her Faith, and offers it to us: see how she doesn’t remain at home with the Grace of God she has received, on the contrary, she visits her Cousin Elisabeth, and through her visits each one of us, at home. This is why Mary will utter this very unusual self-praise: “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). All the generations will receive her visit, will draw from her unique immaculate faith the capacity to believe. This is not something to be taken lightly!
Two facts now emerge: 1- we notice the huge gap between her capacity and ours. 2- this gap is narrowed by the fact that the “grace” and “privilege” she received are offered to us as well.
Does Jesus speak about these essential truths? Well yes, but in a semi-hidden way, because it is a “secret”. Why does he “hide” these essential truths? Jesus feels that a minimum of desire and preparation are required in order to be able to appreciate their true value and bear fruits. Otherwise it would be like throwing pearls to the swine: “though seeing, they may not see; 
though hearing, they may not understand.” (Luke 8:10) One has really to want it, to ask for it, to seek it humbly but with deep desire.
In order to better understand the “Immaculate Conception of Mary” let us have a look at the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13, Mk 4, Lk 8). This parable is the key parable, in the sense that if we don’t understand it, we won’t understand any parable: “Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?” (Mk 4:13).
This parable analyses the soils, i.e. “our, way of receiving” the Word of God, our way of BELIEVING. It doesn’t discuss anything about God Himself; on the contrary, it addresses the human being and his capacity to receive the Word of God and bear fruits. Its goal is to show us how our ways of dealing with God are too short, don’t reach fruition and that we need to adopt the ways of the “Good Soil”: Mary.
In this fundamental parable, Jesus offers us 4 different “soils” (read: “4 ways of believing”) and studies them carefully. The striking thing is that only one soil is capable of bearing fruits (i.e. fully believing): the fourth soil, also called “the Good soil”.
Remember: “liturgy” is the way the faithful, throughout the ages, express their own faith. Paying attention to the contents of the Liturgy can bring us precious information about our faith. In the liturgical tradition of the Church (the Maronite and Byzantine rites at least), Mary is called the “Good soil”, the “Soil in which God sowed His Divine Seed: the Son”.
Let us return to the Parable of the Sower: We can then safely explore the avenue of considering Mary as “the Good soil”.
Remember that in this parable, regarding “the act of believing”, the red line between “bearing fruits” and “not bearing fruits” is fundamental. What is the point of starting to believe and not reaching completion (bearing fruits)?
The parable helps us as well to understand the “fullness of Grace” that characterises Mary: being “full of grace” allows her to bear fruits, i.e. to believe. Only God dwells in the “FULL-of-Grace”, only God acts in her, and His action doesn’t find in her any obstacle, and therefore she can bear fruits. Mary is “the good soil”.
Now, can we really receive Mary in our heart, in our life, and make use of her own faith?
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus sums up all that we said, and brings it to completion in a genial way when she said:
“I am not shaken when I see my weakness
The treasure of the Mother belongs to her child
And I am your daughter, oh my dear mother
Your virtues, your love, aren’t they mine?
Therefore when in my heart will descend the white Host
Jesus, my Sweet Lamb, thinks he reposes in you!…” (Poem 54,5)
You may say to Mary: “your faith Mary is mine, therefore I believe not with and through my weak sterile faith, but with your own faith.
This is why Pope John Paul II, in His Encyclical letter on Mary “Redemptoris Mater”, (RM), mentions the fact that we are called to participate to Mary’s faith (see RM 27) and has this other ingenious affirmation: “Mary’s faith […] in some way continues to become the faith of the pilgrim People of God” (RM 28).
This short text on the understanding and use of the Immaculate Conception is worth being read a few times, in order to receive all its rich contents.
Re-read, ponder, wonder…
ask, receive and then ACT…
The historical context of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is very important in order to understand it fully, and we should strive to understand the “political”, practical, thread in it.
Again, being focused on “Spiritual Theology”, we are essentially interested in the practical spiritual impact of the Proclamation of a Dogma, any Dogma.
First: what is a “Dogma”?
The word “Dogma” we use, is a word inherited from the Greek Philosophers. A dogma for them is a universal principle which founds and justifies a specific practical conduct, and which can be formulated in one or in several propositions. A Dogma (especially amongst the Stoic Philosophers) is like a sentence of practical wisdom that one will meditate, ponder upon, and put into practice: it essentially impacts the daily life.
The use of the word “dogma” crossed over from the cultural philosophical use amongst the Greeks to the early Christians.
– Was that an error? Would that have meant a deviation of the right understanding of Jesus’ message?
– I am not sure it is the case. Let us take a closer look.
For early Christians (the first centuries), the “dogmas” were something very practical. It appears as well to be the same for the non-Greek christians: the Apostles themselves who were Semites. 
A very early example of the implicit use of the idea of a “dogma”
See for instance how St. Matthew in his gospel presents the Trinity as a “Dogma”, i.e. as something to put into practice. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is the Great Charter (Carta Magna) of the newly baptised. Remember we are baptised (i.e. immersed) in each Person of the Trinity. In the Sermon of the Mountain, saint Matthew dedicates a section for each person of the Trinity: Mt. 5:17-48 is offered to put the dogmata of the Son into practice, Mt. 6 is to help us put the dogmata of the Father into practice, and Mt. 7 is for us to put the dogmata of the Holy Spirit into practice. Each Person is a “dogmata”, not a sentence though but a Person upon whom we are supposed to meditate upon, enter in, be immersed in, be transformed into.
“Being Baptised” meant simply that the Father did Baptise (immerse) us, in the Trinity.
– How would this happen?
– For the first Generation, God the Father was considered to have two hands: St. Irenaeus says that the Son and the Holy Spirit are the Hands of the Father (remember that Irenaeus is the disciple of the disciple of St. John). So “Baptism” would be seen as follows:
The Father takes us in His Hands and holds us tight: as a result we shouldn’t escape from His hands. How? By implementing a set of practices that would help us remain immersed (baptised) in the Son, in the Father and in the Holy Spirit (in that order, see 2 Cor 13:13).
To “be Baptised” for the first generation of Christians implied to put into practice the Three Divine Persons of the Trinity. The “Dogma” of the Trinity was practical and vital.
Therefore for the Catechesis of the first Christians (i.e. the Sermon on the Mountain), a whole chapter was dedicated to approaching each Person of the Trinity in a practical way.
For a mnemonic reason, remember that each hand has 5 fingers, so you’ll find the 5 points (one per finger) to remember about the Son in Mt. 5 and the same for the Holy Spirit: five sections in Mt. 7.
Easy to count, easy to remember, easy for meditation, easy to put into practise. The whole “Greater Charter” (Carta Magna) of Christianity, i.e. the Dogma of the Trinity, is fully comprised in this Sermon, the Sermon on the Mountain. 
The historical background of the dogma
– Would dogmas change?
– Obviously: no.
– Would we have new dogmas?
– Obviously: no.
– So why do we have “new” dogmas?
– We don’t. We just proclaim a truth as a “dogma” when we see it, after a long development, under a clearer light.
Theological Note: Even if it is the Pope who proclaims a Dogma, the proclamation is an act of the Church as a whole, as you’ll see below, the Pope makes has a consultation first in order to “sense” the “feeling of the faithful”. The infallibility of the Pope draws its principle from the infallibility of the Church and not vice-versa.
I would add something important in my eyes to that last reply: a Dogma, as we just said, has a direct practical use to it. It has a real impact on us, in our daily life. It is not “one more truth to proclaim” or to believe in, it is one more thing to put into practice, one more thing we already put into practise but the use of which today is much more urgent or vital, this is why it is underlined by the Faithful, the Church, the Pope.
– So why that urge to proclaim Mary as the “Immaculate Conception”?
– This is exactly my point: the historical context of the proclamation is very important to help us understand the reason why it was made in the first place and mainly its application in daily life.
Let us remember a few facts that will help us historically situate the “proclamation” of the Immaculate Conception of Mary by Pope Pius IX:
1- Pope Pius IXth is witnessing the end of the “Middle Ages” political system of Kingdoms, and the new spirit of the Republic of the French Revolution invading the spirit of the Italians and most of Europe.
2- These changes are quite drastic and, with all the good will of the Pope, are seen and felt as a threat to the normal order of things. Remember also that the Pope at that time still had land and estate and was considered as a Ruler.
3- The Pope’s life is under serious threat by the Italian Republicans. His Prime Minister, Pellegrino Rossi, has been assassinated (15th of November 1848), the Swiss Guards are disarmed, making the Pope to a prisoner in his palace.
Then on the 24th of November 1848, the Pope escapes in disguise as a regular priest to Gaeta, in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies leaving Rome to the radicals and the mob.
4- At Gaeta, in a very small crypt, the Pope prays for 9 months. He had a great devotion to Mary under the name of the “Immaculate Conception”. (You can visit the Church (“Santissima Annunziata”) and the crypt, called “Cappella d’Oro”.)
It is during these dire times that the Pope formed the decision to start the process of consultation that would lead later to the declaration of the Dogma of the “Immaculate Conception”. The idea wasn’t new, but the aforesaid events triggered the process. While still in Gaeta, on the 2nd of February 1849, he published his Encyclical Letter “Ubi Primum”, to the bishops of the Catholic Church asking them for their opinion about the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
The Pope remained in Gaeta till the 4th of September 1849.
Time of total distress
The Pope’s Prime minister is killed, his life is under threat, he has to escape, and he does it in disguise. This tells us the degree of distress the Pope is going through.
It is quite obvious that the only practical help he could find was in Mary, not only that, but “Mary the Immaculate Conception”. In a situation of darkness, of total darkness, where the future of the Church is under serious threat, the traditional political order is upside down and its survival is under threat, where evil is trying to kill… the Pope turns in prayer to the Immaculate, the only Creature after Jesus who was never defeated by Evil. We can say that the Pope had found the solution for his distress and the turmoil of the Church.
Do you see the practical, spiritual and political situation in which is born the desire to proclaim solemnly Mary as the “Immaculate Conception”?
By doing so he is in fact declaring that he found The Solution for his distress, he wants to present the solution, and he wants to say what happened to him and how Mary, invoked under this specific mystery, helped him.
He wants to say that this is the will of God to put at the Centre of the Church the First Sign of His Victory, the New Eve, the one that was never defeated by Evil. She is at the heart and root of the life of the Church, real source and proof of Hope that God gave us.
You’ll notice that in the definition of the Immaculate Conception, it is said that this “grace”/ privilege comes directly from Jesus’s salvation, from Jesus’ Cross. In this sense we can contemplate Her as being the first Saved Person by Christ, and mother, with Him, of all the saved. We can contemplate Her, first Saved Creature coming out of His Side, New Eve, totally pure, Mother of the Church.
The first sign of Jesus’ victory on the Cross is Mary. The prototype of all the Saved people, is Mary.
The mother and the “Mould” of all the saved, is Her as well. She generated the Head, and generates each person in the Body.
God put this Sign (the Immaculate) right in the centre of his Church. Mary is the only one who believed (see other articles), Mary is the Prototype of Jesus’ Disciple and follower.
Like the Pope and like that moment in the history of the Church, we too reach the darkest point in our spiritual journey, and we all lift our eyes, in the darkness, to the Star of the Sea, Mary, the Only Immaculate Point in the Dark Sky, “gift of Jesus for us”, “capacity to believe” given by Him to us.
The role of Immaculate in the “Dark night of the spirit”
Now let us see a more specific aspect of the application of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
According to St. John of the Cross, the “Dark night of the spirit” is the deepest and final purification the faithful should go through before reaching the “Union with Jesus” (See his book “The dark night”, especially the second part). You might recognise it in the “Great trial” mentioned in the book of Revelation (Rev 9:14-17) or find it in a more plain way in: what the Apostles (or any follower of Jesus) have to go through when Jesus is about to start his Passion: all your hopes about the Messiah-Saviour will vanish, all your life, your spiritual life seems to go and disappear in the land of oblivion.
Now, a great catholic Master, Blessed Fr. Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus OCD (1894-1967), in the second volume of his great book “I want to see God”, says that Mary plays a fundamental role at this crucial moment where everything in our “spiritual life” seems to disappear. He quotes St. Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort, saying that the presence of Mary all together 1- makes that time of deep purification lighter, more bearable, and 2- is essential for this turning point in our spiritual life (the deep purification). In fact, for the first time, we are called to make a pure act of Faith, and in order to do so, we learn to use “Mary’s faith”, or better said: we ask her to “believe for us”. In doing so, we let her grow in us, and transform our spirit into the image of hers, being now for the first time capable of “believing as she believes”.
We are then starting to follow “the only one who believed in the Resurrection”, “the one around whom the distressed apostle gathered in order to draw from her the pure faith in Jesus”.
In a way, Pope Pius the IXth is saying to us: in these great times of distress, the Church continues not with the strength of the papacy, or any human strength, but through the help God put in Mary, the Immaculate. God had his victory in her, and is offering to each one of us this same Victory, by putting Mary in the centre of Jesus’ faithful. Mary said “Yes” to God, “yes He will rise as he promised it” in the darkest moment of history (when Jesus is dead): she believed in the Resurrection; and God gives us her “Yes” so we can use it and overcome the darkness. (Note: John-Paul II made all this very clear during his Pontificate)
The “Line of Divide” of the Immaculate Conception
The first practical consequence of the fact that Mary is the “immaculate conception” is that she is the only one who was able to believe in God’s Words given to her through the Archangel Gabriel (Luke 1). She is “the only one”, the first one to believe and is also the mother of all believers, in the sense that she begets their capacity to believe! Our capacity to believe is deposited by God in her! And we are all called to go to her in order to draw from her, our Mother, this capacity. She is truly our mother, the mother of our faith.
During the Mass we say: “Look not on our faith but on the faith of your Church.”
During our baptism the priest asked our Godparents: “what do you ask the Church for?”. They have answered for us: “Faith” – because Faith obtains for us Eternal Life.
We say these things not knowing exactly what they mean. What is the Church’s faith? It is Mary’s faith. No other faith! What is the Faith we ask for during our baptism: it is Mary’s faith.
The line of divide between all the human race who is born under original sin and Mary who is born from Jesus’ heart dying on the Cross is the same line of divide we find in the parable of the sower between the first three soils (who can’t believe and can’t bear fruits) and “the good soil” Mary.
It is the same line of divide St. Luke puts between the two initial annunciations (to Zachariah (& us) and to Mary). Zachariah’s (& ours) failed, he remained mute, as a sign of his incapacity to believe the Angel’s Words, despite the fact that we was righteous and fulfilling all Moses Commandments (Luke 1:5).
In a way, many centuries before the Declaration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary conceived without original sin, born from the Saviour’s Side on the Cross, the Scriptures (Luke and John) drew the same line of divide between the New Eve and all of us her children to be, not conceived immaculate.
Luke showed us in his Gospel that Mary is the only one who was able to believe, because she is the real Ark of the new Covenant, the only one capable of believing and therefore receiving the Word of God in Her… and keeping Him for ever in Her. Luke showed us the same line of divide: Mary is the only onecapable of believing, Zachariah (and us in him) weren’t and aren’t.
The Parable of the Sower showed us the same line of divide between the first three soils incapable of bearing fruits and the good soil, Mary.
In this sense, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is very well present in the Gospels.
The same line of divide is there also when believing in the Resurrection was needed. Jesus announced it many times! In whose heart did his Words (“I shall rise”) fall and dwell? When Jesus was dead for three days, who among his disciples (the forerunners of our Faith) was able to believe in His Words promising us that He will rise? Nobody, only Mary. The same line of divide is found here! This is why the Lord said to Peter (see Luke 22:31-32) that he would pray for him, so that when he “turned back” from his unbelief (i.e. he turned to Mary like the tower of Faith), he would be able to strengthen his brothers with the Faith that comes from Mary.
“To believe” requires the humility to acknowledge that it is a grace given by God in the person of Mary, perfect and archetype of Jesus’ disciple. The humility to go to her, acknowledge that she is the new Eve, our Mother, the embodiment of faith and faithfulness, and draw from her our capacity to believe in Jesus and follow Him. God gives us this capacity. In our turn, in her and through her faith, we become sons of God, capable of believing! But we need to acknowledge the source of our Faith: Mary’s, in order to stop living with the illusions of thinking that without Her we would be able to believe and that we would be able to go to the Son our Saviour. Mary’s Faith becomes our Faith. This is why the Ark of the new Covenant becomes the new city of Jerusalem: she is carrying all of us, her Children, God’s Children, in her womb, nurturing us. “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong City; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts.” (Isaiah 26:1)
How does this dogma become life in us?
What are the consequences of believing in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on the day to day life level?
A- When the Church declares a dogma, she is inviting us to believe in it. As we saw above, while remembering the social and spiritual turmoil of the context the Declaration, this dogma is supposed to help us, to be like the channel or a window so we can receive a renewed power to be from God to live in a new social order. A dogma is first meant to be met with an Act of Faith.
B- The Act of Faith made upon the declaration allows us to enter more deeply into the reality of this truth. As a consequence we receive a new and deeper understanding of the relationship between Mary (seen as Immaculate, Gift from God to us) and us, living in a tormented world or times. Once we have this new understanding of this truth, we need to find a way to allow it to come alive in us, to nourish us and transform us. The main consequence of this dogma is the new understanding that we need to see that:
1- Following Jesus requires faith on our part, it is not automatic. We need to be totally involved with all our being in the act of following Christ. Faith is the total gift of oneself. In this sense we are called to discover that if on one hand we have the divine Seed, we need “the good soil” to receive it. Faith has two polarities: the seed and the soil! The seed alone can’t achieve anything without the help of the soil.
2- The second consequence of this deepening is that not any soil can do it! We need the good soil! So we need to understand that there are two ways to follow Christ: one being any soil and one being the Good soil!
3- The good soil is Mary. Only Mary was able to believe.
4- Mary is the mother of our Faith. Becoming ‘the good soil’ is to draw our capacity to believe from Mary.
Therefore the practical incidence of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is to use it on a daily basis, each time we need to make a Theological Act of Faith, Hope or Love. It is by becoming aware that with our best intentions and with our best spiritual endeavours, Mary’s ways are still way superior to ours.
When God gave the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to humanity in fact he was inviting us to go deeper in the waters of the Gospel. It is equivalent of putting the ax to “the root of the trees” and warning us that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mt. 3:10) God is moving up a gear.
Each time we want to go to God by our own means and good intentions with our own way of making an Act of Faith, or Hope or Love, we need to remember that we need to use the divine modality of making them: this divine way lies in Mary, is Mary’s Immaculate way of dealing with God, of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in Her.
This is why we say: “pray for us sinners”! We acknowledge that when we deal with God we are not ‘immaculate conception’, but we ask the help of the ‘Immaculate Conception’, so she can give us her way of dealing with God. “pray for us” means: lift us from our non-immaculate way of dealing with God to your immaculate way… introduce us in you. Let us dwell in you, stay in you, live and act in you and through you. This way, the dogma is really held by us, and becomes life in us and changes us.
Does it make more sense now to believe that Mary is the Immaculate Conception? Do we see more clearly how practical this “dogma” is?
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A ground breaking lecture on the practical implications of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Sticking mainly to the Bible, we deepen the understanding of the Apostles’ journey of faith in relation to Mary.
We often don’t see the direct and practical implications of the various dogmas. To the point that we keep them in the “belief” area of our christian life and not our Spiritual practical life area. We lose a lot by not seeing the direct inner relationship between each dogma and our personal life.
Following the Apostle Journey of Faith, this groundbreaking lecture opens a new way of understanding the Immaculate Conception and its “use” in our daily life.
First Part of the audio recording:

Second Part:


Saturday, 22 December 2018

187- The Deep Meaning of Christmas

Now, when we talk about the second coming of Jesus in our heart (see previous post), a hidden coming, this gives us the deepest insight on the Grace of Christmas.

The Lord alludes to his mysterious coming in our heart during the last supper:

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." (John 14:21)

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)

The message is clear and all Spiritual Masters dedicated their life to this endeavour: to receive Jesus during this lifetime in their heart in fullness (as much as it is possible here on earth). Many called it: "Union with God" or "Union with Christ", others: "Spiritual Marriage".
(One can read what St Thomas Aquinas says in the Summa Theologica about the invisible Missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the first part of the Summa, q. 43.)

Now, more precisely, liturgically God gives us every year a powerful grace for Christmas, a grace that manifests in the most clear way His Mercy for each one of us. Because through Christ's birth, the Incarnation (which Christmas celebrates) is the decision that God the Father took, out of an immense and unique personalised love for each one of us, to get closer to us, to the point of uniting himself not only to our nature but also to specifically each one of us.

The Birth of the Messiah, King and Saviour of each one us manifests in a most pure way the Mercy of God! We were sinners, we were walking (and still are) in the land of the dead and of Darkness (Isaiah 9:2), and we didn’t even know what Light is, and The Eternal Light, because of His very nature who is Tender Love, decided that it was time to come and unite himself to each one of us.

Each year, we celebrate this unique event in History, and it is Christmas. God continues to offer us this same grace he already gave us 2000 years ago, and he showers every year amazing graces of conversions, of liberation for various types of “slaveries”, addictions, darkness, sins, mortal sins,…

The last two centuries saw many big conversions happening during Christmas Eve Mass. Remember Paul Claudel, the French poet: he entered at midnight Mass at Notre Dame's Cathedral, in Paris, he entered atheist and came out after the Midnight Mass a fully Catholic Believer. You can still visit the spot where he was standing, following the right nave, quite ahead. This is just an example of the power of the Grace of God.


Historic floor plaque, site of Paul Claudel conversion, Notre Dame

St. Therese of the Child Jesus had a powerful healing from a very painful deep crisis of scruple: she was pre-adolescent. It was during Christmas.

Each one of us should be totally convinced that the Lord has an amazing Present for him every Christmas, a powerful and beautiful grace to receive. Not necessarily visible to others, but “visible” to ourselves. It is something along the line of the mysterious coming of Jesus in our heart. Some spiritual masters even consider that Christmas is the most appropriate liturgical time to mark the spiritual turning points (think for instance the end of the purification, or the Grace of Union with God (Spiritual Marriage)).

Now do we only think about ourselves?



It is important to join Mary in her understanding and perception of what is happening: the meaning of the Coming of our Saviour. The reason why he comes is to save us, to take us from the Darkness to his Light, to unite us to him! Mary today is aware of all the persons who need her Son, the Holy Spirit working in her heart freely, deeply totally and powerfully, moves her to Desire the Salvation of the World, the Salvation of each person, especially the ones who need most God’s Mercy. This is the Prayer that the Holy Spirit generates in the depths of Our Lady.

We need to joint into this prayer and make space in us for Our Lady and the Holy Spirit in our heart, so we participate this way to the coming of the Saviour for our brothers and sisters who are in need of Him (and they don’t know it).

It is by offering sacrifices, little ones, not ostentatious ones, just visible to God, offering them to God, to the Holy Spirit so we can help in the work of Salvation of our Brothers and Sisters. Prayer and Sacrifice offered to the Fire of the Holy Spirit are a very important contribution to Christmas Grace!

A sacrifice of patience, of forgiveness, of offering what pains us, of offering even our joys, so the Lord Holy Spirit takes all this and transforms it in his Power of Salvation for the benefit of our Bothers and Sisters.

Not only we can contribute in the salvation of the World, we should be worried and busy with it, having it at the centre of our heart! Our brothers and sisters are Jesus' body. The ones who are far, and live in the darkness are the ones who generate most Mercy and humble compassion in our heart, we are moved by seeing their state, being far from God, we suffer because of this, we want things to change! We offer all of this to the Fire of the Holy Spirit acting in Mary, waiting for Jesus to be Born giving a grace to our brothers, a Salvation Grace, a Grace of Mercy.

Let us contribute to the salvation of Jesus’ Body, our brothers and sisters!

Prayer and Sacrifice, real love of our “enemies”, of what is “unpleasant”, of what contradicts us… offering it to the Fire of the Holy Spirit, to Our Lady… this is the most important contribution we can give for Christmas! This is to love Jesus.

(See also: Post 65: Jesus is born in our heart
and Post 66: This Little Child is Our Temple)

186- The Meaning of Advent and Christmas Seasons

There are three comings of Jesus:

1- Visibly 2000 years ago

2- Spiritually in our hearts (John 14:21.23)

3- Gloriously in the end of time: we say "Maranata come Lord Jesus" (See end of book of Revelation). See also in 1Thess-2Thess how Spiritual Life in us makes us pray, hope and ask for Jesus to come back.

The last week of the Liturgical Year is dedicated to 3.  See the Mass readings.

Advent is dedicated to 1 and 2. With John the Baptist and Mary. More Mary of Course: The Immaculate Conception on the 8th December, the Octave of it, and more specifically from the 18th December.

The Liturgical year is the communication of all the Mysteries of Jesus to us. They are spread over the entire year (or 3 years). Liturgy is the moment in time where Jesus' Grace is communicated to us. The more we are attentive to its rhythm the more we receive the Grace of God.

Everything in the Church is at the service of 2, i.e. the coming of Jesus in us, His growth in us until He reaches his fullness in us. Everything really in the Church is normally focused on that! The growth of the Church is the Growth of Jesus in us.

The more Spiritual Life grows in us and develops, the more we become sensitive to 2, i.e. Jesus growth in us. And it aches to see how far the reality on the ground is from that (see following Post). How the way we celebrate Christmas is far from focusing on the inner reality of it. It is normal to feel this pain, it is the sing that the Grace is working in us. 2 is becoming the focus of our life. 

Note: In the early stages of spiritual growth, we are tempted to start to focus on 3, forgetting that 3 alone doesn’t make sense without the progress in 2.
2 is the only door to 3. The coming of Jesus in our heart is the only door to his coming in the end of time. The only way to please Him and hasten his final glorious coming.
Therefore it is better to put all our energy in 2 in order to have a real growth of Jesus in the Church and in the World. Why would we focus on Him coming back if people are not ready to great Him? If people don't have Him in their heart already, is it real love from our part to want Him to come back? Wouldn't it be spiritually egoistical?
If the Love of God is really growing in us, if the love of our neighbour is growing in us, we will want our brothers and sisters to have 2 before us asking for 3! This is real love from our part. They are the potential Body of Jesus.
Asking Him to come back while 2 is not realised is a lack of realism and most importantly a lack of real love for Jesus and for his Body.
Then of course, if we start to focus a lot on 3, we deviate our attention toward false prophecies... and our "apocalyptical fantasy" start to develop.

St Bernard has a Homily on the three Comings (see below in blue). We read it in Advent in the Office of Readings.

The more we are transformed by the Grace of God the more the Holy Spirit calls for Jesus (the desire for Him grows and grows, and it aches! Always more.) The initial work of the Holy Spirit is to prepare the place in us for Jesus. He is the Host who prepares us (the House, the Bride) to receive Jesus in full Union. 
St John of the Cross described wonderfully this work of the Holy Spirit in the Spiritual Canticle.


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Please find below the Advent Readings we have in the Liturgy of the Hours (copied). St Bernard's Homily can be found in blue, at the Wednesday of the First Week of Advent:


Liturgy of the Hours for the First Sunday of Advent

1st Reading: Isaiah 1:1-18

2nd Reading


The Twofold Coming Of Christ - St. Cyril of Jerusalem

We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom. In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future. At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels. We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity. The prophet Malachi speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming. Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing. These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await. That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.


I Sunday of Advent

Second Reading
Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Gospel 
Jesus said to his disciples: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

Commentary on the Readings


Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa

I Sunday of Advent (Cycle C) Jeremiah 33: 14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12 - 4:2; Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36.

Autumn is the ideal time to meditate on human things. We have before us the annual spectacle of leaves that fall from the trees. This has always been seen as an image of human destiny. “Here we are as leaves on the trees in autumn,” says the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. A generation comes, a generation goes …

But is this truly our ultimate destiny? Is it worse than the fate of these trees? After it is stripped, the tree regains its leaves in spring. But man, once he passes, never again returns. At least he does not return to this world. … Sunday’s readings help us to give an answer to this most anxious of human questions.

There was a particular scene that I remember seeing in a film or reading about it in an adventure story as a child, a scene that left a deep impression. A railroad bridge had collapsed during the night. An unsuspecting train is coming at full speed. A railroad worker standing on the tracks calls out: “Stop! Stop!” and waves a lantern to signal the danger. But the distracted engineer does not see him and plunges the train into the river. … It seems to me something of an image of contemporary society, careening frenetically to the rhythm of rock ‘n’ roll, ignoring all the warnings that come not only from the Church but from many people who feel a responsibility for the future …

With the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. The Gospel that will accompany us in the course of this year, Cycle C, is the Gospel of St. Luke. The Church takes the occasion of these important moments of passage — from one year to another, from one season to another — to invite us to stop for a moment and reflect and ask ourselves some essential questions: “Who are we? From whence do we come? And, above all, where are we going?”

In the readings of Sunday’s Mass, the verbs are in the future tense. In the First Reading we hear these words of Jeremiah: “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot. …” To this expectation, realized in the coming of the Messiah, the Gospel passage brings a new horizon and content which is the glorious return of Christ at the end of time. “The powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

These are apocalyptic, catastrophic tones and images. But what we have is a message of consolation and hope. They tell us that we are not heading for an eternal void and an eternal silence but we are on our way to an encounter, an encounter with him who created us and loves us more than mother and father.

Elsewhere the Book of Revelation describes this final event of history as an entering into a wedding feast. Just recall the parable of the ten virgins who enter with the bridegroom into the banquet hall, or the image of God who, at the threshold of the life to come, waits for us to wipe away the last tear from our eyes.

From the Christian point of view, the whole of human history is one long wait. Before Christ, his coming was awaited; after him, we await his glorious return at the end of time. For just this reason the season of Advent has something very important to say to us about our lives. A great Spanish author, Calderón de la Barca, wrote a celebrated play called “Life is a Dream.” With just as much truth it must be said that life is expectation! It is interesting that this is exactly the theme of one of the most famous plays of our times: Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” …

Of a woman who is with child it is said that she is “expecting”; the offices of important persons have “waiting rooms.” But if we reflect on it, life itself is a waiting room. We get impatient when we have to wait, for a visit, for a practice. But woe to him who is no longer waiting for something. A person who no longer expects anything from life is dead. Life is expectation, but the converse is also true: Expectation is life!

What distinguishes the waiting of the believer from every other waiting; from, for example, that of the two characters who are waiting for Godot? In that play a mysterious person is awaited (who, according to some, would be God, hence, “God-ot”), without any certainty that he will really come. He was supposed to come in the morning; he sends word to say that he will come in the afternoon. In the afternoon he does not come, but surely he will come in the evening, and in the evening, perhaps tomorrow morning. … The two tramps are condemned to wait for him, they have no other alternative.

This is not how it is for the Christian. He awaits one who has already come and who walks by his side. For this reason after the First Sunday of Advent in which the final return of Christ is looked for, on the following Sundays we will hear John the Baptist who speaks of his presence among us: “In your midst,” he says, “there is one whom you do not know!” Jesus is present among us not only in the Eucharist, in the word, in the poor, in the Church … but, by grace, he lives in our hearts and the believer experiences this.

The Christian’s waiting is not empty, a letting the time pass. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus also talks about the way that the disciples must wait, how they must conduct themselves in the meantime to not be taken by surprise: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. … Be vigilant at all times.”

Of these moral duties we will speak another time. Let us conclude with a memory from a film. There are two big stories about icebergs in the movies. The one is that of the Titanic, which we know well. … The other is narrated in a Kevin Kostner film of several years back, “Rapa Nui.” A legend of Easter Island, which is in the Pacific Ocean, tells of an iceberg that, in reality, is a ship and that passes close to the island every century or so. The king or hero can climb aboard and ride toward the kingdom of immortality.

There is an iceberg that runs across the course which each of us travel; it is sister death. We can pretend to not see her or to be heedless of her like the people who were enjoying themselves on that tragic night aboard the Titanic. Or we can make ourselves ready and climb onto her and let ourselves be taken to the Kingdom of the blessed. The season of Advent should also serve this purpose

Monday of the First week of Advent

FIRST READING: Isaiah 1: 21-27; 2: 1-5 

SECOND READING From a pastoral letter by Saint Charles Borromeo, bishop


The Season Of Advent

Beloved, now is the acceptable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of salvation, peace and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon rejoiced at last to see. This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to summon us to heaven, to welcome us into its innermost recesses, to show us truth itself, to train us in right conduct, to plant within us the seeds of virtue, to enrich us with the treasures of his grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all. We shall share his power, if, through holy faith and the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace Christ earned for us, and live by that grace and in obedience to Christ.

The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.

In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Testament.

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

FIRST READING from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 2:6-22; 4:2-6

SECOND READING from the Sermons of St. Gregory Nanzianzen, Bishop (Sermon 45, 9. 22. 26. 28: PG 36, 634-635. 654. 653-659. 662)

The Wonder of the Incarnation

The very Son of God, older than the ages, the invisible, the incomprehensible, the incorporeal, the beginning of beginning, the light of light, the fountain of life and immortality, the image of the archetype, the immovable seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and word of the Father: he it is who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intelligent soul for the good of my soul, to purify like by like. He takes to himself all that is human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had been first prepared in soul and body by the Spirit; his coming to birth had to be treated with honour, virginity had to receive new honour. He comes forth as God, in the human nature he has taken, one being, made of two contrary elements, flesh and spirit. Spirit gave divinity, flesh received it. He who makes rich is made poor; he takes on the poverty of my flesh, that I may gain the riches of his divinity. He who is full is made empty; he is emptied for a brief space of his glory, that I may share in his fullness. What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first. Holiness had to be brought to man by the humanity assumed by one who was God, so that God might overcome the tyrant by force and so deliver us and lead us back to himself through the mediation of his Son. The Son arranged this for the honour of the Father, to whom the Son is clearly obedient in all things. The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifice. When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and led it back to the life of heaven. Christ, the light of all lights, follows John, the lamp that goes before him. The Word of God follows the voice in the wilderness; the bridegroom follows the bridegroom’s friend, who prepares a worthy people for the Lord by cleansing them by water in preparation for the Spirit. We needed God to take our flesh and die, that we might live. We have died with him, that we may be purified. We have risen again with him, because we have died with him. We have been glorified with him, because we have risen again with him.

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

FIRST READING from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 5:1-7

SECOND READING from the Sermons of St. Bernard, Abbot


Let The Word Of The Lord Come To Us

We know that the coming of the Lord is threefold: the third coming is between the other two and it is not visible in the way they are. At his first coming the Lord was seen on earth and lived among men, who saw him and hated him. At his last coming All flesh shall see the salvation of our God, and They shall look on him whom they have pierced. In the middle, the hidden coming, only the chosen see him, and they see him within themselves; and so their souls are saved. The first coming was in flesh and weakness, the middle coming is in spirit and power, and the final coming will be in glory and majesty. This middle coming is like a road that leads from the first coming to the last. At the first, Christ was our redemption; at the last, he will become manifest as our life; but in this middle way he is our rest and our consolation.If you think that I am inventing what I am saying about the middle coming, listen to the Lord himself: If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and the Father will love him, and we shall come to him. Elsewhere I have read: Whoever fears the Lord does good things. – but I think that what was said about whoever loves him was more important: that whoever loves him will keep his words. Where are these words to be kept? In the heart certainly, as the Prophet says I have hidden your sayings in my heart so that I do not sin against you. Keep the word of God in that way: Blessed are those who keep it. Let it penetrate deep into the core of your soul and then flow out again in your feelings and the way you behave; because if you feed your soul well it will grow and rejoice. Do not forget to eat your bread, or your heart will dry up. Remember, and your soul will grow fat and sleek.If you keep God’s word like this, there is no doubt that it will keep you, for the Son will come to you with the Father: the great Prophet will come, who will renew Jerusalem, and he is the one who makes all things new. For this is what this coming will do: just as we have been shaped in the earthly image, so will we be shaped in the heavenly image. Just as the old Adam was poured into the whole man and took possession of him, so in turn will our whole humanity be taken over by Christ, who created all things, has redeemed all things, and will glorify all things.


Thursday of the First Week of Advent

FIRST READING from the book of the Prophet Isaiah 16:1-5; 17:4-8

SECOND READING from the Commentary of St. Ephrem, Deacon, on the Diatessaron


Keep Watch: He Is To Come Again

To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments. He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savour: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly. 
Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfilment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.
He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day. 
Keep watch; when the body is asleep nature takes control of us, and what is done is not done by our will but by force, by the impulse of nature. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul, for example, faint-heartedness or melancholy, the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not will. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.
When the Lord commanded us to be vigilant, he meant vigilance in both parts of man: in the body, against the tendency to sleep; in the soul, against lethargy and timidity. As Scripture says: Wake up, you just, and I have risen, and am still with you; and again, Do not lose heart. Therefore, having this ministry, we do not lose heart.


FRIDAY of the First Week of Advent

FIRST READING from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 19:16-25

SECOND READING from the Proslogion of St. Anselm, Bishop


The Desire to Contemplate God

Insignificant man, rise up! Flee your preoccupations for a little while. Hide yourself for a time from your turbulent thoughts. Cast aside, now, your heavy responsibilities and put off your burdensome business. Make a little space free for God; and rest for a little time in him.

Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts. Keep only thought of God, and thoughts that can aid you in seeking him. Close your door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, I seek your face; your face, Lord, will I seek.

And come you now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek you, where and how it may find you.

Lord, if you are not here, where shall I seek you when you are absent? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you present? Truly you dwell in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see you in it? Again, by what signs, under what form, shall I seek you? I have never seen you, O Lord, my God; I do not know your face.

What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from you? What shall your servant do, anxious in his love of you, and cast out far from your presence? He is breathless with desire to see you, and your face is too far from him. He longs to come to you, and your dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find you, but does not know where. He desires to seek you, and does not know your face.

Lord, you are my God, and you are my Lord, and never have I seen you. You have made me and renewed me, you have given me all the good things that I have, and I have not yet met you. I was created to see you, and I have not yet done the thing for which I was made.

And as for you, Lord, how long? How long, O Lord, do you forget us; how long do you turn your face from us? When will you look upon us, and hear us? When will you enlighten our eyes, and show us your face? When will you restore yourself to us?

Look upon us, Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal yourself to us. Restore yourself to us, that it may be well with us, yourself, without whom it is so ill with us. Pity our toilings and strivings toward you since we can do nothing without you.

Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me when I seek you, for I cannot seek you unless you teach me, nor find you unless you reveal yourself. Let me seek you in longing, let me long for you in seeking; let me find you by loving you and love you in the act of finding you.


SATURDAY of the First Week of Advent

FIRST READING from the book of the Prophet Isaiah 21: 6- 12

SECOND READING from the Treatise of St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr


Hope Sustains Us

Patience is a precept for salvation given us by our Lord our teacher: Whoever endures to the end will be saved. And again: If you persevere in my word, you will truly be my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Dear brethren, we must endure and persevere if we are to attain the truth and freedom we have been allowed to hope for; faith and hope are the very meaning of our being Christians, but if faith and hope are to bear their fruit, patience is necessary.

We do not seek glory now, in the present, but we look for future glory, as Saint Paul instructs us when he says: By hope we were saved. Now hope which is seen is not hope; how can a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it in patience. Patient waiting is necessary if we are to be perfected in what we have begun to be, and if we are to receive from God what we hope for and believe.

In another place the same Apostle instructs and teaches the just, and those active in good works, and those who store up for themselves treasures in heaven through the reward God gives them. They are to be patient also, for he says: Therefore while we have time, let us do good to all, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith. But let us not grow weary in doing good, for we shall reap our reward in due season.

Paul warns us not to grow weary in good works through impatience, not to be distracted or overcome by temptations and so give up in the midst of our pilgrimage of praise and glory, and allow our past good deeds to count for nothing because what was begun falls short of completion.

Finally the Apostle, speaking of charity, unites it with endurance and patience. Charity, he says, is always patient and kind; it is not jealous, is not boastful, is not given to anger, does not think evil, loves all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. He shows that charity can be steadfast and persevering because it has learned how to endure all things.

And in another place he says: Bear with one another lovingly, striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He shows that neither unity nor peace can be maintained unless the brethren cherish each other with mutual forbearance and preserve the bond of harmony by means of patience.


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One can also pray during Advent, asking for Jesus coming using the O Antiphons that we find in each Vespers, for the Magnificat, starting from the 17th December. These are deep prayers of desire, sang with Mary and under her light in order to attract the Lord:

17th December :
Wisdom
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation.
Latin
O Sapientia,
quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
18th December :
O Lord of Israel
 O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
Latin
O Adonai,
et dux domus Israël,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
19th December :
O Root of Jesse
 O Root of Jesse,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
Latin
O Radix Jesse,
qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos,
jam noli tardare.
20th December :
O Key of David
 O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.
Latin
O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus Israël,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum
de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
21st December :
O Radiant Dawn
 O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
Latin
O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina
sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
22nd December :
King of All Nations
 O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:
Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.
Latin
O Rex Gentium,
et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis,
qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
23rd December :
Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.
Latin

O Emmanuel,
Rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium,
et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domine, Deus noster.
If you want to listen to them in Latin please click here for the playlist.


On can also meditate on this beautiful Latin hymn: "Rorate Ceali de Super", where we ask God to send us His Rain (the Eternal Son) on Mary the Good Soil, so we can have our Saviour. All inspired from Isaiah. For more details see here.


LatinEnglish
Roráte caéli désuper,
et núbes plúant jústum.
Drop down, ye heavens, from above,
and let the skies pour down righteousness.
Ne irascáris Dómine,
ne ultra memíneris iniquitátis:
ecce cívitas Sáncti fácta est desérta:
Síon desérta fácta est, Jerúsalem desoláta est:
dómus sanctificatiónis túæ et glóriæ túæ,
ubi laudavérunt te pátres nóstri.
Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
neither remember iniquity for ever:
thy holy city is a wilderness,
Sion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation:
our holy and our beautiful house,
where our fathers praised thee.
Peccávimus, et fácti súmus tamquam immúndus nos,
et cecídimus quasi fólium univérsi:
et iniquitátes nóstræ quasi véntus abstulérunt nos:
abscondísti faciem túam a nóbis,
et allisísti nos in mánu iniquitátis nóstræ.
We have sinned, and are as an unclean thing,
and we all do fade as a leaf:
and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away:
thou hast hid thy face from us:
and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
Víde Dómine afflictiónem pópuli túi,
et mítte quem missúrus es:
emítte Agnum dominatórem térræ,
de Pétra desérti ad móntem fíliæ Síon:
ut áuferat ípse júgum captivitátis nóstræ.
Behold, O Lord, the affliction of thy people,
and send forth him whom thou wilt send;
send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from Petra of the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion:
that he may take away the yoke of our captivity.
Vos testes mei, dicit Dóminus,
et servus meus quem elégi;
ut sciátis, et credátis mihi:
ego sum, ego sum Dóminus, et non est absque me salvátor:
et non est qui de manu mea éruat.
Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord,
and my servant whom I have chosen;
that ye may know me and believe me:
I, even I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour:
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
Consolámini, consolámini, pópule méus:
cito véniet sálus túa:
quare mæróre consúmeris,
quia innovávit te dólor?
Salvábo te, nóli timére,
égo enim sum Dóminus Déus túus,
Sánctus Israël, Redémptor túus.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people;
my salvation shall not tarry:
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why hath sorrow seized thee?
Fear not, for I will save thee:
For I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.