The role that religion plays in American politics and everyday life today is a far cry from the role it played in the 5th century. Today we wrangle about the application of belief systems, in those days they fought about the very meaning of the belief system and the ramifications it had in everyday life. Then, more so than now, God was everywhere, not just in indignant people and talking heads; God permeated the air and was thought to be vital to life and therefore to politics.
When the bishop of Constantinople (i.e. the Pope in the East) muddied the waters about the nature of Christ it would be as if Pope Francis declared that most of the teachings of the Church were wrong. When doctrine is not well defined, though believed, it can be the cause of scandal among the faithful. Blind acceptance is not the problem but taking truths for granted is. The little understood or misunderstood truth can be fodder for error and those not well taught can easily be misled or fall into error.
Cyril fought hard but he did so with love as the end goal. After the bloody and cruel fight he was the first to seek reconciliation in order to bring all together under Jesus, understood as both God and human, and into the protection of his mother the Theotokos.
Today we might learn a lesson about extracting the truth from human foible and living to make it vital and important in the everyday, not just on passing, knee-jerk, hot-button issues. Today many of the arguments remain the same, as do the errors which lead the faithful astray, only the proponents have changed.
Forgive me for having resolved to speak not only against a king, but also for the glory of Christ, the great King, who reigns with his Father over the world; it is with him alone that it is true to say: "Through me kings reign", because he is the "Lord of glory" in heaven and on earth. It is because of that the champions of the divine teachings (us, in fact - given this office by Christ) must oppose those who intend to defile his glory and to plead his cause, to appear sound to readers, to be a more useful aid for those whose heart is easily led astray and is inclined to yield to difficulties, and for those on the other hand who are well established in the faith to be a kind of stick able to support them in the strengthening of this faith and to maintain undimmed the tradition of orthodoxy.
Who is it that has entered into war against the glory of Christ? They are legion, those who at various periods have let themselves go at this foolishness, driven by the perversity of the devil; but none as went far as Julian, who damaged the prestige of the Empire by refusing to recognize Christ, dispenser of royalty and power. Before his accession to the throne, he was counted among the believers: he had even been admitted to Holy Baptism and had studied the Holy Scriptures.
But some sinister characters, followers of superstition, entered, I do not know how, into connections with him and sowed in him the maxims of apostasy; then, allied with Satan in this design, they led him towards the practices of the Greeks and transformed into a servant of impure demons one who had been raised in holy churches and monasteries: "bad company corrupts good upbringing", as the very wise Paul says. However, I affirm that those who wish to preserve solid thought, and who keep in their spirit, like an invaluable pearl, the tradition of the true faith, do not have to offer to the peddlers of superstition any occasion to insinuate themselves, yet in any case should speak to them freely. Is it not written: "You will be holy with the holy, irreproachable with the irreproachable, chosen with the chosen, and you will outwit the cheat"? With the eloquence with which he was gifted, the all-powerful Julian argued against our common Savior Christ; he composed three books against the holy gospels and against the very pure Christian religion, he used them to shake many spirits and to cause them uncommon wrongs. Indeed, the light-minded and easily seduced fall easily into his sights, and constitute a welcome amusement for the demonic powers; but not the spirits of those strengthened in the faith which do not let themselves be disturbed yet sometimes they believe that Julian knows the holy and divine Scriptures, since he uses them in his own works — without otherwise knowing well what it says!... — a number of testimonies that he borrows from them.
Very many followers of superstition, when they meet Christians, overpower them with any kind of sarcastic remarks, and rely on the works of Julian to attack us, which they proclaim to be of an incomparable effectiveness, adding that there never was a learned man on our side able to refute them, or even show them at fault; also, at the instigation of more than one person, and full of confidence once again in the word of God: "Get under way, and I will open your mouth!", I put myself to the duty of rebutting this Greek eyebrow raised against the glory of Christ, to help to the extent of my abilities those which have been deceived, in order to convict of error and of ignorance of the Scriptures the man who has accused our common Savior Christ.
-- Against Julian, Prefatory Address (3-5)
A prayer for our enemies
Almighty God, have mercy on N. [and N.], and on all that bear me evil will, and would me harm, and their faults and mine together by such easy, tender, merciful means as thine infinite wisdom best can devise; vouchsafe to amend and redress and make us saved souls in Heaven together, where we may ever live and love together with thee and thy blessed saints, O glorious Trinity, for the bitter passion of our sweet Savior Christ. Amen.
Lord, give me patience in tribulation and grace in everything, to conform my will to thine, that I may truly say:
“Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cælo et in terra”*.
The things, good Lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labor for. Amen.
-- Thomas More
* "Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven"
Take care above all things, most honored lady, not to insult God's boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Savior; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness.
-- From a letter to his mother
Tit for tat. So often we live not in love and tolerance but hate and vengeance. The cruelty we inflict on one another to prove a point everyday is lit up in big events. What end does torture, burning, hanging, drawing, and quartering accomplish? In our daily lives, what end does an unkind word bring about?
We can use today to celebrate those who have died by our hands for the Faith, not just these Irish but all: Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant alike.
God punishes for chastisement and edification; why do we punish?
But it is the Will of God that Christ both did and taught. Humility in dealings with others; steadfastness in faith; modesty in words; justice in deeds; mercy in works; discipline in morals. To be unable to do a wrong, and to be able to bear a wrong when it is done; to keep peace with the brethren; to love God with all one’s heart; to love God because he is a Father but fear him because he is God; to prefer nothing whatever to Christ because he preferred nothing to us; to adhere inseparably to his love; to stand faithfully and bravely by his cross; when there is any conflict over his name and honor, to exhibit in discourse that steadfastness in which we proclaim him; in torture, to show that confidence in which we unite; in death, that patience in which we are crowned – this is what it means to want to be co-heirs with Christ, this is what it means to do what God commands, this is what it is to fulfill the will of the Father.
-- St Cyprian, Treatise on the Our Father
Fans of Godspell miss out on the first part of this prayer - but it certainly rounds it out and succinctly provides the fullness of prayer.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Prayer means to direct our affection toward God through a devout and friendly conversation with Him. It is the tranquility of a mind enlightened from on high. Prayer is also required to obtain those earthly goods necessary for this mortal life. But those who pray must ask the Lord, with an authentic Christian spirit, to subdue their will to His will: our Heavenly Father knows what we truly need on this earth. Finally, prayer is an act of thanksgiving, a recognition of benefits received, and a donation of our commitment to God so that our prayer might be everlasting.
I do not think that anyone becomes an apostle by choice, or seeks out the chance to be in the service of apostles, for that matter.
Barnabas came together with Paul to seek out those who do not know Christ in the wider world. And like Paul he started out with another name, Joseph, and was given a new one "which means, the man of encouragement".
It seems from what we know of him (which is more than most of the original 12) it was an appropriate name. He was a Levite in service to the priests of Aaron, who put himself at the service of the new priests, the Apostles.
Eventually he became the advocate for that other renamed convert, who was such a scourge on the Early Church. Who would ever ask to be in a support position like that? He also seems to have no problem with Paul "outshining" him; he seems content to drift to the background while continuing to spread the Gospel. Yet his gift was that he seemed to sense the potential in others and advocate for them and give them courage to serve.
But he was a man of strong opinions and zeal for the Church and Christ, so it makes sense. It also shows the two sides of that zeal. He breaks with the man he championed over the weakness of another. The faint heart heart of Mark pushed the limits of Paul's human capability to forgive. It is the irony that Barnabas, who forgave and heard the Lord in Paul, should lose to Paul's inability to see and do the same for another. Who would ever wish to be asked to choose one child over another?
Barnabas, from the moment he sold everything and laid it at the feet of the Apostles lived as the man he was, true to his role as Levite and true to his roll as apostle and companion. Eventually this man of encouragement and support even won over Paul's heart. We are fortunate to have Barnabas, who counters both Peter's wishy-washiness and Paul's rigidness.
So it behooves us to emulate him and ask for his constant support and encouragement - perhaps we too can be called "a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith".
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. Thus Joseph, also named by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), a Levite, a Cypriot by birth, sold a piece of property that he owned, then brought the money and put it at the feet of the apostles.
...In those days a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The news about them reached the ears of the Church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to go to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith.
-- Acts 4:32-37; 11:21-24
This is the Monday after Pentecost, and a new feast has been added. And it is a feast! A true cause for celebration!
Joseph is known as the Protector of the Church because Mary is the mother of the Church. As Joseph protected the Holy Family, so he protects the Church. As Mary gave birth to the Savior, so she is the mother of the Church. We are the Body of Christ and so by the transitive property we have been using, Mary is our mother as well and we turn ourselves over to her care, to Joseph's protection, and to Jesus' salvation.
We cannot over emphasize the idea that Jesus is everything to us. We owe all to Jesus, to the Father who sent him, and to the Spirit who lives in our lives. Everything and everyone that help us to extend Christ's presence in the world should constantly be brought to mind to help us remember our purpose, our duty, and our goal.
We especially recall, in the Holy Family, the foundation of the Church and that it is not an institution of human foibles and sin but is a holy family: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic". We are not founded or built upon our own efforts, nor do we guide or control the Church; we are mere stewards of all that the Holy Family established and nurtured.
Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
-- John 19:25-27
Debating the hypostatic union is really not for everyone, but what we all can agree on is that sometimes we forget that Jesus was fully human, head and heart. This feast, pointed to by (in what we do not consider irony) several mystics, reminds us of the fullness of God's plan for salvation. Jesus is God, but he is also one of us. He did not need to become human in order to understand our day-to-day sufferings and joys, but he did in order to show us that it is possible to bend the human will to the divine will without losing anything and gaining everything even amid human suffering. That is simple enough for the simplest of believers. As Bonaventure reminds us, the Church is born from the side of the human Jesus.
Now if you are up for the hypostatic debate...
You who have been redeemed, consider who it is who hangs on the cross for you, whose death gives life to the dead, whose passing is mourned by heaven and earth, while even the hard stones are split. Consider how great he is; consider what he is.
In order that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept on the cross, in order that the word of scripture might be fulfilled – ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ – God’s providence decreed that one of the soldiers should open his sacred side with a spear, so that blood with water might flow out to pay the price of our salvation. This blood, which flowed from its source in the secret recesses of his heart, gave the sacraments of the Church power to confer the life of grace, and for those who already live in Christ was a draught of living water welling up to eternal life.
...O soul devoted to God, whoever you may be, run to this source of life and light with eager longing. And with the power of your inmost heart cry out to him: ‘O indescribable beauty of God most high! O pure radiance of everlasting light! O life that gives life to all life! O light that illuminates every light, and preserves in its undying splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your godhead from the dawn of time!
-- St Bonaventure, The Tree of Life
It is the people who see a need and fill it who are the true saints. Individuals become missionaries not always by choice but by need. It may start local but ends up in places we could never imagine. By working on local problems we often see the need for social justice in a wider framework. Both Norbert and Marcellin started by not just meeting local needs but teaching as well. Ignorance and poverty so often go hand in hand and the legacy of abbeys created by Norbert sustained Europe during tough times; Marcellin's Marists embed themselves around the world. The world is better for the both of them, and their simple vision of compassion.
I cannot see a child without wanting to tell him how much Jesus loves him.
-- Marcellin Champagnat, quoted from the Vatican website.
I just want to take today and thank all of the missionaries who have left their homes and brought Christ to the world even at the risk of their lives. I have certainly benefited from your benefice.
Let us stand fast in what is right and prepare our souls for trial. Let us wait upon God’s strengthening aid and say to him: O Lord, you have been our refuge in all generations.
Let us trust in him who has placed this burden upon us. What we ourselves cannot bear let us bear with the help of Christ. For he is all-powerful and he tells us: My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Let us continue the fight on the day of the Lord. The days of anguish and of tribulation have overtaken us; if God so wills, let us die for the holy laws of our fathers, so that we may deserve to obtain an eternal inheritance with them.
Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Instead let us be careful shepherds watching over Christ’s flock. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and to the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season, as Saint Gregory writes in his book of Pastoral Instruction.
-- From a letter
One of the difficulties of being a parent is the outcome of our children's lives. We really have no true control, except over our own actions to "Train the young in the way they should go" and hope that "even when old, they will not swerve from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
While she was eventually able to persuade her husband Clovis to live the Faith, Clotilde's children went the way of politics, vying for power and using less than charitable means to achieve and keep it.
After failing to inspire her children Clotilde retreated from the life at court and dedicated her life to prayer and the building of churches. She went on to be added to the canon, her children to obscurity.
I am sure that she continued to love her children and pray for their conversion and salvation. That is the best any of us parents can do.
We can pray for her support and intercession for all children, especially our own.
I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.
-- John 17:6-11a
Words are powerful ideas. In Hebrew theology, the knowing the name of something gives you power over it. When God give Moses His name, that means that Moses and Israel can call on Him and He will answer.
Justin wandered through various systems of thought before being convinced, intellectually, by The Word. When he saw others dying for the Faith he took it upon himself to convince the powers that be and anyone who would listen as to the merits of Christianity. Eventually that led to his own arrest.
After some back and forth, Rusticus, his interrogator, said, "Let us come to the pressing matter at hand. Agree together and sacrifice with one accord to the gods." Justin replied, "No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to what is false...If you do not obey, you shall be punished without mercy...If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ we hope to be saved, for this shall be our salvation and confidence before the terrible judgment-seat of our Lord and Savior which shall judge the whole world." Rusticus condemned him and the others with him to death and he was beheaded.
So often we read only of his defense to martyrdom and rarely the works of his life, the reason we see him a not just a martyr but a Father. The following gives insight into his reason to hope even in the midst of his trial: "true belief."
But following our order, we must now speak with respect to those who think meanly of the flesh, and say that it is not worthy of the resurrection nor of the heavenly economy, because, first, its substance is earth; and besides, because it is full of all wickedness, so that it forces the soul to sin along with it. But these persons seem to be ignorant of the whole work of God, both of the genesis and formation of man at the first, and why the things in the world were made. For does not the word say, "Let Us make man in our image, and after our likeness?" What kind of man? Manifestly He means fleshly man, For the word says, "And God took dust of the earth, and made man." It is evident, therefore, that man made in the image of God was of flesh. Is it not, then, absurd to say, that the flesh made by God in His own image is contemptible, and worth nothing? But that the flesh is with God a precious possession is manifest, first from its being formed by Him, if at least the image is valuable to the former and artist; and besides, its value can be gathered from the creation of the rest of the world. For that on account of which the rest is made, is the most precious of all to the maker.
-- Treatise on the Resurrection, VII
Things to Think About