Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In Loving Memory of Father Nicholas Gruner

Fr. Nicholas Gruner ~  May 4, 1942 - April 29, 2015

I would like to offer something in the way of a personal tribute to Fr. Gruner.  I never knew him, I heard him speak twice, and actually had a brief but pleasant conversation with him last September over a barbecue of all things.  I also had one brief Facebook message exchange with Fr. Gruner when I sent him a simple Facebook "friend" request.  Though he didn't know me, he took the time from his busy schedule to exhort me - just a soul who happened across his path to learn and live the message of Fatima. He exhorted me to attend the Fatima Conference in Boston when I mentioned I was thinking of going. It was quite apparent he was a great motivator and had the heart of an Apostle. 

I didn't know him, yet his influence over my life has been great. I returned to a belief in the Catholic Church in the late 1970s - a conversion that I entirely attribute to the good graces of Our Lady of Fatima.  When I read about Fatima, I was very excited about it, which soon turned to dismay, as I soon realized how universally the words of our Blessed Mother are ignored. There were then, as there are now, various forces at work that seek to suppress the full message of Fatima.  Calls for conversions as well are often unpopular with the world.  Then Fr. Gruner came along.  He, along with others who rallied around this inspirational figure, shone a light on the message of Fatima - all of it.  When the Pharisees asked Our Lord to rebuke His disciples for proclaiming the Kingship of Jesus Christ, Jesus told them that if they would be quiet, then the very stones will cry out.  So it is today - Fr. Gruner was one of those stones who cry out loud and clear the message of Our Lady of Fatima when the wolves and the hirelings scatter the sheep. Efforts to suppress God's message by the worldly powers and by spiritual forces - principalities and powers - may cause great destruction, but ultimately are doomed to failure. Regarding the message of Fatima, the bell can not now be unrung. Fr. Gruner cooperated with grace and sent out the clarion call. Now it is incumbent on each of us to respond.

The message of Our Lady of Fatima is clear.  She is our mother, she does all for us that our natural mother would do and more.  She is the faithful advocate for her children before the throne of God, calling down on her children the mercy of God.  We have nothing to fear if we seek her motherly assistance.  We need to recognize and follow her direction, so as to be guided safely one day to Paradise to reign forever with her and her son.  Our world has need as never before for those courageous souls, who have the heart of an apostle, a heart like Fr. Gruner did to zealously live the Catholic life, informed by the message of Our Lady of Fatima to the faithful of our time.

As I reflect on his life, I see that ... up to now ... I know that I have done very little for Our Lady, who has done so much for me.  Let me resolve this day to change. As we reflect on his life and pray for the repose of his soul, we realize that we are in need of good holy priests who will encourage and exhort us to follow Our Lady up to Calvary, in the footsteps of her son. Let us pray that Our Blessed Mother will send apostles of her Son to continue his work. Moreover, we especially pray that we may increase our efforts on her behalf, and show ourselves faithful sons and daughters of her Immaculate Heart. May Our Lady, having faithfully guided the soul of Fr. Gruner to the heavenly gates, shower graces on our poor world on his behalf.

In those days: I heard a voice from Heaven, saying to me: Write, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from henceforth now, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow them.  (Apocalypse 14:13)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Holy Saturday, April 4

Peter Weeping Before the Virgin on Holy Saturday - Guercino (1647)

HOLY SATURDAY ~ Dom Gueranger, Passiontide and Holy Week

On this day, by her firm and unwavering faith in her Son's Resurrection to come tomorrow, Blessed Mary resumes within her single self the whole Church. How sacred is this Saturday, which, notwithstanding all its sadness, is such a day of glory to the Mother of Jesus! It is on this account that the Church has consecrated to Mary the Saturday of every week.

Now, at last, we understand what sin has done: By sin, death entered into the world; and it passed upon all men. Though Jesus knew no sin, yet has he permitted Death to have dominion over him, in order that he might make it less bitter to us, and, by his Resurrection, restore unto us that eternal life, of which we had been deprived by sin. How gratefully we should appreciate this Death of our Jesus! By becoming Incarnate, he became a Servant; his Death was a still deeper humiliation. The sight of this Tomb, wherein his Body lies lifeless and cold, teaches us something far more important than the power of death: — it reveals to us the immense, the incomprehensible love of God for man. He knew that we were to gain by his humiliations; — the greater his humiliations, the greater our exaltation: this was his principle, and it led him to what seems like an excess! Let us, then, love this sacred Sepulcher, which is to give us Life. We have thanked him for having died for us upon the Cross; let us thank him, but most feelingly, for having humbled himself, for our sakes, even to the Tomb!

And now, let us visit the Holy Mother, who has passed the night in Jerusalem, going over, in saddest memory, the scenes she has witnessed. Her Jesus has been a Victim to every possible insult and cruelty : he has been crucified : his precious Blood has flowed in torrents from those Five Wounds : He is dead, and now lies buried in yonder Tomb, as though he were but a mere man, yea the most abject of men. How many tears have fallen, during these long hours, from the eyes of the Daughter of David, and yet, her Son has not come back to her! Near her is Magdalene; heartbroken by yesterday's events, she has no words to tell her grief, for Jesus is gone, and, as she thinks, forever. The other Women, less loved by Jesus than Magdalene, yet, still, dear to him, stand round the disconsolate Mother. They have braved every insult and danger in order to remain on Calvary till all was over, and they intend returning thither with Magdalene, as soon as the Sabbath is over, to honour the Tomb and the Body of Jesus.

John, the adopted son of Mary, and the Beloved Disciple of Jesus, is oppressed with sorrow. Others, also, of the Apostles and Disciples visit the house of mourning. Peter, penitent and humble, fears not to appear before the Mother of Mercy. Among the Disciples, are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. We may easily imagine the conversation, it is on the Sufferings and Death of Jesus, and on the ingratitude of the Jews. The Church, in the 7th Responsory of to-day's Tenebrae, represents these men as saying: "Behold! how the Just One dieth, and there is none that taketh it to heart. Iniquity has had its way. He was silent as a Lamb under his shearer, and he opened not his mouth. He was taken away from distress and judgment: but his memory shall be in peace." Thus speak the men!  The women are thinking of their morrow's visit to the Sepulcher! The saintliness of Jesus, his goodness, his power, his Sufferings, his Death – everything is remembered, except his Resurrection, which they had often heard him say should certainly and speedily take place.

Mary alone lives in expectation of his triumph. In her was verified that expression of the Holy Ghost, where, speaking of the Valiant Woman, he says: Her lamp shall not be put out in the night. Her courage fails not, because she knows that the Sepulcher must yield up its Dead, and her Jesus will rise again to Life. St. Paul tells us that our religion is vain, unless we have faith in the mystery of our Savior’s Resurrection.  Where was this faith on the day after our Lord's Death? In one heart only — and that was Mary's. As it was her chaste womb that had held within it Him whom heaven and earth cannot contain, so on this day, by her firm and unwavering faith, she resumes within her single self the whole Church. How sacred is this Saturday, which, notwithstanding all its sadness, is such a day of glory to the Mother of Jesus! It is on this account that the Church has consecrated to Mary the Saturday of every week.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good Friday, April 3

Today, we commemorate Good Friday. There are volumes and volumes of meditations that have been, or could be made on this day.  We have chosen to focus on the mystery of Christ’s Kingship, as exposed by Dom Gueranger’s meditation on the encounter between Jesus Christ and Pontius Pilate.  We do so with the realization that our society and many in the Church follow the same path of neglect – if not outright denial of the Kingship of Jesus Christ over all of society. We do so with the objective of reparation to the Kingly and Sacred Heart of Jesus, His Immaculate Mother and our Queen and with the firm desire to counter the forces of secularism, adoring Jesus Christ, King and proclaiming Him King of our hearts, King of our Church, and King of all civil society. A blessed Good Friday to you. May Jesus Christ, Who died for our sins this day, bless you today.  Long live Christ the King! 

“Art thou a King, then?” says Pilate. — “Thou sayest”, answers Jesus, “that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should, give testimony to the Truth. Every one that is of the Truth, heareth my voice.” (John 18:37)

19. When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord's regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen's duty of obedience. … If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquility, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man. Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together …. (Pius XI, Quas Primas)

We have no king but Caesar.”  (Chief Priests to Pontius Pilate, John 19:15)

The peoples of the earth turn to the United Nations as the last hope of concord and peace. We presume to present here, together with Our own, their tribute to honour and of hope.” (Pope Paul VI, Address to the United Nations, October 4, 1965)

The day-dawn breaks upon the City, and the chief Priests make arrangements for taking Jesus before the Roman Governor. They themselves have found him guilty; they have condemned him as a Blasphemer, and, according to the law of Moses, a Blasphemer must be stoned to death : but they cannot apply the law : Jerusalem is no longer free, or governed by her own laws. The power over life and death may only be exercised by her conquerors, and that in the name of Caesar. How is it, that these Priests and Scribes can go through all this, and never once remember the prophecy of Jacob, — that the Messias would come, when the sceptre should be taken away from Juda? They know off by heart, they are the appointed guardians of those Prophecies, which describe the death to which this Messias is to be put, — and yet, they are the very ones who bring it about! How is all this? They are blind, and it is Jealousy that blinds them.

The Chief Priests, taking Jesus with them, present themselves at the Governor's Palace, demanding audience for a case of importance. Pilate comes forward, and peevishly asks them: What accusation bring you against this man? — They answered : “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee.” It is very evident from these first words, that Pilate has a contempt for these Jewish Priests; it is not less evident that they are determined to gain their cause. Take him you, says Pilate, and judge him according to your Law. The Chief Priests answered: It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.

Pilate leaves the Hall, in order to speak with these men. He returns, and commands Jesus to be brought in. The son of God and the representative of the pagan world are face to face. Pilate begins by asking him: Art thou the King of the Jews? — To this Jesus thus replies: My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, my servants would certainly strive that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But, now, my Kingdom is not from hence. “Art thou a King, then?” says Pilate. — Thou sayest, answers Jesus, that I am a King. Having, by these last words, confessed his august dignity, our Lord offers a grace to this Roman; he tells him, that there is something worthier of Man's ambition than earthly honors. For this, says Jesus, was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should, give testimony to the Truth. Every one that is of the Truth, heareth my voice. — “What is Truth?” asks Pilate; but without waiting for the answer, he leaves Jesus, for he is anxious to have done with this case.

He returns to the Jews, and says to them: “I find no cause in him.” Scarcely has Pilate expressed his opinion in favor of Jesus, than a long list of accusations is brought up against him by the Chief Priests. Pilate is astonished at Jesus' making no reply, and says to him: “Dost thou not hear how great testimonies they allege against thee?” These words are kindly meant, but Jesus still remains silent: they, however, excite his enemies to fresh fury, and they cry out: “He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, even to this place. This word Galilee suggests a new idea to Pilate. Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, happens to be in Jerusalem at this very time. Jesus is his subject; he must be sent to him. Thus Pilate will get rid of a troublesome case, and this act of courteous deference will re-establish a good understanding between himself and Herod

Another plan for ridding himself of this troublesome case, now strikes the Roman Governor. At the feast of the Pasch, he had the power of granting pardon to any one criminal the people may select. They are assembled together at the court-gates. He feels sure, that their choice will fall upon Jesus, for it is but a few days ago that they led him in triumph through the City: besides, he intends to make the alternative one who is an object of execration to the whole people; he is a murderer, and his name Barabbas. “Whom will you that I release to you?” says Pilate: Barabbas, or Jesus, that is called the Christ? — He has not long to wait for the answer: the crowd exclaim: “Not this man, but Barabbas!” — “What then”, replies Pilate, “shall I do with Jesus that is called the Christ? — Crucify him? — Why, what evil hath he done?”

Pilate's cowardly subterfuge has failed, and left him in a more difficult position than he was before. His putting the innocent on a level with a murderer was, in itself, a gross injustice; and yet, he has not gone far enough for a people that is blind with passion. Neither does his promise to chastise Jesus satisfy them: they want more than his Blood: they insist on his Death! Here let us pause, and offer our Saviour a reparation for the insult he here receives. He is put in competition with a murderer, and the murderer is preferred! Pilate makes an attempt to save Jesus -. But, on what terms! — He must be put on a footing with a vile wretch, and, even so, be worsted ! Those very lips that, a few days back, sang “Hosannah to the Son of David," now clamor for his Crucifixion! The City Magistrate and Governor pronounces him innocent; and yet, he condemns him to be scourged, because he fears a disturbance!

Jesus is made over to the soldiers, to be scourged. They rudely strip him of his garments, and tie him to the pillar, which is kept for this kind of torture. Fiercely do they strike him; the blood flows down his sacred Body. Let us adore this the second Bloodshedding of our Jesus, whereby he expiates for the sins we and the whole world have committed by the flesh. This Scourging is by the hands of Gentiles: the Jews delivered him up to be punished, and the Romans were the executioners: — thus have we all had our share in the awful Deicide! At last, the soldiers are tired; they loosen their Victim; — but it is not out of anything like pity. Their cruelty is going to rest, and their rest is derision. Jesus has been called "King of the Jews:" a King, say they, must have a Crown! Accordingly they make one for the Son of David! It is of Thorns. They press it violently upon his head, and this is the third Bloodshedding of our Redeemer. Then, that they may make their scoffing perfect, the soldiers throw a scarlet cloak over his shoulders, and put a reed, for a sceptre, into his hand; and bending their knee before him, they thus salute him: Hail, King of the Jews! — This insulting homage is accompanied with blows upon his face; they spit upon him; and, from time to time, take the reed from his hand, wherewith to strike the Thorns deeper into his head. Here, the Christian prostrates himself before his Saviour, and says to him with a heart full of compassion and veneration: “Yes! My Jesus! Thou art King of the Jews! Thou art the Son of David, and therefore our Messias and our Redeemer! Israel, that has so lately proclaimed thee King, now unkings thee; the Gentiles scoff at thy Royalty, making it a subject for keener insult: — but reign thou must and over both Jews and Gentiles: over the Jews, by thy justice, for they are soon to feel the sceptre of thy revenge; over the Gentiles, by thy mercy, for thine Apostles are soon to lead them to thy feet. Receive, dearest King! Our homage and submission! Reign now and forever over our hearts, yea, over our whole being!"

Thus mangled and bleeding, holding the reed in his hand, and with the scarlet tatters on his shoulders, Jesus is led back to Pilate. It is just the sight that will soften the hearts of the people –  at least, Pilate thinks so; and taking him with him to a balcony of the palace, he shows him to the crowd below, saying: “Behold the Man!” little did Pilate know all that these few words conveyed! He says not: “Behold Jesus!" — Nor, “Behold the King of the Jews!" he says: “Behold the Man!” Adam, the first Man, rebelled against God, and, by his sin, deranged the whole work of the Creator: as a punishment for his pride and intemperance, the flesh tyrannized over the spirit; the very earth was cursed, and thorns were to be its growth. Jesus, the New Man, comes into this world, bearing upon him, not the reality, but the appearance, the likeness, of sin: in him, the work of the Creator regains its primeval order; but the change was not wrought without violence. To teach us, that the flesh must be brought into subjection to the spirit, Jesus' Flesh was torn by the scourges: to teach us that pride must give way to humility the only Crown that Jesus wears is made of Thorns. Yes, — Behold the Man! — the triumph of the spirit over the flesh, the triumph of humility over pride.

Like the tiger that grows fiercer as he sees blood, so is Israel at the sight of Jesus after his scourging. “Crucify him! Crucify him!”— the cry is still the same. Take him you, says Pilate, and crucify him; for I find no cause in him. And yet, he has ordered him to be scourged enough to cause his death! Here is another device of the base coward; but it, too, fails. The Jews have their answer ready: they put forward the right granted by the Romans to the nations that are tributary to the Empire. We have, say they, a law, and according to the law he ought to die; because he made himself the Son of God. Disconcerted by the reply, Pilate takes Jesus aside into the hall, and says to him: “Whence art thou?” Jesus is silent; Pilate was not worthy to hear the answer to his question. This silence irritates him. “Speakest thou not to me?” says he. Knowest thou not, that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee? Here Jesus deigns to speak ; and he speaks, in order to teach us that every power of government, even where pagans are in question, comes from God, and not from a pretended social compact : Thou shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin.

This dignified reply produces an impression upon Pilate: he resolves to make another attempt to save Jesus. But the people vociferate a threat which alarms him: If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend; for whosoever maketh himself a King, speaketh against Caesar. Still, he is determined to try and pacify the crowd. He leaves the hall, sits upon the judgment-seat, orders Jesus to be placed near him, and thus pleads for him: Behold your King! As though he would say, “What have you or Caesar to fear from such a pitiable object as this?” The argument was unavailing, and only provokes the cry : Away with him ! Away with him! Crucify him! As though he did not believe them to be in earnest, Pilate says to them: Shall I crucify your King? This time the Chief Priests give the answer: We have no king but Caesar. When the very Ministers of God can talk thus, religion is at an end. No king but Caesar! — Then, the sceptre is taken from Juda, and Jerusalem is cast off, and the Messias is come!

Pilate, seeing that nothing can quell the tumult, and that his honour as Governor is at stake, decides on making Jesus over to his enemies. Though against his own inclination, he passes the Sentence, which is to cause him such remorse of conscience that he will afterwards seek relief in suicide. He takes a tablet, and with a style, writes the Inscription which is to be fastened to the Cross. The people demand that two thieves should be crucified at the same time, — it would be an additional insult to Jesus: this, too, he grants, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaias: And with the wicked was he reputed.

Having thus defiled his soul with the most heinous of crimes, Pilate washes his hands before the people, and says to them: "I am innocent of the blood of this just man; look ye to it! They answer him with this terrible self-imprecation: “His blood be upon us and upon our children!” The mark of Parricide here fastens on this ungrateful and sacrilegious people; Cain-like, they shall wander fugitives on the earth. Eighteen hundred years have passed since then; slavery, misery, and contempt, have been their portion; but the mark is still upon them. Let us Gentiles, — upon whom this Blood of Jesus has fallen as the dew of heaven's mercy, — let us return fervent thanks to the goodness of our heavenly Father, who hath so loved the world, as to give it his Only Begotten Son. Let us give thanks to the Son, who, seeing that our iniquities could not be blotted out save by his Blood, shed it, on this day, even to the very last drop.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Holy Thursday, Last Supper, Institution of the Holy Eucharist, April 2

Holy Thursday ~ Dom Gueranger, Passiontide and Holy Week

"I am", says he, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you love me, keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you forever. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. ... arise, let us go hence." Deeply impressed by these words, the Disciples arise, and, after the hymn of thanksgiving has been said, they accompany Jesus to Mount Olivet. 
Jesus is in the Supper chamber, where the Paschal Lamb is to be eaten. All the Apostles are with him; Judas is there, also, but his crime is not known to the rest. Jesus approaches the table, on which the Lamb is served. His Disciples stand around him. The ceremonies prescribed by God to Moses are religiously observed. At the beginning of the repast, Jesus speaks these words to his Apostles: With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you, before I suffer.  In saying this, he does not imply that the Pasch of this year is intrinsically better than those that have preceded it; but, that it is dearer to him, inasmuch as it is to give rise to the institution of the new Pasch, which he has prepared for mankind, and which he is now going to give them as his last gift: for as St. John says, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. During the repast, Jesus, who reads the hearts of all men, utters these words, which cause great consternation among the Disciples: Amen I say to you, that one of you is about to betray me: — he that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. The sadness with which he speaks is enough to soften any heart; and Judas, who knows his Master's goodness, feels that they imply a merciful pardon, if he will but ask it. But no: the passion of avarice has enslaved his soul, and he, like the rest of the Apostles, says to Jesus: Is it I, Rabbi? Jesus answers him in a whisper, in order not to compromise him before his brethren: Thou hast said it! But Judas yields not. He intends to remain with Jesus, until the hour comes for betraying him. Thus, the august mystery, which is on the point of being celebrated, is to be insulted by his presence!

The legal repast is over. It is followed by a feast, which again brings the Disciples around their Divine Master. It was the custom in the East that guests should repose two and two on couches round the table; these have been provided by the disciple, who has placed his house at Jesus' service. John is on the same couch as Jesus, so that it is easy for him to lean his head upon his Master's breast. Peter is on the next couch, on the other side of Jesus, who is thus between the two Disciples, whom he had sent, in the morning, to prepare the Pasch, and who, as we have already observed, represent Faith and Love This second repast is a sorrowful one, in consequence of Jesus having told the guests, that one of them is a traitor. The innocent and affectionate John is overwhelmed with grief, and seeks consolation on the Heart of this dear Lord, whom someone is about to deliver to his enemies. 

But the Apostles little expect a third Supper. Jesus has not told them of his intention; but he had made a promise, and he would fulfil it before his Passion. Speaking, one day, to the people, he had said:  I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever, and the Bread that I will give, is my Flesh for the life of the world. * * * My Flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood, abideth in me, and I in him.  The time has come for the fulfilment of this, his loving promise. But as it was both his Flesh and his Blood that he promised us, he waited till the time of his sacrifice. His Passion has begun; he is sold to his enemies; his life is already in their hands; — he may at once, therefore, offer himself in sacrifice, and give to his Disciples the very Flesh and Blood of the Victim.

As soon as the second repast was over, Jesus suddenly rises, and, to the astonishment of his Apostles, takes off his upper garment, girds himself, as a servant, with a towel, pours water into a basin, and pre pares to wash the feet of the guests. It was the custom, in the East, to wash one's feet, before taking part in a feast; it was considered as the very extreme of hospitality, when the master of the house himself did this service to his guest. Jesus is about to regale his Apostles with a Divine Banquet; he wishes to treat them with every possible mark of welcome and attention. But in this, as in every other action of his, there is a fund of instruction: he would teach us, by what he is now doing, how great is the purity, wherewith we should approach the Holy Table. He that is washed, says he, needeth not but to wash his feet; as though he would say: " The holiness of this Table is such, that they who come to it, should not only be free from grievous sins, but they should, " moreover, strive to cleanse their souls from those "lesser faults, which come from contact with the " world, and are like the dust that covers the feet of " one that walks on the highway." We will explain further on, the other teachings conveyed by this action of our Lord. It is with Peter, the future Head of his Church that Jesus begins. The Apostle protests; he declares that he will never permit his Master to humble himself as low as this: but he is obliged to yield. The other Apostles, (who, as Peter himself, are reclining upon their couches,) receive the same mark of love: Jesus comes to each of them in turn, and washes their feet. Judas is not excepted: he has just received a second warning from his merciful Master; for Jesus, addressing himself to all the Apostles, said to them: You are clean; but not all – but the reproach produced no effect upon this hardened heart. Having finished washing the feet of the Twelve, Jesus resumes his place, side by side with John. 

Our Savior’s washing the feet of his Disciples before permitting them to partake of his Divine Mystery, conveys an instruction to us. The Apostle has just been telling us, that we should prove ourselves: and here, we have Jesus saying to his Disciples: You are clean. It is true, he adds: but not all: just as the Apostle assures us, that there are some who render themselves guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. God forbid we should ever be of the number! Let us prove ourselves; let us sound the depths of our conscience, before approaching the Holy Table. Mortal sin, and the affection to mortal sin, would change the Bread of Life into a deadly poison for our souls. But, if respect for the holiness of God, who is about to enter within us by Holy Communion, should make us shudder at the thought of our receiving him in the state of mortal sin, which robs the soul of the image of God and gives her that of Satan, — ought not that same respect urge us to purify our souls from venial sins, which dim the beauty of grace? He, says our Saviour, that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet. The feet are those earthly attachments, which so often lead us to the brink of sin. Let us watch over our senses, and the affections of our hearts. Let us wash away these stains by a sincere confession, by penance, by sorrow, and by humility; that thus we may worthily receive the Adorable Sacrament, and derive from it the fullness of its power and grace.

Then taking a piece of the unleavened bread, that had remained over from the feast, he raises his eyes to heaven, blesses the bread, breaks it, and distributes it to his Disciples, saying to them : Take ye, and eat ; this is my Body. The Apostles take the bread, which is now changed into the Body of their Divine Master; they eat — and Jesus is, now, not only with them, but in them. But, as this sacred mystery is not only the most holy of the Sacraments, but, moreover, a true Sacrifice; and as a Sacrifice requires the shedding of blood; — our Jesus takes the cup, and changing the wine into his own Blood, he passes it round to his Disciples, saying to them: Drink ye, all, of this; for this is my Blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many, unto remission of sins. The Apostles drink from the sacred chalice thus proffered them; when it comes to Judas, he too, partakes of it, but he drinks his own damnation, as he ate his own judgment, when he received the Bread of Life. Jesus, however, mercifully offers the traitor another grace, by saying, as he gives the Cup to his Disciples : The hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table? Peter is struck by Jesus thus frequently alluding to the crime, which is to be committed by one of the Twelve. He is determined to find out who the traitor is. Not daring himself to ask Jesus, at whose right hand he is sitting, he makes a sign to John, who is on the other side, and begs him to put the question. John leans on Jesus' breast, and says to him in a whisper: Lord, who is it? Jesus answers him in an equally suppressed tone: He to whom I shall reach bread dipped. And having taken one of the pieces of bread that remained over from the repast, he dipped it, and gave it to Judas. It was one more grace offered and refused, for the Evangelist adds: And after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus again addresses him, saying: That which thou dost, do quickly. The wretch then leaves the room, and sets about the perpetration of his crime.

Such is the history of the Last Supper, of which we celebrate the anniversary on this day. But there is one circumstance of the deepest interest to us, and to which we have, so far, only made an indirect allusion. The institution of the Holy Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and Sacrifice, is followed by another, — the institution of a new Priesthood. How could our Saviour have said: Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his Blood, you shall not have life in you? — Unless he had resolved to establish a ministry upon earth, whereby he would renew, even to the end of time, the great Mystery he thus commands us to receive? He begins it today, in the Cenacle. The twelve Apostles are the first to partake of it: but observe what he says to them: Do this for a commemoration of me. By these words, he gives them power to change bread into his Body, and wine into his Blood; and this sublime power shall be perpetuated in the Church, by holy Ordination, even to the end of the world. Jesus will continue to operate, by the ministry of mortal and sinful men, the Mystery of the Last Supper. By thus enriching his Church with the one and perpetual Sacrifice, he also gives us the means of abiding in him, for he gives us, as he promised, the Bread of heaven. To-day, then, we keep the anniversary, not only of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, but, also, of the equally wonderful Institution of the Christian Priesthood.

Judas has left the Cenacle, and, profiting of the darkness, has reached the place where the enemies of his Saviour are assembled. Jesus then turns to his faithful Apostles, and says to them: Now is the Son of Man glorified. Yes, his Passion is to be followed by triumph and glory; and the Passion has already begun, for Judas has commenced his work of betraying him. Meanwhile, the Apostles, — forgetting the trouble, into which they had been thrown by Jesus' telling them, that one of the Twelve was about to betray him, — begin to dispute among themselves, which of them should seem to be greater. They have not forgotten the words spoken by Jesus to Peter, when he made him the Rock, on which he would build his Church; and here, at the Supper, they have seen their Divine Master wash the feet of Peter first. On the other hand, John's affectionate familiarity with Jesus, during this same Supper, has made some of them argue, that he who was most loved, would be most honored. Jesus puts an end to this dispute, by giving to these future Pastors of his Church a lesson of humility. There shall, it is true, be a Head among them ; but, says our Redeemer, let him that is the greater among you, become as the younger ; and he that is the leader, as he that serveth. He bids them look at him : he is their Master, and yet, says he, I am in the midst of you, as he that serveth.

Then turning towards Peter, he thus addresses him: Simon, Simon ! Behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy Brethren. This last interview is, as it were, our Savior’s Testament; he provides for his Church, before leaving her. The Apostles are to be Peter's Brethren, but Peter is to be their Head. This sublime dignity is to be enhanced by the humility of him that enjoys it: he shall be “The Servant of the Servants of God." The Apostolic College is to be exposed to the fury of hell; but Peter alone is to confirm his Brethren in the faith. His teaching shall ever be conformable to Divine Truth; it shall be ever infallible: Jesus has prayed that it may be so. Such a prayer is all-powerful; and thereby, the Church, ever docile to the voice of Peter, shall forever maintain the doctrine of Christ. Jesus, after having provided for the future of his Church by the words he addressed to Peter, thus speaks affectionately to all the eleven: Little children! Yet a little while I am with you. Love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another. Peter says to him: Lord! whither goest thou? — Whither I go, answers Jesus, thou canst not now follow me; but thou shalt follow hereafter. — Why cannot I follow thee now? Again asks Peter: I will lay down my life for thee. — Wilt thou, replies Jesus, lay down thy life for me? Amen, amen, I say to thee: the cock shall not crow, till thou deny me thrice. Peter's love for Jesus had too much of the human about it, for it was not based on humility. Presumption comes from pride: it almost always results in a fall. In order to prepare Peter for his future ministry of pardon, as also to give us a useful lesson, God permits that he, who was soon to be made Prince of the Apostles, should fall into a most grievous and humiliating sin.

But let us return to the instructions contained in the last words spoken by our Jesus before he leaves his disciples. "I am", says he, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you love me, keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you forever. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. If you loved me, you would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father. I will not now speak many things with you, for the prince of this world cometh, and in me he hath not anything. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I, — arise, let us go hence." Deeply impressed by these words, the Disciples arise, and, after the hymn of thanksgiving has been said, they accompany Jesus to Mount Olivet. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wednesday of Holy Week, April 1

Wednesday of Holy Week
Dom Gueranger ~ Liturgical Year, Passiontide and Holy Week

The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus' Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. 
The Chief Priests and the Ancients of the people meet today in one of the rooms adjoining the Temple, for the purpose of deliberating on the best means of putting Jesus to death. Several plans are discussed. Would it be prudent to lay hands upon him at this season of the Feast of the Pasch, when the City is filled with strangers, who have received a favorable impression of Jesus from the solemn ovation given to him three days earlier? Then, too, are there not a great number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who took part in that triumph, and whose enthusiastic admiration of Jesus might excite them to rise up in his defense? These considerations persuade them not to have recourse to any violent measure, at least for the present, as a sedition among the people might be the consequence, and its promoters, even were they to escape being ill-treated by the people, would be brought before the tribunal of the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. They, therefore, come to the- resolution of letting the Feast pass quietly over, before apprehending Jesus.

But these blood-thirsty men are making all these calculations as though they were the masters. They are, if they will, shrewd assassins, who put off their murder to a more convenient day: but the Divine decrees, — which, from all eternity, have prepared a Sacrifice for the world's salvation, — have fixed this very year's Pasch as the day of the Sacrifice, and, to-morrow evening, the holy City will re-echo with the trumpets, which proclaim the opening of the Feast. The figurative Lamb is now to make way for the true one; the Pasch of this year will substitute the reality for the type; and Jesus' Blood, shed by the hands of wicked priests, is soon to flow simultaneously with that of victims, which have only been hitherto acceptable to God, because they prefigured the Sacrifice of Calvary. The Jewish priesthood is about to be its own executioner, by immolating Him, whose Blood is to abrogate the Ancient Alliance, and perpetuate the New one.

But how are Jesus' enemies to get possession of their divine Victim, so as to avoid a disturbance in the City? There is only one plan that could succeed, and they have not thought of it: it is treachery. Just at the close of their deliberations, they are told that one of Jesus' Disciples seeks admission. They admit him, and he says to them: What will you give me to deliver him unto you? They are delighted at this proposition: and yet, how is it that they, doctors of the law, forget that this infamous bargain between themselves and Judas has all been foretold by David, in the 108th Psalm? They know the Scriptures from beginning to end; — how comes it, that they forget the words of the Prophet, who even mentions the sum of thirty pieces of silver. (Zach. xi. 12) Judas asks them what they will give him; and they give him thirty pieces of silver! All is arranged: tomorrow, Jesus will be in Jerusalem, eating the Pasch with his Disciples. In the evening, he will go, as usual, to the Garden on Mount Olivet. But how shall they, who are sent to seize him, be able to distinguish him from his Disciples? Judas will lead the way; he will show them which is Jesus, by going up to him and kissing him!

Such is the impious scheme devised on this day, within the precincts of the Temple of Jerusalem. To testify her detestation at it, and to make atonement to the Son of God for the outrage thus offered him, the Holy Church, from the earliest ages, consecrated the Wednesday of every week to penance. In our own times, the Fast of Lent begins on a Wednesday; and when the Church ordained that we should commence each of the four Seasons of the year with Fasting, Wednesday was chosen to be one of the three days thus consecrated to bodily mortification. (The author speaks here of Ember Days, fast days that occur on the traditional Roman Calendar during the year to commemorate and make holy each of the four seasons.)

At Rome, the Station for today is in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. Let us compassionate with our Holy Mother, whose Heart is filled with poignant grief at the foresight of the Sacrifice, which is preparing.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday in Holy Week, March 31

Dom Gueranger: Liturgical Year ~ Passiontide and Holy Week

In order to teach us that the whole of material nature is subservient to the spiritual element, when this last is united to God by faith, Jesus replies: Have the faith of God. Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain: Be thou removed and cast into the sea! And shall not stagger in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done, it shall be done unto him.
Today, again our Saviour sets out in the morning for Jerusalem. His intention is to repair to the temple, and continue his yesterday's teachings. It is evident that his mission on earth is fast drawing to its close. He says to his Disciples: You know that after two days shall be the Pasch, and the Son of Man shall be delivered up to be crucified. (Matt. 26:2) On the road from Bethania to Jerusalem, the Disciples are surprised at seeing the fig-tree, which their Divine Master had yesterday cursed, now dead. Addressing himself to Jesus, Peter says: Rabbi, behold, the fig-tree, which thou didst curse, is withered away. (Mark 6:21) In order to teach us that the whole of material nature is subservient to the spiritual element, when this last is united to God by faith, Jesus replies: Have the faith of God. Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain: Be thou removed and cast into the sea! And shall not stagger in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done, it shall be done unto him.

Having entered the City, Jesus directs his steps towards the Temple. No sooner has he entered, than the Chief Priests, the Scribes, and the Ancients of the people, accost him with these words: By what authority dost thou these things? And who has given thee this authority, that thou shouldst do these things? We shall find our Lord's answer given in the Gospel. Our object is to mention the leading events of the last days of our Redeemer on earth; the holy Volume will supply the details. As on the two preceding days, Jesus leaves the City towards evening: he passes over Mount Olivet, and returns to Bethania, where he finds his Blessed Mother and his devoted friends.

EPISTLE for Tuesday in Holy Week:
Lesson from Jeremias the Prophet. Ch. XI.
In those days: Jeremias said: Thou, O Lord, hast shewed me, and I have known: then thou shewedst me their doings. And I was as a meek lamb, that is carried to be a victim; and I knew not that they had devised counsels against me, saying: “Let us put wood on his bread, and cut him off from the land of the living, and let his name be remembered no more.” But thou, O Lord of Sabaoth, who judgest justly, and triest the reins of the heart, let me see thy revenge on them; for to thee I have revealed my cause, O Lord, my God!

Again, we have the plaintive words of Jeremias: he gives us the very words used by his enemies, when they conspired his death. It is evident, however, that the Prophet is here a figure of one greater than himself. Let us, say these enemies, put wood upon his bread: that is, let us put poisonous wood into what he eats, that so we may cause his death. This is the literal sense of these words, as applied to the Prophet; but how much more truly were they fulfilled in our Redeemer! He tells us, that his Divine Flesh is the True Breads that came down from heaven. This Bread, this Body of the Man-God, is bruised, torn, and wounded; the Jews nail it to the Wood; so that, it is, in a manner, made one with the Wood, and the Wood is all covered with Jesus' Blood. This Lamb of God was immolated on the Wood of the Cross : it is by his immolation, that we have had given to us a Sacrifice, which is worthy of God ; and it is by this Sacrifice, that we participate in the Bread of Heaven, the Flesh of the Lamb, our true Pasch. The Gradual, which is taken from the 34th Psalm, shows us the humility and meekness of our Jesus under his sufferings. How they contrast with the haughty pride of his enemies!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday in Holy Week, March 30

Monday in Holy Week

During Holy Week, Dom Gueranger retraces the steps of our Blessed Lord. A reflection on the account from the Gospel of St. Matthew follows.
This morning, also, Jesus goes with his Disciples to Jerusalem. He is fasting, for the Gospel tells us, that he was hungry. (Matt. 21:18) He approaches a fig-tree, which is by the wayside; but finds nothing on it, save leaves. Jesus, wishing to give us an instruction, curses the fig-tree, which immediately withers away. He would hereby teach us what they are to expect, who have nothing but good desires, and never produce in themselves the fruit of a real conversion. Nor is the allusion to Jerusalem less evident. This City is zealous for the exterior of Divine Worship; but her heart is hard and obstinate, and she is plotting, at this very hour, the death of the Son of God. The greater portion of the day is spent in the Temple, where Jesus holds long conversations with the Chief Priests and Ancients of the people. His language to them is stronger than ever, and triumphs over all their captious questions. It is principally in the Gospel of St. Matthew, (Chapters 21-23) that we shall find these answers of our Redeemer, which so energetically accuse the Jews of their sin of rejecting the Messias, and so plainly foretell the punishment their sin is to bring after it.

At length, Jesus leaves the Temple, and takes the road that leads to Bethania. Having come as far as Mount Olivet, which commands a view of Jerusalem, he sits down, and rests awhile. The Disciples make this an opportunity for asking him, how soon the chastisements he has been speaking of in the Temple will come upon the City. His answer comprises two events: the destruction of Jerusalem, and the final destruction of the world. He thus teaches them that the first is a figure of the second. The time when each is to happen, is to be when the measure of iniquity is filled up. But, with regard to the chastisement that is to befall Jerusalem, he gives this more definite answer: Amen I say to you: this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. (Matt 24:34) History tells us how this prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled: forty years had scarcely elapsed after his Ascension, when the Roman army encamped on this very place where he is now speaking to his Disciples, and laid siege to the ungrateful and wicked City. After giving a prophetic description of that Last Judgment, which is to rectify all the unjust judgments of men, he leaves Mount Olivet, returns to Bethania, and consoles the anxious heart of his most holy Mother.