Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Baptism and Life

Baptism of Lord“Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life” – the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life. Jesus, who said that he had come so that we might have life and have it in its fullness, in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10), has also explained to us what “life” means: “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we ‘live’”

Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical on Hope, November 30, 2007.

Holy Prophet Nahum

Prophet NahumThe sacred Liturgy, at least the Byzantine Church, recalls the person of the Holy Prophet Nahum, whose name means “God consoles.” The particularities of Nahum’s life are unknown. Historically we know that the Prophet Nahum came from the village of Elkosh (Galilee) and lived during the seventh century B.C. He died at the age of forty-five, and was buried in his native region. He is the seventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets. How fitting in this era of civil upheaval, personal anxiety, and the temptation to nihilism. The liturgical remembrance of the prophets is a little unusual for Latin Catholics but as we know, nomen omen, the name means something, the name of a person shows that person’s God-given mission to the world.

Scholars tell us that Nahum is distinguished from most of the prophets because he neither issues any call to repentance (metanoia), nor denounce Israel for their infidelity to God. The text is one of the richest in image and composition. But in the Office of Prophet that he exercised, Nahum did speak of  the ruin of the Assyrian city of Nineveh because of its iniquity, the destruction of the Israelite kingdom, and the blasphemy of King Sennacherib against God. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal died in 632 B.C., and over the next two decades, his empire began to crumble. Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. All this leads to the catastrophic demise of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.

The book of Nahum places a strong emphasis on the God’s absolute sovereignty over everything.

The Byzantine Church ask for the Prophet Nahum and Saint Nahum of Ochrid’s (December 23) for people with mental disorders.

 

Saint Callistus and Ember Days

Happy feast day of Pope Saint Callistus. The Church liturgically remembers this early pope because of his leadership and spiritual care in the face of trial and heresy. Slave, failed banker, convict and pope. He’s a late second century personage. Studied theology, ordained a deacon and a great counselor. Killed in 222 a riot against Christians. He’s the patron saint of cemetery workers. The pope’s biography is incomplete and often untrustworthy due to the lack of good records from this time. This Pontiff shows how to face our trials (and death): with Christ alone. Don’t give into the temptation of nihilism. Seek what God has shown us: Himself.

The liturgical scholars tell us that Callistus gave us the Ember Days. Before the revision of the Liturgy, the Church observed days of prayer and fasting (outside Fridays, Advent and Lent, and certain other days) with Ember days. There exists for sets of Ember days corresponding more-or-less with the change of seasons. So, Ember Days were known by the faithful from about AD 220 to 1969. Callistus links our Christian life with a good dose of Old Testament theology and typology.

As typical, when you touch something ancient it has the possibility of disintegrating, which is what happened to the Embers. The 1969 revision of the Church calendar reads:

“In order to adapt the rogation and ember days to various regions and the different needs of the people, the conferences of bishops should arrange the time and plan of their celebration. Consequently, the competent authority should lay down norms, in view of local conditions, on extending such celebrations over one or several days and on repeating them during the year. On each day of these celebrations the Mass should be one of the votive Masses for various needs and occasions that is best suited to the intentions of the petitioners.”

Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

Master of Pratovecchio Three ArchangelsLast year (Sept. 29, 2014) on the Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael Pope Francis spoke of the archangels. In the western Church we honor three archangels but there others. You know another famous archangel, Lucifer; another relatively unknown is Uriel. Vatican Radio reported the following:

The angels battle Satan for the destiny of mankind and win.  They defend and custody  the greatest mystery of the Church, God-made-Man.  Even though in Satan often presents “humanistic explanations” for his attacks on mankind.  This was the focus of Pope Francis homily at Mass Monday morning at Casa Santa Marta, marking the Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Today’s readings present us with very strong images:

the vision of the glory of God described by the prophet Daniel with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, before the Father: the archangel Michael and his angels fighting against “the great dragon, the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil” and “seduces all of inhabited earth,” but who is defeated, as affirmed by the Book of Revelation; and the Gospel in which Jesus says to Nathanael: “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”. Pope Francis speaks of “the struggle between God and the devil.”

“This struggle takes place after Satan seeks to destroy the woman about to give birth to a child. Satan always tries to destroy man: the man that Daniel saw there, in glory, and whom Jesus told Nathanael would come in glory. From the very beginning, the Bible speaks to us of this: Satan’s [use of ] seduction to destroy. Maybe out of envy. We read in Psalm 8: ‘Thou hast made man superior to the angels,’ and that angel of great intelligence could not bear this humiliation, that a lower creature was made superior to him; thus he tried to destroy it.”

Satan, therefore, seeks to destroy humanity, all of us:

“So many projects, except for one’s own sins, but many, many projects for mankind’s dehumanization are his work, simply because he hates mankind. He is astute: the first page of Genesis tells us so, he is astute.  He presents things as if they were a good thing.  But his intention is destruction. And the angels defend us. They defend mankind and they defend the God-Man, the superior Man, Jesus Christ who is the perfection of humanity, the most perfect. This is why the Church honours the Angels, because they are the ones who will be in the glory of God – they are in the glory of God – because they defend the great hidden mystery of God, namely, that the Word was made flesh.”

“The task of the people of God – the Pope said – is to safeguard man: the man Jesus” because “He is the man who gives life to all men”. Instead, in his plans for destruction, Satan has invented “humanistic explanations that go against man, against humanity and against God.”

“This struggle is a daily reality in Christian life, in our hearts, in our lives, in our families, in our people, in our churches … If we do not struggle, we will be defeated. But the Lord has given this task mainly to the angels: to do battle and win. And the final song of Revelation , after this battle, is so beautiful: Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night.”

Pope Francis concluded urging those present to pray to the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and “recite the ancient but beautiful prayer to the archangel Michael, so he may continue to do battle and defend the greatest mystery of mankind: that the Word was made Man, died and rose again. This is our treasure. That he may battle on to safeguard it.”

Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross!

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

 

 

 

O Cross our one reliance hail!
So may thy power with us avail
To give new virtue to the Saint,
And pardon to the penitent.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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