Category Archives: Sacred Scripture

St Pius X

St Pius X as cardinalWith Saint Pius X we have an example of a man who was given the mission “to safeguard the Catholic faith and to restore all things in Christ,” based on “heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude.” This is what we need to attend to. From the Office of Readings given today for the liturgical memorial of Saint Pius X comes from the 1911 apostolic constitution Divino Afflatu written by himself:

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.

The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.

Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

You are part of Jesus’ mission

Jesus in the SynagogueThe Church gives us the reading for Gospel today the narrative of Jesus teaching in the synagogue for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Origen teaches: “When you read about Jesus teaching in the synagogues of Galilee and everyone there praising him, take care not to regard those people as uniquely privileged, and yourselves as deprived of his teaching…. Throughout the world Jesus looks for instruments through which he can continue his teaching.”

This is a crucial point: the mission of Jesus required human participation when walked as we do today. We are His instruments of preaching and teaching and doing good works. Origen pinpoints the contemporaneous nature of the Lord teaching the Good News. As Jesus speaks to the Synagogue teachers he speaks to me right now.

Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Christ washing Peter's feetThe 34th Sunday through the Church Year is known in the Ordinary Form of the Mass as the Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (today); the communities who use the Extraordinary Form of the Mass celebrated this feast on the last Sunday of October.

Pope Pius XI, in 1925, instituted this feast as a response to the rise of modern totalitarian states and growing secularism. We feel the effects of the ideology today.  In the Pope’s mind, Christians were to keep their eyes focused on the goal of creation – the fullness of the Kingdom of God in a complete way through Jesus Christ. Consider what Saint Paul wrote to the Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.”

“The Son of Man ‘came not to be served but to serve’…that King whom to serve is to reign” Thus, the “‘state of royal freedom’ proper to Christ’s disciples: to serve means to reign!”

In Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week, Pope Benedict wrote:

“Jesus performs for his disciples the service of a slave, he ’emptied himself’ (Phil 2:7).

“What the letter to the Phillipians says in it great Chrisotological hymn –namely, that unlike Adam who had tried to grasp divinity for himself, Christ moves in the opposite direction, coming down from his divinity into humanity, taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death on a cross (cf. 2:7-8) — all that is rendered in a single gesture. Jesus represents THE WHOLE OF HIS SAVING MINISTRY IN ONE SYMBOLIC ACT. He divests himself of his divine splendor; he, as it were, kneels down before us; he washes and dries our soiled feet…” (p,56-7)

The image for today’s feast is Jesus washing the feet of Peter which demonstrates in a most profound way Jesus’ kenotic essence (kenosis means Jesus taking on human nature in a total way without sin and decay; you can think of the Lord’s Infancy narratives) thus representing his kingship in a new way rather with a crown (as is ofttimes the representation). Jesus could have easily come with earthly symbols of power and honor but according to his loving, merciful, kenotic reality he chose the very opposite. 

And Saint Therese of Lisieux has an interesting way of pointing us: “Here on earth, where everything changes, only one thing doesn’t change: the King of Heaven’s way of acting as regards his friends. Ever since he raised up the standard of the cross, it is in its shadow that all must fight and gain the victory over ourselves.”

Noah the Patriarch

Noah monacoToday, November 18th, the Roman Martyrology notes the liturgical remembrance of Patriarch Noah. Biblical history tells us that Noah was the son of Lamech, and ninth patriarch of the Sethite line, who, with his family, was saved in the Ark from the Deluge, dying 350 years later at the age of 950. Noah was the Father of Sem, Cham and Japhet.

In Western and Eastern Christianity we note that there is developing of “master-theme” of covenant with Noah as a method and a way to explain the relationship God has with humanity: a covenant is the deepening of what it means to belong to the family of God. With the person of Noah a new covenant was made with humanity by the image of a new creation formed after the great  flood. In the flood God “rewrites” the original covenant made with Adam and Eve. It is God who completely obliterates, He drowns the blood line of Adam. Noah enters into a deeper relationship with God. Through Noah we have a man who “walked with God” and “found favor” with God, in many ways Noah is a new Adam.

In biblical theology, there are several covenants and a variety of meanings of what a covenant in the OT means. And, of course, the Catholics (and Orthodox) speak of a NEW, and unique covenant made by Jesus at the Last Supper. In brief, a covenant has, as Scott Hahn indicated, familial, legal and liturgical elements. The Last Supper has all of the elements of the past and a newness not seen before. But the point here is to look at Noah as a precursor to the Lord in generating something new and pointing beyond the “now.”

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read about The Covenant with Noah:

After the unity of the human race was shattered by sin God at once sought to save humanity part by part. The covenant with Noah after the flood gives expression to the principle of the divine economy toward the “nations”, in other words, towards men grouped “in their lands, each with [its] own language, by their families, in their nations”.

This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity10 united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel.11 But, because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and of its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism.

The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel. The Bible venerates several great figures among the Gentiles: Abel the just, the king-priest Melchisedek – a figure of Christ – and the upright “Noah, Daniel, and Job”. Scripture thus expresses the heights of sanctity that can be reached by those who live according to the covenant of Noah, waiting for Christ to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (56-58).

Gratitude for the things God provides

We are moving to the end of the liturgical year quickly: November 22, in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, is the feast of Christ the King and the last Sunday of the year. The readings are all pointing to a deeper question as to whom do we belong and who is the source of our hope. For this 32nd Sunday of of the year we are reading Mark’s gospel (12:38-44) concerning the poor widow and the Temple and God’s faithfulness to us. Jesus notes not the widow’s generosity (responsibility) but her faithfulness to the promises of God because she knows deep-down that all things in life are sustained by God. Hers is a radical sense of gratitude.

Knowing and caring about the poor is a Christian way. How do we live with an attitude of abundance? Abundance, here, is more than material things. The Decree of Gratian taught: “Feed the man dying of hunger, because if you have not fed him, you have killed him.”

A reflection from St. Paulinus of Nola might help us to focus: “Remember the poor widow who forgot herself in her concern for the poor and, thinking only of the life to come, gave away all her means of subsistence…So let us give back to the Lord the gifts he has given us. Let us give to him who receives in the person of every poor man or woman. Let us give gladly, I say, and great joy will be ours when we receive his promised reward.”

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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