Tag Archives: Abraham

St Abraham

sacrifice-of-abrahamIn the Roman Martyrology today, is the feast day of St. Abraham, patriarch and father of all believers, who is celebrated by all three of the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). “The LORD took Abram outside and said, ‘Gaze into the sky and count the stars–if you are able to count them!’ Then he said to him, ‘So will your descendants be.’” (Genesis 15:5)

As you know, the Roman Martyrology is the official list of saints recognized by the Catholic Church. Several times on this blog I have drawn our attention to various OT prophets that we commemorate as saints and now Abraham brings us closer to the reality that the Church transcends time as well walks on earth.

The Orthodox Church commemorates Father Abraham on August 21 with Isaac, and Jacob. With the help of the Orthodox we can appreciate the place of Abraham in our theology from a hymn sung on the second Sunday preceding Christmas, the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers:

Come feast-lovers, let us extol with hymns the assembly of the forefathers – Adam the first father, Enoch, Noah, and Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and those after the Law – Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Samuel; and with them Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve Prophets, with Elijah and Elisha, and all the rest.

The author at St Sypridon Church’s web writes this that I believe is helpful for Catholics, too:

“The Church’s high esteem for the Old Testament saints is also seen in her custom of depicting the forefathers and prophets around the base of the interior central dome of a church. And by remembering these saints in her liturgical calendar, the Orthodox Church demonstrates her understanding that the Body of Christ transcends limitations of time and space. This awareness is clearly expressed at every Divine Liturgy: “And again we offer unto You this reasonable service for all those who in faith have gone before us to their rest: patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.”

Patriarch Abraham

Holy Patriarch AbrahamThe feast of Abraham recalls the person, our father in monotheistic Judaism who opened the door to human faithfulness before the holiness of a God who revealed Himself to humanity in a new way. The holy Patriarch’s liturgical memorial is not celebrated in the Latin Church but in the Byzantine Church does so today. He is, however, recalled in the Roman Canon of the Mass and in several of the prayers used during the year. What we believe, and why we pray is expressed in the hymn texts of the Divine Liturgy. By looking at the liturgy we know what we believe and how to live. Here, the holy Patriarch Abraham is extolled a light to follow and a man of God who mediates for humanity before the Throne of Grace.

In the night universal of ignorance towards God, and in that starless, profound gloom bereft of heavenly light, you, O Abraham, were kindled in the firmament, burning with bright far-shining faith in the Everlasting light. Who shines forth to us from your seed, entreat Him with fervor, that He enlighten us and save our souls. (Troparion, Tone 1)

You were a servant, a mortal fashioned from the earth, your master was God, Lord and Fashioner of creation, yet, well-pleased to glorify your celestial greatness, the Lord of all called Himself the God of Abraham Procure for us mercies from your merciful God. (Kondak, Tone 2)

What is Septuagesima Sunday?

If you don’t pray the 1962 Missal at today’s Mass you would have missed the liturgical observance of Septuagesima Sunday. Those who prayed the Missal of Pope Paul VI heard the gospel of “an for an eye.” But what is Septuagesima Sunday and what would it mean to us today as Lent approaches? How does it relate to the overall liturgical life of the Church? There are several parts of the sacred Liturgy that face a startling change. There is a certain beauty and richness in the older liturgical tradition that seems to have been lost in the post Vatican II revisions…but that’s a theme for another time.

The famous Benedictine monk and writer of the 19th century, Dom Prosper Gueranger, gives perspective on the Season of Septuagesima:

The season upon which we are now entering is expressive of several profound mysteries. But these mysteries belong not only to the three weeks which are preparatory to Lent: they continue throughout the whole period of time which
separates us from the great feast of Easter.
The number seven is the basis of all these mysteries. We have already seen how the holy Church came to introduce
the season of Septuagesima into her calendar. Let us now meditate on the doctrine hidden under the symbols of her liturgy. And first, let us listen to St. Augustine, who thus gives is the clue to the whole of our season’s mysteries.
‘There are two times,’ says the holy Doctor: ‘one which is now, and is spent in the temptations and tribulations of this life; the other which shall by then, and shall be spent in eternal security and joy. In figure of these, we celebrate two periods: the time before Easter, and the time after Easter. That which is before Easter signifies the sorrow of this present life; that which is after Easter, the blessedness of our future state… Hence it is that we spend the first in fasting and prayer; and in the second we give up our fasting, and give ourselves to praise.’
The Church, the interpreter of the sacred Scriptures, often speaks to us of two places, which correspond with these two times of St. Augustine. These two places are Babylon and Jerusalem. Babylon is the image of this world of sin, in the midst whereof the Christian has to spend his years of probation; Jerusalem is the heavenly country, where he is to repose after all his trials. The people of Israel, whose whole history is but one great type of the human race, was banished from Jerusalem and kept in bondage in Babylon.
Now, this captivity, which kept the Israelites exiles from Sion, lasted seventy years; and it is to express this mystery, as Alcuin, Amalarius, Ivo of Chartres, and all the great liturgists tell us, that the Church fixed the number of seventy for the days of expiation. It is true, there are but sixty-three days between Septuagesima and Easter; but the Church, according to the style so continually used in the sacred Scriptures, uses the round number instead of the literal and precise one.
The duration of the world itself, according to the ancient Christian tradition, is divided into seven ages. The human race must pass through the seven ages before the dawning of the day of eternal life. The first age included the time from the creation of Adam to Noah; the second begins with Noah and the renovation of the earth by the deluge, and ends with this the vocation of Abraham; the third opens with this first formation of God’s chosen people, and continues as far as Moses, through whom God gave the Law; the fourth consists of the period between Moses and David, in whom the house of Judah received the kingly power; the fifth is formed of the years which passed between David’s reign and the captivity of Babylon, inclusively; the sixth dates from the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, and takes us on as far as the birth of our Saviour. Then, finally, comes the seventh age; it starts with the rising of this merciful Redeemer, the Sun of justice, and is to continue till the dread coming of the Judge of the living and the dead. These are the seven great divisions of time; after which, eternity.
In order to console us in the midst of the combats, which so thickly beset our path, the Church, like a beacon shining amidst the darkness of this our earthly abode, shows us another seven, which is to succeed the one we are now preparing to pass through. After the Septuagesima of mourning, we shall have the bright Easter with its seven weeks of gladness, foreshadowing the happiness and bliss of heaven. After having fasted with our Jesus, and suffered with Him, the day will come when we shall rise together with Him, and our hearts shall follow Him to the highest heavens; and then after a brief interval, we shall feel the Holy Ghost descending upon us, with His seven Gifts. The celebration of all these wondrous joys will take us seven weeks, as the great liturgists observe in their interpretation of the rites of the Church. The seven joyous weeks from Easter to Pentecost will not be too long for the future glad mysteries, which, after all, will be but figures of a still gladder future, the future of eternity.
Having heard these sweet whisperings of hope, let us now bravely face the realities brought before us by our dear mother the Church. We are sojourners upon this earth; we are exiles and captives in Babylon, that city which plots our ruin. If we love our country, if we long to return to it, we must be proof against the lying allurements of this strange land, and refuse the cup she proffers us, and with which she maddens so many of our fellow captives. She invites us to join in her feasts and her songs; but we must unstring our harps, and hang them on the willows that grow on her river’s bank, till the signal be given for our return to Jerusalem. She will ask us to sing to her the melodies of our dear Sion: but how shall we, who are so far from home, have heart to ‘sing the song of the Lord in a strange land’? No, there must be no sign that we are content to be in bondage, or we shall deserve to be slaves forever.
These are the sentiments wherewith the Church would inspire us during the penitential season which we are now beginning. She wishes us to reflect on the dangers that beset us; dangers which arise from ourselves and from creatures. During the rest of the year she loves to hear us chant the song of heaven, the sweet Alleluia; but now, she bids us close our lips to this word of joy, because we are in Babylon. We are pilgrims absent from our Lord, let us keep our glad hymn for the day of His return. We are sinners, and have but too often held fellowship with the world of God’s enemies; let us become purified by repentance, for it is written that ‘praise is unseemly in the mouth of a sinner.’
The leading feature, then, of Septuagesima, is the total suspension of the Alleluia, which is not to again be heard upon the earth until the arrival of that happy day, when having suffered death with our Jes
us, and having been buried together with Him, we shall rise again with Him to a new life.
The sweet hymn of the angels, Gloria in excelsis Deo, which we have sung every Sunday since the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem, is also taken from us; it is only on the feasts of the saints which may by kept during the week that we shall be allowed to repeat it. The night Office of the Sunday is to lose also, from now till Easter, its magnificent Ambrosian hymn, the Te Deum; and at the end of the holy Sacrifice, the deacon will no longer dismiss the faithful with his solemn Ite, Missa est, but will simply invite them to continue their prayers in silence, and bless the Lord, the God of mercy, who bears with us, notwithstanding all our sins.
After the Gradual of the Mass, instead of the thrice repeated Alleluia, which prepared our hearts to listen to the voice of God in the holy Gospel, we shall hear but a mournful and protracted chant, called, on that account, the Tract.
That the eye, too, may teach us that the season we are entering on is one of mourning, the Church will vest her ministers (both on Sundays and on the days during the week which are not feasts of Saints) in the somber purple. Until Ash Wednesday, however, she permits the deacon to wear his dalmatic, and the subdeacon his tunic; but from that day forward, they must lay aside these vestments of joy, for Lent will then have begun and our holy mother will inspire us with the deep spirit of penance, but suppressing everything of that glad pomp, which she loves at other seasons, to bring into the sanctuary of her God.

Manuela Camagni’s funeral oration by Pope Benedict

At 7:30 this morning in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI offered the Sacrifice of the Mass in the Paoline Chapel of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, for peaceful repose of the soul of Manuela Camagni, the Memor Domini who was a part of the Papal Family who died November 24 as a consequence of being hit by a car.
 It is not a frequent occurrence that we hear much of the inner life of the Apostolic Household and equally little is revealed about the consecrated lay people who make up the Memores Domini community of Communion & Liberation. Plus, Manuela’s death, for some reason, has had interesting affect on me, not only because I am a member of the Fraternity of Communion & Liberation but because of the recorded witness of Manuela herself, and how Manuela affected the Holy Father and those with whom he lives. What follows is Pope Benedict’s homily:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Manuela Camagni4.jpg

In the last days of her life, our dear Manuela used to talk about the fact that on November 29 she would have belonged to the community of Memores Domini for thirty years. And she said that with a great joy, getting ready – such was the impression – for an interior feast celebrating her path of thirty years towards the Lord, in communion with the Lord’s friends. But the feast was different from what was expected: precisely on November 29 we took her to the cemetery, we sang asking for the Angels to accompany her to Heaven, we guided her to the ultimate feast, to God’s great feast, to the Lamb’s Wedding. Thirty years walking towards the Lord, entering the Lord’s feast. Manuela was a “wise, prudent virgin,” she had oil in her lamp, the oil of faith, a lived faith, a faith nourished by prayer, by a dialogue with the Lord, by her meditation on the Word of God, by communion in her friendship with Christ. And this faith was hope, wisdom, it was certainty that faith opens up to the real future. And faith was charity, it was giving herself for the others, it was living in the service of the Lord for the others. I, personally, must thank for her availability to put her energies at work in my house, with this spirit of charity and of hope that comes from faith.

She entered the Lord’s feast as a prudent and wise virgin because she lived not in the superficiality of those who forget the greatness of our vocation, but in the great expectation of the eternal life; so she was ready when the Lord came.

Memor Domini for thirty years

Pope before Manuela.jpg

Saint Bonaventure says that the memory of the Creator is inscribed in the depths of our being. And precisely because this memory is inscribed in our being, we can recognize the Creator in His creation, we can remember, see His traces in this cosmos created by Him. Saint Bonaventure also says that this memory of the Creator is not merely a memory of the past, because the source is present, it is a memory of the presence of the Lord; it is also a memory of the future, because it is certain that we come from the goodness of God and that we are called to strive for the goodness of God. Therefore in this memory there is the element of joy, our origin in the joy that is God, and our call to reach the great joy. And we know that Manuela was a person interiorly penetrated by joy, precisely that joy that derives from the memory of God. But Saint Bonaventure also says that our memory, as well as all of our existence, is wounded by sin: therefore memory is obscured, is covered by other superficial memories, and we aren’t able any more to overcome these other superficial memories, to go deeper, all the way to the true memory that sustains our being. Therefore, because of this oblivion of God, because of this forgetfulness of the fundamental memory, also joy is covered, obscured. Yes, we know that we were created for the joy, but we don’t know any more where we can find this joy, and we look for it in various places. Today we see this desperate search for joy that increasingly moves away from its true source, the true joy. Oblivion of God, oblivion of our true memory. Manuela was not one of those who had forgotten memory: she lived precisely in the living memory of the Creator, in the joy of His creation, seeing God in all creation, even in the daily events of our lives, and she knew that joy comes from this memory – present and future.

Memores Domini

Pope celebrates Mass for Manuela Camagni.JPG

The Memores Domini know that Christ, on the eve of His passion, renewed, or better, elevated our memory. “Do this in memory of me,” He said, and in this way He gave us the memory of His presence, the memory of the gift of Himself, of the gift of His Body and of His Blood, and in this gift of His Body and Blood, in this gift of His infinite love, we touch again with our memory a stronger presence of God, of His gift of Himself. As Memor Domini, Manuela lived exactly this living memory, that the Lord gives Himself with His Body and renews our knowledge of God.

In His dispute with the Sadducees about resurrection, the Lord tells them, who don’t believe in it: “God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob”. Those three men are part of God’s name, are inscribed in God’s name, are in God’s name, in God’s memory, and therefore the Lord says: God is not for the dead, He is a God for the living people, and those who are part of God’s name, those who are in God’s memory are alive. Unfortunately, we human beings with our memory can remember only a shadow of the people we have loved. But God’s memory doesn’t keep only shadows, it originates life: the dead live here, with His life and in His life they have entered God’s memory, which is life. This is what the Lord tells us today: you are inscribed in God’s name, you live in God with a true life, you live from the true source of life.

So, in this moment of sadness, we get comforted. And the new liturgy after the Council dares to teach us to sing “Halleluiah” even during the Mass for the dead. This is bold! We feel most of all the pain for the loss, we feel most of all the absence, the past, but the liturgy knows that we are in the Body of Christ and that we live starting from the memory of God, which is our memory. In this interlacement of His memory with ours we are together, we are living. Let’s pray the Lord that we may feel this communion of memory more and more, that our memory of God in Christ becomes more alive, so that we can feel that our true life is in Him and in Him we stay united. In this sense, we sing “Halleluiah”, certain that the Lord is life and that His love never ends. Amen.

Father Julián Carrón’s message on the occasion of Manuela Camgni’s death can be read here.

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.
coat of arms

Categories

Archives

Humanities Blog Directory