Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Get your 2021 Ordo NOW - the best one available!

 

Without doubt, the best ORDO available to western Christians is the one under the imprint of Tufton Books (i.e. The Church Union), still compiled each year by Father John Hunwicke, now of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. It painstakingly provides full information both for users of the Roman Rite (Third Typical Edition) and users of Common Worship. There is also guidance for those who use versions of the Book of Common Prayer.


Friday, August 28, 2020

Salve Regina


Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Tears of S. Monica

 


S. Monica, by John Nava (2003) (Go HERE for information)

So many people have to struggle against the odds, and not just in terms of projects attempted unsuccessfully or goals that prove to be illusive. Hardest of all is to cope with being surrounded by really difficult people - and in particular - living in the midst of a network of dysfunctional relationships.

A STRONG WOMAN OF REAL FAITH
Today is S. Monica’s day. We know a little bit about Monica and the challenges she faced. We also know how easy would it have been for her to react negatively to her circumstances, to become an unloving wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing mother. In fact, though she struggled, she didn’t become any of those things. She was a woman of great godliness, and that made her strong as well as loving.   


Monica’s difficulties began when she was young. Though she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a non-Christian, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa (in modern day Algeria). Patricius certainly had some redeeming qualities, but he was well-known for his fierce temper. He was also highly promiscuous. To make matters worse, Monica also had to manage a very bad tempered mother-in-law who lived permanently in her home. Patricius criticised Monica constantly for her charity and Christian faith - often considered ‘weaknesses’ in their culture - although it is also evident that he also had a deep respect for her. 


In the end, through Monica’s prayers and the goodness and loving holiness of her life, Patricius actually became a Christian, and - even more remarkably - so did Monica’s difficult mother-in-law. Patricius died in 371, one year after his baptism.


AUGUSTINE’S MEANDERINGS

At least three of Monica’s children survived infancy. Augustine, the eldest, is the famous one. At the time Patricius died, Augustine was 17 and studying rhetoric in Carthage. Monica was devastated when she found that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy and was also living an openly immoral life. Thinking she was doing the right thing, at first she wouldn’t let Augustine eat or sleep in her house. But one night she had a vision in which she was assured that Augustine would embrace the Faith she had tried to share with him in his childhood. She remained very close to Augustine from that point on, praying for him with tears and fasting. (She was probably a lot closer than Augustine was comfortable with!)


In 383, when he was 29, Augustine - absolutely brilliant but still wayward - decided to teach rhetoric in Rome. Monica insisted on going. That’s not what Augustine had in mind! So, one night he told his mother that he was going to the docks to farewell a friend. But instead, he got onto a boat bound for Rome. The heartbroken Monica made up her mind to follow him. By the time she arrived in Rome, Augustine had decided to go to Milan. He had already left! In spite of the most difficult travelling conditions, Monica pursued him.


CONVERSION

It was in Milan that Augustine came under the powerful influence of the Bishop Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. Monica accepted Ambrose’s advice in all things and demonstrated enormous humility in doing so. She became a leader of the network of devout Christian women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.


Monica’s tearful prayers for Augustine persisted. He, in turn, gradually opened his mind and heart to the Gospel, and really was learning the Faith. Deeply impacted by the worship, singing and praying of the Church in Milan, and having humbled himself to receive the Gospel and the Catholic Faith from the godly Ambrose, Augustine finally surrendered to the love of God. He and several of his friends were baptised by Ambrose at the Easter Mass in 387 AD. 


A HOLY DEATH

In that same year, Augustine and his brother Nagivius set out on their return to north Africa. Monica was travelling with them. They broke their journey at Ostia, near Rome, where the Tiber runs into the sea. There Monica became ill and suffered severely for nine days before her death. She shared with Augustine a profound experience of God. According to Augustine, who recorded this special time in his ‘Confessions’, Monica said, 


‘. . . Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here.’  


Augustine continues: 


‘At the time we were in Ostia on the Tiber. We had gone there after a long and wearisome journey to get away from the noisy crowd, and to rest and prepare for our sea voyage. I believe that you, Lord, caused all this to happen in your own mysterious ways. And so the two of us, all alone, were enjoying a very pleasant conversation, forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead. We were asking one another in the presence of the Truth - for you are the Truth - what it would be like to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man. We desired with all our hearts to drink from the streams of your heavenly fountain, the fountain of life.


‘ . . . within five days or thereabouts, she fell sick with a fever. Then one day during the course of her illness she became unconscious and for a while she was unaware of her surroundings. My brother and I rushed to her side but she regained consciousness quickly. She looked at us as we stood there and asked in a puzzled voice: “Where was I?”


ONE THING ONLY I ASK . . . 

REMEMBER ME AT THE ALTAR OF THE LORD

‘We were overwhelmed with grief, but she held her gaze steadily upon us and spoke further: “Here you shall bury your mother.” I remained silent as I held back my tears. However, my brother haltingly expressed his hope that she might not die in a strange country but in her own land, since her end would be happier there. When she heard this, her face was filled with anxiety, and she reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts. Then she looked at me and spoke: “Look what he is saying.” 


‘Thereupon she said to both of us: “Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” Once our mother had expressed this desire as best she could, she fell silent as the pain of her illness increased.’


S. Monica died at the age of 56. She is regarded as the patron saint of all mothers who weep over their wayward children. We thank the Lord for her, and for the work of his grace through her in the conversion of her son Augustine, who is still regarded as one of the Church’s greatest teachers.


O God,
who console the sorrowful
and who mercifully accepted
the motherly tears of Saint Monica
for the conversion of her son Augustine,
grant us, through the intercession of them both,
that we may bitterly regret our sins 
and find the grace of your pardon.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you 
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.


Thursday, August 20, 2020

S. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church



Bernard was born near Dijon (France) in 1090 and died at Clairvaux on this day in 1153. At the age of 21 he joined the impoverished, reformed abbey of Citeaux. He soon became the founder and abbot of Clairvaux and pioneered the reform and expansion of the Cistercian Order, sparking off a spiritual renewal that was to have a deep impact on the European Church for three centuries. Bernard was a prolific theological writer, a sought after spiritual master, a popular preacher, and an adviser of popes and kings. He is remembered as the most influential churchman of his age, for his inspirational leadership, and for his devotion to the humanity of Christ and to the Blessed Virgin.

Here is one of the most beautiful readings in the entire Divine Office. It is set for today's Office of Readings, and comes from the preaching of S. Bernard (Sermo,83:4-6; Opera omnia, Edit. Cisterc. 2 (1958), 300-302): 

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

* * * * * * * * * *

Anglicans are most aware of S. Bernard through the well known translations of his hymns: 

Jesu dul­cis memoria 

Jesu! the very thought is sweet!
In that dear Name all heart-joys meet;
But sweeter than the honey far
The glimpses of his presence are.

No word is sung more sweet than this:
No name is heard more full of bliss;
No thought brings sweeter comfort nigh,
Than Jesus, Son of God most high.

Jesu! the hope of souls forlorn!
How good to them for sin that that mourn!
To them that seek thee, O how kind!
But what art thou to them that find?

Jesu, thou sweetness, pure and blest,
Truth’s Fountain, Light of souls distressed,
Surpassing all that heart requires,
Exceeding all that soul desires!

No tongue of mortal can express,
No letters write his blessedness,
Alone who hath thee in his heart
Knows, love of Jesus! what Thou art.

O Jesu! King of wondrous might!
O Victor, glorious from the fight!
Sweetness that may not be expressed,
And altogether loveliest!

(This hymn is also translated as: 'Jesu, the very thought of thee'
and 'Jesu, thou joy of  loving hearts')

* * * * * * * * * *

Jesu, Rex admirabilis 

O Jesus, King most wonderful,
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou Sweetness most ineffable,
In whom all joys are found!

When once thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, Light of all below,
Thou Fount of life and fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire!

Thy wondrous mercies are untold,
Through each returning day;
Thy love exceeds a thousand fold,
Whatever we can say.

May every heart confess thy Name;
And ever thee adore;
And seeking thee, itself inflame,
To seek thee more and more.

Thee may our tongues forever bless;
Thee may we love alone;
And ever in our lives express
The image of thine own.




Friday, August 14, 2020

Love without limits 10 (Fr Lev Gillet)

 

"My dear child Love without limits breaks through the limitations of your words. 

"I place in your heart and on your lips various 'ascensions' or upward movements, so that every word you use 'explodes' toward the infinite heights, surpassing every previous word and drawing you on to an ever greater mission. 

"You go. Everywhere you go, may you experience yourself as sent to be a bearer of a sacred message. 

"You come. From wherever you come, may you feel you are awaited. Be aware that you walk towards a well-defined goal, and that already within yourself you are bound to that goal. Hurry along, then, toward this encounter I have prepared for you. 

"You see. What I want for you is that you behold, and that everything you behold might become within you attentive contemplation. 

"You hear. My desire for you is that you listen, that you listen from the depths, and that you truly wish to receive what is beyond the physical senses. 

"You talk. I want you rather to speak, and that you transform mundane words into a personal and intimate communication. 

"You see these verbs rise, one beyond the other, to ever greater clarity. At the highest point there is a verb beyond which one simply cannot go. This is the verb to give. For the gift, the very act of giving, abolishes all sense of personal possession. 

"Yet at the heart of every true gift there resound callings that are ever more demanding. The divine logic of the gift-my logic-transforms it from partial to total, from the gift of some thing to the gift of one's self. 

"My child, allow me to place these words on your lips. Learn to make of each one of them the verse of a hymn. Then, at last, at the final bend in the road, you will behold the land that you lost, the land you long for, the Promised Land. 

"A man is walking in the dark of night, a winter night of bitter cold. It is snowing. The landscape and the atmosphere together crush all sense of hope. 

"Yet all at once, among the flakes of snow that bite into the traveler's hands, there appear sparks. 

"Where could these sparks have come from? Does that mean there is some flame, some fire nearby? If so, then he can warm himself, then he can find a source of heat and light. 

"Yes, there is a flame. There is a fire, right close by. Infinitely close by. "I come to you, my child, in the smallest things, in the most humble details. Every gesture you make can give expression to Love without limits. 

"You wash a plate, then you wipe it dry. Make of that simple act an act of love toward those who have eaten from that plate, and toward all those who will eat from it. 

"A housewife walks out the back door. She hangs out the wash on a clothesline so it will dry. Does this rapid gesture of service remind you of anything? Do her two arms, extended for just a moment, make you think of two other arms that were stretched out on a sacred Tree? 

"All things can become sacred, if they are transfigured by love. That Love is forever with us, as one who serves."


Love without limits 09 (Fr Lev Gillet)

 


"With what love, then, are you loved?" God asks. "I did not say, 'You were loved.' Nor did I say 'You will be loved.' I did not just love you yesterday or the day before. Nor is it simply tomorrow or the day after tomorrow that I will love you. You are loved today, at this very moment.

"So it is with every one of my human creatures. You express surprise, my child, and you question me, asking: 'Really? Am I loved without exception?' Yes, without exception. Yet you reply: 'Lord, how can that possibly be? Can someone who sins against you be loved by you at the very same time?' Yes, my child. If I did not continue to love a sinful person, would I let that person go on living? My Love is seated like a beggar before the door of someone who does not love. It waits. It will continue to wait. The length of time that I shall wait is beyond human comprehension. I wait. And who will be able to separate me from my beloved sinner?

"You see, then, my child, with what great a Love you are loved! I do not say you are 'deeply' loved or 'greatly' loved,' or loved more or less than someone else. You have heard it said that I love some and despise others, that I love to very different degrees. This is because I have had to speak to human beings in human ways and in human language, in a pedagogical style, with poor human words that cannot possibly express divine realities. Nevertheless, in my indivisible Love there is neither 'more' nor 'less.' My Love is pure quality, containing nothing quantitative, nothing measurable. In its infinite fullness it is offered to all people equally. I can only love in a divine way. That is, entirely, giving myself totally in and through it. It is my human creatures who open themselves more or less - or else close themselves entirely - to my Love.

"Let me use an image. Divine Love is like atmospheric pressure that surrounds and weighs upon every creature. It besieges everyone, desires to conquer everyone. It seeks to force an opening, to find a pathway leading to the heart, in order to fill the person entirely. The difference between the sinner and the saint is that the sinner closes his heart to Love, whereas the saint opens it to that Love. Yet it is the very same Love, offered to both, that attempts to fulfill both. The one rejects it, the other accepts it. There is no acceptance, though, without grace, and that grace is immeasurable."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Love without limits 08 (Fr Lev Gillet)

 

Infinite Love storms the very gates of our life. It could be that I've already achieved a kind of peaceful coexistence with God. Perhaps I've been able to convince myself that I am more or less "in order" with my soul and therefore more or less at ease with myself. Maybe I've even foreseen a happy and peaceful ending to my earthly life.

Then suddenly all these assurances are turned upside down by a divine calling. God demands something of me that I never expected. It's almost like receiving the news of an unwanted child.

Should I listen to this urgent request? Should I make a decision that will cost me dearly? Why in the world would I? Everything seemed to be going so well. Is it really necessary to accept these uncertainties, these new anxieties? Do I really need to tread again the tortuous pathway of that first calling, the one that came so long ago? Do I really have to leave my own familiar homeland, with no idea as to where God is leading me?

I never spoke these things to God, but I certainly thought them. Of course I never said "No" to the Lord, but I have certainly given Him a reply that amounts to a respectful refusal: "Please allow me to live in your presence just as I am!"

"Just as I am...." That person who is me, myself, represents a present state of being, a life lived in a well defined situation, with a collection of things to which I've become thoroughly attached. That includes my relationship with God, which seems perfectly adequate. What more could I want?

Love without limits seeks to invade my life. It troubles the calm waters of my daily existence. It shatters all that seems stable, in order to open before me new horizons that I never before imagined.

Will I refuse? Will I run from this announcement, this command, that God has just spoken to me? If I do refuse, I may not necessarily be estranged from every other form of love. But the love I finally do embrace will be both relative and limited. It will amount to a rejection of absolute Love, with all its audacious demands. It will be the stillness of a stagnant pond, rather than the tumult of the high seas.

Lord of Love, break the bonds that hold me back! I will never return to that place of familiar complacency. O Lord of Love, may I live before you as the person I shall become!


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Love without limits 07 (Fr Lev Gillet)

 

What does 'love' mean, when it is God who loves, God who Himself is Love? Every form of love is a movement from one being towards another with the desire to unite with the other. The directions, forms and varieties of this movement are innumerable. They span the range from less than human to more than human. Yet there is always a tendency toward union, toward a desire for union, whether possessive or sacrificial.

"My Love for persons is a movement of myself toward them, not only to be known by them or to be in some way imitated by them. That movement allows me to unite myself to them, to give myself to them.

"My Love, Love in its incorruptible essence, Love without limits, is never entirely absent. God is never absent. At times such Love seems barely to exist, yes. It can be undetectable, covered by hatred, by all sorts of perversions, or by a layer of instinctive brutality. Yet I still work through it. No matter how deformed love may be, I can make it rise to the level of a conscious and total gift. Love has a great many different aspects, it's true. But there is only one Love.

"You are loved. Isn't there a place for the most 'insignificant' person in the flame of the Burning Bush? A soul, a person whom I love, though, is not insignificant. You are loved. It is you whom I love. This is no universal affirmation; I'm not speaking here about groups of people. I am speaking about you.

"Certainly you are all, collectively, my 'beloved,' whom I have created by my Love. You are members of a single body, which is my own Body. But now, my child, I am speaking to a single person: to you, and to no one else. I am calling you by a name I have given to no one else.

"Yes, I am calling you by a secret name, one reserved for you from all eternity. It is a different name from the one others use to address you. It is the name written on a white stone, a name no one knows, except (if they are attentive to the gift) the person who receives it.

"In the heart of God there is given to each of you the possibility to discover and make apparent to others a different facet of the unique Diamond. You yourself are that facet. Whatever life may have handed you, you are a unique aspect, a particular aspect, of the link that joins each person to divine Love. You are a ray of Love, shining forth from Love, even if at times that ray may seem broken . . . "

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Love without limits 06 (Fr Lev Gillet)


"No less than six times in the first chapter of the first sacred book of the Hebrews, God is represented creating the days of the week and setting evening as the time at which the day begins.

"The way people today count time is not Your way, O Lord. Instinctively, they tend to start the day with morning. The day begins with the pale light of daybreak. Then comes the joy of dawn, the rising of the sun, the splendour of noonday, the sunset and shadows of evening, the sadness of the twilight hours, and finally the tangible tragedy and the terrors of darkness.

"With You, O Lord, it is very different. You declare that first there was evening, and only then did morning appear.

"Your day begins in the evening hours, in nocturnal obscurity. Then it progresses toward morning, toward the light, toward the incandescence of the Burning Bush and of the midday sun.

"Thus it is with our love. It always begins in obscurity, in weakness, uncertain and threatened. Gradually it progresses in strength towards the brilliance of Love without limits.

"Without doubt, the evening will return once again. Yet an immense gulf separates the vision of a day declining toward night, from the image of a day that rises toward morning.

"What truly matters, O Lord, is the meaning You attribute to the movement that marks each day. You make a symbol of the order it follows, from darkness to light. From the beginning of Creation, You have directed the evolution of time toward Your own luminous fullness. You guide us toward the Morning.

"O Lord, grant me to be more conscious of the movement inherent in my days. Despite the obscurities that can darken each moment, grant me an intuition and an unceasing movement toward the rising of the Sun of Love. Open wide the door of my hope to the approaching Day of Your Kingdom, a Day that will know no evening."
 


S. Clare of Assisi

 


The Church in western Europe wasn't doing so well at the end of the 12th century. But it was at this very time that the Holy Spirit stirred the hearts of two young people in central Italy, giving rise to the remarkable Franciscan movement.

Clare - commemorated in the Church's calendar today - was born Chiara Offreduccio in 1193 or 1194, the daughter of a wealthy and highly educated family in Assisi. When Francis began to preach the Gospel in the squares of Assisi in 1210 Clare was only sixteen years old, eleven years younger than him. Even as a child her heart was turned towards the Lord, and she would share her food with the poor and needy people of the town. She had already refused several offers of marriage. At the age of 18, she was captivated by Francis' Lenten preaching of a Christ-centred simple gospel life, and especially his emphasis on poverty as a special vocation to which some are called. She had several secret meetings with him, accompanied only by a friend, Bona, and made up her mind to join him. 

On Palm Sunday 1212 Clare left her parents' house secretly. She had already sold her dowry and given the money to the poor. At the little church of S. Mary of the Angels, just below Assisi, she met Francis and a few of his brothers. She changed her dress for a simple habit, and took off her jewellery. Francis cut her hair, and she made a vow of obedience to him. At first she lived with a nearby Benedictine community of nuns, doing simple menial tasks. 

Not surprisingly, Clare's family were outraged at what she had done. They sent armed men to bring her back, without success. When Clare's younger sister Catherine followed her only a fortnight later, the family made even more violent attempts to force her to return home. It is said that as they were physically carrying Catherine away Clare prayed, and Catherine became so heavy that they could not lift her. Defeated, they returned home. 

Francis received Catherine, too, as a sister, and gave her the name Agnes. Then Clare, Agnes and several friends moved to San Damiano, the church where Francis had heard Jesus speak to him from the crucifix, charging him to "rebuild" the Church. Here the first community of Poor Clares came into being. In time, Clare's widowed mother joined as well. 

It was said that the followers of Clare were the most beautiful young girls from the "best" families of Assisi. The community grew rapidly, and in 1215, very much against her will, Clare was made Abbess. 

The women devoted themselves to prayer, nursing the sick, and works of mercy for the poor and neglected. The order came to be called the "Poor Clares." They wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a house that was unsatisfactory even by the standards of the time. They kept silent most of the day. They had no beds, but slept on twigs with patched hemp for blankets. They ate only food they begged for. Clare fasted more rigorously than anyone else. 

Clare remained in charge until her death in 1253. In spite of long years of sickness, we know the depth of her love for the Lord by the letters she wrote. Just two years after her death, in 1255, she was declared a saint by the Church. 

In the early years of the movement Francis visited Clare often, but as his own community grew his visits decreased and she had to find within herself the inspiration she had received from him. In fact, their relationship grew more equal, and Francis would consult her on important decisions. In his last illness he came to San Damiano and Clare cared for him. 

Although she called herself “the little plant of Francis” Clare became a powerful and innovative woman in her own right. Not only did she write the Rule (a guide to a way of life) for her religious community. She struggled long and hard with the "institutional Church" for most of her life, as Popes and Cardinals resisted the renewal movement and sought to draw her away from the poverty which was at the heart of her following of Jesus. But Clare remained firm and her Rule was finally approved by the Pope himself just a few days before her death. By that time there were more than 150 communities following her way of life, mainly in Italy, southern France and Spain, but also as far east as Prague, and as far west as Bruges. 

COLLECT
God of peace, 
who in the poverty of the blessed Clare 
gave us a clear light 
to shine in the darkness of this world: 
give us grace so to follow in her footsteps
 that we may, at the last, 
rejoice with her in your eternal glory; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.



The Church of San Damiano, 
where S. Francis heard the voice of Jesus say to him, "rebuild my Church." 
It is also where S. Clare died on August 11, 1253.


A LETTER OF S. CLARE TO BLESSED AGNES OF PRAGUE 
Agnes, previously a very wealthy woman, was Abbess of the community of Poor Clares in Prague. Although she and Clare never met, a close friendship developed and was maintained through their correspondence for over twenty years. 

Fortunate indeed is she who shares in the sacred banquet and clings with all her heart to him whom the hosts of heaven constantly adore! Contemplation of him refreshes her; his kindness and sweetness fill her being. "He is the splendour of eternal light, a mirror without blemish." Look daily into that spotless mirror, dear queen and spouse of Christ, and see your face in it. See how you are to adorn yourself, within and without, in all the blossoms of virtue, as befits a chaste daughter and spouse of that greatest of kings. In that mirror poverty, humility, and love beyond telling shine radiantly. 

Contemplate the beginning therein mirrored - the poverty of him who lay in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What marvelous humility and astonishing poverty! It is the King of angels, the Lord of heaven and earth, who lies here! Contemplate next the course of his life, with its humility in the form of blessed poverty, endless toil, and torments to be endured for the redemption of humankind. Contemplate, finally, the boundless love that marks the end of that life, when love made him suffer and die on the Cross. The mirror cries out to us: "All you who pass along the way, look and see if there be any sorrow like mine!" What shall our answer be? "I remember and my heart fails within me." Here, noble queen of the heavenly King, your love will flame up ever more intensely. 

If you go to contemplate his inexpressible delights and the riches and honours he bestows, your heart will sigh with loving desire: “Draw me after you; we shall run after you, drawn by your fragranet perfumes,” heavenly Spouse! I shall run and not cease until you lead me into your wine cellar. 

When you contemplate all this, remember me, your poor little mother. Know that the memory of you is imprinted in my heart, for you are dearer to me than any other. 


A LETTER OF St CLARE TO ERMENTRUDE OF BRUGES 
In 1240 Ermentrude, a noble lady originally from Köln, went to Bruges, Belgium, where she lived for twelve years in a hermitage. She heard about Clare and the Poor Ladies and left for a pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, but found that Clare had already died. She returned to Bruges and transformed her small hermitage into a monastery of Poor Ladies and then and then established other monasteries in Flanders. Clare had written two letters of encouragement to her. Here is one of them: 

I have learned, O most dear sister, that, with the help of God's grace, you have fled in joy the corruptions of the world. I rejoice and congratulate you because of this and, again, I rejoice that you are walking courageously the paths of virtue with your daughters. Remain faithful until death, dearly beloved, to God to whom you have promised yourself, for you shall be crowned by him with the gariand of life. 

Our labour here is brief, but the reward is eternal. Do not be disturbed by the clamour of the world, which passes like a shadow. Do not let the faise delights of a deceptive world deceive you. Close your ears to the whisperings of hell and bravely oppose its onslaughts. Gladly endure whatever goes against you and do not let good fortune lift you up: for these things destroy faith, while these others demand it. Offer faithfully what you have vowed to God, and he shall reward you. 

O dearest one, look up to heaven, which calls us on, and take up the cross and follow Christ who has gone on before us: for through him we shall enter into his glory after many and diverse tribulations. Love God from the depths of your heart and Jesus, his Son, who was crucified for us sinners. Never let the thought of him leave your mind, but meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the anguish of his mother as she stood beneath the cross. 

Pray and watch at all times! Carry out steadfastly the work you have begun and fulfil the ministry you have undertaken in true humility and holy poverty. Fear not, daughter! God, who is faithful in all his words and holy in all his deeds, will pour his blessings upon you and your daughters. He will be your help and best comforter for he is our Redeemer and our eternal reward. 

Let us pray to God together for each other for, by sharing each other's burden of charity in this way, we shall easily fulfil the law of Christ.



Monday, August 10, 2020

Love without limits 05 (Fr Lev Gillet)



"My child, as soon as you speak these words, 'Love without limits,' as soon as you give this supreme reality a place in your heart, you open a door. This is the doorway that leads into the Kingdom of freedom and light.

"This is the doorway of Hope, the threshold that leads to the infinite expansion of your being. Hope: awaiting what is to come, awaiting the One who is to come. Such waiting is filled with love. It is founded on love. For we never hope for what we do not love.

"Do not confuse your 'hopes,' in the plural, with 'hope' in the singular. Your hopes are those particular, limited things you want to see realized and which often correspond only to a selfish desire. For example, some special success, or a particular healing. These are hopes. They are not Hope.

"Hope in the true sense is a wish, a desire, an expectation that refers not only to a particular object. It refers to your total destiny. It does not refer to some portion of a curve, but to the curve in its entirety.

"If you consider only a portion of the curve of your life, you can easily have the impression that is a meaningless failure, a tragic loss. Look, rather, at the entire line of your life with a confidence inspired by love. In this perspective, death itself, however great its importance, is only a moment, only a point on the curve. Love never dies. Nothing truly marked by love is ever lost.

"The doorway of Hope is open before you, and no one can ever close it. What is this doorway like? It is the doorway of possibility that Love offers you at every moment. You trouble yourself over the missed opportunities of your life. At times you say to yourself, "Oh, if only I had known! Oh, if only I had done this or that differently. If only I could do it all over again!" We cannot redo what is already done. Yes, of course there have been missed opportunities. They are gone for good. But those lost possibilities are nothing in comparison with what is before you right now: the possibilities that I offer you, that are offered to you in this very moment.

"The door of present possibility, which is also the door of Hope, is open before you at every instant. It is different with each one of us. Don't just sit in front of the door, waiting for someone to come open it because you think it is closed. You only have to push against it gently, and it will open wide before you.

"The moment you cross the threshold, Love without limits will come to you. Since it is of me, it is more than promised Love; it is Love already given. Nevertheless, in this world, as long as you are in this life, you can always break communion with Me. Here, that union remains imperfect. For the time being, ours is only an engagement, not a full marriage. It is Hope rather than possession. But move ahead with the Hope which is yours, that youthful, spring-like Hope you already possess. Hope in your Lord of Love, even when you feel you may be crushed to death. The greatest Hope is to hope against all Hope.

"Hope knows no limits, because it flows forth from Love without limits and leads back to that Love. I ask you this question: Has Love without limits already placed on your finger the engagement ring that is Hope without limits?"



Love without limits - 04 (Lev Gillet)


"My child," God calls, "expand your vision to the dimensions of universal Love, to the dimensions of my Heart. Love without limits does not end with the human person. My Love upholds the entire universe. It is the essential connection, the vital bond, between all persons and things, and Him who loves them.

"Let yourself be carried away by the immense current of boundless Love. Be transported by this movement, this dynamic and aspiration of nature itself, which waits plaintively to be delivered from the consequences of the Fall.

"It is possible for man to ascend toward me; but do not lose sight of my descent toward mankind and toward all created things. Take a flower in your hand. Take a stone. Contemplate them, not in a scientific perspective, but from the point of view of Love. They represent a recapitulation of the world's evolution. They are signs of the Love that aspires to reach the heights, as they are of the Love that comes to you from across the ages: the Love that reveals itself to you, that gives itself to you, that increasingly draws near to you.

"Behold the beauty of Love in a blade of grass, in a leaf or a branch, in an odour or a colour. Enfold your life into the life of the universe, submitting it to the same divine purpose. Think of the mountains and the sea, of winds and storms, of wild beasts and the smallest animals. They all have their place in my Heart. Grant them a place as well in your prayer. May they orient that prayer toward greater venues than those of some simple piety in which the universe has no place.
 
"Look for a purpose of Love in every created reality. I have loved every grain of sand, every tree, every animal. Each of them represents both an ascension and a condescension. Unite yourself to them all. Express thanks in the name and in the place of mute nature. And may an adoration as vast as the world be your response to Love without limits.

"Do you admire the sun, the stars, the galaxies? Do you thank me for their creation and their presence in your life? Can you enter into divine Love for everything that exists?

"That may be difficult for you. How can we love snakes, after all? Yet even if you are bitten by a snake, you should attempt to love that snake, even as it bites you. Animals are not culpable. They merely do what their natural organism commands. They, too, were victims of an original Fall. Nevertheless, I never cease to love them all . . .

'My child," God whispers, "this world is a world of signs. You must learn to decipher its secret writing. 

"It is good that you discover and admire at every step of the way the beauty of the world. It is good that you remain aware of the creative act that brought it into being. Yet beyond a certain point, that is no longer enough. You must set this created splendour in its total context, which is marked by both pain and victory.

"If you have perceived that the mystery of the universe is Love without limits, yet a Love that sacrifices itself for you, you can no longer see things as they appeared before. 'Natural' beauty simply disappears with the vision of the Sacrifice of Love.

"You see the sun. Think then of Him who is the Light of the World, veiled in shadows. You see the trees, and their branches adorned anew with every new spring. Think of Him who, nailed to the wood, draws all things to Himself.

"You see the rocks and boulders. Think of the stone which, in a special garden, covered the entrance to a tomb. That stone was rolled away; and ever since, the door of that tomb has never been closed. 

"You admire the crimson streaks that embellish the whiteness of certain petals. Think of the precious Blood that poured forth from Him who is absolute Purity.

"You see the sheep and the lambs. These innocent ones are led to the slaughter, yet they never open their mouths. Think of Him who, in a unique way, desired to be the sacrificed Lamb of God!' 



Sunday, August 9, 2020

Love without limits - 03 (Lev Gillet)


"My child," God declares, "you have seen the Bush that burns without being consumed. You have recognized Love, which is a consuming fire that desires you completely. The 'great vision' of the Burning Bush can help you give Me a new name. That name will not replace the name or names you have used until now. Nevertheless, like a lightening flash in the night, the radiance of this new name can enlighten your entire surroundings.

"Many times you called Me by a name that was not mine. Or, rather, that eternal name, although it was indeed mine, failed to express clearly the most intense manifestations of divine life. It could not adequately express what I wanted to reveal of myself in your times of prayer: that particular aspect of my Being by which you might have spoken to Me.

"You call me God. This traditional name has been worshiped and blessed by countless souls, to whom it has given, and never ceases to give, depths of feeling and strength. Foolish are those who would depreciate it, and ungodly those who would reject it! It is for you, rather, to worship me precisely as God, and to venerate that name by which I am known.

"Nevertheless, without lessening that veneration, you recognize that, from the point of view of the word itself, this name, "God," does not have a specific content; it is lacking in precision. Those meanings people have attached to it were not all direct expressions of the word "God." For that word is so vast, so open to elaboration, that at times, because of human weakness, it can somehow seem empty.

"In your prayer you call me 'God,' 'my God,' 'You who are God,' and 'Lord God.' In this ancient designation, this sacred name 'God,' you can surely find new strength. But you can also find a fresh source of enlightenment in calling me by names that correspond more closely to your immediate experience or your immediate need. You can appeal to those aspects of my Being that are revealed by present circumstances. For example, depending on what is happening in your life, you can call me 'You who are Beauty,' or 'You who are Truth,' or 'You who are my Purity, my Light, my Strength.' You can also call me, 'You who are Love.'

"This last expression will draw your language more closely to my heart. You can say to me, 'Lord of Love.' Or more simply, you can simply speak the name 'Love.'

"Here I would set before you, in your reflection and your prayer, a term which, if you so desire, can become like the sun, the sun that knows no setting, the sun of your life. My beloved ones, I am 'Boundless Love,' 'Love without limits.'

"Love without limits... I am above and beyond every name. The qualification 'without limits' expresses precisely the truth that my Person and my Love are beyond every category known to the human mind. I am 'Supreme Love,' 'Universal Love,' 'Absolute Love,' 'Infinite Love.'

"If I now insist on the words 'without limits,' it is to evoke in your mind the image of barriers that have been overturned. It is to call up for you the image of something unlimited, boundless: a Love that, like some violent wind or hurricane, breaks down every obstacle. I am that Love that nothing can stop, nothing can contain, nothing can impede."

"Our present reflection goes 'beyond' a Person or the divine Persons. It concerns what those Persons are in their depth, their common inner Being, rather than what is proper to each one individually. In this moment we are contemplating 'the divine essence.' We are daring to explore the reality of God, to seek out the original generating emotion of all things. That emotion we have called Love, 'Love without limits.'"


Saturday, August 8, 2020

Love without limits - 02 (Lev Gillet)


"Fire burst forth from the burning bush, yet the bush was not destroyed. Draw near to the Burning Bush, my child. Reflect on this great vision, and why the bush burned and still was not consumed. 

"The fire that burns the bush without destroying it is a fire nourished by nothing apart from itself. It subsists alone, by itself. And of itself it spreads abroad in infinite growth. This fire does not destroy the wood of the bush. Rather, it purifies the wood. It eliminates everything in the wood that is merely brambles and thorns. Yet it does not deform the bush. It respects its original structure, even while it eliminates its superfluous growth. It renews without killing. It transforms the wood itself into fire, a lasting fire.

"Surely, according to the most simple, the most elementary interpretation, you can behold in the Burning Bush the expression of divine protection, which sustains your existence in the face of every burning pain and suffering. There, my child, you can find the assurance of a supreme Compassion, a preserving Mercy. There you can see as well the sign of a divine Purification: one painful for you to endure, yet one that sets you free.

"The Burning Bush, however, has a still deeper meaning. It bears a Revelation of your Lord and God Himself. 

"The Burning Bush is an expression of the divine nature. In the flame of the bush you can have a glimpse of Who I am. As the Scripture declares, your Lord, the Lord of Love, is a consuming fire!
 
"Like the flame of the Bush, I am Love that gives endlessly of itself. I am that generosity that knows no bounds. No one can say of my Love: it extends to this point, and no further. 

"I am that Love that always tends to incorporate and assimilate every element of human existence it encounters (indeed, I am the very Source of those elements). Just as the fire burns without consuming the wood of the bush, I never destroy the persons I have created. I only wish to make disappear whatever there is within a person that conflicts with the essence of Love. 

"I take for myself and make it my own. I transform and I transfigure. I bestow life. I transpose human life on to a higher plane. 

"He who loves unites himself to those whom he loves. I unite myself to you, my beloved. Nevertheless, there can be no confusion between myself, who am Love, and you, who receive that Love.
 
"Can you now behold this Great Vision? Do you see the flame that no one lights, the flame that leaps forth from my very Heart, the flame which is my very Being? Do you see the divine Fire that spreads out across the world? The entire universe is the Burning Bush!"


Friday, August 7, 2020

Love without limits - 01 (Lev Gillet)

Over the next fortnight I will be sharing with you a series of passages from Fr Lev Gillet's AMOUR SANS LIMITES, originally published in 1971 under the name of "A Monk of the Eastern Church." 

Lev Gillet was a monk of both the Western Church’s Benedictine order and of the Eastern Church. Born in 1893, in Isère, France, his early life included service in World War I and university study of philosophy and psychology. Later in life, his work as a priest and scholar would take him across Europe, Britain and to the Near East. After entering the Orthodox Church, he was rector of the first French language Orthodox parish in Paris. Lev Gillet was also considered a pioneer of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. He died in 1980.

These translations of AMOUR SANS LIMITES – which has been a great blessing to me – came originally from Father John Breck's column on the Orthodox Church of America website. Most of them are no longer there, but I see that Neil at Catholic Sensibility has links to cached copies, and these were the sources I used. Thank you Fr Breck and Neil!

"I am your Lord, the Lord of Love. Do you want to enter into the life of Love? 

"This is not an invitation to some realm of tepid tenderness. It is a calling to enter into the burning flame of Love. There alone is true conversion: conversion to incandescent Love. 

"Do you wish to become someone other than you have been, someone other than you are? Do you wish to be someone who lives for others, and first of all for that Other and with that Other who calls all things into being? Do you wish to be a brother to all, a brother to the entire world?

"Then hear what my Love speaks to you.

"My child, you have never known who you really are. You do not yet know yourself. I mean, you have never really known yourself to be the object of my Love. As a result, you have never known who you are in me, or all the potential within yourself.

"Awake from this sleep and its bad dreams! In certain moments of truth, you see nothing in yourself but failures and defeats, set-backs, corruption, and perhaps even crimes. But none of that is really of you. It is not your true 'me,' the most profound expression of your true self.

"Beneath and behind all that, deeper than all your sin, transgressions and lacks, my eyes are upon you. I see you, and I love you. It is you that I love. It's not the evil you do - the evil that we can neither ignore nor deny nor lessen (is black actually white?). But underneath it all, at a greater depth, I see something else that is still very much alive.

"The masks you wear, the disguises you adopt might well hide you from the eyes of others - and even from your own eyes. But they cannot hide you from me. I pursue you even there where no one has ever pursued you before.

"Your deceptive expression, your feverish quest for excitement, your hard and avaricious heart - all of that I separate from you. I cut it away and cast it far off from you. 

"Hear me. No one truly understands you. But I understand you. I can speak about you such wonderful, marvelous things! I can say these things about you. Not about the 'you' that the powers of darkness have so often led astray, but about the 'you' who is as I desire you to be, the 'you' who dwells in my thoughts as the object of my love. I can say these things about the 'you' who can still be what I want you to be, and to be so visibly."


Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Transfiguration - Metropolitan Anthony

[On the Mount of Transfiguration ...] they saw Christ in glory at a moment when His total surrender to the will of the Father, His final and ultimate acceptance of His own human destiny, became revealed to them. Moses and Elijah, we are told, stood by Him; the one representing the Law and the other on
e representing the Prophets: both have proclaimed the time when salvation would come, when the Man of suffering will take upon Himself all the burdens of the world, when the Lamb of God slain before all ages would take upon Himself all the tragedy of this world. It was a moment when in His humanity Christ, in humble and triumphant surrender, gave Himself ultimately to the Cross.
 
Last week we heard Him say that the Son of God will be delivered in the hand of men, and they will crucify Him, but on the third day He will rise. At that moment it became imminent, it was a decisive point, and He shone with the glory of the perfect, sacrificial, crucified love of the Holy Trinity, and the responsive love of Jesus the Man, as Saint Paul calls Him. The Apostles saw the shining, they saw the divine light streaming through the transparent flesh of Christ, falling on all the things around Him, touching rock and plant, and calling out of them a response of light. They alone did not understand, because in all the created world man alone has sinned and became blind. And yet, they were shown the mystery, and yet, they entered into that cloud which is the divine glory, that filled them with awe, with fear, but at the same time with such exulting joy and wonder!

Moses had entered that cloud and was allowed to speak to God as a friend speaks to a friend; he was allowed to see God passing by him, still without a name, still without a face; and now, they saw the face of God in the Incarnation. They saw His face and they saw His glory shining out of tragedy. What they perceived was the glory, what they perceived was the wonder of being there, in the glory of God, in the presence of Christ revealed to them in glory. They wanted to stay there forever, as we do at moments when something fills us with adoration, with worship, with awe, with unutterable joy, but Christ had told them that the time has come to go down into the valley, to leave the Mount of Transfiguration because this was the beginning of the way of the Cross, and He had to be merged into all that was tragic in human life. He brought them down into the valley to be confronted with the agony of the father whose child could not be cured, with the inability of the disciples to do anything for this child, with the expectation of the people who now could turn to no-one but Him - that is where He brought them.

And we are told that He had chosen these three disciples because together, in their togetherness they held the three great virtues that make us capable of sharing with God the mystery of His incarnation, of His Divinity, of His crucifixion, to face His descent into hell after His death and to receive the news of His resurrection: the faith of Peter, the love of John, the righteousness of James.

There are moments when we also see something which is beyond us, and how much we wish we could stay, stay forever in this blissful condition; and it is not only because we are incapable of it that we are not allowed to stay in it, but because the Lord says, You are now on the Mount of Transfiguration, you have seen Christ ready to be crucified for the life of the world - go now together with Him, go now in His name, go now, and bring people to Him that they may live!

This is our vocation. May God give us faith, and the purity of heart that allows us to see God in every brother and sister of ours! Didn't one of the Desert Fathers say, ‘He who has seen his brother has seen God’? - and serve one another with love sacrificial, with the exulting joy of giving our lives to one another as Christ gave His life for us. Amen.

(Preached on 19th August 1990, and taken from the Sourozh website)

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

S. John Vianney (1786-1859) Patron Saint of Parish Priests



John Vianney was a French parish priest who became internationally famous for his pastoral care, confessional wisdom, children’s catechesis and practical preaching.

Born into humble circumstances, his parents were devout and hard working, and they sought to serve God as a family. When he was 20, John decided to leave his rural surroundings and begin secondary education so as to respond to what he believed was the call of God to the priesthood. He was a highly unpromising student, and had a real struggle. His studies progressed very slowly. A decade later he was ordained. He was well-known for his heart of compassion which led him to open an orphanage as he began to minister in the local parish in the aftermath of the Revolution. In due course he was appointed curé (parish priest) of the remote rural parish of Ars, and was known to spend up 14 to 18 hours a day in the confessional. Over time, he became internationally famous, and each year tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked from far and wide to hear him preach the Gospel, and to sseek his counsel. He prayerfully moved in the of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he experienced deeply the reality of spiritual warfare with the powers of evil. John Vianney died in 1859. He was canonised by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron saint of the parish clergy.

Here is the passage set for the Office of Readings today, from the S. John Vianney’s catechetical instructions:

The glorious duty of man: to pray and to love
My little children, reflect on these words: the Christian’s treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our thoughts, then, ought to be directed to where our treasure is. This is the glorious duty of man: to pray and to love. If you pray and love, that is where a man’s happiness lies.

Prayer is nothing else but union with God. When one has a heart that is pure and united with God, he is given a kind of serenity and sweetness that makes him ecstatic, a light that surrounds him with marvelous brightness. In this intimate union, God and the soul are fused together like two bits of wax that no one can ever pull apart. This union of God with a tiny creature is a lovely thing. It is a happiness beyond understanding.

We had become unworthy to pray, but God in his goodness allowed us to speak with him. Our prayer is incense that gives him the greatest pleasure.

My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God. Through prayer we receive a foretaste of heaven and something of paradise comes down upon us. Prayer never leaves us without sweetness. It is honey that flows into the soul and makes all things sweet. When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.

Prayer also makes time pass very quickly and with such great delight that one does not notice its length. Listen: Once when I was a purveyor in Bresse and most of my companions were ill, I had to make a long journey. I prayed to the good God, and, believe me, the time did not seem long.

Some men immerse themselves as deeply in prayer as fish in water, because they give themselves totally to God. There is no division in their hearts. O, how I love these noble souls! Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette used to see our Lord and talk to him just as we talk to one another.

How unlike them we are! How often we come to church with no idea of what to do or what to ask for. And yet, whenever we go to any human being, we know well enough why we go. And still worse, there are some who seem to speak to God like this: “I will only say a couple of things to you, and then I will be rid of you.” I often think that when we come to adore the Lord, we would receive everything we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.