“This is My Beloved Son…” Feast of the Transfiguration

The Apostle St. Peter“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts (2 Pet. 1:16-19 RSVCE).”

Leo the Great: “For when the Father said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in Whom, I am well pleased; listen to Him,’ was it not clearly meant, ‘This is My Son’, Who is eternally from Me and with Me? ‘This is My Son’, not adopted, but true-born, not created from another source, but begotten of Me, nor made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature (John 1:14). ‘This is My Son’, through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made (John 1:3). All things that I do He does in like manner, and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably (John 5:19) and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son (John 14:11) and Our Unity is never divided. (John 10:30).

“Listen to Him, therefore, because He is the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), He is My Power and Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24). ‘Listen to Him’, Who redeems the world by His blood (Eph. 1:7), Who binds the devil and carries off his captives (Matt. 12:28-29), Who destroys the bond of sin [and sets you free] (John 8:34-36). ‘Listen to Him’, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the… cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom.

“These things, dearly beloved, were said not only for those who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learned all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith be established according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross through which the world was redeemed.” (Leo the Great, 440-461 A.D., excerpts from Homily 51, On the Transfiguration – portions of a previous post)

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Through Prayer We Lift Up Our Hearts to God

The Archbishops and Bishops of the United States in Conference assembled, to their Clergy and faithful people: Grace unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Venerable Brethren of the Clergy,
Beloved Children of the Laity:

Praying Hands, Hands Praying“…From the teaching of the Church and from your own experience, you know that without the divine assistance you cannot walk in the footsteps of Christ. And you need not be reminded that the principal means of grace are prayer and the sacraments.

“Through prayer we lift up our hearts to God, and He in turn enlightens our minds, kindles our affections, gives power to our wills. For whether we adore His majesty or praise Him for His wonderful works, whether we render Him thanks for His goodness, or beseech Him for pardon, or beg Him to help and defend us, our prayer is pleasing to Him: it goes up as incense before Him (Rev. 5:8), as the voice of His children to the Father who loves them, who pursues them with mercy and offers them speedy forgiveness. Therefore, in joy and in sorrow, in adversity and in prosperity, “in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

“We heartily commend the beautiful practice of family prayer. “Where there are two or three gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). If this is true of the faithful in general, it applies with particular meaning to those who are members of the same household. The presence of Jesus will surely be a source of blessing to the home where parents and children unite to offer up prayer in common. The spirit of devotion which this custom develops, will sanctify the bonds of family love and ward off the dangers which so often bring sorrow and shame. We appeal in this matter with special earnestness to young fathers and mothers, who have it in their power to mold the hearts of their children and train them early in the habit of prayer.” (Pastoral letter of the archbishops and bishops of the United States assembled in conference at the Catholic University of America, September, 1919. )

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Personal note: Earlier I happened on a Catholic blog called, “Oh, for the love of chant!” with a post on the Liturgy of the Hours which are daily prayers of the Church. It explains this liturgical prayer with clear simplicity and seems a good addition to the above Bishops’ statement on prayer:

Year of Faith and the Liturgy of the Hours: The Liturgy of the Hours is the constant prayer of the Church. Even if you personally don’t do it, it is constant rhythm of prayer, as people are praying it all around the world every single day at every hour of the day and night.  Continue reading…

p.s. The daily prayers and spiritual readings of the Liturgy of the Hours are here at Divine Office.org and in the sidebar link.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Sums Up All Righteousness

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets (Matt. 22:36-40).”

Justin Martyr, Jesus Sums of RighteousnessJustin Martyr: “For God sets before every race of mankind that which is always and universally just, as well as all righteousness. Every race knows that adultery, and fornication, and homicide, and such things (Matt. 15:18-19; Mark 7:20-22, 10:19; Ex. 20:12-17; Deut. 5:16-21) are sinful; and though they all commit such practices, they still do not escape from the knowledge that they act unrighteously whenever they do so, except for those who are possessed with an unclean spirit and who have been debased by education, by wicked customs, by sinful institutions, and who have lost, or rather quenched and buried their natural conscience. For we may see that such persons are unwilling to submit to the same things which they inflict upon others, and reproach each other with hostile consciences for the acts which they perpetrate.

“Consequently, I think that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ spoke well when He summed up all righteousness and piety  in two commandments. They are these: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself (Mark 12:30-31, Matt. 22:37-39, Luke 10:27, Deut. 6:5).” For the man who loves God with all his heart and with all his strength, being filled with a God-fearing mind, will reverence no other god (Ex. 20:2-6, Deut. 5:6-11, Matt. 4:10, Luke 4:8)…. And the man who loves his neighbor as himself will wish for him the same good things that he wishes for himself, for no man will wish evil things for himself. Accordingly, he who loves his neighbor would pray and labor that his neighbor may be possessed of the same benefits as himself…. Therefore, since all righteousness is divided into two branches in so far as it regards God and men; whoever, says the Scripture, loves the Lord God with all the heart and all the strength, and his neighbor as himself, would be truly a righteous man.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho Ch. 92, 132-135 A.D. Scripture references added for all who want to read these truths directly from the written and living Word of God.)

+ Justin Martyr, Pray for us +

Faith, Your Most Precious Possession

The Archbishops and Bishops of the United States in Conference assembled, to their Clergy and faithful people — Grace unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Venerable Brethren of the Clergy,
Beloved Children of the Laity:

“We would have you always bear in mind that your faith is your most precious possession and the foundation of your spiritual life, since “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Without faith, the outward forms of worship avail us nothing, the sacraments are beyond our reach, the whole plan and effect of redemption is made void. It behooves us, then, to guard with jealous care the treasure of faith by thankfulness to God for so great a gift and by loyalty to “the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The fact that unbelief is so common, that the firm and definite teaching of Christian truth is so often replaced by vague uncertain statements, and that even these are left to individual preference for acceptance or rejection — In a word, the fact that many no longer regard faith as of vital importance in religion, should make us all the more determined to “watch, stand fast in the faith, be courageous, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). While we cannot help but look with sorrow upon the decay of positive belief, let us recognize, with gratitude, the wisdom of Him who, being the “Author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2),” established in His Church a living authority to “teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). Let us also consider the splendid courage with which that mission has been accomplished through the centuries, by the witness of martyrs, the constancy of faithful Christians, the zeal of preachers and pastors, the firmness of Pontiffs who, amid the storms of error and the assaults of worldly power, stood fast in the faith upon the assurance given them by Christ: “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matt. 16:18).

“The Catholic who appreciates the blessing of faith and the sacrifices which generous men and women in all ages have made to preserve it, will take heed to himself and beware of the things by which some “have made shipwreck concerning the faith” (1 Tim. 1:19). For this disaster is usually the end and culmination of other evils, of sinful habits, of neglect of prayer and the sacraments, of cowardice in the face of hostility to one’s belief, of weakness in yielding to the wishes of kindred or friends, of social ambition and the hope of advantage in business or public career. More subtle are the dangers arising from an atmosphere in which unbelief is mingled with culture and gentle refinement, or in which the fallacy spreads that faith is hopelessly at variance with scientific truth. To counteract these influences, it is necessary that those who love the truth of Christ, should “the more and more abound in knowledge and in all understanding” (Phil. 1:9). As they [those who love the truth of Christ] advance in years, they should lay firmer hold upon the teachings of religion and be prepared to explain and defend it. Thus, they will “continue in faith, grounded and settled and immovable from the hope of the Gospel” (Col. 1:23), always ready to give “a reason for that hope that is in them” (1 Peter 3:15), and, if needed to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude, 3).” (Pastoral letter of the archbishops and bishops of the United States assembled in conference at the Catholic University of America, September, 1919. Scripture references are in the text.)

Glory in the Cross of our Savior, Jesus Christ

The following is part of a lecture given by St. Cyril of Jerusalem to the catechumens during Lent of 347 A.D.. Presented here for the first Friday of the Lenten stations of the cross.

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Crucifix, Cross of Christ JesusSt. Cyril of Jerusalem: “Every deed of Christ is a cause of glorying to the Catholic Church, but Her greatest of all glorying is in the Cross; and knowing this, Paul says, But God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of Christ (Gal. 6:14). For it was indeed wondrous that one who was blind from his birth should receive sight in Siloam (John 9:1-7); but what is this compared with the blind of the whole world? It was a great thing, surpassing nature, for Lazarus to rise again on the fourth day (John 11:1-44); but the grace extended to him alone, and what was it compared with the dead in sins throughout the world? It was marvelous that five loaves should pour forth food for the five thousand (Matt. 14:14-21, Mark 6:34-44, Luke 9:11-17, John 6:5-13); but what is that to those who are famishing in ignorance throughout all the world? It was marvelous that she should have been loosed who had been bound by Satan eighteen years (Luke 13:10-16); yet what is this to all of us, who were bound fast in the chains of our sins? But the glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin and ransomed the whole world of mankind (Matt. 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6).

“Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it. For the word of the Cross is to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Gentiles foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23), but to us salvation, and to them that are perishing it is foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). For it was not a mere man who died for us, as I said before, but the Son of God, God made Man. Further, if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away [Passover Lamb, Ex 12:21-23], did not much rather the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29), deliver us from our sins? The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save….”

“Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not a mere show, for then our salvation is also without reality [imaginary, mythical]. If His death was but a show, they were true who said, We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I rise again (Matt. 27:63). His Passion then was real: for He was really crucified and we are not ashamed of that; He was crucified and we do not deny it, no, I rather glory to speak of it.

“I confess the Cross because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I might not have confessed it. I might have concealed both it and my Master, but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it.” (St. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, Excerpts from his Catechesis (Lecture 13) during lent of 347 A.D. when Cyril was still a Priest).

+ St. Cyril of Jerusalem, pray for us. +