Saturday, June 23, 2018

Feast of St. Etheldreda

St-aethelthryth.jpg

Today is the Feast of the Anglo-Saxon Saint, St. Etheldreda (+679AD).  She is also known as St. Audrey or, in another form, Audra.

She was a member of the royal family of East Anglia, the daughter of the king, became the queen of Northumbria, and, when widowed, founded a monastery in Ely, England.  When her body was moved in the 12th century, it was still incorrupt.

Here is a bit more information on this saint, little known outside England:
Catholic Saints Info: Saint Etheldreda

This is the account in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Etheldreda

This link goes to the site of the Church of St. Etheldreda in London, England:
St. Etheldreda's Church, London

Live well!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Feast of St. Aloysius of Gonzaga

The Vocation of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.PNG
The Vocation of Saint Aloysius by Guercino


We might note that it is the feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the young 16th century Jesuit.  Born in 1568 into the prominent noble Italian family of Gonzaga, he spurned the excesses of the court, and joined the Society of Jesus at the tender age of 16.  St. Aloysius died during an outbreak of the plague in Rome during the year 1591AD.

Today, he is buried in the marvelous Baroque Jesuit Church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome: Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio

For more on this great saint, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Catholic Saints Info: St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Live well!

Illum oportet crescere... the Summer Solstice


St. John the Baptist, from the Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grunewald.

"Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui."

Today we reached the Summer Solstice -- which takes place a precisely at 10:07 UT, 21 June 2017.  At my own home, that translated to 6:07AM this morning (Eastern Daylight Time).  This day, then, is the day in which daylight lasts the longest and summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere, and is gone the fastest and winter begins in the Southern.

For some excellent charts and information on length of days, sunset, sunrise, and the like, this site is splendid:
Gaisma

This site, too, allows you to customize your location and get a host of details on astronomical objects: Heavens Above

It is well to note the sort of pious religious connection to these events that was observed by the Medievals: the Summer Solstice falls near the Feast of St. John the Baptist (24 June), while the Winter Solstice is close to Christmas (25 December).  We know from Sacred Scripture that St. John the Baptist was, indeed, born six months before Our Lord.  Thus, the amount of daylight decreases from the Feast of St. John to Christmas, and increases from Christmas to the Feast of St. John.  This brings to mind the quotation of St. John the Baptist in Scripture, John 3:30: "Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui."  In our vulgar tongue: "He must increase: but I must decrease."

File:Analemma Earth.png
This chart show the analemma for Earth, showing the relative locations of the Sun at noon at the Greenwich Observatory in England.  Notice the change in both altitude and azimuth at the different points of the year.

What, exactly, is the solstice?

On this day, the Sun is directly overhead at real noon on the Tropic of Cancer.  In the days of old, the Sun would appear in front of the constellation Cancer on this day, hence the name of the line on the globe.  Thanks to the procession of the equinoxes, however, the sun is now in Gemini at the Summer Solstice.

As a side note, it is during this time of year that a Full Moon stays the lowest in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, and reaches its highest point, in the Southern, this in terms of degrees from the horizon.

Why do we have a Summer Solstice, you ask?  Well, I am glad you did!  If the Earth sat directly upright on its axis, the Sun would always be directly overhead at noon on the equator, it would appear to move through the stars along the celestial equator, days would always remain the same length, and every day would be like the two equinox days in Spring and Fall.  As it happens, the Earth is tilted at about 23.5 degrees on its axis.  Thus, the sun appears to diverge as much as 23.5 degrees from the celestial equator in its apparent path through the stars (the ecliptic), and ends up being directly overhead up to 23.5 degrees north or south of the equator (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) on the two solstice days.  This is the reason, of course, for our seasons.


File:North season.jpg
This diagram shows the positions of the Earth in relation to the sun at those four points -- the Summer solstice on the left, with the Northern Hemisphere tilted toward the Sun, and the Winter solstice on the right, with the Southern Hemisphere facing the Sun more directly, with the two equinoxes between, with the Hemispheres equally oriented to the Sun.


So, if we start at the vernal equinox in March, the sun is directly overhead at the equator at noon, and night and day are the same length.  From then until today, the summer solstice, the Sun appears to move slowly to the north both in the sky, setting a bit further north of west each day, and in its apparent path through the constellations of the zodiac.  This continues until the Sun reaches the solstice, where it stops, being directly overhead at 23.5 degrees north latitude (the Tropic of Cancer) at noon, and sitting about 23.5 degrees north of the celestial equator.  From that point, the sun drifts back south until reaching the equator once more at the autumnal equinox in September, going all the way to 23.5 degrees south at the Winter Solstice.

The reason for all of this is that as the Earth orbits the Sun the two hemispheres of the Earth take turns being tilted toward the Sun.  The following diagrams might help to illustrate what I am trying to articulate:

File:Ecliptic path.jpg
In this diagram, the sun appears to move against the background of the stars along the red line, the ecliptic, while the white line marks the celestial equator -- the imaginary line through space that is merely the extension of the Earth's equator.  The two points where the red and white lines are at greatest divergence are the solstices, while the two points where the red and white lines cross are the two equinoxes.  The yellow line shows what the sun would appear to be in front of from the Earth, the Constellation Pisces, at the vernal equinox.

I leave you, then, with the words of St. John the Baptist:  "Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui."   "He must increase: but I must decrease."

Live well!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart!  Today, the third Friday after Pentecost, is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This great celebration accords us with an opportunity to ponder the infinite mercy of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Il Sacro Cuore, 1740AD by Pompeo Batoni (+1787AD)

The traditional collect of the Feast gives us a good sense for today's focus:
O God, who in the Heart of Thy Son, wounded by our sins, dost mercifully bestow on us infinite treasures of love: grant, we beseech Thee, that whilst we render It the devout homage of our affection, we may also fulfill our duty of worthy satisfactions, Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son...

These links give a wonderful overview of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Sacred Heart

Fisheaters: Devotions to the Sacred Heart

Here is a more recent reflection on the great feast by Dr. William Fahey: Falling in Love by Fahey

Certainly today, too, is a wonderful moment to read the Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Haurietis Aquas, on Devotion to the Sacred Heart: Full Text: HAURIETIS AQUAS

Here are a few of the Cathedrals and Basilicas that bear the name of Sacred Heart:

First, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Atlanta, Georgia:
Sacred Heart Basilica, Atlanta, GA

The Cathedral of Richmond, Virginia:
Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond, VA

The Basilica-Cathedral of Newark, New Jersey:
Cathedral-Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, NJ

Moving to France, and the famous Basilica du Sacre Coeur:
Basilica du Sacre Coeur

Belgium, too, has a splendid Basilica to the Sacred Heart, this in Brussels:
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels, Belgium

Finally, in Spain, in Barcelona:
Templo del Sagrado Corazon, Barcelona, Spain

Today, there is also the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence:
--
"On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, publicly recite the act of reparation Jesu dulcissime (a partial indulgence is granted for its use in other circumstances, such as private recitation."

The text of the prayer
"Most sweet Jesus, whose overflowing charity for men is requited by so much forgetfulness, negligence, and contempt, behold us prostrate before you, eager to repair by a special act of homage the cruel indifference and injuries to which your loving Heart is everywhere subjected.
Mindful, alas! That we ourselves have had a share in such great indignities, which we now deplore from the depths of our hearts, we humbly ask your pardon and declare our readiness to atone by voluntary expiation, not only for our own personal offenses, but also for the sins of those who, straying from the path of salvation, refuse in their obstinate infidelity to follow you, their Shepherd and Leader, or, renouncing the promises of their Baptism, have cast off the sweet yoke of your law.
We are now resolved to expiate each and every deplorable outrage committed against you; we are determined to make amends for the manifold offenses against Christian modesty in indecent dress and behavior, for all the foul seductions laid to ensnare the feet of the innocent, for the frequent violations of Sundays and holydays, and for the shocking blasphemies uttered against you and your Saints. We wish also to make amends for the insults to which your Vicar on earth and your priests are subjected, for the profanation, by conscious neglect or terrible acts of sacrilege, of the very Sacrament of your divine love, and lastly for the public crimes of nations who resist the rights and teaching authority of the Church which you have founded.
Would that we were able to wash away such abominations with our blood. We now offer, in reparation for these violations of your divine honor, the satisfaction you once made to your Eternal Father on the cross and which you continue to renew daily on our altars; we offer it in union with the acts of atonement of your Virgin Mother and all the saints and of the pious faithful on earth; and we sincerely promise to make recompense, as far as we can with the help of your grace, for all the neglect of your great love and for the sins we and others have committed in the past. Henceforth, we will live a life of unswerving faith, of purity of conduct, of perfect observance of the precepts of the Gospel and especially that of charity. We promise to the best of our power to prevent others from offended you and to bring as many as possible to follow you.
O loving Jesus, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother, our model of reparation, deign to receive the voluntary offering we make of this act of expiation; and by the crowning gift of perseverance keep us faithful unto death to our duty and the allegiance we owe to you, that we may all one day come to that happy home, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, for ever and ever. Amen."

Original Text from the USCCB's Handbook of Indulgences, quoted at this most useful link.
--

Here is the Latin of that same grant of an indulgence:
Plenaria indulgentia conceditur christifideli, qui in sollemnitate Sacr.mi Cordis Iesu, actum reparationis (Iesu dulcissime) publice recitaverit; in aliis rerum adiunctis indulgentia erit partialis:

Iesu dulcissime, cuius effusa in homines caritas, tanta oblivione, neglegentia, contemptione, ingratissime rependitur, en nos, ante conspectum tuum provoluti, tam nefariam hominum socordiam iniuriasque, quibus undique amantissimum Cor tuum afficitur, peculiari honore resarcire contendimus. 
Attamen, memores tantae nos quoque indignitatis non expertes aliquando fuisse, indeque vehementissimo dolore commoti, tuam in primis misericordiam nobis imploramus, parati, voluntaria expiatione compensare flagitia non modo quae ipsi patravimus, sed etiam illorum, qui, longe a salutis via aberrantes vel te pastorem ducemque sectari detrectant, in sua infidelitate obstinati, vel, baptismatis promissa conculcantes, suavissimum tuae legis iugum excusserunt. 
Quae deploranda crimina, cum universa expiare contendimus, tum nobis singula resarcienda proponimus: vitae cultusque immodestiam atque turpitudines, tot corruptelae pedicas innocentium animis instructas, dies festos violatos, exsecranda in te tuosque Sanctos iactata maledicta atque in tuum Vicarium ordinemque sacerdotalem convicia irrogata, ipsum denique amoris divini Sacramentum vel neglectum vel horrendis sacrilegiis profanatum, publica postremo nationum delicta, quae Ecclesiae a te institutae iuribus magisterioque reluctantur. 
Quae utinam crimina sanguine ipsi nostro eluere possemus! Interea ad violatum divinum honorem resarciendum, quam Tu olim Patri in Cruce satisfactionem obtulisti quamque cotidie in altaribus renovare pergis, hanc eamdem nos tibi praestamus, cum Virginis Matris, omnium Sanctorum, piorum quoque fidelium expiationibus coniunctam, ex animo spondentes, cum praeterita nostra aliorumque peccata ac tanti amoris incuriam firma fide, candidis vitae moribus, perfecta legis evangelicae, caritatis potissimum, observantia, quantum in nobis erit, gratia tua favente, nos esse compensaturos, tum iniurias tibi inferendas pro viribus prohibituros, et quam plurimos potuerimus ad tui sequelam convocaturos. Excipias, quaesumus, benignissime Iesu, beata Virgine Maria Reparatrice intercedente, voluntarium huius expiationis obsequium nosque in officio tuique servitio fidissimos ad mortem usque velis, magno illo perseverantiae munere, continere, ut ad illam tandem patriam perveniamus omnes, ubi Tu cum Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen. 
Cf., Enchiridion indulgentiarum
--

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Live well!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Feast of St. Boniface, Apostle of Germany

File:Saint Boniface by Cornelis Bloemaert.jpg
St. Boniface, by Cornelius Bloemaert, ca. 1630AD.

Today is the Feast of St. Boniface, Bishop, Martyr, and "Apostle of Germany."  St. Boniface was from England, but would become a great missionary to the unconverted east of the Rhine River.  After meeting with Pope Gregory II in 718, St. Boniface was given the papal mandate in 719 to preach the Gospel to the Germans.  He would find a mixture of peoples already familiar with Christianity -- St. Willibrord, Bishop of Utrecht, did much in Freisland, and St. Corbinian, Bishop of Freising, in Bavaria -- but also a number of heathens, especially in the land of the Hessians.  From that year until his martyrdom in 755AD, St. Boniface labored with a great deal of success for the souls of the German peoples.  He was, officially, the Archbishop of Mainz from 745-755AD.  St. Boniface has an entry, actually, at the Catholic Hierarchy page: Catholic Hierarchy: St. Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz

For more information, you might note these sites:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Boniface

Catholic Saints Info: St. Boniface

Butler's Lives of the Saints: St. Boniface

This letter of Pope Gregory II to Charles Martel of the Franks, written in 722AD, and referring to Boniface, is a splendid little read:

"To the glorious Lord, our son, Duke Charles.
Having learned, beloved son in Christ, that you are a man of deeply religious feeling, we make known to you that our brother Boniface, who now stands before you, a man of sterling faith and character, has been consecrated bishop by us, and after being instructed in the teachings of the Holy Apostolic See, over which by God’s grace we preside, is being sent to preach the faith to the peoples of Germany who dwell on the eastern bank of the Rhine, some of whom are still steeped in the efforts of paganism, while many more are plunged in the darkness of ignorance.

For this reason we commend him without more ado to your kindness and goodwill, begging you to help him in all his needs and to grant him your constant protection against any who may stand in his way. Know for certain that any favour bestowed on him is done for God, who on sending His holy Apostles to convert the Gentiles said that any man who received them received Him.

Instructed by us in the teachings of these Apostles, the bishop aforesaid is now on his way to take up the work assigned to him."



Bonifacius by Doepler, ca. 1905.

 Certainly the tale of St. Boniface and the Oak of Thor sacred to the German Druids bears recounting:
"At another level of symbolism, Saint Boniface (675-754) chopped down an oak tree sacred to pagans at Geismar in Germany. He did this to show them that nothing bad would happen, that Thor has no power. It is said that when he did this, he pointed out a small fir tree growing at its base and said "This humble tree's wood is used to build your homes: let Christ be at the centre of your households. Its leaves remain evergreen in the darkest days: let Christ be your constant light. Its boughs reach out to embrace and its top points to heaven: let Christ be your comfort and your guide."
cf: Fisheaters: Customs of Christmas


Here is the fuller account of St. Boniface and Donar's Oak from the 8th century Willibald's Life of St. Boniface:
"Now at that time many of the Hessians, brought under the Catholic faith and confirmed by the grave of the sevenfold spirit, received the laying on of hands; others indeed, not yet strengthened in soul, refused to accept in their entirely the lessons of the inviolate faith. Moreover some were wont secretly, some openly to sacrifice to trees and springs; some in secret, others openly practiced inspections of victims and divinations, legerdemain and incantations; some turned their attention to auguries and auspices and various sacrificial rites; while others, with sounder minds, abandoned all the profanations of heathenism, and committed none of these things. With the advice and counsel of these last, the saint attempted, in the place called Gaesmere, while the servants of God stood by his side, to fell a certain oak of extraordinary size, which is called, by an old name of the pagans, the Oak of Jupiter. And when in the strength of his steadfast heart he had cut the lower notch, there was present a great multitude of pagans, who in their souls were earnestly cursing the enemy of their gods. But when the fore side of the tree was notched only a little, suddenly the oak's vast bulk, driven by a blast from above, crashed to the ground, shivering its crown of branches as it fell; and, as if by the gracious compensation of the Most High, it was also burst into four parts, and four trunks of huge size, equal in length, were seen, unwrought by the brethren who stood by. At this sight the pagans who before had cursed now, on the contrary, believed, and blessed the Lord, and put away their former reviling. Then moreover the most holy bishop, after taking counsel with the brethren, built from the timber of the tree wooden oratory, and dedicated it in honor of Saint Peter the apostle." [Robinson, George W. (trans.) (1916). The Life of Saint Boniface by WillibaldHarvard University Press. pages 62-64]

St. Boniface, pray for us, and pray for Germany!

Live well!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Corpus Christi: The Body of Christ



Today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is the traditional date of the great Feast of Corpus Christi.  It seems a good moment to pause and reflect upon the Doctrine of the Blessed Sacrament.  It is, of course, Catholic and Orthodox belief, as it has been since the time of Christ, that the Blessed Sacrament is not merely a symbol of Christ, but is actually, truly and substantially, Christ Himself, but with the accidents, or appearances, of bread and wine remaining.  This change of substance without the accompanying change in accidents is called transubstantiation.  Before examining some texts from the Sacred Scriptures and from Christian history on the subject, you should note the following two links, and the Gregorian Chant Sequence of the Feast:

For more on the history of this great feast:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Corpus Christi

...for some more on the customs of the day:
Fisheaters: Corpus Christi

...and the Sequence for the Feast, Lauda Sion:






File:Juan de Juanes 002.jpg
Christ with the Eucharist, by Vicente Juan Masip (+1545AD):

What basis in Scripture and in the history of Christian practice is there for this belief?  Let us take a look.

Turning first to the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark (14:22-24), we recall the Last Supper of Our Lord:
"And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye.  This is my body.  And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them.  And they all drank of it.  And he said to them:  This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many."

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, had earlier given some discourse on this matter, as we find in the 6th Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John (6:53-56, 61, 67-69):
"The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?  Then Jesus said to them:  Amen I say unto you: except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.  For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed…Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?…After this many disciples went back; and walked no more with him.  Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away?  And Simon Peter answered him:  Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life."

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (11:26-29) gives further explanation into this most sublime doctrine and practice:
"For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.  Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.  But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord."

It should be no surprise, then, that considering the basis in Sacred Scripture, Christians from the beginning would hold to this Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion:

St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”  (ca. 110AD) writes: "They [“They” refers to “those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us.”] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the Flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, Flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again."

St. Justin Martyr, in his “First Apology” (between A.D. 148-155) writes:
            “After the president has given thanks, and all the people have shouted their assent, those whom we call deacons give to each one present to partake of the Eucharistic bread and wine and water; and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
            We call this food Eucharist; and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration, and is thereby living as Christ has enjoined.  For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.
            The Apostles, in the Memoirs which they produced, which are called Gospels, have thus passed on that which was enjoined upon them: that Jesus took bread and, having given thanks, said, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me; this is My Body.’  And in like manner, taking the cup, and having given thanks, He said, ‘This is my Blood.’  And He imparted this to them only.”

St. Cyprian of Carthage, in his “Letter of Cyprian to a certain Cecil” (ca. 250AD) writes:
Also in the priest Melchisedech we see the Sacrament of the Sacrifice of the Lord prefigured…
 The order certainly is that which comes from his sacrifice and which comes down from it; because Melchisedech was a priest of the Most High God; because he offered bread; and because he blessed Abraham.  And who is more a priest of the Most High God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He offered sacrifice to God the Father, offered the very same which Melchisedech had offered, namely bread and wine, which is in fact His Body and Blood!”
 “…nor is the Sacrifice of the Lord celebrated with a legitimate consecration unless our offering and sacrifice corresponds with the passion…I wonder, indeed, whence this practice has come, that, contrary to evangelic and apostolic tradition, in certain places water alone, which cannot signify the Blood of Christ, is offered in the cup of the Lord.”

The great St. Athanasius, Doctor and defender of the Divinity of Christ writes, before 373AD, in his “Sermon to the Newly Baptized”:
"But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And again: Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries.  This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain what they are.  But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine — and thus is His Body confected."

St. Hilary of Poitiers, writing in 356-359AD, in the work "The Trinity," clearly explains:
"As to the reality of His Flesh and Blood, there is no room left for doubt, because now, both by the declaration of the Lord Himself and by our own faith, it is truly Flesh and it is truly Blood."

St. Cyril of Alexandria, too, bears witness writing in “Commentaries on Matthew” (after A.D. 428):
He states demonstratively: ‘This is My Body,’ and ‘This is My Blood,’ lest you might suppose the things that are seen are a figure.  Rather, by some secret of the all-powerful God the things seen are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, truly offered in sacrifice in which we, as participants, receive the life-giving and sanctifying power of Christ.”

I omit a great many other documents, letters, and teachings that manifest the same belief throughout the early centuries of the Church.  Indeed, moving to the 11th century, we find a man, Berengarius, that dared deny what Christians had always held, and he was required by Pope St. Gregory VII in 1079AD to assent to the following statement of belief if he wished to be reconciled to the Church:
"I, Berengarius, believe interiorly and profess publicly that the bread and wine, which are placed on the altar, through the mystery of the sacred prayer and the words of our Redeemer are substantially changed into the true, proper, and life-giving flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  After the consecration it is the true body of Christ…"

It is interesting to note that St. Thomas Aquinas refers to this Berengarius, who lived a thousand years after Christ as he "who had been the first deviser of this heresy," the heresy being a denial of the Real Presence of Christ.


The decrees of Ecumenical Councils of the Church, then, merely echo constant Christian belief:

From the Council of Florence (1438-1445AD), presided over by Pope Eugene IV:
"It is by the power of these words that the substance of bread is changed into the body of Christ, and the substance of wine into his blood.  This change takes place in such a way that the whole Christ is present under the species of bread and the whole Christ is present under the species of wine."

From the 13th session of the Council of Trent (1551AD), presided over by Pope Julius III:
"To begin with, the holy council teaches and openly and straightforwardly professes that in the blessed sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the perceptible species of bread and wine"

From Trent to this very day, the constant belief in the life-giving words of Christ, in the veracity of Sacred Scripture, and the integrity of constant Christian faith, are adhered to by Catholics and Orthodox.  Hence, this day, in particular, we give thanks for this awesome gift, and the blessing of the virtue of Faith.  This sublime teaching is also bound with the Sacrament of Holy Orders and Apostolic Succession. That, however, we will leave for another day.

St. Thomas Aquinas, in his magnificent Summa Theologiae, III, Q. 75, A. 1, gives an excellent summary of the Doctrine, referring to some of the very texts above:

"I answer that, The presence of Christ's true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority. Hence, on Luke 22:19: "This is My body which shall be delivered up for you," Cyril says: "Doubt not whether this be true; but take rather the Saviour's words with faith; for since He is the Truth, He lieth not."

Now this is suitable, first for the perfection of the New Law. For, the sacrifices of the Old Law contained only in figure that true sacrifice of Christ's Passion, according to Hebrews 10:1: "For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things." And therefore it was necessary that the sacrifice of the New Law instituted by Christ should have something more, namely, that it should contain Christ Himself crucified, not merely in signification or figure, but also in very truth. And therefore this sacrament which contains Christ Himself, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii), is perfective of all the other sacraments, in which Christ's virtue is participated.

Secondly, this belongs to Christ's love, out of which for our salvation He assumed a true body of our nature. And because it is the special feature of friendship to live together with friends, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix), He promises us His bodily presence as a reward, saying (Matthew 24:28): "Where the body is, there shall the eagles be gathered together." Yet meanwhile in our pilgrimage He does not deprive us of His bodily presence; but unites us with Himself in this sacrament through the truth of His body and blood. Hence (John 6:57) he says: "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him." Hence this sacrament is the sign of supreme charity, and the uplifter of our hope, from such familiar union of Christ with us.

Thirdly, it belongs to the perfection of faith, which concerns His humanity just as it does His Godhead, according to John 14:1: "You believe in God, believe also in Me." And since faith is of things unseen, as Christ shows us His Godhead invisibly, so also in this sacrament He shows us His flesh in an invisible manner.

Some men accordingly, not paying heed to these things, have contended that Christ's body and blood are not in this sacrament except as in a sign, a thing to be rejected as heretical, since it is contrary to Christ's words. Hence Berengarius, who had been the first deviser of this heresy, was afterwards forced to withdraw his error, and to acknowledge the truth of the faith." 
[cf., http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4075.htm#article1]

Live well!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity Sunday

Today, the Sunday after Pentecost, is the great feast of Trinity Sunday, when we pause, and in a particular way, ponder the mystery of the Holy Trinity -- one God in three divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

File:Hendrick van balen Holy trinity.jpg
Holy Trinity by Hendrick van Balen (1620sAD)

On this great feast, we might note, in the first place, the great commission of Our Lord, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20):
"28:18 And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. 19 Going therefore, teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."


Second, the profound collect of the feast:
"O Almighty and everlasting God, who hast enabled Thy servants, in confessing the true Faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of Majesty to adore its Unity: we beseech Thee, that by steadfastness in the same Faith, we may ever be defended against all adversity..."


Next, from the text of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274AD), from the Prima Pars, Question 30, Article 2, a reflection on the nature of the Holy Trinity, and the necessity of three persons:
"I answer that, As was explained above, there can be only three persons in God. For it was shown above that the several persons are the several subsisting relations really distinct from each other. But a real distinction between the divine relations can come only from relative opposition. Therefore two opposite relations must needs refer to two persons: and if any relations are not opposite they must needs belong to the same person. Since then paternity and filiation are opposite relations, they belong necessarily to two persons. Therefore the subsisting paternity is the person of the Father; and the subsisting filiation is the person of the Son. The other two relations are not opposed to either of these, but are opposed to each other; therefore these two cannot belong to one person: hence either one of them must belong to both of the aforesaid persons; or one must belong to one person, and the other to the other. Now, procession cannot belong to the Father and the Son, or to either of them; for thus it would follows that the procession of the intellect, which in God is generation, wherefrom paternity and filiation are derived, would issue from the procession of love, whence spiration and procession are derived, if the person generating and the person generated proceeded from the person spirating; and this is against what was laid down above (27, 3 and 4). We must frequently admit that spiration belongs to the person of the Father, and to the person of the Son, forasmuch as it has no relative opposition either to paternity or to filiation; and consequently that procession belongs to the other person who is called the person of the Holy Ghost, who proceeds by way of love, as above explained. Therefore only three persons exist in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
New Advent: Summa I, Q. 39, A. 2


Of course, while St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, attempts to explain some aspects of the Holy Trinity, it remains a mystery beyond the created intellect of man!  There have been many analogies, of course, to try to express the mystery of the Trinity, such as St. Patrick's clover.  One of my favorite analogies for the Trinity is from arithmetic: 1 x 1 x 1 = 1.


You might consult these links for more information on the doctrine and the feast:
Catechism of the Catholic Church: On the Trinity, #232-267

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Trinity

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Trinity Sunday

Fisheaters: Trinity Sunday



Finally, a selection, the Credo, from the Trinity Mass of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (+1796AD), written for this very Sunday:





Blessed be the Holy Trinity, and undivided Unity!  We will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us! (Introit of Trinity Sunday)

Live well!