Saturday, January 13, 2018

Octave of Epiphany: Baptism of Our Lord

The Baptism of Christ - Leonardo da Vinci
The Baptism of Christ, by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1475AD.

Today, the Octave day of the Epiphany, is the traditional Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptism.  It was observed last Monday in the new calendar.

Thus, St. Matthew in his third chapter:
"13 Then comes Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by you, and you come to me? 15 And Jesus answering, said to him: Allow it to be so now. For so it becomes us to fulfill all justice. Then he allowed him. 16 And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him. 17 And behold a voice from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

I would encourage you to read more on this feast here (this is the site from which I copied the hymn below): Fisheaters: Baptism of Christ

Today is also a good time to recall the Sacrament of Baptism, by which we become washed of Original Sin, incorporated into the Body of Christ, His Holy Church, and become sons and daughters of God.  May we preserve our soul, cleansed by Baptism, ever-pure!

For more on Baptism: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Baptism

So closes the Christmas season proper, and so opens the public ministry of Our Divine Lord.  It is a consolation that while the Christmas season passes, we at least continue to chant the Alma Redemptoris Mater until the Purification or Presentation!

St. Ephraem the Syrian (+373AD), Doctor of the Church, wrote this beautiful hymn, with which I will conclude this post:
"Hymn XIV
Hymn Concerning Our Lord and St. John
By St. Ephraem (d. 373)

Response: Glory to Thee, my Lord, for Thee with joy Heaven and earth worship!

1. My thought bore me to Jordan, and I saw a marvel when there was revealed the glorious Bridegroom Who to the Bride shall bring freedom and holiness.

2. I saw John filled with wonder, and the multitudes standing about him, and the glorious Bridegroom bowed down to the son of the barren that he might baptize Him.

3. At the Word and the Voice my thought marvelled: for lo! John was the Voice; our Lord was manifested as the Word, that what was hidden should become revealed.

4. The Bride was espoused but knew not who was the Bridegroom on whom she gazed: the guests were assembled, the desert was filled, and our Lord was hidden among them.

5. Then the Bridegroom revealed Himself; and to John at the voice He drew near: and the Forerunner was moved and said of Him "This is the Bridegroom Whom I proclaimed."

6. He came to baptism Who baptizes all, and He showed Himself at Jordan. John saw Him and drew back, deprecating, and thus he spake:

7. "How, my Lord, willest Thou to be baptized, Thou Who in Thy baptism atonest all? Baptism looks unto Thee; shed Thou on it holiness and perfection?"

8. Our Lord said "I will it so; draw near, baptize Me that My Will may be done. Resist My Will thou canst not: I shall be baptized of thee, for thus I will it."

9. "I entreat, my Lord, that I be not compelled,-for this is hard that Thou hast said to me, 'I have need that thou shouldst baptize Me;' for it is Thou that with Thy hyssop purifiest all."

10. "I have asked it, and it pleases Me that thus it should be; and thou, John, why gainsayest thou? Suffer righteousness to be fulfilled, and come, baptize Me; why standest Thou?"

11. "How can one openly grasp in his hands the fire that burns? O Thou that art fire have mercy on me, and bid me not come near Thee, for it is hard for me!"

12. "I have revealed to Thee My Will; what questionest thou? Draw near, baptize Me, and thou shalt not be burned. The bridechamber is ready; keep Me not back from the wedding feast that has been made ready."

13. "The Watchers fear and dare not gaze on Thee lest they be blinded; and I, how, O my Lord, shall I baptize Thee? I am too weak to draw near; blame me not!"

14. "Thou fearest; therefore gainsay not-against My Will in what I desire:  and Baptism has respect unto Me. Accomplish the work to which thou hast been called!"

15. "Lo! I proclaimed Thee at Jordan in the ears of the people that believed not and if they shall see Thee baptized of me, they will doubt that Thou art the Lord."

16. "Lo! I am to be baptized in their sight, and the Father Who sent Me bears witness of Me that I am His Son and in Me He is well pleased, to reconcile Adam who was under His wrath."

17. "It becomes, me. O my Lord, to know my nature that I am moulded out of the ground, and Thou the moulder Who formest all things: I, then, why should I baptize Thee in water?"

18. "It becomes thee to know wherefore I am come, and for what cause I have desired that thou shouldst baptize Me. It is the middle of the way wherein I have walked; withhold thou not Baptism."

19. "Small is the river whereto Thou art come, that Thou shouldst lodge therein and it should cleanse Thee. The heavens suffice not for Thy mightiness; how much less shall Baptism contain Thee!"

20. "The womb is smaller than Jordan; yet was I willing to lodge in the Virgin: and as I was born from woman, so too am I to be baptized in Jordan."

21. "Lo! the hosts are standing! the ranks of Watchers, lo! they worship And if I draw near, my Lord, to baptize Thee, I tremble for myself with quaking."

22. "The hosts and multitudes call thee happy, all of them, for that thou baptizest Me. For this I have chosen thee from the womb: fear thou not, for I have willed it

23. "I have prepared the way as I was sent:-I have betrothed the Bride as I was commanded. May Thy Epiphany be spread over the world now that Thou art come, and let me not baptize Thee!"

24. "This is My preparation, for so have I willed; I will go down and be baptized in Jordan, and make bright the armour for them that are baptized, that they may be white in Me and I not be conquered."

25. "Son of the Father, why should I baptize Thee? for lo! Thou art in Thy Father and Thy Father in Thee. Holiness unto the priests Thou givest; water that is common wherefore askest Thou?"

26. "The children of Adam look unto Me, that I should work for them the new birth. A way in the waters I will search out for them, and if I be not baptized this cannot be."

27. "Pontiffs of Thee are consecrated, priests by Thy hyssop are purified; the anointed and the kings Thou makest. Baptism, how shall it profit Thee?"

28. "The Bride thou betrothedst to Me awaits Me, that I should go down, be baptized, and sanctify her. Friend of the Bridegroom withhold Me not from the washing that awaits Me."

29. "I am not able, for I am weak, Thy blaze in my hands to grasp. Lo! Thy legions are as flame; bid one of the Watchers baptize Thee!"

30. "Not from the Watchers was My Body assumed, that I should summon a Watcher to baptize Me. The body of Adam, lo! I have put on, and thou, son of Adam, art to baptize Me."

31. "The waters saw Thee, and greatly feared ; the waters saw Thee, and lo! they tremble! The river foams in its terror; and I that am weak, how shall I baptize Thee?"

32. "The waters in My Baptism are sanctified, and fire and the Spirit from Me shall they receive; and if I be not baptized they are not made perfect to be fruitful of children that shall not die."

33. "Fire, if to Thy fire it draw near, shall be burnt up of it as stubble. The mountains of Sinai endured Thee not, and I that am weak, wherein shall I baptize Thee?"

34. "I am the flaming fire; yet for man's sake I became a babe in the virgin womb of the maiden. And now I am to be baptized in Jordan."

35. "It is very meet that Thou shouldst baptize me, for Thou hast holiness to purify all. In Thee it is that the defiled are made holy; but Thou that art holy, why art Thou to be baptized?"

36. "It is very right that thou shouldst baptize Me, as I bid, and shouldst not gainsay. Lo! I baptized thee within the womb; baptize thou me in Jordan!"

37. "I am a bondman and I am weak. Thou that freest all have mercy on me! Thy latchets to unloose I am not able; Thy exalted head who will make me worthy to touch?"

38. "Bondmen in My Baptism are set free; handwritings in My washing are blotted out; manumissions in the water are sealed; and if I be not baptized all these come to nought."

39. "A mantle of fire the air wears, and waits for Thee, above Jordan; and if Thou consentest to it and willest to be baptized, Thou shall baptize Thyself and fulfil all."

40. "This is meet, that thou shouldst baptize Me, that none may err and say concerning Me, 'Had He not been alien from the Father's house, why feared the Levite to baptize Him?' "

41. "The prayer, then, when Thou art baptized, how shall I complete over Jordan? When the Father and the Spirit are seen over Thee, Whom shall I call on, as priest?"

42. "The prayer in silence is to be completed: come, thy hand alone lay thou on Me. and the Father shall utter in the priest's stead that which is meet concerning His Son."

43. "They that are bidden, lo! all of them stand; the Bridegroom's guests, lo! they bear witness that day by day I said among them, 'I am the Voice and not the Word.' "

44. "Voice of him that cries in the wilderness, fulfil thou the work for which thou camest, that the desert whereunto thou wentest out may resound with the mighty peace thou preachedst therein."

45. "The shout of the Watchers has come to my ears; lo! I hear from the Father's house the hosts that sound forth the cry, 'In Thy Epiphany, O Bridegroom, the worlds have life.' "

46. "The time hastes on, and the marriage guests-look to Me to see what is doing. Come, baptize Me, that they may give praise to the Voice of the Father when it is heard!"

47. "I hearken, my Lord, according to Thy Word: come to Baptism as Thy love constrains Thee! The dust worships that whereunto he has attained, that on Him Who fashioned him he should lay his hand."

48. The heavenly ranks were silent as they stood, and the Bridegroom went down into Jordan; the Holy One was baptized and straightway went up, and His Light shone forth on the world.

49. The doors of the highest were opened above, and the voice of the Father was heard," This is my Beloved in Whom I am well pleased." All ye peoples, come and worship Him.

50. They that saw were amazed as they stood, at the Spirit Who came down and bare witness to Him. Praise to Thy Epiphany that gladdens all, Thou in Whose revelation the worlds are lightened!

Merry Christmas and live well!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Feast of the Holy Family & Marriage

The Holy Family with the Little Bird - Bartolome Esteban Murillo
The Holy Family with the Little Bird, by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, c. 1650AD.

Today is traditionally the feast of the Holy Family -- the Sunday after Epiphany.  In the revised calendar of 1970AD, the Feast is celebrated on the Sunday during the Octave of Christmas, or, if there is no Sunday in the Christmas octave, 30 December.  Regardless, it is, in these waning days of the Christmas season, an opportune moment to note something of this great model of family life.

"The special devotion which sets forth the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the model of virtue for all Christian households began in the seventeenth century.  It commenced almost simultaneously in Canada and France: -- the Association of the Holy Family being founded in Montreal in 1663, and the Daughters of the Holy Family in Paris in 1674.  Numerous other congregations and associations under the Patronage of the Holy Family have been established since that time, and they are spread over the world.  The arch-confratenity was established by Bl. Pius IX in 1847.  In 1893 Leo XIII approved a Feast for Canada, and Pope Benedict XV extended the Feast of the Holy Family to the whole Church and ordered its celebration to take place on the Sunday after the Epiphany." [Baronius Press Missal, pg. 244]

It is well to recall the collect of the Feast:
"O Lord Jesus Christ, who, being subject to Mary and Joseph, didst sanctify home life with ineffable virtues; grant that , with the aid of both, we may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family, and attain to eternal fellowship with them."

While the specific devotion to the Holy Family is of recent origin, certainly the members of the Holy Family, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Joseph are well worthy of consideration as a family, and, indeed, give us a model of what family life should contain.

It is a wonder to ponder those words of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, Chapter 2: "51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart."

For more, you would do well to check out this page: Fisheaters: Feast of the Holy Family

A consideration of the Holy Family naturally leads to a consideration of family and the Sacrament of Matrimony.  You might consider the follow inspiring documents:

Arcanum of Pope Leo XIII, 1880

Casti Connubii of Pope Pius XI, 1930

Familiaris Consortio of Pope St. John Paul II, 1981

Of course, recently Pope Francis promulgated an apostolic exhortation, the longest such papal document, and one that is in the midst of some controversy: Amoris Laetitia of Pope Francis, 2016

We should note, too, regarding the definition and place of Holy Matrimony in society, the teaching of recent popes.  Pope Benedict XVI taught, "In this regard, particular mention must be made of the powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage. The Church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution consisting of a specific communion of persons...Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike."

From the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's Consideration, approved by John Paul II in 2003: "When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral."

Finally, I leave with you the chapter of the splendid work of St. Robert Bellarmine, Ars bene moriendi (The Art of Dying Well) on the subject of the Sacrament of Marriage:


THE sacrament of Matrimony comes next: it has a two-fold institution; one, as it is a civil contract by the natural law; another, as it is a sacrament by the law of the Gospel. Of both institutions we shall briefly speak, not absolutely, but only as regards teaching us how to live well, that so we may die well. Its first institution was made by God in paradise; for these words of God, "It is not good for man to be alone," cannot properly be understood, unless they have relation to some means of propagating the human race.

St. Augustine justly remarks, that in no way does man stand in need of the woman, except in bringing forth and educating children; for in other things, men derive more assistance from their fellow-men than from women. Wherefore, a little after the woman had been formed, Adam divinely inspired said: “A man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife: " and these words our Lord in St. Matthew attributes to God, saying: " Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female ? And he said: For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." (chap, xix.) Our Lord here attributes these words to God, because Adam spoke them not as coming from himself, but from the divine inspiration. Such was the first institution of Matrimony.

Another institution, or rather exaltation of matrimony to the dignity of a sacrament, is found in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: " For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament: but I speak in Christ and in the Church." (chap. v. 31, 32.) That matrimony is a true sacrament, St. Augustine proves in his book on "A good husband" he says: " In our marriages, more account is made of the sanctity of the sacrament than fecundity of birth: " and in the xxiv. chapter he says again: " Among all nations and people the advantage of marriage consists in being the means of producing children in the faith of chastity: but as regards the people of God, it also consists in the sanctity of the Sacrament." And in his book on " Faith and Works," he says: " In the city of the Lord and in his holy Mount, that is, in his Church, marriage is not only a bond, it is also considered to be a Sacrament." But on this point I need say nothing more. It only remains that I explain, how men and women united in matrimony should so live, that they may die a good death.

There are three blessings arising from Matrimony, if it be made a good use of, viz: Children, fidelity, and the grace of the sacrament. The generation of children, together with their proper education, must be had in view, if we would make a good use of matrimony; but on the contrary, he commits a most grievous sin, who seeks only carnal pleasure in it. Hence Onan, one of the children of the patriarch Juda, is most severely blamed in Scripture for not remembering this, which was to abuse, not use the holy Sacrament.

But if sometimes it happen that married people should be oppressed with the number of their children, whom through poverty they cannot easily support, there is a remedy pleasing to God; and this is, by mutual consent to separate from the marriage-bed, and spend their days in prayer and fasting. For if it be agreeable to Him, for married persons to grow old in virginity, after the example of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, (whose lives the Emperor Henry and his wife Chunecunda endeavoured to imitate, as well as King Edward and Egdida, Eleazor a knight, and his lady Dalphina, and several others,) why should it be displeasing to God or men, that married people should not live together as man and wife, by mutual consent, that so they may spend the rest of their days in prayer and fasting ? Again: it is a most grievous sin, for people united in matrimony and blessed with children, to neglect them or their pious education, or to allow them to want the necessaries of life. On this point, we have many examples, both in sacred and profane History: but as I wish to be concise, I shall be content with adducing one only from the first book of Kings: "In that day I will raise up against Heli all the hings I have spoken concerning his house: I will begin and I will make an end. For I have foretold unto him, that I will judge his house forever for iniquity, because he knew that his sons did wickedly, and did not chastise them. Therefore have I sworn to the house of Heli, that the iniquity of his house shall not be expiated with victims nor offerings for ever." (chap. iii. 12, & c.) These threats God shortly after fulfilled; for the sons of Heli were slain in battle, and Heli himself falling from his seat backwards, broke his neck and died miserably. Wherefore, if Heli, otherwise a just man, and an upright judge of the people, perished miserably with his sons, because he did not educate them as he ought to have done, and did not chastise them when they became wicked; what will become of those, who not only do not endeavour to educate their children properly, but by their bad example encourage them to sin? Truly, they can expect nothing less than a horrible death, for themselves and for their children, unless they repent in time and do suitable penance.

Another blessing, and that a most noble one, is the grace of the Sacrament, which God Himself pours into the hearts of pious married persons, provided the marriage be duly celebrated, and the individuals are found to be well disposed and prepared. This grace, not to mention other blessings it brings with it, helps in a wonderful manner to produce love and peace between married people, although the different dispositions and manners of each other are capable of sowing discord. But, above all things, an imitation of the union of Christ with the Church makes marriage most sweet and blessed. Of this the Apostle thus speaks in his Epistle to the Ephesians: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water, in the word of life, that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle." (chap. v. 25, &c.)

The Apostle admonishes women also, saying: " Let women be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord. Because the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church. Therefore as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let the wives be to their husbands in all things." The Apostle concludes: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself, and let the wife fear her husband." If these words of the Apostle be diligently considered, they will make our marriage blessed in heaven and on earth.

But we will briefly explain the meaning of St. Paul s words. .First, he exhorts husbands that they love their wives, " as Christ hath loved the Church." Christ certainly loved His church with a love of friendship, not with a love of concupiscence; He sought the good of the Church, the safety of the Church, and not His own utility, nor His own pleasure. Wherefore, they do not imitate Christ, who love their wives on account of their beauty, being captivated by the love thereof, or on account of their rich dowry or valuable inheritance, for such love not their spouse but themselves, desiring to satisfy the concupiscence of their flesh, or the concupiscence of their eyes, which is called avarice. Thus Solomon, wise in the beginning, but in the end unwise, loved his wives and his concubines, not with the love of friendship, but of concupiscence; desiring not to benefit them, but to satisfy his carnal concupiscence, wherewith being blinded, he hesitated not to sacrifice to strange gods, lest he should grieve in the least his mistresses.

Now, that Christ in His marriage with His Church, sought not Himself, that is, His own utility or pleasure, but the good of His spouse, is evident from the following words: " He delivered himself for it that he might sanctity it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life." This indeed is true and perfect charity, to deliver one’s self to punishment, for the eternal welfare of the Church his spouse. But not only did our Saviour love the Church with a love of friendship, not concupiscence, but also He loved it, not for a time, but with a perpetual love.

For as He never laid aside His human nature which He once assumed, so also He united His spouse to Himself, in a bond of indissoluble marriage. " With a perpetual love have I loved thee," saith He by the prophet Jeremias. This is the reason why marriage is indissoluble among Christians, because it is a sacrament signifying the union of Christ with His church; whilst marriage among the Pagans and Jews, could be dissolved in certain cases. The same apostle afterward teaches women to be “subject" to their husbands, as the Church is subject to Christ. Jezabel did not observe this precept; for as she wished to rule her husband, she lost herself and him, together with all their children. And would that there were not so many females in these days, who endeavour to rule over their husbands; but perhaps the fault is in the men, who do not know how to retain their superiority. Sara, the wife of Abraham, was so subject to her husband, that she called him lord: "I am grown old, and my lord is an old man," & c. And this obedience of Sara, St. Peter in his first Epistle thus praises: "For after this manner holy women also, being in subjection to their husbands, as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord." (chap. iii. 5, 6.) It may appear strange, that the holy Apostles Peter and Paul should be continually exhorting husbands to love their wives, and wives to fear their husbands; but if they be subject to their husbands, should they not also love them? A wife ought to love her husband, and be loved in return by him; but she should love him with fear and reverence, so that her love should not prevent her fear, otherwise she might become a tyrant. Dalila mocked her husband Sampson, though such a strong man, not as a man, but as a slave. And in the book of Esdras it is related of a king, how being captivated with love for his concubine, he suffered her to sit at his right hand; but she took the crown from the King’s head and put it upon her own, and even struck the king himself. Wherefore, we must not be surprised at the Almighty having said to the first woman: “Thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee." (Genesis, iii. 1 6.) Hence a husband requires no little wisdom to love, and at the same time rule his wife; to admonish her and teach her also; and if necessary, even correct her. We have an example in St. Monica the mother of St. Augustine; her husband was a cruel man and a Pagan, but yet she bore with him so piously and prudently, that she always was loved by him, and at length converted him to God. (See St. Augustine’s " Confessions)"


Live well!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Traditional Feast of the Epiphany

Adoration of the Magi by Giotto.

Today is the traditional observance of the Feast of the Epiphany -- 6 January.  Today, then, is "little Christmas."  "The word 'Epiphany' means 'manifestation'.  The Church in the Mass, commemorates a triple manifestation of Christ: to the Magi, that is, to the Gentiles; in His Baptism, when the Voice from heaven declared: 'This is My Beloved Son'; and in the miracle of changing water into wine at Cana." [Baronius, Daily Missal, pg. 237]

Of course, on this day it is traditional to focus on the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Their arrival from the East, following a star, is rich with meaning and symbolism.  The gospel of St. Matthew records, in chapter 2:
"1 Jesus was born at Bethlehem, in Juda, in the days of king Herod. And thereupon certain wise men came out of the east to Jerusalem, 2 who asked, Where is he that has been born, the king of the Jews? We have seen his star out in the east, and we have come to worship him. 3 King Herod was troubled when he heard it, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 so that he assembled all the chief priests and learned men among the people, and enquired of them where it was that Christ would be born. 5 And they told him, At Bethlehem in Juda; so it has been written by the prophet: 6 And thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Juda, art far from the least among the princes of Juda, for out of thee will arise a leader who is to be the shepherd of my people Israel. 7 Then, summoning the wise men in secret, Herod questioned them closely upon the time of the star’s appearing. 8 And he sent them on their way to Bethlehem, saying to them, Go and enquire carefully for the child, and when you have found him, bring me back word, so that I too may come and worship him. 9 They obeyed the king, and went on their journey; and all at once the star which they had seen in the east was there going before them, till at last it stood still over the place where the child was. 10 They, when they saw the star, were glad beyond measure;11 and so, going into the dwelling, they found the child there, with his mother Mary, and fell down to worship him; and, opening their store of treasures, they offered him gifts, of gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 Afterwards, because they had received a warning in a dream forbidding them to go back to Herod, they returned to their own country by a different way."

The Magi from the East, represent the Gentiles who, like the Jews, would be saved by the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  Their gifts represent the Kingship, Divinity, and finally the sacrifice and death of Christ.

May we, like the Magi, adore the newborn Christ and offer Him worth gifts!

File:Bartolomé Esteban Murillo - Adoration of the Magi - Google Art Project.jpg
Adoration of the Magi by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 17th century.

For more on the Epiphany:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Epiphany

Fisheaters: Twelfth Night

Fisheaters: Epiphany

Cologne Cathedral, in the Rhineland of Germany.
["Cologne cathedrale vue sud" by Velvet - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons]

As for the three Magi themselves:
"We don't know that from Scripture, but tradition relates that were were three, and that there were three gifts mentioned supports this notion as well. Tradition says, too, that these three men were representative of the three ages of man and of the three "racial types" of man, the three families that descended from Noe's three sons (Sem, Cham, and Japheth). According to tradition, Caspar was the young, beardless, ruddy descendant of Ham who brought frankincense. Melchior was an old, white-haired, bearded descendant of Sem who brought gold. And Balthasar was a bearded black descendant of Japheth, in the prime of his life, who brought myrrh (see the works of the Venerable Bede).

Tradition also has it that the kings were baptized by St. Thomas, and they are considered Saints of the Church. Though their feasts aren't celebrated liturgically, the dates given for them in the martyrology are as follows: St. Caspar on 1 January; St. Melchior on 6 January; and St. Balthasar on 11 January

The relics of the three Magi are reputed to rest in the great cathedral of Cologne in Germany.  You can visit their website here: Cologne Cathedral Official Website

File:Dreikönigenschrein köln.JPG
Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne Cathedral.
["Dreikönigenschrein köln" by Welleschik - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

This link goes to the page specifically on the shrine of the three kings: Shrine of the Three Holy Kings

For more on those three kings, you might note:
Catholic Saint Info: St. Balthasar

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Magi

Merry Christmas & Live well!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday Penance

Cristo crucificado.jpg
Christ Crucified by Diego Velazquez.

It was on a Friday that our Divine Lord shed his blood for the salvation of mankind.

For this reason, it is of the most ancient practice that Christians observe the day as one of particular penance.  The penance most associated with the day is that of abstinence from blood meat; the Code of Canon Law expresses:
"Can.  1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can.  1251 Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on ,of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year of age. The law of fasting, however, binds all those who have attained their majority until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors of souls and parents are to take care that minors not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are also educated in a genuine sense of penance."
(Cf., Code of Canon Law: Canons 1249-1253)

Clement alexandrin.jpg
Clement of Alexandria, from book 1, folio 5 recto of Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres grecz, latins et payens (1584) by André Thevet.

The association of abstinence from blood meat on Friday is, indeed, a particularly ancient Christian practice.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia includes this passage on the practice:
"From the dawn of Christianity, Friday has been signalized as an abstinence day, in order to do homage to the memory of Christ suffering and dying on that day of the week. The 'Teaching of the Apostles' (viii), Clement of Alexandria (Stromata VI.75), and Tertullian (On Fasting 14) make explicit mention of this practice. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) declares that abstinence from flesh meat is enjoined on Fridays. There is every reason to conjecture that Innocent III (1198-1216) had the existence of this law in mind when he said that this obligation is suppressed as often as Christmas Day falls on Friday (De observ. jejunii, ult. cap. Ap. Layman, Theologia Moralis, I, iv, tract. viii, ii). Moreover, the way in which the custom of abstaining on Saturday originated in the Roman Church is a striking evidence of the early institution of Friday as an abstinence day." (Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Abstinence)

The "meat" envisioned by the practice is that, typically, of warm-blooded animals (mammals & birds), with a few peculiar local exceptions (capybara, beaver, et al.).

It is particularly fitting to abstain from eating the meat of warm, red-blooded, animals on that day that Christ shed His Most Precious Blood for us!

It is also the case that Canon Law allows for substitutions of other required penances aside from that of abstinence from meat:
"Can.  1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penanceespecially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast."

In the Dioceses of the United States of America, the Bishops have allowed for the substitution of abstinence for some other penance on Fridays outside of the season of Lent, writing in 1966:
"Every Catholic Christian understands that the fast and abstinence regulations admit of change, unlike the commandments and precepts of that unchanging divine moral law which the Church must today and always defend as immutable. This said, we emphasize that our people are henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence,except as noted above for Lent. We stress this so that 'no' scrupulosity will enter into examinations of conscience,confessions, or personal decisions on this point."

They would go on to emphasize that they hoped that the people of God would continue the practice, now voluntarily: "Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law."

The bishops also had particular recommendations of other penances that might be undertaken:
"Friday, please God,will acquire among us other forms of penitential witness which may become as much a part of the devout way of life in the future as Friday abstinence from meat. In this connection we have foremost in mind the modern need for self-discipline in the use of stimulants and for a renewed emphasis on the virtue of temperance, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages."

The bishops, then, in making the specific observation of Friday abstinence optional outside of Lent, hoped that the practice would be freely embraced by the faithful, and even accompanied by another particular penance, such as abstinence from alcoholic beverages!

You can read their whole statement here: Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence: A Statement Issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops November 18, 1966

Live well by doing penance!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Today is the feast of the American saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (+1821AD), who was a wife, mother, widow, convert, and religious founder.  She was also the first American citizen canonized.

Here is a link to her shrine and burial place in Emmitsburg, Maryland, not far from the field of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: Seton Heritage

These sites provide some more details on the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton:

Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Catholic Saints Info: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Live well!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Veni Creator & the Octave of Christmas

Botticelli Uffizi 37.jpg
Our Lady of the Magnificat by Sandro Boticelli, 1481-1485AD.

Today is rather eventful: the Octave Day of Christmas, the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord, the Divine Maternity of Our Lady, and, of course, the Civil New Year -- the First day of the Year of Our Lord, 2018.  Finally, there is a plenary indulgence attached to the public recitation of the Veni Creator on this first day of the year.

Of course, today, falling on a Monday, is not a Holy Day of Obligation this year.  You might note that for those years that it is such a day, the Code of Canon Law of 1983 directs in Canon 1247: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.  Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body."

Let us, then, note something about each of the multiples aspects of the day:
The Octave has a particular place in the liturgical calendar.  Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Octaves

It was on the eighth day after His Nativity that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, was Circumcised -- receiving His Holy Name, and first shedding His blood.  From my Baronius Press hand missal:
"In the Old Law, by the rite of Circumcision, every male Jew became a member and shared in the privileges and blessings of the chosen people of God.  A Jew who failed to be initiated by the ceremony was excluded.  Our Lord was Son of God by nature, and absolutely sinless, and therefore did not need adoption into the membership of God's children.  Yet, He submitted to the law."
We also pray, with St. Paul, that in the Name of Jesus every knee may bow, of those that are in Heaven, on Earth, and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. (cf. Phil. 2:10)  It is that Holy Name, given at his Circumcision, that brings salvation!

You might note: Fisheaters: Feast of the Circumcision

On this day we recall the Divine Maternity of Our Lady -- Theotokos.  It is an opportune moment to recall the historical events surrounding the solemn definition of the Blessed Virgin as Mother of God.

Theotokos of Vladimir.

A thorough account of the Council that solemnly defined Our Lady as Mother of God can be found here: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Council of Ephesus

St. Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death!


From the tomb of Pope Gregory XIII commemorating his introduction of the Gregorian Calendar.

Today marks the beginning of the Civil New Year in the Gregorian calendar, a calendar first promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 that replaced the Julian Calendar. Not only did the Catholic world adopt this calendar with its different, more accurate, determination of leap years, but it also shift the date to offset the margin of error of the Julian Calendar, resulting in dropping 10 days from the calendar. This meant that 4 October 1582 was followed by 15 October 1582 with the days in between simply omitted!  In addition to the new date and manner of determining leap years, the new calendar also standardized the 1 January New Year.  It had been various other days -- 25 March, for instance, in the English-speaking world.

The Calendar for folks in the Catholic world when the Gregorian Calendar went into effect.
[By Asmdemon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,]

Of course, the non-Catholic world took some time to adopt this more accurate calendar, owing to its papal origin. Somewhat famously, Great Britain and her colonies adopted it in 1752, along with the 1 January start to the year. Here 2 September 1752 was followed by 14 September 1752, as, by that time, 11 days were needed to correct the Julian Calendar error, instead of 10 (it would be 13 in 2017AD). Those English dates before the changeover that were reckoned by the Julian Calendar are referred to as O.S. "old style."

The root of the Julian Calendar error is this: it presumed that the year was 365.25 days long, meaning that a leap year every four years would account for the decimal places and keep the calendar year in sync with the actual solar year. As it happens, the year is more precisely 365.2422 days long, meaning that the seasons would slowly drift away from their calendar dates with the Julian Calendar -- for instance, by 1582, the Vernal Equinox was occurring on 11 March, rather than 21 March as is traditionally assumed. So, the new Gregorian Calendar restored the Equinox to its traditional date by dropping 10 days that October of 1582. It would try to remain accurate by modifying the reckoning of leap years: it would have a leap year every year divisible by 4, except those divisible by 100 (most years such as 1700AD are not leap years), but if divisible by 400, remaining a leap year (so 1600AD was a leap year). This is still a hair off, and some have suggested that we waive the leap year in 4000AD to fix the problem.

Finally, on this day, there is a plenary indulgence for chanting or praying Veni Creator, to mark the new Civil Year.  Cf., Enchiridion indulgentiarum

Latin text
English version

(this is a poem and not a precise literal translation of the Latin)
Veni, creator Spiritus
mentes tuorum visita,
imple superna gratia,
quae tu creasti pectora.
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
and in our hearts take up Thy rest;

come with Thy grace and heav'nly aid,
To fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

Qui diceris Paraclitus,
altissimi donum Dei,

fons vivus, ignis, caritas
et spiritalis unctio.

O Comforter, to Thee we cry,
Thou heav'nly gift of God most high,

Thou Fount of life, and Fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Tu septiformis munere,
digitus paternae dexterae

tu rite promissum Patris
sermone ditans guttura.

O Finger of the hand divine,
the sevenfold gifts of grace are thine;

true promise of the Father thou,
who dost the tongue with power endow.

Accende lumen sensibus,
infunde amorem cordibus,
infirma nostri corporis,
virtute firmans perpeti.

Thy light to every sense impart,
and shed thy love in every heart;
thine own unfailing might supply
to strengthen our infirmity.
Hostem repellas longius
pacemque dones protinus;

ductore sic te praevio
vitemus omne noxium.

Drive far away our ghostly foe,
and thine abiding peace bestow;

if thou be our preventing Guide,
no evil can our steps betide.

Per te sciamus da Patrem
noscamus atque Filium,

te utriusque Spiritum
credamus omni tempore.

Praise we the Father and the Son
and Holy Spirit with them One;

and may the Son on us bestow
the gifts that from the Spirit flow.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
et Filio qui a mortuis

Surrexit, ac Paraclito,
in saeculorum saecula.


Here is the Chant of the Veni Creator:

Here is the Old Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the Veni CreatorOld Catholic Encyclopedia: Veni Creator

Merry Christmas & live well!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Te Deum & Feast of St. Sylvester

Te Deum laudamus!

Merry Christmas on this Seventh Day of the Octave of Christmas!

On this last day of the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Seventeen, it is right to recall the blessing of the past year, and, of course, to pray or chant the great Te Deum.

There is actually a plenary indulgence for praying this great prayer of Thanksgiving on the last day of the year, under the usual conditions: "The Te Deum. PLENARY INDULGENCE when recited publicly on the last day of the year. Otherwise a partial indulgence is granted to those who recite the Te Deum in thanksgiving."   Cf., Enchiridion indulgentiarum

The Te Deum:
TE DEUM laudamus: te Dominum confitemur.O GOD, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.Everlasting Father, all the earth doth worship Thee.
Tibi omnes Angeli; tibi Caeli et universae Potestates;To Thee all the Angels, the Heavens and all the Powers,
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim incessabili voce proclamant:all the Cherubim and Seraphim, unceasingly proclaim:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae.Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,The glorious choir of the Apostles,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,the wonderful company of Prophets,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia,Holy Church throughout the world doth acknowledge Thee:
Patrem immensae maiestatis:the Father of infinite Majesty;
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum.Thou, having taken it upon Thyself to deliver man, didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo, aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.Thou overcame the sting of death and hast opened to believers the Kingdom of Heaven.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.Thou sitest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni: quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.We beseech Thee, therefore, to help Thy servants whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.
V. Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.V. Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thine inheritance!
R. Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.R. Govern them, and raise them up forever.
V. Per singulos dies benedicimus te.V. Every day we thank Thee.
R. Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.R. And we praise Thy Name forever, yea, forever and ever.
V. Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.V. O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R. Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
V. Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.V. Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in Thee.
R. In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum.R. O Lord, in Thee I have hoped; let me never be put to shame.

Here is an account of the prayer:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Te Deum

Here is the Gregorian Chant setting of the Te Deum:

This is Marc-Antoine Charpentier's version:

Here is a setting of the Te Deum by Franz Josef Haydn, his Te Deum for Maria Theresa, one of many magnificent settings of this prayer by different composers:

Pope St. Sylvester I with the Emperor Constantine.

Today is also the Feast of Pope St. Sylvester I, the Roman Pontiff during the period of Emperor Constantine I "the Great."  St. Sylvester sat in the Chair of St. Peter from 314AD, immediately following the Edict of Milan, until his death in 335.  Thus, he was the Pontiff for not only the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, but also the construction and dedication of the Basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Peter's, and St. Paul's in Rome.  He is one of the first non-martyrs to be venerated as a saint, and guided the Church through a remarkable era.

For more on Pope St. Sylvester I, visit:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Sylvester I

Catholic Saints Info: Pope St. Sylvester

Seasonal Customs (Fisheaters): St. Sylvester

Merry Christmas and live well!