Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Today, 20 August, is the feast of the great Doctor of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux -- the Mellifluous Doctor.  St. Bernard was an early member of the Cistercian Order, a reform order of monks that sought to return to a more austere observance of Benedictine monastic life.  In 1115, St. Bernard founded a daughter house of Citeaux at Clairvaux, marking the start of another sort of monastic revival – more austere than Cluny.  Though a monk, he would be deeply involved in repairing schisms in the Church, supporting the Pontificate of Innocent II, working with St. Norbert, and giving advice to a great many crowned heads.  St. Bernard would be known for his beautiful writings on Our Lady and the Truths of the Faith, earning him the wonderful title of Mellifluous Doctor.  He died at Clairvaux in the year 1153AD.



St. Bernard of Clairvaux by Georg Wasshuber (+1732)


One of St. Bernard's associates, Bernard of Pisa, who was the abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Tre Fontane, the site of the martydom of St. Paul just outside Rome, was actually elected Pope, taking the name Pope Eugene III (1145-1153).  He would be a holy reforming pope in the mold of St. Leo IX, St. Gregory VII, and Blessed Urban II.

In December 1144 the city of Edessa – recall it was one of the Crusader states in the Middle East – fell to Seljuqs under Imad al-Din Zengi, Atabeg of Mosul (1127-1146).  Christendom was shocked, and the pope responded with another call to Crusade to defend the Holy Land and the Christians there.  This call to Crusade came on 14 December 1145.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux would be the preacher – and he sent out letters.  The next spring, 31 March 1146, St. Bernard of Clairvaux was preaching the Crusade in France – at Vezeley – and King Louis VII of France agreed to take up the cross. (Abbot Suger, credited with being the originator of Gothic architecture, would watch the kingdom while the king was gone)  St. Bernard then crossed into Germany, and at the famous Diet of Speyer, the Emperor Conrad III took the cross – this on Christmas 1146.  Despite the impressive recruits and good intentions, this Second Crusade would fall well short of its goals, and be abandoned, without recovering Edessa, in 1148.

St. Bernard also assisted in writing the rule and forming the Knights Templar. Indeed, to this end, he wrote an eloquent and robust letter giving advice to the members of this new Chivalrous order. He exhorts, "So go forth in safety, knights, and drive out the enemies of the cross of Christ with fearless intention, certain that neither death nor life can separate you from God’s love, which Jesus Christ embodies; in every moment of danger, fulfill through your own actions the principle: ‘Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’ ‘How glorious the victors returned from battle! How blessed those martyrs who died in battle!Rejoice, brave fighter, if you live and conquer in the Lord; but rather exult and glory, if you die and are joined to the Lord. Life can be fruitful and victory can be glorious; but sacred death is properly to be preferred to either, for if ‘they are blessed who die in the Lord,’ are they not much more so who die on the Lord’s behalf?" and further on he observes, "If a Christian is not allowed to strike with the sword, then why did the Savior’s precursor bid knights be content with their earnings, instead of forbidding them knighthood altogether?" You can read the full text here: St. Bernard: Novae Militiae

This link provides a good account of the life of St. Bernard: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Bernard

This webpage gives a brief overview with some images, links to other sites, and a few other details: Patron Saints Index: St. Bernard

Finally here is the encyclical letter of Pope Pius XII from 1953AD on St. Bernard: Pope Pius XII, Doctor Mellifluus

Live well!

Monday, August 18, 2014

St. Helen, Mother of Emperor Constantine I

Today is the Feast of St. Helen, the holy mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I.  She is best known for her discovery of the True Cross of Our Lord in Jerusalem. St. Helen helped establish notable Churches, such as that of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, but also brought many precious relics back to Rome.  Tradition has it that she was born in Britain, and we know that she was espoused to the Emperor Constantius Chlorus.

File:Helena of Constantinople (Cima da Conegliano).jpg
St. Helen of Constantinople by Cima da Conegliano (1495AD)

You can read more about the life of St. Helen here: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Helen

This site gives a short summary about today's saint with a few images and links: Patron Saints Index: St. Helen

This page, while not exactly for the Feast of St. Helen, does discuss the finding of the Cross -- a feast once in early May, but later combined with that of September (the Sept. feast was inspired by the defeat of the Persians by the Emperor Heraclius and the recovery of the relics in the 7th century):
Fisheaters: Exaltation of the Holy Cross


File:Santa croce in gerusalemme.jpg
The Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.

The Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, just down the Via Carlo Felice from the Pope's Cathedral at San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran) in the southeast corner of the city, was built around a part of the palace of St. Helen.  It was here that the relics brought back to the Eternal City by St. Helen were, and still are, housed for veneration.  These include: part of the inscription, a nail, a couple of thorns, parts of the True Cross, the cross beam of the good thief’s cross, and the finger of St. Thomas.  It is certainly well worth a visit!

Here is a link to the parish website: http://www.santacroceroma.it/

Live well!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Feast of St. Joachim

File:Friesach - Dominikanerkirche - Hochaltar - Hl Joachim.jpg
St. Joachim.  Statue in the Dominican Church of Friesach, Austria.


St. Joachim is, according to venerable tradition, the father of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and thus, the grandfather of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

"The holy Patriach Joachim was the husband of St. Anne, and the father of our Lady.  This feast, originally kept on March 20, was transferred to this day following the Assumption, in order to associate the Blessed Daughter and her holy father in triumph." [The Daily Missal, Baronius Press, 2007, pg. 1439]

Of course, although today is his traditional feast since the time of St. Pius X, it is combined with St. Anne in the reformed calendar.

For more on St. Joachim:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joachim

Patron Saints Index: St. Joachim

"Joachim and Anne, how blessed a couple! All creation is indebted to you. For at your hands the Creator was offered a gift excelling all other gifts: a chaste mother, who alone was worthy of him. Joachim and Anne, how blessed and spotless a couple! You will be known by the fruit you have borne, as the Lord says: “By their fruits you will know them.” The conduct of your life pleased God and was worthy of your daughter. For by the chaste and holy life you led together, you have fashioned a jewel of virginity: she who remained a virgin before, during, and after giving birth. She along for all time would maintain her virginity in mind and soul as well as in body. Joachim and Anne, how chaste a couple! While leading a devout and holy life in your human nature, you gave birth to a daughter nobler than the angels, whose queen she now is."  Sermon of St. John of Damascus, (+750AD), from the patron saint site above.

This blogger had the opportunity to visit a rather beautiful Church of St. Joachim in Quebec.  Here is the website of that municipality, also bearing the name of the saint: Church of St. Joachim in Quebec, Canada

So, pray for the intercession of St. Joachim, and remember to pray for your grandfathers today!

Live well!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin May

File:Tizian 041.jpg
The Assumption, by Titian, ca. 1516-1518AD


Today is the great feast and holy day of obligation of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  On this day we celebrate the Assumption of the Mother of Jesus Christ, body and soul, into heaven.  Historically today was known as Marymass or St. Mary's Day.

"Mary was cared for by St. John for twelve years after our Lord's Resurrection.  Her life was spent in helping the Apostles and in praying for the conversion of the world.  On the third day after Mary's death, when the Apostles gathered around her  tomb, they found it empty.  The sacred body had been carried up to the celestial paradise.  Jesus Himself came to conduct her thither; the whole court of heaven came to welcome with songs of triumph the Mother of the Divine Word." [The Daily Missal, Baronius Press, 2007, pg. 1435]

This link provides a little history of the glorious feast: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

A great resource, with mention of customs, and a reading, is that of Fisheaters: Fisheaters: Assumption

A couple of great Churches dedicated to the Assumption are:
The Cathedral-Basilica of the Premier See of Baltimore, Maryland, Cathedral-Basilica of Baltimore
and the Cathedral-Basilica of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, Cathedral-Basilica of Covington.

Assumption of the Virgin, by Botticini, ca. 1475
The Assumption of the Virgin, Francesco Botticini, ca. 1475AD, [http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/francesco-botticini-the-assumption-of-the-virgin]


In 1950AD, the Supreme Roman Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption, reaffirming the constant faith of the Catholic and Orthodox.

What better way to appreciate this Feast, and understand its place in Catholic Doctrine, than to read the declaration of Pope Pius defined the Dogma of the Assumption?  I present here, in full, the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, dated 1 November 1950AD:

-------------------------

DEFINING THE DOGMA OF THE ASSUMPTION

Munificentissimus Deus
Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius XII issued November 1, 1950
1. The most bountiful God, who is almighty, the plan of whose providence rests upon wisdom and love, tempers, in the secret purpose of his own mind, the sorrows of peoples and of individual men by means of joys that he interposes in their lives from time to time, in such a way that, under different conditions and in different ways, all things may work together unto good for those who love him.[1]

2. Now, just like the present age, our pontificate is weighed down by ever so many cares, anxieties, and troubles, by reason of very severe calamities that have taken place and by reason of the fact that many have strayed away from truth and virtue. Nevertheless, we are greatly consoled to see that, while the Catholic faith is being professed publicly and vigorously, piety toward the Virgin Mother of God is flourishing and daily growing more fervent, and that almost everywhere on earth it is showing indications of a better and holier life. Thus, while the Blessed Virgin is fulfilling in the most affectionate manner her maternal duties on behalf of those redeemed by the blood of Christ, the minds and the hearts of her children are being vigorously aroused to a more assiduous consideration of her prerogatives.

3. Actually God, who from all eternity regards Mary with a most favorable and unique affection, has "when the fullness of time came"[2] put the plan of his providence into effect in such a way that all the privileges and prerogatives he had granted to her in his sovereign generosity were to shine forth in her in a kind of perfect harmony. And, although the Church has always recognized this supreme generosity and the perfect harmony of graces and has daily studied them more and more throughout the course of the centuries, still it is in our own age that the privilege of the bodily Assumption into heaven of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, has certainly shone forth more clearly.

4. That privilege has shone forth in new radiance since our predecessor of immortal memory, Pius IX, solemnly proclaimed the dogma of the loving Mother of God's Immaculate Conception. These two privileges are most closely bound to one another. Christ overcame sin and death by his own death, and one who through Baptism has been born again in a supernatural way has conquered sin and death through the same Christ. Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.

5. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.

6. Thus, when it was solemnly proclaimed that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, was from the very beginning free from the taint of original sin, the minds of the faithful were filled with a stronger hope that the day might soon come when the dogma of the Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven would also be defined by the Church's supreme teaching authority.

7. Actually it was seen that not only individual Catholics, but also those who could speak for nations or ecclesiastical provinces, and even a considerable number of the Fathers of the Vatican Council, urgently petitioned the Apostolic See to this effect.

8. During the course of time such postulations and petitions did not decrease but rather grew continually in number and in urgency. In this cause there were pious crusades of prayer. Many outstanding theologians eagerly and zealously carried out investigations on this subject either privately or in public ecclesiastical institutions and in other schools where the sacred disciplines are taught. Marian Congresses, both national and international in scope, have been held in many parts of the Catholic world. These studies and investigations have brought out into even clearer light the fact that the dogma of the Virgin Mary's Assumption into heaven is contained in the deposit of Christian faith entrusted to the Church. They have resulted in many more petitions, begging and urging the Apostolic See that this truth be solemnly defined.

9. In this pious striving, the faithful have been associated in a wonderful way with their own holy bishops, who have sent petitions of this kind, truly remarkable in number, to this See of the Blessed Peter. Consequently, when we were elevated to the throne of the supreme pontificate, petitions of this sort had already been addressed by the thousands from every part of the world and from every class of people, from our beloved sons the Cardinals of the Sacred College, from our venerable brethren, archbishops and bishops, from dioceses and from parishes.

10. Consequently, while we sent up earnest prayers to God that he might grant to our mind the light of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to make a decision on this most serious subject, we issued special orders in which we commanded that, by corporate effort, more advanced inquiries into this matter should be begun and that, in the meantime, all the petitions about the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven which had been sent to this Apostolic See from the time of Pius IX, our predecessor of happy memory, down to our own days should be gathered together and carefully evaluated.[3]

11. And, since we were dealing with a matter of such great moment and of such importance, we considered it opportune to ask all our venerable brethren in the episcopate directly and authoritatively that each of them should make known to us his mind in a formal statement. Hence, on May 1, 1946, we gave them our letter "Deiparae Virginis Mariae," a letter in which these words are contained: "Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?"

12. But those whom "the Holy Spirit has placed as bishops to rule the Church of God"[4] gave an almost unanimous affirmative response to both these questions. This "outstanding agreement of the Catholic prelates and the faithful,"[5] affirming that the bodily Assumption of God's Mother into heaven can be defined as a dogma of faith, since it shows us the concordant teaching of the Church's ordinary doctrinal authority and the concordant faith of the Christian people which the same doctrinal authority sustains and directs, thus by itself and in an entirely certain and infallible way, manifests this privilege as a truth revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which Christ has delivered to his Spouse to be guarded faithfully and to be taught infallibly.[6] Certainly this teaching authority of the Church, not by any merely human effort but under the protection of the Spirit of Truth,[7] and therefore absolutely without error, carries out the commission entrusted to it, that of preserving the revealed truths pure and entire throughout every age, in such a way that it presents them undefiled, adding nothing to them and taking nothing away from them. For, as the Vatican Council teaches, "the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter in such a way that, by his revelation, they might manifest new doctrine, but so that, by his assistance, they might guard as sacred and might faithfully propose the revelation delivered through the apostles, or the deposit of faith."[8] Thus, from the universal agreement of the Church's ordinary teaching authority we have a certain and firm proof, demonstrating that the Blessed Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven- which surely no faculty of the human mind could know by its own natural powers, as far as the heavenly glorification of the virginal body of the loving Mother of God is concerned-is a truth that has been revealed by God and consequently something that must be firmly and faithfully believed by all children of the Church. For, as the Vatican Council asserts, "all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church, either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office, as divinely revealed truths which must be believed."[9]

13. Various testimonies, indications and signs of this common belief of the Church are evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.

14. Christ's faithful, through the teaching and the leadership of their pastors, have learned from the sacred books that the Virgin Mary, throughout the course of her earthly pilgrimage, led a life troubled by cares, hardships, and sorrows, and that, moreover, what the holy old man Simeon had foretold actually came to pass, that is, that a terribly sharp sword pierced her heart as she stood under the cross of her divine Son, our Redeemer. In the same way, it was not difficult for them to admit that the great Mother of God, like her only begotten Son, had actually passed from this life. But this in no way prevented them from believing and from professing openly that her sacred body had never been subject to the corruption of the tomb, and that the august tabernacle of the Divine Word had never been reduced to dust and ashes. Actually, enlightened by divine grace and moved by affection for her, God's Mother and our own dearest Mother, they have contemplated in an ever clearer light the wonderful harmony and order of those privileges which the most provident God has lavished upon this loving associate of our Redeemer, privileges which reach such an exalted plane that, except for her, nothing created by God other than the human nature of Jesus Christ has ever reached this level.

15. The innumerable temples which have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary assumed into heaven clearly attest this faith. So do those sacred images, exposed therein for the veneration of the faithful, which bring this unique triumph of the Blessed Virgin before the eyes of all men. Moreover, cities, dioceses, and individual regions have been placed under the special patronage and guardianship of the Virgin Mother of God assumed into heaven. In the same way, religious institutes, with the approval of the Church, have been founded and have taken their name from this privilege. Nor can we pass over in silence the fact that in the Rosary of Mary, the recitation of which this Apostolic See so urgently recommends, there is one mystery proposed for pious meditation which, as all know, deals with the Blessed Virgin's Assumption into heaven.

16. This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ's faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege. The holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church have never failed to draw enlightenment from this fact since, as everyone knows, the sacred liturgy, "because it is the profession, subject to the supreme teaching authority within the Church, of heavenly truths, can supply proofs and testimonies of no small value for deciding a particular point of Christian doctrine."[10]

17. In the liturgical books which deal with the feast either of the dormition or of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin there are expressions that agree in testifying that, when the Virgin Mother of God passed from this earthly exile to heaven, what happened to her sacred body was, by the decree of divine Providence, in keeping with the dignity of the Mother of the Word Incarnate, and with the other privileges she had been accorded. Thus, to cite an illustrious example, this is set forth in that sacramentary which Adrian I, our predecessor of immortal memory, sent to the Emperor Charlemagne. These words are found in this volume: "Venerable to us, O Lord, is the festivity of this day on which the holy Mother of God suffered temporal death, but still could not be kept down by the bonds of death, who has begotten your Son our Lord incarnate from herself."[11]

18. What is here indicated in that sobriety characteristic of the Roman liturgy is presented more clearly and completely in other ancient liturgical books. To take one as an example, the Gallican sacramentary designates this privilege of Mary's as "an ineffable mystery all the more worthy of praise as the Virgin's Assumption is something unique among men." And, in the Byzantine liturgy, not only is the Virgin Mary's bodily Assumption connected time and time again with the dignity of the Mother of God, but also with the other privileges, and in particular with the virginal motherhood granted her by a singular decree of God's Providence. "God, the King of the universe, has granted you favors that surpass nature. As he kept you a virgin in childbirth, thus he has kept your body incorrupt in the tomb and has glorified it by his divine act of transferring it from the tomb."[12]

19. The fact that the Apostolic See, which has inherited the function entrusted to the Prince of the Apostles, the function of confirming the brethren in the faith,[13] has by its own authority, made the celebration of this feast ever more solemn, has certainly and effectively moved the attentive minds of the faithful to appreciate always more completely the magnitude of the mystery it commemorates. So it was that the Feast of the Assumption was elevated from the rank which it had occupied from the beginning among the other Marian feasts to be classed among the more solemn celebrations of the entire liturgical cycle. And, when our predecessor St. Sergius I prescribed what is known as the litany, or the stational procession, to be held on four Marian feasts, he specified together the Feasts of the Nativity, the Annunciation, the Purification, and the  Dormition of the Virgin Mary.[14] Again, St. Leo IV saw to it that the feast, which was already being celebrated under the title of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother of God, should be observed in even a more solemn way when he ordered a vigil to be held on the day before it and prescribed prayers to be recited after it until the octave day. When this had been done, he decided to take part himself in the celebration, in the midst of a great multitude of the faithful.[15] Moreover, the fact that a holy fast had been ordered from ancient times for the day prior to the feast is made very evident by what our predecessor St. Nicholas I testifies in treating of the principal fasts which "the Holy Roman Church has observed for a long time, and still observes."[16]

20. However, since the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree, it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ's faithful. They presented it more clearly. They offered more profound explanations of its meaning and nature, bringing out into sharper light the fact that this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ-truths that the liturgical books had frequently touched upon concisely and briefly.

21. Thus St. John Damascene, an outstanding herald of this traditional truth, spoke out with powerful eloquence when he compared the bodily Assumption of the loving Mother of God with her other prerogatives and privileges. "It was fitting that she, who had kept her virginity intact in childbirth, should keep her own body free from all corruption even after death. It was fitting that she, who had carried the Creator as a child at her breast, should dwell in the divine tabernacles. It was fitting that the spouse, whom the Father had taken to himself, should live in the divine mansions. It was fitting that she, who had seen her Son upon the cross and who had thereby received into her heart the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in the act of giving birth to him, should look upon him as he sits with the Father. It was fitting that God's Mother should possess what belongs to her Son, and that she should be honored by every creature as the Mother and as the handmaid of God."[17]

22. These words of St. John Damascene agree perfectly with what others have taught on this same subject. Statements no less clear and accurate are to be found in sermons delivered by Fathers of an earlier time or of the same period, particularly on the occasion of this feast. And so, to cite some other examples, St. Germanus of Constantinople considered the fact that the body of Mary, the virgin Mother of God, was incorrupt and had been taken up into heaven to be in keeping, not only with her divine motherhood, but also with the special holiness of her virginal body. "You are she who, as it is written, appears in beauty, and your virginal body is all holy, all chaste, entirely the dwelling place of God, so that it is henceforth completely exempt from dissolution into dust. Though still human, it is changed into the heavenly life of incorruptibility, truly living and glorious, undamaged and sharing in perfect life."[18] And another very ancient writer asserts: "As the most glorious Mother of Christ, our Savior and God and the giver of life and immortality, has been endowed with life by him, she has received an eternal incorruptibility of the body together with him who has raised her up from the tomb and has taken her up to himself in a way known only to him."[19]

23. When this liturgical feast was being celebrated ever more widely and with ever increasing devotion and piety, the bishops of the Church and its preachers in continually greater numbers considered it their duty openly and clearly to explain the mystery that the feast commemorates, and to explain how it is intimately connected with the other revealed truths.

24. Among the scholastic theologians there have not been lacking those who, wishing to inquire more profoundly into divinely revealed truths and desirous of showing the harmony that exists between what is termed the theological demonstration and the Catholic faith, have always considered it worthy of note that this privilege of the Virgin Mary's Assumption is in wonderful accord with those divine truths given us in Holy Scripture.

25. When they go on to explain this point, they adduce various proofs to throw light on this privilege of Mary. As the first element of these demonstrations, they insist upon the fact that, out of filial love for his mother, Jesus Christ has willed that she be assumed into heaven. They base the strength of their proofs on the incomparable dignity of her divine motherhood and of all those prerogatives which follow from it. These include her exalted holiness, entirely surpassing the sanctity of all men and of the angels, the intimate union of Mary with her Son, and the affection of preeminent love which the Son has for his most worthy Mother.

26. Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers,[20] have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified"[21]; and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.[22] Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles "that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense" to be crowned.[23] These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.

27. Moreover, the scholastic Doctors have recognized the Assumption of the Virgin Mother of God as something signified, not only in various figures of the Old Testament, but also in that woman clothed with the sun whom John the Apostle contemplated on the Island of Patmos.[24] Similarly they have given special attention to these words of the New Testament: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women,"[25] since they saw, in the mystery of the Assumption, the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.

28. Thus, during the earliest period of scholastic theology, that most pious man, Amadeus, Bishop of Lausarme, held that the Virgin Mary's flesh had remained incorrupt-for it is wrong to believe that her body has seen corruption-because it was really united again to her soul and, together with it, crowned with great glory in the heavenly courts. "For she was full of grace and blessed among women. She alone merited to conceive the true God of true God, whom as a virgin, she brought forth, to whom as a virgin she gave milk, fondling him in her lap, and in all things she waited upon him with loving care."[26]

29. Among the holy writers who at that time employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to Illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption, which was piously believed, the Evangelical Doctor, St. Anthony of Padua, holds a special place. On the feast day of the Assumption, while explaining the prophet's words: "I will glorify the place of my feet,"[27] he stated it as certain that the divine Redeemer had bedecked with supreme glory his most beloved Mother from whom he had received human flesh. He asserts that "you have here a clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the Lord's feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: 'Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified."' And he asserts that, just as Jesus Christ has risen from the death over which he triumphed and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, so likewise the ark of his sanctification "has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to her heavenly dwelling."[28]

30. When, during the Middle Ages, scholastic theology was especially flourishing, St. Albert the Great who, to establish this teaching, had gathered together many proofs from Sacred Scripture, from the statements of older writers, and finally from the liturgy and from what is known as theological reasoning, concluded in this way: "From these proofs and authorities and from many others, it is manifest that the most blessed Mother of God has been assumed above the choirs of angels. And this we believe in every way to be true."[29] And, in a sermon which he delivered on the sacred day of the Blessed Virgin Mary's annunciation, explained the words "Hail, full of grace"-words used by the angel who addressed her-the Universal Doctor, comparing the Blessed Virgin with Eve, stated clearly and incisively that she was exempted from the fourfold curse that had been laid upon Eve.[30]

31. Following the footsteps of his distinguished teacher, the Angelic Doctor, despite the fact that he never dealt directly with this question, nevertheless, whenever he touched upon it, always held together with the Catholic Church, that Mary's body had been assumed into heaven along with her soul.[31]

32. Along with many others, the Seraphic Doctor held the same views. He considered it as entirely certain that, as God had preserved the most holy Virgin Mary from the violation of her virginal purity and integrity in conceiving and in childbirth, he would never have permitted her body to have been resolved into dust and ashes.[32] Explaining these words of Sacred Scripture: "Who is this that comes up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved?"[33] and applying them in a kind of accommodated sense to the Blessed Virgin, he reasons thus: "From this we can see that she is there bodily...her blessedness would not have been complete unless she were there as a person. The soul is not a person, but the soul, joined to the body, is a person. It is manifest that she is there in soul and in body. Otherwise she would not possess her complete beatitude.[34]

33. In the fifteenth century, during a later period of scholastic theology, St. Bernardine of Siena collected and diligently evaluated all that the medieval theologians had said and taught on this question. He was not content with setting down the principal considerations which these writers of an earlier day had already expressed, but he added others of his own. The likeness between God's Mother and her divine Son, in the way of the nobility and dignity of body and of soul-a likeness that forbids us to think of the heavenly Queen as being separated from the heavenly Kingmakes it entirely imperative that Mary "should be only where Christ is."[35] Moreover, it is reasonable and fitting that not only the soul and body of a man, but also the soul and body of a woman should have obtained heavenly glory. Finally, since the Church has never looked for the bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin nor proposed them for the veneration of the people, we have a proof on the order of a sensible experience.[36]

34. The above-mentioned teachings of the holy Fathers and of the Doctors have been in common use during more recent times. Gathering together the testimonies of the Christians of earlier days, St. Robert Bellarmine exclaimed: "And who, I ask, could believe that the ark of holiness, the dwelling place of the Word of God, the temple of the Holy Spirit, could be reduced to ruin? My soul is filled with horror at the thought that this virginal flesh which had begotten God, had brought him into the world, had nourished and carried him, could have been turned into ashes or given over to be food for worms."[37]

35. In like manner St. Francis of Sales, after asserting that it is wrong to doubt that Jesus Christ has himself observed, in the most perfect way, the divine commandment by which children are ordered to honor their parents, asks this question: "What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?"[38] And St. Alphonsus writes that "Jesus did not wish to have the body of Mary corrupted after death, since it would have redounded to his own dishonor to have her virginal flesh, from which he himself had assumed flesh, reduced to dust."[39]

36. Once the mystery which is commemorated in this feast had been placed in its proper light, there were not lacking teachers who, instead of dealing with the theological reasonings that show why it is fitting and right to believe the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, chose to focus their mind and attention on the faith of the Church itself, which is the Mystical Body of Christ without stain or wrinkle[40] and is called by the Apostle "the pillar and ground of truth."[41] Relying on this common faith, they considered the teaching opposed to the doctrine of our Lady's Assumption as temerarious, if not heretical. Thus, like not a few others, St. Peter Canisius, after he had declared that the very word "assumption" signifies the glorification, not only of the soul but also of the body, and that the Church has venerated and has  solemnly celebrated this mystery of Mary's Assumption for many centuries, adds these words of warning: "This teaching has already been accepted for some centuries, it has been held as certain in the minds of the pious people, and it has been taught to the entire Church in such a way that those who deny that Mary's body has been assumed into heaven are not to be listened to patiently but are everywhere to be denounced as over-contentious or rash men, and as imbued with a spirit that is heretical rather than Catholic."[42]

37. At the same time the great Suarez was professing in the field of mariology the norm that "keeping in mind the standards of propriety, and when there is no contradiction or repugnance on the part of Scripture, the mysteries of grace which God has wrought in the Virgin must be measured, not by the ordinary laws, but by the divine omnipotence."[43] Supported by the common faith of the entire Church on the subject of the mystery of the Assumption, he could conclude that this mystery was to be believed with the same firmness of assent as that given to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. Thus he already held that such truths could be defined.

38. All these proofs and considerations of the holy Fathers and the theologians are based upon the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These set the loving Mother of God as it were before our very eyes as most intimately joined to her divine Son and as always sharing his lot. Consequently it seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him with her milk, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life. Since our Redeemer is the Son of Mary, he could not do otherwise, as the perfect observer of God's law, than to honor, not only his eternal Father, but also his most beloved Mother. And, since it was within his power to grant her this great honor, to preserve her from the corruption of the tomb, we must believe that he really acted in this way.

39. We must remember especially that, since the second century, the Virgin Mary has been designated by the holy Fathers as the new Eve, who, although subject to the new Adam, is most intimately associated with him in that struggle against the infernal foe which, as foretold in the protoevangelium,[44] would finally result in that most complete victory over the sin and death which are always mentioned together in the writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles.[45] Consequently, just as the glorious resurrection of Christ was an essential part  and the final sign of this victory, so that struggle which was common to the Blessed Virgin and her divine Son should be brought to a close by the glorification of her virginal body, for the same Apostle says: "When this mortal thing hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory."[46]

40. Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination,[47] immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages.[48]

41. Since the universal Church, within which dwells the Spirit of Truth who infallibly directs it toward an ever more perfect knowledge of the revealed truths, has expressed its own belief many times over the course of the centuries, and since the bishops of the entire world are almost unanimously petitioning that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven should be defined as a dogma of divine and Catholic faith-this truth which is based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times, which is completely in harmony with the other revealed truths, and which has been expounded and explained magnificently in the work, the science, and the wisdom of the theologians-we believe that the moment appointed in the plan of divine providence for the solemn proclamation of this outstanding privilege of the Virgin Mary has already arrived.

42. We, who have placed our pontificate under the special patronage of the most holy Virgin, to whom we have had recourse so often in times of grave trouble, we who have consecrated the entire human race to her Immaculate Heart in public ceremonies, and who have time and time again experienced her powerful protection, are confident that this solemn proclamation and definition of the Assumption will contribute in no small way to the advantage of human society, since it redounds to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds. It is to be hoped that all the faithful will be stirred up to a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother, and that the souls of all those who glory in the Christian name may be moved by the desire of sharing in the unity of Jesus Christ's Mystical Body and of increasing their love for her who shows her motherly heart to all the members of this august body. And so we may hope that those who meditate upon the glorious example Mary offers us may be more and more convinced of the value of a human life entirely devoted to carrying out the heavenly Father's will and to bringing good to others. Thus, while the illusory teachings of materialism and the corruption of morals that follows from these teachings threaten to extinguish the light of virtue and to ruin the lives of men by exciting discord among them, in this magnificent way all may see clearly to what a lofty goal our bodies and souls are destined. Finally it is our hope that belief in Mary's bodily Assumption into heaven will make our belief in our own resurrection stronger and render it more effective.

43. We rejoice greatly that this solemn event falls, according to the design of God's providence, during this Holy Year, so that we are able, while the great Jubilee is being observed, to adorn the brow of God's Virgin Mother with this brilliant gem, and to leave a monument more enduring than bronze of our own most fervent love for the Mother of God.

44. For which reason, after we have poured forth prayers of supplication again and again to God, and have invoked the light of the Spirit of Truth, for the glory of Almighty God who has lavished his special affection upon the Virgin Mary, for the honor of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages and the Victor over sin and death, for the increase of the glory of that same august Mother, and for the joy and exultation of the entire Church; by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

45. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith.

46. In order that this, our definition of the bodily Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven may be brought to the attention of the universal Church, we desire that this, our Apostolic Letter, should stand for perpetual remembrance, commanding that written copies of it, or even printed copies, signed by the hand of any public notary and bearing the seal of a person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, should be accorded by all men the same reception they would give to this present letter, were it tendered or shown.

47. It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

48. Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, in the year of the great Jubilee, 1950, on the first day of the month of November, on the Feast of All Saints, in the twelfth year of our pontificate.

I, PIUS, Bishop of the Catholic Church, have signed, so defining.


ENDNOTES
1. Rom 8:28.

  • 2. Gal 4:4.
  • 3. Cf. Hentrich-Von Moos, Petitiones de Assumptione Corporea B. Virginis Mariae in Caelum Definienda ad S. Sedem Delatae, 2 volumes (Vatican Polyglot Press, 1942).
  • 4. Acts 20:28.
  • 5. The Bull Ineffabilis Deus, in the Acta Pii IX, pars 1, Vol. 1, p. 615.
  • 6. The Vatican Council, Constitution Dei filius, c. 4.
  • 7. Jn 14:26.
  • 8. Vatican Council, Constitution Pastor Aeternus, c. 4.
  • 9. Ibid., Dei Filius, c. 3.
  • 10. The encyclical Mediator Dei (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XXXIX, 541).
  • 11. Sacramentarium Gregorianum.
  • 12. Menaei Totius Anni.
  • 13. Lk 22:32.
  • 14. Liber Pontificalis.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Responsa Nicolai Papae I ad Consulta Bulgarorum.
  • 17. St. John Damascene, Encomium in Dormitionem Dei Genetricis Semperque Virginis Mariae, Hom. II, n. 14; cf. also ibid, n. 3.
  • 18. St. Germanus of Constantinople, In Sanctae Dei Genetricis Dormitionem, Sermo I.
  • 19. The Encomium in Dormitionem Sanctissimae Dominae Nostrate Deiparae Semperque Virginis Mariae, attributed to St. Modestus of Jerusalem, n. 14.
  • 20. Cf. St. John Damascene, op. cit., Hom. II, n. 11; and also the Encomium attributed to St. Modestus. 
  • 21. Ps 131:8.
  • 22. Ps 44:10-14ff.
  • 23. Song 3:6; cf. also 4:8; 6:9.
  • 24. Rv 12:1ff.
  • 25. Lk 1:28.
  • 26. Amadeus of Lausanne, De Beatae Virginis Obitu, Assumptione in Caelum Exaltatione ad Filii Dexteram.
  • 27. Is 61:13.
  • 28. St. Anthony of Padua, Sermones Dominicales et in Solemnitatibus, In Assumptione S. Mariae Virginis Sermo.
  • 29. St. Albert the Great, Mariale, q. 132.
  • 30. St. Albert the Great, Sermones de SanctisSermo XV in Annuntiatione B. Mariae; cf. also Mariale, q. 132.
  • 31. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., Illa; q. 27, a. 1; q. 83, a. 5, ad 8; Expositio Salutationis AngelicaeIn Symb. Apostolorum Expositio, a. S; In IV Sent., d. 12, q. 1, a. 3, sol. 3; d. 43, q. 1, a. 3, sol. 1, 2.
  • 32. St. Bonaventure, De Nativitate B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo V.
  • 33. Song 8:5.
  • 34. St. Bonaventure, De Assumptione B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo 1.
  • 35. St. Bernardine of Siena, In Assumptione B. Mariae Virginis, Sermo 11.
  • 36. Ibid.
  • 37. St. Robert Bellarmine, Conciones Habitae Lovanii, n. 40, De Assumption B. Mariae Virginis.
  • 38. Oeuvres de St. Francois De Sales, sermon for the Feast of the Assumption.
  • 39. St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, Part 2, d. 1.
  • 40. Eph 5:27.
  • 41. I Tm 3:15.
  • 42. St. Peter Canisius, De Maria Virgine.
  • 43. Suarez, In Tertiam Partem D. Thomae, q. 27, a. 2, disp. 3, sec. 5, n. 31.
  • 44. Gn 3:15.
  • 45. Rm 5-6; I Cor. 15:21-26, 54-57.
  • 46. I Cor 15:54.
  • 47. The Bull Ineffabilis Deusloc. cit., p. 599.
  • 48. I Tm 1:17.

  • [cf., http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12MUNIF.HTM]
    --------------------------

    Live well!

    Sunday, August 10, 2014

    St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

    Today is the great feast of the Roman martyr, St. Lawrence (+258AD). [Saint Lawrence of Rome]

    St. Lawrence was as deacon to Pope St. Sixtus II, charged with the temporal goods of the Roman Church.  On 6 August 258, St. Sixtus II was martyred along with six deacons, but St. Lawrence was spared, though the successor of St. Peter told him he would follow them in four days.  The Roman authorities gave Lawrence some days to collect the treasures of the Church.  When he returned to them, not with gold and silver, but with the poor, proclaiming them the treasure of the Church, the Roman persecutors were less than thrilled.

    The particular manner of martyrdom of St. Lawrence has resulted in him being a patron saint of cooks -- namely, he was roasted alive on a gridiron.  Tradition has it that he told his tormentors at one point that, "you can turn me over, I am done on this side."

    Here is a brief account of his life with some other information: Patron Saints Index: St. Lawrence

    Also, an account from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Lawrence

    Finally, the great Fisheater's site has a bit more information along with a description of some of the customs of this day: Fisheaters: Feast of St. Lawrence

    For this great feast of St. Lawrence, we might note three other items, a Church, a river, and a meteor shower.

    File:San Lorenzo fuori le mura - facade.jpg
    San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, Roma.

    The Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le mura (St. Lawrence Outside the Walls), in Rome, is the place of his burial, and that of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, Blessed Pope Pius IX, and Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi of Italy.  It is located just outside the walls to the east of Rome, and is a splendid example of Romanesque architecture.  Be sure to check out the official webpage of this great Roman Basilica: http://www.basilicasanlorenzo.it/



    The beautiful and historic Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, on the St. Lawrence River.


    Of course, in North America, the great river that essentially drains the Great Lakes bears the name of the great St. Lawrence, given it by the French captain Jacques Cartier.  At the mouth of that river we also have the Gulf of St. Lawrence -- a Gulf that was reached on the feast of St. Lawrence, 1535AD, by Cartier, hence the name.  This is the great river of Montreal and Quebec city.


    File:Perseid meteor and Milky Way in 2009.jpg
    A Perseid meteor next to the Milky Way, 2009.

    Finally, the Perseid Meteor shower, caused by debris of the Swift-Tuttle comet is also known as the "Tears of St. Lawrence," as it falls in mid-August, near the feast of St. Lawrence.  The radiant of this shower, as the name suggests, is the constellation Perseus.  So, look toward Perseus for the best chance of seeing a shooting star -- and remember the numbers are usually better after midnight.
    Here is an article with some great information on this year's meteor shower: Sky and Telescope: Perseids v. Moonlight

    Live well!

    Wednesday, August 6, 2014

    The Transfiguration & a battle?

    Today, 6 August, is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, on Mount Tabor.

    File:Transfiguration Raphael.jpg
    The Transfiguration by Raphael The peculiar child in the bottom right corner of this painting is described in the verses related what happened after Christ came down from the mountain.

    This commemorates the great event that St. Matthew describes in his gospel, Chapter 17:
    "and after six days Jesus takes unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and brings them up into a high mountain apart: 2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. 3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if you will, let us make here three tabernacles, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 5 And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear him. 6 And the disciples hearing fell upon their face, and were very much afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and fear not. 8 And they lifting up their eyes, saw no one, but only Jesus. 9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead. 10 And his disciples asked him, saying: Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first? 11 But he answering, said to them: Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things. 12 But I say to you, that Elias is already come, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind. So also the Son of man shall suffer from them. 13 Then the disciples understood, that he had spoken to them of John the Baptist.

    14 And when he had come to the multitude, there came to him a man falling down on his knees before him saying: Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffers much: for he falls often into the fire, and often into the water. 15 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not cure him. 16 Then Jesus answered and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me. 17 And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. 18 Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? 19 Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible to you. 20 But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting." [cf., http://www.newadvent.org/bible/mat017.htm]

    The Old Catholic Encyclopedia has an informative entry on the Event of the Transfiguration: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Transfiguration

    The Fisheaters site, too, has some citations and homilies for this great feast: Fisheaters: Transfiguration


    File:Battle of Nandorfehervar.jpg
    A Hungarian painting of the Battle of Nándorfehérvár [Battle of Belgrade], with St. John of Capistrano in the center.

    The feast, for the Western or Latin Church, was set today, 6 August, by Pope Callixtus III (1455-1458AD) in honor of the great victory over the Turk at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456AD.  This victory was much needed in the wake of the fall of Constantinople in 1453AD.  Pope Callixtus placed the feast on this day, as it was the day word of the great victory reached Rome.  It is also forty days before the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

    In this great siege and battle at Belgrade, Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II (reigned 1451-1481) had some 80,000 men and 300 cannon, opposed by a Christian force of 16,000 in the city, plus 8,000 Crusaders under the inspiration of the Franciscan Saint-preacher, St. John of Capistrano.  The Hungarians under John Hunyadi were the backbone of the Christian forces at the battle.  Capistrano commanded that priests pray and tend to wounded only, while he held a crucifix from the pope to inspire the crusaders.  The battle and siege started in June of 1456.  The grand assault came on 21 July 1456, with the Christians winning the urban fighting and following it up with an afternoon counterattack that wounded the Sultan!

    File:Mount of transfiguration is.JPG
    The Basilica of the Transfiguration, Mt. Tabor.

    Finally, we might note the great church standing on the site of this magnificent event, the Basilica of the Transfiguration, which is maintained by the Franciscans.

    Here is the official website of the Franciscans of the Holy Land: Custodia Terrae Santae

    Here is a site with some great photos and information:
    PlanetWare Travel: Mount Tabor

     Live well!

    Tuesday, August 5, 2014

    Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

    File:SantaMariaMaggiore front.jpg
    The Façade of Santa Maria Maggiore, Roma.

    Today is the Feast of the Dedication of the Roman Archbasilica of St. Mary Major in Rome -- Santa Maria Maggiore -- on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.  It bears the name "Major" as it is the oldest, largest, and most important Church dedicated to Our Lady in Rome.  It is an extraterritorial possession of the Vatican City State.  By title, the King of Spain is the proto-canon of this Basilica; traditionally, too, this was the titular Church of the Patriarch of Antioch.

    File:Masolino, fondazione di santa maria maggiore.jpg
    Foundation of Santa Maria Maggiore, by Masolino, 15th century.

    It also goes by the name of the Liberian Basilica, as a Church was first constructed on this site on the Esquiline Hill during the Pontificate of Pope Liberius (352-366AD) -- and it was during his Pontificate that there was the miraculous snowfall on the Hill on this date -- 5 August -- marking the site where a Church to Our Lady was to be built.  This would be the origin, too, of the title of Our Lady of the Snows.  The present basilica was constructed during the pontificate of Pope St. Sixtus III (432-440AD), making it one of the oldest major Churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    File:Lazio Roma SMariaMaggiore2 tango7174.jpg
    Interior of Santa Maria Maggiore.

    The Basilica is constructed on a classic Basilica model, with a wide central aisle, leading to the apse and magnificent baldachino, pictured above.  Although large and magnificent, this author, having visited several times, finds it has an approachable and motherly aspect compared to the other major basilicas.  The wonderful apse mosaic of the coronation of the Blessed Virgin dates to the late 13th century and the pontificate of Pope Nicholas IV (1288-1292).

    The ceiling, interestingly enough, boasts gold donated to Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) by the Spanish crown -- this gold being the first fruits of the New World to the Spanish realm.

    File:Sacra culla.jpg
    Reliquary of the Holy Crib in the Confessio.

    In the confessio, below the main altar, there is the chapel of the Nativity, in which is housed the relics of the crib of Bethlehem.

    File:Santamariamaggiore2b.jpg
    The altar with the image of the Salus Populi Romani in the Borghese Chapel.

    To the left of the main altar is the Borghese Chapel which houses the famous Salus Populi Romani image of the Blessed Virgin, which, by tradition, is associated with St. Luke.  This image is said to have been brought to Rome by St. Helen in the 4th century.  Here, too, is buried Popes Paul V Borghese (1605-1621) and Clement VIII (1592-1605).

    File:Santa Maria Maggiore (Rome) 06.jpg
    The tabernacle in the Sistine Chapel.  The tomb of Pope St. Pius V is immediately to the left of this frame.

    To the right of the main altar is the Sistine Chapel (not the famous one!), where Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572) and Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) are buried.

    Santa Maria Maggiore is also the resting place of St. Jerome and Gian Lorenzo Bernini!

    For more information on Basilicas in general, you might note this site:
    Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Basilicas

    Finally, for yet more information on this Church in particular -- and a virtual tour -- check out the official site of the Basilica:
    Official Site of Santa Maria Maggiore

    Live well!