Thursday, January 21, 2016

Canticle to St. Agnes written by St. Thérèse of Lisieux

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

St. Thérèse of Lisieux was enamored by the strength and fervor of several female martyrs including St. Agnes, St. Joan of Arc, and St. Cecilia. She so loved St. Agnes that it was said that while on pilgrimage in Rome, she took a red mosaic stone from St. Agnes' burial place in the Catacombs, by climbing down an opening where the ruins lay!  She called this early saint, 'a childhood friend' [Story of a Soul]. She even wrote to her beloved sister Pauline, who became known as Mother Agnes of Jesus, shortly before entering Carmel in 1887, "Thérèse, the little Spouse of Jesus, loves Him for Himself; she only looks on the Face of her Beloved to catch a glimpse of  the Tears which delight her with their secret charm...At all cost I must win the palm of St. Agnes; if it cannot be mine through blood, I must win it by Love." [See]

St. Agnes' feast day is today! She was a young Roman girl who promised her life to God. Because of her beauty many men wanted to marry her, but she always refused, saying "Jesus Christ is my only Spouse." One of them became so angry when she refused him, he turned her in for being a Christian. She was then tortured and killed for refusing to deny her faith. She was only thirteen years old when she was martyred. She is the patron of young girls, and is often pictured holding a lamb, as her name is very similar to the Latin word "Agnus" which means lamb.
Below, is a beautiful song that St. Therese composed to honor this special Feast Day of Virgin and Martyr St. Agnes.

                                                       CANTICLE OF ST. AGNES.
"My only Love is Christ."
From the Acts of her Martyrdom
Christ is my Love alone, all life is He for me;
He is my one Betrothed, Who charms my dazzled eyes;
E'en now I hear vibrate the solemn harmony
Of His melodious sighs.
With precious stones and gold He decks my flowing hair,
Already on my hand shines bright His nuptial ring;
And many lustrous stars, magnificently fair,
Are love gifts from my King.
With pearls, all price beyond, has He adorned my hands;
About my neck He placed a necklace wondrous bright;
Celestial rubies red, from far off unknown lands,
Bedeck my ears tonight.
Betrothed am I to Him on Whom the angels wait,
Trembling before His throne throughout eternity;
The sun and moon His praise with rapture will relate,
Till time shall cease to be.
Divine His Person is; heaven is His realm of bliss;
He for His Mother chose a Virgin here on earth;
Who no beginning hath, nor end, His Father is,
Eternal is that birth.
Ah! when this Jesus Christ at times to touch I dare,
More pure becomes my heart; more chaste, dear Lord, am I!
The kisses of His mouth give me the treasure fair
Of blest virginity.
His signet He hath set already on my face,
That so no earthly love may dare draw nigh to me;
Kept thus for Christ alone, by His abiding grace,
Cleansed by the precious Blood He shed on Calvary's cross,
Already here I taste of heaven's matchless bliss;
The honey and the milk with joys that know not loss
Come to me with His kiss.
No thought of fear have I, of either flame or sword:
For naught can now disturb this perfect heavenly peace
A fire of love divine pervades my soul, O Lord:
And never shall it cease.
                                                                      January 21, 1896

Sunday, January 3, 2016

St. Basil's Wisdom & Purported Carmelite Connections

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Two summers ago, I was blessed enough to visit Turkey for three weeks. I was enchanted by the beauty of this ancient crossroads between East and West, and its beautiful landscape, architecture, history, and culture. When visiting Cappadocia, I was further mesmerized by the churches hewn out of rocks located within a series of cave structures, where the early Christians escaping from oppression, and persecutions between 4th and 13th centuries worshiped and lived in community. St. Basil was the bishop of Kayseri at that time who taught and influenced his flock, and the Church beyond. He created a rule of life, now known as the Rule of St. Basil that guided those living in his monasteries in this region of Turkey.  A chapel was even built in his name which can now be seen and explored in the Goreme Open Air Museum.   

Why do I mention St. Basil 24 hours following his Feast Day [and that of St. Gregory of Nazianzus] whom he shares this day with? Namely, because many early Carmelites believed that the original rule of the Carmelite Order was taken from the Rule of St. Basil, before being adopted and tweaked by St. Albert. In addition, many insist that St. Basil lived on Mt. Carmel and was among the early Carmelites who prayed in the spirit of Elijah. 'pondering the law of the Lord day and night', and who greatly honored Our Lady.   

Ordained a bishop in 370, he enabled the reform of priests and other religious, insisting on a commitment to orthodoxy and a strong religious discipline among the clergy. He was responsible for the promulgation of the Nicene Creed to the faithful and the defeat of Arianism at the Council of Constantinople. He also practiced great acts of mercy and charity including work with the poor, sick, hungry, and homeless.
Perhaps one of the most important documents we can study by St. Basil the Great is "On the Holy Spirit", which gives us a road map in our spiritual life and can help us especially as we kick off the new year and continue to seek to live the call to practice mercy ever more deeply in this Jubilee year. He wisely proclaimed, 
The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realise that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.

To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.

The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.

Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.

The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.

As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.

From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations - we become God.

Let us stay close to the Holy Spirit to discern what God's Will is in this new year, and then to have the strength and courage to give our fiat and do it! St. Basil the Great, pray for us! Amen.

 Image result for St. Basil in Cappadocia

Friday, January 1, 2016

Celebrating Theotokos in the Year of Mercy

JMJT! Praise be Jesus Christ! Now and Forever!

Happy New Year & Feast of Mary, Mother of God! It is always such a joy to begin the year celebrating the maternity of Our Lady, as mother of Our Lord Jesus, as well as of all of her other billions of spiritual children on earth, including each of us and our loved ones! 

This Jubilee Year of Mercy gives me pause, as it not only challenges me to practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy more fully and fervently towards my family and neighbor, but it invites me to enter into Our Lady's School of Virtue to contemplate in my heart, the true meaning of mercy.  

When doing some research for a presentation I was doing on Mary, Mother of Mercy, I was struck by the meaning of mercy in Hebrew. In this ancient language Rachamim means ‘mercy’. This is the plural form of the word racham which means ‘womb’. The notion of mercy most closely bespeaks of a mother's tenderness for her infant. Jesus is the fruit of two wombs, the one in eternity from the divine Father: I have begotten you from the womb before the morning (Ps 109 (110):3), the other in time from a human mother: ... you will conceive in [the] womb and bear a son (Lk 1:31). 

In his Person He is The Divine Mercy in the Flesh.  Mary's pure womb was the true Mercy Seat that shared the Suffering Servant's sacrifice foretold at His first offering in the Temple:"And a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Lk 2:35).  [See] The blood and water which filled her womb in protection of the Messiah in utero, would foreshadow the blood and water which was poured out for all of mankind in his last act of Divine Mercy.

St. Louis de Montfort explains that, "It was in this mystery that Jesus, in the womb of Mary and with her co- operation, chose all the elect. For this reason the saints called her womb, the throne-room of God's mysteries." 

Throughout his potificate, Saint Pope John Paul II embraced de Montfort's spirituality and recognized Our Lady's role in joining Divine Mercy with her maternity of God and of her children. He explained that Our Lady’s Magnificat rejoices that God, ‘has mercy on those who fear him, from generation to generation.’ We too share in this mercy and she is Our Mother of Mercy [Dives in Misericordia]  He also shares with the faithful that, “Mary is the Mother of Mercy because her Son, Jesus Christ, was sent by the Father as a revelation of God’s mercy.’ She is also Mother of Mercy because it is to her that Jesus entrusts the Church & all humanity” [Veritatis Splendor]

I leave you with the words of our present Pope Francis, who declared this Jubilee Year of Mercy. He wrote in his Bull entitled, Misericordiae Vultus, as follows:

“My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of His love.

Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception.” [Pope Francis]
Let us treasure all of these things in our heart in a special way this year, and then live them in order to fulfill the opportunity of this special year of mercy for all. Amen.