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Remnant Rome Report

Remnant Rome Report (3)

The Remnent Newspaper traveled to Rome for coverage of the Conclave.

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Tradition Remembered

Tradition Remembered (3)

The Remnant Will Never Forget



The Remnant devotes this section of our exclusively to testimonies by those who lived through the revolution of the Second Vatican Council.

This page is reserved for those who saw what happened, or heard what happened from those who did,  and who truly understand how Catholic families were blown apart. Visitors who have personal reflections, or memories of traditionalists pioneers, or reminicences of the revolution are encouraged to tell their stories and share their pictures here. . . so that we will never forget.


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Vatican Sex Abuse Summit in Rome

Vatican Sex Abuse Summit in Rome (0)

RTV Covers Vatican Sex Abuse Summit in Rome

Remnant TV was in Rome this past week covering the Vatican’s clerical sexual abuse summit on the “protection of minors”. It seemed a dismal assignment, to be sure, but the reason it was necessary for The Remnant to be in the Eternal City was so we could throw in with our traditional Catholic allies in Rome who’d organized an act of formal resistance to the Vatican sham summit.

Going in, we all knew that the ultimate goal of the summit was to establish child abuse—not rampant homosexuality in the priesthood—as the main cause of a crisis in the Catholic Church which now rivals that of the Protestant Revolt. (Remnant TV coverage of this event as well as the Vatican summit itself, can be found on The Remnant’s YouTube channel, and for your convenience is laid out below:

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In a recent  meeting with the pastor of our Church, the term "special interest" came up in our discussion about the Traditional Latin Mass. Part of my responsibility as a parish member and lobbyist for the TLM is to oversee the logistics of our recently granted Sunday celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass at the city's oldest and most beautiful Catholic Church. My new pastor, an able and dedicated man, with a true affection for the old liturgy, is also typical in some respects as one who grew up during all the ecumenical trends launched after of Vatican II.  

A point made in the meeting was the need to regularize the "special interest" groups, like the TLM and the Spanish congregation, into the parish fold. For the last twenty-five years my family has attended the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass of my early youth. Over the years more and more weathered stalwarts among the TLM's devotees began exhibiting traits of Post-Traumatic Stress.
Editor’s Note: Over the years since 1988, The Remnant has featured countless debates on the question of the SSPX “schism” and/or irregular canonical status. We have friends and allies on both sides of that divide, and, let’s face it, the complexities of the question are not easily unraveled even by canon lawyers, which is why there are many canon lawyers on both sides of the aisle. Where we’ve drawn the line in terms of publishing this debate is at those who seem disposed to willfully defend predetermined conclusions while consciously ignoring the facts that don’t fit their nice and neat little narrative. So, for example, those who insist on castigating the SSPX as formally “schismatic” even after heads of the CDF in Rome have clearly stated otherwise are, in our opinion, ideologically driven to grind the axe of their own pet peeve, and thus contribute nothing to the debate. Similarly, those in the SSPX who obstinately adhere to 1988 talking points about the FSSP, for example, poised to begin offering the New Mass and give enthusiastic across-the-board approval to the whole warp and disastrous woof of the Second Vatican Council, while ignoring the mountains of real-world evidence to the contrary are, in our opinion, counterproductive to serious debate as well. Mr. Achbold’s approach, on the other hand, is that of serious Catholics on both sides who are trying to uncover and then defend the truth. He may not  agree with important elements of the SSPX’s argument where jurisdiction is concerned, and yet the following article is an example of the fair, balanced and thus constructive discussion we at The Remnant have sought to promote and encourage for 25 years, even if and when it may depart in one way or another from our own editorial policy and opinion. Our thanks to Mr. Archbold for a fine example of the noble effort to cut through the inflammatory rhetoric on both sides and thus be part of the solution rather than the problem where the complex question of the SSPX is concerned. MJM

If my social media is indicative of trends among friends, two themes pop up in my feed over and over again. The first is videos of rogue police violating the constitutional rights of citizens caught on camera as a consequence of the emergence of the video age.   The other is hyperbolic criticisms of the SSPX, with the word schism thrown around like beers at a frat party.
Today our friend Matt Abbott over a RenewAmerica writes the following in his article entitled "Bruce Jenner and the culture of insanity": "The current main pop-culture headline involves former Olympian Bruce Jenner "transitioning" into a woman. He's on the cover of Vanity Fair as "Caitlyn," and he'll be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPY Awards.

"Sadly, a large segment of our culture celebrates that which shouldn't be celebrated. Jenner needs compassion – he obviously has a significant mental affliction – but he certainly doesn't deserve an award for courage. There's nothing courageous about a man living as a woman.

"The following Catholic priests agree."  READ MATT's COLUMN HERE

REMNANT COMMENT: Matt Abbott offers a one-word conclusion to all this with which we heartily agree: "Insanity"! But I would go a step further, as this is the kind of insanity that comes when creatures declare war on their Creator. This is evil, yes, but more importantly it is evil that should be regarded as predicatable as was always inevitable. To be surprised by the cultural phenomenon that is MISTER Jenner reveals a failure to fully comprehend what the revolution against God, the Catholic Church and the Christian family has always been about--the non serviam of hell itself. So MISTER Jenner is not insane in the classical or clinical sense of that word. He is diabolically disoriented, and he suffers the consequences--mental, spiritual, moral and physical--that come with open rebellion against God. He is in the process of committing suicide--first of the soul, then of the mind, then of his gender and ultimately of his life. Yes, MISTER Jenner's final act in this his one-man, media-driven reality TV show will be the taking of his own life. And the media will applaud that, as well.

The media are the Devil's eyes to the hell. Take away MISTER Jenner's TV cameras and he's still Bruce. Take away FOX News and CNN in Baltimore last month and the city would not have been set on fire. The media are providing the bread and circuses of pagan Rome. They give us 24/7 freak show, and we just can't keep our eyes off the bearded lady. Our whole society has become one big car crash complete with multiple vehicles and countless casualties--and we can't remove our eyes from the gore and the death and wrecked lives. It could happen to us at any moment, and that prospect--that danger, that threat, that possilbity--makes it all irresistable to us.

But again this was all inevitable. The forces of hell have been waging war on Christ, the Cross and the Church for a thousand years. They first ripped Christendom in half with the sword of Protestantism; then they took that sword and beheaded Chris the King by separating the crowned heads of Europe from their bodies; with the temporal authority of the Catholic State crushed beneath the cloven foot of the Enlightenment, they set out to breach the walls of the Church herself.  They infiltrated her from within and the attacked from without with such diabolical fury that before they were done the Pope himself had laid down his crown and the venerable Catholic Mass--bulwark of the Faith--had been banished from the Church.

What was left? All out war on the family, the unborn and now even the body God Himself has given to each of us. Total war on everything God has bequeathed to His children--even life itself.

MISTER Jenner is but a demonic manifestation of man's non serviam. There is nothing here that should surprise the Traditional Catholic who knew from the beginning that this war was never about "personal liturgical preferances", but rather the prevention of universal chaos in the world in which we live.

Bottom line: Stop fretting about MISTER Jenner. Turn off the TV. Break out the beads. This is it! The early Christians were not out campaining and doing petitions in protest of Caligula have sexual intercoarse with his horse and appointing the animal to the Senate in old pagan Rome. They had "come out from among them" and were worshipping God in catacombs, praying for deviverance from evil, and preparing for a date with the lions. And so must we. This world is no place for us anymore. And so we watch and wait and pray, while insisting that the old Latin Mass is our only hope and the only hope of the world. God help us, the forces of hell have been unleashed and the only solution now is the spiritual solution--the Rosary and the Mass. Nothing else matters.  
Over at SSPX.Org a new letter from Bishop Fellay was posted today.  Here's a snippet: "In itself mercy is a word that is dear to the heart of every Catholic, because it designates the most touching manifestation of God’s love for us...

"Nevertheless true mercy, which implies this initial, extremely touching movement of God toward the sinner and His misery, continues in a moment of the creature’s conversion to God: “God desires not the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (cf. Ezek 33:11). Hence the Gospels insist on the duty of conversion, renunciation and penance.  Our Lord went so far as to say: “Unless you do penance, you shall all perish” (cf. Lk 13:5)."

"Opposed to the true notion of mercy is the new "spirit of Vatican II" notion of mercy which lacks a sense of repentance, an error that is being promoted as part of Pope Francis' reform of the Roman Curia: Can you truncate mercy, cut it off from necessary repentance, as Cardinal Maradiaga does, for the stated purpose of giving a new spirit to the conciliar reforms and breaking with the traditional spirit? Certainly not!"  READ MORE HERE

REMNANT COMMENT: Question: Are these the words of a man who "sold out" to the Vatican in exchange for some personal gain and a more glorious place in history? The critics of Bishop Fellay seem to be revealing themselves as men on whom nuance and prudence are largely wasted. In constant pursuit of the next wild conspiracy theory, they seem to have difficulty grasping the significance of the crucial role Bishop Fellay is obliged to accept as one of the last remaining traditional Catholic bishops in the world today. His strategy requires diligence against the fever swamps to the right, while for the good of the whole Church (and not just the SSPX) maintaining lines of communication with the tiny remnant of believing hierarchs left in Rome--men who may be of some use in leading many diabolically disoriented shepherds back from the precipice and in the direction of sacred Tradition. Bishop Fellay does not seem to be settling for mere self-preservation either for himself or for the Society of St. Pius X. Rather it seems obvious that he is motivated by a much higher goal, which includes a stubborn refusal to abandon the Church in crisis. How easy it would be for him to spend every waking moment shooting at the sad and dizzy little modernist fish swimming round and round inside the Vatican fishbowl just now. But is that really what the Church needs? I think not. Rather, the Church desperately needs bishops who understand the awesome responsibility that comes with their holy mission to serve the Church with prudence and wisdom in times of great upheaval. There are not many such bishops left in the world today. Pray for this one, and stop playing the part of the useful idiot by attacking him for not being as strident, shrill and counterproductive as the Internet mob demands he should be.


In the third year of his pontificate, criticism is growing of Pope Francis. Members of the Vatican establishment are turning against him and he even shocks his own staff with his free thinking. Where does this enigmatic pope want to steer the Catholic Church?

This article from Der Spiegel is long but contains plenty of intimations that, even as the mob raised Francis up, it may soon let him fall.  And what will happen then?

Here's a snippet from the article:  "They're an experienced team, the three of them. The driver has barely stopped, and already the security guard has grabbed a child from the crowd on the left and is holding it up for the pope. The pontiff bends over, kisses the child -- and then it's over.

"The whole thing takes mere seconds and repeats itself several times during the pope's Wednesday lap of honor before the general audience on St. Peter's Square starts. If there are any larger groups he can see -- Boy Scouts, for example, or wheelchair-users -- then Christ's representative on Earth briefly taps the Popemobile-driver on the shoulder to get him to stop. When observed from up close, Pope Francis comes across as a stately man. The white cassocks strain at his midsection, his pronounced chin is elongated and his eyes look searchingly into those of the people surrounding him. Compared to his predecessor, the almost otherworldly smiling Benedict XVI, the Argentinian comes across as downright earthly. As though there were no distance at all.

"He hugs and he pats. He kisses small children and cardinals. He does it without warning and enthusiastically. It's almost as if he's using bodily contact to console himself for the burden of his position. He is the highest-ranking person of faith and a role model for the 1.3 billion Catholics around the world.

"When Pope Francis, otherwise known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, entered St. Peter's Basilica at 10 a.m. on Pentecost Sunday for the Holy Mass, he had been in office for 797 days. Seven-hundred-ninety-seven days in which he has divided the Catholic rank-and-file into admirers and critics. At time during which more and more people have begun to wonder if he can live up to what he seems to have promised: renewal, reform and a more contemporary Catholic Church.

"Francis has had showers for homeless people erected near St. Peter's Square, but has at the same time also spent millions on international consultants. He brought the Vatican Bank's finances into order, but created confusion in the Curia. He has negotiated between Cuba and the United States, but also scared the Israelis by calling Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an "angel of peace."

"This pope is much more enigmatic than his predecessor -- and that is becoming a problem. Right up to this day, many people have been trying to determine Francis' true intentions. If you ask cardinals and bishops, or the pope's advisors and colleagues, or veteran Vatican observers about his possible strategy these days -- the Pope's overarching plan -- they seem to agree on one point: The man who sits on the Chair of St. Peter is a notorious troublemaker." READ THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE 


REMNANT COMMENT: Question: Is it better for souls and for the life of the Church if Francis were to abdicate, or would the prospect of three popes in Rome lead to a greater crisis than Francis has caused already?

schneider(Bishop Athanasius Schneider, celebrant of the Traditional Latin Mass on Pentecost Sunday on the Pilgrimage to Chartres, stopped by to visit with the leaders of the foreign chapters, including Michael Matt, James Bogle, John Rao and friends and allies from England, Ireland, Germany and many other countries.)

Many thanks for your patience while much of The Remnant’s staff was in Europe on pilgrimage these past few weeks. Though our Facebook page featured regular video updates on the pilgrimage to France, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, I’m afraid the same can’t be said of our site as it is still somewhat cumbersome to find the necessary time, Wi-Fi, etc., to update our websites from the other side of the pond.


The Pilgrimage to Chartres, France was in many ways one of the best ever. Much larger than in previous years, it could even be said that the Francis Effect seems to be producing larger crowds and more enthusiasm for all things Traditional than ever before, the New Mass and the experiment of the Second Vatican Council having begun to sound the death rattle before the eyes and ears of the whole world. If this wasn’t abundantly obvious before, it was made so by the fall of “Catholic” Ireland last week and the impending fall of Italy and indeed all of the countries of what is left of old Christendom. 
How the bankrupt theory of evolution is overthrowing the Genesis account of the Fall, with the help of neo-Catholic enablers.

According to the neo-Catholic view, rejecting the theory of evolution is “denialism,” whereas rejecting the entire traditional understanding of the Genesis account based on the claims of evolutionists merely raises a “problem” to be “mulled over” by theologians. Behold the neo-Catholic mentality at work.
“When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed…”
-Charles Darwin, 1863
“Through use and abuse of hidden postulates, of bold, often ill-founded extrapolations, a pseudoscience has been created. It is taking root in the very heart of biology and is leading astray many biochemists and biologists…”
-Pierre-Paul Grassé, evolutionary zoologist, 1973

Meditation no 8: From the heights of the Cross, I will draw all men to me.

By Original Sin, man imposed on God the violence of a divorce. He proclaimed himself to be self-sufficient and pretended to become his own God. In so doing, man cut himself off from his beginning and his end, and denied his own self. For what is a creature without its creator? What is man, separated from God? A world without God is always a world against man. After the Original Sin, our first parents did not have to wait long to see their sin rebound upon them. The world, which had been subject to them, became hostile: nature became difficult to domesticate; their own powers were shaken, their flesh seeking to dominate their spirit; relationships between men were changed, with the original domestic harmony lost and Adam and Eve’s children quarrelling to the point where Cain murdered Abel… The Old Testament shows the sad state of humanity under the reign of sin, a state of nature deposed, just as we experience it if we live a life cut off from the grace of God.

Far from reconciling Himself to this rupture, God, from the very beginning, conceived a plan of salvation for men. Man, of course was completely incapable by his own efforts of crossing the pit of sin in order to regain the divine friendship. God’s dignity is infinite, so the gravity of the offence against Him was likewise infinite. That meant that it was impossible for man to accomplish a reparation that would truly make satisfaction for his sin. His capacity for reparation was limited by his status as a creature. Even the best, the most heroic, human actions are limited, contingent; and they can only offer a finite response to the infinite disorder of sin. As St Thomas Aquinas affirms: ‘The satisfaction offered by a mere man cannot be sufficient, because all human nature was damaged by sin, and the good works of one person, or even several, could not compensate in an equivalent fashion for the damage wrought to the natural state of all men. Moreover, the sin committed against God acquires a certain infinity, because of the infinite divine majesty; for the gravity of an offense relates directly to the importance of the person offended.’



God’s plan of salvation is revealed from the start, proclaimed by the book of Genesis immediately after the account of the Fall; the promise of a saviour who is to be born of a woman and who will conquer Satan. The redemptive incarnation of the Son of God made man, born of the Virgin Mary is the fulfilment of that promise. St John’s Gospel proclaims that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that all men who believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.’ Christ entered the world to be that Saviour for whom generations had longed. He fulfilled the prophecies which had been made of Him in the Old Testament: Jesus is the awaited Messiah, whom St John the Baptist hailed as the Lamb of God, who had come to take away the Sin of the World. In this way, he recognised Jesus as the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah in his description of an innocent and spotless lamb, offered in sacrifice: ‘the punishment, the price of our peace, has fallen upon him, and by his bruises we have been healed.’

The New Testament demonstrates that the goal of the Incarnation, its profound purpose, is our redemption: ‘ The Son of Man is come to find and to save that which was lost,’ as St Luke’s Gospel proclaims; ‘Christ came into the world to save sinners,’ as St Paul put it in his first letter to Timothy.


St Augustine addresses the question of whether God could have saved us by any other means than the sacrifice of His Son: ‘God, to whose power all things are equally subject, had the possibility of using another means, but there was none so fitting for our misery and our healing.’

By offering Himself in Sacrifice, Christ has effectively shown the depths of His love for us. ‘Nothing was more important for the re-kindling of hope in us than showing us how much God loves us,’ St Augustine says. As Christ Himself said: ‘There is no greater love than to give your life for the one you love.’ From the height of the Cross, Jesus draws all men to Him. St Thomas Aquinas explains that ‘our charity is revealed at its maximum in this mystery,’ and he cites St Augustine: ‘If we have delayed in coming to love Him, let us not now delay in returning love for His love.’

The sacrifice of Christ is the perfect oblation which corrects the disorder of sin and re-establishes man in the divine friendship. The satisfaction brought by Christ in the offering of His sacrifice on the Cross is perfect because, on the one hand, He is truly man: Christ suffers in His humanity and offers Himself as a victim in the place of all us poor sinners; and on the other hand because He is truly God, this satisfaction has an infinite value; it has the power to make reparation for all the sins of man. Clearly, this is not a sacrifice limited by the status of being a created being, as any sacrifice we could offer would be. Rather, it is an oblation offered by the Son of God, endowed with the divine dignity of the One who offers it: Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

The power of the sacrifice of Christ is so great that its fruits can be applied to the souls of all men, in all places and in all times. That means that the just who were born before Christ entered this world are not saved by some other sacrifice, but are pulled up from Hell by Christ who opens the door of Heaven. Likewise, for us, who were born after Christ accomplished His sacrifice, His saving virtue flashes back on our souls, which are washed of their sins in the blood of Christ. Baptism plunges us into the bath of regeneration in the Passion of Christ, so that we are sanctified, and accomplish our Easter in Him: that is to say, our passage from death to life. Dead to sin, we are born into new life as children of God, destined for life in Heaven. The Sanctifying Grace that we receive at our Baptism is the germ of eternal life which prepares us for the glorious life in Heaven. This germ has a vocation to grow; grace taking root in our soul, increasing as our supernatural life grows. The sacraments, which are all founded on the Passion of Christ, have a decisive role here, as they increase sanctifying grace in our souls, assuring our growth in Christ, until we attain that sanctity which is God’s desire for us. Moreover, each of them has its own sacramental grace, which is proper to it.

Baptism, for example, causes us to be reborn as children of God. Confirmation ensures our growth, so that we may become adults, and making us capable, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to witness to our Faith, even to the extent of martyrdom.

Should we lose the divine friendship by committing a mortal sin, the sacrament of penance applies the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice to our soul, so as to heal us and restore us to the State of Grace. The sacrament of penance also washes away all our venial sins, and endows us with the specific graces necessary for spiritual combat.

The sacrament of the Eucharist is the substantial food that nourishes our soul and stops it from growing weak just as normal food is necessary to sustain our body. It is the way-bread, the food of pilgrims who pass through this world with their eyes fixed on their heavenly home.

The sacrament of Matrimony sanctifies human marriages, so that they may be filled with the presence of Christ, just as the marriage at Cana was. In this sacrament, a man and a woman are united indissolubly, and obtain the graces they need to fulfil their duties as spouses and as parents.

Extreme Unction, which is also called the sacrament of the sick, gives our soul the necessary support when we are so ill that we are near to death. This sacrament prepares us to die well, and may also, if such be the Divine Will, restore us to health, so that we may resume our pilgrimage here below for as long as God wants us to do so.

Finally, the sacrament of Holy Orders obtains for the Church bishops and priests who are called to act in Persona Christi (in the person of Christ) for the sanctification of the Christian people. Pope Pius XII explained this noble reality of the priesthood: ‘It is the same Priest, Jesus Christ, whose role the minister truly shares. If in truth the priest is assimilated into the Sovereign Priest, on account of his sacerdotal ordination, he thereby has the ability to act in the power of Christ Himself, whom he represents.’ St Thomas Aquinas makes it clear: ‘Christ is the source of all priesthood; since the priest of the Old Law is a figure of Christ and the priest of the New acts in the person of Christ.’

In particular, priests offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the unbloody renewal of the Sacrament of the Cross on the Altar. It is the heart and the summit of their priesthood. In doing this, they are obeying the command given by Christ to His Apostles: ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Do this: it is not just a matter of remembering, but of accomplishing in the person of Christ, the same actions and words which on that Thursday evening Christ used in celebrating the first Mass. It is a matter of offering the bread and wine changed into His Body and Blood for the remission of sins. This change is called Transubstantiation, to signify that it is the entire substance of the bread which is changed into His Body, and the entire substance of the wine which is changed into His Blood.*

(*Translator’s note: of course, each of the bread and the wine is entirely changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Blessed Lord – as is stated below)

Nothing remains of the bread and the wine, except their external appearances, which we observe via our senses. We call these the ‘accidents’ of bread and wine, to distinguish them from the substance that has given way to the Body and Blood of Christ. To describe this presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the Church uses the term Real Presence, so as to be quite clear that we are not talking of some symbolic presence, but of the presence of the Person of Christ, living and complete in the sacrament.

The Real Presence distinguishes the Eucharist from all of the other sacraments, for while they all obtain grace for us, only the Eucharist gives our souls the author of that grace, Our Lord Jesus Christ. That treasure is won for us by the celebration of the Mass, which was instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ on the evening of Maundy Thursday, so as to make His sacrifice present to the end of time, and to give us the Bread of Life, the Real Presence of Our Lord among us, and the food of our souls.

The Mass allows each one of us to enter into a personal and immediate contact with the redeeming sacrifice, the source of our salvation.

The double consecration of the Body and the Blood manifests that Christ died on the Cross, immolated for our sins: His Body and His Blood were separated, for He poured out the very last drop of His Blood. One sole consecration would have sufficed to obtain the Real Presence of Our Lord, since Jesus is present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in each of the consecrated species. Nonetheless, there is a double consecration at every Mass, first the bread, and then the wine, so as to make clear in a mystical fashion the separation of the Body and the Blood which happened on the Cross: the immolation of Christ who died for our sins.

However, the Mass is not absolutely identical to Calvary. Yes, it is the same victim who is offered – Christ – and it is the same priest who offers it – Jesus Christ through the actions of the minister who is acting in His Person; but the manner of offering the Sacrifice differs: the Sacrifice of Calvary was bloody, and the Sacrifice of the Mass is unbloody. Christ does not suffer and die in the Mass: that is Catholic doctrine as affirmed by the Council of Trent. ‘In the divine sacrifice which is accomplished in the Mass, this same Christ who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross, is present and offers Himself in an unbloody fashion.’

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is living, in that glorified state which is His since the Resurrection. It is precisely because Jesus is living in the Eucharist that this sacrament is life-giving to our souls, and makes the life of Christ live in us, so that whoever receives Holy Communion can say, with St Paul: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ who lives in me.’


Meditation no 9: At the foot of the Cross stood Mary, His Mother

Introduction: The Gospel affirms the presence of Mary at Calvary

Jesus, seeing His mother, and the disciple whom He loved, said to His Mother: ‘Woman, behold your Son.’ Then He said to the disciple: “Behold your mother.’ And from that day, the disciple took her into his home. (John 19, 26)

1          ‘At the foot of the Cross’ The Co-Redemption is the real meaning of Mary’s presence at the sacrifice of her Son.

Objection: Mary, like all mankind, is saved by Christ: therefore she cannot save with Him.

For example: The eye cannot see itself.

Answer: Mary is saved by Christ.

Mary is saved by Christ, she needs the Cross in order to be at friendship with God, definitely. But this salvation is applied to the Blessed Virgin in a different way to us. We are saved by being cured (grace makes us well again), while Mary is saved by being preserved from sin (grace preserves her).

Example: She does not attain health by medicine; she is in good health from the very start.

Explanation: Salvation takes place in two ways.

There is nonetheless a relationship between the two ways of being saved. Christ wanted first of all to redeem Mary (she is the first to be saved) and then, with her, involving her in His activity, he allows her to participate in His saving work.

Example: A mountain guide sets out to find some walkers, lost in a storm. On setting out, he meets someone who is not lost but is waiting for him. He takes that person with him to help him find the others. It is still the guide who is the only person who can save them: it is he who knows the path and leads them back to it, but both of them are involved in accompanying the lost walkers back to the safety of the house.

Even though Salvation is One Work

Redemption, salvation, is one act of Christ, the Saviour of all mankind; that is the salvation of Mary and of all of the rest of us. At the foot of the Cross, Mary is not saving herself, nor is she creating an alternative redemption. Her salvation comes from Christ. But in assisting Him, she also gains merit, alongside him, for all of the rest of us.

Analogy

In our Christian life, the first grace is always a gift, freely given and unmerited. However, all the others will be given to us if we love God, freely, willingly and with all our human strength. So we become co-operators of grace in ourselves, we work out our own salvation. For Mary, it is the same thing but on a larger scale. The first grace, completely freely-given, was the Immaculate Conception. Then by her own efforts, she united herself to that grace, so as to become a co-operator in the salvation of all. That is the Co-Redemption.

Important precision: it is not the same grace of salvation merited by Christ and by Mary.

The grace which Mary merits for us at the foot of the Cross is not like the grace that Christ merits. Jesus is, in fact, the Head of all humanity, and He is God; the grace which He obtains is absolutely not for Him: He has no need of it. When Jesus forgives from the Cross, opens heaven to the good thief, calls souls to His love, that is a gift of mercy. Whereas the grace merited by Mary is a call to mercy: not the magnificent gift of the Head. But it is the humble present of the handmaid, who takes what she has to give from the Head, and benefits from it herself.

Example

The moon reflects the light of the sun: it is from the sun that the moon takes its light.

Conclusion of this section

In brief, the Co-Redemption does not obscure the Redemption: it is its brightest reflection. It shows how God’s goodness is so great that He wishes others to give alongside Him. It is not enough for Him to be a generous Father, He wants others to open their hands to distribute His blessings with Him.

Spiritual Application

God is also calling us to that greatest of all goods: the salvation of all. Let us seek out in our own lives those places where the Cross is to be found, where His love is awaiting us, to transform suffering into growth, poverty into treasure, death into life, and earth into Heaven.

2          Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your Mother: the meaning of the Co-Redemption is found in the divine maternity of Mary.

Now that we have accepted the reality of this Co-Redemption, there is another objection to answer.

Objection: Mary distributes graces, but she does not acquire them

Mary may well apply the graces she receives by assisting at the Cross, but she is nothing more than the distributor, never the cause. She plays a role in the dispensation of graces (the subjective redemption which considers what each person receives) but she has no power to acquire that grace (the objective redemption, which is the work accomplished by Christ).

Answer: God does not only wish to give goodness, but also to give the capacity to do good.

God does not just seem generous. He truly is. He gives us all good things, but as we have already said, He also gives us the capacity to do good things ourselves.

That means that He calls us to work towards our salvation, just as He commanded man to make the earth fruitful by his work. As St Augustine put it, God created you without your co-operation, but He will not save you without your co-operation.

Mary is truly a cause in the Redemption, just as she is in the Incarnation.

In the case of Mary, as well as her eminent place in the order of grace exemplified by the Immaculate Conception, it is in the light of her divine Maternity that we understand her role in the accomplishment of Salvation.

Her Maternity accompanies Christ from His conception to the end, because it is a divine maternity

In fact, there is a greater love still: to give one’s life for the person one loves. This self sacrifice is what Christ accomplishes perfectly on the Cross; and the martyrs have copied Him; apostles, bishops, priests having given their lives for the sheep entrusted to them. How, then, could one even imagine that the most perfect of saints, the Blessed Virgin, should not have this crown of the supreme offering? How could one doubt that it is at the foot of the Cross that she accomplishes it?

And there is more: because she is the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church, giving human life to the Son of God, and bringing divine life to the Church, how could we hesitate to believe that her maternity is fulfilled in this Co-Redemption, where her Son Jesus becomes, by His Passion, the first-born of a multitude of brothers?

Comparison with St Theresa

St Theresa of the Child Jesus, enfolded in the hidden life of Carmel, felt called to a significant action, a true work of help for the missionaries. Was that the simple idealism of a young religious? No: the Church has in fact authenticated that mission of St Theresa’s declaring her the patron saint of the Missions. In the same way, we can understand that Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of Salvation, that is Jesus, is truly she who gives eternal life, who gives salvation, just as she gave earthly life to Christ.

Scriptural Illustration

We find in the Scriptures a parallel between two expressions used by Christ and Mary. First, when she accepts the Angel Gabriel’s message, Mary says: ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word.Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

And in the Agony in the Garden of Olives, Jesus says, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass by me. However, not my will, but thy will be done.’ Pater, si fieri potest, transeat a me calix iste, verumtamen non mea voluntas, sed tua fiat.

The two phrases are similar, and both reflect the same spritual attitude: submission to the will of God, the desire to place oneself entirely at the service of His plan of love and salvation.

Spritual Application

Let us ask Mary, the Co-Redemptrix, to help us to direct our hearts towards God so that we may be ready to do His will.

New Objection: Nothing can be added to the work of Christ.

But then, what is she adding to the salvation achieved by Jesus?

Answer: The work of Christ is perfect and achieved; nonetheless, Mary co-operated with it.

Mary adds nothing to the Redemption; or at least, nothing substantial, nothing extra… but perhaps a quality, an ambiance: that of a sympathetic humanity. Clearly, Jesus could not sympathise with Himself: He was the one suffering, hurting. So one dimension of human suffering was borne by Mary at the foot of the Cross: suffering the hurt of those whom we love.

Also, Mary was accomplishing at Calvary the mystery of the new Eve, showing how Christ is the new Adam, the definitive and perfect head of humanity. Beside Him is a woman, of the same flesh, and who, paradoxically, has taken her supernatural life from Him (whilst it is she who gave Him His natural life). In that way, Mary shows us a woman, faithful, strong and sensitive, who is that half of humanity, who is associated with the unique Saviour, with the head of the redeemed, with the perfect, though not solitary, man who is the First Born of God and of the elect of the earth.

The disciple took her into his home: the fulfilment of the Co-Redemption is the Church.

The Gospel passage we quoted ends with St John’s welcoming of Mary into his home. Here we touch on the final aspect of the Co-Redemption: its ecclesial dimension.

Question: How far does the Co-Redemption extend?

Answer: Over all the Church, and more precisely over all those who are saved.

In its declaration Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council reminded us: ‘This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continued to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation... Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked by the Church under the titles of Advocate, Auxiliatrix, Adjutrix, and Mediatrix.’

Illustration: unbelievers protected or converted at the moment of their death by Mary.

There are many stories of astonishing conversions, or sinners repenting at the moment of their death, due to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. That should not surprise us: just as Christ is the Saviour of all, so Mary is the Co-Redeemer of all.

The Church is the privileged place of Salvation, because Mary is at the heart of the Church.

All the same, Mary’s mediation, like Christ’s action, takes place within and through the Church: Mary, of course, was entrusted to one of the apostles, St John, a priest and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.

This welcoming of Mary into the Church also shows us that it is Mary who is at the heart of the Church to build it up and strengthen it. St Luke, before telling us about Pentecost, explicitly states that: “all of them, with one heart, persevered in prayer, with the women, and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.’ (Acts 1, 14)

Spiritual Application
Persevere in prayer: in this time of Pentecost, we have an invitation from Mary, Co-Redemptrix, as well as her example, surrounded by the apostles, in those days of uncertainty and doubt which followed the Ascension. That is a good resolution for our pilgrimage: persevere in prayer.


Conclusion: Prayer of St Ephraim

Let us conclude with a prayer to Mary, the first of the saved, and Co-Redeemer alongside the Unique Saviour:

Sovereign Virgin, Mother of God, health of the whole family of Christians, you never cease to look down on us as a tender mother. You love us as if we were your children, always wanting to cherish us, and bestowing ineffable benefits upon us. You protect us and you save us; watching over us with solicitude, you deliver us from the dangers of temptation, and from the crowds of sinners who surround us. Full of gratitude, we thank you, we celebrate your generosity, and we proclaim your blessings, we sing of your marvels at the top of our voice, and we praise your care, your foresight. We sing hymns to your powerful teaching, and we forever tell of your boundless mercy.

Sovereign Mother of God, who raised the child Jesus Christ, our Saviour, I place all my hope in you, who are above all the powers of heaven. O Virgin, symbol of purity, strengthen me by your divine grace. Be my guide in this life and lead me according to the will of your great Son, our God. Obtain for me the remission of my sins, be my refuge and my protection, my deliverance and the hand that guides me to eternal life.

May your heart be moved on my account: for are you not the Mother of a God who is all-good? Look with bounty upon me, welcome my prayer with favour, answer my request, and quench my thirst. Unite me to my family, to my companions in service, with all men of peace, in the sanctuary of the just, in the choir of the saints.

Amen.
Meditation no 3

And the Word lived amongst us.

Summary:

1 The baptism: a humiliation for Our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Christ was baptised as an example: it is His blood that will purify us

3 Christ sanctifies the waters by His baptism

4 The ease of accessing Baptism

5 Baptism makes us adopted sons of God

6 Baptism makes us capable of the Beatific vision of the Trinity

7 By baptism we are incorporated into Christ

8 Baptism enables us to offer the sacrifice of the Mass in union with the priest

9 Baptism does not remove concupiscence

10 The rites of exorcism in Baptism

11 After Baptism, spiritual combat is essential

12 Fasting: the foundation of the spiritual combat

13 Temptation by the Devil

14 The principle of spiritual combat


Dear Pilgrims

If the Word of God, that is the second person of the Blessed Trinity, the eternal Son of God, was incarnate in order to become what the Bible calls the Son of Man, having taken His flesh from the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was also so that He could become an example of perfection for us to follow. All the saints took Christ as their model, and in that way, they have become for us examples of a life united to Christ – and therefore, a successful life. Nonetheless the one supreme and ultimate example to follow is Christ Himself.

1            The baptism: a humiliation for Our Lord Jesus Christ

Therefore, let us contemplate Christ being baptised in the River Jordan. That is, the river called in Hebrew נהר הירדן, Nehar haYarden, which means the river of Sorrow, or even, the river of Judgment. The fact is that Jesus Christ became man to take our sins upon Himself, and He went down into the river of pain and judgement in our place, as the prophet Isaiah said : (53 : 4& 5) Truly, ours were the sorrows He bore, etc….

By his baptism, Christ was already announcing that He had come to redeem that humanity which He had freely assumed when He became man. St Gregory of Nazieance tells us that Christ was baptised so as to submerge and destroy the entire old man, so that the condemned humanity He had come to save could be washed clean of its sins. Let us notice how simple is this means of salvation which God gives us to wash away original sin, and how much it cost Our Lord Jesus Christ , in terms of humiliation and sorrow.


2 Christ was baptised as an example: it is His blood that will purify us

Clearly, Christ was not baptised for His own sake, since as He is God, He could not have the slightest stain of sin. That is what John the Baptist was affirming when he said ‘It is I who should be baptised by you,’ for he recognised the Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. It was, rather, to set us an example of what we should do, that Jesus was baptised; for it always pleased Him to make His teaching alive, and therefore to teach us not just by words but also by His actions, as every good teacher will.

Jesus did not tell John he was mistaken; He merely said ‘Let it be thus for this hour; ‘ which makes us think of two things. Firstly, Our Lord recognises that it is indeed He who should be baptising, because it is He who takes away the sins of the world. Secondly, Jesus talks about ‘this hour’ as opposed to ‘his hour’ about which He talks repeatedly throughout the Gospels, and in particular when He says to His blessed Mother at Cana ‘my hour is not yet come’ and again before his Passion, ‘the hour is come when the Son of Man must be glorified.’ The hour of Christ, then, is the hour when He redeems humanity by His sorrowful Passion. So Jesus makes it clear that John’s baptism is just for this hour, but the hour will soon come, the hour for the Son of Man, when He will pour out His blood, that mystical water which will wash mankind clean of all its sins.

3 Christ sanctifies the waters by His baptism


So Christ was baptised to set us an example. Moreover, St Augustine teaches us not only that the water of St John the Baptist’s baptism had nothing whatsoever to give to Christ, but also that it was Christ who gave water the purifying power it exercises in Christian baptism. ‘His mother, Mary, gave birth to the Son of God, and she is chaste; water washed Christ, and it was sanctified.’ In fact, any water whatsoever is valid for baptism, because God is thirsty for our salvation, so He puts the very simplest means at our disposal. Likewise, any person whatsoever, even a non-Catholic, can baptise a person in danger of death; it is enough that he do
what the Church requires, and that he do it deliberately (not accidentally). Even if the person does not believe the Catholic faith, as long as he wishes to do what the Church demands for the imposition of this sacrament, and says the words ‘ I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ then he truly baptises.

4 The ease of accessing Baptism

Notice the generosity of our God. He thinks only of our salvation, and makes it so accessible that it is a true affront to His love to delay baptising infants so that they can choose later on. Do you wait for your children’s opinion before feeding them? Do you realise that baptism is the only sure way that we know of to gain access to paradise, to the beatific vision? The case of children who die before baptism has never been given a categorical and definitive answer by the Church; for if such children have not committed any sin, then they do not merit hell; nonetheless since they are not baptised, they are still marked by Original Sin which prevents them from entering Paradise and seeing God face to face. If parents are invited to entrust their children to the mercy of God, they are even more strongly invited not to delay the baptism of their children, which should take place soon after their birth.

5 Baptism makes us adopted sons of God

The baptism of the Son of God made man, is unique. We are all baptised in Jesus Christ, as we say in the Creed: ‘ I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.’ Baptism incorporates us into the humanity redeemed by Christ. It is in Jesus Christ that we are saved. In the Son of God, we are made adopted sons of God. When, at His baptism, the heavens opened to allow the Holy Spirit to descend in the form of a dove, it wasn’t for the sake of the Son of God, who from all eternity lives in the unity of the Holy Spirit, but rather for us; so that by baptism we might have that same Holy Spirit, and He could lead us to grow from virtue to virtue. Also, when God the Father said; “this is my beloved Son’ he was talking, in the strictest sense, of His Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, but also, in the broader sense, of all the baptised, who by baptism become adopted sons of God, in Jesus Christ.

6 Baptism makes us capable of the Beatific vision of the Trinity

Finally the baptism of the Son of God reveals the whole Trinity. The Father acknowledges His Son, and the Holy Spirit comes to rest upon Him. In fact, baptism makes us capable of the beatific vision of the Trinity, so it was fitting that at the baptism of Our Lord, the Trinity was revealed – at the very moment of the institution of the first sacrament that gives us access to it.


7 By baptism we are incorporated into Christ

Baptism makes us adopted sons of God, by the baptismal character which marks the baptised with the eternal seal of a child of God. By that we are incorporated in the Church which is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ. Baptism, by incorporating us into Christ’s body, gives us the power to act in union with Christ.

8 Baptism enables us to offer the sacrifice of the Mass in union with the priest

The highest action in which the baptised person can act with Christ is that of offering to God an acceptable sacrifice of adoration. Only those baptised are able to unite themselves efficaciously with the Sacrifice of the Mass, offered by the priest to the whole Trinity. This possibility, not of replacing the priest, but of intentionally uniting with him to offer the only sacrifice acceptable to God, is called ‘the priesthood of the faithful.’ That is why, in the early centuries, the catechumens were required to leave the Church just after the Gospel, as they were unable to unite themselves with the Sacrifice of Christ, which is the Mass.

What a grace to be able to offer oneself with Christ on the cross at the moment of the Offertory. Nothing is more pleasing to God, nothing unites us more closely to God, than the Sacrifice of the Mass, and nothing can obtain more grace for us than the Mass. You who are baptised, see how much you are loved by God, see how lucky you are! Be worthy of that!

Transition: After His baptism, the Gospel tells us, Christ ‘was led by the Spirit into the desert, there to be tempted by the Devil.’ The Venerable Bede teaches us how the crossing of the Red Sea by the Hebrews signified their liberation from the yoke of sin, but that this liberation also took place during the chosen people’s long wandering in the desert, which lasted for forty years of hardship and struggle. In the same way, the baptism which washes us clean of Original Sin and of all personal sin, is immediately followed by spiritual struggle. That is why, straight after His baptism, Jesus was led into the desert.

9 Baptism does not remove concupiscence

In just the same way, we too, after we have been washed clean of Original Sin by baptism, in order to be reconciled with our Creator, we too have to fight with all our strength to stay united with Him. For our human nature remains wounded; it always tends to the evil of not seeking God alone, and always tends to the disorder of seeking its own ends apart from God. That is what we call concupiscence.

10 The rites of exorcism in Baptism

Before the rite of baptism itself, we were exorcised by the priest. For the child is born subject to the rule of Original Sin, and therefore to the Devil. These exorcisms enable the breaking of the Devil’s rule over the child, and so allow the baptism itself to wash away Original Sin. Despite all that, the child is still not free to run straight to God, because his will is still attached to his passions. This disordered attachment tends to want to satisfy its own desires rather than do everything possible to unite itself to God by doing good; and that tendency is what we call concupiscence. The word comes from the Latin, and means ‘tending towards our immediate desire,’ (and therefore easily obtained). So concupiscence is opposed to the union with God, which is more distant and harder to obtain. That is why it constitutes what St Thomas Aquinas called the ‘Fomes peccati’, that is to say, the hearth of sin. It is not actual sin, but a tendency to want to satisfy ego-based desires , rather than seeking God and everything that can unite us to Him, because that is the purpose of our life and the only thing which can finally satisfy us.

11 After Baptism, spiritual combat is essential

Therefore Jesus, in order to teach us how to overcome this concupiscence, chose to undergo temptations, just as we all do. Further, The Imitation of Christ reminds us that ‘this fragile life is nothing but temptation and continual strife.’ Also, to confront that, Jesus went out into the desert, for it is above all in solitude that the devil seeks us out to tempt us. He insists on the fact that nobody can see us. For the Devil even a crowd can become a desert, as long as nobody can recognise us there. However, what sin can remain hidden from God?


12 Fasting: the foundation of the spiritual combat

Nonetheless, St Chrysostom tells us: ‘Our Lord began by fasting, not because he needed to fast, but to teach us how excellent it is, what a shield it offers us against the Devil’s guiles, and also that, after our baptism, we should not dedicate ourselves to pleasure, but to the mortification of the senses.’ The pleasures of the senses are there to help us to build friendships with people like us, but we must watch over them with extreme vigilance, because before we know it, they quickly take first place in our lives, and we end up simply pursuing our own ego-driven passions.

13 Temptation by the Devil

The devil always tries to gain souls cheaply, that is to say, with the weakest temptations. Then his victory is all the greater, because he can damn souls, making them lose the infinite God, for things that even on this earth are insignificant. So it was that the Devil having failed to make Jesus fall by way of hunger, then proceeded to the temptation of vain glory: which is a much more potent temptation. It is relatively easy to do without our bodily necessities, but it is not easy to renounce our spiritual pride. And so, Jesus was taken to the heights of the temple, for the Devil loves to flatter us, to puff us up with pride, to make us believe that we are the best in the world. That strategy only aims to make us fall further and to be overcome by greater shame. Imagine the shame of losing heaven for one wretched bottle of wine, as the Curé d’Ars said.

Finally, the Devil pretends to offer Jesus power, for he does not know that He is the Son of God. This temptation is very interesting because it helps us to understand that usurped power, unhealthy ambition, is a lie, and is always aimed at making a slave of the person to whom such power is promised. Creation belongs to God, but the Devil can give us the illusion of becoming its masters on condition that we adore him instead of God, and thus become his slaves. Christ answers this firmly, saying: ‘Away with thee, Satan!’ teaching us always to rise up and defend the honour of God, who alone is worthy of all honour and all glory!


14 The principle of spiritual combat

The principle is never to want anything, whatever it may be, more than God; and because of our passions, that becomes a real struggle. Consider this reflection by Father Lamennais: ‘Man’s life on earth is a constant struggle against the Devil, against the world, and against himself. Some retire to the cloister to resist them more easily; others remain in the midst of the world. But none can conquer, except by constant vigilance. The habit of reflection, the love of retreat, constant attention to one’s words, one’s thoughts, one’s feelings, fidelity to the lightest of duties and the most humble of practices, save us from the greater temptations and attract graces from heaven. Whoever neglects the little things will fall little by little, says the Holy Spirit.

Meditation 4: And we saw His glory

There was a wedding feast in Cana, in Galilee.’

It was by the sign worked at the marriage feast that Jesus entered the public arena, and chose to manifest His Divinity and His Mission for the first time. He allowed His Mother, Mary, to instigate this: a miracle.

However, this miracle which is now so well-known was performed with great discretion. The conversation Jesus had with His Mother was private, and nobody saw the moment the miracle took place. Even the Evangelist himself did not see it.

Neither the guests, nor the master of the feast, nor the newly-weds were aware of what was going on. It was only the servants who knew that where there had once been water, there was now wine. A young guest had asked them to fill the pitchers with water, and they were now full of wine. And the feast went on. And Jesus returned to His Mother.

The Gospel tells us that He revealed His glory, but only the disciples saw His glory shine forth: ‘His disciples believed in Him.’ Jesus did not do this for the sake of the crowd of guests, but for His own small band. Just as will always be the case, the least miracle is always, first and foremost, a sign: what is given to be seen, is first of all given to be believed.

The significance of that wedding feast at Cana far surpasses the provincial context of that country wedding. It was meant for whoever has eyes to see, for whoever can apply some theological thinking, for John the Evangelist, and perhaps for us, who are reflecting on it today.

St John understood that Jesus was starting His preaching from the very point where the prophets of the Old Testament had ended theirs: the marriage of God to His people.

Before the coming of Jesus, before His Incarnation, Humanity had no wine. The wine that Jesus brings is the wine of grace, which quenches, disinfects and heals; that same good wine which the Samaritan poured on the feet of the man left for dead by the side of the road; the wine of justice and mercy.

Jesus did not want to make the wine out of nothing, but out of the water in the pitchers brought by the servants. In the same way, His mission is not to create something new out of nothing, but rather to bring the old covenant to perfection, and restore mankind to God. The new Covenant, drawn from this new wine, which is the blood of Christ, is the wedding ring of God and His people. The young wife changes her name from now on, she takes the name of her husband from the day of their marriage. Now she is called the Bride of Christ.

A new love is carved in the midst of this alliance: its name is charity. Charity is the nuptial bond between Christ and the Church. Whoever fails to understand that has not understood the Church at all, nor the Christian life. To reduce the Church to its history, or its sociology, or to reduce Catholics to their failures and infirmities, is to remain on the outside. When one does not look at the interior reality of things, even the outside remains incomprehensible. There are people who are capable of mixing an excellent Bordeaux wine with water – or even with Coca Cola! And a wine that is kept for too long without being drunk, turns to vinegar. In the same way to look at the Church with any look other than Christ’s is to fail to understand the wine of Charity, the mystery of the Church.

But if one does look within, one discovers a more subtle wine. Such is the nectar of a spiritual marriage, the wine of the marriage of Christ and the soul. This is not a wine only for the initiated: it is offered to everyone.

The marriage of Christ to the soul is the vocation of every Christian. By the very fact of his baptism, he is promised that marriage, the bond is sealed. The marriage is the baptismal grace, which conquers like love, like a personal story. God desires to live in that soul.

And so we must look after that soul, make it habitable, not create an unpleasant impression for the Bridegroom when He crosses the threshold, as if we had forgotten that He was invited, as if nothing is ready, with disorder everywhere so that we have to improvise everything at the moment of His arrival.

How many times must the Bridegroom of the soul put up with the incoherence of His bride! Of course, she is not a bad girl, but she is a little superficial and ungrateful. She speaks before thinking, and acts before praying. Instead of drinking of her husband’s rich win of charity, we see her get drunk on watery beer and cheap plonk. The groom awaits: He is patient. So why had you left already? Where were you? Is this the time for you to come back? I had prepared something for you, I had so many things to say to you!

‘There was a Wedding feast at Cana in Galilee…’

Blessed are those invited to the Lamb’s feast!

The wine which He serves comforts us. This wine is the Blood of the Lamb, sacrificed on the altar of the New Covenant.

Today, Jesus is calling us to the wedding feast of the soul: we were water – may He make wine of us.

The Raising of the Widow’s Son. (Christ’s compassion for our human nature)

When Jesus works a miracle, it is to reveal something to us. He doesn’t just return someone to life in order to return him to life; or heal someone simply to heal him. It is also to reveal to us that He is the Life; that He can heal. The truth is, that He returns someone to life in the way that only God can; He heals in the way that only God can.

That is why each one of His miracles has a theological aspect; after Cana, we see in the raising of the widow’s son at Naim another reality made visible.

It is also a reminder, a re-visiting of the Old Testament. With every miracle, Jesus makes us recall this passage from the prophet Isaiah: ‘We will see the glory of the Lord, the splendour of our God, and the eyes of the blind will see, and the ears of the deaf will be opened, the lame will leap like a stag, and the mutes’ mouth will sing out with joy. Those whom the Lord has saved will return.’ Once again we are seeing here the glory of the Lord, the divinity of Jesus. The sick are healed and the dead are brought back to life, and they return because they have been ransomed.

The purpose of this miracle is to show forth the glory of the Lord. Jesus makes the bed-ridden dance, makes the dead walk, and the theological resonance is to show that redemption has come.

Our healing is being accomplished: that is the lesson that Jesus is teaching. His purpose is to manifest the mystery of God, and His teaching is to make us understand that our redemption is accomplished.

Nonetheless, this healing, destined for all, must be made little by little, and gently, for there are some medicines which are so powerful that they risk killing the sick person. That is why the public aspect of the miracles differs. Often, Jesus forbids people from talking about them, and He performs the miracle almost in passing, discretely. He forbids people from talking, but that is in vain, because everyone will talk about a miracle.

Notice how Jesus proceeds here. He is first of all moved with compassion for this mother, the mother of an only son. He too knows what it is to be the only Son of His mother.

The mother was a widow: the Fathers of the Church have seen in this mother the Church; the Church which accompanies man, who is afflicted by the death of sin for the whole of his terrestrial journey. The Church, which enables man to encounter the grace of the Resurrection: the Church, our mother.

The miracles of Jesus are worked with great discretion, and Jesus reveals who He is progressively. First, to the Chosen People, Israel; only afterwards to the rest of the world. He moves from the inmost to the outermost. In fact there is one people chosen: the whole of humanity, chosen by God. But because so vast a love is incomprehensible for our dry and hardened hearts, God chose first of all, in order to teach us, to realise His plan of salvation initially through a specific people: Israel, and then to expand it. It is therefore true that the Church is the chosen people, following on from the election of the people of Israel. And Jesus’ purpose was to show that salvation is already underway.

His habitual way of doing that is by miracles. And a miracle is always concrete. Jesus gives life back to the soul by way of the body. And He does it with authority. He draws near, He touches the coffin, the coffin-bearers stop, and He says: ”young man, I say to you, arise!’ And immediately the dead man got up. Jesus likes to operate like this: He doesn’t save at a distance, but by grasping the young man. And it is clear that everyone in the funeral procession recognised Jesus’ authority. In the same way, one does not invent one’s God, one’s religion, or one’s Church. One does not pardon oneself. One receives forgiveness from someone else. Resurrection is received.

And Jesus stops the procession, touches the coffin, and returns the son to His mother. Everything is received from Him. There is always a great danger in constructing a religion that is distant and cerebral, where everything is arranged with a God who never has to put Himself out.

Jesus is seized by compassion: and thus he shows us His human nature; He works the miracle, and thus He shows us His Divine Nature; for God alone is the master of life and death.

This miracle restores Faith: everyone said, God has visited His people.

Faith is not complete unless it is spoken, confessed, proclaimed. The Christian cannot be clandestine: he must proclaim the Faith that lives in his soul. The Christian who is unmoved by another, or who hides the fact that he is a Christian, is a dead Christian.

This page of the Gospel is really vivid: the gates of the city, the funeral procession, the only son, the weeping mother, and lots of people. And Jesus halts this dignified and emotional crowd. He wants to demonstrate that from now onwards, salvation is close at hand, with means that are both more divine and more human. And He demonstrates it in His own person. God is not a distant God: He has the face of Jesus, and is full of compassion. That is at the same time both unexpected and embarrassing.

It is easy to ignore an idea. But it is difficult to turn our eyes away from such a look. From now on, our situation with regard to God is a face-to-face encounter.

And a face-to-face encounter is never simple. In short, Jesus shows us that God has made contact with us. Instituting a face-to-face encounter, He also demonstrates it to us in the salvation He offers us, in Him and after Him. It is the Church that leads us on the path to the Resurrection. The Sacraments are realities that accomplish in us what Jesus has inaugurated: an interior resurrection.

And if Jesus’ miracles are so physical, that also serves to remind us that we cannot live as Christians without a real acceptance of the world and of the body. Washed, oiled, nourished, taught and pardoned by a human voice; touched by signs and symbols, gestures and words: all of these things are so physical yet also so spiritual: these are the Church and the Sacraments. They are not mere signposts. They are efficacious signs of our salvation, the realities of our salvation. It was not for nothing that God created us with a body that lives and suffers, that hungers, thirsts, loves and moves. Moreover in heaven our salvation will be perfectly realised with our body duly resuscitated, glorified, and raised to its true greatness. That is our vocation – for all of us.

Let us end with another miracle of Our Lord: His Transfiguration

Fundamentally, the Transfiguration is a foretaste of Heaven. The friendly meeting on Mount Tabor is a prefigurement of the holy friendship which will unite us all in God, without any shadow or pretence. ‘How good and sweet it is for brothers to live together,’ says the Psalmist. ‘It is good for us to be here,’ answers St Peter.

How good it will be for us to be in Heaven, to engage in tireless conversation with Our Lady and the Apostles, the holy martyrs, doctors, confessors and virgins. And above all with Christ Himself! This eternal friendship in Heaven is the fruit of our Saviour’s sacrifice. It is up to us to make our way there, every day and every moment of our life.

The Transfiguration: a model of our own Transfiguration

But finally, by means of this miraculous scene, it is our own transfiguration that Our Lord wishes to teach us. Not that the glory that God has reserved for us should be manifested here below! That would not be very good for our humility…

A change of heart: that is what God wants of us! He will send us His transforming grace, only on condition that we ask for it. It is up to us to make the first step towards Him, because ‘God who created us without us, will not save us without us.’ Our transfiguration is a joint work of nature and grace. It is up to us to desire this transformation of ourselves. Let us not delay in putting this into practice: we should not keep God waiting! It is up to us to help ourselves, to give up our old habits, to flee the daily grind. ‘I have spoken, now I will begin,’ sings the Psalmist

Therefore, as it is never too late to start, let us climb Mount Tabor, to fill ourselves with the presence of God, and ceaselessly sing the glory of our Saviour.

For it is there that Jesus shows forth His glory, and prepares the chosen three apostles for the drama of the Passion.

There is no joy without the Cross.
God takes care of everything we abandon to His care. Let us give Him whatever we have refused to give Him up till now. For, to love is to give everything.


Meditation no 6.

For us men, and for our Salvation (abbé Vincent Baumann, IBP)

In 1946, Pius XII maintained that ‘men no longer remember sin, and thus, one might say, forget their existence.’ (Radio broadcast to the US National Eucharistic Congress at Boston). He saw, in this progressive loss of the sense of sin in the modern West, and above all, in the loss of an understanding of Original Sin, the root of all others, ‘the greatest danger in the present day.’ Because in denying, or in failing to recognise, his sinful state, a human being ceases to understand why he needs a Saviour. He lives, and therefore dies, a long way from Jesus Christ, whom he imagines he can do without, even though ‘there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved.’ (Acts 4:12)


Which is why, as John Paul II emphasised fifty years later, it is so important ‘to reflect, first of all on the truth of (Original) Sin in order to find the true meaning of the truth of the Redemption won by Jesus Christ.’ (Introduction to Catechesis on Original Sin, General Audience, 27 August 1986)

I     Original Sin

Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind’s origins, the Church teaches us (CCC §387). It is, therefore, to the Church that we must turn, in order to understand the evil that prevails in us, and not as Pascal said, to the ‘superb insights of our reason’; otherwise known as our simple natural understanding of reality.

Holy Scripture, the foundation of Revelation, teaches us in this way that which we could not divine for ourselves. Here are the principal lessons, taught us by the first chapters of the book of Genesis.

1                 Humanity before the Fall

Everything started well. So much so that the Creator was delighted with it: God looked on all that He had made and saw that it was very good. (1:31) The first couple were endowed not only with a faultless nature, but also with supernatural gifts, which reinforced the strength of that nature, and also enhanced its beauty. And to crown it all, the supreme gift: the state of grace, which raised Adam and Eve infinitely above their natural state, making them familiar with the Holy Trinity.

And because the Creator wanted to invite humanity into a relationship of love with Him, and not force them into a servile relationship, He also gave them a formidable faculty: free will. And so man was able to accept or refuse the marvellous plan that God had for him. One precept was to prove the free trust that man ought to place in the Creator: the prohibition on eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (2:17)

2                 Man’s first sin

Man, tempted by the Devil…abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. That is what man’s first sin consisted of. (CCC §397) The first sin in human history, therefore, is a sin of disobedience to the divine law, due to a bad use of that liberty with which God had endowed man. How are we to understand this failing? Two factors joined together to push Adam and Eve towards it:

- A loss of trust in God, due to the calumny of Satan, who made Eve believe that the Creator wanted to keep them in an infantile dependence on Him: No, you will not die! God knows, in fact, that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened. (3:5)

- Pride, towards which the Devil pushed them. We should note here the Serpent’s ingenuity, who achieved his ends by flattering a legitimate aspiration of the human being’s. The temptation ‘you will be like gods’ corresponds effectively with the vocation to which God was calling them, as the Catechism suggests (§398) ‘Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully ‘divinised’ by God in glory.’ Only, and this is the problem, Satan invited Adam and Eve to attain that state not by the grace of God and according to His ways, but by seizing if for themselves, by force, with their own hands; ‘without God, before God and not in accordance with God,’ as St Maximus the Confessor summarises it.

The deadly consequences

In that sin, man preferred himself to God, and by that very act, scorned Him. (CCC 398)

St Augustine describes the double movement of that sin like this: ‘aversio a Deo, conversio ad creaturam’ that is to say the simultaneous rejection of God and the turning in on himself and on other created beings.

In practice, that implies: The breaking of friendship with God (Adam hid himself from God afterwards, and God drove him out of the Garden of Eden) and that loss of the supernatural gifts and of sanctifying grace, whose whole purpose was to enable man to live in friendship with God;

And by way of consequence, a wrong relationship with created beings (himself and others) due to a surge in the passions, which would from now on pull him in all directions, obscuring understanding and making it ever more difficult to love the true good. We call this state of our nature, which is since then always inclined to sin, ‘concupiscence.’

II         Original Sin as it is passed on to all of humanity

1          Every human person is affected by Adam and Eve’s sin

By one man’s disobedience, many (that is all mankind) were made sinners. (Romans, 5:19)

There is nothing, Pascal said, which shocks our reason more than to say that the sin of the first man has made those guilty who are so far removed from it and seemingly incapable of participating in it. That consequence seems not only impossible but also unjust.’

Nonetheless, that truth can be understood, if we consider these things:

Firstly: The authentic responsibility with which God endowed Adam and Eve – for the whole human race, of which they were the head. Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.

(CCC §404)

Secondly: the fact that every human being is descended from this single primitive couple (which is called monogenism). In opposition to the theory of polygenism (which suggest that the human race descends from several couples) Tradition has always seen in Adam and Eve more than just a figure of speech, and more than just some moral characters who represent in fact a multitude of primitive couples. On this topic, Tradition has always read the first chapters of Genesis literally. As the Catechism teaches clearly and without ambiguity: ‘from one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.’ (CCC §360)

2       Original Sin in Adam’s descendants

We must be clear that our first parents’ descendants cannot be held accountable for this fallen state. There is no question that God, who never acts in an arbitrary fashion, should consider Original Sin to be a personal fault in each human being, since none of the descendants of Adam and Eve committed that act.

Original Sin is only present in us as a state: by Adam and Eve’s disobedience, we are deprived of grace and the supernatural gifts, and the nature we receive at our conception is damaged. To put it another way, our nature is, from the start, in an inferior state compared to what it would have been if it had never been raised to the state of grace in the first place. As G K Chesterton summed it up in Heretics: ‘Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural.’


That does not mean that our nature is totally destroyed (some beauty remains in it!) but that it finds it easier, alas, to turn to evil than to good, and that the human being is spontaneously inclined to fall into the same error as Adam: to believe, through pride, that he can reach his final end without the help of God.

III The Plan of Salvation: The Redeeming Incarnation.


1                 What do we mean by this?

Happily, the Creator did not leave the Human Race to its sad fate. From amongst the many ways He could have chosen to save us, His Wisdom opted for the plan which made His infinite love for us the clearest: His eternal Son came Himself to pay the debt we had contracted by our sin. In order to do that, He became one of us, so as to share in our human condition, and He endured everything up to and including His sacrifice on the Cross.

The Redeeming Incarnation was the lever which did not simply allow each human being to escape from the rut of sin, but which also raised him up to a higher level than ever before. That is what St Leo the Great explained: The ineffable grace of Christ has given us blessings even better than those which the envy of the devil had denied us.’ That helps us to understand the great Easter chant, the Exultet, when it proclaims: ‘O happy fault, that won for us so great a Redeemer!

2          The choice facing each human being

Because we still retain our free will, as it is more noble for a creature to cooperate with his own salvation than to receive it by force, and so that we may merit to enter one day into glory in the presence of the three Divine persons, God has willed that the salvation of Jesus Christ should be offered to each individual, who may accept or refuse it. That is the choice, ultimately quite simple, which the greatest Christian theologians present us with: to opt for life according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit (St Paul); for the darkness or the light (St John’s Prologue); for the city where ‘the love of God is pursued even at the expense of oneself’, or the city ‘where the love of self is pursued even at the expense of God.’

Today we see the clear proclamation of a proud transhumanism, formalised in 1947 by the biologist Julian Huxley, a eugenicist who was a believer in the redemption of man by way of technology, which he thought could improve the quality of human nature.

In the context of the 2011 Courtyard of the Gentiles, Fabrice Hadjadj questioned those who followed such ideas in these terms: ‘Is man’s greatness found in a technical ability to live a life of ease? Or is it rather found in that tear, in that opening like a cry towards Heaven, in a call to that which completely transcends us?’ (Brief reflection on the Transhuman, 24 March, 2011). He recalled that the word ‘transhumanise’ was coined by Dante, in a completely different context – a Christian one (cf The Divine Comedy). Dante meant that man infinitely surpasses man, to put it in terms Pascal used. That is to say, that he is not fully a man unless he accepts his finite and sinful condition, and unless he understands that he was not created to remain in that state, hitting his head against the walls of his finitude, or distracting himself so as to forget it; but rather, by living in Faith in Jesus Christ, to surrender himself to the Divine work. In that way, and only in that way, can he attain his true stature, which, according to his Creator’s design, is not only human, but humanity divinised. In this we recognise something that St Augustine says: ‘If you (only) love earth, you are earthly; if you love heaven, you are heavenly; and if you love God, you are, in some way, changed into God.’

Is there an image that speaks more eloquently than that of the pierced Sacred Heart; from which blood and water flow, to make us understand in a truly incarnational way that the human person cannot attain the fullness of fruitfulness which God wills for him (and thus become a perfect man) except to the extent that he allows his heart of stone to be transformed into a heart of open flesh, similar to that of Jesus?

‘Jesus, sweet and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!’

Meditation no 7: The Way of the Cross

Practical Note: As in a ‘classic’ Stations of the Cross, one could, with advantage, interrupt this meditation with some periods of silence, or Aves.

Dear Pilgrims They will look upon the One whom they have pierced.’ We must say this in all truth: it is not for nothing that Christ loved us. He showed us in His Passion how, and how much, He loved: to the point of spilling his own blood for us.

It is by way of the Sacred Heart that we can enter into that love of God, given to us, dying for us, on our account. From the Agony in the Garden of Olives to His death on a Cross, the whole Passion of Our lord Jesus Christ, is a call to replace self-love with love.

The look which we should direct to the Cross is also a look of truth, taking into account our status of ransomed sinners, a look full of recognition and love for our Redeemer; a look of compassion, so as to suffer with Him, and achieve in ourselves what is lacking in His Passion, as St Paul says: our participation. So, let us gaze upon our Saviour in that redeeming Passion. Let us share it with Him, offer Him the difficulties of this pilgrimage, unite our sufferings to His, so that our gaze may be a union of souls and of hearts, so as to live with Christ, to live for Christ, and so that Christ may live in us.

The Passion begins in the Garden of Olives, with that terrible agony, where Christ really sees, and takes upon Himself, all the sins ever committed, and all those that will be committed until the end of the world. Dear pilgrims, consider that! Christ, true God and true man, suffers in his spirit all the sins of all men of all times in all places, from the time of Adam and Eve until the end of the world. How could we fail to feel for such suffering? And Christ takes this torrent of filth upon Himself so as to save us from it. Then, after this acceptance that must have been so difficult, the Son submits Himself once again into His Father’s hands. We don’t know it from the Gospels, but isn’t it conceivable that the Psalm recited on the Cross may have already been said in the Garden of Olives?

The Arrest and Trial of Jesus

With the arrest of Jesus, we come to the start of the physical violence that will not stop until the Cross. Gratuitous blows, mockery, devilry all flung at this Prophet who was stirring up all Jerusalem only a few days previously. The blows prompt more violence, as the sight of His flowing blood excites their hatred and blood-lust. It escalates and accelerates. Pilate may have thought that the sight of this Man of Sorrows might move the Jews to pity. Perhaps this bloody body, covered with wounds after the scourging, would stimulate some compassion in their hearts? Nothing of the kind: Crucify Him! Crucify Him! And so the Governor of Judaea frees Barrabas the murderer and allows the innocent man to be condemned. Pilate chooses what is politically correct, he will not stand against the crowd and the Sanhedrin. Jesus of Nazareth will be crucified: the greatest injustice in history is underway.

The Carrying of the Cross

And so Christ, exhausted by a night with no sleep, weakened by the Scourging and the Crowning with Thorns, makes His way through the streets of Jerusalem, which He knows so well. He carries the Cross, which is weighed down with the weight of the sins that are being redeemed. This Cross, carried, accepted, embraced, a sign of infamy, has become the sign of victory: but nobody knows that yet. It is by way of this Cross that redemption will be accomplished. But for now, Christ must carry it on his bloody shoulders. Carry, and not drag; take and receive, but not submit to; and so Our Lord makes of this deadly instrument the means of Redemption. Does the Blessed Virgin, who accompanies her Son on His way, see that far? She is probably suffering too much to think about it, at that moment.

The Falls

Our Lord is going to fall three times on the road that leads to Calvary. Not once, as though by chance, but several heavy falls from which Christ will get up again, each time. Of course He is suffering physically, and the road is rough, but Christ wishes, above all, to teach us to get up after we fall into sin. He wants to teach us that Grace will always be there for us, to help us to carry on, on our march towards Heaven, that He seeks our conversion, not our condemnation, even if we fall repeatedly into the same faults; that we must not lose heart. Dear Pilgrims, let us be docile to that Grace, let us be brave in renouncing our sins, let us not be crushed by the weight of our trials. Let us live with Christ, for we are never alone, and along with the Cross, we will always be given the graces necessary to carry it.

The Meeting with Mary

The hostile, noisy crowd has filled the roads; Christ is surrounded by soldiers and weighed down by the Cross, and yet, in the midst of that, two looks meet. Two forces which support each other, which understand each other. Mary cannot get near, but she fixes her gaze on Him, even from a distance. Suddenly their looks meet. He must have felt the presence of the one who gave Him His body, He knows that she will not abandon Him, that she must be nearby in this time of terrible suffering. More than these two looks, it is two souls that speak to each other, that sustain each other. Each fully shares in the suffering of the other. Mary takes upon herself, as much as is possible, the suffering of Jesus. She shares it with Him, to relieve Him of some of the weight of it. Christ suffers even more, because His mother is suffering, but He accepts her support gratefully. Only Mary can really understand and share with Him what is taking place.

The Support of Simon of Cyrene and Saint Veronica

It was getting hotter and hotter on that April morning in Jerusalem, and Christ was thirsty, as He would say from the Cross. Hit thirst was a torment to Him, but a greater torment was His desire to obtain our repentance, our contrition…. Our true conversion, full and entire. Let us therefore follow the suffering Christ through the roads of Jerusalem as we march on our way to Chartres, in a spirit of penitence and union with the Redemption. We must become Simon of Cyrene, whom the Romans made help the condemned man whom they feared would die too soon. Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was well known in the early Christian communities: the man who helped Jesus to carry His Cross. What an honour! What a grace! Of course he would not have understood that immediately. We have to assume that he wanted to get out of it at first; returning as he was from the country for his meal at home. But the Romans were not going to give way, so he had to give in. And then he probably looked at this man, on the ground, on His way to die, covered with blood and pierced by that terrible crown of thorns. And their eyes met, spoke to each other, understood each other. What must have passed between them as they looked at each other; a glance that converted, which overcame all reservation, all doubts. After that glance, Simon accepts and carries Jesus’ cross. Does not Christ ask the same of us? Does He not look at us with that same love, to lead us to our conversion? So that we, in our turn, may truly look at Him? So that, finally, we may be touched by the look of the Christ of Mercy. Let us not close our eyes, nor turn our head aside: let us have the courage to look at our Redeemer, and then act accordingly…

Along with that support, Our Lord is once again consoled in the midst of his terrible ordeal by another woman. A strong woman, whose Faith makes the crowds part and the guards freeze. A brave woman who couldn’t care what people will say about her or think of her. Ah, that worldly concern, that fear of what others will think, which so often stops us from doing the good that we know we should, from acting for the royalty of Christ in total conformity with our Faith. St Veronica is far better than that: she parts the crowd, ignores the guards, and reaches Jesus. He is on the ground, He has fallen again, and the heavy weight of the wood has bloodied his shoulders, as though the scourging were not enough. Jesus, weak now, struggles to pick Himself up. His face is covered with dried blood, with spittle, with sweat and with dust, making Him hard even to recognise. And so, with a completely female gentleness, she wipes that swollen face with the cloth she carries. She too, like Simon of Cyrene, participates in the Passion, and offers her support to the Lamb that is being led to the slaughter.

But here we must insist on this flash of generosity. Simon was forced to help Christ. But it was love and compassion that gave Veronica that courage and that strength.

Jesus consoles the Women of Jerusalem

Because Jesus, even exhausted, bloodied, and apparently defeated and beaten, is still God the Son, the Incarnate Word, He finds within Himself, in the middle of his trials, the strength to comfort the women of Jerusalem. It is He who consoles them, women who had come to mourn his fate. Jesus points once again to the cause of His sufferings: sin. There is only one reason to weep, and that is the fact that we are poor sinners. The Lord calls them to conversion: ‘Weep rather for yourselves and for your children.’ The divine power of Christ means that He is the master of Life, and whatever men are able to do to Him at this particular moment is only possible because He allows them to do it. So in one way, in effect, ‘they know not what they are doing.’ They do not know that it is this condemned man who is directing it all, who is giving His life, while His torturers think that they are taking it from Him. If the All-Powerfulness of Christ is hidden in that moment, He is still freely giving His life to save us, and that gift surpasses that destruction.

Jesus is stripped of his garments

Christ gets to the top of the hill. If He is not already dead, it is because He has decided not to die yet. His exhaustion is total, inexpressible. And yet, His suffering is not yet over. In fact His torment is just beginning. First, Christ is stripped of His robe. At once, all the wounds of His scourging are reopened. His blood had dried into His robe, and so suddenly our Lord is not only bleeding afresh, but also stripped naked, humiliated, and exposed like a fairground animal. Along with the insults come mockery and sarcasm. That is what the purity and sweetness of the Incarnate Word had to suffer! But once again, Jesus accepts it all, to ransom the display of pornography, to pay the price for the impurity and depravity of all times. And Christ remains silent in the face of all these outrages. There is nothing but silence and prayer, suffering offered in reparation for the offence and the sin.

The Crucifixion

Once He is stripped of His clothes, Christ is seized and thrown onto the wood of the Cross. He is going to be nailed to it. Their understanding of the human body allowed the Romans to know where to place the long nails, to ensure suffering but without ripping the limbs off the body. The crucified man would die of asphyxiation, since He would need to pull on His nailed hands and feet in order to be able to breathe a little. So here are the hammer blows, the nails that pierce hands and feet, severing the nerves. His torturers hold down His arms and His legs so that he cannot withdraw them. Once the condemned man is nailed to the Cross, it has to be stood upright. There is then a terrible jolt as it falls into position in its hole.

Christ has His arms wide open to welcome penitent sinners like the Good Thief. His feet, which walked the roads of Palestine to greet the crowds who went to hear Him, can no longer move. So it is up to us to approach Him. The Cross is set up to reunite Heaven and Earth. And now we see Christ lifted up from the Earth, as He had foretold. And that is also so that our gaze is lifted up towards Heaven. During these hours of agony on the Cross, the Son of God leaves us His final words. This early afternoon is long and drawn out for the Crucified one, but Christ has not completely accomplished His mission yet.

The crowd can now draw near to the condemned men, now that they are on their crosses. Mary is there, dignified in her grief: Stabat Mater Dolorosa. This time, there are words to accompany the mutual gaze of the Mother and her Son. Jesus, stripped of everything, gives us all He has left to give: His Mother. And, mirroring His concern for the widow with no son whom He met at Naim, He entrusts Mary to St John. In that way, the Son of the Father makes us adoptive children and co-heirs of the Father. In that way, too, Christ gives a new maternity to Our Lady. ‘Here is your mother… and the disciple took her to live with him.’ Jesus gives us the enormous gift of His Mother as the ultimate protector: will we be wise enough to accept the gift, and take her into our homes (chez nous) in our turn? To welcome Mary in our spiritual life is to journey towards Christ with a sure guide; it is to share in Our Lord’s life and get to know Him better; it is to love Jesus with the Heart of Mary.

Death on the Cross

Finally, at the time of His choosing, Christ, the Saviour of the world, returns His Spirit to His Father. This death of love of Jesus on the Cross, this Life offered for the salvation of men, fulfils all the prophecies of the Old Testament. Yes, all is accomplished, all is consummated. The Word of the Trinity has known the abasement of becoming man, has come first of all to announce the Good News of our Redemption, and then to bring that Redemption about by His Passion. His earthly mission is accomplished, and He who is the Light of the World conquers the shadows of death and sin, by the offering of love, of His Life on the Cross.

The Cross of torment and infamy, the Cross of condemnation, the supreme weapon of Roman justice at its harshest, becomes on Golgotha the glorious Cross of our Redemption. This object of fear becomes an object of supreme Love. Just when Jesus’ enemies thought they had put an end to the prophet by this humiliating death, the Cross marks the victory of Christ, the victory of Life over death and sin. What had been desolation becomes light and strength. Never let us forget, dear Pilgrims, that the Cross was the sole goal of the Incarnation of the Word. Let us meditate, with St Paul that the divine Word took on the condition of a slave in making Himself a man, and that He chose to die the dreadful death of a rebellious slave in order to make out of it the sign that would attract all men to Him.

Jesus is taken down from the Cross

As evening was drawing in, and Jesus was dead, His body was to be returned to His Mother. Before that, the Centurion pierces the Sacred Heart, and blood and water flow out from it. The Sacramental Life finds its source on the Cross, and then, in reality ‘they will look upon the one Whom they have pierced.’ It is that pierced corpse that is given back to the Virgin of Sorrows. Mary had already suffered with her humiliated Son on the Via Dolorosa. Their meeting has both comforted them and made them suffer. Mary was transfixed by her grief: her soul was pierced like the body of her God, but she did not allow despair to overcome her, nor her emotions to over-ride her Faith. It was her Faith that supported Our Lady. In her alone was there a Faith that did not waver at the foot of the Cross. Mary receives the body of her Son as it is taken down from the Cross. She takes Him in her arms, just as she did in His infancy and childhood. Overcome with maternal love, giving a Mother’s final farewell to her Son, yet in her depths, Mary awaited the Resurrection of the Incarnate Word. A mixture of grief and of Hope, of sorrow and of Faith, in which the Virgin’s virtue overcomes her emotions.

The Placing in the Tomb

It is time, now, to bury the corpse before nightfall. Joseph of Arimathea offers a new sepulchre nearby for the burial of Jesus The rituals of burial will be finished after the Sabbath, by Mary Magdalen and other holy women. That is also a sign that Christ, though He is dead, will not remain so. This tomb will be the sole witness of the Resurrection. The stone rolled across the entrance marks the apparent victory of the Enemy and the guards are there to make sure the body does not disappear. Everything is done to ensure that the Sanhedrin’s intentions are accomplished. No human interventions could make that body disappear: it would take God to resuscitate it.

Tonight there will be exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the camp out beneath the stars. God is with us in the camp. And we are with you in spirit.  Let us go to Him together.


St Athanasius and St Hilary: Defenders of the Faith of the Church

Did you have a son before having given birth?’ the Arian propagandists asked the Fulani women. ‘No, you did not. Well, in the same way, the Son of God did not exist until he was conceived.’ False reasoning, but it does touch the heart of the Christian faith, the very person of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God; and it calls into question both the Incarnation and the Redemption. The Arian crisis broke out in the 4th Century, but we find similar arguments throughout the history of the Church. Didn’t a book come out, just a few years ago, with the revealing title of ‘Jesus: the man who became God’? So it is very educational for us today, to study Arius’ teachings, and above all to see how Providence raised up two great bishops, St Athanasius in the East and St Hilary in the West, to defend the Faith received from the Apostles. Despite the interference of the political powers, their courageous and persistent action allowed the truth to triumph.

The principal points of Arian teaching

With the Edict of Milan, promulgated in 313 by the emperor Constantine, the violent persecution of Christians came to an end. One could have hoped that the Church was going to grow in peace, gradually Christianising society. But opposition to the Faith came to light; denying not Christ’s humanity, as the earliest heresies had done, but His divinity. A rationalist tendency, which challenged the mystery of the Trinitarian God, found its mouth-piece in a priest from Alexandria, Arius.

Around 320, he started to teach openly that the Son was not uncreated, but that He started to exist ‘before all time and centuries’ and that He was made out of nothing. Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, removed him from his post, along with his followers. Arius retreated to be near Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia, one of his early supporters, and got his teaching approved by a synod.

It was during this period of exile that he expressed his ideas in The Thalia (literally, The Feast), a partly versified work; he also composed popular songs which workers and sailors crooned.

For Arius, the Logos (Word) of which St John’s Gospel speaks, is not God by nature, but was created out of nothing, and there was a time when He did not exist. The Son, therefore, is a creature, still distinct from the rest of the created world, an ‘intermediary between God and man – which would mean that the true God was always inaccessible to us’ as Pope Benedict XVI stressed. As the argument quoted in the introduction to this meditation made clear, it was a matter of explaining the mystery of God with human logic and ways of thinking. Notice, too, that it is the same logic which is at work in Islam, when Moslems reproach Christians with associating Christ with God.


The Church’s Response: the ‘consubstantial’ of Nicea

Confronted by these errors, which were dividing Christendom, the emperor Constantine convened an Ecumenical Council in 325, the first in the history of the Church, in the town of Nicea. Reuniting more than three hundred priests, above all from the East, with a few from the West, the Council reaffirmed the Faith of the Church against Arius, and declared Anathema anyone who held with Arius that the Son of God was born of nothing, that there was a time when He did not exist, or that He is a creature, that is a created being. In a solemn profession of faith, the Fathers reiterated an ancient formula of baptismal faith, adding to it that the Son of God, begotten, not created, is of the same substance as the Father, ‘consubstantial’ with the Father. Alexander of Alexandria attended the Council, to see his efforts through, and was attended by a young deacon, Athanasius, who was to continue the fight after him.

Athanasius of Alexandria

Born in Alexandria at the very end of the third century, Athanasius benefited from an excellent education, and became the secretary to his bishop. When the bishop died, in 328, he was chosen to succeed to the bishopric, at the age of thirty. From the very start, he was a defender of the doctrine of the Council of Nicea. He was very aware that Arius’ error would affect the salvation of mankind, writing: ‘If the Son were a creature, man would remain purely mortal, without being united to God.’ Meanwhile, despite the clarity of the dogmatic definition of 325, Arianism reared its head again. The emperor Constantine was trying to unite the empire and wanted to impose, under the influence of Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian version of the Faith which he thought would be acceptable to all his subjects. Using a classic technique, his opponents tried to discredit the doctrine defended by the bishop of Alexandria by contesting his election, and by falsely accusing him of having used violence to govern his diocese. Pope Benedict XVI observed that ‘the intransigence of Athanasius, tenacious and even at times very tough against the opponents of the Nicene Creed, whilst necessary, earned him the implacable hostility of the Arians.’ At the Synod of Tyre in July 335, Athanasius was deposed by his adversaries, allegedly for disciplinary reasons, and exiled by the Emperor to Trier; in September the Synod of Jerusalem rehabilitated Arius, who had managed to sign an ambiguous Profession of Faith. But in fact, the Nicene faith, which Athanasius championed, was rejected. The Arians having claimed that Saint Anthony, the father of the Egyptian monks, was favouring their views, Anthony left his desert to come to Alexandria, to make clear his submission to the Nicene faith, and to Athanasius.



The Second Exile

After the death of the Emperor, in May 337, Athanasius was pardoned by his young son Constantine the Second, who lived at Trier, and was able to return to Alexandria, where he was given a triumphal welcome in November of that year. He lived there for a little over a year, writing his treatises ‘Against the Pagans’ and ‘On the Incarnation of the Word.’ But soon he had to go into hiding, and finally travelled to Rome in March 339, where he was welcomed by Pope Julius, and supported by the Synod of Rome which met in the winter of 340-341; however the Synod of Antioch of 339 had renewed his condemnation, and provided for his replacement as bishop. Amidst much turmoil, he then entered a long period of exile, which lasted for seven years, during which he composed his Treatises against the Arians. In these, he not only refuted the heresy, but also explained the truths of the Faith, and gave the authentic interpretation of those passages of Scripture which the Arians had quoted to lend weight to their theories. Finally, in October 346, Athanasius was able to return to Alexandria.



The Neo-Arian Reaction

In the meantime, several synods had promulgated various professions of faith; whilst these avoided the word ‘consubstantial’ on the basis that it was not found in Sacred Scripture, they reaffirmed the anathemas of the Council of Nicea against the Arian doctrines. Soon, with the victory of Constantius over his enemies in 351, which made him the sole emperor of Rome, the political climate changed. The emperor, favouring the heresy, convoked a Council at Sirmium, on the Danube, with a view to imposing religious unity on the whole empire. In 351, once again they tried to take the middle way, which had already been followed. Advised by two Arian bishops, Ursacius and Valens, Constantius wanted to impose a disciplinary unity on the bishops of the West, that is to say, agreement with the condemnation of Athanasius, and by means of that, implicit agreement with the faith of his adversaries. At the Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355) the few recalcitrant bishops were exiled, including the legates of Pope Liberius. Between 356 and 362, which were the most perilous years of all, Athanasius had to hide himself: sometimes in his own Episcopal city, sometimes out in the desert with the monks, but always continuing the fight by means of his writing. In particular, he published a dossier that contained the texts of the different synods. It was also at this time that he wrote the Life of Anthony, his friend, who had died in 356.



Hilary of Poitiers

But in the midst of all these difficulties, he was to find support in the person of the bishop of Poitiers, Hilary. We don’t know a great deal about the early part of his life. He was born in Poitiers, probably to a pagan family, and had a good education, based on the great classical writers. He was baptised as an adult, around the year 345, and was elected bishop of Poitiers about five years later, possibly as the first bishop of that city.

Around that time, he composed a eulogy of Athanasius, even though Gaul was keeping aloof from the doctrinal quarrels. Hilary himself tells us that he knew nothing about the Nicene Creed until just before his exile. But he rightly adds that he had the Gospel and the apostles to guide his Faith… At the end of 355, he separated himself from communion with the Arian bishops, Saturninus, Ursacius, and Valens. But then he was condemned to exile at the Synod of Béziers, without being able to make himself understood there, and that exile was confirmed by an imperial decree. Therefore he left for Phrygia, in Asia Minor, in the summer of 345, although we don’t know in what city he ended up. He doesn’t seem to have been subject to the vexations on the part of his enemies that many of his fellows suffered. In this enforced solitude, Hilary continued his theological studies, and wrote his most important works: ‘On the Trinity’ and ‘On the Synods’, a book which tells the story of the controversy against the Arians. As well as that, he gathered the documents he needed to write a further book on the same subject, but only a few fragments of that have reached us.

He kept up a correspondence with the bishops of Gaul, and warned them about the profession of Faith emerging from a new synod , held in 357 in Sirmium, Constantius’ capital, which he called ‘the blasphemy of Sirmium.’ The bishops of Gaul wrote back to say that they had kept the faith, that they had broken with Saturninus, and almost unanimously rejected the profession of Sirmium, as it omitted the ‘consubstantial’ of Nicea. He tried to act as a peace-maker, by giving an acceptable meaning to a formula which he found inadequate, but which could have helped towards unity (the affirmation that the Son was similar to the Father in substance). But immediately, the Emperor’s advisors composed a new formula at Sirmium, in May 359, which was happy to say that the Son was similar to the Father in all things; it was to be imposed on all bishops in the West as well as the East, with the Western bishops meeting at Rimini, and those of the East at Silifke the following summer.

Hilary attended the second of these synods, where the suggested formula was agreed, but was in fact understood by some as a simple agreement of good will. One bishop even explained himself: “Christ isn’t similar to God, but is similar to the Father,’ which ends up making the Son a creature again, ‘the Son of the Will of the Father more than of His Divinity.’ Hilary then went to Constantinople with the delegates to the Synod, and tried to meet the Emperor, but could not get an audience with him. After January 1st 360, Constantius had the Rimini formula proclaimed as official doctrine. That simply affirmed that the Son was similar to the Father. The bishop of Poitiers considered this definition to be ‘a shipwreck of Orthodoxy’ and did not hesitate to say so; as his continued presence proved embarrassing, he was ordered to return to Gaul. He then set about writing a very vigorous work: “Against Constantius” whose doctrine inspired the Synod of Paris, which was loyal to the Nicene Creed (at the end of 360, or early the following year). Against Constantius was published after the death of Constantius on 3rd November 361.

The Pacification of the Gauls

Power then passed to Julian, who has already had his troops proclaim him to be Augustus in the spring of 360, and who recalled from exile all those who had been condemned by his predecessor. Hilary was already back in his own diocese, and dedicated himself to pastoral work and his works of exegesis, in particular a commentary on the Psalms and composing hymns for the liturgy. But although Gaul had rejected heresy, a pocket remained at Milan, which had had the Arian Auxenius as Bishop since 353.

After the death of Julian in 363, Hilary and Eusebius of Verceil tried to get close to the new Emperor, Valentinian 1st, who lived in Milan, in order to get Auxentius deposed. But the Emperor was happy to obtain an ambiguous profession of faith signed by Auxentius, and allowed him to stay in his post. Even before his exile, Hilary had drawn Martin, the converted Roman soldier, to his side; around 361 he installed him in the hermitage at Ligugé, close to Poitiers, to found the first monastery in Gaul. He had in mind the evangelisation of the country districts, which were still, too frequently, pagan. Hilary finally gave up his soul to God in 367, by which time Gaul was pacified and united in the Nicean Faith.


The Synod of Alexandria in 362

But what was happening to Athanasius during all this time? Thanks to the Emperor Julian’s general amnesty, in February 362, he returned to Alexandria, where he organised a Synod of Reconciliation, as certain pro-Arian bishops were noticing that the tide was turning. He showed his greatness of soul by refusing to allow the condemnation of a formula used by the Arians, but also by others, that of the three hypostases; on condition that it was thoroughly understood that it did not imply any inequality between the Father and the Son. For himself, he held that it was best to hold fast to the Faith of Nicea, but he could not impose a single formula. Equally, he set himself to make people recognise the Divinity of the Holy Spirit. And on this point he was to be supported by the Cappadocian Fathers, and especially by Saint Basil the bishop of Caesarea.

Meanwhile, Julian forced Athanasius to go into exile once again, but only for a short time as the Emperor died in 363. Soon afterwards, Athanasius, in Antioch, met the philanthropic Emperor Jovian, in Antioch. Unfortunately he was soon replaced by the Arian, Valens, who vigorously reinstated the condemnations of Constantius. But the bishop of Alexandria did not obey this fifth command to go into exile, hiding himself in the suburbs of his city. For some unknown reason, the Emperor Valens allowed him to return and a crowd made a procession to seek him out in his hiding place. His final years were peaceful, and he too dedicated them to commenting on the psalms and doctrinal writing.

A Cantata for Two Voices

With Pope Benedict XVI, we can emphasise St Hilary’s firmness of faith, coupled with a gentleness in his interpersonal relationships. By his interpretation of certain doctrines proclaimed by the eastern synods, he was able to give an orthodox meaning to ambiguous formulas, which Athanasius had no hesitation in describing as semi-Arian, in order to lead others to a fuller Faith. Nonetheless he was quite capable of using severe language, especially when he was denouncing the fraudulent manoeuvres of the Emperor Constantius, whom he characterised as a false sheep, a rapacious wolf, and the Anti-Christ.

By contrast, many see in Saint Athanasius an intransigence which they think to be misplaced. Nonetheless we have seen how in 362 he was shown to be understanding of formulas which he did not like. In this way, we could say that in defence of the divinity of the Son of God, we have a cantata for two voices, in which each has its part to play. The bishop of Poitiers was able to attempt to bring people together in ways impossible to the Archbishop of Alexandria. In his eulogy for Saint Athanasius, before he went into exile, Saint Hilary called him ‘veri tenax’ This concise Latin phrase captures the soul of the man for whom it was more important to witness to the truth of Christ the Saviour, consubstantial with the Father, as had been defined by the Fathers at Nicea, than to worry about all the exiles and indignities heaped upon him. We can see why Bernini has placed St Athanasius as one of the four Doctors of the Church, who support St Peter’s reliquary in the Vatican… Once again, much later, St Hilary would be called on to uphold the true Faith: on the eve of the Battle of Vouillé, at the gates of Poitiers, a bright ray of light shone forth from the basilica where St Hilary’s body reposed, as an omen for the army of Clovis, who had just embraced the Catholic Faith, assuring victory the next day over the Visigoths of Alaric, who was a follower of Arianism. Every time we affirm, in the Creed, that the Son is Consubstantial with the Father, let us remember these two great champions of the true Faith, St Hilary and St Athanasius, who did so much for the sake of that truth.

dAnd the Word was made Flesh

This verse from St John’s Prologue sums up the essence of the Christian Faith: The eternal Son of the Father, He who is ‘God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,’ assumed our human nature in the womb of the virgin Mary. He remained what He was from all eternity (the well-beloved Son of the Father) and also He became what He had not been previously (the Son of Man, our brother.) We contemplate this great mystery every Christmastide and every time we meditate on the Last Gospel at the end of the Mass. The light of Christmas enlightens our whole life, and calls us to the joy of forgiveness and salvation.


The Annunciation

In the story of the Annunciation, we find in a microcosm the whole Gospel: all that Jesus did and suffered for our salvation. It is also the time of the fulfilment of the long preparation of Sacred History and the Old Testament, from the promise of a redeemer made in a veiled manner to our first parents after their Original Sin, from the calling of Abraham and of Moses, from the magnificent and tragic history of the people of Israel. God had promised his people a Saviour, a Messiah, and He fulfilled that promise on the day of the Annunciation.

The Angel Gabriel greets the Virgin Mary, and recognises her as the one who is full of Divine Grace, of God’s favour. That is why Mary is the Blessed One. God had prepared her so that she could accomplish that greatest of all vocations, to become the mother of the Son of God. It was wholly appropriate that she should be preserved from all stain of Original Sin, and that she should appear before men ‘decorated with all the favours of the Divine Spirit’ as Blessed Pius IX put it.

In that way, she anticipates by her Immaculate Conception, the grace of salvation, which will be won for all mankind by the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Her Immaculate Conception does not place her outside the work of the Redemption. Mary appears before us, the first of the saved, who benefited in anticipation from the grace of Salvation that her Son was to win for all of us. The Just of the Old Testament were sanctified by the work of Christ (because their teaching and the example of their life prepared the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah); in just the same way, the perfect holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the result of the divine grandeur of her vocation: to give the world its Saviour.

The Biblical account reveals to us the nature of the Son who was to be born of the Blessed Virgin. It truly is the Son of the Most High, the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, to whom Mary gives her human nature. This conception is a virginal conception. The glory of Mary’s virginity remains for ever, a sign of her total gift of herself to God, a gift made from the dawning of her conscience. The Magnificat which she proclaims in front of her cousin Elizabeth, shows the degree to which she understands the great work which is being realised in her and by her. It is the most beautiful example of a song of the workings of Grace, marvelling at the work of God that is being accomplished for our sake. That is why the Annunciation is the first of the Joyful Mysteries.

If the Mystery of the Annunciation is first and foremost the mystery of the Incarnation (God made man, becoming one of us) it is also the mystery of the human vocation; that is to say, the mystery of the creature cooperating with his own salvation. The salvation of mankind depended on the Blessed Virgin’s Fiat. The whole of humanity hung upon Mary’s response. Listen to St Bernard of Clairvaux: ‘We too, we are waiting, O Our Lady. Condemned to a miserable sentence of damnation, we are waiting for a word of pity. So, at this moment, you are offered the ransom that will win our salvation. Agree: and we shall be free. We were all of us created in the eternal Word of God; but alas, Death has had his way with us. One short word from you is enough to make us anew, so that we may be called once more to life. O sweet Virgin, Adam implores your answer in tears, exiled as he is, with all his descendants, from Paradise. Abraham also implores your answer, as does David, and indeed all the Patriarchs, your forebears, who are also living in the shadow of death. The whole world awaits your answer, prostrate at your feet. And they are right to do so, because on your word hangs the relief of the wretched, the ransom of captives, the deliverance of the condemned, and in fact the salvation of all the sons of Adam, the whole human race. Do not delay, O Blessed Virgin Mary… Quick! Answer the angel, or rather through the angel, answer God; say but one word and welcome the Word; proclaim your own word, and receive the Word of God; pronounce one fleeting word, and conceive the eternal Word.’ (In Praise of the Virgin Mary)

But before acquiescing to the Angel’s request, before giving her Fiat, the Blessed Virgin asked about the conditions of her mission: ‘How shall this come about?

We can be quite sure that, unlike Zachary, she did not doubt the word of God; but she wanted to commit fully to her mission: with all her intelligence, with all her will, with all her freedom, in the fullest and most complete way, so as to give herself fully to the Divine Will. Not seeing how God’s work will be brought about, she asks the angel, and is rewarded with a further revelation: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.” Two ways of expressing the same reality. The child who is to be born comes from God.

The breath of God is creative. It hovered over the waters from the beginning. It intervenes in the creation of Adam. It gives the heroes of the Old Covenant the power to achieve marvellous and supernatural works. It inspired the prophets and gives wisdom and discernment to the judges and kings. But none of these possessed it in its fullness. It is given to support a particular mission. Nonetheless, the coming of the Messiah is marked by an unprecedented outpouring of the Spirit of God (as prophesied by Joel, 3, 1-5, and fulfilled in Acts, 2, 17 – 21), and the Messianic king was to possess it in its fullness (Isaiah, 11, 1-2). Here, that same breath of God is the active principle in the conception of the child. No man has any part to play in this. It is a truly virgin birth. The expression ‘cover you with its shadow’ is reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant, in which the tablets of the Law were kept: the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and ‘the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.’ (Exodus 40, 34-35) Now you know why the Litanies call Our Lady the Ark of the Covenant.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is given us as a model of vocation and a model of faith. She sets no limits to the work of God in her. By the mystery of the Annunciation, may we ask for the grace that we never reduce to our own size the truths of the faith and the doctrine of salvation; that we never limit it to our own feeble capacities, or to our petty interests. Instead, let us implore the Holy Spirit to raise our hearts and our souls so that we may welcome in its fullness the message of the Faith. Let us also pray for the grace always to respond more generously to our own vocation; let us develop our intelligence and our will so that we may welcome our vocation as it is revealed to us day by day, and that we may devote all our strength, and all our abilities to respond to it as best we possibly can. Let us also believe that God wants our happiness (although the Devil is always seeking to make us believe the opposite!) and that each of us has a place in His plan of love and salvation. Our joy from this day forward, and our eternal salvation, depend on the way in which we respond to our mission.

If we are already engaged in a way of life, in our family, professionally and socially, let us pray for the grace of perseverance, of fervour and of renewal. If we are searching for our vocation, let us pray to Our Lady of Wisdom to enlighten us and to show us the surest path (which is never the easiest!). If we are worried about our future, or the future of those dear to us, (as Charles Péguy was when he set out for Chartres) ask the Blessed Virgin Mary for the grace of detachment and confidence. She is our admirable and eternal model of a vocation lived out fully in faith, a mission perfectly accomplished. As St Thomas Aquinas wrote, in giving her assent, she represented the whole human race.


The Nativity

The birth of Our Lord, and all the accounts of His childhood, reveal the great mystery of the Incarnation to mankind. Each incident is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to reveal who this Child, born in the poverty of a stable in Bethlehem, really is. We can reflect on what the Angel announced to the shepherds, what we are told about the adoration of the Magi, who came from the East and representing all the pagan nations, signifying the universality of salvation, what Simeon told the Blessed Virgin Mary on the occasion of the presentation of the Child Jesus at the temple, and so on.

Joy is, of course, the dominant note of this mystery of the Nativity, just as it is for the liturgical season of Christmas. But to experience this joy of salvation, we need a humble and believing heart, totally accepting of the message of salvation. “In contemplating these mysteries, the Faithful will not forget that if God has condescended to clothe Himself in the lowliness and infirmity of our nature, it is in order to elevate the human race to the highest degree of glory. In fact, in order fully to understand the eminent dignity, even the superiority, which God, in His goodness, wishes to bestow upon mankind, is it not enough to remember that Jesus Christ, who is truly God, is also truly man?” (Roman Catechism, §2).

The Word assumed a complete human nature. It is in His humanity that He reveals God who is, in His nature, invisible. We see the infant lying in His manger and we adore our Lord and our God. ‘In His fullness, we have received everything,’ as St John reminds us in his prologue. In taking to Himself a body, in becoming flesh, God sanctifies our state. On the day of our baptism, and of our confirmation, we received the Holy Sprit from Christ, who transforms the whole of our being (body and soul) into a temple of the Divine Presence.

Christian asceticism consists of letting sanctifying grace invade our whole being. But that is a real struggle for us, as we are damaged both by the consequences of Original Sin and by our own personal sins. The struggle for purity, for example, by mastering our sensibility, our affectivity and our sexuality, makes us grow and mature, to become capable of an authentic liberty, that of giving ourselves to, and accepting, our vocation. It is a struggle, but it is also a grace to pray for, with perseverance and without being discouraged by any falls or setbacks. It is precisely to free us from our idolatory of, and our enslavement to, evil desires that Christ took on a human nature, like us in all things but sin.


The Hidden Life in Nazareth

We know practically nothing of the first thirty years of Our Lord’s life, in Bethlehem, in Egypt, and then in Nazareth. The Gospel account simply tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom, in stature and in grace, in the sight of God and men; and that He was subject to Mary, His Mother, and to Joseph, His adoptive father.

Charles Péguy spent a long time contemplating this mysterious hidden life. He contrasted the thirty hidden years with the three years of our Saviour’s public life, and the three days of His Passion. He sees a profound unity expressed by these facts; as he is always meditating on the Saviour and His Work. From the first moment of His conception in the womb of His Mother, Jesus is the Redeemer. His hidden life therefore communicates this grace of salvation won for us men. It reveals the grandeur of the every-day, of the accomplishment of simple virtues and of the humble daily realities of our life; the necessity of work to obtain what we need for ourselves and for those in our care, the importance of family life and of social live, sanctified by prayer and our liturgical life; the importance of fidelity to the Gospel’s demands in whatever state of life we are called to… Everything is an occasion for sanctification, and for evangelisation by our example as well as by our spoken words.

The world increasingly ignores these Gospel demands, that reality. That is why, for Charles Péguy, the greatest adventurer there is, is the father of a family, since he is responsible not just for his own life, but for that of his family; he risks more than anybody else, since his choices affect his whole family. He suffers for others: for those for whom he is responsible. He has no claim on anybody, although everyone has a claim on him. In that way, he is like Christ Himself. By His Incarnation, Christ assumed responsibility for all men. Péguy’s own experience led him to be particularly sensitive to the significance of the Hidden Life as it related to the salvation of the world: “It is, paradoxically, the father of the family, the family man, who is the adventurer, who does not just undertake some adventures, but only one, one great, one immense, one all-encompassing adventure; the most terrible and the most consistently tragic adventure; whose whole life is an adventure, the very fabric of life, that ordinary fabric, the daily bread…. Such is the adventurer, the true, the real adventurer.”

Christ knew the adventure of daily bread. The head of a family is never sure about the next day. But in that way of life, he imitates Christ; ‘It is in fact noteworthy, it is momentous, that it is this family life, so decried, so despised, (and Christians should pay more heed to this fact), it is momentous that it should be this family life, so attacked from all sides in our own day, that Jesus should have chosen; that He chose this life from all other possibilities, really, historically, to live for the first thirty years of His earthly existence.’

So, instead of fantasising about other states of life, let us welcome the reality of our current situation, sure that God will give us the grace to accomplish our vocation day by day, despite our weariness, our laziness, our discouragement… It is in that way that we will establish Christendom: first in our own life and then in the world. It is in that way that we will become saints.