All men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman. (Wisdom 13:1)
February 17, 2018 ~ Flight into Egypt
1. What is the Sacrament of Confirmation
2. First Sunday in Lent
3. Saint Simeon
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
This week, the first full week of Lent, Holy Mother Church takes up our fervor to enter the season by adding the ember days to the week—this does not affect those already fasting, just those who do not fast must also restrain themselves from the use of meat to only the main meal on Wednesday and Saturday. Everyone, then, joins in penance, just as everyone did on Ash Wednesday, during this season to make it, as Saint Paul says in the Epistle for Sunday, an acceptable time. The Church also looks to the ordinations of the young men who will soon enter into the reaping of the harvest as they receive the various holy orders on Ember Saturday. Separating ourselves from festivities and devoting ourselves to extra prayer and works of piety not only will we gain many graces for ourselves, but also for those who are called to labor in the field of the Lord. It is also a time to labor in our own spiritual garden, rooting out the weeds of vices that are choking the virtues that should be soon blooming in the spring of our life. Those who cultivate a garden know that weeding is a continuous task and that having neglected the toil they can lose all the flowers they planted. It takes more than watering and even though one may not be able to control its full exposure to the sun, if the weeds have not dried up the moisture of the earth, the plant can in fact use the sun to grow even more rapidly—but if the weeds deprive it of water, even though they, too, may wither, it will not be without first drying up any life in the flower. Lent is the time to tend to our spiritual life completely, uprooting any vices or sins that have sprung up in our life. It may seem that the soul is stripped of life and the plants look lonely as the area around is barren, but that is soon filled with the blossoming flowers that all the quicker appear and fill the garden. It is the same in our spiritual garden, for it may seem at first that our life is empty and dull, but soon the virtues begin to show and we find ourselves spreading out and finding new ways to see those virtues come to fruition and touch the lives of those around us in the best possible way. Let us, then, seriously ask ourselves what fault, sin or vice we are rooting out of our life: missing mass, lack of family prayer, too much indulgence in drink or food, words that offend God or our neighbor, sensuality or the viewing of inappropriate material, covetousness, rebelliousness and insubordination to parents or authority, and lies—how ever insignificant our pride wants to make them. We may deceive ourselves and say it is too difficult, but it must be what Saint Paul says that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, to the end that we may serve sin no longer. (Romans 6:6) Let us take the words of Thomas the Apostle: Let us also go, that we may die with Him. (John 11:16) Therefore, let us not excuse ourselves for, yes, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION?
by Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
Difference between Baptism and Confirmation
With the Trinitarian and Christological controversies settled and with few adult baptisms by the early Middle Ages, the Church separated the two Sacraments again from each other with the priest baptizing the child a short time after birth and the Bishop administering Confirmation to those who arrived at the age of reason upon his visit to the parish (Confirmation was generally administered before the reception of one’s First Communion in past centuries). The separation meant the consideration of the two Sacraments as two distinct rites from this point. The separation of these two sacraments from one another required clarification for both had been jointly regarded as the reception of the Holy Ghost. Sanctification caused justification and that Sanctification was the reception of the Holy Ghost. But this further raised the question: If one received the Holy Ghost in Baptism, would not Confirmation be simply a sign that restated one possessed the Holy Ghost? Or did Confirmation signal the reception of the Holy Ghost not yet bestowed? Tertullian states:
After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction,— (a practice derived) from the old discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood, men were wont to be anointed with oil from a horn, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. Whence Aaron is called Christ, from the chrism, which is the unction; which, when made spiritual, furnished an appropriate name to the Lord, because He was anointed with the Spirit by God the Father; as written in the Acts: For truly they were gathered together in this city against Your Holy Son whom You have anointed. Thus, too, in our case, the unction runs carnally, (i.e. on the body,) but profits spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins.
In the next place the hand is laid on us, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit through benediction. Shall it be granted possible for human ingenuity to summon a spirit into water, and, by the application of hands from above, to animate their union into one body with another spirit of so clear sound; and shall it not be possible for God, in the case of His own organ, to produce, by means of holy hands, a sublime spiritual modulation (On Baptism, 7-8).
This could be simply interpreted as not yet receiving the Holy Ghost through Sanctification, just as the passage from John where,
Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7: 39)
Justification was already granted through circumcision and Jesus had already commissioned His Apostles to baptize as one reads in Saint John’s Gospel: When Jesus therefore understood that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus maketh more disciples, and baptizeth more than John, (Though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples). . . (John 4:1-2); and the Samaritans who were baptized by Philip it is written: Who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. For he was not as yet come upon any of them; but they were only baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:15-16). So the Church teaches that the Holy Ghost is given in Baptism as, for example, in speaking of justification the Council of Trent declared:
. . . The causes of this justification are: the final cause indeed is the glory of God and of Christ and life eternal; the efficient cause is truly a merciful God who gratuitously “washes and sanctifies” [1 Cor. 6:11], “signing and anointing with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the pledge of our inheritance” [Eph. 1:13f.]; but the meritorious cause is His most beloved only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, “who when we were enemies” [cf. Rom. 5:10], “for the exceeding charity wherewith he loved us” [Eph. 2:4], merited justification for us [can. 10] by His most holy passion on the wood of the Cross, and made satisfaction for us to God the Father; the instrumental cause is the sacrament of baptism, which is the “sacrament of faith,” [St. Ambrose, De Spiritu Sancto, 1, 3, 42 (ML 16, 714). St. Aug. Letter 98, to Boniface 9 ff. (ML 33, 364). Innoc. III (see D 406, 413)] without which no one is ever justified.
John’s Gospel already teaches this: unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost (John 3:5). The Postcommunion for Tuesday in Pentecost Week is formulated as follows: O Lord, may the Holy Spirit heal our souls with this divine sacrament, for he himself is the forgiveness of all sins. Through our Lord … in the unity of the same Holy Spirit.
A clearer reading even of Tertullian would indicate, therefore, the Holy Ghost was given in baptism but the same Holy Ghost was then afterwards called upon to operate within the one baptized by another anointing by the bishop. This administration by the bishop came to be called, even when the two Sacraments were administered together, the Sealing of the Holy Ghost. The word Seal alone has referred to the character imprinted by Baptism and Confirmation, as described by Leeming:
Nevertheless, what he calls the ‘invocation’ is in substance what the Greeks called the sphragis and what Augustine called the ‘character’. A man, he says, who has been baptized with the correct form, but who then held mistaken views, may very well correct his mistaken view, come to the Church, and receive the Holy Ghost through the imposition of the Bishop’s hand: for he ‘did not lose the former invocation of the name of Jesus, which none of us may contemn, even though in heresy it alone is not enough to secure salvation’. [De Rebaptismate, Hartel’s ed. N. 6, p. 76, lines 24-31.] This invocation of the name of Christ ‘cannot be abolished’; it necessarily endures ‘because it cannot be taken away from any man’, since Baptism is one only. [N. 10, p. 82, lines 20, 24, and 25] In heresy, or in sin, this invocation does not benefit a man [Alias non profutura talis invocatio cum sola permanserit, n. 7, 1, 22.]; but if he be converted, through the imposition of the Bishop’s hand he receives ‘the Baptism of the Spirit’, that is, he receives the grace which is normal to Baptism. . . . (Op. cit., 176)
In the fourth century, the indelibility of the seal is more strongly asserted. St Cyril of Jerusalem, d. 386, speaks of ‘the holy unbreakable seal.’, and of ‘the seal of the Holy Spirit indelible throughout all ages’. [Procat. nn. 16, 17, P.G. 33, 267, 269] St Basil, d. 379, and the Apostolic Constitutions also speak of’ the unbreakable seal’. [In Sanct. Bapt, 5, P.G. 31,433; Apostolic Const. bk. 3, 16, P.G. 1, 797.] This clearly distinguishes the seal from grace, which admittedly could be lost. Moreover the seal is explicitly declared to remain in sinners. St John Chrysostom, d. 407, says: ‘As upon soldiers there is a seal, so likewise is the Spirit put upon the faithful. And if thou desert, thou art manifest by it to all. For the Jews had circumcision for a seal, but we the pledge of the Spirit.’ [In 2 Cor. 1: 21, Hom. 3, 7, P.G. 61, 418.] Basil of Seleucia, d. 459, expressed the general conviction about the permanence of the seal when he said that certain Christians retained their paganism, and thus ‘while they bear the seal of Christ, they follow the devil’s train’. [Orat. 27, 1, P.G. 85, 309.] St Basil, says that in this life ‘the Holy Ghost, even if he does not mingle with the unworthy, nevertheless seems in a certain way to be present in those who have once been sealed, awaiting their salvation through conversion’. [De Spiritu Sancto, n. 40, P.G. 32, 141.] This is a striking likeness to the doctrine of St Augustine; and unmistakable evidence that the Fathers drew a sharp distinction between the seal and grace. (Op. cit., 177)
. . . To sum up, then, the doctrine of the Church before the time of Augustine relative to the distinction between grace and the seal or character: All the comparisons used by Christian writers tend to emphasize the indelible nature of the character, or seal, and fit perfectly into the general conviction that Baptism, once received, can never be repeated. (Op. cit., 178)
As the Seal of the Holy Ghost, Confirmation was understood as distinct from Baptism, being considered the Perfecting of Baptism or its fulfillment, that is, full filled with the Holy Ghost. Again, Leeming points out the following:
There is ample evidence that Baptism was believed to be ‘perfected’, ‘increased’, ‘fulfilled’, ‘completed’, ‘supplemented’, by a further gift of God’s Holy Spirit. The basis of this belief unquestionably derives from the narratives in Acts 8:14-20, and Acts 19:1-6, in which, after Baptism, hands were imposed by Peter, John and Paul, and the Holy Ghost was received; for in all parts of the Church, in the third and fourth centuries, the rite of imposing hands upon the baptized, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, was associated with these narratives in the Acts. These are the witnesses: in Africa, Tertullian, [De Bapt. n. 8, manus imponitur advocans et invitans Spiritum Sanctum; de Res. Carn. n. 8, caro manus impositione adumbratur ut et anima spiritu illuminetur.] St Cyprian, [Ep. 83, 9, Hartel, p. 784, Ep. 74, n. 7, ibid. p. 804.] and the De Rebaptismate [N. 3, Hartel, p. 73.]; in Gaul, St Irenaeus [Adv. Haer. 1, 23, n. 1; 4, 38, 2, P.G. 7, 670, 1106.]; in Cappadocia and Asia Minor, Firmilian [Cyprian, Ep. 75, Hartel, p. 814.]; in Palestine and Constantinople, St Jerome [Contra Luciferianos, 9, P.L. 23, 164.], and St John Chrysostom [Hom. 18, 2 in Act., P.G. 60, q.3. He explains that the Samaritans had received the Spirit of remission but not of ‘signs’.]; in Italy, St Ambrose, [De Mysteriis, 7, P.L. 16, 402.] and in France, St Hilary [In Matt. 19: 3, P.L. 9, 1024.]; in Spain, the Council of Elvira, about the year 300 [Can. 38, Hefele-Leclercq, op. cit. I, p. 232.]; in Alexandria, Origen, [In Rom. 6: 2, P.G. 14, 1038] and Athanasius. [Ad Serap. 1, 6, P.G. 26, 544.] . . . the convergence of the evidence from all parts of the Church points unmistakably to the distinction between Baptism and Confirmation, the latter completing, fulfilling, perfecting the former. (Ibid. 201-202)
A simple analogy might be seen if one were to look at it in another way. Consider a boy who, at the age of fourteen receives for his birthday a car—but not the keys. Once the boy arrives at the age of sixteen after he has passed the driver’s test and been deemed responsible, the father gives him the keys and now he is able to use the car. Such a simplistic analogy clearly does not explain what happens through this Sacrament, but as has been intimated, the Holy Ghost does operate in the soul by direct action if the recipient cooperates with His promptings. There might not be the speaking in tongues, the gift of manifest prophecy, the performance of miracles the early Christians gave witness; but a spiritual transformation and understanding that expresses itself in a maturity of Catholic living should become evident in the life of one who has received this Sacrament. Saint Paul expresses it to the Galatians when he contrasts those who have the spirit of the world with those who have the Spirit of God:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:19-25)
The difference between the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation explains why the early Church sought to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on those who were recently baptized, especially because of the visible works wrought by the confirmed and then because of the strength it provided for the confirmed when faced with persecution to undergo even death for the sake of Christ. Later it would be seen in the missionary zeal of converting the pagan world to Christ as the Church instituted a Christian society based on the Gospel. Today the Sacrament is needed for the strength to resist the seduction of neo-Gnosticism and the wisdom needed to follow the Gospel in a neo-pagan society that promises a false happiness in materialism.
(To be continued)
Dr. Pius Parsch
The Church’s Year of Grace (1953)
THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT
With first Vespers, sung today before the noon meal, the season of Lent begins in all its liturgical fullness. Though the Hour has no antiphons of its own as in Advent, it does have a proper chapter, and the hymn is from the Common of Lent. Today’s Vespers give us a preview of the various themes stressed on the first Sunday of Lent. The chapter proclaims that now the season of grace has dawned. The Magnificat antiphon comforts us with a promise from the lips of Mother Church, “Then if you call, the Lord will hear you; if you cry aloud, He will answer: ‘Here I am.’ “
After the four days of serious initiation, the Church begins Quadragesima proper on the first Sunday of Lent. Solemnly the Mass introduces us into the coming season and outlines a program of action. The first two weeks illustrate how Christ’s battle leads to victory, a guarantee that our Lenten struggles too will end in the transfiguration of Easter.
In the coming week the Church keeps the Ember days, a venerable and important liturgical observance. The three Ember Masses (Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday) are very old; emphasis is placed on a genuine Lenten theme, i.e., through fasting and self-denial to the glory of spiritual resurrection.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
Station at St. John Lateran
Christ leads the way as a penitent and as a soldier
1. Preliminary Remarks. On Septuagesima Sunday we went on pilgrimage to the grave of St. Lawrence, on Sexagesima to that of St. Paul, on Quinquagesima to that of St. Peter. Today the Church leads us to the basilica of the “Most Holy Savior,” the mother church of Roman Christianity. This in itself points to the day’s importance. Yes, in the church of St. John the Baptist, the man of the desert, we accompany the Savior into the desert for His forty day fast; in this same church of the Baptist forty-two days from now we shall celebrate the Easter mysteries on Holy Saturday. With heartfelt devotion and in all seriousness, let us dedicate ourselves today to the work of baptismal renewal. Thus the station church provides a worthy frame for the day’s Lenten message.
Today’s liturgy stems from a very early date. Few formularies equally ancient and classic in structure can be found in the missal. Three topics are developed: a) a Lenten program to which all are invited; b) a model to be imitated; and c) a battle song.
a) With unusual solemnity the Church issues the invitation to keep Lent. I like to compare it to the invitation on the first Sunday of Advent. The liturgy regarded the whole Christmas cycle as one day, whose early dawn was the first Sunday of Advent, with Christmas as the sunrise, the Epiphany high noon. Something similar is the case in the Easter cycle. The whole period is the “day of salvation” which is now dawning; at Easter the sun will rise, and at Pentecost it will blaze from heaven’s heights. The Church reminds us of our responsibility “not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
Now the program for Lent. Actually we have already heard much about this during Pre-Lent, viz., the invitation to God’s vineyard; our task of preparing the soil for the seed; the excellence of charity. Today the Church outlines another program. More important than fasting, prayer, or almsgiving is a perfect Christian life, one which meets and masters every problem that arises. The Church formulates such a program in the antiphon at sunset, “Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation! In these days let us conduct ourselves as servants of God in much patience, in fasting, in vigils, in unaffected love.”
This, then, is your main task: to live perfectly as a Christian, to keep your heart holy, unspotted by sin or selfishness. How wonderfully Paul describes his own approach to life and places it before us for imitation, “Whether we are regarded as deceivers or as honorable men, whether we are held in esteem or dishonor, whether as dying although we live, as chastised but not killed, as sorrowful yet ever joyful, as poor yet enriching many, as having nothing yet possessing all things. . . . ” Such is the Christian in his outward poverty and inward riches. Lent should help us acquire both virtues—having nothing, i.e., holy fasting, while possessing all things, i.e., God’s abundant graces.
b) The Gospel shows us Christ in a double role, as a penitent and as a warrior. First we follow Him as the penitent par excellence into the desert of self-denial to fast with Him for forty days. Our fast will be spiritually fruitful if we keep it in unity with Him, if it is an extension of His fasting. Awareness of the union between the members of the Body and their Head ought to arouse a greater respect toward Lenten practices. The fast of Christ formed a part of His work of redemption; for us too the forty day season of penance contributes to His mission of constructing God’s kingdom on earth. The next six weeks may well be the most important time of the year. In any case Head and members are now entering upon the great season of penance.
Ancient coins represent the standard of Constantine piercing a serpent, as in the design. On the banner were pictures of the emperor and his sons – here it is a picture of Christ, one fashioned after the very ancient representation in the apse of the Lateran (today’s station). It is given in the form of a shield (Ps. 90). Thus the drawing epitomizes the day’s liturgy: Christ conquers the powers of hell (in His temptation; in us); He likewise is our shield as we struggle along in fasting.
Our Redeemer also goes before us as a warrior. We see the divine Hero victorious on three fronts. Two princes stand face to face, the Prince of this world, and the King of God’s kingdom. The Prince of this world deploys his whole army: the world and its splendor, hell, the ego with its insatiable desires. But Christ emerges as the winner.
Now the battlefield is not far from any one of us; it is in my soul where the higher and lower man are ranged against each other. Christ in us must be victorious. From this conviction flow strength and solace; we are not alone in the battle, Head and members fight together, Head and members win together. Thus the Gospel is our first lesson in the training school of Christ; today we are raw recruits, at Easter we will be proven soldiers.
Formerly, perhaps, we performed our Lenten tasks in private, apart from the community, but now we are beginning to see that we should act as members of the Church, of Christ. The Collect says, significantly, that God “purifies His Church by the observance of a forty day fast.” Every sin we commit is a stain upon the mystical Body as well as upon ourselves; every virtue that adorns our soul also adorns the robe of Mother Church with new lustre. We must become like our Head, Christ, in all things—here on earth in abasement, in heaven in glory. The work of fasting contributes to this transformation.
c) Keeping the above in mind it will be easy to see how Psalm 90, which takes so prominent a place in today’s liturgy, serves as a most appropriate battle song throughout Lent. Psalm 90 describes a terrible battlefield: thousands fall to the right and to the left, arrows whir, asps and dragons block the way. . . . Yet God’s heroic army fears nothing; each soldier is divinely protected, and angels guard their paths. Deep trust in God takes the place of weapons. With heart and mind filled with the prayer sentiments which are on our lips, we courageously begin the battle. Our strongest weapon is the “Most Holy Savior” Himself, in whose church we stand. We cannot but be aware of His protection. At the door of the station He stands and encourages us, “If he asks Me, I will answer him. I will deliver him and glorify him; with a long life I will gratify him” (Intr.). As we approach the altar (the altar is Christ) at the Offertory and Communion, we will realize more
vividly how Christ in the holy Sacrifice is a protecting shield and an overshadowing wing (Off. and Comm.).
The picture illustrates Psalm 90. Equipped for battle the Christian engages the enemy. Arrows whir on every side; those struck down to the right and left are represented as Egyptians (not unusual in the liturgy). The hand of God is a sign of sure help; angels protect and carry Christ’s soldier and cover him with their wings. Fearlessly he tramples upon lions and dragons. In this warrior we may also see Christ as He triumphs over Satan (Gasp.). Ancient Christian reliefs picture our Redeemer in this manner (see Wilpert).
2. Holy Mass (Invocabit). The Mass formulary, a very ancient one (Leo I, c. 450, was already acquainted with its Epistle), is classic in its simplicity and structure. In the Introit Christ receives us as His fellow soldiers with words of comfort; after the battle of Lent He will deliver us through (Easter) baptism and glorify us with endless life. The Introit is a text which invites deep scrutiny. Christ, the Master of the station church, greets us with a cheery welcome as He promises a) to listen to our requests; b) to transform us with the grace of glory; c) to reward us with eternal life.
According to the Collect God “purifies” His Church by the forty day fast. Lent, then, means spring house-cleaning in God’s temple. It likewise points out the two best brooms for the task, abstinence and the practice of good works. In the Epistle the Church solemnly invites us to begin Lent in all earnestness and presents us with a program of action. Beginning today she takes the catechumens under her protecting wings; all hell may be loosed against them, yet they are safe, for the heavenly host accompanies them. We sing the Tract, Psalm 90 practically in its entirety, as an introduction to the Gospel. As we march in the Eucharistic processions at the Offertory and at the Communion, we feel ourselves soldiers in Christ’s army, protected by “the wing and shield” of God, viz., the Eucharist.
The Secret notes that we are today observing the solemn beginning of Lent and begs that bodily fasting may temper our sinful desires. The Postcommunion, too, is classic: May the holy offering of Your sacrament renew us (restauret), O Lord; and having purified us from ancient guilt (vetustas), may it enable us to share in the mystery of salvation. These phrases sum up the whole purpose of Lent, which is designed to blot out “ancient guilt” or the “old man,” and initiate us into the Easter mystery, the consortium mysterii salutaris.
3. Divine Office. Today’s Office is like an old landmark; seldom do we find a formulary so outstanding in artistic perfection. The lessons of the first nocturn (which continue the Epistle) proclaim the Church’s Lenten program. During the second nocturn we hear an inspiring Lenten sermon by Pope St. Leo I. In the third nocturn Gregory the Great rises as our teacher and delivers an instructive discourse on the Gospel. Paul, Leo, Gregory—all three saints speaking to us from Rome!
The responsories for the nine lessons are rich in thought, emotionally touching and structurally artistic; penance and other typical Lenten virtues serve as themes. For example,
“Let us correct what we have unknowingly done amiss,
lest, suddenly surprised by the day of death, we seek
time for doing penance and cannot find it.
Take notice of us, O Lord, and have mercy, for we have
sinned against You.
Help us, O God our Savior; for Your name’s sake redeem
us, O Lord.”
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