Catholic Tradition Newsletter C15: Holy Eucharist, Low Sunday, Saint Leo

Vol 14 Issue 15 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
April 10, 2021 ~ Easter Saturday

1.     What is the Holy Eucharist
2.     Low Sunday
3.     Saint Leo
4.     Family and Marriage
5.     Articles and notices
Dear Reader:

This Sunday is given several names. Low Sunday in comparison to the high dignity of the Sunday of the Resurrection; White Sunday as the newly baptized from the Easter Vigil take off their white robes;  Quasimodo Sunday for the first Latin word of the Introit; and, Mercy Sunday because the Gospel mentions Christ bestowing the Sacrament of Penance. Each of these deserve a commentary, but I always wish to comment on the last as this Sacrament, the Sacrament of Penance, which pertains to the Redemption—the forgiveness of sins. Christ instituted two Sacraments for the forgiveness of sin: Baptism, which takes away all sin; and Penance, which takes away repented sin committed after Baptism. Baptism is received only once, and is very simple: pour water over the persons head while saying, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost—as Christ commanded. But there is only one baptism for the remission of sin—it cannot be repeated even if given by a heretic or anyone. Therefore, the newly baptized are taught today about the second plank so they do not despair if they commit sin after. They are not supposed to having received such a great grace as a rebirth in grace, and many early Church Fathers opposed administering the Sacrament until after the penitent performed arduous penance to dissuade the baptized from thinking they could easily have their sins forgiven through Penance and thereby commit sins with impunity (which is evidenced today). Be that as Church history informs us, the Sacrament is available for us today to receive as often as we desire the grace of the Sacrament. But, being available does not mean it should be abused—and, in fact—not truly received. The Sacrament of Penance is for our sanctification and a means to obtain forgiveness of repentant sin. If there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness, as this is one of the requirements for a valid confession. But sin is the matter, and sin must also be confessed. It is taught that a past sin may be forgiven again to obtain the grace not to fall into sin again because it is the grace of the Sacrament. Venial sins are matter only if one is truly sorry for at least one. One is not sorry if one simply confesses and then continues to sin without any serious effort to cease the sin in one’s life. I should have asked myself what am I going to do to not commit this sin again. It otherwise makes Confession an excuse to sin—the more I sin the more I get to confess—and not, rather, the means to remove sin from my soul and thereby gain heaven. As it became evident that already in the beginning of 1960 Catholic women were taking the pill, Catholic children were no better than their pagan counterparts, and Catholic men only saw Mass attendance as merely a social obligation—not the center and support of their lives—it could only be because either Confession was neglected or abused. Though we as children learned in Catechism classes that five things are necessary to make a good Confession, that is, examination of conscience, sorrow for sin, amendment of life, telling one’s sins and doing the penance the priest gives us, the amendment of life was not thought out and a simple promise for the moment became the amendment that was quickly forgotten once one left the confessional. Therefore, the sacramental grace—the assistance to avoid sin in the future—was not utilized but suppressed. Peter and Thomas give us examples of amendment of life—weeping and protesting their faith openly and willingly giving their life. We have only to cease the sin, eradicating it from our life—which is a small sacrifice that, if we are unwilling to do, we do not have true amendment. In gratitude for this Sacrament, let us ask for the grace always to make a good confession and find ourselves increasing in holiness as we find sin less in our lives or not at all.

As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor

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WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST

By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier

II

The Holy Eucharist is a True Sacrifice

An Explanation of Holy Mass

Part 2

The Mass of the Faithful

The Mass of the Catechumens concludes at the point before the priest begins the Mass of the Faithful with kissing the altar and giving the greeting: Dominus vobiscumThe Lord be with you. And the server responds for the people: And with your spirit. The priest then says: Oremus—Let us pray. There are various responses to why there is no prayer. An acceptable one is that the Greatest Prayer, the Mass of the Faithful, considered by many to be one prayer, now starts. Another was that here the faithful offered up prayers as some interpret the Apostolic Constitution—but this seems contrary to all norms and customs. Finally, and a possible reason, that a prayer over the offerings of the faithful was said—which, now the offering consisting of a monetary amount, seemed inappropriate to pray over and bless. The spirit of which it is said now is the first reason, as an invitation for the faithful to join the priest in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

OFFERTORY

Offertory Hymn

The priest now says the Offertory. As just mentioned, the Offertory Chant follows the greeting, indicating there was once a procession of the faithful giving their offering after the priest greeted the faithful. The chant was to move the faithful toward reverence and reflection while waiting to present their offering. With larger congregations and money becoming more customary, the practice of have assistants collect the offering became the norm, which is seen today in the ushers at this time “taking up the collection”. The chant, too, was limited to just the antiphon since the priest was now free to begin the preparation of the bread and chalice of wine for the sacrifice. For the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, after reading about the condemnation and pending destruction of Jerusalem in the Gospel, Psalm 18, with a collage of words taken from verses 9-12, one sees that in opposition to the Jews who rejected Christ, the Christians accept Christ and therefore there is not weeping, but joy: The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart, and his judgments are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb; for your servant observes them.

Offertory Prayers

The Offertory prayers now composing the Offertory said by the priest are not completely found in the Roman Ordinary of the Mass before the fourteenth century, but they are found in various other liturgies in the Latin Rite. That there is an Offertory is to be found in all the Roman Ordinaries as observed in the rubrics of how to prepare and offer the bread and wine for the consecration before the Secret prayer. An explanation on the Mass called the Micrologus (XI cent.) says expressly: The Roman order has no prayer after the offering before the Secret. It appears that it was left to the priest to indicate in his own words his intention to offer with words or silently while raising the host and raising the chalice and making the sign of the cross over the altar with each before resting them on the corporal. As time went on, the beautiful prayers that now make up the Offertory Prayers were inserted in various church ordinaries starting from the Ninth century until they found their way into the Roman Ordinary as a set form of prayers. The offering of the host, Suscipe sancte Pater, is to be found in the prayer book of Charles the Bald (875-877). (Cf. Liber precationum quas Carolus Calvus Imp. . . . colligi. . . mandavit, ed. F. Felician, Ingolstadt, 1583, p. III: Oratio quando offertis.)

Uncovering the Chalice, folding the veil and placing it on his right, the priest then sets the chalice on his right, removes the pall which he sets in front of him slightly to the right and then takes the paten that has the host laying on it. He elevates the host on the paten in the manner of presenting or offering and looking upwards to the Crucifix he then lowers his eyes while praying: Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this unspotted host, which I Thy unworthy servant offer unto Thee. . . .

This prayer, which is as terse in composition as it is rich in thought, affords an answer to various questions that may be asked with regard to the Eucharistic sacrifice. Who is to receive and accept the host? “The holy Father, the almighty and eternal God.” The Church in the Mass generally addresses herself to God the Father, uniting herself to the Saviour, who on the altar offers Himself to His heavenly Father. (Gihr, 555)

Christ offered Himself once for all and is eternally offering His Body and Blood for the Redemption of mankind. The Offertory looks at the Sacrifice already begun at the Last Supper, the Sacrifice consummated on Calvary and the Sacrifice offered in Mass that is continuous: For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 1:11) The words the priest says expresses this participation in the heavenly liturgy described in the Apocalypse:

And I saw: and behold in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the ancients, a Lamb standing as it were slain, having seven horns and seven eyes: which are the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. And when he had opened the book, the four living creatures, and the four and twenty ancients fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints: And they sung a new canticle, saying: Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth. (Apoc. 5:6-10)

The prayer finished, the priest makes a sign of the cross with the paten and host over the altar and then lets the host fall gently onto the corporal in front of him and places the paten under the corporal. He then takes the Chalice to the epistle side corner and pours in the wine silently. Presented with the water, he makes the sign of the cross over it (except Requiem Masses) while saying the prayer that expresses the wine signifying Christ and the water signifying the faithful: O God, who in creating human nature hast wonderfully dignified it, and still more wonderfully reformed it: grant that by the mystery of this water and wine, we may be made partakers of the divine nature of Him who vouchsafed to become partaker of our human nature, . . .

Returning to the center of the altar the priest then raises the Chalice as he did the paten, praying while raising his eyes to the Crucifix the prayer: We offer unto Thee, O Lord, the chalice of salvation, humbly begging of Thy mercy that it may arise before Thy divine Majesty, with a pleasing fragrance, for our salvation and for that of the whole world. He then makes the sign of the cross with the Chalice over the altar and then rests it in the center of the corporal behind the host. In raising the paten, the priest uses the first-person singular form as he alone lifts it. In the lifting the Chalice, the deacon assists holding the Chalice in the Solemn High Mass, therefore the use of the first-person plural. It is still appropriate in Low Mass with only the priest, for the words of the blessing of the water expresses the participation of all who are living in grace—grace obtained by the Sacrifice on Calvary and that same Sacrifice now being renewed by the members of the Mystical Body of Christ through the priest’s ministry. The first person singular in the offering of the Host is still appropriate because it reminds that the participation was lost until Christ offered Himself as a Chalice of salvation (cf. Ps. 115:13)—that it was not in the Incarnation alone, but in the Incarnate Word accepting the Chalice: The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:11)

We offer the chalice “for our salvation and for that of the whole world.” Mass is, in the first place, a means of grace and salvation for the children of the Church, who especially receive in bountiful measure of the fruit of the sacrifice. But they who do not belong to the communion of the Church are by no means entirely excluded from the blessing of the sacrifice. The Church prays and offers that all may be saved and may attain unto the knowledge of the truth. Countless blessings daily flow from the altar and diffuse themselves over the vast expanse of the earth. In the Mass, as on the cross, Christ is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (I John 2: 2). If this “sacrifice for sin” were no longer left us, what else would remain for the world “but a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries?” (Heb. 10: 27.) Although the Lord sees that the wickedness of men is great on the earth, and that all the thought of their heart is bent upon evil at all times, yet He no longer says: “I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth” (Gen. 6: 5, 7); for He promised that no flood should henceforth come to destroy all flesh, and that He would no more curse the earth on account of man (Gen. 9: 1 5). But why? Because the Lord God scents the sweet savor of the sacrifice (Gen. 8: 21) that is offered daily on thousands and thousands of altars for the salvation of the whole world. (Gihr, 565-66)

Bending in humility with his hands folded and rested on the corporal pointing to the Host and Chalice, he prays in the sense that the unity of the Host and Chalice being one and the same sacrifice, for the Host is the Victim and the Chalice signifies the sacrifice once it is filled with the Victim’s Blood: In a humble spirit and with a contrite heart, may we be accepted by Thee, O Lord, and may our sacrifice so be offered in Thy sight this day as to please Thee, who art our Lord and our God. The unity of the sacrifice is also those offering themselves in a spirit of self-immolation as the Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church.

In order to fully appreciate the meaning of these words and to recite them in the proper spirit, we should remember by whom and in what place they were spoken for the first time. They are taken from a longer, humble, penitential prayer recited by the three young men in the Babylonian furnace. Faithful to God’s law, they would not adore the statue of the king and therefore were cast into a burning furnace. Praising God, they walked about in the flames, which did not harm them in the least. They offered themselves as a propitiatory sacrifice for their sins and for those of their people in order to obtain mercy. “In a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be accepted . . . . So let our sacrifice be made in Thy sight this day, that it may please Thee” (Dan. 3: 39 f.). In similar words the celebrant here prays that the Lord would graciously receive him and the faithful people, for the sake of their humble, penitential sentiments, as a spiritual sacrifice; and, if so accepted, then the Eucharistic sacrifice, when offered by them in the sight of God with these dispositions, will be graciously accepted by God from their hands. (Gihr, 568; cf. also Ps. 50:19)

Fittingly this brings one to the thought of the humble Virgin of Nazareth, who, at the words of the Angel at the Annunciation, said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. These words were addressed after the Angel had declared: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. . . . Because no word shall be impossible with God. (Luke 1:35, 37, 38) It was the power of the Holy Ghost that brought about the Incarnation, and it is the invocation to the Holy Ghost that He will also change the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and so the priest raises his hands in a blessing and signs the gifts with the cross while calling on the Holy Ghost: Come, the Sanctifier, O almighty and eternal God, and bless this sacrifice, prepared for the glory of Thy holy name. The Greeks call this invocation the Epiklesis.

In this place there is question especially of the blessing of consecration, which is to be effected by the descent of the Holy Spirit. No higher blessing can assuredly be imparted to the gifts prepared than that they be consecrated, changed into the body and blood of Christ by the almighty power of the Holy Ghost. The material elements of the sacrifice receive the most perfect blessing imaginable, in that they become Christ’s body and blood offered in sacrifice, which again on their part are sources of blessing for us. When the priest, with the sign of the cross, blesses and sanctifies the gifts on the altar, he prays for the gracious presence of the divine victim and for the plenitude of blessing flowing from His wounds. He implores this miracle of the Eucharistic consecration to be wrought by the Holy Ghost, the “almighty, eternal God,” who, by reason of His unlimited power, can bestow and impart every blessing. (Gihr, 571-72)

(To be continued)

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The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers

M. F. Toal

THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY

JOHN XX. 19-31

At that time, when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God.

Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

I.               ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, BISHOP AND DOCTOR

The Authority and Dignity of the Priesthood

Mary related to them the vision she had seen, and the words she had heard; and by this they were comforted. Since it was likely that the Disciples on hearing these things would either not believe the holy woman, or believing would grieve that they had not been thought worthy of a vision, though He had promised that they were to see him in Galilee, so lest they be troubled thinking this He did not let even the day pass, but having awakened their longing through knowing He was risen, and from what they heard from the holy woman, and when they would be all eagerness to see Him, and fearful as well (which made their longing greater), when it was evening He appeared in their midst, and in a truly wondrous manner.

Why did He appear to them in the evening? Because it was probable that they would then be most fearful. But the wonder is why they did not think He was a phantom. For He came of a sudden, and while the doors were shut. This was certainly because the holy woman had prepared them beforehand; giving them great confidence. Besides, He presented Himself clearly, and with a mild countenance. He had not come by day, so that they might all be gathered together. For their amazement was indeed great. He did not knock at the door, but all at once stood among them, and showed them His hands and His side, and at the same time His voice calmed their troubled minds as He said to them: Peace be to you; that is: Be not troubled; recalling what He had said to them just before His Crucifixion: Peace I leave with you, and also, In Me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress (Jn. xiv. 27).

The Disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Behold how His words are now truly fulfilled! For that which He said before His Crucifixion: I shall see you again, and your heart shall rejoice; and your joy no man shall take from you (Jn. xvi. 22), has now in this moment come to pass. All this wrought in them a most exact faith. And since they were engaged in deadly warfare with the Jews He repeats frequently the words: Peace be to you; bestowing this grace to comfort them in the war.

These were the first words He said to them after His Resurrection, (and because of this Paul also everywhere says, Grace be to you, and peace). But to the women He gave joy (Mt. xxviii. 9); for that sex was in sorrow, and on them He bestows joy first. Aptly does He announce peace to the men, because of their warfare; and joy to women, because of their sorrow. Then His own sufferings ended He recounts the fruits of the Cross; and these are peace. For since all things that stood in its way are now banished, and He has won a glorious victory, and has restored all things to right order, He says to them: As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. You shall encounter no difficulty, both because of what has been accomplished, and because of My authority Who send you. Here He uplifts their souls, and made clear to them the ground of their confidence, if they are willing to take His work upon them. And now no longer calling upon the Father, but of His own authority, He bestows on them this power. For He breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. For as a king sending forth His governors gives them power to put a man in prison, or free him from prison, so Christ sending these forth gave them this power.

But why does He say, If I go not, He (the Comforter) will not come to you (Jn. xvi. 7), and yet give them this Spirit? Some say that He did not give them the Spirit, but disposed them for receiving it by breathing on them. For if Daniel was struck with fear at the sight of an angel (Dan. viii. 17), what would these men have not suffered had they received such an unspeakable favour, unless He had first prepared them for it while they were His Disciples? And so He did not say: You have received the Holy Ghost, but: Receive ye the Holy Ghost.

Yet a man will not err who says they received some spiritual power and grace; not so as to raise the dead and perform wonders, but so as to forgive sins. For the gifts of the Spirit are manifold. And so He goes on: Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained, indicating what kind of power He was bestowing. Later however, after fifty days, they received the power of miracles. And accordingly He says: You shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea. They became witnesses through signs and wonders; for ineffable the grace of the Spirit, and manifold His gift.

This has come to pass that you may learn that One is the Authority and the Gift of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. How then is it that, no man comes to the Son, except the Father draw Him? (Jn. vi. 44). But this is shown to be also the property of the Son; for He says: I am the way: No man cometh to the Father but by me (Jn. xiv. 6). And see also how the same belongs to the Holy Ghost; for No man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost (I Cor. xii. 3). And again we see that the Apostles are said to have been given to the Church, now by the Father, now by the Son, and now by the Holy Ghost; and that the diversities of grace belong equally to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

Let us then do all things that we may have the Spirit of God within us. And let us treat with reverence those to whose hands the work of the Spirit has been entrusted. For great is the dignity of the priesthood. Whose sins you shall forgive, He says, they are forgiven; and because of this Paul says: Obey your prelates, and be subject to them (Heb. xiii. 7), and hold them in great reverence. For you have but the care of what concerns yourself; and if you look well after that you will not be held accountable for what others do. But the priest, even should he order his own life in a fitting manner, yet does not scrupulously have due care for both your life, and the lives of those about him, shall go with the wicked into everlasting fire; and so he oftentimes while not failing in his own conduct will perish because of yours, if he has not done all that belonged to him to do.

Knowing then the greatness of their danger, treat them with much consideration, for as Paul goes on to say: They watch for your souls; and not simply this, but as having to render an account of them. Because of this you must treat them with honour. And should you join with others to insult them, then neither will your own affairs prosper. For as long as the helmsman is in good heart those on board are safe. But if he is grieved by their abuse, and by their hostile behaviour, he can neither keep a good watch, nor perform his task properly, and unwillingly involves them in many disasters. And so likewise the priest. If he is held in honour by you, he will be able to take care of what relates to yourselves. But if you throw them into depondency, weakening their hands, and making them easily overcome, you expose both them and yourselves to the waves, however courageous they may be.

Remember what Christ said of the Jews: The Scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses (Mt. xxiii. 2, 3). Now we can say that the priests are seated, not upon the chair of Moses, but upon the chair of Christ. For it is from Him they have received their teaching. Because of this, Paul says: For Christ therefore we are ambassadors, God as it were exhorting by us (II Cor. V. 20).

You see that in the case of those who judge in the world outside that all are subject to them; even those who may be superior to them in family, in conduct, or in intelligence. Yet out of respect for the King, who gives him his authority they do not consider this, but uphold the authority of the king, whoever the person who exercises it. And if there is such respect where a man gives authority, are we to slight the authority of one who is appointed by God? And shall we despise his authority, and abuse him, and humiliate him with constant fault-finding? And though forbidden to judge our brethren, we sharpen our tongues against the priests.

And how can this be pardoned; when paying no attention to the beam in your own eye, you are very concerned with the speck of dust in another’s eye? Do you not understand that judging others in this manner you are preparing a more difficult judgement for yourself? And I am saying this to you, not as excusing those who may exercise the priesthood unworthily: for such as these I weep and sorrow exceedingly: nevertheless I declare that it is not fitting that they be judged by those they rule; especially by the ruder kind. And though their conduct may be greatly criticized, you, if you pay heed to yourself, will suffer no harm from them in regard to the things entrusted to them by God. For if he made use of the voice of an ass to speak, and bestowed spiritual blessings by means of a soothsayer; because of the Jews, working by the mouth of a dumb beast, and by the unclean tongue of Balaam how much more for you who are worthy, even though the priests be wholly unworthy, will He do all things, and send His Holy Spirit upon you?

And neither does a mind that is pure draw down grace because of its purity; it is the divine favour that does all: For all things, it says, are yours, whether it be Paul, or Apollo, or Cephas (I Cor. iii. 22). For what the priest has had entrusted to him it is God alone Who bestows; and however much human wisdom may help us, it will ever appear less than grace. And I say this, not that you may be careless with regard to your own life, but so that should those who have the spiritual care of you be neglectful of their conduct, you whom they guide may not heap up evils for yourselves.

But why do I say priests? For neither an angel, nor an archangel, can do anything in regard to what is given us by God. It is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Who disposes of all things: the priest but lends his tongue, and puts forth his hand. For it would not be just that, because of the wickedness of another, they should suffer injury who draw near in faith to the symbols of our salvation.

Keeping all these things before our mind, let us both fear God, and hold His priests in reverence; showing them every respect, to the end that, through our own worthy manner of living, and because of our obedience to them, we may receive from God a great reward, by the grace and kindness of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be there honour, glory, and empire, now and forever, world without end. Amen.

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APRIL 11

St. Leo I, the Great, Pope, Confessor, Doctor of the Church

1. St. Leo I is the most important pope before the time of St. Gregory the Great. No other in this long line of pontiffs played so significant a role in current affairs of the Church and state. Leo is an outstanding figure in both ecclesiastical and profane history; he is at once a saintly teacher of the Church, a resolute guardian of the Faith, a powerful defender and preserver of the rights of the papacy, and, finally, a representative and savior of Western culture. Under Pope Celestine I he was archdeacon of Tuscany. While engaged in important affairs in Gaul he was elected pope in Rome and was consecrated September 29, 440. His reign saw the migration of nations and the endless wars, the unrest, and the threats of the invasion of Germanic peoples: the Suevians, Vandals, Alemanians, Burgundians, Turks, and Goths. In addition, there was a second and greater threat: in the East a new extremely dangerous heresy was spreading, the so-called Monophysite doctrine of Eutyches. It maintained that there were not in Christ two distinct natures, the divine and the human, but that these two were fused into a single nature. Pope St. Leo died November 10, 461.

2. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Gospel). This solemn declaration of St. Peter was energetically adhered to and asserted by St. Leo in his struggle against the Monophysite heresy. In 449 he composed and sent to Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, a theological treatise in which he declared that both the human and the divine natures in Christ are perfect. They are united in the one divine Person: majesty assumed lowliness; omnipotence, weakness; eternity, mortality. In order to cancel our debt, Christ united in Himself the two natures—one that could not suffer and one that was subject to suffering. Thus it was possible for the “one Mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ, who is a man, like them” (1 Tim. 2:5), in virtue of his human nature, to die, as our salvation demanded. He who was true God was born with the complete and perfect nature of a true man, possessing everything that belongs to God as well as everything that belongs to man. Being invisible as God, He became visible as man; the infinite became finite; He who was before all time took a beginning in time; the Lord of all took upon Himself the form of a servant and thus hid His infinite Majesty; He who is true God became true man. One Christ, one divine Person in two natures, divine and human, each complete and perfect in itself, both subsisting side by side, yet unmixed and unchanged—that is the solemn declaration of St. Leo the Great. When, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, his statement was read to six hundred bishops, they cried out: “Peter has spoken through Leo.” The Saint never wearied of discussing and preaching the doctrine of the union of two natures in Christ, whether in letters, lectures, or sermons. To keep belief in Christ pure and to see that it was taught correctly, this was his chief concern. We gladly join him in proclaiming: “Thou art the Christ, true God and true man in one divine Person, Son of the living God.”

“And I tell thee this in my turn, that thou art Peter, and it is upon this rock that I will build my Church” (Gospel). With inflexible firmness St. Leo upheld the rights of individual bishops. He defended the Oriental patriarchs against the overweening claims of the Patriarch of Constantinople. The rights of the primacy of Rome found an indomitable defender in him. “Bishops,” he said, all possess the same dignity (that of consecration), but not all have the same authority (or jurisdiction).” The power of metropolitans and patriarchs was defined by the Fathers; the primacy of Peter is of divine institution. Thus, the government of the Church is unified in the Chair of Peter. During the stormy years of the barbarian invasion Leo held the organization of the Church together with a firm hand, so that she came forth from the upheaval stronger and more influential than she had been before. ‘Thou art Peter, the rock.”

Again, when the very existence of Rome was threatened, Leo proved himself a solid rock! No sooner had the Goths left Italy and invaded Gaul, than Attila the Terrible, the “Scourge of God,” appeared in northern Italy with his horde of Huns (452). Just as he was ready to cross the Po and march southwards, Leo went out to meet him, and his bold, majestic bearing made such an impression on Attila that he turned and crossed the Danube. In 455, too, the Pope saved Rome from destruction. In that year Genseric, king of the Vandals, crossed over from Africa and stood at the gates of the city. Leo persuaded him to spare the city, though he failed to prevent its pillage. Leo, the rock!

The Italy of this time urgently needed on the papal throne a man of character and courage. Such a man was Leo. With virile, inflexible courage, he exercised his pastoral office of saving souls, keeping the Church’s teaching uncontaminated, and promoting the holiness of Christian living. He was prepared even to give his life for his flock at any time. The first warning of danger found him at his post. A man of faith, of trust in God, and of deep humility, he emerged victorious from every encounter. As shepherd of souls, as teacher of the Church, as statesman, as pope, as saint, he was a credit to the Church and. the papacy. In his life and work, both the Church and the world can see the grandeur of the Christian religion and the papacy as a power for man’s temporal and eternal welfare.

3. We thank God for having given His Church in those critical times so competent a leader and so holy a supreme pastor. We thank Him that also in our day He has provided His Church with a successor of St. Leo in whom we may place our full confidence. We follow him as our shepherd!

“See, I have inspired thy lips with utterance; I give thee authority over the nations; with a word thou shalt root them up and pull them down, with a word thou shalt build them up and plant them anew” (Offertory). That was the divine commission of Pope St. Leo. The Lord takes care of His Church.

“‘How rich God is in mercy, with what an excess of love he has loved us! Our sins had made dead men of us, and he in giving life to Christ, gave life to us too’ (Eph. 2:4), so that we might be a new creature in Him. ‘You must be quit of the old self, and the habits that went with it’ (Col. 3:9). Let us renounce the works of the flesh so as to have a share in the Sonship of Christ. O Christian, recognize thy dignity! ‘You are to share the divine nature’ (II Pet. 1:4). Do not return to thy former baseness by ignoble conduct” (St. Leo, Christmas Sermon 21, 3).

Collect: Be pleased to watch over Thy flock, eternal Shepherd, and keep it under Thy continual protection, through Thy supreme pontiff blessed Leo, whom Thou didst establish as chief shepherd of the whole Church. Amen.

(Benedict Baur)

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PLAIN TALKS ON MARRIAGE

FULGENCE MEYER , O.F.M.

(1954)

Chapter V

Sins Against Holy Marriage

(Part Two)

Renegades and Hypocrites

Everywhere there are renegade Catholics. In consideration of the excellent Catholic parents and education they have had, one wonders what ever could have alienated them to such a degree from the Church of their fathers, as to fill them with a veritable hatred for it, so much so that they purposely avoid passing a church or meeting a priest or a nun on the street, in order not to be reminded of it. When they were young men or young ladies they were good and pious. For the life of them they would never have wilfully received a sacrament unworthily. But alas, when they married they were soon engulfed by the current of sensuality and the relinquishment of marital duty prevalent on all sides. They yielded to their selfish craving for nuptial indulgence dissociated from the sacred responsibilities of it. They knew they were doing wrong as they began to violate nature, but they used all kinds of fleshly soporifics to dull their conscience and lull it to sleep. They either made no mention at all of these mortal sins in the confessional, and lied to the Holy Ghost; or, if they mentioned them, it was without genuine sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment. Their confession was invalid and a sacrilege; and the consequent Holy Communion was another sacrilege. Heaping sin upon sin, and sacrilege upon sacrilege, their conscience soon became so hopelessly involved and restless. that they could no longer endure the disharmony between the voice of God in them and their life, between their religious profession and their conduct: until they gradually decided to put an end to their mental and spiritual torture by giving up the practice of their faith entirely and forever. And after this step it was not long before they got so far away from God as though they had never known Him or heard of Him. When they give the reasons for their apostasy, asked or unasked, they like to throw the blame upon this or that priest, in or out of the confessional: whereas the real cause of it was their detestable conduct in marriage, and the fulfilment of the tremendous threat of God that, if they refused His blessing, He would inflict upon them His curse. God will not be mocked.

Foolish Subterfuges

In the light of this we know how to appraise the conduct of those who say, for instance, that they are willing to have a child or two by and by, but not right away after their marriage; for they want to go out a lot at first and have a good time; when they have enough of that they will be willing to settle down and have a little family. God deals with such young couples in His own way. If they use the rights of marriage, but are unwilling to accept the children He offers them, He may not repeat the offer later on when they are not only willing but most eager to have children. He will say, so to speak: “When I was willing to give you children, you iniquitously refused them; now that you want them, you shall not have them.” No one can sport with God. There are others who do not want the children close together; others again who know exactly just how many children they can take care of and educate properly according to their circumstances, and they will accept no more; usually the number is very small, consisting of one or two; there are those, too, who say they are too old to think of having additions to the family, and they would be rather embarrassed by the experience; quite many have been told by some doctor or other that another child will spell death to the mother. In the meantime, however, they continue sinfully to exploit the nuptial relations to their sensuous delight. They give to the flesh what belongs to the flesh, but not to God what belongs to God.

“Judge Not!”

Here the caution is in season, that we must not judge others by mere appearances. We can be very uncharitable and unfair in blaming or even only suspecting them of sinful practices, just because they have no children, or but one or two after many years of married life, or because the children are far apart in years. “They must be taking precaution,” meddlesome and gossipy people are inclined to say. Indeed, they are taking precaution, but often this is virtuous rather than sinful. There are many childless couples whose main earthly desire is to be blessed with children. They pray fervently for this boon day for day. For reasons of His own God withholds or delays the granting of their request. Meanwhile with the affliction of childlessness they have to bear the injury of being misunderstood and unjustly blamed.

Other couples, who have but one or two children, or have more children with considerable intervals of time between them, are using precaution, too. They live together in virtuous continency and conjugal abstinence when they feel they dislike another increase in the family for the time being. There are more married people practicing this at times heroic self-discipline than the world knows of, or would be ready to believe, were it told of it. At first they find it hard, of course; but with the help of prayer and the regular, at least monthly, worthy reception of the sacraments, and through mutual encouragement in self-restraint, they soon find the virtuous practice easy and sweet, increasing in them the love of God, and promoting strongly their personal and reciprocal happiness. Instead of blame they deserve the highest praise. After all the intimate life of married persons is so sacred a sphere of personal concern, that any unwarranted intrusion is decidedly objectionable and unseemly.

It Is the Church’s Business

Why, then, does the Church assume to regulate, and interfere with, the sacred intimacies of married people? Why does she not let them and their conduct to themselves and their personal choice, direction and control? For her very dictation as to married life the Church makes herself highly obnoxious and disliked in many quarters, especially in our day. Why does she not leave this hidden and mysterious realm alone, as other churches do? Because she may not without being recreant to the solemn charge of Christ that she should teach everything that He commanded. He has appointed her to be the guardian of His holy laws, and to explain them and to insist on their observance in season and out of season, regardless of the favor or disfavor of men in high or low places. Since married life is the root of all human society, every ignorance or neglect of its sacred duties is bound to be fatal. If anyone needs to be thoroughly instructed in, and opportunely advised of his or her duties, it is the married person; and the Church has been deputed by God to give this instruction and advice, and to exercise supervision over its proper and conscientious execution.

God Is the Author of the Law

It is a mistake as gross as it is widely prevalent to assume that the Church has made the law against sinful birth-control. God is the author of this law, inherent in the very nature of man; the Church is only God’s oracle declaring the law in His Name. The Church, therefore, can neither abrogate it nor mitigate it. It stands, and always will stand as it is, no matter how violently it may be assailed by the flesh and its representatives. It is therefore useless and idle to approach the priest in the confessional for the purpose of sacramental absolution, if you are not minded to quit this sin once and forever, let your circumstances be what they may. Make no attempt to plead with him so he will absolve you, although you know full well and openly admit that you are going to continue your sinful practice; or even to move him to approve of your iniquitous conduct. He can do neither without betraying his holy office and trust as a priest of the Most High, and without becoming an accomplice of your sin. Rather do not come to confession at all than try to tempt the minister of God to such baseness and treachery.

Virginity in Marriage

The Church does not say, that married people must have children; or that they must have children in the first years of married life; or that they must have many children; or that they must have more children than they can support; or that the children must come in close succession. By no means. All that the Catholic Church teaches is that married people, if they use the rights of marriage, must accept the consequences. But married people need not use marriage, if they agree by mutual consent to abstain; and consequently they need not have any children at all, or have them only, please God, when they choose to live together as man and wife. The Church has numbered among her canonized saints husbands and wives who, though having every title to marital intercourse, agreed to forego it entirely and to live together in holy virginity to the end of their days. Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph are in a class by themselves; there are others, however, who imitated their conjugal virginity, for instance, St. Casimir and his wife, and St. Elzearius and his wife St. Delphina. The Church honors them as heroes and heroines of marital continency, and proposes their example to the imitation of married people. Hence you need not have children, or many children, or children close together: all you need to do is to fulfill your contract with God in holy marriage, and use its rights only for the fulfilment of the purposes for which they are intended.

The Twofold Contract

When you married, you made a twofold contract: the one with your partner in marriage, by virtue of which you mutually yielded the right over your bodies to your mates: the other with God, on the strength of which you promised God solemnly and faithfully that, if He gave you the privilege of intimate married life with your partner, you would accept the consequences and the attendant responsibilities. If you did not have the intention to enter upon these terms, your marriage was null and void from the start. Now you would feel mortally hurt, if your partner would not live up to the marriage contract and be unfaithful to you. Why, then, do you presume to violate your contract with God, by enjoying the privileges of matrimony, whilst you shirk its duties? One contract is as sacred and binding as the other. Why make so much of the one which safeguards your rights, and so little of the other which protects the rights of God?

Who Would Be Here?

If our forefathers and foremothers had practiced the sin of race-suicide as many Catholic married people are practicing it today, what would have been the result? For one thing, I should not have written, and you would not be reading, this book. Why not? Because none of us would ever have existed. I am the sixth child of my parents. You may be the first or second child: but your mother and her mother, your father and his father, all the way up the line, were they always the first or second child? We can therefore safely say that, if our progenitors had used selfish and sinful family restriction, not one of us would be here today. Are you going to pay for the gift of existence by nefariously denying the boon of it to others whom God, in view of your continued use of marriage, is willing to call into being by your agency, provided you do not thwart His plans?

A Shocking Supposition

Suppose you had a daughter of about twenty years who was being courted by a young man. You suddenly became aware that, since there was no prospect of an early marriage after an ardent courtship, the young people agreed to practice mutual self-abuse until the circumstances would warrant marriage and the procreation of offspring. Would you not be terribly incensed and cry out with utmost indignation against such shocking licentiousness and depravity? And yet upon unbiased reflection you would have to admit, that after all they are as much entitled to this practice outside of matrimony as you are in it, since matrimony gives absolutely no title to it; nor does it in any way mollify its intrinsic malice. Why, then, are you not similarly shocked at your own sinful conduct?

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Father Krier will be in Pahrump (Our Lady of the Snows) April 15 and in Eureka (Saint Joseph) April 22.

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