Vol 14 Issue 18 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
May 1, 2021 ~ Saint Joseph, Worker, opn!
1. What is the Holy Eucharist
2. Fourth Sunday after Easter
3. Saint Athanasius
4. Family and Marriage
5. Articles and notices
For Catholics, May has always been a month the faithful of the Church have dedicated to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The public Rosaries, processions, crownings of the images, and adorning her altars with flowers directs one to the motherly intercession she holds with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, and the gratitude the children of the Church want to express in being recipients of her gracious aid. May is a month of expectations and life, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, with the verdant landscape. This provides a confidence to the maternal care found in a mother expressed, then, both in Mary, and all mothers in as much as Mother’s Day is also celebrated in many nations during this month. May we turn to Mary, assuring her that we will pray her Rosary, bring her flowers, crown her image and tell her we will listen to her Son as she requested: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. (John 2:5)
As always, enjoy the readings provided for your benefit.—The Editor
WHAT IS THE HOLY EUCHARIST
By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier
The Holy Eucharist is a True Sacrifice
An Explanation of Holy Mass
The Mass of the Faithful
THE CANON OF THE MASS
The priest raises his hands joins them as he looks at the Crucifix and then brings them down together to rest on the altar as though the joined hands were a sword cutting in sacrifice as one considers the sacrifice Abraham was to make of his son Isaac, whom the Angel stops the sword because it is not Isaac, but the Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. The priest now sees in front of him the bread and wine which Melchisedech offered—but it is not bread and wine to be offered, it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ; and so as Abraham sees the ram (male lamb) entangled in the tree and as Melchisedech is the priest forever, who will offer Himself under the appearances of bread and wine, the priest now fulfilling the types as an alter Christus, another Christ. He has just said the beginning of the Te igitur, Thou, therefore. . . The T of the Te igitur has been transformed into a Cross with Christ hanging on it. It is the beginning of the Canon of the Mass, that which cannot be changed and has not changed since Pope Gregory (+ 604) if not before the death of Pope Symmachus (+ 514).
These points are made by the authors of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:
1. For convenience’ sake we shall refer to each part of the Canon as a “prayer.” However, it must be kept in mind that each of these parts is only a division of the one great prayer.
2. Another noteworthy feature of the Canon is the tracing of the outline of the cross over the elements, which is done repeatedly both before and after the Consecration. Count the number of times the cross is thus made in the Canon. Saint Thomas says that the priest in celebrating Mass uses the sign of the cross to express the Passion of Christ, which terminated on the cross. The Angelic Doctor says also that the crosses traced over the Sacred Elements after the Consecration are not for the purpose of blessing or consecrating, but only to commemorate the virtue of the cross and the manner of Christ’s Passion.
3. A third, and outstanding, characteristic of the Canon is the deep silence which prevails immediately after the introductory Preface. The Silence of the Host now rules our hearts. Many reasons are given for the silent recitation of this part of the Mass: (a) From the earliest days it has been the custom to conduct the Consecration and the opening and closing prayers of the Canon in silence. The Church, scrupulous in her guardianship of this most venerable prayer, has therefore· preserved the custom. (b) The silence indicates that the Consecration and sacrificial act is a priestly function, which only the consecrated priest, and not the people, can accomplish. In the other portions of the Mass, the priest and the people commune, but now the priest has entered into the Holy of Holies, where he converses with God alone. (c) The silence is in harmony with the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Our senses do not reveal to us the accomplishment of the mystery; our mind does not understand it. There are miracles in the Host as numerous as stars, but we see not one external trace of them. This silence recalls to us the hidden nature and the sublime depth of the Mysteries of the Altar, which we accept by faith alone. (d) The silence prompts us to honor, adore and offer the Sublime Sacrifice with the priest. Silence in this case is like a clear voice urging us to enter into our own hearts, there to adore and meditate. “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Habacuc 2:20). (e) In the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, some of Our Lord’s prayers were audible and some silent. So it is proper that both secret and audible prayers be used at the altar, where the priest, the visible representative of Christ, is renewing Christ’s sacrifice. (f) This solemn silence has liturgical precedent. On the Day of Atonement, while the Jewish highpriest offered incense to God on the golden altar, a deep silence hung over the entire temple, and all the people said their prayers in secret. (CCD, 185-86)
When one considers the Roman Rite, one must consider the Roman customs influenced by the Christian Faith handed down by the Apostles of whom Jesus Christ said: The Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you. Who said to Peter:
Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. (Matt. 16:18-19.)
Peter established his Chair in Rome by Divine Providence. As mentioned, the vestments worn by the priest are Roman garments. The Liturgy, too, would be formed by Roman culture, by its requirements to meet religious and legal legitimacy without dissolving the essence of the Mass. Once this was established, the Church would not add, but would preserve the worship from any corruption that would invalidate or diminish the clean oblation (cf. Mal. 1:11). As Saint Paul says, that Christ might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. And this fulfills what Malachias prophesied:
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)
It therefore covers the divine sacrificial act with a mystical veil and encloses it in a most precious case. As the sacrifice which the eternal high priest offers on the altar to the end of ages, ever remains the same, in like manner the Canon, the ecclesiastical sacrificial prayer, in its sublime simplicity and venerable majesty, ever remains the same; only on the greatest feasts are a few additions made in order to harmonize with the changing spirit of the ecclesiastical year. . .
The Canon is, therefore, through its origin, antiquity, and use, venerable, inviolable, and sacred. If ever a prayer of the Church came into existence under the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, it is assuredly the prayer of the Canon. It is permeated throughout by the spirit of faith and with the sweet’ odor of devotion; it is a holy work, full of force and unction. Its simple language, by its pithiness and its antique and Scriptural stamp, produces a touching effect on the mind of him who prays and offers the sacrifice; it charms the soul, just like the dimly lit, ancient, venerable basilicas of the Eternal City. It is a pleasure and a joy to the heart to still utter the very same words at the altar which so many devout and holy priests throughout the entire Church and in all ages have always used in praying and offering the sacrifice. Already in the times of the martyrs and in the chapels of the catacombs these prayers of the Canon of the Mass were recited and sanctified. (Gihr, 620-21)
The Council of Trent, Session XXII, chapter 4, defines:
And since it is becoming that holy things be administered in a holy manner, and of all things this sacrifice is the most holy, the Catholic Church, to the end that it might be worthily and reverently offered and received, instituted many centuries ago the holy Canon, which is so free from error that it contains nothing that does not in the highest degree savor of a certain holiness and piety and raise up to God the minds of those who offer. For it consists partly of the very words of the Lord, partly of the traditions of the apostles, and also of pious regulations of holy pontiffs.
The Canon of the Mass is to be considered not a number of prayers put together, but one prayer that completes one action: The renewal of the Sacrifice Christ offered on Calvary, that is, the Sacrifice of His Body and Blood.
The Canon conceives the Redeemer as hanging upon the Cross during its entire duration. Bearing this in mind, we find the combined prayers of the Canon to be an adaptation of the Saviour’s word, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself” (John XII, 32). The saying is presented dramatically. All creatures in need of redemption are gathered around the Cross; and as of old the penitent thief breathed his “Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom” (Luke XXIII, 42), so in the Canon a1l creation, divided into six groups, looks up to the crucified Redeemer and utters its “Memento.” (Linneweber, 8)
Gihr introduces prayers of the Canon as one continual prayer of Christ in His Sacrifice of Himself:
They are oblation prayers, which refer to the Consecration; for they contain in part petitions for the blessing and consecration of the sacrificial elements, in part an offering of the sacrificial body and blood of Christ, and in part supplications to obtain and to apply the fruits of the sacrifice. As to their contents, they harmonize with the foregoing prayers of the Offertory, and we behold in them a copy of the prayers of our divine Saviour. During His life and at His death He prayed continually. The longest and most solemn, fervent, and touching prayer of the Lord is the one which He uttered when He was about to accomplish His sacrifice on the cross; His prayer as high priest. In it He makes known to whom, for whom, and for what purpose He would offer His sacrificial death; He supplicates for His disciples and for all who would believe in Him: for the entire Church militant. He besought the Father to fill all the faithful in time and in eternity with His saving gifts: to preserve them here below in unity, keep them in truth, and sanctify them by grace, that hereafter they might be transformed in beatitude and behold His glory. (625-26)
The Canon, therefore, begins:
We therefore humbly pray and beseech Thee, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, our Lord, that Thou wouldst accept and bless these + gifts, these + presents, these + holy unspotted sacrifices, which, in the first place, we offer Thee for Thy holy Catholic Church, which Thou mayest vouchsafe to pacify, protect, unite, and govern throughout the world: together with Thy servant N. our pope, N. our bishop, as also all orthodox believers and professors of the catholic and apostolic faith.
Adrian Fortescue describes these words of the Te Igitur in this sense:
The first half (to “sacrificia illibata”) asks God to accept and bless the offering; the second abruptly begins the Intercession. The terms “haec dona, haec munera, haec sancta sacrificia illibata” suppose the Consecration; but this might well be merely another dramatic anticipation, as “immaculata hostia” at the offertory, or rather evidence that the whole consecration-prayer is one thing and should be considered ideally as one act, one moment. The signs of the cross, naturally following the words, are in MSS. of the Gelasian book. (Fortescue, 329)
(To be continued)
The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers
M. F. Toal
THE GOSPEL OF THE SUNDAY
John xvi. 5-14
At that time: Jesus said to his Disciples: I go to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me: Whither goest thou? But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow hath filled your heart.
But I tell you the truth: it is expedient to you that I go: for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he is come, he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgement. Of sin: because they believed not in me. And of justice: because I go to the Father; and you shall see me no longer. And of judgement: because the prince of this world is already judged. I have yet many things to say to you: but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall show you. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you.
I. ST CYPRIAN, BISHOP AND MARTYR
On the advantages of patience.
1. Since, Dearly Beloved, I am to speak to you of patience, and make known to you its usefulness and its advantages, where can I better begin than by saying that I can see that even at this present moment you will need patience, that you may listen to me. For without patience you will be unable either to listen to me or to learn anything from me. For preaching and instruction unto salvation are received with fruit only when listened to in patience. And, Beloved Brethren, among the varied ways along which the Church is divinely guided towards heaven, I do not find any more profitable to this present life, or more helpful in obtaining future glory, than that we, who with reverential fear and devotion place our trust in what the Lord has taught us, should hold most carefully to patience.
2. The Wisdom of this World. There are certain philosophers who profess that they also are devoted to patience. But their patience is as false as their wisdom. For how can anyone be patient or truly wise who knows nothing of the wisdom or of the patience of God: for He has Himself warned us of this where He speaks of those who appear to themselves to be wise in this world: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the prudence of the prudent I will reject (I Cor. i. 19; Is. xxix. 14). The blessed Paul, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, and who was sent to call and to instruct the Gentiles, also bears witness to this, and teaches us, saying: Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy, and vain deceit (Col. ii. 8). And in another place he says: Let no man deceive himself: If any man among you seem to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written: I will catch the wise in their own craftiness. And again: The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain (I Cor. iii. 20). And so if their wisdom is not true, neither is their patience. For he is truly patient who is meek and humble. But we see no philosophers who are either meek or humble; but rather only such as are very satisfied with themselves. And since they are pleased with themselves: and displeasing to God: it is plain that wherever you find this arrogant proclaiming of an assumed freedom of conduct, and the unbecoming vanity of the half covered breast, you will find no true patience.
3. Virtue does not consist in Words but in Deeds. But we, Dearly Beloved, who love wisdom not in word but in deed, and profess it, not by our dress but by our lives, we whose minds are intent on the virtue that is within rather than on its outward semblance, who talk not of lofty things but live them, as becomes servants and worshippers of God, let us show forth in humility of spirit the patience we learn from our heavenly teachers. Here is a virtue we may share with God. For it is from Him that patience comes: in Him its glory and its dignity have their source, in Him as its Author patience has its greatness and its beginning. And what is precious in the eyes of God must be held in honour by men; what the Divine Majesty loves it commends to us. If God is our Lord and our Father let us strive after the patience of our Lord and Master; for servants should imitate their masters, as sons should be like their fathers.
4. Patience ripens all. How great, how wondrous, the patience of God, Who while enduring with so much forbearance the godless temples, the images of clay, and the accursed abominations set up by men in contempt of His Honour and Majesty, yet makes day begin and His light to shine upon the good and upon the bad; and as He waters this earth with showers He excludes no one from their benefit, bestowing the bounty of His rain alike upon the just and upon the unjust? We can see with what serene patience and impartiality the seasons at His command serve both the innocent and the guilty, the Godfearing and the Godless, those who give thanks and the thankless. The elements wait on them, the winds blow for them, the streams flow, the harvest abounds, the vines mature, the trees become laden with apples, the woods come out in leaf, and the field in flowers. And though we provoke God by frequent, nay, by continuous offences, He restrains His wrath and waits in patience for that destined day of retribution.
For though He has the power to punish He chooses rather to go on in patience, forbearing in mildness, putting off the day, so that, if it is possible, the long continuing evil-doing may at length be changed, that man, surrounded as he is by the evil contagion of error and of crime, may turn at last to God; as He tells us Himself, where He says: I desire not the death of the wicked, but rather that he turn from his ways and live (Ezech. xxxiii. n). And again: Return to me, saith the Lord (Mal. iii. 7). And again: Return to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and willingly forgiving towards our wickedness (Joel ii. 13).
And this the blessed Paul also proclaims to us, where he calls upon the sinner to repent, and says: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and long-suffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance? But according to thy hardness and impenitent heart, thou treasurest up to thyself wrath, against the day of wrath, and revelation of the just judgement of God (Rom. ii. 4-6). He tells us that the judgement of God is just, because it is slow in coming, because it is long and often deferred, so that through the enduring patience of God man may give thought to the life to come. And then when repentance for sin can no longer avail him, punishment is inflicted on the sinner.
5. Patience is of God. And that we may more fully understand, Beloved Brethren, that patience is a thing of God, and that he who is patient and gentle and mild is an imitator of God the Father, when the Lord in His Gospel was giving His precepts for our salvation, and communicating His divine counsels to His Disciples, to instruct them in the way of perfection, He declared to them: You have heard it that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: that you may be the children of your father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have: do not even the publicans know this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? Do not also the heathens do this? Be you perfect therefore, as also your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt. v. 43-8). So, He says, shall the children of God become perfect; so, He shows and teaches, renewed through being spiritually reborn shall they come to fulfilment, provided that the patience of God the Father remain in us, that the divine likeness, which we lost through the sin of Adam, may again be seen in us, shining forth in our deeds. What glory to become like unto God! How wondrous, how great, a happiness to merit the virtue which we praise in God!
6. Christ did not teach us in Words only. And neither did Jesus Christ, Beloved Brethren, Who was our Lord and our God, teach us only by His words; for these He fulfilled in His deeds. And because He had said that He had come down to do the will of His Father, among the other signs He showed us in proof of His divine power, in His unvarying forbearance He showed also the patience of His heavenly Father. And so from the beginning of His Coming every action of His is accompanied by patience as by an attendant; and first of all, though coming down from the glory of heaven to this earth, the Son of God did not refuse to put on the body of a man, and, though Himself without sin, to take upon Him the sins of others. And putting aside for a time His own immortality, He chose to endure our mortality, so that though He was without stain He might yet suffer death for the salvation of sinners.
The Lord is baptized by His servant; and He Who was to purify us of sin does not think it beneath Him to wash His Body in the baptism of regeneration. He by Whom others are fed fasts for forty days. He goes without food, and He suffers hunger, that they who were hungry for the word and for grace might be filled with bread from heaven. He confuted the devil who tried to tempt Him, and, using only words, was content simply to frustrate the enemy. He ruled His Disciples, not with the authority of a master over servants, but Mild and Gentle He loved them as a brother. He stooped even to the washing of the feet of the Apostles that by His own example He might teach them, that as the Lord was among His servants so should they be among their fellow servants and equals.
Nor need we wonder that He should do this among the dutiful, when with prolonged patience He suffered Judas to the end; taking food with one who was His enemy; knowing who it was within His own household that plotted against Him, yet not denouncing him, not refusing the kiss of the betrayer. What patience and what serenity in bearing with the Jews! By His gentle words He turned them from unbelief to faith. He answered with mildness those who contradicted Him; suffered the overbearing with clemency; yielded humbly to those who tormented Him, desiring even to the hour of His Cross and Passion to unite with Him these who were ever the slayers of the Prophets and rebels against God.
7. And even in His very Passion and Crucifixion, before they had come to the shedding of His Blood and the final cruelty of His death, what infamies of reproach did He not patiently endure, what revilings, what mockeries; so that He Who a little before had healed with His spittle the eyes of a blind man was spat upon by those who insulted Him. He was scourged in Whose Name and by Whose servants the devil and his angels are scourged. He who crowns the martyrs with unfading garlands was Himself crowned with thorns. They struck Him on the face with the palms of their hands Who gives the palm of victory to those who endure to the end. He Who clothes others with the garment of everlasting life was stripped of His earthly garments. They gave Him gall Who gives us the food of heaven. He was given vinegar to drink Who has given us the cup of salvation. He the Just One, the Innocent, nay, more, Innocence Itself, He Who is Justice, was reputed among thieves, and Truth Itself was surrounded by false witnesses. The Judge of all men was placed standing before an earthly judge. The Word of God was led wordless to be sacrificed.
And when the heavens were fearful at sight of the Lord upon the Cross, and when the elements were thrown into confusion, and the earth trembled, and night shut out day, and the sun withdrew its beams and veiled its eyes, so as not to be compelled to look upon the crime of the Jews, He did not speak, He did not move; not even in His very agony did He speak of His own divine majesty. He bore with everything, patiently and steadfastly to the end: so that in Christ patience might have its perfect fulfilment.
8. And after all this He still receives His slayers, should they be converted and come to Him: He Who is kind and forbearing to save us, and with salutary patience closes His Church to no one. And those who oppose Him, who blaspheme him, who were enemies of His Name, should they repent of their sins, not alone will He admit them to pardon, He will admit them also to a share in the rewards of the kingdom of heaven. What can one tell that is more kind, more patient, than this? Even he who has shed Christ’s blood is through Christ’s blood given life everlasting. So wondrous, so sublime, is the patience of God! And had it not been so wondrous and so sublime the Church would not have had Paul also as an Apostle.
St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria and Doctor of the Church
1. The Eastern Church calls St. Athanasius a “Pillar of Orthodoxy” because he heroically defended the doctrine that Christ is the true, consubstantial Son of the Father. Born in Alexandria in 295, the Saint received a good education. In 319 he was ordained deacon and made secretary to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria. In this capacity he was present at the Council of Nicea in 325, when Arius was condemned for asserting that the “Logos,” the Word of God, was not consubstantial with the Father; that He was not begotten by the Father, but was created out of nothing. His contention was that the “Logos” was merely united with the man Christ so intimately as to take the place of a human soul in Him. St. Athanasius had vigorously denounced this doctrine.
On the death of Bishop Alexander in 328, Athanasius was elected as his successor. From that time on his fortunes were linked with the declaration of the Council that Christ is of the same substance as the Father. During the violent storm of Arianism that swept over the Eastern Church, the Saint was banished five times and spent seventeen years in exile because of his inflexible opposition to the heresy. The last decree of banishment came from Emperor Valens in 365; but, after five months he was allowed to return and remained in his See until his death, May 2, 373.
2. “The same God who bade light shine out of darkness has kindled a light in our hearts, whose shining is to make known his glory as he has revealed it in the features of Jesus Christ” (Epistle). As in the heart of St. Paul, so also in Athanasius there shone an understanding of the glory of God; Christ stood out clearly as the consubstantial Son of God, made man for our salvation. “We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord” (Epistle). Even as deacon, but especially as bishop, St. Athanasius took up the fight for divine truth. His opponent, Arius, a sixty-year-old priest of Alexandria, was a man of rigorous asceticism and charming simplicity, who was well thought of by all, even at the imperial court in Constantinople. But he knew how to build up propaganda and secure adherents for his doctrine. As a consequence the heresy gained ground and was supported by the political powers; anyone who disagreed with these, even in religious questions, found himself in exile. Emperor Constantine invited Arius to his capital and received him with princely honors. Now, at the climax of his triumph, the heretic entered Constantinople in solemn procession. But death surprised him in 336.
Athanasius had to ride the violent storm of persecution for many years. It burst out in trickery, in lies, and in force. Trials were staged to question the morality of his life or to convict him of murder. His sufferings are well described by St. Paul in the Epistle: “We are hampered everywhere . . . are hard put to it . . . persecution . . . crushing blows; we carry about continually in our bodies the dying state of Jesus, so that the living power of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies too.” And all this because he remained faithful to the Creed of Nicea and his belief in Christ as “God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one essence with the Father” (Nicene Creed).
“Enough that the disciple should fare like his master, the servant like his lord. If they cried Beelzebub at the master of the house, they will do it much more readily to the men of his household” (Gospel). St. Anthanasius knew the deeper meaning of all calumnies and persecution: he was to be formed in the image of his reviled, persecuted, crucified Master. For only he truly follows our Lord who “denies himself and daily takes up his cross.” Only such a life is truly Christian that is a following of the Crucified. Athanasius knew enough about the mystery of suffering with Christ to understand that the more a priest or a bishop is subjected to persecution and suffering for the sake of Christ, the more fully will the life of Christ be effective in him. “We carry about continually in our bodies the dying state of Jesus, so that the living power of Jesus may be manifested in our bodies too. Always we, alive as we are, are being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the living power of Jesus may be manifested in this mortal nature of ours” (Epistle). But the sufferings and persecutions that the holy Bishop bore for Christ’s sake brought blessings upon his flock at Alexandria, too, in fact, upon the entire Church. “So death makes itself felt in us, and life in you.” Christian renunciation, suffering, and dying are always a dying that leads to life, to resurrection, to salvation, for oneself as well as for others.
3. Arius thought he had triumphed, for Constantine and his courtiers, many weak bishops, most of the priests, and the people were on his side. Yet, when he entered Constantinople in great pomp, the hand of God suddenly dashed him to the ground in a disgraceful death. There was every appearance that it was a judgment of God. In another year the Emperor was dead, too. It was evident that Athanasius, the Faith, Christ had conquered. Arianism is dead now, but the doctrine of Athanasius still lives. God works that way. He needs men whose faith in Christ rules their lives, in whose hearts there burns a love of Christ which makes them ready for every sacrifice. He needs men who penetrate by prayer into the mysteries of God and are then determined “to proclaim on the housetops” what has been “whispered” into their spiritual ears during meditation (cf. Communion). Such men will counteract modern unbelief and atheistic materialism just as Athanasius stemmed the tide of Arianism.
St. Athanasius broke the force of Arianism by the heroic fight he carried on through the spoken and written word, through prayer and suffering, through humiliations, privations, and sacrifices. We are grateful to him for his courageous and powerful defense of the divinity of Christ and of Catholic doctrine. He is an example for priest and layman to study and follow.
Collect: Listen, we beg Thee, Lord, to the prayers offered by us on this festival of Thy beloved confessor bishop Athanasius, and since he was found worthy to give Thee fitting service, let his merits persuade Thee to free us from all sin. Amen. (Benedict Baur)
PLAIN TALKS ON MARRIAGE
FULGENCE MEYER , O.F.M.
Sins Against Holy Marriage
“He that hideth his sins, shall not prosper: but he that shall confess, and forsake them, shall obtain mercy” (Prov. 28, 13).
ANOTHER woeful sin that is committed by married people, but which, thank God, is not nearly so prevalent among Catholics as the one just mentioned, is adultery, or sexual disloyalty to the marriage mate. A married man has knowledge of a woman who is not his wife; or a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man who is not her husband. If the accomplice of the sin is also married, it is a case of double adultery.
A Complete Collapse
Adultery is a crime that usually involves and betrays the loss of all morale in the guilty party, and a complete collapse of every sense of honor, virtue, integrity and trust. It means that every barrier of conscience is broken, and that the victim of the adulterous passion is steering headlong towards the very bottom of moral infamy and depravity, and that, unless God checks the disastrous course by a sort of a miracle, the fatal goal will soon be reached.
The Bible gives us particularly two examples. that are full of wholesome warnings and lessons for all those who are tempted to, or who are already implicated in this terrible sin, which is an act of base treachery to God, Who is the sponsor of the marriage troth, and at the same time to the one who ought to be loved next to God, to the partner in marriage, to whom the pledge of everlasting loyalty was solemnly made in the presence of God and men.
The Fatal Stroll
The first instance is that of King David. The sad story is well known. One day the king was taking a stroll on the terrace of his palace when he happened to see a beautiful woman washing herself. Instead of turning his eyes away and leading his thoughts into safe and honorable channels he arranged to meet the woman; and he sinned with her. To cover up his sin and shame he had her husband traitorously murdered. Murder likes to follow soon in the wake of adultery; at times it is the murder of the innocent party, or also of the very accomplice of the sin; then again it may be the murder of the guiltless and unhappy offspring, which is killed unborn. Anyway, there is hardly a crime from which the soul, tainted with adultery, seems to shrink: to such a degree does the ugly sin vitiate the conscience and annihilate every sense of responsibility.
The Wages of Sin
David’s adulterous maneuvers did not remain hidden. All the shame and ignominy of them were heaped upon his head, and he had to suffer the sorry consequences of them as long as he lived. He portrayed for one thing the infernal force of unholy passion. He was at that time as great and prosperous as any king on earth. He was the sweetest singer of the Lord, His most prominent prophet, and His favorite anointed one before all others. David’s glory had just reached its zenith among men, and his renown and power surpassed everything Jerusalem had ever seen. In the face of all this, when the unhallowed passion was upon him, he lost all sense of appraisal, and hesitated not to sacrifice everything to its tyrannical demands: all the renown and splendor of his name; all the glory of his house; his domestic peace and happiness; the love and well-being of his wife; the good name and comfort of his children; the honor of God among men, and the good repute of religion in general: everything was forgotten and trodden under foot at the call of the vilest and meanest of thrills, the thrill of adultery. And far from being sated with this tremendous sacrifice, no sooner adultery was admitted it at once pushed its miserable victim into the abyss of black, premeditated, and cold-blooded murder. Nothing is so irresistibly swift as the course of unholy love. Ere he or she becomes aware of it, its subject is deeper in crime than the unhappy person ever dreamed of being.
Resist the Beginning
“When David cast that one wanton look and nursed the thoughts and imaginations it engendered, he did not suspect that within a short time he would be both an adulterer and a homicide. It would have been easy for him to resist the temptation at the very start; but once he allowed his low passions to be inflamed, resistance was out of question. From this reflection you will learn to be as cautious against danger as you must be distrustful of yourself in it. Resist manfully and decidedly at the beginning, and the sequel will create no difficulty.
This has reference to certain shows and dances of a questionable nature, either because of their suggestive or lascivious character, or because of the persons or a person attending them: you will find it far easier to eschew them entirely than to try to enjoy them without harm to your marital constancy. It has reference to certain friendships with someone of the other sex other than your mate: these friendships begin, as a rule, apparently innocent and safe enough; they are mere acquaintanceships that have no further signification, and will have no other results but those of harmless converse and honorable diversion; they will be kept strictly platonic, whatever may develop. This or something similar is the initial dream of these connections. Often it does not remain a pleasant dream long, but makes room for the ghastly nightmare of ugly passion and bitter remorse over crimes the perpetration of which never entered into the minds of the parties concerned at the origin of the acquaintanceship.
The Flesh ls Weak
Human nature is fickle, and the flesh is weak: hence to unleash sinful passion is like throwing a lighted match into a magazine of powerful explosives; it is impossible to foresee the volume of the catastrophe that will ensue. It is best to play safe and not to start anything that has to be stopped no sooner it grows interesting and pleasurable. Many a Catholic man, if he had observed these measures of caution and safety regarding a certain person in his employ, or a sister-in-law, or someone who belonged to the same club, or camped at the same place, or stayed at the same resort as he and his family, or whom he casually met on a train, or to whom he had some occasion to render a service in his work or profession: would today not be deploring the loss of what life contained dearest, sweetest and most precious for him, and the recovery of which is now and will ever be impossible. And the same is true of many an unfortunate Catholic married woman, who dallied with a personal liking for a man not her husband, a roomer, perhaps, or agent, or casual visitor, or brother-in-law, until she suddenly found herself to be a scarlet woman of unmentionable crimes.
The King of Sinners: The King of Penitents
A further thing we notice in the conduct of King David is his seeming indifference and nonchalance after he had committed the crimes aforesaid. He showed neither worry nor concern. He went about his business and pleasures as though nothing had happened which he needed to regret. This is another evidence of the terrific power of adultery to deaden all moral sense, and to throw a pall over the conscience and still its voice. But God loved David too much as to permit him to remain long outside of His friendship and love. He sent him a monitor, a missionary or retreat-master in the person of the prophet Nathan.
And to David’s eternal credit it must be said, that he did not receive the grace of God in vain. He recognized and at once utilized the acceptable time, the day of his salvation. If he was great in sin, says St. Ambrose, he was even greater in penance. From the king of sinners he became the king of penitents, serving as a soothing, encouraging and inspiring model of true conversion to all contrite sinners for all time to come, and giving them, in his penitential psalms, a wonderful lead to vent their sorrow for sin in the most loving terms before God, and thus to assuage and sweeten the bitter grief of their hearts unto heavenly solace and godlike joy and peace of mind. If you, then, have perhaps sinned after the manner of David, now that God has sent you His messenger, in the shape of this book, as a monitor, imitate David in the readiness and completeness of his penance. Then your sin, too, because of your penance, will but accrue unto your greater sanctification and glory, even as David became greater in holiness and dearer to God after his sin and penance than he had ever been before.
Another terrible illustration of how much adultery can debauch and harden the heart of its subject is given us in the fate of King Herod of Jerusalem. He was openly and scandalously living with Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, thus adding incest to adultery. These two crimes are not seldom together, for the adulterer does not shrink to sin with a sister-in-law, for instance, or some other close relative. St. John the Baptist charged Herod that it was not allowed for him to live with his brother’s wife. Herod did not like the reprimand; but the woman, Herodias, was even more incensed by it; for a woman, when she is bad, is usually more wicked than man: as the poet says, she is a thousand steps ahead of man. So it was in this case. She swore revenge in her heart, saying she would make the prophet pay dearly for the rebuke he gave them.
Her opportunity soon came. Herod gave a festive banquet. At this banquet, the lascivious daughter of Herodias gave an exhibition of an immodest dance. Herod and his guests, drunk with wine, applauded the wanton girl wildly, and Herod went so far as to promise her as her reward anything she cared to have, even if it was the half of his kingdom. Her impious mother felt that this was her chance. She bade the girl ask for the head of the prophet. Herod had not calculated on this request, and when he heard it he grew sad; but ashamed to appear a coward before his guests, he consented to the murderous petition, and commanded the head of the Precursor of our Lord to be brought in a dish and handed to the girl, who gave it to her mother, the adulteress. In the midst of a gay banquet the impious king did not recoil from unprovoked and deliberate murder on a messenger of God. He and the accomplice of his adultery gloated their eyes on the severed and bleeding head of him who dared to admonish them in their crime.
Jesus Was Silent
And it was this same Herod who not long after this event publicly mocked and ridiculed our Lord at his court, so much so, that Jesus would not as much as say a single word to him. Our Lord had at least spoken to Pilate, and to the Jewish high-priest who declared Him guilty of death: but He would not open His mouth to Herod. He was silent. The incestuous adulterer did not deserve another word of admonition. It would not have served him, had he got it. He was hardened in sin. If you have broken your marriage vows, but God is still speaking to your conscience, thank Him for His love and respond to it before your heart, too, is irretrievably hardened in crime, and our Lord will remain silent towards you also. There is no worse punishment can come to a sinner in this life than when our Lord, because of the sinner’s hardness of heart, ceases or refuses to talk to Him or his conscience anymore.
In the first ages of the Church the sinner who committed adultery, and whose sin became public, was sentenced to do public penance for ten years. He was not permitted to enter church to attend Holy Mass or receive Holy Communion, but he had to remain outside and, clothed in sackcloth and ashes, ask those who went in and came out of church to pray to God for him so he might obtain forgiveness for his dastardly crime. The nature of the sin and the justice of God have not changed since then, even if the Church has for reasons of prudence mitigated her discipline of public penance.
Father Krier will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Saint Joseph Cupertino) on May 11. He will be in Eureka, Nevada (Saint Joseph) on May 27.
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