Friday, June 8, 2012

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Yesterday, June 7, was the Feast Day of Corpus Christi in the Traditional Calendar.  This is the Feast of the Body of Christ, a day that we celebrate the Eucharist, which is Christ with us under the appearance of bread and wine.  This Feast celebrates the institution of the Eucharist, which is marked on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday.  Because Maundy Thursday is during Holy Week, which commemorates the Crucifixion of our Lord, we do not celebrate it as such because Holy Week is a season of sadness and our minds are more occupied with the actual passion of our Lord. Corpus Christi was celebrated for many hundreds of years (close to 1000) on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday.  But the Novus Ordo calendar has moved it to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, which I feel tends to obscure it.  However, Corpus Christi is still celebrated in the Traditional Calendar on its original day, Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

I think the celebration of Corpus Christi is more important than it has ever been. We as a Church and the entire world need the Blessed Sacrament more than ever, and yet it is precisely in this time that fewer and fewer people recognize the significance of this great gift from our Lord, or even worse, don't even believe in it.  In October 2011, USA Today reported on a very troubling survey done by  Catholic University sociologist William D'Antonio.  This survey showed the alarming lack of belief among Catholics.  According to the article:
I am the Bread of Life

The survey, a comprehensive look at the beliefs and practices of 1,442 U.S. Catholic adults, also finds that 86% say "you can disagree with aspects of church teachings and still remain loyal to the church." Only about 30% support the "teaching authority claimed by the Vatican."

And 40% say you can be a good Catholic without believing that in Mass, the bread and wine really become the body and blood of Christ — a core doctrine of Catholicism.

That could reflect the decline in Mass attendance. The survey finds it's fallen from 44% attending at least once a week in 1987 to 31% in 2011, while those who attend less than monthly rose from 26% to 47%.

When asked why they don't go to Mass more often, 40% say they are simply not very religious.
The Catholics Church is experiencing a deep crisis of the faith.  Far too many Catholics in our contemporary world discount the importance of the Real Presence and its vital and unequaled meaning and significance in our lives.   And as Catholics lose their faith, the world spins further and further into an evil morass. 

I want to share the reading from the Traditional Breviary from St. Thomas Aquinas, in which this great saint explains the significance of the Holy Eucharist and why it is so vital in our lives and in our salvation.

The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Thomas Aquinas

Among the immeasurable benefits, which the goodness of God hath bestowed on the Christian people, is a dignity beyond all price. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is unto us? The only-begotten Son of God was pleased to make us partakers of his divine nature ; that is, he took our nature upon him, being himself made man that he might, as it were, make men into gods. And this body, which he took from us, he gave wholly unto our salvation. For, on the Altar of the Cross, he offered up his body to God the Father, as a sacrifice for our reconciliation, and thereon he shed his own blood for our redemption ; that is, his blood is the price whereby he redeemeth us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby he cleanseth us from all sin. And for a noble and abiding Memórial of this his so great work of goodness, he hath left unto his faithful ones the same his very Body for Meat, and the same his very Blood for Drink, with which we are fed under the forms of Bread and Wine.

O how precious a thing then, how marvellous, how health-giving, yielding royal dainties, is the Supper of the Lord. Than this Supper can anything be more precious? Therein there is put before us for meat, not as of old time, the flesh of bulls and of goats, but Christ himself, our very God. Than this Sacrament can anything be more marvellous? Therein it is that Bread and Wine become unto us the very Body and Blood of Christ ; that is to say, perfect God and perfect Man, Christ himself, is there under the veils of a little bread and wine. His faithful ones eat him, but he is not mangled ; nay, when the veil which shroudeth him in the Sacrament is broken, in each broken fragment thereof remaineth the whole Christ himself, perfect God and perfect Man. All that the senses can reach in this Sacrament, all these abide of bread and wine, but the Thing is not bread and wine. And thus room is left for faith. For Christ, who hath a Form that can be seen, is herein taken and received not only unseen, but seeming to be bread and wine, and the senses, which judge by the wonted look, are warranted against error.

Than this Sacrament can anything be more health-giving? Thereby are sins purged away, strength is renewed, and the soul fed upon the fatness of spiritual gifts. This Supper is offered up in the Church, both for the quick and the dead ; it was ordained to the health of all, all get the good of it. Than this Sacrament can anything yield more of royal dainties? The glorious sweetness thereof is of a truth such that no man can fully tell it. Therein ghostly comfort is sucked from its very well-head. Therein a Memorial is made of that exceeding great love which Christ shewed in time of his sufferings. 

It was in order that the boundless goodness of that his great love might be driven home into the hearts of his faithful ones, that when he had celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and the Last Supper was ended, then, knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end, and instituted this Sacrament. For this Sacrament is the everlasting forth-shewing of his death until he come again ; this Sacrament is the embodied fulfilment of all the ancient types and figures ; this Sacrament is the greatest wonder which ever he wrought, and the one mighty joy of them that now have sorrow, till he shall come again ; and thereby their heart shall rejoice, and their joy no man take from them.
The Holy Eucharist is both the source and the summit of all Catholics.  We receive life from the Blessed Sacrament and, since it is the actual Body, Blood, Soul  and Divinity of our Lord, it is also that for which we long above all else.  We have no life apart from Christ.  We have no life apart from Him in the Blessed Sacrament.  Is it any wonder that our world is dying when it has rejected the only source of Life?

Jesus Christ tell us the following in John 6:54-57:
54 Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.

55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

56 *For my flesh, is meat indeed: and my blood, is drink indeed:

57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him.
The Holy Eucharist - The Source and Summit of all Life

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Meditation on the Second Joyful Mystery - The Visitation

Yesterday, June 2, was the First Saturday of the Month.  The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..."  The First Saturday devotion is as follows:

It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
The angel Gabriel brings a message
to the young girl Mary
I have gotten into the practice of sharing my meditation on one of the mysteries of the Rosary here.  This month I have chosen the second Joyful mystery of the rosary:  the visitation of our Blessed Mother with her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary had just been visited by the angel Gabriel and she had given her consent to become the Mother of God.  At the same time, Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, who had always been unable to bear children, was six months pregnant.  Mary immediately left to go to Nazareth to be with her cousin and assist her in any way that she needed.

Picture from the Visitation church, which is on the
site where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth
This was long before the time when you would just hop in your car or even get on public transportation to go anywhere.  The main way to travel was by donkey, and there were no paved roads to travel on, either.  Travelers were completely exposed to the elements and other dangers, and slept under the stars on the hard ground at night.  This did not deter our Blessed Mother in any way.  She was only a young girl - some think she may have been as young as 14 - and had probably never been away from home by herself before.  She was now pregnant, as well.  But she completely disregarded any fears she might had had because her cousin needed her.   Mary was the perfect example of someone who truly loved others, always thinking of others first and never making excuses.  There is no indication that Mary even asked anyone to go with her.  But as the picture from the Visitation Church shows, we can be sure that Mary, carrying the second Person of the Trinity in her womb, was surrounded by unseen angels.

Once Mary arrived at Zachariah and Elizabeth's home, the baby in Elizabeth's womb immediately reacted to our Lord who was in Mary's womb.  From Luke 1:41-42:
41 And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb: and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
42 And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Several interesting things here.  First, Jesus and Mary were acting together while he was still in her womb.  Where we find Mary, we will find Jesus.  Just from hearing Mary's voice, the baby inside of Elizabeth, who would become John the Baptist, leaped, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Spirit.   This is a picture of Mary's role in our salvation.  Mary is the one who brings her Son to us, and if we accept Mary, who is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, he comes and makes His home with us, just as he did with Elizabeth.  The Trinity worked through Mary even before the birth of Jesus, and has continued to work through her ever since.

Elizabeth's words at this meeting indicate she had full realization of who Mary was and who was in her womb.  From Luke 1:
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.

45 And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.
How did our Blessed Mother accept these words of praise?  She immediately gave it to God and began to glorify him.  The words she used are now called the Magnificat and are said every day in the Breviary.  Here is part of the Magnificat:
46 And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord:

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour.

48 Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name.

Mary never keeps any praise and devotion given to her but instead, immediately gives it to God and this in turn draws the one giving the praise closer to God.  Our Blessed Mother is the perfect conduit to her Son and the other two members of the Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit.   If we accept Mary's visitation as her cousin Elizabeth did, we too will be filled with the Holy Spirit and participate in the joy of the presence of our Lord and Saviour. 

Allow the Blesssed Mother to come into your home and into your life, and you will be blessed by the Presence of her Son, Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit.  There is no more sure road to Jesus than through his most Blessed Mother, for Mary is never without her Son, Jesus, and Jesus will never leave his Mother. 

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