Sunday, April 2, 2017

In the House of Affliction

In the liturgical calendar, today, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, marks the beginning of Passiontide, when we shift our attention to Christ’s suffering and death. In the congregations where I have served before, we would mark this day by covering all the crosses in the church with purple veils.  This isn’t your practice here, probably because of the number of yards of purple cloth it would take to cover that cross suspended from the ceiling over the Altar. 

But it remains fitting to grapple with this Gospel text, the story of the raising of Lazarus, on this day.  The Book of Isaiah describes death as “the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.[1]”  Even if there are no cloth veils in the sanctuary, the events of the story we have just heard are shrouded by death’s power. 

Lazarus, is of course, a man destined to die from the beginning of the story, and he will rest in the tomb for four days before Jesus arrives.  His sisters are shattered with grief, and they are surrounded by a crowd of mourning friends, who seem to be trying, without much success to offer comfort.  Even the name of their village, Bethany, gives the measure of things—it means “the house of affliction[2]

Friday, March 31, 2017

Ponder: "suffering with him"

“To be a fellow heir of Christ means to be glorified with him, but he will be glorified with him who by suffering for him suffers with him.”

Ambrose, Letter 35.4

Ponder: "flows from the Altar"

“As Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us, the priest’s power over the corpus mysticum follows from his power over the corpus physicum of Christ.  It is because he consecrates the Body and Blood of Christ that the priest can teach, govern and sanctify the members of the Church.  Practically, this means that he walks into the confessional from the foot of the Altar, that he mounts the pulpit after having enacted the mystery of Redemption.  Every sick call, every word of counsel in the parlor, every catechism lesson taught to children, every official act in the chancery flows from the Altar.  All power resides there, and the more shortcuts we take from the tabernacle to our other priestly duties, the less spiritual strength we have for those duties.”
Fulton Sheen, The Priest is Not His Own (1963), 231.

Ponder: "song of the angels"

“Despite all our complaining, we love the Breviary. Our life has two principal gripes: one, the food in the seminary before we are ordained; and two, the breviary after we are ordained.  But we grow fat on the meals, and we advance in holiness with the breviary.  We expect too much from it at first, as does a bride of her groom. But once we realize that when we pick up the book we are not mockingbirds singing for ourselves alone, that our melody is, rather, the song of the angels rising to the throne of God on behalf of the Mystical Body and the world, it becomes easier.”

Fulton Sheen, The Priest is Not His Own (1963), 145-6.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Ponder: "the secret of thanksgiving"

“If the soul very early learnt to say, ‘thank God,’ its troubles would be almost at an end.  There is a homely principle, if a motor skids, turn it in that direction.  If when troubles come, we turn them into thanksgiving our soul returns to balance at once. There will be sweetness, strength, honey in the mouth of the lion. There is no greater secret than the secret of thanksgiving, even thanksgiving for everything except our failures.  Even then, we may thank God for the humiliation failures bring.”

Vincent McNabb, OP, The Craft of Suffering (1936), 56.

Ponder: "a good servant for the soul"

“The more we shun suffering, the more we come under its thrall, we become its slave.  To seek it, or at least to endure it, and to love it not for its own sake but for the sake of the good things that may be wrought through it, that is to become its master. Suffering that is such a bad master makes a good slave, a good servant for the soul in love with Jesus Crucified.”

Vincent McNabb, OP, The Craft of Suffering (1936), 73.

Ponder: "the world is being found out at last"

“Many are now [1932] suffering the loss of earthly goods.  What a most glorious occasion of thanksgiving! It is to me great anguish to see so many people suffering in that way. But there is also a deep sense of thanksgiving that the world is being found out at last. We are almost heartbroken to see the Prodigal Son herding with swine, but rejoicing that he knows swill is no food for man and swine no company for gentlemen. There is some chance of the poor prodigal thinking of his father’s home and turning back. To go back is often spiritual progress. It hardly seems right to sing ‘Te Deum,’ and yet deep down in our hearts there is gratitude to God that Mammon is at last revealing is essential cruelty and vulgarity, so that mankind in his utter destitution will see that the only thing sufficiently steadfast is Nazareth and the only God worth worshipping is Jesus of Nazareth.”

Vincent McNabb, OP, The Craft of Suffering (1936), 57.