Friday, December 26, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent 21st December 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent
21 December 2014

“Sound the trumpet in Sion, for the day of the Lord is nigh: Behold he will come to save us, alleluia, alleluia.” (1st Antiphon for Vespers & Lauds)
Today, as Christmas is upon us, we again see how the Church introduces the figure of St. John the Baptist preaching a doctrine of repentance for sins as the most important preparation for the coming of Jesus to His public life. The theme of repentance is also related to the coming of Jesus for the first time on Christmas Day as we want to be ready with pure hearts for Him. This is why the angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will.” Lk. 2:14 We need to have our souls cleansed of any sins or evil desires. God will only give peace to men who have good hearts. This is why St. John the Baptist’s message in today’s gospel is so important: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall behold God’s salvation.” Lk. 3:4-6 & Is. 40:3-5 St. Paul says the same thing in the Epistle, First Corinthians (4:1-5): “Hence, judge nothing before the time fixed—until the Lord comes, who will bring light to hidden things of darkness, and manifest the designs of hearts.” I Cor. 4:5 When the Lord comes, he will reveal the hidden things of the human heart and uncover the darkness of sin because Jesus is the Light of the World.

“Prepare the way of the Lord....” Lk. 3:4
Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Life Vol. 1, tells us how our preparation for Christmas can be enhanced by St. John the Baptist’s message: “Today, she (the Church) makes a last effort to stir up the devotion of her children. She leads them to the desert; she shows them John the Baptist, upon whose mission she instructed them on the third Sunday. The voice of the austere Precursor resounds through the wilderness, and penetrates even into the cities. It preaches penance, and the obligation men are under of preparing by self-purification for the coming of Christ. Let us retire from the world during these next few days; or if that may not be by reason of our external duties, let us retire into the quiet of our own hearts and confess our iniquities, as did those true Israelites, who came, full of compunction and of faith in the Messias, to the Baptist, there to make perfect their preparation for worthily receiving the Redeemer on the day of His appearance to the world.” Gueranger, p. 233-4

“A voice of one crying in the wilderness....” Lk.3:4 (Is 40:3)
St. Luke in today’s Gospel (Lk. 3:1-6) quotes the prophet Isaiah who spoke of the coming of a precursor, whom we now recognize as St. John the Baptist. This holy Isaiah, also a precursor, but of the Old Testament called all the inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem to: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths. Every valley shall be levelled; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough roads shall be made smooth. And all flesh shall behold God’s salvation.” Lk. 3:4-6 The Jews were familiar with this metaphor of the servants going before the wealthy by making sure that the roads were smooth for their masters. Valleys would be filled and mounds would be levelled. Isaiah spoke of St. John the Baptist who would have to prepare the hearts of men for the Messiah. He did this by preaching a baptism for the remission of sins. His baptism would not forgive sins, but it would prepare them for the Baptism of Jesus by making their hearts ready for His message. St. Bede tells us why St. John’s baptism was important for the coming of Jesus Christ: “If we seek to know why John was baptizing when his baptism was nevertheless unable to take away sins, the reason is clear; to be faithful to his ministry as forerunner it was necessary for him to baptise before the Lord did, just as he was born before he was, preached before he did and died before him. At the same time it was to prevent the jealous wrangling of the Pharisees and scribes from seizing upon the Lord’s ministry supposing he had been the first to administer baptism. ‘Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or human origin?’ As they would not dare to deny that it came from heaven, they were obliged to acknowledge that the word of Him whom John preached was also accomplished by means of a power coming from heaven. However, if John’s baptism did not take away sins that does not mean to say that it bore no fruit for those who received it... It was a sign of faith and repentance, that is to say, it called to mind that all must abstain from sin, practice almsgiving, believe in Christ, and make haste to be washed for the remission of their sins.”

Repentance for sin

Msgr. Patrick Boylan comments on the need for repentance in today’s Gospel. He likens the preparation of the desert roads for the King to the preparation of our souls for Christ’s coming at Christmas: “He is to pass as the desert of our passions, evil tendencies, religious indifference, and sinful habits. To us the Voice cries out, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” Lk. 3:4 In the preparation we are asked (a) to make straight the crooked paths; (b) to fill up the valleys; (c) to level the hills; (d) and to make the rough ways smooth. (a) The crooked ways are our habits of falsehood, detraction, dishonesty, and idle speech. The paths of injustice and deceit are not paths on which our King will approach: they are twisted, devious, and perverse. They must be straightened out by a good confession. (b) The valleys of our slothfulness and indifference must be filled in with zeal for the duties of our state, frequent and fervent reception of the Sacraments, constant effort to realize, and to live up to, the Catholic ideal in our public as well as our private lives. (c) In our soul’s life there are mountains of pride and vanity, self-complacency, worldly ambition. Over these the King’s highway cannot pass. They must be brought low by penance, humility, graciousness and gentleness. He that comes is mild and gentle, and to His own He comes. (d) The rough ways of our unkindness, our uncharitableness, our carelessness of our needy brethren, our jealousy, our envy, our hatreds, must be made smooth.” (The Sunday Epistles and Gospels, Vol. I & II, p. 39-40) Let us prepare for Jesus’ coming at Christmas by purifying our hearts of all uncleanness.

“Oh the joy of thy coming, dear Jesus!”
Dom Gueranger reminds us of the great joy of Jesus’ coming once we purify our hearts. “....Oh the joy of thy coming, dear Jesus! How great it must needs be, when the prophecy says it shall be like an everlasting crown upon our heads (cf. Isaiah 35). And could it be otherwise? The very desert is to flourish as a lily, and living waters are to gush forth out of the parched land, because God is coming. Come, O Jesus, come quickly, and give us of that water, which flows from Thy sacred Heart, and which the Samaritan woman, the type of us sinners, asked of Thee with such earnest entreaty. This water is Thy grace; let it rain upon our parched souls, and they too will flourish; let it quench our thirst and we will run in the way of Thy precepts and examples. Thou, O Jesus, are our way, our path, to God; and Thou are Thyself God; Thou art, therefore, both our way and the term to which our way leads us. We had lost our way; we had gone astray as lost sheep; how great Thy love to come in search of us. To teach us the way to heaven, Thou hast deigned to come down from heaven, and then tread with us the road which leads to it....There is but one thing which makes us sad; our preparation is not completed. We have some ties still to break; help us to do it, O Saviour of mankind. We desire to obey the voice of Thy Precursor, and make plain those rugged paths, which would prevent Thy coming into our hearts, O divine Infant! Give us to be baptized in the Baptism of the waters of penance; Thou wilt soon follow, baptizing us in the Holy Ghost and love.” Gueranger, p. 235-6

Christmas Schedule

Christmas Eve, Wednesday
24th December 2014:
10:30 P. M. Matins: Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate

12:00 A. M. Midnight Mass (Extraordinary Form) with Christmas Songs (After Mass there will be refreshments and good cheer in the friary and repository. All are invited to share the great joy of the Birthday of Jesus Christ.)

Christmas Day, Thursday
25th December 2014

10:00 A. M. Holy Mass (Extraordinary Form)

New Year’s Eve, Wednesday
31 December 2014:

7:30 A. M. Holy Mass (Extraordinary Form). After Mass, there will be adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (all day) in reparation for our sins and the sins of the world.

11:15 PM Matins and Benediction

12:00 A. M. Te Deum (No Mass at Midnight)
(Refreshments in the friary after the Te Deum; all are invited to share the Peace of Christ for the New Year of 2015)

Octave Day of the Nativity,
Thursday, 1 January 2015

10:00 A. M. Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form

Christmas Novena: Christmas Novena of Masses from Christmas Day 25th December 2014 to 2 January 2015 This Novena of Masses will be for all of the benefactors, friends and relatives of the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. Thank you for all of your kind donations of alms and providence for us here in Lanherne.

Christmas Decorations

Special thanks to Fra Leonard Joseph Mary, FI for his decorations of the Christmas stable, crib and the altar with its many lights. Franciscans have always followed the example of Our Holy Father St. Francis of Assisi who began the practice of the Christmas stable and crib at Greccio in Italy in the early part of the 13th Century. So too, many people have come to our chapel to see our depiction of the First Christmas day. The beautiful stable, crib, statues and altar lights, remind us how important Christmas is to all of us. It is the night on which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary out of love for all men. Let us give glory to God and love for our fellow man as we recall the words of the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men of good will.” Lk. 2:14

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent 14 December 2014

Third Sunday of Advent
14 December 2014

“Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice...The Lord is nigh...” Phil. 4:4-5

Today, the Church is filled with joy as the Lord is very close. It is almost the time of His coming on Christmas Day. The Church calls this Sunday “Gaudete Sunday” after the first word of today’s Introit, “Gaudete....” “Rejoice in the Lord always....” Today is also honoured with blessed exceptions to the austerity of Advent: the organ is played at the Mass and the vestments are rose-coloured instead of the penitential purple. St. Paul sounds the theme for today’s liturgy with his lyrical passage from the Epistle to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice.... the Lord is nigh.” Phil. 4:4-5. The tone of the language of the Church from now until Christmas is one of gladness: the Church begins her nocturnes for the office with the words, “The Lord is now nigh; come, let us adore.” Dom Gueranger in The Liturgical Year Vol. I, p. 204 comments: “Who can be near so burning a fire, and yet be cold? Do we not feel that he is coming to us despite all obstacles? He will let nothing be a barrier between Himself and us, neither His own infinite high majesty, nor our exceeding lowliness, nor our many sins.” The Church also conveys to us in the Gospel from St. John (1:19-28) the necessary attitudes in order to prepare Jesus’ coming. St. John the Baptist tells a delegation from Jerusalem who ask him who he is: “He said, ‘I am the voice of one that cries in the desert: Make smooth the way of the Lord,’ as the Prophet Isaiah said.” Jn. 1:23 We too must cry out that the Lord is nigh. We must also make sure His path is smooth without any evidence of sin and vice because the Lord is holy and we, like St. John the Baptist, are not fit to loose His sandals: “In the midst of you stands One whom ye know not, Who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not fit to loose.” Jn. 1:26-27

Joy and Gladness

In today’s Epistle to the Philippians( Phil. 4:4-7) St. Paul is filled with joy and gladness. Although he is in prison in Rome, the epistle is filled with peace and joy. From his prison cell, St. Paul teaches us today that despite all the troubles which evil men can give us, we need to treat even our enemies with kindness: “Let your kindliness become known to all. The Lord is nigh.” Phil. 4:5. What in this world can trouble us when the Lord is with us. ---“The Lord is nigh!” St. Paul exhorts us not to be anxious as we can trust in the Lord when we make our wishes known to Him in thanksgiving: “In nothing be anxious, but in all your prayer and supplications make known your wishes with thanksgiving to God.” Phil 4:6 Msgr. Patrick Boylan comments on souls who are thankful: “The Christian who is ready to thank God for everything that His Providence may send, will not be disturbed in soul or suffer any lessening of peace through the malice of and buffeting of the world.” (The Sunday Epistles and Gospels, p. 23) With prayer for all his needs, the faithful Christian gains confidence and is given the peace of God that comes with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, peace, joy, kindness and patience. These are the blessings which will be given to those who “Rejoice in the Lord always: again, I say rejoice...The Lord is nigh...” Phil. 4:4-5

“‘I am the voice of one that cries in the desert: Make smooth the way of the Lord,’ as the Prophet Isaiah said.” Jn. 1:23

Again, as we saw in last week’s gospel, St. John holds the key to understanding the mystery of Christ’s Coming. John is the voice who cries out to the people to prepare the way for the Messiah. He preaches a baptism of repentance for sins for there can be no obstacles in the path of the Holy One of God: “Make smooth the way of the Lord.” Jn. 1:23 John baptizes with water to prepare the souls for the Messiah. He is the lone voice that cries for repentance. Msgr. Boylan comments on this passage: “The Baptist is a voice that orders the way of the Messiah to be made ready: his baptism is concerned with the preparation of that way. It is only in a penitential spirit that the Messiah can be received—and to develop that spirit in the Jews the preaching and the baptism of the Baptist are directed. The Pharisees are lacking in that spirit and so they fail to recognize the One Who ‘stands up’ already ‘in their midst.’” (Boylan, p. 29)

“I am not the Christ.” Jn. 1:20

How much we should admire St. John the Baptist for his humility and truth! He does not pretend to be someone special. He says very definitely, “I am not the Christ.” Jn. 1:20 Later, he admonishes the Jewish leaders that the Christ is in their midst and that he (St. John) is not even worthy to loosen his sandals: “In the midst of you stands One whom ye know not, Who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not fit to loose.” Jn. 1:26-27 As John baptizes only with water, it is implied that the Messiah, the Holy One of God, will baptize with spirit and power. St. Luke tells us that St. John warns these Jewish leaders: “....He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Lk. 3:16 If we are going to recognize Christ on Christmas Day, then we need to know that we are sinners in need of repentance before the all-holy Christ Child who comes solely to give us His peace and love and save us for His eternal kingdom. “Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth among men of good will.” Lk. 2:14

Prayer for “Gaudete Sunday”

As we prepare with joy for the Coming of Christ on Christmas Day, let us be like St. John the Baptist and prepare the way for the Lord by removing from our lives all that would prevent Jesus from coming to us by saying this prayer: “My God and my Saviour, I believe in You, I trust in You. I seek for You, yet I know that You are near me, and in me: near me, hidden under the Eucharistic veil; in me, by grace. O Lord, make me know You! Do not permit it to happen to me as to the Jews: You were living in the midst of them and they knew You not. Grant that my soul may always have a lively faith; increase my faith, for faith is the light by which I can know You on earth. You are within me, Lord, I know it, I believe it, even if I cannot feel You. But if you wish, You can illumine my soul with Your light and make me know your divine mysterious presence.” Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, p. 46 Let us also pour out our hearts to the Infant Saviour this Christmas. Let us ask Our Lady, the Immaculate, to teach us the secrets that she had in her heart as she adored her Infant Son and God on the first Christmas day. Let us pray the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary with Our Lady and ask her to help us to repent of our sins so that we will be filled with the peace that is given to men and women of “good will.” Lk. 2:14

Second Sunday of Advent 7th December 2014

Second Sunday of Advent
7 December 2014

“People of Sion, behold the Lord shall come to save the nations: and the Lord shall make the glory of His voice to be heard in the joy of your heart.” (Introit)
Today’s Holy Mass brings us closer to the Coming of Jesus at Christmas. We are reminded of the great hope that we should have in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who comes to give all men salvation. We see this especially in today’s Epistle to Romans (15:4-13) in which St. Paul cites several passages from the Old Testament informing the Jews that the Messiah would bring great joy to the Gentiles who also would be invited into the Kingdom. In the Gospel (Mt. 11:2-10), we are given the text in which St. John the Baptist sends some of his followers to ask Christ if He is the anointed one, the Messiah. St. John does this, not for his own information, but for his followers so that they will know that Jesus is the true Messiah and that he, John, is only his precursor. With today’s prayers and readings, we are filled with joy and hope in the Incarnation, the greatest event the world has seen. Nothing could be more important than the Son of God becoming man and dwelling among us in order to bring us redemption from sin and eternal happiness in His kingdom.

“And there shall come forth a branch out of the rod of Jesse, and a flower shall rise out of his root. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him...”. Is. 11: 1
Dom Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 1, shows how the prophet Isaiah foretells the coming Messiah: “How much is contained in these magnificent words of the prophet! The branch; the flower that is to come from it; the Spirit which rests on the flower; the seven gifts of the Spirit; peace and confidence established on the earth; and, throughout the world, one brotherhood in the kingdom of the Messias! St. Jerome....says that the branch which cometh forth from the root of Jesse, is the blessed Virgin Mary, who had contact with no shrub or plant; and that the flower is the Lord Jesus, who says in Canticle of canticles: ‘I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valley.’ In every age of the Christian Church this wonderful branch and its divine flower have been objects of enthusiastic veneration. In the middle ages the tree of Jesse, with its prophetic branches, was carved on the cathedral porches, was painted on the windows was embroidered on the hanging of the sanctuary, and the melodious voice of the priests sang its praises in the beautiful responsory composed by Fulbert of Chartres, and put to music by the devout king Robert. ‘R. The root of Jesse gave out a branch, and the branch a flower; *and on the flower resteth the holy Spirit. V. The Virgin Mother of God is the branch, her Son the flower. *And on the flower resteth the holy Spirit.’”
“The devout St. Bernard, commenting upon this responsory in his second Advent homily, says: ‘The Virgin’s Son is the flower, a flower white and ruddy, chosen out of thousands; a flower on whom the angels love to look; a flower whose fragrance restores the dead; a flower, as himself assures us, of the field, not of a garden; for the flowers of the field bloom without man’s care, no man has sown their seed, no man has cultivated them. Just so the Virgin’s womb, a meadow verdant in an endless spring, has brought forth a flower, whose beauty will never droop, whose freshness will never fade. O Virgin, branch sublime, to what a height are thou grown! Even up to Him that sitteth on the throne, even to the Lord of majesty. It was sure to be so, for thou castest deep down the roots of humility. O plant of heaven indeed! Precious above all, holier than all. O tree of life indeed! Alone worthy to bear the fruit of salvation.’” Gueranger, p. 161-2

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom. 15:13
St. Paul reminds us that if we truly wish to belong to Christ and experience the joy and peace that comes with hoping in Him, then we must have one mind toward one another after the example of Jesus Christ. “Now the God of patience and of comfort grant you to be one mind one towards another, according to Jesus Christ; that with one mind and with one mouth you may glorify God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ . Rom. 15:5-6. St. Paul reminds the Romans that they must receive one another as Christ has received them: “Wherefore receive one another, as Christ also hath received you unto the honour of God.” Rom. 15:7. St. Paul then recounts how Jesus had made Himself “the minister of circumcision” (Rom. 15:8) to fulfil the promises made to the Jews, but now He has opened His kingdom to include the Gentiles who will “glorify God for His mercy, as it is written.” Rom. 15:9

Call of the Gentiles
As St. Paul is writing to the Romans, he praises God for extending His call to His Kingdom not just for the Jews but also the Gentiles. He cites Psalm 17:50 and 2 Kgs. 22:50: “‘Therefore will I praise thee among the Gentiles, and will sing to thy name.’ And again he says, ‘Rejoice you Gentiles, with his people.’ And again, he says (Ps. 116:1), ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles; sing his praises, all you peoples.’ And again Isaiah (Is. 11:10) says, ‘There shall be the root of Jesse, and he who shall arise to rule the him the Gentiles shall hope.’” Rom. 15:9-12 This ‘Root of Jesse’ is the Branch from the root of Jesse who is Christ, Who, as the Son of David was sprung from Jesse the father of David” (Msgr. Patrick Boylan, The Sunday Epistles and Gospels, p. 13) St. Paul concludes this passage with a prayer that the Romans will be filled with joy and peace from the God of hope for believing in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit who will fill you with these blessings for your belief in Christ: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope and in power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom 15:13

“Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them....” Mt. 11:4
Dom Gueranger comments on the many spiritual and material blessings prophesied of the Messiah which Jesus points out about Himself in today’s Gospel: “Thou art He that was to come, O Jesus! We look for no other. We are blind, Thou has enlightened us; we were lame, Thou hast made us walk; the leprosy of sin disfigured us, Thou hast cleansed us; we were deaf to Thy words, Thou hast given us hearing; we were dead to sin, Thou hast given us life again; we were poor and had none to care for us, Thou hast come to us with every aid and consolation. These have been, and will again be, the blessings of Thy visit to our souls, O Jesus! A visit silent but wonderful in its work; which flesh and blood cannot understand, but which faithful hearts feel is granted them. Come, my Saviour, come to me, Thy condescension, and familiarity with such poverty as mine, shall not scandalize me; Thy workings in the souls of men are proof enough that Thou are God. He alone, that created souls, can heal them.” Gueranger, p. 167

All Messianic Blessings in Jesus Christ
These words of Jesus in today’s Gospel (Mt. 11:2-10) would certainly have stimulated the hope that the Gentiles would have in Christ. Who could ever imagine that a man would be able to do these things? Only those who were familiar with Isaiah’s words on the blessings of the Messiah would have expected it in the coming Holy One of God. Jesus brings all these blessings to men. St. John the Baptist knew who Jesus was as he baptized him in the Jordan and called out for all to hear: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is he of whom I said, ‘After me there comes one who has been set above me, because he was before me...” Jn. 1:29-30 Jesus also knew John and praised John: “What went ye out to the desert to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What then went ye out to see? A man clad in luxurious garments? ....To see a prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written ‘Behold I send My messenger before thee, and he will prepare they way before thee.’” Mt. 11: 7-10

Will we be able to recognize Christ’s Coming?
We too will recognize Christ this Christmas if we are like St. John the Baptist. As he tried to prepare men’s hearts for the coming of the Messiah, so we too should be preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ on Christmas Day. We should imitate St. John the Baptist in our preparation: he is steadfast and firm unlike the reed which bends in the wind. St. John did not bow to popular opinion and consensus. He was a man of great self-denial who survived twenty-five years in the desert on locusts and wild honey; he did not dress in the soft garments and live in the palaces of kings. St. John’s whole life was one of great self-denial and mortification from the pleasures of this world. This is how we must prepare for Christ spiritually by prayer, self-denial and total dedication to the gospel message. Then we will recognize Christ on Christmas Day as the shepherds and Magi and the angels did and worship in great wonder and joy: “Glory to God in the Highest and peace on earth among men of good will.” Lk. 2:14

The Solemnity of The Immaculate Conception,
Monday 8th December 2011
Holy Mass at 10 A. M.

Some may wonder why it was so necessary for Our Lady to be freed from all sin, both original and actual, with her Immaculate Conception. First of all, it would be unbecoming for the Divine Saviour to have a mother who would be connected with sin in any way. Second, it was most important that Our Lady would never have been under the power of Satan. Genesis 3:15. This text of the Protoevangelium, the first Gospel, was spoken by God to the serpent in the garden immediately after Adam transgressed God’s precept of not eating from the tree of good and evil: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed. She shall crush thy head and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” Thus it is the woman and her seed who will crush the head of the serpent. Jesus and Mary are united in the work of the redemption.
Blessed Pius IX in his solemn definition, Ineffabilis Deus, made in 1854, says of the Immaculate Conception: “The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin…. God so loved her with a unique predilection that He filled her with the greatest abundance of his celestial gifts and her participation in the Divine Life exceeds that of all angels and saints. Her life reflects so great a fullness of innocence and sanctity that a more exalted creature cannot be conceived of except by the creator Himself.”