Saturday, March 30, 2013

"Gone the light the world once knew; gone is the Light that was mine": The Lamentations at the Tomb

Today, on Holy and Great Saturday, we remember our Lord's burial in the tomb and at the same time His descent into Hades to free the just souls.  The Byzantine tradition for this morning, the Jersualem Matins (Orthros), includes a service known as the Lamentations at the Tomb, a set of hymns of lamentation interspersed with the verses of Psalm 119/118, the psalm in praise of the law of the Lord.  The English text of the Matins can be found at the Metropolitan Cantor Institute, and below is an English recording by the Boston Byzantine Choir, a pan-Orthodox choir based in Cambridge, MA.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Martyrdom of Lazarus

By the witness of Lazarus, the Good News was spread, and the Church grew, even before the Passion of Christ.  He was a great witness, and thus a martyr, as the word originally means.  How great was his witness?  Great enough that the Jews wished him dead again, for many, many were converted by his witness to the wondrous works of God.

That is truly what Lazarus' testimony was, for we do not see him preaching in the Gospels.  Instead, just by the fact that he received this astounding blessing from our Lord—that God did not let the righteous remain in Sheol—he converted many, leading them to believe in Jesus Christ.  He was not the only to be a witness, a martyr, to the wondrous works of God.  Is not the Bible, in some sense, such a witness?  It begins with the wondrous, marvelous creation of all things by the Lord, and it ends with the expectation of that wondrous event to come, the Coming in Glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The historical books, the Books of Reigns and Kings, the Book of Judges, and all the others, tell the story of the Lord's love for His people Israel and for all mankind.  They tell of His marvelous works, works that are marvels even if they do not seem so at the time.  The First Ode tells of these works: Horse and chariot He has cast into the sea!  The Psalms tell it too: He has defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan.  All creation, too, joins in the praise of God's wonderful works, for all the earth tells the glory of God, and from His works we come to knowledge of Him, the Creator.  For this reason the Three Holy Youth call on all of creation to bless the Lord, declaring His mighty deeds.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

An Ecumenical "St. Matthew's Passion"

To commemorate Passion (or Palm) Sunday tomorrow, here is the first movement from a setting of St. Matthew's Passion in Church Slavonic by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, Chairman of the Department of External Church Relations for the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, who attended Pope Francis' inaugural Mass last week.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pope Francis' Words to the Faithful in the Plaza de Mayo

Because I want to use what skills I have to help others, I decided to translate the words Pope Francis sent to the faithful gathered in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires today, watching his inaugural Mass.  The Spanish can be found here.

"Dear children, I know that you are in the plaza.  I know that you are praying and making prayers, I need them much.  It is so beautiful to pray.  Thank you for that.

I want to ask you a favor.  I want to ask you that we all walk together, that we protect one another, protect each other, do not harm each other, protect, protect the life of one another.  Protect the family, protect nature, protect the children, protect the elderly; that there not be hate, that there not be fighting, leave to the side envy, do not bad-mouth anyone [Trans: the phrase the Pope uses is a colloquial one, literally meaning "do not take the leather to anyone"].  Dialogue, that among yourselves the desire to protect will live.

That the heart will be growing go closer to God.  God is good, He always pardons, He understands, do not have fear; He is Father, go closer to Him.  That the virgin bless you much, do not forget this bishop who is far away but loves you much.  Pray for me."

[One grammar construction gave me some difficulties, because, from what I know, it can be either "that such-and-such happen" or "may such-and-such happen."  I went with the former translation, but that may be incorrect.]

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pope Francis, Healer of Schisms

 Pope Francis (then Cardinal Bergoglio) with Catholicos Karekin II of the Armenian Apostolic Church

This title is merely a hunch I have, a hunch drawn from some bits of evidence.  Day by day I seem to be growing in the conviction that our newly-elected Holy Father Francis will be the one to begin healing, permanently, the schisms of the Church. 

It is clear to see that Pope Francis has an ecumenical heart, from his encounters with the Jews (including his recent book of interreligious dialogue, Sobre el cielo y la tierra) and his warm relationship with many Argentine Protestant leaders.  Not only that, but he has experience of the Eastern Church, being ordinary of the Eastern Catholic Churches in Argentina while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

True Franciscan Poverty (Or, Why We Don't Have to Melt Down Our Tabernacles)

Like much (if not most) of the Church right now, I am stunned at Pope Francis' humility.  Such a self-effacing man is a Godly wonder to behold, especially in such a prominent role in the Church.  His camaraderie with all, his conversational sermons and speeches, and his life of humble poverty are a beautiful example for all.  He truly reflects his papal namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, the Poverello.

The only main complaints I have heard about our Holy Father are from some people who are called "traditionalist" Catholics, meaning they have a great love and devotion for the traditions and practice of the Roman Church as lived prior to the Second Vatican Council, and their love is concentrated in an even greater way on the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and also the prime music of the Roman Rite, Gregorian chant.  Their fire for the Sacred Liturgy is a wonderful thing, and their desire to protect the Liturgy and keep it reverent and holy is a blessing for the Church, even if some take the devotion to the point of excessive criticism of those who gain more spiritual growth from the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  Some Catholics of this mindset are concerned that Pope Francis will denigrate and degrade the holiness and reverence of the Sacred Liturgy and especially in the Extraordinary Form.  In addition, some of them are concerned that Pope Francis, in his humble poverty, will strip the Church of her beauty, particularly her liturgical beauty.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

To Remain in the Unction: Pope Francis' Homily at the Chrism Mass of 2012

To give an example of the preaching of our new Holy Father, what follows is my English translation (Spanish original here) of the homily given by Pope Francis when he was merely Cardinal Bergoglio at the Chrism Mass in Buenos Aires on April 5, 2012.  I apologize for any bad translation on my part:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The (Possible) Motto of Pope Francis

Although I am not certain, it seems that the motto of our newly-elected Holy Father, Pope Francis, will be his episcopal and cardinatial motto, Miserando atque eligendo.  According to a post on a website dedicated to Argentinian Heraldry, the motto comes from a homily by St. Bede the Venerable on the calling of St. Matthew.  The Archdiocesan website of Buenos Aires gives the relevant passage from the Venerable Bede's Homily 21 in Spanish:

Jesús vio a un hombre, llamado Mateo, sentado ante la mesa de cobro de los impuestos, y le dijo: "Sígueme". Lo vio más con la mirada interna de su amor que con los ojos corporales. Jesús vio al publicano, y lo vio con misericordia y eligiéndolo, (miserando atque eligendo), y le dijo Sígueme, "Sígueme", que quiere decir: "Imítame". Le dijo "Sígueme", más que con sus pasos, con su modo de obrar. Porque, quien dice que está siempre en Cristo debe andar de continuo como él anduvo. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

How to Partake of Food, or, A Heavy Belly Clouds the Soul

 As this is a time of penance and fasting when more attention is paid to how and how much we eat, I thought posting some words from St. Gregory of Sinai (1265-1346), a great Eastern monk and saint, on the effects of eating and how much we should eat.  I am not posting for his definite diet (though the limited bread and water is interesting to consider) but more for his principles, such as how the belly affects prayer, how each such determine his own course of holy eating, how the ill should not have restrictions, how to refrain from gluttony by the three degrees of eating, etc.

"What shall I say about the belly, the queen of the passions?  If you can deaden or half-deaden it, do not relent.  It has mastered me, beloved, and I worship it as a slave and vassal, this abettor of the demons and dwelling-place of the passions.  Through it we fall and through it—when it is well-disciplined—we rise again....