Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Desert Fathers - Now as Then, Amen.

From ‘The Desert Fathers’ translated by Helen Waddell  (Constable, London. 1936)

There were two old men living together in one cell, and never had there risen even the paltriest contention between them.  So the one said to the other, “Let us have one quarrel the way other men do.”  But the other said, “I do not know how one makes a quarrel.”  The first said, “Look, I set a tile between us and say, ‘That is mine’, and do thou say, ‘It is not thine, it is mine.’ And thence arises contention and squabble.”  So they set the tile between them, and the first one said, “That is mine.” And the second made reply: "I hope that is mine.” And the first said, “It is not thine: it is mine” To which the second made answer, “If it is thine, take it.”  After which they could find no way of quarrelling.

Certain brothers were sitting near the abbot Poeman; and one brother began praising another, saying, “That brother is a good man, for he hates evil.”  The old man spoke and said, “And what is it, to hate evil?”  He knew not how to answer: and himself asked, saying, “Tell me Father, what is it to hate evil?”  And the old man said, “He hates evil, who hates his own sins, and who blesseth and loveth every one of his brethren.”

An old man was asked by a certain soldier if God received a penitent man.  And after heartening him with many words, he said to him at the last, “Tell me, beloved, if thy cloak were torn, wouldst throw it away?” The old man said to him, “If thou wouldst spare thy garment, shall not God have mercy on His own image?”
 
The abbot Pastor said, “If a man has sinned and denies it not, but says ‘I have sinned,’ scold him not, for thou wilt break the purpose of his heart. But rather say to him, ‘Be not sad, my brother, but watch thyself hereafter,’ and thou wilt rouse his heart to repentance.”

The abbot Antony, being at a loss in his meditation on the depth of the judgements of God, prayed, saying,”Lord, how comes it that some die in so short space of life, and some live to the further side of decrepit old age:  and wherefore are some in want, and others rich with various means of wealth, and how are the unrighteous rich and the righteous oppressed by poverty?” And a voice came to him saying, “Antony, turn thine eyes upon thyself: for these are the judgments of God, and the knowledge of them is not for thee.”

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Our Lady of Good Counsel,  guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI

'Come O Holy Ghost, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle within them the fire of Thy love'

Monday, 3 May 2010

Deliver Us from Evil, O Lord. + Finding of the True Cross


'Deliver us from evil, O Lord'

Apologies for tormenting you on this excruciatingly over-played but important event, for as I'm sure you are aware (who couldn't be!) we have a General Election this week.  As I see it, the choice for the electorate is between a secular, anti-Christian Socialist party, a secular, possibly slightly less anti-Christian Conservative party, and a secular, aggressively anti-Christian Liberal/Democratic party;  within Scotland - the Scottish Nationalist party, and Wales - the Plaid Cymru party;  to which must be added a smattering of  Green candidates, UKIP candidates, and others.  In truth there are many candidates across the existing political spectrum, who would be excluded from the current aggressively secular, anti-Christian parliamentary army,  and on that basis alone, I wish them  success  It could be said that individually,  pro-life MPs  have little or no chance of influencing party strategy on say abortion, euthanasia, embryo research, and other major moral issues, although collectively  they often do, punching well above their weight. I have to confess that I have not watched the party leaders in the televised debates, for the   simple reason that we do not have TV (actually quite a good excuse!)                      However from all accounts in the Press, it would appear that the above moral issues do not even merit a mention in the party agendas, and certainly this is reflected in the various  political pamphlets coming through the letterbox. The trouble is that the fruit of our secular and materialistic society, with its denial of God and God's laws, is reflected in the political system and parties that it spawns. A Godless society with its inevitable  inherent evils, will spawn a Godless government, and that is what we have today. Clearly this is not to say that other issues such as the economy, health, education, employment, are unimportant, they are of course vitally important, and indeed these  themselves incorporate important moral issues. If only society and Government would get the priorities right. First 'render to God the things that are God's  then to Caesar the things that are Caesar's', - then we would be a better and happier society. 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all things will be added to you' - words from the New Testament which  sum up the blessings in this world and the next, promised to those loyal to God's commandments. If in our constituency in Orkney, we have a candidate who genuinely respected God's laws and His creation, and by that I mean human life -  especially the unborn and the vulnerable, then he or she would have my vote.I do not doubt that future generations struggling for survival in this and other European nations, with populations in massive decline as a result of decades of contraception, abortion and other anti-life and anti-family legislation, will bitterly condemn  the folly, selfishness and wickedness of today's society which encourages the legalised murder of its own species, the unborn child,  in unprecedented numbers and with unprecedented cruelty. Deliberate abortion   physically and spiritually destroys  bodies and souls,  and is a grave affront to God and the wonder of His Creation. At the same time the promotion of  legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide is being relentlessly preached by the enemies of God and of man, with the innocence of childhood under attack from State legislation enforcing sex education in schools for children aged 7 years - with moves to reduce the age to 5 years. Homosexuality is aggressively promoted by its proponents as an alternative lifestyle, a lifestyle which is clearly condemned  in the Old Testament as 'an abomination' to God. A culture of death prevails and Satan reigns in the world - but not for ever. God will not be mocked, death will come to all of us, as will  the day of Judgement, when the 'wheat' shall be separated from the 'chaff', when those who have chosen in this life to ignore and reject God will suffer the pains of eternal damnation, and those who have persevered and done their best to love and serve God in this life, will be welcomed into His kingdom for all eternity  - 'The eye hath not seen nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for those that love Him'. 
Meanwhile the show must go on, election day is on Thursday, and my vote will go to .....'ad majorem Dei gloriam'. Let us pray for a more Christian government.

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Next the truly good and joyful news:   today the Church celebrates the feast-day of 'The Finding of the True Cross'  -  Alleluia.
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 When God restored peace to His Church by exalting Constantine the Great to the imperial throne, that pious prince, who had triumphed over his enemies by the miraculous power of the Cross of Christ, was very desirous of expressing his veneration for the holy places which had been honored and sanctified by the presence and sufferings of our blessed Redeemer on earth. He accordingly resolved to build a magnificent church in the city of Jerusalem.


                    The Shrine to St Helena, St Peter's Basilica, Rome.

Saint Helena, the Emperor’s mother, desiring to visit the holy places there, made a journey into Palestine in 326, though she was at that time near eighty years of age. On her arrival at Jerusalem she was inspired with a great desire to find the identical cross on which Christ had suffered for our sins, in order to build the proposed church on the site of Calvary. But there was no mark or tradition, even among the Christians, to show where it might lie. Saint Helen consulted everyone in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, whom she thought likely to assist her in discovering the cross. She was credibly informed that, if she could find the holy sepulchre, she would also find the instruments of the punishment, since it was the custom among the Jews to dig a pit near the place where the body of a criminal was buried, and to throw into it whatever had contributed to his execution.

The Roman pagans who were dominated by an aversion to Christianity had done what they could to conceal the place where our Saviour was buried by heaping on it a great quantity of stone and rubbish, and building there a temple to Venus. They had also erected a statue of Jupiter in the place where Our Lord rose from the dead. The pious Empress therefore ordered the profane buildings to be pulled down, the statue broken in pieces, and the rubbish removed. And then, upon digging to a great depth, the holy sepulchre was uncovered.

Near it were found three crosses and the nails which had pierced Our Saviour’s body, with the title which had been fixed to His cross. By this discovery they knew that one of those three crosses was the one they sought, and that the others belonged to the two criminals between whom Our Saviour had been crucified. But because the title was found separate from the cross, it was difficult to distinguish which of the three crosses was the one on which our Redeemer consummated His sacrifice for the salvation of the world. In this perplexity the holy Bishop of Jerusalem Macarius, knowing that one of the principal ladies of the city lay ill and at the point of death, suggested to the Empress to have the three crosses carried to the sick person, not doubting that God would reveal which one was the cross they sought. Saint Macarius prayed that God would have regard to their faith, and then he applied the crosses, one after another, to the patient. She was immediately and perfectly cured by the touch of the True Cross, after the others had been tried without effect.

Saint Helena, full of joy at having found the treasure which she had so earnestly sought and so highly esteemed, built a church on the site and placed the cross there with great veneration, after providing for it an extraordinarily rich silver reliquary. She afterwards carried part of it to her son Constantine at Constantinople, who received it with great veneration; and another part she took to Rome, to be placed in the church which she built there, called Church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, where it remains to this day.

The title was sent by Saint Helena to that church in Rome, and placed on the top of an arch, where it was found in a case of lead in 1492. The inscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin is in red letters, and the wood was whitened. So it was in 1492; but these colors have since faded, and the words Jesus and Judaeorum are eaten away. The board is nine inches long, but is considered to have measured about twelve originally.

The reliquary of Jerusalem was committed to the care of Saint Macarius and kept with singular care and respect in the magnificent church which Saint Helena and her son built there. Saint Paulinus relates that, though chips were almost daily cut off from it and given to devout persons, yet the sacred wood suffered thereby no diminution. It is affirmed by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, twenty-five years after the discovery, that pieces of the cross were spread all over the earth; he compares this wonder to the miraculous feeding of five thousand men, as recorded in the Gospel. The discovery of the cross would have happened in the spring, after navigation began on the Mediterranean Sea, for Saint Helena went the same year to Constantinople and from there to Rome, where she died in the arms of her son on the 18th of August of the same year, 326.

                                                     
 Ack.  (www.catholicrefreshercourse.com)  +   (www.magnificat.ca)
                            
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Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us, and guide and protect our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.
              
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