vendredi, avril 28, 2006

As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile

Quasimodo Sunday
Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite.
As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile

These words by Saint Peter, which compose today’s introit, are the advice the Church gives to her newly baptized. In the early Church, the neophytes who had received the Sacrament of Baptism during the Easter Vigil, used to wear white clothes during the entire week of Easter. For that reason, this Sunday is also called Dominica in albis, which means Sunday in white.

The Baptism is just the beginning of Christian life, and now the new Christians must live as such and follow Our Lord. Therefore, the Church, as a good mother, encourages them: desire the rational milk. This milk is the doctrine of Jesus Christ. Further, it is Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Word of God, the eternal and uncreated Word. Baptism gave us the life of God and now we have the duty to keep this life within us as our most precious treasure. I say the duty, because it is, in fact, a duty, but I would say that keeping the life of God in our soul is merely a matter of loving God. For those who truly love God, His commandments are the expression of his love for us rather than a yoke we would have to bear. Saint Augustine understood this when he said Ama et fac quod vis – Love, and do what you wish. He who loves God, keeps the commandments of God. He who loves God, does His will, which is that we have His life. Jesus has revealed that He is come that we may have life, and may have it more abundantly.
So the Church, faithful to the words of her Divine Founder wants us to have life. She feeds us and gives us the rational milk we need to keep the life of God in us. First, this life supposes Faith. For that reason, the Church reminds us, through the pen of Saint John, of the fact that Faith is our victory over the world. He who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, overcomes the world. And Jesus Christ came by water and blood. Saint John insists well: not only by water, but by water and blood. This is to signify His death, which is the way chosen by God to redeem us.
Christ died. Then he rose from the dead. As we proclaim in our Creed, we believe in His death and His resurrection. Be not faithless, but believing! These words spoken to Saint Thomas are also for us. We must believe in Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Here is our victory. Our Lord values Faith as the principle of our life: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. The miracles performed by Christ have no other purpose but to make us believe. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.

Christians, consider the great gift you received when God gave you Faith. Acknowledge that it is the principle of the life of your soul and a precious possession you must keep and protect, even at the cost of your life. It is better to be a martyr than to be an apostate. Let us ask God to grant us the grace to accept it, if one day we are called to give this supreme testimony of Faith. Who knows ? With the growth of Islam in Europe, and even in America, this day may come soon. Considered with the eyes of Faith, martyrdom is not a loss but a gain. For whatsoever is born of God, overcomes the world. Remember that you are born of God on the day of your Baptism. By the way, I’m very surprised to hear that many Catholics even don’t remember the day of their Baptism. It’s a little bit strange, not to mention very sad, that one can forget the most important day of his life, the day when he received the life of God and was made His child.
So, the day of your Baptism, you overcame the world. Now you have to benefit from this first victory of your life. You have to repeat and to renew it every day of your life until the last and final victory, which will be the day of your birth in Heaven. You have to mature in your Faith, to become an adult. And for this you need the rational milk. The milk that gives you strength and nourishes your Faith.

The Church wants to feed us. As newborn babes accept the milk from their mothers, let us accept the spiritual food of Our Mother the Holy Roman Catholic Church, dispenser of the true doctrine of Jesus Christ.
May Our Lady help us to be good children of God!

dimanche, avril 16, 2006

Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia !

Sermon for Easter Sunday

Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere !
We know that Christ has really risen from dead!
( Victimae paschali laudes )

Dear Brethren,

The third day after His death, Jesus Christ reappeared, triumphant and victorious over death. Coming back from hell to free the just of the Old Covenant, He returned to our world to reconquer it. The reign of Satan is over and the prince of this world has been cast out as we explained last Sunday. Easter is the liberation of God’s people who fell into the slavery of sin with Adam and Eve.

Some people would say that it is the liberation of the entire mankind. This is not false, since Christ died and rose from the dead for all men. Nevertheless all are not freed. All do not benefit from the Passion of Our Lord. All are not saved. Christ has defeated sin, death and hell and He wants us to participate in His victory. But we have still to accept it.

Faith, Hope and Charity are our pass to heaven. Faith distinguishes the believer from the impious and Charity makes him another Christ. Hope encourages him to walk after Christ and to get up if he, unfortunately, falls. These three virtues are deeply rooted in the death and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The believer knows he is going to die, soon, but he also knows that he will live with Jesus Christ forever.

Dear Brethren, the Hope of our future resurrection is the foundation of our joy, and I would say, of our life. It gives a deep meaning and importance to our crosses, which we cannot avoid in this world. It gives us the strength to carry them, not only with resignation, because we do not have any other choice, but rather with generosity and enthusiasm. Easter shows us that life is beautiful and will always have the last word.

But how can we see the beauty of life without Faith? The world doesn’t offer a nice face. Men have always sought peace and prosperity, both of which are legitimate and good, but perhaps illusory in regards to our present condition, especially when we seek them out of God. The peace of Jesus is not the peace of this world. He warns us just before His Passion: my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, do I give unto you. Only those who have a soul of contemplation can understand this. The Apostles themselves did not understand until they saw Jesus risen from the dead, except maybe Saint John. And there also were some women near the Cross, with the beloved disciple. The Mother of Jesus, in whom Hope never failed; Mary Magdalene, formerly a great sinner, now a great Saint; and Mary of Cleophas: the most faithful among the faithful of Christ’s disciples.

The new Church seemed to be weak on the day of the Crucifixion. Jesus seemed to have failed his mission. Was He really the Messiah? The Holy women probably did not doubt that He truly was. But their Faith was not yet enough deep. That morning, going to the tomb of Jesus to anoint His body, their thoughts were still too human. Yet Christ spoke many times about His Resurrection, but the heart of man is slow to believe. Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulcher? They didn’t expect to see Jesus alive. They worried because their Faith was weak. Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulcher? Saint Thomas Aquinas answers them: Your heart is closed. Your eyes are heavy. Thus you cannot see the glory, which surrounds the open sepulcher.

The Resurrection of Our Lord is an historical event. But we can understand it only through Faith. We must open our hearts and the eyes of our souls to believe it. Then we must allow ourselves to become totally impregnated with this truth. Otherwise we will still worry about the business of this world. Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulcher? But what does it matter for us? This question concerns only people of little Faith. Instead we should ask the good question: where can we find Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified? The angel answers: He is not here. This means: we will not find Him in the agitation of the world. He is in us, but too often we don’t realize this. He who finds Jesus in his heart finds the true happiness and the peace of soul.

This is the wish I express on this day of Easter for every one of us. May Our Lady help us to find Christ our pasch and to extol him with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


samedi, avril 15, 2006

Haec nox !

Voici la nuit qui dissipa les ténèbres du péché par la lumière d'une colonne de feu.
Voici la nuit qui aujourd'hui, par la terre entière, aux fidèles du Christ soustraits aux vices du monde et à l'aveuglement du mal, rend la grâce et donne part à la sainteté.
Voici la nuit où brisant les chaines de la mort, le Christ surgit en vainqueur du funèbre séjour.
Voici cette nuit dont il est écrit : " Et la nuit brillera comme le jour, et la nuit sera la lumière de ma joie."
Nuit où se joignent les choses du ciel à celles de la terre, celles de l'homme à celles de Dieu.
( Ext. du chant de l'Exsultet )

Samedi Saint

"On me compte parmi les morts qui descendent à la fosse.
Je suis un homme sans force, couché parmi les morts.
On m'a mis dans la fosse profonde,
dans les ténèbres, dans l'abime."
( Psaume 87 ; Office des Ténèbres du Samedi Saint )
Commentaire de Dom Gueranger sur l'office du jour

La nuit a passé sur le sépulcre où repose le corps de l'Homme-Dieu. Mais si la mort triomphe au fond de cette grotte silencieuse, si elle tient dans ses liens celui qui donne la vie à tous les êtres, son triomphe sera court. Les soldats ont beau veiller à l'entrée du tombeau, ils ne retiendront pas le divin captif, quand il prendra son essor. Les saints Anges adorent, dans un respect profond, le corps inanimé de celui dont le sang va « pacifier le ciel et la terre ». Ce corps séparé de l'âme pour un court intervalle est demeuré uni au Verbe divin ; l'âme qui a cessé un moment de l'animer, n'a point non plus perdu son union avec la personne du Fils de Dieu. La divinité reste unie même au sang épanché sur le Calvaire, et qui doit rentrer dans les veines de l'Homme-Dieu, au moment de sa prochaine résurrection.

Nous aussi, approchons de ce tombeau, et vénérons à notre tour la froide dépouille du Fils de Dieu. Nous comprenons maintenant les effets du péché. « C'est par le péché que la mort est entrée dans le monde et qu'elle a passé dans tous les hommes. » Jésus, « qui n'a point connu le péché», a cependant permis à la mort d'étendre jusque sur lui son empire, afin d'en diminuer pour nous les horreurs et de nous rendre, en ressuscitant, cette immortalité que le péché nous avait ravie. Adorons dans toute notre reconnaissance ce dernier anéantissement du Fils de Dieu. Il avait daigné, dans son incarnation, prendre « la forme d'esclave » ; en ce moment, il est descendu plus bas encore. Le voilà sans vie et glacé dans un tombeau ! Si ce spectacle nous révèle l'affreux pouvoir de la mort, il nous montre bien plus encore l'immense et incompréhensible amour de Dieu pour l'homme. Cet amour n'a reculé devant aucun excès; et nous pouvons dire que si le Fils de Dieu s'est abaissé outre mesure, nous avons été d'autant plus glorifiés par ses abaissements. Qu'elle nous soit donc chère cette tombe sacrée qui doit nous enfanter à la vie; et après avoir rendu grâces au Fils de Dieu de ce qu'il a daigné mourir pour nous sur la Croix, remercions-le aussi d'avoir accepté pour nous l'humiliation du sépulcre.

Descendons maintenant dans Jérusalem, et visitons humblement la Mère des douleurs. La nuit aussi a passé sur son cœur affligé ; et les scènes lamentables de la journée n'ont cessé d'assiéger sa mémoire. Le fils de sa tendresse a été foulé sous les pieds des hommes, elle a vu couler son sang par torrents; et maintenant il est dans le tombeau, comme le dernier des mortels ! Que de larmes a versées déjà la fille de David durant ces longues heures ; et son fils ne lui est pas rendu encore ! Près d'elle, Madeleine, toute brisée des secousses qu'elle a ressenties dans les rues de Jérusalem et sur le Calvaire, éclate en sanglots, muette de douleur. Elle aspire au lever du jour suivant pour retourner au tombeau, et revoir les restes de son cher maître. Les autres femmes, moins aimées que Madeleine, mais cependant chères à Jésus, elles qui ont bravé les Juifs et les soldats pour l'assister jusqu'à la fin, entourent avec discrétion l'inconsolable mère, et songent aussi à soulager leur propre douleur, en allant avec Madeleine lorsque le Sabbat sera écoulé, de poser dans le sépulcre le tribut de leur amour et de leurs parfums.

Jean, le fils d'adoption, le bien-aimé de Jésus, pleure sur le Fils et sur la mère. D'autres apôtres, des disciples, Joseph d'Arimathie, Nicodème, visitent tour à tour cette maison de deuil. Pierre, dans l'humilité de son repentir, n'a pas craint de reparaître aux regards de la Mère de miséricorde. On s'entretient à voix basse du supplice de Jésus, de l'ingratitude de Jérusalem. La sainte Eglise, dans l'Office de cette nuit, nous suggère quelques traits des entretiens de ces hommes qu'une si terrible catastrophe a ébranlés jusqu'au fond de l'âme. « C'est donc ainsi, disent-ils, que meurt le juste, et personne ne s'en émeut! Il a disparu devant l'iniquité; semblable à l'agneau, il n'a pas ouvert la bouche; il a été enlevé au milieu des angoisses ; mais son souvenir est un souvenir de paix

Ainsi parlent ces hommes fidèles, pendant que les femmes, en proie à leur douleur, songent aux soins des funérailles. La sainteté, la bonté, la puissance, les douleurs et la mort de Jésus, tout est présent à leur pensée ; mais sa résurrection qu'il a annoncée et qui ne doit pas tarder, ne leur revient pas en souvenir. Marie seule vit dans cette attente certaine. L'Esprit-Saint dit de la femme forte : « Durant la nuit, sa lampe ne s'éteint jamais» ; cette parole s'accomplit aujourd'hui en la Mère de Jésus. Son cœur ne succombe pas, parce qu'elle sait que bientôt la tombe doit rendre son fils à la vie. La foi de la résurrection du Sauveur, cette foi sans laquelle, comme dit l'Apôtre, notre religion serait vaine, est, pour ainsi dire, concentrée dans l’âme de Marie. La Mère de la Sagesse conserve ce dépôt précieux; et de même qu'elle a tenu dans ses chastes flancs celui que le ciel et la terre ne peuvent contenir, ainsi aujourd'hui, par sa croyance ferme et constante aux paroles de son fils, elle résume en elle-même toute l'Eglise. Sublime journée du Samedi qui, au milieu de toutes ses tristesses, vient encore ajouter aux grandeurs de Marie ! La sainte Eglise en garde à jamais le souvenir; et c'est pour cela que, désirant consacrer à sa grande Reine un jour spécial chaque semaine, elle lui a dédie pour toujours le Samedi.
Mais l'heure est venue de se rendre à la maison de Dieu. Les cloches ne retentiront pas encore ; mais les mystères de la sainte Liturgie qui doivent remplir cette matinée n'en appellent pas moins les fidèles aux plus touchantes émotions. Conservons le souvenir de celles que nous venons de ressentir au sépulcre et aux pieds de la Mère des douleurs, et disposons nos âmes aux saintes jouissances que la foi nous prépare.

vendredi, avril 14, 2006

Vendredi Saint

Vendredi Saint
Passion et Mort
Notre Seigneur
Lamentation sur la mort de Jesus
par Saint Bernard
1. Qui me consolera, Seigneur Jésus-Christ, de vous avoir vu suspendu à la croix, couvert de plaies, pâle comme un cadavre, sans avoir éprouvé de compassion pour vos souffrances, sans avoir rendu à votre mort le devoir que je devais, sans avoir adouci de mes larmes au moins les meurtrissures de vos plaies? Comment m'avez-vous quitté sans me saluer, lorsque, éclatant de beauté dans votre tunique, roi de gloire, vous êtes rentré dans les hauteurs des cieux? Mon âme refuse absolument toute consolation? Malheureux que je suis, moi l'un des tristes fils d'Ève éloignés de Dieu ! que fera, Seigneur très-haut, cet exilé dans une contrée si lointaine? Malheur à moi, Seigneur, malheur à mon âme, vous son consolateur, vous êtes parti sans me saluer! Que dirai-je, que ferai-je, où irai-je , où vous chercherai-je, mon Seigneur? Où vous trouverai-je ? qui interrogerai-je ? Qui annoncera à mon bien-aimé que je languis d'amour? Mon âme a refusé d'être consolée, si je ne portais ma pensée sur vous, ô ma sainte douceur, et sur le baiser que donne votre bouche. O bon Jésus, vous n'avez pas eu horreur d'une bête cruelle. Vous avez doucement appliqué votre bouche qui ne connut jamais la ruse, sur une bouche pleine de méchanceté. Qui entendrait dire sans gémir comment à cette heure, des homicides portèrent les mains sur vous, et liant vos mains innocentes, ô bon Jésus, vous traînèrent à la boucherie comme un malfaiteur, vous agneau plein de mansuétudes, qui gardiez le silence? même alors, le miel de votre douceur ne cessa point, ô Christ, de couler sur vos ennemis, car vous guérites en la touchant l'oreille de votre ennemi qu'un de vos disciples avait mutilée.

2. Examine, ô mon âme, quel est ce personnage qui porte comme l'image d'un roi et qui est néanmoins rempli de confusion, comme le plus vil des esclaves. Il porte la couronne, mais cette couronne est un supplice; par mille épines elle a blessé sa tête éclatante de beauté. Il est revêtu de la pourpre royale, mais cette pourpre sert à le faire mépriser bien plutôt qu'à le faire honorer. Il porte le sceptre à la main, mais on en frappe son chef vénérable, on l'adore en fléchissant les genoux devant lui, et on le proclame roi, et, soudain, on déchire par d'affreuses injures son aimable visage. On l'ébranle à coups de poings, et on souille son cou sacré. Il est contraint de fléchir sous le poids de sa croix, et il reçoit ordre de porter sa propre ignominie. O mon âme, fonds-toi au feu de la compassion sur les douleurs de cet aimable jeune homme que tu vois livré avec une si grande douceur à des tourments si horribles. Quel est-il ce personnage à qui le ciel et la terre montrent de la sympathie? Connais-le, mon âme. C'est le plus beau des enfants des hommes, et le plus beau des anges si nombreux, il est devenu le plus laid des enfants des hommes. « Parce que nous l'avons vu le dernier des hommes, n'ayant ni éclat ni beauté (Isa. LIII. 3). » Regardez, Seigneur, Père saint, voici la voix du sang de Jésus-Christ, mon frère, qui crie vers vous de la terre, c'est-à-dire de la croix. Regardez votre tendre Fils ayant tout le corps. étendu sur ce gibet. Contemplez ses mains innocentes, dégoûtant de, sang, et pardonnez-moi les. iniquités que .mes mains ont commises. Considérez le côté de votre fils, ouvert par une lance, et renouvelez-moi par la fontaine sacrée que j'en crois être sortie. Voyez ses pieds immaculés, percés de deux clous et « perfectionnez ma marche dans la voie de vos commandements (Psal. XVI, 5). » Sa poitrine découverte est blanche; son côté ensanglanté, rougit; faites attention à la peine que souffre l'Homme-Dieu, et relevez de sa misère l'homme déchu. J'ai envoyé votre Fils pour être médiateur entre mon Dieu et moi, je l'ai envoyé comme mon intercesseur; par son entremise j'espère le pardon. Mon iniquité mérite une grande vengeance, mais la bonté de mon Créateur demande bien davantage le pardon et la paix. Autant Dieu l'emporte sur l'homme, autant ma malice le cède à sa bonté. Nous avons pour avocat le Seigneur Jésus-Christ: pour juge nous n'avons pas un homme cruel, un tyran redoutable, mais un tendre maître qui sait bien compatir à nos infirmités. Je sais que s'il n'était point votre Fils coéternel, ô Père saint, l'homme pécheur ne pourrait point ouvrir ses lèvres souillées, pour vous parler. Ce qui nous a donné la hardiesse de vous adresser la parole, c'est le Christ Dieu, notre prêtre qui intercède pour nous dans les cieux. J'ai confiance à un tel avocat, j'espère en sa miséricorde.

3. O Père très-aimé, quand vous verrai-je ? Quand paraîtrai je en votre présence ? Quand serai-je rassasié par la vue de votre beauté ? Quand contemplerai-je votre visage désirable, que les anges brûlent de regarder, qui remplit de joie toutes les âmes, qu'invoquent tous les riches du peuple, qu'on a souillé de crachats, frappé à coups de poings, voilé en signe de dérision, sans craindre de déchirer de coups horribles, cette .chair virginale ? Très-cher jeune homme, qu'avez-vous fait pour être tourmenté de la sorte ? C'est moi qui suis la cause de votre douleur, l'auteur de ce que l'on vous impute, et l'occasion du courroux qui s'élève contre vous, 0 amour merveilleusement ardent, déposant, pour ainsi dire, toute hauteur, affaiblissant la force, anéantissant la majesté. Pourquoi tout cela ? Pour faire d'une pauvre prostituée, une épouse sans rides et sans taches. Cette épouse, c'est l'âme humaine qui a commis la fornication avec beaucoup de dieux, parce qu'avec ses amants, elle se roulait dans la prostitution aux pieds de tout arbre couvert de feuilles verdoyantes. O prostituée! Que rendrai-je au Seigneur, pour tout ce qu'il a fait, pour moi! Malheur à l'âme qui ne vous chérit pas, qui ne vous aime pas ! Si elle chérit le monde, si elle obéit au péché, elle n'est jamais en repos, jamais en sécurité. Je vous en conjure, que sans vous rien ne me soit doux, rien ne me plaise; qu'en dehors de vous, il n'y ait rien de beau, rien de précieux qui m'attire; que tout me soit vil hormis vous; que tout ce qui s'oppose à vous me soit ennuyeux, et que votre bon plaisir soit toujours mon perpétuel désir. Je me fatigue de me réjouir sans vous, mon charme est de me réjouir et de pleurer avec vous et d'être troublé pour vous. Que votre nom soit ma force et votre souvenir ma consolation. Si mes péchés vous éloignent, si mes crimes vous chassent, votre bonté ne me repousse pas. O bon Jésus ! Votre souvenir est plus doux que le miel : penser à vous est plus doux que toute nourriture; parler de vous est une satisfaction parfaite ; vous connaître, une consolation achevée. S'attacher à vous, c'est la vie éternelle, et se séparer de vous, la mort perpétuelle. O que vous êtes élevé et humble de coeur. Faites-moi goûter, par l'amour, ce que je goûte par la connaissance; mon âme languit de la faim de votre amour, ranimez-la, que votre dilection la rassasie, que votre amour l'engraisse et la remplisse. Quel motif, autre que l'absence de Jésus-Christ, peut fréquemment faire couler mes larmes ? O bon Jésus ! s'il est si doux de pleurer à cause de vous, qu'il est agréable de se réjouir à cause de vous. J'ai connu que vous êtes tendre par nature, doux et humble de coeur, agréable à voir, et oint de l'huile de la joie, plus que tous vos compagnons. Qui ne veut pas les parfums que vous répandez, ô Christ, est mort ou corrompu. L'humanité de Jésus-Christ est toute la douceur de la terre, et son âme est tout le bonheur du paradis.

4. Avec quelle tendresse, Seigneur Jésus-Christ, vous vous êtes entretenu avec les humains : avec quelle force vous avez souffert, de la part des hommes, des traitements si indignes et si cruels. Et vous, Seigneur, vous avez souffert pour des coupables, vous êtes mort pour nos péchés, vous qui êtes venu vivifier gratuitement ceux qui étaient morts, faire vos frères de ceux qui étaient esclaves, vos cohéritiers des captifs, des rois de ceux qui étaient exilés. Mais, ô bon Jésus, qu'avez-vous produit qui puisse être plus grand et nous cause une joie plus grande, que l'excès de dévouement par lequel vous opériez le salut au milieu de notre terre, attachant nos péchés à la croix, condamnant le démon et sauvant des malheureux. Il était vraiment digne et juste que vos pleurs coulassent, et nous avons le même motif de pleurer aujourd'hui sur les enfants d'Adam. Car Dieu pleura, afin que sa passion suffit à la rédemption de tous les hommes, comme elle a servi à la rédemption d'un petit nombre. O doux Seigneur, vous offrez vos mains et vos pieds pour qu'on les perce, afin d'en faire sortir le trésor qui s'y trouve renfermé, pour qu'il demeure une source abondante de salut pour nous. O que grande est l'amertume de nos péchés! Malheur à moi ! à cause d'eux, il a fallu que le Seigneur fût blessé. Assurément, ô tendre Jésus, s'il n'avait pas occasionné une mort éternelle, il n'aurait nullement été nécessaire que vous subissiez la mort pour me faire vivre. Mais que ferai-je? Voici que vous mourez, vous, le fils du Très-Haut, pour que j'aie la vie. Et d'où vous vient une pitié si grande, une charité si immense ? Et que vous rendrai-je pour une telle mort qui m'a donné la vie ? Vous paraissez aimer davantage ma vie que votre âme, puisque vous l'avez livrée entre les mains de mes ennemis, pour me rendre l'existence, m'arracher à mes cruels ennemis, et me délivrer de la mort. Et qui suis-je moi, pour le salut de qui vous avez fait tant de choses, vous vous êtes anéanti si profondément, que vous avez chéri avec une ardeur si vive, et pour l'amour de qui vous avez pris le chair, avez souffert et êtes mort, et de la mort de la croix ? Malheur à moi, pécheur, à cause de mes iniquités ! O larmes, où vous êtes-vous cachées, où se trouve votre source ? Mouillez mes paupières, arrosez mes joues, couvrez mon visage. Malheureux ! toute créature souffre avec le Christ et se trouble à sa mort ; seul, mon coeur infortuné ne compatit pas aux angoisses de son Créateur qui meurt pour lui. Il vaudrait mieux que je ne fusse pas né que de voir mon cœur rester insensible à cette mort. O Seigneur, que vous vous êtes humilié! mais vous qui avez tant aimé mon âme, par votre mort, délivrez-moi de mes iniquités, et par votre passion faites cesser mon impiété. Par ces liens, qui ont si fortement serré vos mains, déliez les liens de mon iniquité. Que votre passion sainte et cruelle délivre de la mort éternelle mon âme qui vous est si chère. Ainsi-soit-il.

jeudi, avril 13, 2006

Mandatum novum do vobis

Sermon for Holy Thursday
Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos!

A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13, 34)

We certainly do not fully grasp the profound significance of these words spoken by Our Lord on the day before His Passion. Yet, they are the summary of His entire life and teaching, as they also are the Code of our Christian life. Let us well understand what they mean!

We must love one another as Jesus has loved us! This is the measure of what our love for one another must be. We must love as Jesus has loved us and this is a commandment. It is even a new commandment. Of course the commandment of love was not missing in the Old Testament. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord, God said to Moses. The substance of the love we should have didn’t change with the coming of Christ into the world. But now, we have a perfect example that we can and we must follow: Love one another as I have loved you. Now we have no excuse for not knowing how we must love.
So why is this commandment a new one? Saint Augustine answers that this commandment renews us, makes us new men, heirs of the New Covenant and worthy of singing the new canticle. This is the same love, which has renewed the Just of the Old Testament, the Patriarchs and the Prophets, as later, it has renewed the Blessed Apostles. It is also the love that now renews all the nations and that makes all of mankind, spread throughout the world, one people, which is the body of the new Spouse of the only Son.

Dear Brethren, love is unifying. The love of God unifies and consolidates the Mystical Body. This love must be found at its source, which is Jesus Christ Himself. And where can we find Jesus if not first at our altars? It is precisely just before he instituted the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist that Our Lord gave us His new Commandment. By giving us His Body for our spiritual food, He gives us the ability and the strength to fulfill this commandment. It would not be possible for us to do it by ourselves. We cannot love one another as Jesus has loved us on our own. We need the necessary means for this, which is the sanctifying grace. The grace allows God to dwell in our souls. The truth is that, when we love perfectly according to the will of God, it is not really ourselves who love but rather Jesus Christ in us. Saint Paul maintains it with all his mind in the Epistle to the Galatians: And I live, now not I; but Christ lives in me.

Christ lives in me! I wish we could say the same thing: Christ lives in me! Then the “ per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso ” of the Mass would receive its full meaning. Through Jesus, with Jesus and in Jesus, we can really offer to the Father, in union with the Holy Ghost, the true praise of honor and Glory that we couldn’t offer on our own.
Bishop Fulton Sheen explains: It is through Christ our Mediator, in union with Him, and in a sense absorbed or incorporated in Him, that we His ransomed ones will partake with all His creation in the blessed praise of the Holy Trinity for ever. The Amen which closes this sublime prayer is without doubt the most significant Amen in the entire course of the Mass. This was anciently the only time that Amen was said during the old Canon; and here the word is used in its most complete and extensive sense. Let us therefore say it together, with heart-felt fervor: “ so be it.” And I would gladly add, even in the mornings at the 6:30 Mass, though it is a great effort to rouse you from your torpor to which you have succumbed during the silence of the Canon, soothed by the early mist.

So, our prayer is fully true and effective when we are in full union with Jesus, verus et solus orans, the only true worshiper in truth and Spirit. In fact, Communion associates us with the intimate life of the Blessed Trinity, which is a life of complete and perfect love. If the Eucharist gives us the life of Jesus and if Jesus is really Love, then it is through Communion that we can perfectly fulfill the new Commandment of Charity.
Charity finds its accomplishment on the Cross, which is the greatest manifestation of God’s love. As Benedict XVI recalls it in his Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas est, the death of Jesus on the Cross is love in its most radical form. And the Holy Father adds that it is from this sacrifice that our definition of love must begin. Tonight, we have a supreme token of the love of Jesus for us, told by Saint John: Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. The love of Jesus is an unrivalled love without any concessions nor reservations. It is a love unto the end. So our love, also, must be.
Man, in his origin, was created in the image of God, though men have disfigured this image by their sins. By redeeming us, Our Savior has restored it, but it still must be continually sought out since our sins hide it. Eucharistic Communion restores it in an excellent way by changing us more and more into Jesus Christ who is the perfect image of the Father. Jesus offered Himself to achieve this restoration. And the Pope says that Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood. The sacramental “mysticism”, grounded in God's condescension towards us, operates at a radically different level and lifts us to far greater heights than anything that any human mystical elevation could ever accomplish.

Thus, there is really a novelty performed by the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The day of its institution must be celebrated as the most important event of History which we cannot disconnect from the day of the Sacrifice of Jesus. There is a strong connection between the Last Supper and the Cross, which Mel Gibson has brought out very well in his movie when Saint John, seeing Jesus nailed on the Cross and raised, remembered the offering of the bread and of the wine the day before.

So dear Brethren, in the Eucharist, we can find the strength to participate in the Passion of Christ and to offer ourselves with Him to the Father. Then, we will fulfill the new Commandment because Christ will dwell perfectly in our souls, our hearts and our minds and we will truly be another Christ.

I pray to Our Lady tonight so that She can help us to accept Her Son in our lives. With Her, we can learn how to receive Communion with a true and sincere love and then how to live with a profound Charity. As long as we don’t love as Jesus wants us to love, that is as He has loved us, we can consider ourselves usurpers of the beautiful title of Christians. May God help us to avoid this and have mercy on us!

lundi, avril 10, 2006

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis

Sermon for Palm Sunday

The narrative of the Passion of Christ we have just listened to makes it possible for us to grasp the great drama of Humanity. It also gives a sense to life. In fact, the death of Christ is the most beautiful and powerful lesson of life. Beyond the atrocities of the Passion, beyond the betrayal, beyond the cowardice, beyond the hypocrisy and beyond the weakness, a strong message emerges from the floods of human baseness: there are still hope and love in this world. But let the world understand this message well! The foundations of hope and love must be found in the Cross of Jesus, not in the world. The world? Christ told us in yesterday’s gospel; It has already been judged! Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

What is this judgment? We know that at the end of time, there will be the last judgment, which will concede to each and every person his eternal reward or his eternal punishment according to his life. Saint Augustine calls it the judgment of condemnation. But now, what is the judgment Christ is talking about?
It is what Saint Augustine calls, a judgment of discernment. We hear about it very often, at least at every Mass we attend, but, perhaps, we do not take enough notice of it. It is the judgment mentioned in Psalm 42, from which the prayers at the foot of the altar are composed: Judica me Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo, et doloso erue me. - Judge me, O God, and distinguish my cause from the nation that is not holy: deliver me from the unjust and deceitful man.
Thus, this judgment of discernment is the release of the faithful of Christ from the yoke of Satan. From the first day of original sin, Satan reigned in the hearts of men. But now, Christ retakes his possessions. This reconquest is won on the Cross, where Jesus offers Himself in Sacrifice, and it is renewed at every Mass, which is the same and unique Sacrifice of Jesus. At the beginning of each Mass, we ask God to judge us and to distinguish our cause from the impious people. So, it is a judgment of Faith. By their Faith, founded on Jesus Christ and consummated by His Passion and His Resurrection, the believers are freed from the slavery of Satan and united to Christ from Whom they receive life. Faith is really our Victory as Saint John claims it.

And the prince of this world shall be cast out! Saint Augustine explains that Satan loses the souls he held captive until the Passion of Christ. After the death and the Resurrection, many people have renounced Satan and turned to God. The Prince of this world is cast out from the souls of the believers regenerated by the waters of Baptism.
Thus, the Cross of Jesus is truly the place where the verdict is rendered. Justification and liberation for some; condemnation for others. This is the Cross we worship in a special manner beginning on Passion Sunday, the beginning of the Liturgical time of the Passion. The Hymn of Vespers during this time is Vexilla Regis, composed in the 6th century. It shows how Christ the King recovers His Kingdom: Abroad the regal banners fly; now shines the Cross's mystery: upon it Life did death endure, and yet by death did life procure. O Crux, spes unica - Hail Cross, of hopes the most sublime!

The Cross, dear brethren, is the throne from which Christ rules the world even though the world doesn’t recognize it. The Carthusian order’s motto proclaims the timelessness of the Cross: Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis – The Cross stands while the world is changing! It shows the permanence of the Faith and the fidelity of God who cannot change. Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever as Saint Paul exclaims. Assuredly, the Word of God came into the world at a precise time in a precise place. It is also true that His sacrifice was made at one particular place in the world and on one particular day in the History of Humanity. But the sacrifice of the Cross transcends Time and Space. Remember that any Mass celebrated anywhere and at anytime is the very same Sacrifice. The teaching of Jesus cannot be limited, constrained, or relegated to any one particular set of thoughts and precepts that someone may hold in any given society with its own particular rules, customs and traditions.
For example, it is not rare to hear some feminists say that Jesus was dependant on the social rules of His time. This very brilliant assertion is supposed to explain why Jesus didn’t choose any women to be Apostles. Jesus was dependant on the social rules of his time! I guess our feminists didn’t read the gospel. He who publicly called the Scribes and the Pharisees generation of vipers and condemned their hypocrisy in very strong language, He who used to eat and speak with notorious sinners, He who stood face to face with the Priests and stated plainly that He is the Son of God would have been dependant on the social rules of his time? Well, that’s really a good joke!
This example indeed shows that we have to accept the message of Jesus just as it is and not try to adapt it to our own ideas. It is really amazing, and often funny, to read the so called explanations of the miracles of Jesus by the rationalists of the XIX century. The theories of a century swing back and forth. They are like our ideas, our resolutions, our projects and our feelings: very often progressive and evanescent and rarely stable. They are the works of the world.
Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis! The Cross is now permanent. It is the rock upon which we can confidently set the foundations of a stable life. It is a hard way. We have to renounce many things, and first ourselves, our ideas and theories, our intelligence and our will. This a sacrifice, but a useful sacrifice. Then the prince of this world will be cast out of our soul, and Jesus Christ our King can take possession of us. He has already done this the day of our Baptism. But that was just the first fruits. Now we have to live in the Spirit and offer ourselves to God each and every single day of our lives. Jesus has prepared the way for us. He is still showing us this way.

May Our Lady help us to leave this chaotic world of constant flux so that we may definitively find the stable and peaceful Kingdom of Her Son, which is a Kingdom established by the Cross.

O crux Ave, spes unica. There is still hope, because the Cross is still there.

Amen !

mardi, avril 04, 2006

Do we desire the Eucharist?

Sermon for Passion Sunday

Saint Paul tells us: Christ, the High Priest entered once into the holy of holies and obtained eternal redemption by his own blood. In his blood, He set the seal on a new and eternal Covenant. Eternal means that this Covenant is not only in force in this present life, but will be forever in the eternity too. The temporal death of Jesus affects all of creation, and, in fact, gives birth to a new one. Heaven and Earth are now marked by this Sacrifice so profoundly that even the glorious body of Jesus, after his resurrection, retains the marks of the wounds of His Passion. The celestial Liturgy, in Heaven, as far as we know, will be the exalting of the Immolated Lamb in his glory. Our earthly Liturgy is an anticipation of this Liturgy. An anticipation is not yet the achievement.
We are invited to participate in the celestial banquet to celebrate the wedding of the Spouse. But now we are still on the way and we have to walk, following Jesus in his Passion and carrying our cross. The Liturgy, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, makes us participate in an excellent manner in the Sacrifice of Jesus. And since the goal of our life is union with God through Our Lord Jesus Christ, mediator between God and men, the most excellent way to unite ourselves to God has to be found in Holy Communion.

The Council of Trent already expressed the desire of the Church to see the faithful receiving Communion at every Mass they attend. The text says: The sacred and holy Synod would fain indeed that, at each mass, the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but also by the sacramental participation of the Eucharist, that thereby a more abundant fruit might be derived to them from this most holy sacrifice.
Now, during the Lent season, when we are supposed to mortify our flesh according to the entire tradition of the Church, we can find in the Eucharist a very precious help. While we are making sacrifices and penances, we would be well advised to follow the recommendations of the Church regarding Holy Communion. The Roman Catechism points out the effects of the Eucharist. It says: It also restrains and represses the lusts of the flesh, for while it inflames the soul more ardently with the fire of charity, it of necessity extinguishes the ardor of concupiscence.
So, if it is good to fast during Lent, it may be profitable to receive Communion more frequently in order to find more strength for our Lenten exercises. Fast of terrestrial food for a more frequent reception of the celestial bread would be beneficial.
Christians who love Jesus feel the need to receive the Eucharist. But that presupposes a good preparation. On a practical level, frequent communion means frequent confession. In fact, one calls the other. The Church, as our Mother, wants to feed us with the spiritual food, which is the Eucharist, but on the other hand, She warns us that we must be well disposed to receive, and well aware of the dignity of this Sacrament. We shouldn’t approach the communion rail without a certain fear. But our fear shouldn’t divert us from receiving Our Lord. Confession, in particular, helps us in this way.
The sacrament of penance gives us the objective sanctity which allows us to receive Our Lord Jesus Christ under the veil of the Eucharistic species. A necessary condition for receiving Holy Communion is that one must be in the state of grace. Whoever feels unworthy to receive Jesus in his soul is right, but should also remember that Jesus, knowing that, has no other desire but to come into our souls to sanctify us. So we have to receive Our Lord with a great humility but also with a great confidence.
Then, it is true that this Sacrament, as every other Sacrament, is effective in itself by virtue of what we call in Latin ex opere operato. This means that the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ works through the Sacraments when the necessary conditions of validity are present. But a Sacrament is not magic. God wants us to collaborate with Him to our own sanctification, because He has created us rational beings. Sacraments are given to us to produce or increase the grace in our souls, and from Baptism to Extreme Unction, they are the divine instruments which give us life or keep us in life. The Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, which is the culmination and center of the Christian religion according to Pius XII, should be the center and the culmination of our lives too.
And if it really and truly is the center of our lives , it will change our lives. Through this sacrament God will strengthen us so that we can resist temptations more easily. A life centered on Jesus Christ is not compatible with a life of sin and if you fall regularly into mortal sins, it is because Our Lord Jesus Christ is not yet the center of your life. Your Faith is not enough enlivened by your Charity, and in fact, if you are in state of sin, you have no Charity in your soul at all because sin and Charity exclude each other. Ultimately and simply, our religion is just a matter of love. And we have now during the liturgical time of the Passion a great opportunity to contemplate the purest and most beautiful act of love ever performed: the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Dear brethren, let us well understand that Charity leads us to the Cross. Where there is no cross, there is no Charity. And the mystery of the Cross is made present today by the Sacrifice of the Mass. I have already asked you this question and I ask you again now: Do you come to Mass just to fulfill a commandment of the Church or because you truly love God? I think there is a major difference.
If you come for the first reason, I have to recognize that it is not very exciting. I can also understand why you are so late for Mass on a regular basis. I can understand why you make no effort to say the responses of the Mass or to sing in spite of the recommendations of the Church. I can understand why you go to the communion rail casually, your hands in your pockets, looking so bored. I can understand why you leave the church right after Mass without giving thanks to God. I can understand why you are immodestly dressed, preferring to show your body to men rather than your soul to God. But in your case, I don’t think that the Sacrament of the Eucharist can be very useful.
If you come for the second reason, because you love God and because you understand that the Holy Mass is the time and the place where you can be united to your Savior who offered Himself in sacrifice for your salvation, in this case, your communions will be your provisions for your journey toward Heaven. You look for the help of the Sacrament every day because you are tempted every day and because your flesh is still weak. Or maybe, you just want to have Jesus in your soul, which is probably the best reason for desiring your daily communion.

May Our Lady of Sorrows who knows the price of our Redemption, rekindle our Faith in the Sacrament of the Altar, so that, animated by the Hope of the future glory, we can receive Communion frequently with a sincere Charity and united ourselves to the Sacrifice of Jesus for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. We are going now to Calvary, but it is not our final destination. It is the necessary step before Heaven. The Eucharist will give us the strength to pesevere.