Friday, March 31, 2006

Lenten Reflections

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good.
Pope Benedict XVI

Repentance is the renewal of baptism.
Repentance is a contract with God for a second life.
Repentance is constant distrust of bodily comfort.
Repentance is self-condemning reflection, and carefree self-care.
Repentance is the daughter of hope and the renunciation of despair.
Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the practice of good deeds contrary to the sins.
Repentance is purification of conscience.
Repentance is the voluntary endurance of all afflictions.
Repentance is a mighty persecution of the stomach, and a striking of the soul into vigorous awareness.

St John Climacus

Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do.
St Thomas Aquinas, Two Precepts of Charity (1273)

No human being can take God as his Father unless he takes the Church as his mother.
St Cyprian

It is by warfare that the soul makes progress.
Abba John the Short

The goal of human freedom is not in freedom itself, nor it is in man, but in God. By giving man freedom, God has yielded to man a piece of His Divine authority, but with the intention that man himself would voluntarily bring it as a sacrifice to God, a most perfect offering.
St Theophan the Recluse

The knowledge of the Cross is concealed in the sufferings of the Cross.
St Isaac the Syrian

Veritas autem docendo persuadet non suadendo docet
(Truth persuades by teaching, but does not teach by persuading)
Tertullian, Adversus Valentinianos

I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, "What can get through from such snares?" Then I heard a voice saying to me, "Humility."
St Anthony the Great

He who really keeps account of his actions considers as lost every day in which he does not mourn, whatever good he may have done in it.
St John of the Ladder

Have patience with all things, but, first of all with yourself.
St Francis de Sales

It is our duty, therefore, to be faithful to God, pure in heart, merciful and kind, just and holy; for these things imprint in us the outlines of the Divine likeness, and perfect us as heirs of eternal life.
St Cyril of Alexandria

The way of humility is this: self-control, prayer, and thinking yourself inferior to all creatures.
Abba Tithoes

Worldly renown is naught but a breath of wind, which now comes this way and now comes that, and changes name because it changes quarter.
Dante, The Divine Comedy, Purgatorio Canto XI

He that has love is far from every sin.
St Polycarp

I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul's desire.
St Patrick of Ireland

Remember your weakness, then you will be more cautious and you will not submit to the thoughts of pride and false glory.
Pope Shenouda III

When you pray to God in time of temptation do not say, "Take this or that away from me", but pray like this: "O Jesus Christ, sovereign Master, help me and do not let me sin against Thee. . ."
Abba Isaiah the Solitary

Many times have I spoken and regretted it, but silence I never regretted.
St Arsenios

When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: "What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head."
St Seraphim of Sarov

Prove your love and zeal for wisdom in actual deeds.
St Callistus Xanthopoulos

God has been very good to me, for I never dwell upon anything wrong which a person has done, so as to remember it afterwards. If I do remember it, I always see some other virtue in that person.
St Teresa of Avila

Even brute beasts and wandering birds do not fall into the same traps or nets twice.
St Jerome, Letter 54

If you are praised, be silent.
If you are scolded, be silent.
If you incur losses, be silent.
If you receive profit, be silent.
If you are satiated, be silent.
If you are hungry, also be silent.
And do not be afraid that there will be no fruit when all dies down; there will be! Not everything will die down. Energy will appear; and what energy!

St Feofil, the Fool for Christ

You cannot destroy the passions on your own, but ask God, and He will destroy them, if this is profitable for you.
St Anatoly of Optina

Even if an angel should indeed appear to you, do not receive him but humiliate yourself, saying, "I am not worthy to see an angel, for I am a sinner".
Apophthegmata Patrum

Is it not excessively ridiculous to seek the good opinion of those whom you would never wish to be like?
St John Chrysostom

It is better to eat meat and drink wine and not to eat the flesh of one's brethren through slander.
Abba Hyperechius

Humility is the only thing we need; one can still fall having virtues other than humility -- but with humility one does not fall.
Elder Herman of Mt Athos

Do not seek the perfection of the law in human virtues, for it is not found perfect in them. Its perfection is hidden in the Cross of Christ.
St Mark the Ascetic

The thief was on the cross and he was justified by a single word; and Judas who was counted in the number of the apostles lost all his labour in one single night and descended from heaven to hell. Therefore, let no-one boast of his good works, for all those who trust in themselves fall.
Abba Xanthias

You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.
St Augustine

You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them.
St Thérèse of Lisieux

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I delivered the soul I loved into the hands of the wicked

Animam meam diléctam tradidi in manus iniquórum, et facta est mihi haeréditas mea sicut leo in silva: dedit contra me voces adversárius, dicens: Congregámini, et properáte ad devorándum illum: posuérunt me in desérto solitúdinis; et luxit super me omnis terra: Quia non est invéntus qui me agnósceret, et fáceret bene.

I delivered the soul I loved into the hands of the wicked, and Mine inheritance has become to Me like a lion in the forest: Mine adversary inveighed against Me, saying: Gather ye together, and haste ye to devour Him. They placed Me in a lonely desert, and all the earth mourned for Me: Because there was none that would know Me, and do well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy

Remarks to the Bishops of Chile

We ought to get back the dimension of the sacred in the liturgy. The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time. It is of no importance that the parish priest has cudgeled his brains to come up with suggestive ideas or imaginative novelties. The liturgy is what makes the Thrice-Holy God present amongst us; it is the burning bush; it is the Alliance of God with man in Jesus Christ, who has died and risen again

Monday, March 27, 2006

O My chosen vineyard, I planted thee

Vinea mea elécta, ego te plántavi, Quómodo convérsa es in amaritúdinem, ut me crucifigeres, et Barábbam dimítteres?

O My chosen vineyard, I planted thee: How art thou turned to bitterness, that thou shouldest crucify me, and release Barabbas?

Mine eyes are darkened by My tears

Caligavérunt óculi mei a fletu meo, quia elongátus est a me, qui consolábitur me. Vidéte, omnes pópuli, Si est dolor símilis sicut dolor meus.

O vos omnes, qui transítis per viam, atténdite et vidéte. Si est dolor simílis sicut dolor meus.

Mine eyes are darkened by My tears: for He is far from Me that comforted Me. See, O all ye people, If there be sorrow like unto My sorrow.

O all ye that pass by, behold and see, If there be sorrow like unto My sorrow

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sono Pazzi Questi Romani

Curious Roman customs from Zadok the Roman:

Romans leave votive offerings at the foot of the statue of Julius Caesar of Julius Caesar on the Via Fori Imperiali on the Ides of March. Flowers, candles, prayers in graffiti.

Marian Graffiti: The one on the right is simple enough - 'Our Lady, we love you!'. The one on the left is more dubious. 'Long live the Madonna. God doesn't have a gender, but if she did it would be feminine.'

Romans have always been an eccentric people who have had peculiar customs and practices (yep, since the days of the Empire or even the Republic). This often makes their actions regarding the running of the Church rather inexplicable...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bringing the Petrine Ministry to a Whole New Dimension

This ancient mosaic of St Peter looks eerily like Benedict XVI

Prayer of St Ephraem

Here's the Lenten Prayer of St Ephraem, which we say several times a day:

O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth
lust of power
and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity,
and love to thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King
grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;
for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages.


Friday, March 17, 2006


God works through men; that is why He created them, to unfold His scheme for the world. We remember that God had to become a man to save mankind.

Miracles need not be showy - St Athanasios and St Cyril of Alexandria, if you read their writings, show themselves to be arrogant men, hungry for power. Yet the doctrines they fought for we still hold today, though the one has been dead almost a thousand years and the other close to nine hundred. Is that not something of a miracle?

- extract from Agent of Byzantium by Harry Turtledove

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Return of the Bishops

Soundtrack: Star Wars Main Theme

"The Da Vinci Code is a mess, a riot of laughable errors and serious misstatements. Almost every page has at least one of each," the bishops wrote on the website Jesus

About time somebody did something!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Romantic Love

Christianity has always exalted love, because it was the founding idea of the religion. If you are a Westerner or just culturally westernised (which I'm sure many readers are), you may have a hard time realising that other cultures do not accord the same importance to it.

They may give more weight to obedience, responsibility, honour or detachment. Even within Christianity however, it was, through centuries, the love of God – something spiritual and mystic – that was the greatest love, not romantic love. St Thomas Aquinas praised love above all other virtues, but it was the love of God - the love of woman, Thomas Aquinas knew precious little.

It is only recently, that Western civilisation began to give a higher value to romantic love as a reflection of the love of God, though if you look at it with a squinty eye, it is a rather tortuous extension of the original idea. Nevertheless, it has stuck, and has spread to other cultures.

Have we confused love with lust?

How peaceful life would be without love. How safe, how tranquil... and how dull.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

From My Wise Духовник/Dukhovnik

We have also just been told off by someone asserting that Jesus doesn't care in the least whether we open and close the Royal Doors as prescribed or not. But it strikes me that people who claim to adopt that position are nevertheless remarkably uncomfortable and upset when some priest does, in fact, open and close the Royal Doors as prescribed. If Jesus doesn't care, why does the critic care?

Quite so! The same argument can be applied to those who oppose the Latin Mass, or to the Latinisers who oppose the full authentic Byzantine Liturgy with all its glorious ceremonial!

If Jesus doesn't care whether we use Gregorian Chant, the Antidoron, the leavened Eucharistic Bread, unabbreviated services.... why should the critics get all apoplectic when we love and wish to preserve them?

(incidentally, Духовник/Dukhovnik means Spiritual Father, and my Духовник is a priest of the greatest erudition and holiness)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Not Excommunicates.

Ecclesia Dei Commission affirms, over and over again, that the Fraternity of St Pius X and its attendees are not excommunicates. Courtesy of Rorate-Caeli:

SSPX Priests and Faithful Not Excommunicates.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

We must not forget that He is the one from whom all things come

From Michael

The relative of someone close passed away yesterday (she was not of the Faith, I think) and it really brought home the line from Genesis, "for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return" (Gen 3:19). Perhaps sometimes we question why such a loving God will take someone so close to us away. But if we read Ecclesiastes, it goes on to say "And the dust return into its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God, who gave it." (Ec 12:7). We must not forget that He is the one from whom all things come. And sad as a passing may be, we can always hope and pray in the mercy of God.

Prayer is a genuflection of the will to God

From The Catholic Way, by Bishop Donald Wuerl

Prayer is more than an exercise of the mind. It is also a genuflection of the will to God. Genuine devotion should not be confused with feeling satisfaction or emotion. Sometimes we hear people say that they do not pray or attend Mass because they do not feel uplifted or experience an emotional "high". Effective prayer is not measured by the rapidity or intensity of our personal satisfaction. True devotion is properly directed to God. At times our prayers may result in personal peace and joy, but such a response is not the gauge of their effectiveness. The more devoted to God one is, the closer is one's friendship with him, and the more likely that prayer will be heard - but not necessarily in the manner we determine. After all, it is God who answers. It is God who makes up the other side of the conversation.

Dominican Rite

From a discussion on the Dominican Rite at the Catholic Online forum, a very meaningful prayer.

Prevent, O Lord, we beseech thee, our actions by thy inspiration, and continue them by thine assistance; that every one of our works may begin always from thee, and through thee be ended. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I suppose "prevent our actions by thy inspiration" means to "inspire our actions".

Friday, March 03, 2006

Let him become a fool that he may become wise...

In ancient Greece a shrine dedicated to the pagan god, Apollo stood at Delphi. People seeking answers to questions from the god would travel to the shrine and ask the oracle, a priestess of Apollo, who would answer the question on behalf of the god. A man named Chaerephon once asked the oracle, “Who is the wisest man?” She replied that Socrates was the wisest man.

Upon hearing the oracle's answer from his friend, Socrates was puzzled. Knowing that he was not the wisest man, but unwilling to accept that the god lied; Socrates set out to talk to others with reputations for wisdom. By talking to these wise men he hoped to discover how he could possibly be the wisest man. After speaking with them, Socrates discovered that even though they possessed great reputations for being wise and they certainly saw themselves as being wise, they really weren’t wise at all. He found that they didn’t know much, but they thought they knew much more than they actually did. They had deceived themselves by overestimating their own wisdom. On the other hand, Socrates didn’t know much either, but he realized how little he knew. Therefore, Socrates concluded that he was indeed the wisest man because he recognized his own ignorance.

- Plato, The Apology

If we understand wisdom the way Socrates did, we can be rather unwise ourselves. We are ignorant of more than we know, but we can often overestimate our wisdom. Recognizing our own ignorance is humbling, but when we think we know more than we actually do we can become quite arrogant. Everyone around us seems less intelligent, wise, and knowledgeable than we are. We can even become so arrogant that we judge our Creator, the source of all knowledge and wisdom, as possessing less wisdom and knowledge than we do. How can anyone actually think that he or she has a more complete and coherent understanding of reality than the One who creates reality out of nothing? In our ignorance, we can question whether God is really infinitely holy, powerful, loving, merciful, and compassionate. How can we, who are sinners full of self-righteous pride, hedonistic lust, selfish ambition, and spiritual laziness, judge the true and living God? We are blindly arrogant and incredibly unaware of our own empty ignorance.