Archive for the ‘Communion of Saints’ Category

October 31st

October 31, 2010

November is a month in which we remember, in a special way, the souls of those who have gone before us. Tomorrow (November 1st) is the Feast of All Saints, a day on which we celebrate all of our older brothers and sisters in the faith who fought the good fight and are now enjoying their eternal reward with God in Heaven. The following day (November 2nd) is the “Commemoration of All Souls.” All Souls Day is a day on which we call to mind, in a particular way, the need to pray for our deceased loved ones.

We know that our God is infinitely holy. Scripture tells us that nothing unclean can enter into His all-holy presence. (cf. Revelation 21:27) All Souls day reminds us to pray for our departed brothers and sisters, that they may be perfectly purified from any stain of past sins and behold God face-to-face.

The Church teaches us that all who die in a state of grace, yet are not perfectly purified from past sins, are assured of their eternal salvation; yet they still need to undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven. (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1030) This final purification is known as Purgatory.

It is important to remember that this purification is different from forgiveness. Sin has a double consequence: sin damages our relationship with God, but sin also entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures. (cf. CCC 1472) When we confess our sins, God forgives us; yet we still must be purged of our inordinate attachments. We can be purified either in this life, or we can be purified in the next. We can be forgiven only in this life: which is why it is important to make regular use of the Sacrament of Confession. Saint Augustine once wrote: “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”

It is always good to pray for our deceased loved ones; the Church has us pray for the faithful departed at every Mass. (There is a prayer for them in every Eucharistic Prayer.) Praying for the dead assists them in the purification of their souls. Even if our loved ones have already attained the Beatific Vision, our prayers are never wasted; our prayers can help others who are in need.

The Church encourages us to visit cemeteries and pray for the deceased, especially on the first eight days of November. A plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who devoutly visit a cemetery and pray for the faithful departed on any and each day from November 1st to the 8th. [A plenary indulgence is the full remission of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. (cf. CCC 1471) More on this next week.]

Let us remember to pray for the souls in Purgatory, especially in this month dedicated to that purpose. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

God bless,

Father White

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October 24th

October 24, 2010

The four writers of the Gospels are traditionally depicted in Christian art in a rather strange ways: as a man, as a lion, as an ox, and as an eagle.  These symbols are derived from prophetic visions found in both the Old and the New Testaments.  Both in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel and in the Book of Revelation we hear about four “living creatures” which resembled a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle.  Traditionally, these are seen as symbols of the four Gospel writers.

In last week’s article, I mentioned that Saint Luke is the Gospel writer represented by the ox because his Gospel begins with the Angel appearing to Zechariah as he was ministering in the Temple of Jerusalem.  Oxen were just one example of animals offered in sacrifice in the Temple.  The ox is taken to represent Saint Luke because his Gospel opens in the Temple.

The “living creature” which resembled a man is taken to represent Saint Matthew, because his Gospel begins with the human genealogy of Jesus Christ.  Saint Matthew’s Gospel is written to a Jewish audience.  He assumes that his readers are familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and makes many allusions to events and people in the Old Testament.  Because he is writing to a Jewish audience, Saint Matthew is particularly concerned with showing how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament.

The lion traditionally represents Saint Mark.  The reason for this is again found at the beginning of his Gospel.  Saint Mark’s Gospel begins with action: Jesus is baptized and is immediately led out into the desert where He is among the “wild beasts.”  There are mountain lions in the wilderness surrounding the Jordan River; hence the fittingness of the lion used to depict Saint Mark.

Saint Mark was a companion to Saint Peter, just as Saint Luke accompanied Saint Paul.  It is held that Saint Mark wrote much of what he wrote based on things that he learned from Saint Peter.  Saint Mark wrote his Gospel to the Christians in Rome, which is the reason that it is so clear, direct and terse.  (Romans tended to be succinct and efficient.)  Saint Mark’s Gospel has the fewest chapters but it is filled with action.  Saint Mark tried to capture many of Our Lord’s actions and miracles within a relatively short space.

Finally, we come to Saint John.  Of course the eagle is the last of the four symbols that we have mentioned, therefore it obviously represents Saint John.  The eagle represents this last Gospel, not because of it’s opening lines (as is the case with the other Gospels); the eagle represents this last Gospel because just the eagle soars high above all other birds, so too, Saint John’s Gospel is said to soar above the other Gospels due to its lofty theology.  Whereas the other Gospels begin on earth, Saint John’s begins “In the beginning . . .”  Saint John starts out by showing that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God, Who became incarnate in order to reveal God to us.  The first chapter of his Gospel is a beautiful meditation on the Incarnation.

The authors of the four Gospel write from different perspectives and to different audiences, but they each give us great insight into the things that Our Lord said and did.  Through meditating upon the Gospels we come to know Jesus in a most intimate way.  Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

 

February 7th

February 7, 2010

Following the prayer that we looked at last week, there follows a prayer which has a pause in the middle of it.  This prayer is known as the “Commemoration of the Dead.”  In this prayer, the priest commends the faithful departed to the Lord and then pauses for a moment in order to call to mind those for whom he wishes to pray.  This pause in the Eucharistic prayer is an opportunity for all of us to call to mind our departed loved ones and commend them to the loving mercy of God.

After this short pause for silent prayer, the priest prays that all those who sleep in Christ may enjoy the presence of Christ in Heaven.  This prayer beautifully asks that those who sleep in Christ find “light, happiness, and peace.”

The next prayer asks that all of us have some share in the communion of Saints and another group of Saints is invoked.  All of these Saints are martyrs of the early Church.  After Saint John the Baptist is named, there are seven male Saints and seven female Saints: some of them are well known, some of them we know very little about.

The point of this list is not to list the most popular Saints, or the most recent, for then this list of Saints would be constantly changing.  This list of martyrs is meant to connect us with the early Church.  It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.  Those early martyrs shed their blood and thus gave witness to their faith.

By calling upon these Saints who died so long ago, we are reminded of the unity of the Church: not just the unity of the Church in the present day, but the unity of the Church throughout the ages.  We belong to the same Church as those martyrs of the first century.  Through their example and sacrifice the Christian faith flourished.  We honor them because they were early witnesses to the Faith; and they continue to pray for us from Heaven.

This prayer concludes by asking all the Saints in Heaven to pray for us.  Let us not forget to seek often the assistance of the Saints, for their intercession can gain for us many graces from the Lord.  All holy men and women, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White