Saturday, August 08, 2009
Prayer of Trust in the Immaculate Heart
TO the refuge of thine Immaculate Heart, O Heavenly Mother Mary,
I come to be enclosed as in a most choice garden of sweetness and
delight. I am the son of thine Immaculate Heart, O Mother
of God. Thou, O Spouse of the Holy Ghost, Daughter of God the Father,
Mother of the Son, in thy loving relationship to the Most Blessed Trinity,
serve as Mediatrix of all grace that comes to me from the Heavenly
throne, flowing forth from the Sacred Heart of thy Son, passing
through the Immaculate Heart of thy Heavenly intercession.
The love of thine Immaculate Heart showing forth in tender care gives
me confidence in thee, O Heavenly Mother Mary. In thee I trust.
Thine intercession, united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is powerful to tend
to every need of body and soul upon earth and to lead me lovingly home
to thine eternal embrace, where thou wilt introduce me to thy Divine Son,
with the Holy Ghost dwelling always in my soul, and the Heavenly Father
forever providing for my every temporal and spiritual need as
all three Persons in the one Godhead see in thee, O Mary ,
the Mother of this thy son upon earth.
Labels: Our Blessed Lady
Friday, August 07, 2009
Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Jesus, divine Savior, deign to cast a look of mercy upon Thy children, who assemble in the same spirit of faith, reparation, and love, and come to deplore their own infidelities, and those of all poor sinners, their brethren.
May we touch Thy divine Heart by the unanimous and solemn promises we are about to make and obtain mercy for ourselves, for the world, and for all who are so unhappy as not to love Thee. We all promise that for the future:
For the forgetfulness and ingratitude of men, *(We will console Thee O Lord)
For the way Thou art deserted in Thy holy tabernacle,
For the crimes of sinners,
For the hatred of the impious,
For the blasphemies uttered against Thee,
For the sacrileges that profane Thy Sacrament of Love,
For the outrages against Thy divinity,
For the injuries of which Thou art the adorable Victim,
For the coldness of the greater part of Thy children,
For the contempt of Thy loving invitation,
For the infidelity of those who called themselves Thy friends,
For the abuse of Thy grace,
For our own unfaithfulness,
For the incomprehensible hardness of our hearts,
For our long delay in loving Thee,
For our tepidity in Thy holy service,
For Thy bitter sadness at the loss of souls,
For Thy long waiting at the door of our hearts,
For the heartless scorn that grieves Thee,
For Thy loving sighs,
For Thy loving tears,
For Thy loving imprisonment,
For Thy loving death,
* We will console Thee, 0 Lord
Let us pray
0 Jesus! divine Savior, from whose Heart comes forth this bitter complaint, "I looked for one that would comfort me, and I found none," graciously accept the feeble consolation we offer Thee, and aid us so powerfully by Thy grace, that we may, for the time to come, shun more and more all that can displease Thee, and prove ourselves in everything, and everywhere, and forever Thy most faithful and devoted servants. We ask it through Thy Sacred Heart, O Lord, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Ghost as one God, world without end.
Labels: Friday At the Foot Of the Cross
Thursday, August 06, 2009
From a sermon by Pope Saint Leo the Great on the Transfiguration:
The Lord took chosen witnesses and in their presence revealed his glory. That is to say, the form of body which he had in common with other men, he so transfigured with light, that his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment became exceeding white, even as snow. Now the chief purpose of this Transfiguration was to remove from the hearts of the disciples their fear of the Cross. So, before their eyes, was unveiled the splendour of his hidden majesty, that the lowliness of his freely-chosen suffering might not confound their faith. But nonetheless there was also thus set forth, by the providence of God, a sure and certain hope for holy Church, whereby the whole Body of Christ should know with what great a change it is yet to be honoured. For the members of that Body whose Head hath already been transfigured in light may promise themselves a share in his glory.
Labels: Our Lord
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
And it isn't good for Downtown Crossing, either. There have been a great many departures in the last few years. Macy's parent company buying out both Jordan Marsh and Filenes led to the closing of the Filenes anchor store. Now most of that building is a big hole in the ground, since the 1950s addition was demolished to make way for a office/condo/retail tower, but funding dried up in the recession, and all that remains is the exposed facade of the older part of the building, and the hole in the ground. Barnes and Noble closed what I think was the orignal Barnes and Noble on Washington Street, and that is still vacant. Matthew Sheehan Religious Goods on Chauncy moved out more than 2 years ago when the rents were escalating out of control. It still sits vacant. And Staples is closing its store in Downtown Crossing on Winter Street.
Great vision, Mayor Mumbles. Downtown Crossing becomes a ghost town filled with "urban" shops and an army of police to keep the element in check. And the man will be re-elected handily this November, because you can't beat somebody with nobody.
Labels: New England Things
To make it worse, we are playhing them on the road.
Let us hope that the boys, with new lumber-swinger Victor Martinez, can put the Rays back to sleep, and continue to embarass Yankee brass this week.
Labels: Boston Red Sox
Here is what The Golden Legend has to say about him.
And the Catholic Encyclopedia
It was Saint Dominic who first put the Rosary in the form we know it.
Labels: Our Saintly Brethern
Monday, August 03, 2009
O God, Who hast commanded us to honour our father and our mother, in Thy mercy have pity on the souls of my mother Kathryn and father George, and forgive them their trespasses, and make me to see them again in the joy of everlasting light. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.
V. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
R. And may perpetual light shine upon her.
V. May she rest in peace.
A Mother's Love's A Blessing
1. An Irish boy was leaving,
Leaving his own native home,
Crossing the broad Atlantic,
Once more he wished to roam,
And as he was leaving his mother,
Who was standing on the quay,
She threw her arms around his waist,
And this to him did say,
A mother's love's a blessing,
No matter where you roam,
Keep her while she's living,
You'll miss her when she's gone,
Love her as in childhood,
Though feeble, old and grey,
For you'll never miss a mother's love,
Till she's buried beneath the clay.
2. And as the years go onwards,
I'll settle down in life,
And choose a nice young colleen,
And take her for my wife,
And as the babes grow older,
And climb around my knee,
I'll teach them the very same lesson,
That my mother taught to me.
A mother's love's a blessing,
No matter where you roam,
Keep her while she's living,
You'll miss her when she's gone,
Love her as in childhood,
Though feeble, old and grey,
For you'll never miss a mother's love,
Till she's buried beneath the clay.
Labels: Family Anniversaries
Sunday, August 02, 2009
August 1st was the date of his death, and is his feast in the ordinary mode of the Latin Rite. In the extraordinary mode, his feast is August 2nd, presumably to avoid conflict with that of Saint Peter Ad Vincula.
His biography from the Catholic Encyclopedia
There is an excellent short biography (20 pages, lavishly illustrated) by Brother Matthew, MICM, of Saint Alphonsus in a 1998 back issue of From the Housetops that I currently have. It can be ordered here.
I cannot personally recommend his The Glories of Mary highly enough. It is not just a book that every Catholic should own, but one that every Catholic should study and take to heart.
A selection of his spiritual writings, and those of other Redemptorists, is available on the website of the Papastronsay Sons Of the Most Holy Redeemer (formerly known as the Transalpine Redemptorists).
I highly recommend his Visits To the Blessed Sacrament, as well.
His method for making the Stations of the Cross is the very best and most timeless ever. I speak as one who grew up with the ever-so-au-courant version with pictures of little kids burned by napalm in Vietnam and other images of the 1960s rather than with genuine Catholic tradition. The best version of Saint Alphonsus' Stations, convenient for carrying with you into church for the devotion, is available from TAN for only $1.50.
Saint Alphonsus, who suffered terrible arthritic pain and a curvature of the spine that left his chin impressed onto his chest for the last years of his life, is the patron of those suffering from arthritis.
He painted this crucifix:
This is one of his most urgent sermons:
Sermon for the Third Sunday After Easter, by Saint Alphonsus de Liguori:
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
On the value of time.
"A little while, and now you shall not see me” -John, xvi. 16.
There is nothing shorter than time, but there is nothing more valuable. There is nothing shorter than time; because the past is no more, the future is uncertain, and the present is but a moment. This is what Jesus Christ meant when he said: 1' A little while, and now you shall not see me”. We may say the same of our life, which, according to St. James, is but a vapour, which is soon scattered for ever. “For what is your life? It is a vapour which appeareth for a little while” -James, iv. 14. But the time of this life is as precious as it is short; for, in every moment, if we spend it well, we can acquire treasures of merits for Heaven; but, if we employ time badly, we may in each moment commit sin, and merit Hell. I mean this day to show you how precious is every moment of the time which God gives us, not to lose it, and much less to commit sin, but to perform good works and to save our souls.
1. “Thus saith the Lord: In an acceptable time I have heard thee, and in the day of salvation I have helped thee” -Isa., xlix. 8. St. Paul explains this passage, and says, that the acceptable time is the time in which. God has determined to confer his favours upon us. He then adds: “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” -II. Cor., vi. 2. The Apostle exhorts us not to spend unprofitably the present time, which he calls the day of salvation; because, perhaps, after this day of salvation, there shall be no salvation for US. The &time ' says the same Apostle, 'I is short: it remaineth that they that weep be as though they wept not; that they that rejoice, as if they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as if they used it not” -1. Cor., vii. 29, 30, 31. Since, then, the time which we have to remain on this Earth is short, the Apostle tells those who weep, that they ought not to weep, because their sorrows shall soon pass away; and those who rejoice, not to fix their affections on their enjoyments, because they shall soon have an end. Hence he concludes, that we should use this world, not to enjoy its transitory goods, but to merit eternal life.
2. “Son”, says the Holy Ghost, “observe the time” -Ecel., iv. 23. Son, learn to preserve time, which is the most precious, and the greatest gift that God can bestow upon you. St. Bannerdine of Sienna teaches, that time is of as much value as God; because in every moment of time well spent, the possession of God is merited. He adds, that in every instant of this life a man may obtain the pardon of his sins, the grace of God, and the glory of Paradise.” Modico tempore potest homo lucrari gratiam. et gloriam”. Hence St. Bonaventure says, that no loss is of greater moment than the loss of time” -ser. xxxvil. in Sept.
3. But, in another place, St. Bernardine says, that, though there is nothing more precious than time, there is nothing less valuable in the estimation of men. “Nil pretiosius tempore, nil vilius reputatur” -ser. ii., ad Schol. You will see some persons spending four or five hours in play. If you ask them why they lose so much time, they answer: To amuse ourselves. Others remain half the day standing in the street, or looking out from a window. If you ask them what they are doing, they shall say in reply, that they are passing the time. And why, says the same saint, do you lose this time? Why should you lose even a single hour, which the mercy of God gives you to weep for your sins, and to acquire the divine grace? “Donec hora pertranseat, quam tibi ad agendam poenitentiam, ad acquirendam. gratiam, miseratio conditoris indulserit”.
4. O time despised by men during life, how much shall you be desired at the hour of death, and particularly in the other world! Time is a blessing which we enjoy only in this life; it is not enjoyed in the next; it is not found in Heaven nor in Hell. In Hell, the damned exclaim with tears: “Oh! that an hour were given to us”. They would pay any price for an hour or for a minute, in which they might repair their eternal ruin. But this hour or minute they never shall have. In Heaven, there is no weeping; but, were the saints capable of sorrow, all their wailing should arise from the thought of having lost in this life the time in which they could have acquired greater glory, and from the conviction that this time shall never more be given to them. A deceased Benedictine nun appeared in glory to a certain person, and said, that she was in Heaven, and in the enjoyment of perfect happiness; but that, if she could desire anything it would be to return to life, and to suffer affliction, in order to merit an increase of glory. And she added, that, to acquire the glory which corresponded to a single Ave Maria, she would be content to suffer till the day of judgment, the long and painful sickness which brought on her death. Hence St. Francis Borgia was careful to employ every moment of his time for God. When others spoke of useless things, he conversed with God by holy affections: and so recollected was he, that, when asked his opinion on the subject of conversation, he knew not what answer to make. Being corrected for this, he said: I am content to be considered stupid rather than lose my time in vanities.
5. Some of you will say:What evil am I doing? Is it not, I ask, an evil to spend your time in plays, in conversations, and useless occupations, which are unprofitable to the soul? Does God give you this time to lose it?” Let not”, says the Holy Ghost,” the part of a good gift overpass thee” -Eccl., xiv. 14. The workmen of whom St. Matthew speaks, did no evil; they only lost time by remaining idle in the streets. But they were rebuked by the father of the family, saying: “Why stand you here all the day idle?” -Matt., xx. 6. On the day of judgment Jesus Christ shall demand an account, not only of every month and day that has been lost, but even of every idle word. Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment” -Matt., xii. 36. He shall likewise demand an account of every moment of the time which you shall lose. According to St. Bernard, all time which is not spent for God, is lost time.” Omne tempus quo de Deo non cogitasti, cogita te perdidisse” -Coll. I., cap. viii. Hence the Holy Ghost says:” Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly; for neither work nor reason shall be in Hell, whither thou art hastening” -Ecel., ix. 10. What you can do to-day, defer not till to-morrow; for, on to-morrow you may be dead, and may be gone into another world, where you shall have no more time to do good, and where you shall only enjoy the reward of your virtues, or suffer the punishment due to your sins.” To-day, if you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts” -Ps., xeiv. 8. God calls you to confess your sins, to restore ill-gotten goods, to be reconciled with your enemies. Obey his call to-day; for it may happen that, on to-morrow, time may be no more for you, or that God will call you no more. All our salvation depends on corresponding with the divine calls, and at the time that God calls us.
6. But some of you will perhaps say: I am young; after some time I will give myself to God. But, remember that the Gospel tells us, that Jesus Christ cursed the fig tree which he found without fruit, although the season for figs had not yet arrived.“It was not the time for figs” -Mark, xi. 13. By this the Saviour wished to signify, that man at all times, even in youth, should produce fruits of good works; and that otherwise, like the fig tree, he shall be cursed, and shall produce no fruit for the future. “May no man hereafter eat any more fruit of thee for ever” -ibid., v. 14. “Delay not to be converted to the Lord, and defer it not from day to day; for his wrath shall come on a sudden” -Eccl., v. 8, 9. If you find your soul in the state of sin, delay not your repentance nor your confession; do not put them off even till to-morrow; for, if you do not obey the voice of God calling you to-day to confess your sins, death may this day overtake you in sin, and to-morrow there may be no hope of salvation for you. The Devil regards the whole of our life as very short, and therefore he loses not a moment of time, but tempts us day and night. “The Devil is come down unto you having great wrath, knowing that he bath but a short time” -Apoc., xii. 12. The enemy, then, never loses time in seeking to bring us to Hell: and shall we squander the time which God has given us to save our souls?
7. You say:I will hereafter give myself to God. But “why”, answers St. Bernard, “do you, a miserable sinner, presume on the future, as if the Father placed time in your power?” -serm. xxxviii. de Part., etc. Why do you presume that You will hereafter give yourself to God, as if he had given to you the time and opportunity of returning to him whenever you wish? Job said with trembling, that he knew not whether another moment of his life remained:” For I know not how long I shall continue, and whether after a while my Maker may take me away” -xxxii. 22. And you say: I will not go to confession to-day; I will think of it to-morrow. “Diem tenes”, says St. Augustine, “qui horam non tenes”. How can you promise yourself another day, when you know not whether you shall live for an hour? “If”, says St. Teresa, “you are not prepared to die to-day, tremble, lest you die an unhappy death”.
8. St. Bernardine weeps over the blindness of those negligent Christians, who squander the days of salvation, and never consider that a day once lost shall never return.” Transeunt dies, salutis et nemo recogitat sibi perire diem et nunquam. rediturum” -Serm. ad Scholar. At the hour of death they shall wish for another year, or for another day; but they shall not have it: they shall then be told that time shall be no more. What price would they not then give for another week, for a day, or even for an hour, to prepare the account which they must then render to God? St. Lawrence Justinian says, that for a single hour they would give all their property, all their honours, and all their delights. “Erogaret opes, honores, delicias, pro una horula” -Vit. Solit., cap. x. But this hour shall not be granted to them. The priest who attends them shall say: Depart, depart immediately from this Earth; for you time is no more. Go forth, Christian soul, from this world”.
9. What will it profit the sinner who has led an irregular life, to exclaim at death: Oh! that I had led a life of sanctity I Oh! that I had spent my years in loving God! How great is the anguish of a traveller, who, when the night has fallen, perceives that he has missed the way, and that there is no more time to correct his mistake! Such shall be the anguish at death of those who have lived many years in the world, but have not spent them for God. “The night cometh, when no man can work” -John, ix. 4. Hence the Redeemer says to all: “Walk whilst you have light, that the darkness overtake you not” -John, xii. 35. Walk in the way of salvation, now that you have the light, before you are surprised by the darkness of death, in which you can do nothing. You can then only weep over the time which you have lost.
10. “He hath called against me the time” -Thren., i. 15. At the hour of death, conscience will remind us of all the time which we have had to become saints, and which we have employed in multiplying our debts to God. It will remind us of all the calls and of all the graces which he has given us to make us love him, and which we have abused. At that awful moment, we shall also see that the way to salvation is closed for ever. In the midst of these remorses, and of the torturing darkness of death, the dying sinner shall say: Oh! fool that I have been! O life mispent! O lost years, in which I could have gained treasures of merits, and have become a saint I but, I have neglected both, and now the time of saving my soul is gone for ever. But, of what use shall these railings and lamentations be, when the scene of this world is about to close, the lamp is on the point of being extinguished, and when the dying Christian has arrived at that great moment on which eternity depends?
11. “Be you then also ready; for, at what hour you think not, the Son of Man will come” -Luke, xii. 40. The Lord says: “Be prepared”. He does not tell us to prepare ourselves when death approaches, but to be ready for his coming; because when we think least of death, the Son of Man shall come and demand an account of our whole life. In the confusion of death, it will be most difficult to adjust our accounts, so as to appear guiltless before the tribunal of Jesus Christ. Perhaps death may not come upon us for twenty or thirty years; but it may also come very soon, perhaps in a year or in a month. If any one had reason to fear that a trial should take place, on which his life depended, he certainly would not wait for the day of trial, but would as soon as possible employ an advocate to plead his cause. And what do we do? We know for certain that we must one day be judged, and that on the result of that judgment our eternal, not our temporal, life depends. We also know that that day may be very near at hand; and still we lose our time, and, instead of adjusting our accounts, we go on daily multiplying the crimes which will merit for us the sentence of eternal death.
12. If, then, we have hitherto employed our time in offending God, let us henceforth endeavour to bewail our misfortune for the remainder of our life, and say continually with the penitent King Ezechias: “I will recount to thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul” -Isa., xxxviii. 15. The Lord gives us the remaining days of life, that we may compensate the time that has been badly spent.” Whilst we have time, let us work good” -Galat., vi. 10. Let us not provoke the Lord to punish us by an unhappy death; and if, during the years that are past, we have been foolish, and have offended him, let us now attend to the Apostle exhorting us to be wise for the future, and to redeem the time we have lost.” See, therefore, brethren, now you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil,... understanding 'g what is the will of God” -Epli., v. 15, 16, 17. “The days are evil”. According to St. Anselm, the meaning of' these words is, that the days of this life are evil, because in them we are exposed to a thousand temptations are evil; and dangers of eternal misery; and therefore, to escape perdition, all possible care is necessary. “What”, says St. Augustine, “is meant by redeeming the time, unless, when necessary, to submit to temporal loss in order to gain eternal goods?” -de hom. 50, hom. 1. We should live only to fulfil with all diligence the divine will; and, should it be necessary, it is better to suffer in temporal things, than to neglect our eternal interests. Oh! how well did St. Paul redeem the time which he had lost! St. Jerome says, that though the last of the apostles, he was, on account of his great labours, the first in merits.” Paul, the last in order, but the first in merits, because he laboured more than all”. Let us consider that, in each moment, we may lay up greater treasures of eternal goods. If the possession of all the land round which you could walk, or of all the money which you could count in a day, were promised you, would you lose time? or would you not instantly begin to walk over the ground, or to reckon the money? You now have it in your power to acquire, in each moment, eternal treasures; and will you, notwithstanding, mispend your time? Do not say, that what you can do to-day, you can also do to-morrow; because this day shall then be lost to you, and shall never return. You have this day; but perhaps to-morrow will not be given you.
Labels: Our Saintly Brethern
THE lamentation over Jerusalem’s woes, the subject of to-day’s Gospel, has given its name to this ninth Sunday after Pentecost, at least among the Latins. We have already observed that it is easy to find, even in the liturgy as it now stands, traces of how the early Church was all attention to the approaching fulfilment of the prophecies against Jerusalem—that ungrateful city upon which our Jesus heaped His earliest favours. The last limit put by mercy upon justice has, at length, been passed. Our Lord, speaking of the ruin of Sion and its temple, had foretold that the generation that was listening to His words should not pass until what He had announced should be fulfilled.1 The almost forty years accorded to Juda, that he might avert the divine wrath, have had no other effect than to harden the people of deicides in their determination not to accept Christ as the Messiah. As a torrent, which, having been long pent back, rushes along all the fiercer when the embankment breaks, vengeance at length burst on the ancient Israel; it was in the year 70 that was executed the sentence he himself had passed when, delivering up his King and God to the Gentiles,2he had cried out: ‘His blood be upon us and upon our children!’3Even as early as the year 67, Rome, irritated by the senseless insolence of the Jews, had deputed Flavius Vespasian to avenge the insult. The fact of this new general being scarcely known was, in reality, the strongest reason for Nero’s approving of his nomination; but to the hitherto obscure family of this soldier God reserved the empire, as a reward for the service done to divine justice by this Flavius and his son Titus. Later on, Titus will see and acknowledge4that it is not Rome but God Himself who conducts the war and commands the legions. Moses, ages before, had seen the nation, whose tongue Israel could not understand, rushing like an eagle upon the chosen people, and punishing them for their sins.5But no sooner has the Roman eagle reached the land where he is to work the vengeance, than he finds himself visibly checked by a superior power; and his spirit of rapine is held back, or urged on, precisely as the prophets of the Lord of hosts had foretold. The piercing eye of that eagle, as eager to obey as it was to fight, almost seemed to be scrutinizing the Scriptures. It was actually here that he found the order of the day for the terrible years of the campaign.
As an illustration of this, we may mention what happened inthe year 66. The army of Syria, under the leadership of Cestius Gallus, had encamped under the walls of Jerusalem. Our Lord intended this to be nothing more, in His plan, than a warning to His faithful ones, which He had promised them when foretelling the events that were to happen. He had said: ‘When ye shall hear of wars, and seditions, and rumours of wars, be not terrified; these things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet presently. But when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand.’8 The Jews had been for years angering Rome by their revolts, but she bore with it all, if not patiently, contemptuously; but when, in one of these seditions, Roman blood had been spilt, then she was provoked and sent her legions. Her army, however, had first of all to furnish Jesus’ disciples with a sign;9 He had promised them that this sign should consist in her ‘compassing Jerusalem,’ then withdrawing for a time; this would give the Christians an opportunity of quitting the accursed city. The Roman proconsul had his troops stationed so near to Jerusalem that it seemed as though he had but to give the word of command and the war would be over; instead of that, he gave the strange order to retreat, and throw up the victory which he might have if he wished.10Cestius Gallus seemed to men to have lost his senses; but no, he was following, without being aware of it, the commands of heaven. Jesus had promised an escape to His loved ones; He fulfilled His promise by this unwitting instrument.
Vespasian himself had scarcely started for Judea when he met with one of those divine adjournments which all the Roman tactics were several times powerless to resist; the hour marked for them to act had not come, so they must wait, however reluctantly. The preordained counsel of the Most High decreed that before all these things11which men were to bring about, before the already broken sceptre of the ancient alliance12should have disappeared in the flames enkindled by the Jews themselves13—the establishment of the new Testament was to be solidly set up among the Gentiles, and be solemnly confirmed by the blood of the apostles, its witnesses.14It was on June 29 in the year 67 that Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom in the city of Rome. Rome was thus made the mother-Church; and the reign of the Messiah, whom Israel rejected, was promulgated to the whole world, with an evidence which only the voluntarily blind could resist. Though Vespasian had opened the campaign against Judea in the spring of that year 67, yet he had to wait for the glorious confession of these two princes of the apostles; that triumph secured, the impatient legions might rush to victory as soon as they pleased. For forty-seven long days they had been kept, by some power, staring at the citadel of Jotapata, which it was so easy for them to take, and which would make them masters of Galilee; but June 29 had now had its apostolic triumph in Rome, and Vespasian was at liberty to do what he had so long wished to do; on that very June 29 he did it—he took Jotapata.
Forty thousand dead, strewn on the steeps of the hill, and heaped up as high as the walls, showed the Romans what desperate resistance they were to expect from Jewish fanaticism. Of all the male defenders or inhabitants of Jotapata, only two survived; one of these was Josephus, a chief leader in the Jewish forces, and historian of these cruel wars. The women and children were spared. But, some short time later on, another fortress, Gamala, was attacked; it overhung a chasm. When one-half of the besieged had been slain, and it was evident that further resistance was impossible, the survivors, assembling together the women and children, threw them and themselves down the rock; and five thousand was their number. When the legions stood looking around, at the close of that day’s work, they could see but a desert and death.
In every part of the unhappy Galilee blood was flowing in torrents, and the flames of burning villages lighted up the horizon. It was hard to recognize this as the land where Jesus had spent the years of His childhood, or as the scene of His first miracles, and of those teachings of His which were ever borrowing some exquisite parable or other from the sight of the pretty hills and fertile vales of that then favoured country. The arm of God was now pressing with all its weight on this land of Zabulon and Nephthali, on which first so brightly shone the light of salvation,17 as we sang on Christmas night. So again this time it was the first to be visited by God. But these were unhappy times; and the visit was no longer that of the divine Orient, opening out to the world the paths of peace.18He was hid behind the tempest,19and darted the fiery arrows of destruction on the ungrateful country that had refused to welcome Him in the weakness of human flesh, which nothing but His mercy had led Him to assume. ‘They cried out, on the day of my vengeance,’ says this rejected King of Israel, ‘but there was none to save them; they cried to me their Lord, but I heard them not: and I will break them as small as dust, and scatter them before the wind; I will bring them to nought, like the dirt in the streets.’
Terrible lesson which the Church learned and has never forgotten, that no blessing, no past holiness, is of itself a guarantee that the place thus favoured will not afterwards draw down on itself desecration and destruction! She saw, and trembled as she saw, these events of the first age of her history. She beheld violence and every sort of crime profaning the paths that had been trodden by the feet of her adorable Master, and the hills where He had passed whole nights in prayer and praise to His eternal Father. She one day witnessed even the pure waters of the Lake of Genesareth fearfully polluted; those waters that had so oft reflected the features of her divine Spouse, as when He walked on their glassy surface, or sat in Peter’s bark superintending those mystery-meaning fishings of His apostles. The event we here allude to was that of six thousand Jewish insurgents—hemmed in between God’s wrath and their Roman pursuers—reddening with their blood this Sea of Tiberias, where once Jesus had spoken to the storm and quelled it. Their livid carcasses were thrown back by the waves on the shore, where our Lord had uttered woe to the cities that had witnessed His miracles, and yet were not converted.
And souls, too, on whom God heaps His choicest favours, inviting them thereby to a closer union with Himself, have a lesson to learn from all this. Woe to them if, through indifference or sloth, they neglect to correspond with their graces! Woe to them if they imitate the cities on the Lake of Galilee, by greedily accepting the honour done them but never producing the fruits of holiness which should follow such signal and frequent gifts of heaven. The prophet Amos couples these forgetful, careless souls with the cities which our Lord had treated with such partiality, and which yet remained apathetic and worldly; and he tells us what this slighted benefactor will say to both: ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth! therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities! Shall two walk together, except they be agreed?’ As to Israel, the highly-favoured above all people, he would not agree with the Jesus who so loved him, and was visited withchastisements exactly corresponding to his crimes. In the spring of the year 68, an officer under Vespasian scoured the left banks of the Jordan, driving the terrified Israelites before him. They fled in thousands towards Jericho, where they hoped to find refuge; but the river had so flooded the country round the city, that entrance was impossible; the wretched fugitives were overtaken and slain by the Roman troops. The Ark of the Covenant had once opened there a miraculous passage to the tribes of Israel; but even had it been there now, how was it to protect such unworthy descendants of the patriarchs—descendants, that is, who broke the Covenant made by God with the sons of Jacob? A frightful massacre, a merciless mowing down of human beings, followed; and, at what a place! the very place where, forty years before, St. John the Baptist had seen the axe laid to the root of the tree, and foretold the wrath to come upon this brood of vipers, who called themselves children of Abraham, and would not do penance. A countless multitude drowned themselves in the Jordan; they found death in the very stream to which our Saviour had imparted sanctification by being Himself baptized in it, and imparting to it the power to give light to the world. But Israel had chosen the kingdom of the prince of this world in preference to that of the divine Giver of life. The number of those who perished in that holy stream was so great that the heap of their dead bodies made it impossible for vessels to sail in the river; and this fearful obstacle continued until such time as the current had swept the corpses down to the Dead Sea, and scattered far into that dismal lake of malediction that hideous jetsam of the Synagogue. Had not our Lord said, that Sodom’s guilt was less than theirs?
Rome and her legions were masters, in the north, of Galilee and Samaria; in the east and west, of the banks of the Jordan and of the Mediterranean coast; and the conquest of Idumæa completed the circle of iron and fire that was to shut Jerusalem in. Roman garrisons held Emmaus, Jericho, and all the fortified positions round the Jewish capital. Having, as God’s instrument, chastised so many other ungrateful cities, Vespasian was preparing to lay siege to the most guilty of all, when Nero’s fall, and the events which followed it, drew the attention, both of himself and of the whole world, from Judea.
The last years of the tyrant had witnessed frequent ‘earthquakes in divers places,’ and ‘plagues,’ and ‘signs in the heavens’; but when he died there came ‘risings of nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.’ The entire west was in arms; and the east herself was attracted towards Rome by the immense political commotion of the year 69. From the heights of Atlas to the Euxine Sea, and from the Humber to the Nile, provinces and peoples were striving for the mastery. Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, proclaimed emperors by their respective armies, sent their rival legions from Britain and the Rhine, from Illyria and the Danube; they met at Bedriac for mutual slaughter. In one thing alone they that survived were unanimous: friends or foes, all must lay Italy waste. Rome was taken by the Romans; whilst on the undefended frontiers appeared Suevians, Sarmatians, and Dacians. The Capitol and Jupiter’s temple in flames excited the Gauls to declare their independence, and Velleda to stir up Germany to revolt. The old world was gradually disappearing beneath the universal anarchy and war.
Circumstances, then, suddenly seemed favourable to Jerusalem; they gave her a fresh invitation to atone for her crimes; but, as we shall see when commenting on this Sunday’s Gospel, she made no other use of them than to multiply her sins, and treat herself with greater cruelty than the Romans would have done.
In the Mass of this Sunday, which is their ninth of St. Matthew, the Greeks read the episode of Jesus’ walking upon the waters.
Labels: The Liturgical Year