A friend once confided in me that the problem with my politics, assuming I have “a politics,” is that its predicated on a romantic view of the past which cannot be ratified in the present. Never one to turn down an argument, especially a pointless one, I couldn’t help poking back a bit, inquiring over and over what my politics ought to look like in the light of the “reality” he assumed custody over. Nothing came of it. Nothing could come of it. For it was clear to me that the discussion was far less about what I actually believe (and why) and much more to do with providing him something to scoff at. People love to scoff, even if they don’t admit it openly. Scoffing provides a thin layer of surety that one’s own view(s) are intrinsically superior. If one could try to see things from another point of view and appreciate the merits, then what follows? Self-questioning? Reexamination? Doubt? Heaven forbid.
When Thou didst descend, O Life Immortal / Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead / And when Thou didst raise the dead from the nethermost depths / All the powers of Heaven cried out / O Giver of Life, Christ our God, Glory to Thee
He who is shut in the depths is beheld dead / Wrapped in fine linen and spices / The Immortal One is laid in the tomb as a mortal man / The women have come to anoint Him with myrrh, / Weeping bitterly and crying: / This is the most blessed Sabbath / On which Christ has fallen asleep to rise on the third day!
– Troparion and Kontakion of the Holy Saturday Vesperal Liturgy of St. Basil the Great
It Was Fitting For Christ to Descend into Hell:
1) Because man by sin had incurred not only death of the body, but also descent into hell. Therefore it was fitting for Christ to die and descend into hell, so that He might deliver us from the necessity of permanent death (because we shall rise again) and from descent into hell. In this sense Christ is said to have power over death and in dying to have conquered it, according to the prophet, who says: “O death, I will be thy death.”
2) It was fitting for the devil to be overthrown by Christ’s passion, so that He should deliver the captives detained in hell.
3) As He showed forth His power on earth by living and dying, so also it was fitting for Him to manifest it in hell, by visiting it and enlightening it; and so at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, not only of them that are in heaven, but likewise of them that are in hell.
– Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Commentary on the Third Part of St. Thomas’ Theological Summa, ch. XXXVII
The late Archbishop Job of the Diocese of the Midwest (Orthodox Church in America) chanting his haunting setting of the 15th Antiphon of Holy Friday Matins in 2009. That Holy Week would prove to be the good bishop’s last here on earth as God called him home in December. Of all of the priests and bishops I met during my time in Eastern Orthodoxy, he was one of the most kind, sincere, and dedicated to his calling. On this most holy and sorrowful day I pray for his soul and hope in turn that he will pray for mine.
Behold him in chains, dragged from the garden, in the midst of a tumultuous crowd, and brought in haste before the high priest! And where are his disciples? What do they do? If they are unable to liberate him from the hands of enemies, they surely accompany him in order to defend his innocence before the judges, or at least to console him by their presence. But no, the Gospel says, Then his disciples leaving him, all fled away. How great was the pain which Jesus Christ felt at seeing himself forsaken and abandoned by his beloved disciples. Alas! Jesus then saw all those who, after having been specially favored by him, would afterwards abandon him, and ungratefully turn their back upon him. Ah, my Lord, I have been one of these unhappy souls, who having received so many graces, lights and calls, have ungratefully forgotten and forsaken Thee. Accept me for the sake of Thy mercy, now that I return to Thee with a penitent and sorrowful heart, never again to leave Thee. O treasure of life, O love of my soul!
– St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, chapter VI
Tomorrow, March 24, should be the decorated feast of my namesake St. Gabriel the Archangel. After having his feast extended to the universal Church by Pope Benedict XV in 1921, it lasted for a mere four decades; then the liturgical reformers, in their “wisdom,” knocked St. Gabriel’s Day down to a mere commemoration. By the time the Novus Ordo Missae was promulgated by Paul VI, he was practically pushed off the calendar altogether, forced to share space with his fellow archangels on the day once known as Michaelmas. Apparently declaring the coming of our Lord and, later, authoring Axion Estin doesn’t cut the mustard anymore in our modern, enlightened, and thoroughly de-mythologized Roman Church. The Christian East, in its actual wisdom, not only retains the Feast of St. Gabriel on November 28, but gives him two additional commemorations on March 26 (for his role in the Annunciation) and July 13 (in honor of his many miracles).
If you get the chance, you might recite this hymn to St. Gabriel from the old Dominican breviary tomorrow. Given the many graces St. Gabriel has bestowed upon the Christians of the East throughout the centuries, perhaps a good intention would be for this Holy Archangel, and all his compatriots in Heaven, to bestow protection on our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been left to suffer unspeakable persecution at the hands of men driven mad by a false religion.
Gabriel, Angel of light, and strength of God! whom our Emmanuel
selected from the rest of the heavenly princes,
that thou shouldst expound
unto Daniel the mystery of the savage goat.
Thou didst joyfully hasten to the prophet as he prayed,
and didst tell him of the sacred weeks,
which were to give us the birth of the King of Heaven,
and enrich us with plenteous joy.
‘Tis thou didst bring to
the parents of the Baptist the wondrous and gladsome
tidings that Elizabeth, though barren, and Zachary,
though old, should have a son.
What the prophets had foretold from the beginning of the world,
this thou didst announce in all the fullness of the
mystery to the holy virgin,
telling her that she was to be the true Mother of God.
Thou, fair spirit, didst fill the Bethlehem shepherds with joy,
when thou didst tell them the heavenly tidings;
and with thee a host of Angels sang the praises of the newborn God.
As Jesus was in prayer on that last night, when a bloody sweat bathed His limbs,
thou didst leave Heaven to be near Him, and offer Him the chalice
that His Father willed Him to drink.
O blessed Trinity! strengthen Catholic hearts with the heavenly gift of faith. Give us grace, as we to thee give glory for ever. Amen.
Yesterday’s brief post, “Blessed Charlemagne,” attracted far more hits than expected, which, to be frank, delighted me a great deal. Last year, on the 1,200th anniversary of his repose, I found barely a mention in “blogdom,” though the good Redemptorist monks on Papa Stronsay, the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, made sure to include the anniversary in their superb wall calendar. This year’s edition proudly commemorates the 400th anniversary of “The Fifteen,” that is, the uprising to place James Francis Edward Stuart to the thrones of England, Ireland, and Scotland. Like the successor uprising of 1745, it proved a failure, but a failure worth honoring nonetheless.
The second day of January, besides once holding the honor of being the Octave of St. Stephen the Protomartyr, is, in 2015, First Friday as well. All Catholics are called to make an act of reparation on this and every First Friday, not only for their own sins but the sins of the whole world against the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. Lest one assume that such “superstitious piety” toward a “material object” is old hat, a remnant of a bygone age, it should be recalled that as recently as 1956, in his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, Pope Pius XII defended devotion to the Sacred Heart. Contemplation of the Sacred Heart is contemplation of God’s divine love for us, and our acts of reparation honor that love.
If someone were to ask me to briefly summarize one of the most unsettling problems in the Catholic Church today, I might be inclined to point to this day, the Feast of All Souls, and note three things: (1) That All Souls Day can be, and this year was, widely celebrated on a Sunday; (2) That priests are neither expected nor encouraged to trinate on the feast (i.e., celebrate three Masses); and (3) The disappearance of the privileged altar. The Ecclesia Militans has abandoned the Ecclesia Penitens. This makes quite a bit of sense in a day and age when we’re told to “dare to hope” about the final destination of all souls, including those who have departed and/or wage war against Christ’s Holy Church.
Let me be clear: The holy souls in Purgatory need our help now more than ever. If we do not abandon them, they will not abandon us when they gain their reward in Heaven. For the remainder of this week, consider dedicating yourself spiritually to gaining a plenary indulgence for a soul still suffering. Consider, too, remembering the most forgotten souls in Purgatory when reciting the Rosary and offer your intention at Mass for their speedy delivery into the arms of our Holy Mother. And if you can, make time to recite the Officium Defunctorum as well. All of these acts, plus the innumerable prayers and petitions given to us by Holy Mother Church, are powerful aids to the holy souls and to ourselves as well.