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Since there was a dearth of postings last year, we will simply begin again.  You might like to refresh yourself on today’s solemnity by scrolling down just a couple of posts.

The Catholic Source Book

Here is the first installment of Books For Every Catholic Home.

Have you ever forgotten the Seven Deadly Sins?  Maybe you remember two or three but the rest just slipped your mind.  Perhaps you were curious about the way of all flesh, or any of dozens of other sayings with biblical origins?  How about this: you might have a sudden need for the name of the patron saint of Lithuania!  A quick look through the index gives you St. Casimir, feast day March 4.

From prayers and litanies, fasting and almsgiving, the bible, the Papacy, sacraments and rites, to veneration, devotion to Mary, the doctors of the Church to numbers and their significance, The Catholic Source Book: A Comprehensive Collection of Information about the Catholic Church has it all.

The Catholic Source BookI have this 1999 edition by Rev. Peter Klein.  It is outdated in a couple areas – for instance the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary had not yet been formulated and added by Blessed Pope John Paul II.  Also missing are any changes relevant to the changes in the Roman Missal which were put in place in November 2011.

There is a 2006 edition available.  I believe I will wait awhile for an even newer update.  In the meantime, if I need to remind myself of the liturgical colors or note the difference in window architecture, I am still very well set.

The Catholic Source Book is a veritable treasure-trove of information.  Money well spent.

Coming Soon!

Books which should be in every Catholic home.  From the informative and educational to the inspiring, this will become a regular feature here at The Rookie Evangelist.

Stay tuned.

May the Lord bless you and keep you
May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace.

The readings for today, the Solemnity of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the Octave of Christmas, begin with a passage from Numbers 6:22-27, from which we get the above blessing, known as the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) in Jewish worship.

In Mary, Mother of God, the Lord has indeed blessed us and made His face to shine upon us and been gracious to us and lifted up His countenance upon us and granted us peace.

In her title of Theotókos (God bearer), we recognize that Mary is not merely mother of Jesus in His humanity or merely mother of the Christ (as some people had insisted in the early centuries of the Church), but she is rightly called the Mother of God because Jesus is one, both fully human and fully God. He is not half-God, half-man, and He is not divisible in His being. Rather, Jesus is fully God and fully man, two in one, and He always has been. His divinity did not enter into His Body at some later point, but upon the Incarnation of that Body at the Annunciation, when Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary is the mother of all of Jesus, not merely part of Him. As such, Mary carries within her womb God Himself. The Lord Himself dwells within her, she is a living temple and Ark of the Covenant.

Dwelling with her, Mary takes Jesus to us, as she did when she visited Elizabeth and John the Baptist leapt for joy within his mother’s womb.

Born to her and receiving the shepherds and Magi, Mary invites us to come to Jesus. In the smiles of Baby Jesus, the Lord’s face shines upon us. And to show that an intimate relationship with Jesus was not meant to be her’s alone, to show that all the faithful are called to intimately receive Him into our own bodies, as she did, Mary placed the newborn Jesus in a manger. As with the straw that was food for the animals, so too Jesus is shown to be food for us in the Eucharist.

Taken by her to be circumcised on the eighth day, the octave of Christmas, Mary signifies His union with His people and His promises. Through that visible sign in the flesh, in the cutting of that physical instrument of human propagation, Jesus unites Himself to all generations and to the Covenant of the Lord. For those that accept Him and love Him, they will be His people and the Lord will be their God, and He will lead them to the land of eternal life and salvation.

Growing up with her, Mary provides for little Jesus, feeding Him, clothing Him, teaching Him, including instruction in the Faith, and comforting Him when He needs comforting. In raising Jesus our Savior, Mary protects and advances the work of salvation; devoting the entirety of her life to guarding and protecting Jesus, she thereby joins in His mission of redemption.

Joining her in the celebration of the wedding feast at Cana, Mary instructs us to do as her Son Jesus says. When the wine runs out in our lives, Mary is sensitive and attentive to our needs, and she intercedes and asks her Son to provide for us.

Raised above her on the Cross, Mary faithfully perseveres in her union with Him whose Name means “God saves.” There she stands at the foot of the Cross in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of His suffering, joining herself with His sacrifice in her mother’s heart. And Jesus makes explicit what is already implicit in her motherhood of Him, that she is our mother too. That, if we accept this adoption by Him and her, we too are children of the new Eve, the mother of those who truly live, those who live in Him.

In eternal communion with her, Mary prays with the faithful to Jesus and with Him as at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit, long promised by the Lord, descended upon the faithful. As Pope Benedict has said, “Mary is so interwoven in the great mystery of the Church that she and the Church are inseparable, just as she and Christ are inseparable. Mary mirrors the Church, anticipates the Church in her person, and in all the turbulence that affects the suffering, struggling Church she always remains the Star of salvation.”

In the face of the Virgin, we see the face of Jesus the Lord, so that when she smiles upon us, the face of the Lord shines upon us. On this Solemnity last year, Pope Benedict said,

The face is the expression par excellence of the person, namely, that which makes him recognizable and which shows his sentiments, thoughts and his heart’s intentions. God, by His nature, is invisible, but the Bible uses the image of the face even for Him. . . .

All of Biblical narration can be read as the progressive revelation of the Face of God, until it reaches its full manifestation in Jesus Christ. “When the fullness of time had come,” the Apostle Paul reminds us even today, “God sent his Son,” adding right away, “born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal 4:4).

The face of God took on a human face, allowing Himself to be seen and recognized in the son of the Virgin Mary, whom we honor because of this with the most elevated title of “Mother of God.” She, who kept in her heart the secret of her divine motherhood, was the first to see the Face of God made man in the tiny fruit of her womb.

The mother has a very special relationship that is unique and somewhat exclusive with her newborn son. The first face that the baby sees is that of his mother, and this look is decisive for his relationship to life, with himself and with others, and with God. It is decisive, as well, so that he may become a “child of peace” (Lk 10:6).

Among the many typologies of the icon of the Virgin Mary in the Byzantine tradition, there is that which is called “tenderness” which shows the Baby Jesus with His face held, cheek to cheek, on His Mother’s. The Baby looks at the Mother, and she looks at us, almost reflecting to Him who observes, who prays, the tenderness of God, who had descended to her from heaven and incarnated in this Son of man that she carries in her arms.

In this Marian icon, we can contemplate something of God Himself: a sign of the ineffable love that impelled Him “to give His only begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). But the same icon also shows us, in Mary, the face of the Church which reflects on us and the entire world the light of Christ – the Church through which the good news comes to every man: “You are no longer slaves but children,” as we read from St. Paul. (Gal 4:7). . . .

The Lord has greatly blessed us and kept us with the gift that is His mother Mary. With her, His countenance is upon us, she is our life, our sweetness, and our hope. In Mary, Mother of God, the Queen of Peace, we can find peace ourselves.

__________________

See also The Smile of Mary is a True Reflection of God’s Tenderness and Source of Invincible Hope

*This post, one of a series on the the Holy Days of Obligation written by Bender originally appeared at Runs With Angels…Lives With Saints! on January 1, 2011.  It was titled “Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.”

As told in the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:

6‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

since from you shall come a ruler,

who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” 9After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. 10They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt. 13 When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” 14Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

The Massacre of the Infants. 16When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. 17Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

18“A voice was heard in Ramah,

sobbing and loud lamentation;

Rachel weeping for her children,

and she would not be consoled,

since they were no more.”

The Feast of Stephen

The first martyr. st.stephen

St. Stephen, pray for us!

Christmas and the Cross

This was originally posted at Runs With Angels, December 25, 2010

On December 25, the world celebrates the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ — Christmas Day.


Why is Christmas on December 25? Do we really know that that is the day when Jesus was born?

It turns out that the fixing of Christmas Day on December 25 is not an arbitrary decision, nor is it based on the widespread modern belief that the date was picked in order to displace the celebration of a pagan festival on that date. Rather, the date of Jesus’ birth was determined by reference to Jesus’ conception which, in turn, was calculated by determining His crucifixion and death.

Now, if you subtract nine months from December 25, you get March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. On that day, the Church reflects upon Mary’s fiat, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me acccording to your word,” and upon the Incarnation, the mystery of God coming down from heaven and merging Himself with Man, making Himself small and becoming flesh in the temple and virgin womb of Mary the Immaculate.

So, the question presents itself —
Why do we celebrate the Annunciation on March 25?

Well, that date was fixed in ancient tradition and it is based upon a widespread belief in Judaism at the time of Christ that the prophets of Israel died on the same dates as their birth or conception. By the time of Tertullian, scholars researching the various dates of Passover had concluded that Jesus died on the Cross on March 25. Wrote St. Augustine,

“He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before nor since.” (On the Trinity, Book IV, Chapter 5).

Additionally, some Jewish scholars had calculated that the date of Creation was March 25, and it made sense to believe that, since a new creation began upon the Incarnation, Jesus was conceived on the same day as the first creation.

Hence, the tradition arose that, because He was crucified on March 25 and the universe was created on that date, Jesus was conceived on March 25. The day that Mary took her Son’s Body into her arms beneath the Cross is the same day that she had taken His Body into her womb at the Annunciation.

And if you add nine months to the date of conception, March 25, you get . . . December 25, Christmas Day.

_________________

See also: Andrew McGowan, How December 25 Became Christmas
William J. Tighe, Calculating Christmas
.

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