Universalis, About this blog

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The celebration of the Eucharist

From the first apology in defence of the Christians by Saint Justin, martyr

No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

  We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Saviour became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

  The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

  On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

  On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

  The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

  We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our saviour Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration.

Taken from the Office of Readings, 3rd Sunday of Easter, via Universalis.com.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

A new creation in Christ

From a sermon by Saint Augustine:

I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus.

  Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life.

  ...

  This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, he put off the mortality of the flesh; his risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By his resurrection he consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week.

  And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realised, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

-- from Universalis.com, Office of Readings,  Divine Mercy Sunday

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The blindness of Emmaus today

On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples were unable to see who it was who spoke to them. One interpretation is that they were shattered from the demise of the Messiah. They were perhaps blinded by grief and despair.  I often wonder at my own blindness after - and usually only after - I finally see what was always there before me. I am typically blinded by my assumptions. I thought it would be easy. I thought that the object I was looking for was red so I was focusing on red, and it turns out that it was orange after all. I assumed it ends here when it instead continues elsewhere. Our assumptions can blind and bind us because we are capable of bending the universe to them, so to speak. We build our own walls. That is not all.  Bad habits compound the problem: I give in to sloth,  preferring comfort over the work that needs to be done, or choose my priorities badly, get distracted easily by trivialities, become too emotional to think, and a few other things that my wife can tell you about. I need the constant reminder of the Church that the reality dwarfs what I might perceive at any moment of lapse or weakness. The point that St. Paul keeps driving home, according to Fr. Robert Barron, is that there is this power -  in Christ - that he has tapped me into, his own power, this life in the Spirit that reveals the whole truth if I but open up beyond my presumptions. This is not by closing the eyes of reason, but, rather, looking farther and ranging further beyond the horizon, because there is more to see. And there usually is. I would have to be blind to think that I could see everything there is to see.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Easter, In Christ Jesus

Romans 6:3-11

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.
  If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.
  But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

Friday, April 03, 2015

They divided my clothing among them. They cast lots for my robe.

Psalm 21 (22)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
You are far from my plea and the cry of my distress.
O my God, I call by day and you give no reply;
I call by night and I find no peace.

Yet you, O God, are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you set them free.
When they cried to you, they escaped.
In you they trusted and never in vain.

But I am a worm and no man,
scorned by men, despised by the people.
All who see me deride me.
They curl their lips, they toss their heads.
'He trusted in the Lord, let him save him;
let him release him if this is his friend.'

Yes, it was you who took me from the womb,
entrusted me to my mother’s breast.
To you I was committed from my birth,
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
Do not leave me alone in my distress;
come close, there is none else to help.

Many bulls have surrounded me,
fierce bulls of Bashan close me in.
Against me they open wide their jaws,
like lions, rending and roaring.

Like water I am poured out,
disjointed are all my bones.
My heart has become like wax,
it is melted within my breast.

Parched as burnt clay is my throat,
my tongue cleaves to my jaws.

Many dogs have surrounded me,
a band of the wicked beset me.
They tear holes in my hands and my feet
and lay me in the dust of death.

I can count every one of my bones.
These people stare at me and gloat;
they divide my clothing among them.
They cast lots for my robe.

O Lord, do not leave me alone,
my strength, make haste to help me!
Rescue my soul from the sword,
my life from the grip of these dogs.
Save my life from the jaws of these lions,
my poor soul from the horns of these oxen.

I will tell of your name to my brethren
and praise you where they are assembled.
‘You who fear the Lord give him praise;
all sons of Jacob, give him glory.
Revere him, Israel’s sons.

'For he has never despised
nor scorned the poverty of the poor.
From him he has not hidden his face,
but he heard the poor man when he cried.'

You are my praise in the great assembly.
My vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and shall have their fill.
They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him.
May their hearts live for ever and ever!

All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord,
all families of the nations worship before him;
for the kingdom is the Lord’s, he is ruler of the nations.
They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust.

And my soul shall live for him, my children serve him.
They shall tell of the Lord to generations yet to come,
declare his faithfulness to peoples yet unborn:
‘These things the Lord has done.’

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

From the Office of Readings for Good Friday, 2015, via Universalis.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Preach from the Rooftops: Evangelium Vitae at Twenty

Preach from the Rooftops: Evangelium Vitae at Twenty

So how do we preach the truth to a world that can be vehement in denying that there is such a thing as Truth? I remember reading a book years ago about beings who started out perfect until they stumbled into this paradox of lying. Why a paradox? Because they use words which, while intended to convey only truth, can be bent to convey lies instead. But I think today's challenge to evangelization is not only this paradox caused by relativism. Not only can people repulse the truth by clinging to the notion that objective truth does not exist -- itself a paradoxical assertion -- but we've been fed too much from the font of feelings. It's akin to relativism, but it is its own form of poison: one's emotional instincts are equal or superior to one's reason. While I think we do benefit from being honest with ourselves as far as how we feel about things, it is the gravest mistake to let emotions take the wheel.

How do we evangelize such a crowd? I think we can simply take it on faith that all we can do is to proclaim in season and out of season, and let the seeds fall where they may, all the while building families and friendships and communities in all charity and hope. It's the formula that the Apostles left us with and which the Church had applied across the generations all over the world. It works or (sometimes) it doesn't. A wise man somewhere wrote that our mission is to be faithful, not effective. I have the power, by God's grace, to be faithful. The effectiveness is largely out of my hands anyway.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Adulteress and St. Mary Magdalene

Today the Gospel reading was about the adulteress that was brought before Jesus in order to trap him (John 8:1-11). I was reminded of how the identity of this woman had often been conflated with St. Mary Magdalene. Then it struck me that whoever this woman truly was, this shameful past can be seen, in the end, as a cause for joy and rejoicing - not because such a past is in any way glorious, but the victory of mercy and repentance is. I think it is entirely human to dwell on a given moment but Christians are called to take a longer view. St. Josemaria Escriva refers to enlarging one's view until it is universal or Catholic. I think I need to start doing so in earnest, because I am often incredibly short-sighted. If the notion of sin should ever pop into my head, I should probably immediately think "Mercy!" Because, seen from the other end, sin really doesn*t have the last word. I must have read that from Mark Shea somewhere, or G. K. Chesterton. It is the sort of thing they had probably written about already. Not to mention, Jesus himself said this to the woman to tie off that dreadful episode: "Neither do I condemn you.. Go and sin no more." It slso seems fitting to point out these last words (among others) of his as he was dying: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."