O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Today I Have Seen the Sun of Love

Feast of the Nativity of the Lord - I Class with II Class Octave

Today the Newborn Nymphios appears. The Love of God appears compressed down in a Human Body, lying in a manger. He who wears the crown of thorns to atone for the sins of His Bride is born today. He who offers the sacrifice of obedience to the Father to purify His Bride and elevate Her to the dignity for which She was created by God appears today. All of Heaven exults in the victory over the life of sin Satan has built up in this world.





Troparion:
Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, / hath shone forth the light of wisdom upon the world; / for therein those who worship the stars / have been taught by a star / to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, / and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. // O Lord, glory be to Thee!

Kontakion:
Today the Virgin giveth birth to the Trancendent One, / and the earth offereth a cave to the Unapproachable One. / Angels with shepherds give glory, / the magi journey with a star, // for our sakes, a young Child is born, Who is Pre-eternal God!

EDIT: In my hurry to get to Church this morning, I forgot to add the following antiphons:

Magnificat antiphon from 1st Vespers of the Nativity:
When the sun shall have risen * from heaven, ye shall see the King of kings proceeding from the Father, as a bridegroom from his chamber.

From the Divine Liturgy, right after Communion:
We have seen the True Light. We have received the Heavenly Spirit. We have found the True Faith. We worship the Undivided Trinity for having saved us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

King of Love

O King of the gentiles and their desired One, the cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
Today's Major Antiphon reminds me of marriage. What initially caught my eye is the line "lapisque angularis qui facis utraque unum" "the cornerstone that makes both one". I know that this is primarily about Christ the King joining all peoples as one Church, but it still reminds me of marriage. When marriage is being lived properly (as a sacrament) the love between man and wife is not natural. It is supernatural. It is not any human emotion that is between them, but the Love of God, joining them together. God' love is a desire to sacrifice yourself completely to get the beloved to the dignity for which she was created by God. It is the love with which Christ the Nymphios (Bridegroom) loves His Bride the Church. He sacrificed everything of Himself for Her sake. He gave everything of Himself to Her, even His very Body, which She receives in the Eucharist. The pious hymn rightly calls the Nymphios the "King of Love on Calvary".

The Sacrament of Matrimony is based on this union, where bride and bridegroom sacrifice themselves completely and give themselves to each other completely to get each other to the dignity for which they were created by God. Bridegroom gives himself to bride and bride gives herself to bridegroom in the Love of God, which is the foundation on which their entire life is built. God is the cornerstone that makes both one.

So then, God is the King of Love that rules over marriage and all relationships. However, most couples refuse to let the He Who is the Only Source of True Love rule over their relationships. The immediate and natural result of this is to sin. Upon seeing that they destroyed their lives by seeking physical and emotional pleasures instead of His Love, they seek after Him. He becomes "their desired One" and they beg Him to "come, and deliver man". We conclude with the image of God creating man "out of the dust of the earth", where-after God blessed man and his bride and bid them be fruitful and multiply.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Burn!


We are in the days of the Major Antiphons of Advent (the "O Antiphons"). Brief paraphrases of the antiphons were assembled as the hymn "Veni Veni Emmanuel" in the middle ages. The message is clear: the Burning Sun of Love is coming from the East to purge us of our sins and dispel the darkness in which we have been living our entire lives. He is coming and is already on His way to restore the life we had in His Love, long since destroyed by sin.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sodom & Gommorah's Ashes Finally Found...over 3,000 Years Later

Sodom and Gomorrah Excavated

By far the most interesting session at the recent Society of Biblical Literature Congress in San Francisco was one I wandered into by chance. I am always curious about what is going on in biblical archeology, so one afternoon I decided to skip the dozen or so sessions dedicated to Bakhtinian Decontextualization of Identity Construction in Persian Yehud (I had to tear myself away) and go hear about the excavations at a certain site called “Tall-el-Hammam.” I had no idea what I was in for. After about five minutes into the session, I realized that the archeological team assigned to this dig was convinced that they had found the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. After another half-hour, it seemed they had most of the participants convinced as well. The sites fit the geographical and temporal context into which Sodom and Gomorrah are placed in the biblical texts. The cities at the site were suddenly and completely wiped out in the Late Bronze Age, which makes a reasonably good fit with the biblical accounts of Abraham and Lot. The entire presentation was very convincing, but never once did they deal with the “elephant in the room”: what caused the sites to be suddenly abandoned? As soon as the session was over, I was the first to raise my hand. “Did you find any arrow heads? Signs of invasion? What happened to them?” The lead archeologist paused for a moment. “I didn’t want to go there,” he said. Another pause. “I’m preparing material for publication.” Pause. “All I want to say ‘on camera’ is, they appear to have been wiped out in a ‘heat event’.

A “heat event”!? What?!

“If you want to know more, I’ll talk after the session off the record.”

I wish I could divulge what he said to a small group of us clustered around the podium after the session was over, but it would break confidence. We’ll have to wait for the official peer-reviewed publications.
Biblical "scholars" pride themselves on questioning the authenticity of every passage in the Bible. It is a process that requires a real lack of faith. For all the pseudo-history that they make up, God responds by showing that the events in the Bible really did happen the way the bible says they did.
From the Book of Genesis (19:24-28):
And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he destroyed these cities, and all the country about, all the inhabitants of the cities, and all things that spring from the earth. And his wife looking behind her, was turned into a statue of salt. And Abraham got up early in the morning and in the place where he had stood before with the Lord, He looked towards Sodom and Gomorrha, and the whole land of that country: and he saw the ashes rise up from the earth as the smoke of a furnace.
V. And do Thou O Lord have mercy on us.
R. Thanks be to God.
If your wondering just what "brimstone" is, it's solid sulfur. We normally think of sulfur in its gaseous state. When it is solid, it is an actual rock. That rock is called brimstone. Various places around the dead sea are full of it. You can literally pick it up off the ground, set it on fire, and it will hold a flame.

If you back up in Genesis a bit, it is revealed that the twin cities were destroyed for sodomy. Homosexuality was so rampant there that it came to be named after on of the cities. Together with shedding innocent blood and defrauding workers of their wages, the sin of Sodom is one of the three sins crying out to Heaven for vengeance. God literally wiped Sodom and Gomorrah off the map for this sin. Only now has the remains of the two cities been found and their location re-discovered-over 3,000 years later. That's one offended Lord.

According to the findings, the cities are northeast of the Dead Sea. That squashes theories that they were on the plain south of the Dead Sea and that a certain famous pillar of salt shaped like a woman was Lot's wife. No one believed the story of that pillar anyway; it's far bigger than life-size.

This reminds me of the finding of the Red Sea crossing site. The Bible says that the Israelites crosses the Red Sea with the sea forming two sheer walls of water on either side-just like in the movies. "Scholars" came up with every half-baked nonsensical theory to dis-prove this, from saying that they crossed the Reed Sea and that "Red" was a mis-translation, to saying a tidal wave occurred causing the recession of the water before the wave killed the Egyptians, to claiming they crossed a shallow point at low tide. Then scientists found human and horse remains at the bottom of the Red Sea in a place far from where people had supposed in the past, with a large encampment off-shore. The Biblical account is litterally true, but people mis-located Mt. Sinai. It has been supposed that the Holy Mountain was on the Sinai Peninsula and that the Isrealites crossed the northwest branch of the Red Sea. Turns out that they crossed the northeast branch out of the Sinai Peninsula and into the Arabian peninsula, which is where St. Paul claims the Holy Mountain is located. Oops.

It's amazing how much sound science supports the Bible, whereas the Bible's critics need to resort to psuedo-science and outright speculation to support their claims.

The All-Consuming Obsession of Love

From In Sinu Iesu, via Vultus Christi:
"How it grieves my Heart when the unique love I offer a soul is spurned, or ignored, or regarded with indifference. I tell you this so that you may make reparation to my Heart by accepting the love I have for you and by living in my friendship. Receive my gifts, my kindnesses, my attention, my mercies for the sake of those who refuse what I so desire to give them."
The Nymphios is so hurt by seeing and knowing that His Bride, the Church, is living a life of sin, degrading Herself and wasting Her life on empty pleasures and sinful passions. He sacrifices His entire self to take care of Her and bring Her to the dignity for which She was created by God. He gives His whole Self, His entire life, even His very Body to His Bride, but He is left waiting alone at the altar next to the priest, because His beloved hasn't been to Mass in ages. She used to practice, but has become fallen-away. "I am become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to the sons of my mother. For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up: and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." (Ps 68:9-10) He, in His infinite and all-consuming Love, will never abandon Her. That is why He was born, that is why He became Man, was to get Her to Heaven. He will not deny Who He is. But how does the world respond? By hating Him because He gets in the way of people's passions, which they regard as "rights" and "life choices". They call His Gospel "hate speech", "narrow-minded", and "stuck in the past". "They that sat in the gate spoke against me: and they that drank wine made me their song." (Ps 68:13) Evil lies and calls Him evil in a delusional attempt to defend itself.

He is waiting and watching from inside the tabernacle and says, "For I look out of the window of my house through the lattice, And I see little ones, I behold a foolish young man, Who passeth through the street by the corner, and goeth nigh the way of her house." (Prov. 7:6-8) The Nymphios sees His Bride wasting all her time and energy on a life without Him. Even when She does show up on Sunday, She spends the other six days of the week on everything but Him. This leaves Him grievously wounded, a lance in His side, piercing His Heart and the pain just won't end.

There is only one thing that can satisfy Him: Her. "For if thou hadst desired sacrifice, I would indeed have given it: with burnt offerings thou wilt not be delighted. A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Ps 50:18-19) All He wants is companionship, living their lives together, giving everything of Himself to get Her to Heaven. That is why He was born in Bethlehem, to get the souls He loves with an all-consuming love to Heaven. He wants companionship throughout our lives, changing our entire lifestyles, elevating us to the dignity for which we were created by God. He wants us to love Him with the Love with which He loves us. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most important, as that is when He is able to be with Her intimately. He sacrifices Himself for Her, giving everything to Her, even His very Body, and demands that She offer Herself to Him the same way in return. We must give ourselves to Him. The only thing that can satisfy Him is our sacrifice of ourselves to Him.

Icon of the Nymphios (Bridegroom)

Monday, December 12, 2011

If Only Sinners Would Say This:


Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - III Class

Some flowers I picked from today's Office:

Matins
1st Responsory:
R. I have seen her as beautiful as a dove, rising up over streams of water: The fragrance of her clothes was immeasurable: * As the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the rivers of waters, so did they cluster round about her.
V. Who is this, who ascends over the wilderness as pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense?
R. As the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the rivers.

from the 2nd Lesson:
I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. (Sir. 24:24-28)

2nd Responsory:
R. Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, clear as the sun, fair as the moon, comely as Jerusalem?
* The daughters of Sion saw her and blest her; the queens also, and they did praise her.
V. As the flower of roses in the spring of the year, and as lilies by the rivers of waters, so did they cluster round about her.
R. The daughters of Sion saw her and blest her; the queens also, and they did praise her.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The daughters of Sion saw her and blest her; the queens also, and they did praise her.

3rd Responsory:

Vespers
Chapter:
Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my doors. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.

Hymn:

V. He hath not done in like manner to every nation.
R. And his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.

Magnificat antiphon:
Lift up thine eyes * round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from afar, and thy daughters shall rise from thy side.

Finally, possibly my most favorite piece of music, Tomas Luis de Victoria's Nigra Sum:


I am black but beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem.
Therefore the King hath loved me and led me into his chamber
and said to me: Arise, my friend, and come.
Now winter has passed, the rain has gone.
Flowers have appreared in our land,
The time of pruning has come.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We Rejoice for Our Bridegroom Cometh

III Sunday of Advent - I Class

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice. Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. Be nothing solicitous: but in every thing by prayer let your petitions be made known to God. (Ps) Lord, Thou hast blessed Thy land: Thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. Glory to the Father. Rejoice in the Lord always.
We are joyful because we know that the Lord is coming to separate us from our sins and join us to Himself in the joy that is so great only He can give it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thou Art All Fair O Mary


Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - I Class

In the Eastern Rites, this feast is called the Feast of the Maternity of St. Anne, which I think is a better name because it keeps people from asking stupid questions about why we celebrate the conception of Christ only two and a half weeks before He was born. Anyway, here is the timeless antiphon in honor of the Immaculate Conception:





Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Convert the Fallen!

Feast of St. Ambrose, confessor-bishop, III Class

St. Ambrose is famous for, among other things, converting St. Augustine. Let us pray that St. Ambrose will intercede for us and bring back fallen-away Catholics living St. Augustine's former lifestyle. Then we will be able to sing the famous hymn St. Ambrose composed:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Begging for Mercy

The Vespers hymn for Advent. The words serve as nice food for thought as to exactly what it is we are doing during Advent:


English (my translation):
Nourishing Creator of the stars
Eternal Light of believers,
Jesus, Redeemer of all,
hear the prayers of supplicants.

So that demonic deceits wouldn't
destroy the world, on the impulse
of an act of love, Thou became the
medicine of a languishing world.

To expiate the common sin
of the world, Thou went forth
from the intact tabernacle of
the Virgin as a victim to the cross.

Thou Whose powers, glory, and
Name sound from the beginning,
and Heavenly ones and infernal
ones trembling bend the knee.

We beseech Thee Great Judge
of the last day, defend us
from enemies with the
weapons of celestial grace.

Strength, honor, praise, glory be
to God the Father with the Son,
likewise the Holy Advocate,
through the ages of ages.
Amen.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Bishop Who Was Ordered to Do His Job by a Whore Who Became a Nun

St. Nonnus praying to God for St. Pelagia's conversion

Commemoration of St. Nonnus of Edessa, confessor-bishop, IV Class

St. Nonnus is the bishop famous for converting the harlot St. Pelagia of Antioch. He was a monk in the 5th century who was made bishop of Heliopolis and later Edessa. He attended the council of Chalcedon. The story of St. Pelagia is related by Deacon James of Heliopolis. While Bishop of Heliopolis, St. Nonnus went with his deacon to Antioch for a synod with the Archbishop of Antioch and six other bishops. While there, St. Nonnus was asked to preach on the steps of the church one day after Divine Liturgy. Just then, Pelagia, the most notorious prostitute in Antioch, passed by with a crowd of foolish young men. The seven other bishops averted their gaze as to not be tempted by her appearance, but St. Nonnus stared intently at her, weeping that such great beauty was being wasted on such great sin and that she cares for her body even more than he cares for his soul. He spent that night in tears praying for her conversion saying, "O Lord, suffer not the work of Thy hands to perish, and permit not such beauty to remain in subjection to the demons. But do Thou turn her to Thyself, that Thy holy name may be glorified in her, for all things are possible for Thee.". During the course of this night, he had a vision that he was at the altar during the Divine Liturgy. A black dove flew in, circled his head, and smelled so foul that he could not abide the stench. When the deacon cried out "Catechumens depart", the dove left. After Divine Liturgy, the dove returned, still filthy, and St. Nonnus plunged it into the baptismal font. The dove emerged pure white and flew away.

The next morning, a Sunday, after Divine Liturgy, St. Nonnus was again asked to preach. St. Pelagia again happened by and was moved to tears by his sermon. She wrote with her own hand, "To Christ’s holy disciple from the devil’s disciple, a sinful woman. I have heard that your God has bowed the heavens and come down to earth, not to save the righteous but sinners. Such was His humility, that He ate with publicans, and He upon Whom the cherubim dare not gaze lived among sinners and spoke with harlots. Therefore, my lord, since you are a true servant of Christ (as I hear from the Christians), do not spurn me who with your help seek to draw near the Saviour of the world and to behold His most holy countenance." St. Nonnus arranged for a meeting in the presence of the other bishops. Upon meeting the 8 bishops, St. Pelagia flung herself at the feet of St. Nonnus, washing his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair, in the manner of the Magdalene. She begged to be baptized. St. Nonnus demanded a promise that she would not fall back into her former life as a condition for baptism. She replied, "You shall answer to God for my soul if you do not baptize me this day. God shall require my soul out of your hand and charge you with my wicked deeds. If you deny me Baptism, you shall give account for my impure and vile life. If you do not make me a stranger to my evil works, may your God reject you and may you become a worshipper of idols. If you do not make me today a bride of Christ and lead me to your God, may you have no portion with Him and with His saints." If only bishops were held accountable like that today...

She was (quickly) baptized, confirmed with chrism, and given Holy Communion. For the customary eight days she wore the baptismal garment, during which the devil appeared to her day and night, heartbroken that she had converted, begging her to return to her life of sin. Again and again she cast him away by making the sign of the cross on herself. She gathered all her riches and had them given to the poor. After the taking off of the white baptismal garment, she put on a hair shirt and went off to Jerusalem where she lived as a hermit, disguised as a man, on the Mount of Olives. St. Pelagia lived there three years in strict penance in a cell that had no door. She was able to meet visitors through a small window and became known as a wonder-worker. She was found dead in her cell by the same Deacon James and only after a wall was broken open to retrieve her body for burial was it discovered that she was a woman. She was buried honorably by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and many clergy before a immense crowd and praised for her virtue.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent: The Lord Cometh to Fix What We Breaketh

The Divine Office is full of reminders that the Lord is coming to restore the life that we destroyed through sin and empty pleasures. The life with which the Lord shall come is a life of joy that shall last forever. The life we have been living in so far is a life of passing pleasures that the world around us offers. Since that pleasure is passing, it leads only to death and destruction. Christ alone can survive death so only life with Him can last forever.

Three of the antiphons during the 1st Week of Advent:

"In that day * the mountains shall drop down sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk and honey. Alleluia."

"Behold, the Lord shall come, * and all His saints with Him; and it shall come to pass in that day that the light shall be great. Alleluia."-This one reminds me of a passage in Isaias: "And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days: in the day when the Lord shall bind up the wound of his people, and shall heal the stroke of their wound." (Is 30:26)

"Behold, a great Prophet * shall arise, and He shall build up a new Jerusalem. Alleluia."

From a responsory today at Matins
"His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."

These are all little encouragements along the way.