Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, 22nd February

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“Tu es Petrus, et super hanc Petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam”

In the Bible, Jesus establishes the principle of unity in His Church: Peter.

We hear Simon’s confession of faith in Matthew 16:16-19:

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter [Pétros, Pétrus], and on this rock [pétra, pétram] I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Simon’s name is changed by Jesus to Peter, as a symbol of Simon-Peter’s new mission, entrusted to him for all time by Jesus who recognized that Simon-Peter’s faith in Jesus had been revealed to him by God the Father.

There is a play of words, which we can only appreciate in the original Greek or in its Latin translation. In English, the literal impact of the change of name is somewhat lost:

Simon now called “Peter” —Pétros in Greek, Pétrus in Latin— becomes the basis or “rock” —pétra in Greek, pétram in Latin— on which the new community or “Church” is built upon.

Peter has a responsibility of pre-eminence among all the Apostles, as the fulcrum of unity and infallible guarantor of the purity of Faith, the mind of Christ.

There is grace given by God for this: the power of the “Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”, granting Peter the necessary assistance and authority from God; given in perpetuity, since Jesus promises that “the powers of death shall not prevail against” the Catholic Church.

No matter what storms She faces, Christ has granted the Church indefectibility, till the end of time.

Peter faithfully handed this mission and gift to his successors, down to our present day, in an unbroken line of the Petrine Ministry, visible in Pope Francis.

Cathedra, or chair, of the Pope as Bishop of Rome [Lateran Basilica]

 

A sermon from the Pope S. Leo the Great helps us to understand the wonderful gift of the Papacy in maintaining us infallibly faithful to the teaching of Jesus Christ:

“Out of the whole world one man, Peter, is chosen to preside at the calling of all nations, and to be set over all the apostles and all the fathers of the Church. Though there are in God’s people many shepherds, Peter is thus appointed to rule in his own person those whom Christ also rules as the original ruler. Beloved, how great and wonderful is this sharing of his power that God in his goodness has given to this man. Whatever Christ has willed to be shared in common by Peter and the other leaders of the Church, it is only through Peter that he has given to others what he has not refused to bestow on them.

The Lord now asks the apostles as a whole what men think of him. As long as they are recounting the uncertainty born of human ignorance, their reply is always the same.

But when he presses the disciples to say what they think themselves, the first to confess his faith in the Lord is the one who is first in rank among the apostles.

Peter says: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replies: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” You are blessed, he means, because my Father has taught you. You have not been deceived by earthly opinion, but have been enlightened by inspiration from heaven. It was not flesh and blood that pointed me out to you, but the one whose only-begotten Son I am.

He continues: And I say to you. In other words, as my Father has revealed to you my godhead, so I in my turn make known to you your pre-eminence. You are Peter: though I am the inviolable rock, the cornerstone that makes both one, the foundation apart from which no one can lay any other, yet you also are a rock, for you are given solidity by my strength, so that which is my very own because of my power is common between us through your participation.

And upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. On this strong foundation, he says, I will build an everlasting temple. The great height of my Church, which is to penetrate the heavens, shall rise on the firm foundation of this faith.

The gates of hell shall not silence this confession of faith; the chains of death shall not bind it. Its words are the words of life. As they lift up to heaven those who profess them, so they send down to hell those who contradict them.

Blessed Peter is therefore told: To you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is also bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.

The authority vested in this power passed also to the other apostles, and the institution established by this decree has been continued in all the leaders of the Church. But it is not without good reason that what is bestowed on all is entrusted to one. For Peter received it separately in trust because he is the prototype set before all the rulers of the Church”.

St. Peter, pray for us!

Pope Francis approves Blessed John Henry Newman’s second miracle

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Blessed John Henry Newman may be canonised as early as next year after a second miracle was approved.

Cardinal John Henry Newman (21 February 1801 – 11 August 1890) will be proclaimed a Saint soon, becoming Britain’s first new saint since St. John Ogilvie was canonized by Pope St. Paul VI in 1976. The last English saints were the 40 Martyrs of the Reformation who were canonized in 1970.

Newman was born in 1801. While a tutor at Oriel College, Oxford, he was ordained in 1825 as a Church of England priest. In December 1832, Newman went on a tour of Southern Europe on board the mail steamship Hermes, which included a visit to Gibraltar. In April, Newman visited Sicily and fell dangerously ill with gastric or typhoid fever at Leonforte. He recovered, but with a strong conviction that God had a special mission for him in England. Newman saw this as his “third providential illness”. In June 1833 he finally left Palermo for home.

As an Oxford academic, his theological research and his own personal struggles with his beliefs, had deeply challenged him. They led him increasingly towards the ‘High-Church’ tradition of Anglicanism. In 1833, the Oxford Movement was founded, gathering those who, like Newman, argued for the reinstatement of some of the older Christian traditions of faith into the Anglican liturgy and theology, which the Reformation had firmly rejected. This journey, deepening his understanding of the origins of Christianity and the absolute nature of Revelation, brought Newman to a juncture where he could no longer ignore the rightful, perennial, claims of Catholicism, including the indefectibility of the Church and her infallibility in Faith and Morals.

John Henry converted to Catholicism and was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on 9th October 1845 by Dominic Barberi, an Italian Passionist, at The College in Littlemore, Oxford. This resulted in high personal cost to Newman, who was rejected by family and friends, seeing his change of allegiances essentially as an act of betrayal.

In February 1846, Newman left Oxford for Oscott, where Nicholas Wiseman, then Vicar Apostolic of the Midland district, resided. In October he went to Rome, where he was ordained Priest by Cardinal Giacomo Filippo Fransoni and awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by Pope Pius IX. Newman became an Oratorian in Rome and returned to England in 1847 with Pope Pius IX’s formal approval to establish an English Oratory. He resided first at Maryvale (near Old Oscott, now the site of Maryvale Institute, a college of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education); later at St Wilfrid’s College, Cheadle, and afterwards at St Anne’s, Alcester Street, Birmingham. Finally he settled at Edgbaston, where spacious premises were built for his new community, and where (except for four years in Ireland) he lived a secluded life for nearly forty years. Before the house at Edgbaston was occupied, Newman established the London Oratory, with Father Frederick William Faber (the noted English hymn writer and theologian, who similarly converted from Anglicanism to the Catholicism and became an Oratorian Priest) as its superior.

Newman was esteemed as a poet and renowned internationally for his copious philosophical, theological writings, such as his autobiography Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1865–1866), the Grammar of Assent (1870), and the poem The Dream of Gerontius (1865, set to music in 1900 by Edward Elgar), “Lead, Kindly Light” and “Praise to the Holiest in the Height“.

In 1879, he was created a cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in recognition of his services to the cause of the Catholic Church in England. He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland which evolved into University College Dublin, today the largest university in Ireland.

When Newman died at the age of 89, more than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral. The cause for sainthood was opened in 1958 and he was declared Venerable by Pope St. John Paul II in 1991 after his life of ‘heroic virtue’ was recognised.

The first miracle attributed to Newman relates to the case of a Boston deacon whom Newman is said to have saved from paralysis. Cardinal Newman was beatified at Cofton Park, Birmingham, by Pope Benedict XVI during his historic State visit to Britain, 16 to 19 September 2010 —the first by a Pope.

More recently, the Archdiocese of Chicago investigated the inexplicable healing of a woman who prayed for Newman’s intercession after suffering with a “life-threatening pregnancy”. Doctors who treated her reported that they had no scientific explanation whatsoever for her sudden, totally unexpected, recovery. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints subsequently examined the case and concluded the healing to be miraculous. It was approved by Pope Francis, signalling that Blessed John Henry’s canonization will follow soon.

Newman’s legacy continues to illumine us on the ecumenical path towards healing the divisions in Christianity. When he became a Cardinal, he adopted the motto, attributed to St. Francis de Sales, Cor ad cor loquitur (“Heart speaks to heart”). This a fitting summary of Blessed John Henry Newman’s entire life. It is the secret of Blessed Newman: his heart longed for God and he found Him, in Eucharistic fulfilment.

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

By | Liturgy, News

Candlemas day

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus.

It is also known as Candlemas day, since candles are blessed and brought in solemn procession in today’s liturgy.

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it is referred to as the Purification of Mary. According to the Gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.).

It is considered a “Christmas feast” since it points back to the Solemnity of Christmas. You can read the full text of today’s Gospel below, to contemplate this beautiful mystery, as we pray:

 

Almighty ever-living God,

we humbly implore your majesty

that, just as your Only Begotten Son

was presented on this day in the Temple

in the substance of our flesh,

so, by your grace,

we may be presented to you with minds made pure.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

 

The Gospel at today’s Mass

Luke 2:22-40

My eyes have seen your salvation

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,

just as you promised;

because my eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared for all the nations to see,

a light to enlighten the pagans

and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

34th World Youth Day 2019: concluded in Panama

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“You are the Now of God”

The 34th World Youth Day 2019 concluded on Sunday 27th before 700,000 people at the Campo San Juan Pablo II – Metro Park (Panama City, Panama), with Holy Mass presided by Pope Francis. The Holy Father gave his homily based on a theme from the Sunday’s Gospel: “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them: ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Lk 4:20-21).

The Pope explained that the “today” Jesus is referring, was not 2,000 years ago, but is still true today, our “now”. “Jesus reveals the now of God”. “In Jesus, the promised future begins and becomes life”. Unfortunately, “we do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real… [because] a close and everyday God, a friend and brother, demands that we be concerned with our surroundings…God is real because love is real”.

All of us can experience the danger of living in “a kind of waiting room, sitting around until we are called”. Both adults and young people risk thinking “your Now has not yet come…. that you are too young to be involved in dreaming about and working for the future”. He stressed that we need one another “to encourage dreaming of and working for tomorrow, starting today… Not tomorrow but now… Realize that you have a mission and fall in love….We may possess everything, but if we lack the passion of love, we will have nothing”.

The Holy Father explained that for Jesus there is no ‘meantime’: “He is not an interval in life or a passing fad. He is generous love that invites us to entrust ourselves”. He exhorted all young people not to be “paralyzed [by] fear and exclusion, speculation and manipulation [but rather, to recognise the] concrete, close, real love” of Jesus. The Lord and His mission are not “something temporary, they are our life”.

He reminded us all that we “are on a journey…. Keep walking, keep living the faith and sharing it”. So, do not forget, he said, that “you are not the tomorrow, you are not the ‘meantime’, you are the Now of God”.

At the conclusion it was announced that the next World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022.

What is “Ordinary Time”?

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Christmastide ended with the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

With the end of Christmas and the feasts that accompany it, the Church returns to her so-called Ordinary Time. This is a fitting way to remind us that the entire reason why God was born, became one like us —in everything but sin— was to show us the way back to the Father, which we had lost through the sin of Adam and Eve. This is at the heart of the mystery of our Redemption as revealed by God.

The Baptism of Jesus therefore signals the dawn of our hope: that being baptized in Him, we will die with Him, to rise with Him (c.f. St. Paul Rom 6:3-5; 1 Cor 10:11-12; Col 2:12).

The basis of our re-birth in Christ, is our new life in the Sacred Trinity: to live in an ineffable communion of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in an eternal embrace of joy! That relationship begins now, through Baptism.

Jesus became truly man so that He could illumine the way for us, by following Him along our life-long road of conversion: turning away from sin and living a new life in God. Baptism is the gateway which Christ opens for us, to make possible our entry into Paradise —if we so desire— and live with Him forever.

The ‘Ordinary Time’ of the Church’s Liturgical Year in 2019 began on Monday 14th January. This means that we resume the 3-year cycle of readings from Sacred Scriptures which are proclaimed at Holy Mass each Sunday and during the weekdays.

Also, the ‘Divine Office’ or ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ which all religious, bishops, priests and deacons are obliged to recite in the name of the Church, ‘resets’ back to its starting point for the new liturgical year after the Feast of Christ the King, or more accurately, beginning from the First Sunday of Advent.

Since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, an astonishing number of lay people, associations of Apostolic Life and groups have joined in this ‘Universal Prayer of the Church’. This is a tremendous blessing for the world, whereby from East to West, “from the rising of the sun to its setting, a pure sacrifice may be made offered to your name” [Eucharistic Prayer 3].

As with the Eucharistic Prayer which the Priest offers In Persona Christi —that is, in the Person of Christ— is Christ’s perfect prayer of praise and thanksgiving, which He offers continually to the Father, similarly the ‘Divine Office’ is His intercession for His Body, the Church.

In this official Prayer of the Church, we can feel the presence of our brothers and sisters —the Church in Heaven and the Church in Purgatory— praying in unison with the ‘pilgrimage Church’ on Earth. This is the nature and reality of the Catholic Church, which finds her origins and mission in the one Sacrifice of Christ, offered once and for all, to the Father on Calvary and made actual —in our time— through the Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass.

This Mystery is truly awesome! It generates in our hearts a sublime desire to worship the Triune God. It is the humbling feeling that our infinite God loves us. Without God, we are meaningless and finite; of little lasting worth! This sentiment of true devotion invites us to bend our knees and bow low, with deep reverence, as we behold and adore the Body and Blood of Christ at the elevation at Holy Mass. As we do so, God’s light of hope touches our hearts and makes us new: the grace of God, so freely given, transforms us into a new creation in Christ. That is why our Baptism unfolds and reveals throughout our life, who God destined us to be. It spells the unique mission we all have: to creatively reflect something of our ‘image and likeness’ of God, back to the Father who created us out of nothing.

The Church encourages all her Faithful to pray the Divine Office and also, to be renwed each day at Holy Mass. If we do so and listen to God’s Word attentively, which is at the heart —like a scaffold— of all our liturgies, we will have virtually gone through the entire Bible in 3 years! What a wonderful way to make a home in our hearts for Jesus, the Word-made-flesh!

In this year 2019, the programme of readings from Sacred Scripture for the Divine Office and for Holy Mass are as follows:

  • In the ‘Divine Office’ also known as the Breviary, the 4-week Psalter begins now with week 1.
  • For Holy Mass:
    • Sunday readings = Year C.
    • Weekday readings = Cycle I.
  • The colour for the Liturgical vestments is green, symbolizing hope and fresh, new growth (as in God’s creation all around us) in our relationship with Christ.

The Ephiphany of the Lord

By | Christmas, News

6th January

There is a Catholic tradition that Christmas decorations go up on the 8th December, Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, or around the First Sunday of Advent, and stay up until the Epiphany which follows twelve days after Christmas, on January 6th.

Others prefer to keep the crib until the 2nd February, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple 40 days after His birth (known also as Candlemas Day, when the blessing and procession of candles is included in the liturgy).

In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, this ‘Christmas Feast’ is referred to as the Purification of Mary: The Torah commanded that a woman who had given birth to a son should not approach the Temple for 40 days; after which time she was to offer a sacrifice for her purification. By another requirement of the Law, every first-born son was to be considered as belonging to God (since the first-born sons of Israel had been spared in Egypt), and was to be redeemed as narrated in Luke 2:22-40.

The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from the Biblical Greek word ἐπιφάνεια, epipháneia, meaning ‘manifestation or appearance’: It celebrates ‘the revelation’ of God in His Son as human in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 2:1-12 records the visit of the ‘Wise Men’ or ‘Magi’:

“After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the East. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage’…”.

Tradition has it that there were three wise men -after the 3 offerings mentioned in the Gospel- and names them as:

  • Melchior: who brings gold, representing wisdom and His royal standing as King of Kings;
  • Caspar: who brings frankincense, representing His Divine birth and worship as true God;
  • Balthazar: who brings myrrh, a funeral embalming ointment, representing morality and suffering, foretelling His Passion on the cross and the anointing when He was laid in the tomb.

Festivities for the ancient Christian feast day vary around the world, from swimming in icy waters (e.g. Bulgaria) to exchanging presents (e.g. Spain), special foods (e.g. Mexico) fireworks (e.g. Santo Domingo), parades and cavalcades (e.g. Gibraltar).

In many countries the day is a public holiday. As recently as the 1950’s, in Britain, the eve of the Epiphany or the ‘Twelfth Night’ was a night for wassailing. Wassailers, like carol singers, go from house to house singing and wishing their neighbours good health. The Drury Lane Theatre in London has had a tradition since 1795 of providing a Twelfth Night cake. The will of Robert Baddeley made a bequest of £100 to provide cake and punch every year for the company in residence at the theatre on 6 January. The tradition still continues.

Another tradition that remains to this day, is that the bones of the 3 Kings are located in Cologne Cathedral.

Originally situated in Constantinople, they were brought to Milan in an oxcart by St. Eustorgius I Bishop of Milan (from 343-49), to whom they were entrusted by the Emperor, Constantine. In 1164, the Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick I ‘Barbarossa’ donated the casket of the Magi, located at the church of Saint Eustorgius, to the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel in appreciation of his services on the Emperor’s Italian campaign. Two years previously, the Emperor, with the support of the Archbishop (who was also one of the most powerful princes of the Holy Roman Empire in Germany and Archchancellor of Italy) had taken Milan, which had risen up against Frederick, and seized the relics.

 Archbishop Rainald campaigned to make the relics, which had been virtually unknown in Milan, famous throughout Europe and indeed, the entire Christian world. Cologne Cathedral become one of the most significant places of pilgrimage in Europe. These relics quickly attained outstanding importance, not least among German royalty. On their way home after their coronations in Aachen, German kings would traditionally stop in Cologne to venerate the relics of the biblical Wise Men, who were revered in Medieval times as the first Christian kings. Der Dreikönigenschrein or ‘Shrine of the Three Kings’ have been a site of constant pilgrimage to Cologne ever since.

 

Bishop’s New Year Message

By | Christmas, News

“Good politics is at the service of peace” (Pope Francis)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

At the beginning of the year, we tend to look back at what big events there were in the last year which played a major part in our lives, and we look forward to a year which we pray will offer us security, health and peace.

One of the main topics which dominated the year we are leaving and which will continue to dominate this coming year is Brexit, with its uncertainties as things stand now and the dangers and consequences that might have to be faced. We are urged by St Paul to pray for “ all those in authority so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:2). Let us pray for our political leaders that God may help them in their efforts to work for the common good.

There are other issues which we will be facing in the new year, which will have great influence on the kind of society we will be living in. While not everything is going to be perfect and there will be things about which we might complain, there is much to be grateful for and many blessings for which we should be thankful to God.

While we may have things to complain about, things that are not quite right and could be better, when compared with what many other people have in other parts of the world, we have so many blessings to be thankful for by comparison.

This year, on the 1st January, we celebrate the 52nd World Day of Peace. The Holy Father in his message for this year has emphasized the role of politicians and political life which helps in furthering peace in the world. The title of his message is: Good politics is at the service of peace.

In his message the Pope refers to the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận.

Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.

Pope Francis also refers in his message to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which this year celebrates its seventieth anniversary. He writes:

In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. The possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.

The Pope continues that peace “entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:

– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;

– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

I pray that we may all help, in our own small way, to further peace around us.

I wish you all a very happy new year, full of God’s peace and blessing.

+Carmel Zammit
Bishop of Gibraltar

Bishop’s Christmas Message

By | Christmas, News

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus!

I would like to share with you something that the great preacher, Saint Alphonsus Liguori, said, “I think God must have said to Himself: Man does not love Me because He does not see Me; I will show Myself to him and thus make him love Me.  God’s love for man was very great, and had been great from all eternity, but this love had not yet become visible… Then, it really appeared; the Son of God let Himself be seen as a tiny Baby in a stable, lying on a little straw”.  Christmas is about God making himself visible in Jesus to show his love for us.

The Gospel of St Luke Chapter 2 gives us a snapshot of what happened on the night when Jesus was born. When Mary gave birth to her son, Jesus, She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room available for them at the Inn. There were shepherds around minding their flocks when an angel appeared to them and told them: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The shepherds went and found the baby and then they returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen,

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. The letters M – A – S after a word mean “the feast of”. Therefore the actual word “Christmas” means the feast of Christ. It would be a great pity if we were to ignore the meaning of the word Christmas and refer to this period of joy and peace in other terms, like the festive season or the holiday season. Christmas is festive in nature and we do enjoy a holiday in this period, but we must not eliminate the word Christmas for this period with the excuse that the word may offend others who do not share our belief. I can assure you that no other religion ever objected to the word Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Christ. No one objects to the celebration of the Chinese New Year, because of a fear that it might offend persons who are not Chinese or Buddhist; no-one objects to the celebration of Diwali, on the grounds that it might offend persons who are not Hindus. And rightly so. Why, then, should Christians be treated differently? To eliminate anything that refers to Christ in shops and superstores full of Christmas goods shows which way we are heading if we do not put back Jesus in Christmas.

We pride ourselves on this blessed Rock for being a tolerant and friendly people, respecting each other and living in harmony with each other. That is essentially the message that Christmas brings to all of us. The birth of Christ was not glamorous. What the gospels tell us is that God in Christ stepped into the depths of our broken, sad and troubled world to bring us what we need: peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and a transformation of our lives.

It is sad to notice that although we pride ourselves on being friendly and generous, when an issue arises which leads to different attitudes and opinions, the language that is at times used towards one another and about one another may be bitter, vindictive and hurtful.

On social media in particular, people seem to lose all restraint in attacking those with whom they disagree.

We have a choice. We can treat one another as a threat, abuse those who are different from us, misrepresent people’s motives and spread lies about them; or we can follow a better way, reaching out to others with care, attention and service.

If that sounds simple, it is; and it is the simple message at the heart of the Christmas festival.

As we celebrate Christmas this year and bring to mind the birth of Jesus, may our lives be deeply touched by God’s love. As we contemplate the child Jesus who is born, may our hearts be filled with joy. This is the time when we reach out to others who are in need of our support, care and love, those who are suffering in some way or other. Let us also remember and help out those in other places who are being persecuted, tortured and even martyred due to their beliefs.

God is with us and shares our human life, the joys and challenges along with our pain and suffering. The word Emmanuel beautifully describes the gift of Christmas, it means ‘God is with us’.   This is the main message of Christmas.

Christmas presents a challenge to all of us. We are called to become messengers of Emmanuel, to help bring Christ’s love to the world. Let us be Emmanuel’s messengers, let us be his hands, feet and voice. Let us bring his love to all.

May I suggest that now is the time to make an extra effort to keep Christmas not just on the 25th of December but throughout the year, by getting closer to Jesus.

I wish you peace and joy this Christmas. I pray that our Heavenly Father will abundantly bless you and all those you love this day. May he shower you with every grace and blessing throughout the coming year. Happy Christmas.

O Antiphons

By | Christmas, News

O Sapientia… O Emmanuel

O Sapientia ~ O Wisdom (December 17)
O Wisdom (Sirach 24:3),
You came forth from the mouth of the Most High (Sirach 24:3), and reaching from beginning to end You ordered all things mightily and sweetly (Wisdom 8:1). * Come, and teach us the way of prudence (Isaiah 40:14).

O Adonai ~ O Lord and Ruler (December 18)
O Adonai (Exod 3:14)
and Ruler of the house of Israel (Matt 2:6; Micah 5:1; 2 Sam 5:2), You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him Your Law (Exod 20). * Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us (Jeremiah 32:21).

O Radix Jesse ~ O Root of Jesse (December 19)
O Root of Jesse, (Isaiah 11:1)
You stand for the ensign of mankind (Isaiah 11:10); before You kings shall keep silence and to You all nations shall have recourse (Isaiah 52:15). * Come, save us, and do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).

O Clavis David ~ O Key of David (December 20)
O Key of David, (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7)
and Sceptre of the house of Israel (Numbers 24:17): You open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isaiah 22:22). * Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10).

O Oriens ~ O Rising Dawn or Morning Star (December 21)
O Rising Dawn, (Jer 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12),
Radiance of the Light eternal (Habakkuk 3:4; Wisdom 7:26; Hebrews 1:3) and Sun of Justice (Malachi 3:20): * come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10; Lk 1:78).

O Rex Gentium ~ O King of the Nations (December 22)
O King of the Gentiles (Jeremiah 10:7; Haggai 2:7),
and the Desired of all, You are the Cornerstone that binds two into one (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20). * Come, and save man whom You fashioned out of clay (Genesis 2:7).

O Emmanuel (December 23)
O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8; Luke 1:31-33),
our King and Lawgiver (Genesis 49:10; cf. Ezekiel 21:32), the Expected of the nations and their Saviour (Isa 33:22): Come, and save us, O Lord our God.

The truly ancient tradition of reciting the O Antiphons refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23.

Tradition explains that the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, Tomorrow, I will come.

Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, Tomorrow, I will come.

Pope Francis visits Benedict XVI

By | Christmas, News

Lieber Vater, Frohe Weihnachten!

As is his custom every year, on 21st December at 18:15 the Holy Father, Pope Francis, went to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery to visit Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

He also gave him his Christmas presents!

Although Benedict XVI at 91 understandably appears enfeebled with age, he remains in great spirits.

He is looking forward to his brother Monsignor Georg Ratzinger’s visit for two weeks after Christmas when he will be bringing him gifts from their birthplace in Bavaria.

Despite Mgr. Georg’s almost total blindness, the two look forward to playing the piano and singing traditional Christmas carols!