Filed under: John Paul II
Pope John Paul II speaking to Bishops:
“The assembly of the Synod of Bishops indicated several indispensable means for the sustenance and progress of the spiritual life. First among these is reading and meditating on the word of God….Before becoming one who hands on the word, the Bishop, together with his priests and indeed like every member of the faithful and like the Church herself, must be a hearer of the word. He should live ”within” the word and allow himself to be protected and nourished by it, as if by a mother’s womb. With Saint Ignatius of Antioch the Bishop must say: ”I commend myself to the Gospel as to the flesh of Christ”. Each Bishop will thus take to heart the well-known admonition of Saint Jerome quoted by the Second Vatican Council: ”Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”. There can be no primacy of holiness without attentive listening to the Word of God, which is the guide and nourishment of all holiness.”
Pope Benedict has inaugurated “The Year of St Paul”, beginning on June 29, 2008, at the first Vespers of the traditional Church Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Last night I watched some of the liturgical celebrations live from the Vatican (on EWTN) to usher in this extraordinary Pauline year of grace.
In keeping with the spirit of this special day, we offer the following short quote from UNBORN JESUS OUR HOPE concerning the mystical nature of Mary’s pregnancy and words from Paul (and Peter) which help to throw light on it:
“She is the first Christian missionary. She carries the Christ across the land from this town to that. But He dwells within her ‑ within and beneath her heart. The mystery of this particular heart‑to‑Heart, body‑to‑Body communion between mother and Child, Christian and Christ, is impossible to fathom. Many years later both Saints Peter and Paul described their own sense of oneness with Christ in words that may help us in our appreciation of Mary’s experience. Reflecting on his own personal identification with Christ’s death on the cross, St. Paul would say; “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” (Gal 2:20).
But what of Mary’s intimate identification with our Lord’s Incarnation, the singular experience of Mary’s maternity? Her sentiments may have resembled those of St. Paul; paraphrasing now: “I have been conceived with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…” And as each day passed, did she not sense that she was becoming, as St. Peter would later say, a partaker “of the divine nature” (II Pet 1:4)? No other human soul has experienced the wonder and grace of this mystical passage from youthful human simplicity into the eternal mystery of mothering God! Words fail us here: ” Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11).”
Every Christian must discover for himself or herself, and repeatedly, just how “Christ is all, and in all” for him and for her. In a unique way, during her nine month pregnancy, Mary must have pondered within her heart – in an archetypical manner – the Incarnational mystery that “Christ is all, and in all”. He certainly was “all and in all” in her! Following baptism and the onset of the life of God within each Christian soul, it is true on the spiritual level – a mystical truth and reality grasped and taught well by St Paul – that “Christ is all, and in all”! And just as the pregnant Mary saw intimate signs of Christ’s life within her own and desired to live well her nine months for Him, so too today’s Christian recognizes personal signs of Christ’s life within his or her heart and must strive to live well all his or her days for Christ.
“Christ was humble of heart. Throughout his life he looked for no special consideration or privilege. He began by spending nine months in his Mother’s womb, like the rest of men, following the natural course of events. He knew that mankind needed him greatly. He was longing to come into the world to save all souls, but he took his time. He came in due course, just as every other child is born. From conception to birth, no one – except our Lady, St Joseph and St Elizabeth – realized the marvelous truth that God was coming to live among men.”
St. Josemaria Escriva from Christ is Passing By.
St. Josemaria Escriva’s feast day is June 26. He was canonized on October 6, 2002.
In our last post, we highlighted Catholic composer, Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). As we pointed out 2008 is the centenary of his birth and he is being honored all over the world with concerts and symposiums. We went on to highlight one of his works: Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus (“Twenty Gazes/Contemplations of the Infant Jesus”) and in particular one composition, ‘Premiere Communion de la Vierge‘. (No. 11, “Virgin’s First Communion”).
This composition represents the Virgin on her knees, worshipping the unborn Jesus within her. Because Messiaen wanted his listeners to be aware of his inspirations and how he constructed various passages, he wrote extensive program notes, which appear as prefaces to his scores or as liner notes for recordings of his music. Here is what Messiaen wrote about the Virgin’s First Communion:
“11. Première communion de la Vierge [First Communion of the Virgin]. A tableau in which the Virgin is shown kneeling, bowed down in the night-a luminous halo around her womb. Eyes closed, she adores the fruit hidden within her. This comes between the Annunciation and the Nativity: it is the first and greatest of all communions. Theme of God, gentle scrolls, in stalactites, in an inner embrace. (Recall of the theme of La Vierge l’Enfant from my Nativity du Seigneur for organ, 1935). Magnificat more enthusiastic. Special chords and durations of two and two in which the weighty pulsations represent the heartbeats of the Infant in the breast of his mother. Disappearance of the Theme of God. After the Annunciation, Mary adores Jesus within her…my God, my son, my Magnificat!-my love without the sound of words.”
These notes with explanations for all 20 gazes/compositions in Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus can be found here. If you wish to purchase recordings of his songs or a book on his life here is a link to Amazon. We must mention that he is a modern composer and if you don’t like modern classical music – his compositions may not be your cup of tea.
Olivier Messiaen (December 10, 1908 – April 27, 1992) was a devout French Catholic composer. This year marks the centenary of Olivier Messiaen’s birth. From June 20-24 2008 the MESSIAEN 2008 INTERNATIONAL CENTENARY CONFERENCE is being held in Birmingham, England. Another conference entitled ‘Olivier Messiaen: The Musician as Theologian’ will be held at Southern Methodist University/Dallas, September 25-26, 2008 Among the many Messiaen concerts/series around the world is another being held in England this year, the Philharmonia Orchestra Messiaen Celebrations (February 4 – October 23 ) and one in Chicago at the University of Chicago: 2008 MESSIAEN FESTIVAL October 2-11 Ten Concerts.
One of the reasons that we are highlighting Olivier Messiaen during the centenary of his birth is because of Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, a collection of pieces for solo piano. The French title translates “Twenty gazes/contemplations on the infant Jesus”. It is considered to be one of the greatest piano works of the twentieth century, and the summit of Messiaen’s keyboard writing. The idea of les regards, the spiritual gazes, came from the devotional book Le Christ dans ses Mystères by the Irish-Belgian Benedictine abbot Dom Columba Marmion.
The gaze is a profound moment of passionate contemplation, spiritual communication and two-way recognition: an exchange, to use one of Marmion’s favorite words, in which love and knowledge passed in both directions between God and humanity.
Some of Messiaen’s ‘gazes’ on the Infant Jesus include: Gaze of the Father, Gaze of the Star, The Exchange, Gaze of the Son upon the Son (click here to see all of the pieces)…the piece that touches on our blog’s theme is: ‘Premiere Communion de la Vierge’. (No. 11, “Virgin’s First Communion”) and represents the Virgin on her knees, worshiping the unborn Jesus within her.
Messiaen used his talents to praise God and share through his music his profound enthusiasm for the Truths of his Catholic faith. Many of his pieces were explicitly Catholic: Twenty glances upon the Infant Jesus, Hymn to the Holy Sacrament, The Lord’s Nativity, Three Small Liturgies of the Divine Presence, and the opera St. Francis of Assisi just to name a few.
In an article in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini writes:
“The dimension of Messiaen’s music that may most set it apart derives from his spiritual life. His faith was innocent, not intellectual. As a child he loved the plays of Shakespeare, especially their “super-fairy-tale” aspects, he said. In the stories of the Catholic faith, as he told Mr. Samuel, he found the “attraction of the marvelous” he had coveted in Shakespeare, but “multiplied a hundredfold, a thousandfold.” For him the Christian stories were not theatrical fiction but true. Messiaen espoused a theology of glory, transcendence and eternity. Religious subjects permeate his works, though not the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus. His embrace of the wondrousness of faith is reflected in the essence of his compositions.”
Our next post will feature Olivier Messaien’s personal notes explaining the “Virgin’s First Communion” with a link where to purchase this recording. We will also have a link to all his personal notes for Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus ( “Twenty gazes/ contemplations on the infant Jesus” ).
Filed under: Mary, Quotes from Great Christians, The Incarnation, Unborn Jesus
“Humanly speaking, the time of Advent must have been the happiest time of Our Lady’s life. The world about her must have been informed with more than its habitual loveliness, for she was gathering it all for the making of Her Son…
It must have been a season of joy, and she must have longed for His birth, but at the same time she knew that every step that she took, took her little Son nearer to the grave.
Each work of her hands prepared His hands a little more for the nails; each breath that she drew counted one more to His last.
In giving life to Him, she was giving Him death.
All other children born must inevitably die; death belongs to fallen nature; the mother’s gift to the child is life.
But Christ IS life; death did not belong to Him.
In fact, unless Mary would give Him death, He could not die.
Unless she would give Him the capacity for suffering, He could not suffer.
He could only feel cold and hunger and thirst if she gave Him HER vulnerability to cold and hunger and thirst.
He could not know the indifference of friends or treachery or bitterness of being betrayed unless she gave Him a human mind and a human heart.
That is what it meant to Mary to give human nature to God.
He was invulnerable; He asked her for a body to be wounded.
He was joy itself; He asked her to make Him a man.
He asked for hands and feet to be nailed.
He asked for flesh to be scourged.
He asked for blood to be shed.
He asked for a heart to be broken.
The stable at Bethlehem was the first Calvary.
The wooden manger was the first cross.
The swaddling bands were the first burial bands.
The passion had begun.
Christ was man.
This, too, was the first separation.
This was her Son, but now He was outside of her: He had a separate heart: He looked at the world with the blind blue eyes of a baby, but they were His own eyes.
The description of His birth in the Gospel does not say that she held Him in her arms but that she “wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger”.
As if her first act was to lay Him on the cross.
She knew that this little Son of hers was God’s Son and that God had not given Him to her for herself alone, but for the whole world.”
A meditation by Caryll Houselander from “The Reed of God”.
One of the subscribers to the e-newsletter sent this beautiful meditation to us. Thanks Diana.
“St. Joseph presents us with a similar, yet somewhat different, type of devotion to the Sacred Infancy.
During the nine months the accumulation of grace upon him must have been beyond our powers of calculation. The company of Mary, the atmosphere of Jesus, the continual presence of the Incarnate God, and the fact of his own life being nothing but a series of ministries to the unborn Word, must have lifted him far above all other saints, and perchance all angels too.
Our Lord’s Birth, and the sight of His Face, must have been to him like another sanctification. The mystery of Bethlehem was enough of itself to place him among the highest of the saints.” From Bethlehem by Father Faber
St. Joseph is a model for all those in the pro-life movement. He took unborn Jesus and Mary into his heart and life. He took care of them, saved them from disgrace and even death, supported them and helped them find shelter. Father Faber talks about the grace Joseph received in this ministry – think of all of the graces you receive in your ministry to the unborn and their mothers.
‘And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Just one of the thousand’s of pregnancy counseling centers and homes!
…a place where the Corporeal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy are lived each day