There is one tradition of St. John the Baptist icons that portray him pointing to the Christ Child (unborn). In his left hand he holds a chalice or charger and a scroll that reads, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world”. With his right hand he points to the Christ Child (unborn).
St. Leo the Great (A.D. 400?-461) has a wonderful quote that expresses in words what these icons express in art:
“…when at her greeting, John (in the womb of Elizabeth and not yet born) was stirred with prophetic exaltation-as if even in his mother’s womb he were already crying out, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold the one who takes away the sins of the world’.” ) Sermon 35
Here are a few more icons in this tradition:
Filed under: Biblical Reflections, Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict XVI
“The Lord has sworn in truth to David…’I will set upon your throne the fruit of your body'” Psalm 132:11
In the following passage Pope Benedict XVI comments on Psalm 132:11 by using a lengthy quote from St. Irenaeus:
“Let us end by remembering that the beginning of this second part of Psalm 132 was commonly used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the Incarnation of the Word in the Virgin Mary’s womb. St Irenaeus, referring to the prophecy of Isaiah about the Virgin in labour, had already explained:”
“The words: ‘Listen, then, O house of David!’ (Is 7: 13), indicate that the eternal King, whom God had promised David would be ‘the fruit of [his] body’ (Ps 132:11), was the same One, born of the Virgin and descended from David.Thus, God promised him that a king would be born who was ‘the fruit of [his] body’, a description that indicates a pregnant virgin. Scripture, therefore…sets down and affirms the fruit of the womb to proclaim that the One to come would be begotten of the Virgin. Likewise, Elizabeth herself, filled with the Holy Spirit, testified, saying to Mary: ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (Lk 1:42). In this way the Holy Spirit points out to those who want to hear him that in the Virgin’s, that is, Mary’s, giving birth is fulfilled God’s promise to David that he would raise up a king born of his body” (Contro le Eresie, 3, 21, 5: “Già e Non Ancora”, CCCXX, Milan, 1997, p. 285).
Wednesday, 21 September 2005
The Annunciation by Nicholas Poussin
Here are some excerpts from a homily that Pope Benedict XVI gave on March 25, 2006.
“In the Incarnation of the Son of God, in fact, we recognize the origins of the Church. Everything began from there.
Every historical realization of the Church and every one of her institutions must be shaped by that primordial wellspring. They must be shaped by Christ, the incarnate Word of God. It is he that we are constantly celebrating: Emmanuel, God-with-us, through whom the saving will of God the Father has been accomplished.
And yet – today of all days we contemplate this aspect of the Mystery – the divine wellspring flows through a privileged channel: the Virgin Mary.
St Bernard speaks of this using the eloquent image of aquaeductus (cf. Sermo in Nativitate B.V. Mariae: PL 183, 437-448). In celebrating the Incarnation of the Son, therefore, we cannot fail to honour his Mother. The Angel’s proclamation was addressed to her; she accepted it, and when she responded from the depths of her heart: “Here I am… let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1: 38), at that moment the eternal Word began to exist as a human being in time.
From generation to generation, the wonder evoked by this ineffable mystery never ceases. St Augustine imagines a dialogue between himself and the Angel of the Annunciation, in which he asks: “Tell me, O Angel, why did this happen in Mary?”. The answer, says the Messenger, is contained in the very words of the greeting: “Hail, full of grace” (cf. Sermo 291: 6).
In fact, the Angel, “appearing to her”, does not call her by her earthly name, Mary, but by her divine name, as she has always been seen and characterized by God: “Full of grace – gratia plena“, which in the original Greek is 6,P”D4JTµXv0, “full of grace”, and the grace is none other than the love of God; thus, in the end, we can translate this word: “beloved” of God (cf. Lk 1: 28). Origen observes that no such title had ever been given to a human being, and that it is unparalleled in all of Sacred Scripture (cf. In Lucam 6: 7)…
In the Second Reading, we heard the wonderful passage in which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Psalm 39 in the light of Christ’s Incarnation: “When Christ came into the world, he said: …”Here I am, I have come to do your will, O God'” (Heb 10: 5-7). Before the mystery of these two “Here I am” statements, the “Here I am” of the Son and the “Here I am” of the Mother, each of which is reflected in the other, forming a single Amen to God’s loving will, we are filled with wonder and thanksgiving, and we bow down in adoration.”
Today, Sunday, November 25th, is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, the feast day of Christ the King!
“You cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus told His disciples. (“No one can have two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”) Mt 6:24 This is not spiritual rocket science. We make a simple choice.
When Jesus first started preaching His Gospel it was that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:14). Later He explained that people should “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33). And with what spiritual disposition do we do this? “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mt 10:15) So early on Jesus set before us the “childlike attitude” as being exemplary.
In our own time, John Paul II has written his prophetic encyclical The Gospel of Life and placed, once again, the choice before us: a Culture of Life or a culture of death.
The right choice is clear: God, the Kingdom of God, the City of God, the Culture of Life!
Filed under: Fathers of the Church
Vatican City: Vatican Museum: St Leo the Great’s Meeting with Attila in 452 (1511-1514, Raphael and assistants)
Today, November 10th is the feast day of St. Leo the Great (A.D. 400?-461). He is regarded as one of the most important of the Western Fathers of the Church and was declared a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Benedict XIV. He is one of only three Popes in two thousand years to be called “the Great.”. Not only was Leo a great teacher, he is credited with saving Rome.
The Picture above depicts St. Leo persuading Attila, called the Scourge of God, to spare the city. Attila said that while Leo was talking to him, he saw a person in priestly robes who stood nearby with bared sword, threatening his life should he disobey Leo’s commands.
Here are a few quotes from St. Leo about the life of the Unborn Christ Child:
“Nothing could contain his greatness, yet he allowed himself to be enclosed in his mother’s womb.” The Binding of the Strong Man.
“…the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that within her spotless womb Wisdom might build itself a house and the Word become flesh.” Creator of Time is Born in Time
“…when at her greeting, John (in the womb of Elizabeth and not yet born) was stirred with prophetic exaltation-as if even in his mother’s womb he were already crying out, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold the one who takes away the sins of the world’.” Sermon 35
This weekend we attended the Holy Family Festival in Ojai. They had a wonderful speaker from Catholic Answers, Tim Staples, who gave two talks on “The Immaculate Conception and the Dignity of Man”. Tim Staples is a fabulous speaker and I would recommend him highly for both adults and teenagers.
At the end of the day, we were fortunate enough to get to speak with Tim and his lovely wife, Valerie. Tim brought up an interesting scripture about Mary and referenced St. Jerome’s interpretation of it. We were surprised because we weren’t aware of this passage about Mary’s pregnancy and the Unborn Christ Child.
“The LORD has created a new thing upon the earth: the woman must encompass the man with devotion.” Jeremiah 31:22
St. Jerome in his commentary on this verse understood it of Mary’s virginal conception of Christ. “The LORD has created a new thing on earth; without seed of man, without carnal union and conception, ‘a woman will encompass a man’ within her womb – One who, though He will later appear to advance in wisdom and age through the stages of infancy and childhood, yet, while confined for the usual number of months in his mother’s womb, will already be perfect man.” USCCB New American Bible Footnote 3 Point C
Filed under: Fathers of the Church
Today, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2007 is the feast day of St. John Chrysostom (died 407 A.D.). He was famous for his eloquent preaching. In those early centuries of the Church various forms of Gnosticism ebbed and flowed throughout the known world. Part of the Gnostic message claimed that Christ did not have a real physical body like you and I. The early Church battled this heresy for centuries. In the following excerpt from one of John’s homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, we see John defending the Church’s understanding of Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man.
“Nor think that thou hast learnt all, by hearing “of the Spirit;” nay, for we are ignorant of many things, even when we have learnt this; as, for instance, how the Infinite is in a womb, how He that contains all things is carried, as unborn, by a woman; how the Virgin bears, and continues a virgin. How, I pray thee, did the Spirit frame that Temple? how did He take not all the flesh from the womb, but a part thereof, and increased it, and fashioned it?
For that He did come forth of the Virgin’s flesh, He hath declared by speaking of “that which was conceived in her;” (Mt 1:20) and Paul, by saying, “made of a woman;” (Gal 4:4) whereby he stops the mouths of them that say, Christ came among us as through some conduit. For, if this were so, what need of the womb? If this were so, He hath nothing in common with us, but that flesh is of some other kind, and not of the mass which belongs to us. How then was He of the root of Jesse? How was He a rod? how Son of man? how was Mary His mother? how was He of David’s seed? how did he “take the form of a servant?” (Phil 2:7) how “was the Word made flesh?”(Jn 1:14) and how saith Paul to the Romans, “Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is God over all?”(Rom 9:5)
Therefore that He was of us, and of our substance, and of the Virgin’s womb, is manifest from these things, and from others beside; but how, is not also manifest. Do not either thou then inquire; but receive what is revealed, and be not curious about what is kept secret.”
Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew Homily IV Matthew 1, 17