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I came across this the other day when reading St. Thomas’ Commentary on Hebrews – the flesh of the high priests’s sacrifice on the Day of Atonement remaining uneaten signified that the saved do not partake of the Old Law. Fascinating!

“743. – Then when he says, We have an altar, from which they have no power to eat who serve the tabernacle, he gives the reason, and it is quite subtle. For, as it is stated in Leviticus (chap. 16), on the tenth day of the seventh month the high priest entered with the blood of a heifer and a goat into the holies because of his own ignorance, and burned their bodies outside the camp. And because it was the priest’s offering, the flesh was not eaten. For whatever they offered for the sin of the priests they did not eat, but burned outside the camp. From that figure the Apostle draws a mystery. For the blood of Christ was prefigured by the blood, as was explained in chapter 9. The heifer and the goat prefigured Christ, because the heifer was the priest’s offering and the goat was immolated for sin. This prefigured that Christ would be immolated for sin: not for His own but for the people’s. Therefore, the immolated heifer and goat is Christ, the Priest, offering Himself for our sins. Therefore, the blood of Christ was brought into the holies and the flesh burned outside the camp. Two things were thereby signified: one, that Christ was immolated in the city by the tongues of the Jews; hence Mark says that He was crucified at the third hour, although He was raised on the Cross at the sixth hour. The other is that by virtue of His Passion Christ brings us within the heavenly holies to the Father. But the fact that the bodies were burned outside the camp, as to our Head, signifies that Christ would suffer outside the gate; but as to us, who are the members, it signifies that Christ is immolated for those who are outside the camp of ceremonies of the Law and of the external senses. For those within the camp did not partake of that flesh. This, therefore, is the figure which the Apostle proposes: first, therefore, he shows what is signified; secondly, he presents the figure (v. 11); thirdly, he draws the conclusion (v. 13).

744. – He says, therefore: Let us strengthen our hearts not with food, but with grace; for we cannot do otherwise, because we have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. That altar is the Cross of Christ, on which He was immolated; or Christ Himself in Whom and by Whom we offer our prayers. This is the golden altar spoken of in Rev (chap. 8). Of that altar, therefore, they have no right to eat, i.e., to receive the fruit of Christ’s passion and to be incorporated into Him as head, who serve the tabernacle of the ceremonies of the Law: ‘If you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing’ (Gal. 5:2). Or they serve the tabernacle of the body, who pursue carnal pleasures: ‘Make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences’ (Rom. 13:14). For such persons received no profit: ‘He that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgement to himself’ (1 Cor. 11:29). But the body is called a tabernacle, because we dwell in it as in a war against enemies and it remains a short while: ‘The laying away of my tabernacle is at hand’ (2 Pt. 1:14). Therefore, it should not be served.”

“O Florinus, this teaching is not that transmitted to us by the ancients, the disciples of the apostles. I used to behold thee at the side of Polykarp; though shining at court thou didst none the less seek to be pleasing unto him. I was then but a child, yet the things that happened at that time are more vivid in my recollection than those of yesterday; for indeed childhood’s memories form, as it were, a part of the very soul; they grow with her. I could point out the very spot where sat blessed Polykarp while he conversed with us; I could describe exactly his bearing, his address, his manner of life, his every feature, and the discourses he made to the crowd. Thou remembers how he used to tell us of his intercourse with John and the rest of those that had seen the Lord, and with what a faithful memory he repeated their words; what he had learnt from them respecting our Lord, his miracles, his doctrine, all these things Polycarp transmitted to us, as having himself received them from the very men that had beheld with their eyes the Word of life; all of what he told us was conformable to the Scriptures. What a grace from God were these conversations of his! I used to listen so eagerly, noting everything down, not on parchment, but on my heart; and now, by the grace of God, I still live on it all. Hence, I can attest before God, if the blessed apostolic old man had heard discourses such as thine he would have stopped his ears, saying, as was his wont: ‘O God most good, to what sort of times hast thou reserved us!’ Then would he have got up quickly, and would have fled from that place of blasphemy.”

~ St. Irenaeus, Epist. ad Florinum

If we are willing to believe in virgin births, resurrections, and multiplications of loaves, then why not the transmission and preservation of the Gospel in an unwritten form?

Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!

“He that is signified by the shepherd is also meant by the woman. Jesus is God; He is the Wisdom of God. And because good coin must bear the image of the king upon it, therefore was it that the woman lost her groat when man, who had been created after God’s image, strayed from that image by committing sin. But the woman lights a lamp; the Wisdom of God hath appeared in human flesh. A lamp is a light which burns in a vessel of clay; and Light in a vessel of clay, is the Divinity of our flesh. It is of the vessel of His Body, that this Wisdom says: ‘My strength is dried up like a potsherd’ (Ps XXI. 16). For, just as clay is made hard by the fire, so His strength was dried up like a potsherd, because it has strengthened unto the glory of His resurrection, in the crucible of sufferings, the Flesh which He (Wisdom) had assumed…Having found the groat she had lost, the woman calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying: Rejoice with me! because I have found the groat which I had lost. Who are these friends and neighbors, if not the heavenly spirits, who are so near to divine Wisdom by the favors they enjoy of the ceaseless vision? But we must not, meanwhile, neglect to examine why this woman, who represents divine Wisdom, is described as having ten groats, one of which she loses, then looks for, and again finds. We must know, then, that God made both angels and men, that they might know Him; and that having made both immortal, He made both to the image of God. The woman, then, had ten groats, because there are nine orders of angels, and man, who is to fill up the number of the elect, is the tenth groat; he was lost by his sin, but was found again, because eternal Wisdom restored him, by lighting the lamp, that is, by assuming his flesh, and through that working wonderful works, which led to his recovery.”

~ Homil. XXXIV. in Evangelia

Is there anything more inspiring than the Fathers commentating on Scripture (other than St. Thomas, of course)?

If there is something like ‘political imprinting’, Helmut Kohl was part of mine. When I first became aware of such a thing as politics, as a pre-teen during the ‘Wende’ in 1989, Kohl appeared to me as ‘the’ Chancellor of western Germany, a fixture you identified with the office itself. For more than ten years, he was an entirely negative figure to communist-y (PDS-voting) me. My conversion to the Catholic Church fell into the Schröder chancellorship. Since then, there have been a number of elections at various levels during which I decided, somewhat reluctantly, that the ‘Christian’ Democrats (CDU) might at least be the ‘least evil’ among the available options – something absolutely ‘not done’ among my family and basically all my non-Catholic friends. During parliamentary elections, however, I might quite likely not have decided this way had Kohl, not Merkel, been CDU candidate for chancellorship.

When I checked the news last night after a very busy working day, I stumbled upon the simple fact of Kohl’s death as already old news, all news outlets having moved on to the specifics of the funeral and reviews of Kohl’s career already. Politically ill-educated me, through lack of information or else through instinct, did not like Kohl. He was born the same year as my grandmother, but lived more than six years longer: when I so much would have preferred it the other way round. His health was not good, and his death to be expected, and yet – upon reading that he had died, I felt like punched into the gut for the very fact, perhaps, that an era of history through which I grew up was now finally at an end.

And in spite of all I might still feel worthy of criticism:

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.  Requiescat in pace. Amen.

Zion, to Thy Savior sing,
to Thy Shepherd and Thy King!
Let the air with praises ring!
All thou canst, proclaim with mirth,
far higher is His worth
than the glory words may wing.

Lo! before our eyes and living
is the Sacred Bread life-giving,
theme of canticle and hymn.
We profess this Bread from heaven
to the Twelve by Christ was given,
for our faith rest firm in Him.

Let us form a joyful chorus,
may our lauds ascend sonorous,
bursting from each loving breast.
For we solemnly record
how the Table of the Lord
with the Lamb’s own gift was blest.

On this altar of the King
this new Paschal Offering
brings an end to ancient rite.
Shadows flee that truth may stay,
oldness to the new gives way,
and the night’s darkness to the light.

What at Supper Christ completed
He ordained to be repeated,
in His memory Divine.
Wherefore now, with adoration,
we, the Host of our salvation,
consecrate from bread and wine.

Words a nature’s course derange,
that in Flesh the bread may change
and the wine in Christ’s own Blood.
Does it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of light transcending,
leaps to things not understood.

Here beneath these signs are hidden
priceless things, to sense forbidden;
signs, not things, are all we see.
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
yet is Christ in either sign,
all entire confessed to be.

And whoe’er of Him partakes,
severs not, nor rends, nor breaks:
all entire, their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousand eat,
all receive the selfsame meat,
nor do less for others leave.

Both the wicked and the good
eat of this celestial Food:
but with ends how opposite!
With this most substantial Bread,
unto life or death they’re fed,
in a difference infinite.

Nor a single doubt retain,
when they break the Host in twain,
but that in each part remain
what was in the whole before;
For the outward sign alone
may some change have undergone,
while the Signified stays one,
and the same forevermore.

Hail! Bread of the Angels, broken,
for us pilgrims food, and token
of the promise by Christ spoken,
children’s meat, to dogs denied!
Shown in Isaac’s dedication,
in the Manna’s preparation,
in the Paschal immolation,
in old types pre-signified.

Jesus, Shepherd mild and meek,
shield the poor, support the weak;
help all who Thy pardon sue,
placing all their trust in You:
fill them with Your healing grace!
Source of all we have or know,
feed and lead us here below.
grant that with Your Saints above,
sitting at the feast of love
we may see You face to face.
Amen. Alleluia.

O eternal God! O eternal Trinity! Through the union of Thy Divine nature Thou hast made so precious the Blood of Thy only-begotten Son! O eternal Trinity, Thou art as deep a mystery as the sea, in whom the more I seek, the more I find; and the more I find, the more I seek. For even immersed in the depths of Thee, my soul is never satisfied, always famished and hungering for Thee, eternal Trinity, wishing and desiring to see Thee, the True Light.

O eternal Trinity, with the light of understanding I have tasted and seen the depths of Thy mystery and the beauty of Thy creation. In seeing myself in Thee, I have seen that I will become like Thee. O eternal Father, from Thy power and Thy wisdom clearly Thou hast given to me a share of that wisdom which belongs to Thine Only-begotten Son. And truly hast the Holy Spirit, who procedeth from Thee, Father and Son, given to me the desire to love Thee.

O eternal Trinity, Thou art my maker and I am Thy creation. Illuminated by Thee, I have learned that Thou hast made me a new creation through the Blood of Thy Only-begotten Son because Thou art captivated by love at the beauty of Thy creation.

O eternal Trinity, O Divinity, O unfathomable abyss, O deepest sea, what greater gift could Thou givest me then Thy very Self? Thou art a fire that burns eternally yet never consumed, a fire that consumes with Thy heat my self-love. Again and again Thou art the fire who taketh away all cold heartedness and illuminateth the mind by Thy light, the light with which Thou hast made me to know Thy truth.

By this mirrored light I know Thou are the highest good, a good above all good, a fortunate good, an incomprehensible good, an unmeasurable good, a beauty above all beauty, a wisdom above all wisdom, for Thou art wisdom itself, the the food of angels, the fire of love that Thou givest to man.

Thou art the garment covering our nakedness. Thou feedest our family with Thy sweetness, a sweetness Thou art from which there is no trace of bitterness. O Eternal Trinity!

~ St. Catherine of Siena

“And now, my dear Son [Msgr. Cloutier, Bishop of Three Rivers, Canada], if you desire that God should bless your Apostolate and make it fruitful, undertake everything for His glory, saturate yourself and your devoted fellow-workers with the spirit of Jesus Christ, animating yourself and them with an intense inner life. To this end, I can offer you no better guide than The Soul of the Apostolate, by Dom Chautard, a Cistercian Abbot. I warmly recommend this book to you, as I value it very highly, and have myself made it my bedside book.”

And from the words of Chautard in the Prologue to his great work, “O God, infinitely good and great, wonderful indeed are the truths that faith lays open to us, concerning the life which Thou leadest within Thyself: and these truths dazzle us. Father all holy, Thou dost contemplate Thyself forever in the Word, Thy perfect image – Thy word exults in rapt joy at Thy beauty – and, Father and Son, from Your joint ecstasy, leaps forth the strong flame of love, the Holy Spirit. You alone, O adorable Trinity, are the interior life, perfect, superabundant, and infinite. Goodness unlimited, You desire to spread this, Your own inner life, everywhere outside Yourself. You speak: and Your works spring forth out of nothingness, to declare Your perfections and to sing Your glory. Between You and the dust quickened by Your breath, there is a deep abyss: and this, Your Holy Spirit wishes to bridge. Thus He will find a way of satisfying His immense need to love, to give Himself. And therefore He calls forth, from Your bosom, the decree that we become divine. Wonder of wonders! This clay, fashioned by Your hands, will have the power to be deified, and share in Your eternal happiness. Your Word offers Himself for the fulfillment of this work. And He is made flesh, that we may become gods. And yet, O Word, Thou hast not left the bosom of Thy Father. It is there that Thy essential life subsists, and it is from this source that the marvels of Thy apostolate are to flow. O Jesus, Emmanuel, Thou dost hand over to Thy apostles Thy Gospel, Thy Cross, Thy Eucharist, and gives them the mission to go forth and beget for Thy Father, sons of adoption. And then Thou dost return, ascending, to Thy Father. Thine, henceforth, O Holy Spirit, is the care of sanctifying and directing the Mystical Body of the God-man. Thou deignest to take unto Thyself fellow-workers, in Thy function of bringing, from the Head, divine life into the members. Burning with Pentecostal fires, they will go forth to sow broadcast in the minds of all, the word that enlightens, and in all hearts the grace that enkindles. Thus will they impart to men that divine life of which Thou art the fullness.

O Divine Fire, stir up in all those who have part in Thy apostolate, the flames that transformed those fortunate retreat ants in the Upper Room. Then they will be no longer mere preachers of dogma or moral theology, but men living to transfuse the Blood of God into the souls of men. Spirit of Light, imprint upon their minds, in characters that can never be erased, this truth: that their apostolate will be successful only in the measure that they themselves live that supernatural inner life of which Thou are the sovereign PRINCIPLE and Jesus Christ the SOURCE. O infinite Charity, make their wills burn with thirst for the interior life. Penetrate and flood their hearts with Thy sweetness and strength, and show them that, even here on this earth, there is no real happiness except in this life of imitation and sharing in Thine own life and in that of the Heart of Jesus in the bosom of the Father of all mercy and all kindness.

O Mary Immaculate, Queen of the apostles, deign to bless these simple pages. Grant that all who read them may really understand that, if it please God to use their activity as an ordinary instrument of His Providence, in pouring out His heavenly riches upon the souls of men, this activity, if it is to produce any results, will have to participate, somehow, in the nature of the Divine Act as Thou didst behold it in the bosom of God when He, to Whom we owe the power of calling thee our Mother, became incarnate in the virginal womb.”

 

And elsewhere, “The professor who has no interior life imagines he has done all that is required of him if he keeps within the limits of the program of his examination. But if he is a man of prayer some word will now and again slip out, not only from his lips but from his heart: some sentiment or other will show itself in his expression, some significant gesture will escape him, yes, the mere way he makes the sign of the Cross, or says a prayer before or after class – even a class in mathematics! – may have a more profound influence on his students that a whole sermon.”

 

Read it! 🙂

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