Happy Solemnity of the Assumption

Today is the feast of the Assumption (called the Dormition in the Eastern Calendars). This festival celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary being assumed, body and soul, into heaven to be with her Son. I hope everyone has a great day celebrating this wonderful event.

St. Leo the Great on the Ascension

And truly great and unspeakable was their cause for joy, when in the sight of the holy multitude [i.e. at the Ascension], above the dignity of all heavenly creatures, the Nature of mankind went up, to pass above the angels’ ranks and to rise beyond the archangels’ heights, and to have Its uplifting limited by no elevation until, received to sit with the Eternal Father, It should be associated on the throne with His glory, to Whose Nature It was united in the Son.

Since then Christ’s Ascension is our uplifting, and the hope of the Body is raised, whither the glory of the Head has gone before, let us exult, dearly-beloved, with worthy joy and delight in the loyal paying of thanks. For today not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but have also in Christ penetrated the heights of heaven, and have gained still greater things through Christ’s unspeakable grace than we had lost through the devil’s malice. For us, whom our virulent enemy had driven out from the bliss of our first abode, the Son of God has made members of Himself and placed at the right hand of the Father, with Whom He lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Pope St. Leo the Great, On the Lord’s Ascension I:IV (Sermon 73)

Photo from Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Euclid, Ohio; taken by Jonathan Bennett

The Magic of Holy Saturday

The magic of Holy Saturday.

The chaotic fountain remains directionless. Could this be the residue of the Son’s love which, poured out to the last when every vessel cracked and the old world perished, is now making a path for itself to the Father through the glooms of nought?

Or, in spite of it all, is this love trickling on in impotence, unconsciously, laboriously, towards a new creation that does not yet even exist, a creation which is still to be lifted up and given shape? Is it a protoplasm producing itself in the beginning, the first seed of the New Heaven and the New Earth?

The spring leaps up even more plenteously. To be sure, it flows out of a wound and is like the blossom and fruit of a wound; like a tree it sprouts up from this wound. But the wound no longer causes pain. The suffering has been left far behind as the past origin and previous source of today’s wellspring.

What is poured out here is no longer a present suffering, but a suffering that has been concluded–no longer now a sacrificing love, but a love sacrificed.

Only the wound is there: gaping, the great open gate, the chaos, the nothingness out of which the wellspring leaps forth. Never again will this gate be shut. Just as the first creation arose ever anew out of sheer nothingness, so, too, this second world – still unborn, still caught up in its first rising – will have its sole origin in this wound, which is never to close again…

High-vaulted triumphal Gate of Life! Armored in gold, armies of graces stream out of you with fiery lances. Deep-dug Fountain of Life! Wave upon wave gushes out of you inexhaustible, ever-flowing, billows of water and blood baptizing the heathen hearts, comforting the yearning souls, rushing over the deserts of guilt, enriching over-abundantly, overflowing every heart that receives it, far surpassing every desire.

-Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Hat tip/full text posted at Titusonenine (Kendall Harmon)

Photo from National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation; taken by Jonathan Bennett

Divine Mercy Novena

Today begins the Divine Mercy Novena which is a powerful nine day set of prayers beginning on Good Friday and ending on Divine Mercy Sunday (the second Sunday of Easter). Jesus appeared to St. Faustina on several occasions as she relates in her diary. Regarding the novena, she wrote that Jesus revealed to her:

On each day of the novena you will bring to My Heart a different group of souls and you will immerse them in this ocean of My mercy… On each day you will beg My Father, on the strength of My passion, for the graces for these souls. By this novena I will grant every possible grace to souls.

To participate in this wonderful practice, you can visit this Divine Mercy Novena page (also used as a source for the above quote). For more information on the chaplet associated with St. Faustina and the novena, you can visit this page on the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

I participated in the chaplet and novena last year and can say that it is a wonderful spiritual practice. I am excited about doing it again this year!

Mother of Sorrows

As we enter into Holy Week it’s hard not to be impressed by the devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her suffering Son throughout the last moments of his life. She was with him through the cruel tortures, through the way of the Cross, and through his final moments on the Cross. Mary suffered along with her Son as he suffered and died for sins of humanity. What a perfect model of Christian humility and sharing in the suffering of Christ. As our Lord, Jesus knows the pain of suffering and so can identify with us as our great high priest. Likewise, in Mary we have one who knew the greatest suffering and is a powerful intercessor and Mother for those who suffer.

O all ye
that pass
by the way
and see
if there be any
like to
my sorrow

Photo from the National Shrine and Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation. Taken by Jonathan Bennett.

Palm Sunday: Lord, Forgive Us

Today is Palm Sunday, the day when we commemorate the entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem as King. Palm Sunday is an important contrast to the events of the rest of Holy Week, especially Good Friday. It’s amazing how human nature can welcome a man with "blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord" and then only a few days  later demand his blood with loud shouts of “crucify him.”

We cannot merely pass this event off as something that happened nearly 2000 years ago and the liturgical reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday reminds us of that. The community reads about Jesus being welcomed as king with palm branches and then each individual, playing the role of the crowd during the trial of Jesus, demands: "crucify him." Our sinfulness caused the death of our Lord and the Palm Sunday liturgy helps us recall that vividly. Sadly all of us also welcome Jesus as Lord daily in our personal lives only to deny him at a later point through our sinfulness. All I can think of as I go through Palm Sunday and Holy Week is: Lord forgive us for what we have done to you!

The Beginning of Lent

Tomorrow Lent officially begins with the fast day of Ash Wednesday. I have always had a great love of Lent ever since I began to keep it somewhat haphazardly as an evangelical. Lent always held a sense of mystery for me because I grew up in an evangelical tradition that never really embraced Lent (but, thankfully didn’t condemn it either; think of it as a "personal option."). I started to become interested in Lent about the same time I took an interest in the Church Fathers.

My first experience with Lent was as an evangelical at university. In a way, I was quite brave because I gave up coffee! It was honestly the hardest Lent I’ve ever been through, but I faithfully didn’t touch a drop until I broke the Lenten fast with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. That was the best cup of coffee I ever had in my entire life! When I became an Anglican I entered into Lent on a more formal level and it was a time of important spiritual growth. After my conversion to Catholicism my love of and participation in Lent has only increased.

In short: I love Lent. I can’t really explain why I look forward to Lent, but I receive an incredible sense of joy throughout these 40 days. There’s something about the "spiritual housecleaning" and sense of detachment and renunciation that brings about great spiritual satisfaction and blessing. I now could never truly know the joy of Easter without the season of Lent and the time of Holy Week and the Triduum. We can’t separate the Cross from the resurrection and we can’t liturgically separate Lent from Easter either: at least not with any theological integrity.

With all other Catholics of a certain age, I will be fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and having meatless Fridays. However, it’s also a venerable custom to “give something up” for Lent or institute positive practices that encourage spiritual growth. This year I’m thinking of giving up adding hot chocolate to my morning coffee. I’m also going to give up going to McDonald’s when I get a craving and getting snacks at the local gas station. I’m also going to read the Church Fathers and the Bible daily. I’m not saying this to brag about my supposed piety, but merely to give suggestions to others.

May God bless you this Lent! (I’m off to McDonalds)

Lent Resources:

All About Lent
Lenten Prayers


Chad has commented here and here.
LutherPunk is excited that Lent is coming
Argent writes about going into the wilderness
John Heard reminds us that we are but dust
St. Peters Helpers gives a great post on preparing for Lent
The Anchoress says there’s something about ashes