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September 8th, 2010

Nativity of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary Birth

Today is September 8th and we celebrate Blessed Virgin Mary’s birth.

Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
life everlasting.

Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

­ – – – from The Divine Office – Matins (Morning Prayer)

The birth of Mary was also miraculous. She was conceived without sin as a special grace because God had selected her to become the mother of His Son (the feast of her Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8). The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, though generally believed throughout the Church for many centuries, was formally declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Download Nativity of the Virgin Mary document

There is nothing contained in Scripture about the birth of Mary or her parentage, though Joseph’s lineage is given in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, appear in the apocryphal “Gospel of James”, a book dating from the 2nd Century AD, not part of the authentic canon of Scripture. According to this account, Joachim and Anna were also beyond the years of child-bearing, but prayed and fasted that God would grant their desire for a child.

St. Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.”

If Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.

Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary’s birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.

Prayer:
Father of mercy,
give your people help and strength from heaven.
The birth of the Virgin Mary’s Son
was the dawn of our salvation.
May this celebration of her birthday
bring us closer to lasting peace.
Grant this though our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Also read Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary

April 11th, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday

(Divine Mercy Image © Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, Stockbridge, MA 01263. www.thedivinemercy.org)

Divine Mercy Sunday – This Feast of Mercy is celebrated on the First Sunday after Easter. The Feast of Mercy has an important place among all of the elements of devotion to The Divine Mercy requested by our Lord through Sr. Faustina Kowalska. The Lord made 14 revelations concerning the desired feast.

In fact, Jesus Himself dictated the intentions for each day of the novena which he desired to be celebrated as a preparation for the solemn observance of this feast. Once after insisting, “Do all you possibly can for this work of mercy,” Jesus added: “My Heart rejoices on account of this feast.” Sister Faustina concluded: “After these words, I understood that nothing can dispense me from the obligation which the Lord demands of me”.

The “First Sunday after Easter” ‑ which is designated in “The Liturgy of the Hours and the Celebration of the Eucharist” as the “Octave Day of Easter” ‑ was officially called the Second Sunday of Easter after the liturgical reform of Vatican II. Now, by the Decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the name of this liturgical day has been changed to: “Second Sunday of Easter, or of Divine Mercy.”

Pope John Paul II made the surprise announcement of this change in his homily at the canonization of Sr. Faustina on April 30, 2000. There, he declared: “It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church, will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’

By the words “the whole message,” the Holy Father was referring to the strict connection between the “Easter Mystery of the Redemption” ‑ the suffering, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, followed by the sending of the Holy Spirit ‑ and this Feast of Divine Mercy, the Octave Day of Easter.

By what the Holy Father continued to say, it becomes clear why Jesus insisted that the sacred image of Himself as The Divine Mercy is to be venerated throughout the world in connection with the observance of this Sunday (see Diary, 49, 88, 299, 341, 570, 742). The Holy Father said: “Before speaking these words, Jesus shows His hands and His side. He points, that is, to the wounds of the Passion, especially the wound in His Heart, the source from which flows the great wave of mercy poured out on humanity.

“From that Heart, Sr. Faustina Kowalska, the blessed whom from now on we will call a saint, will see two rays of light shining from that Heart and illuminating the world: ‘The two rays,’ Jesus Himself explained to her one day, ‘represent blood and water’ (Diary,299).

“Blood and water! We immediately think of the testimony given by the Evangelist John, who, when a soldier on Calvary pierced Christ’s side with his spear, sees blood and water flowing from it. Moreover, if the blood recalls the sacrifice of the Cross and the gift of the Eucharist, the water, in Johannine symbolism, represents not only Baptism but also the gift of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5; 4:14; 7:37‑39).

Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the Heart of Christ crucified: ‘Tell, My daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself Jesus will ask of Sr. Faustina. Christ pours out this mercy on humanity through the sending of the Spirit who, in the Trinity, is the Person‑Love. And is not mercy love’s ‘second name’, understood in its deepest and most tender aspect, in its ability to take upon itself the burden of any need and, especially, in its most immense capacity for forgiveness?”

Our Lord’s words to Saint Faustina about this requirement to be merciful are very strong and leave no room for misinterpretation:

“Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be acts of mercy … I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it”.

To fittingly observe the Feast of Mercy, we should:-

1. Celebrate the Feast on the Sunday after Easter;

2. Sincerely repent of all our sins;

3. Place our complete trust in Jesus;

4. Go to Confession, preferably before that Sunday;

5. Receive Holy Communion on the day of the Feast;

6. Venerate the Image of The Divine Mercy;

7. Be merciful to others, through our actions, words, and prayers on their behalf.

To know more on Divine Mercy Sunday, goto website http://divinemercysunday.com

April 2nd, 2010

Good Friday – A Time to Weep

Remembering Good Friday

How might Good Friday lament look in practice?

Psalm 22

First, consider using Psalm 22 prominently, the very psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross. When Jesus spoke the words of Psalm 22, he identified with the sufferings of all the people of Israel who had spoken or sung that psalm before him. When we speak the words of Psalm 22, we identify with our Lord and Savior.

Many churches read Psalm 22:1-18 as a Scripture reading for Good Friday. Others sing a version of Psalm 22 following the traditional Good Friday Old Testament reading from Isaiah 53. (For musical settings of Psalm 22, see Psalter Hymnal 22, Trinity Hymnal 79, Methodist Hymnal752).

Alternatively, consider using Psalm 22 as part of an extended intercessory prayer. Begin Good Friday intercessions with Psalm 22:1-21, followed by extemporaneous prayers of intercession and lament. Then conclude the prayers with verses 22-31, a decisive song of hope that anticipates Easter praise (see also the example that follows on pp. 14-15).

Prayers of Intercession and Lament

In some congregations, an extended time of congregational prayer is the first thing to be cut in planning Good Friday worship. It actually should be one of the most important acts of Good Friday worship.

Prayers of intercession and lament on Good Friday should allow for two things: for those who suffer to express their honest lament and for all worshipers to identify and express solidarity with those who suffer, both in the congregation and in the world at large.

In part, Good Friday lament can be practiced through the use of the full traditional intercessory prayer for Good Friday, just like the one used by the medieval church. This is an example of a medieval liturgical practice that never should have been given up. If you look in most prayer books, you will find a long “solemn prayer” or “solemn intercessions” or “solemn prayer of the faithful” indicated for Good Friday (see, for example, Book of Common Worship [Presbyterian], 283-286 or The Book of Common Prayer [Episcopal], 277-280.) This is the modern-day version of this traditional medieval prayer. Some congregations may wish to use this same prayer in their Good Friday worship. Others may wish to use the comprehensive pattern of this prayer to structure more spontaneous prayers of lament and intercession.

Preaching

Many Good Friday sermons are—appropriately— sermons about salvation, about the way that the cross achieves victory from sin and death. But it’s also appropriate to preach about suffering, both Christ’s and ours. Consider, for example, sermons on the words of Paul that confer mysterious significance on the suffering of those who are united with Christ in death (Col. 1:24; 2 Cor. 1:5, 4:10; Phil. 3:10; also 1 Peter 4:12-16). Some sermons are intended to help people think correctly. But on Good Friday, consider preaching sermons that help worshipers pray more profoundly.

Songs and Hymns

Finally, look for hymns and songs not only about Christ’s passion, but also about the world’s pain and suffering. Many hymn texts explore the link between Christ’s suffering and ours in unforgettable ways. Consider this example:

No pain that we can share
but he has felt its smart.
All forms of human grief and care
have pierced that tender heart.

—O Perfect Lifee of Love, PsH 380, st. 3

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