Category Archives: Blessed Virgin Mary

Mass of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour

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Introit
Rejoice we all in the Lord, as we keep festival in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary: whose solemnity makes angels joyful and sets them praising the Son of God. V. Joyful the thoughts that well up from my heart, I shall speak of the works of the King (Ps 44:2).

Gaudeamus is a magnificent festal chant originally composed for the virgin martyr Saint Agatha, and then adapted to other occasions. It is used on a number of other feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, making it familiar enough to be sung with a certain jubilant ease. The gentle balancing of the first mode melody evokes the ceaseless, sweeping joys of the heavenly liturgy celebrated by “the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands” (Ap 5:11). The verse, drawn from Psalm 44, the exuberant messianic wedding song, is placed in the mouth of the Church, the Bride of Christ, as she declares the wonders wrought through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of Perpetual Help.

Collect
Lord Jesus Christ, by whose gift Mary Thy Mother, whose glorious image we revere, is our Mother too, and ready at all times to succour us, we pray Thee grant, that we who earnestly beg her maternal help, may be counted worthy to reap through all eternity the fruit of Thy redeeming work. Thou who art God living and reigning with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

As are many liturgical prayers of recent composition, the Collect is addressed to Christ rather than to the Father. Orations addressed to the Son are exceptional in the Roman liturgy; in the East they are the norm. While it is not traditional to direct the Collect to the Son in the classic Roman liturgy, there are moments when it can be quite fitting to do so. The feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help may be one of those moments.

The Collect refers straightaway to the gift of the Virgin Mary’s motherhood extended to every disciple of her Son, the very mystery that will be evoked in the Gospel; and to the veneration of her glorious image. It acknowledges that Mary is perpetually ready to help us, and asks that, through her motherly power, we may reap through all eternity the fruit of Christ’s redemption. The last phrase is certainly an allusion to the charism of the Redemptorists, custodians of the miraculous icon and, in the tradition of Saint Alphonsus, tireless preachers of Mary’s universal mediation and inexhaustible clemency.

Lesson (Ecclesiasticus 24:23-31)
As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope. In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue. Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb. My memory is unto everlasting generations. They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst. He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin. They that explain me shall have life everlasting.

I so regret that the modern reformed liturgy uses this text so sparingly in the context of Marian feasts. It is quoted by all the great Marian doctors and mystics. It articulates the ineffable experience of those who, having consecrated themselves to Mary, found themselves inwardly changed. The very last line is a promise to those who promote the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help and explain its significance.

Gradual
All lovely and gentle art thou, daughter of Sion; beautiful as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army drawn up for battle (Ct 6:3,9). V. What blessing the power of the Lord hath granted thee, making use of thee to bring our enemies to nothing (Jud 13:22).

The Gradual artfully juxtaposes two traditional Marian texts. In the Canticle of Canticles the Church sees her as lovely, gentle, beautiful, radiant and . . . terrible as an army drawn up for battle. The imagery is related to that of the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apocalypse 12:1). The verse from the book of Judith says that it has pleased God to grant Mary a singular blessing, that of bringing our enemies to nothing. Again, this reflects the experiece of the Church through the ages, as well as the intimate experience of the saints who, in the thick of spiritual combat, had recourse to Mary and prevailed over the powers of darkness.

Alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women (Lk 1:28). Alleluia.

The Alleluia Verse repeats the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation at Nazareth; but here the words of the Angel serve to introduce another annunciation, the words of Jesus from the Cross on Calvary.

Gospel (John 19:25-27)
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own.

The words of Our Lord to His beloved disciple, “Behold thy mother,” are an invitation to contemplate Mary. In the context of today’s feast of the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Perpetual Help, the words of the Crucified invite us to behold our Mother as she is depicted in her miraculous image. “And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own” (Jn 19:27). Wheresoever the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is given a place of honour, Mary herself is welcomed and received there. It has been said that there is scarcely a family in Ireland without an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I have heard similar reports coming from the Philippines and from Haiti. When families, communities, and individuals welcome an image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in their homes, they are, in effect, imitating the Apostle Saint John. The presence of the icon expresses a spiritual desire to abide with Mary and to remain beneath her gaze in an attitude of total consecration to her.

Offertory
Remember, O Virgin Mother, where thou standest before the face of God, to plead on our behalf, and to avert His anger from us (Jer 18:20).

The Church lifts this text directly from the prophet Jeremias and, in the liberty that comes from the Holy Ghost, addresses it to the Virgin Mother. The antiphon acknowledges that Mary stands before the face of God to plead on our behalf: a clear allusion to her role as Mediatrix and Advocate. As Mediatrix, Mary participates in the work of her risen and ascended Son; as Advocate, she participates in the work of the Holy Spirit. We ask her to plead on our behalf that, in spite of our sins, the anger of God may be turned away from us.

Secret
By thy gracious mercy, O Lord, and at the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, let this offering bring us prosperity and peace, now and forevermore. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who is God, living and reigning with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

Here the gracious mercy of God and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin meet. The Most Holy Eucharist is the fulfillment of what God, in His mercy, seeks to give us, and of what Mary, in her maternal solicitide, seeks to obtain for us: prosperity and peace.

Communion
Most worthy Queen of the world, O Mary ever-virgin, who didst bear Christ, the Lord and Saviour of us all, intercede for our peace and salvation.

It is unusual that a Communion Antiphon should be addressed to the Mother of God. Here the Church calls her “most worthy Queen of the world” and “Mary ever-virgin who didst bear Christ, the Lord and Saviour of us all.” All who partake of the Sacred Mysteries become, with Mary, bearers of Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all. The peace and salvation for which we ask Mary’s intercession, are given us sacramentally in Holy Communion.

Postcommunion
May the august intercession of Thy immaculate and ever-virgin Mother Mary help us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that through her lovingkindness, we, upon whom she has heaped lasting benefits, may be freed from every peril and made one in heart and mind. Thou who art God, living and reigning with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever.

This prayer alludes to the countless favours attributed to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. She has, in fact, “heaped lasting benefits” on those devoted to her. She continues to do so. We ask that we may be freed from the perils that threaten our souls and bodies, and we pray that the full effect of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be given us, that is: oneness in heart and mind.

Beginning Afresh

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Benedictines Always Beginning Again
We began today, once again, the reading of the Holy Rule from the beginning. In Benedictine life, we are always beginning again. This is, I think, one of the characteristic graces of Benedictine life: a supernatural optimism, born of confidence in the all–sufficient grace of Jesus Christ. He speaks to each one, saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Hearing this word of Christ and taking it to heart, one will always have the grace to begin afresh. For one who relies on Christ, there is an inexhaustible spring of hope. It is this that allows one to begin again, and again, and again.

Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart; willingly receive and faithfully fulfil the admonition of thy loving Father, that thou mayest return by the labour of obedience to Him from Whom thou hadst departed through the sloth of disobedience. To thee, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever thou art that, renouncing thine own will, dost take up the strong and bright weapons of obedience, in order to fight for the Lord Christ, our true king. In the first place, whatever good work thou beginnest to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect; that He Who hath now vouchsafed to count us in the number of His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He hath given us, that not only may He never, as an angry father, disinherit his children, but may never, as a dreadful Lord, incensed by our sins, deliver us to everlasting punishment, as most wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory. (Prologue of the Holy Rule)

The Loveliest Month of the Year
I have always felt it entirely suitable that we should begin a new reading of the Holy Rule at the very beginning of the month of May, “the loveliest month of the year”. Francis Duggan describes May in Ireland:

The countryside has never looked so green
And spring has reached her prime in the northern hemisphere
And the wild birds sing from dawn till dark of day
In May the loveliest month of all the year.

Our Lady in the Rule of Saint Benedict
One cannot listen to the reading of the Prologue of the Holy Rule on this second day of May, without relating it to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some would argue that, because the Blessed Virgin Mary is nowhere mentioned in the Rule of Saint Benedict, one should not read her into it. I, on the other hand, would argue that Our Lady has left the fragrance that is unmistakably hers on every page of the Holy Rule, from the first to the last. What Gerard Manley Hopkins writes in his poem, The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe, is perfectly applicable to the Rule of Saint Benedict. Monks are meant to share Mary’s life as life does air.

I say that we are wound
With mercy round and round
As if with air: the same
Is Mary, more by name.
She, wild web, wondrous robe,
Mantles the guilty globe,
Since God has let dispense
Her prayers his providence:
Nay, more than almoner,
The sweet alms’ self is her
And men are meant to share
Her life as life does air.

The Prologue of the Holy Rule begins on a distinctively Marian note: “Hearken, O my son, to the precepts of thy Master, and incline the ear of thine heart”. Behind Saint Benedict’s text, the liturgical ear hears that verse of Psalm 44 that the Church delights in applying to Our Lady:

Hearken, O daughter, and see, and incline thy ear: and forget thy people and thy father’ s house. And the king shall greatly desire thy beauty. (Psalm 44:11–12)

Fra_Angelico_-_Annunciation_(Cell_3)_-_WGA00538The Soul of the Prologue
The best commentary in the world on the beginning of the Prologue of the Holy Rule was written not by a Benedictine, but by a Dominican, a Friar Preacher. One, who would grasp from the heart what Saint Benedict is saying, need only tarry before Blessed Angelico’s depictions of the Annunciation. (I think that a pilgrimage to San Marco in Florence is a most desirable part of the complete Benedictine’s education.) There one will find the soul of the Prologue of the Holy Rule.

The Archangel Gabriel bears the Word from on high. The very Word of whom Saint Thomas sings in his hymn for Lauds of the Office of Corpus Domini.

The Heavenly Word proceeding forth,
yet not leaving the Father’s side,
went forth upon His work on earth
and reached at length life’s eventide.

Maria, Regula Monachorum
The Word arrives in silence. “For while all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her course, Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne” (Wisdom 18:14–15). Look at the Archangel; his whole being expresses silence before the mystery of the Word he has been charged to announce. And here, in this painting, Our Lady is, in her whole person, the icon of the monk such as Saint Benedict would have him be: Maria, regula monachorum. Our Lady is inclining the ear of her heart; she is leaning forward so as to receive the Word. In one hand, the Virgin holds the book of the Sacred Scriptures, marking with her thumb the place where Isaias prophecies: “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaias 7:14). She passes from the word to the Word. In this moment, Mary consents to forsake all things for the sake of the Word, and in this moment, God “greatly desires her beauty” (Psalm 44:12).

The rest of the Holy Rule develops out of this kernel. All 73 chapters are mysteriously contained in the first verse of the Prologue. For one with eyes to see, and with ears to hear, the Rule of Saint Benedict fulfils the yearning of the Bridegroom in the Song of Songs: “Shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely” (Canticle 2:14). Maria, regula monachorum; Mary is the pattern of monks.

Ave — Consummatum est


Good Friday falls this year on the feast of the The Annunciation of the Lord  to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The two mysteries intersect: the “Ave” addressed to the Virgin, and the “Consummatum est” uttered from the Cross. 

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
‘For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?’” (Rom 11:33-34).
“None of the rulers of this age understood this;
for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8).

We find ourselves today at the intersection of two mysteries,
or rather, at the heart of the One Mystery,
indivisible, and yet too rich to be taken in all at once:
Incarnation and Redemption,
Annunciation and Crucifixion,
Conception and Death.

The Western tradition, seeking clarity in distinctions
and respectful of chronos, the ordered time of the universe,
separates, fixing her gaze today on the wood of the Cross,
and promising to return in ten days time
“to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph
of the house of David” (Lk 1:26-27).

The Eastern tradition, spiraling into kairos,
the ever-present immediacy of the God who is, who was, and is to come,
integrates, even liturgically,
the mysteries of the conceiving Virgin
and of the crucified Fruit of her womb.

One might argue as convincingly from one perspective as from the other,
but we are here not to debate but to contemplate.
The mute prostration at the beginning of this solemn liturgy,
— all of humanity flung down before the face of God in the person of the priest —
was an act of utter and unconditional surrender to the Mystery,
not to the Mystery as we see it,
poor myopic creatures, straining to transcend our limited perceptions,
but to the Mystery as it is
in its cruciform “breadth and length and height and depth” (cf. Eph 3:18),
and in “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19).

This is the crucifying and glorious knowledge
of “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8)
by which one is “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).
This is the awareness that, like a sword, pierced the heart of the Virgin Mother,
“standing by the cross of Jesus” (Jn 19:25).
Even she watched him in the painful spasms of death,
she remembered his first stirrings in her womb,
and somehow sensed obscurely,
“as in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12),
that he would stir again beneath the shroud.
But for now, she saw the fruit of her womb
become the fruit of the tree.

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Thirty-three years had passed;
it seemed to her like yesterday.
“Sent by God” (Lk 1:26), that bright, majestic, creature had come to her,
–exquisitely courteous he was, and awful and lovely all at once —
and his greeting still astonished her:
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee:
blessed art thou among women” (Lk 1:28).

She remembered the shock of it,
and how she had “considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29).
Now his voice came to her again, and how she needed to hear it,
to lean on it, to steady herself against it, to cling to it
even as Abraham, “in hope believing against hope” (Rom 4:18),
had clung to the wild promises made by God to him:
“Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God” (Lk 1:30).

To see what she was seeing —
her Child stretched naked on the wood,
his hands and feet pierced,
his whole body bloodied,
his sweet face beneath a cruel crown of thorns —
to see this and yet believe in the word of the Angel
was to feel the two-edged sword’s sharp blade
“piercing to the division of soul and spirit,
of joints and marrow” (Heb 4:12).

Could this be what Simeon meant:
“And thy own soul a sword shall pierce” (Lk 2:35)?
The Angel had said more:
“Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb,
and shalt bring forth a son;
and thou shalt call his name Jesus” (Lk 1:31).
This too she remembered, and lifting her eyes, she read “the inscription over him
in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew” (Lk 23:38):
“Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19).

For a moment she thought of her Joseph
she still missed him so — her friend, her comforter, her rock —
and she remembered what the Angel had said to him as well:
“And thou shalt call his name JESUS.
For he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).
“He shall be great,
and shall be called the Son of the most High;
and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father;
and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever.
And of his kingdom there shall be no end.
And of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Lk 1:32-33).
Tell me, O Gabriel, is this bitter abjection his greatness?
Is this cross of execution his throne?
Is this defeat the inauguration of his kingdom?

Just then the thief crucified beside him spoke,
as if in answer to her torment:
“Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom.”
“And Jesus said to him:
Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:42-43).
For an instant, she turned from the face of her Jesus
to the face of the thief,
and she felt herself a mother to him.
“For those whom God foreknew
he also predestined to be conformed to the image of her Son,
in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (cf, Rom 8:29).

With that, her Jesus spoke,
his gentleness like the breeze in the cool of the day,
his authority undiminished by the scourging, the mockery, and the taunts.
Seeing “his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing near,
he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’
Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold thy mother!’” (Jn 19:25).

This was a new Annunciation, the second one:
the first, thirty-three years ago by the mouth of the Angel Gabriel;
this second one by the mouth of her Son,
lifted up with bloodied arms spread wide in place of shining wings.
Then, as now and forever, “no word shall be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37).
“Woman, behold thy son!” (Jn 19:25).
To this Mary had no answer
apart from the one she had given the Angel then:
“Behold, the handmaid of the Lord;
be it done to me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38).
She was to be mother, mother again and again.
Mother to John, to Dismas, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to James,
mother to “the coming generation” and to “a people yet unborn” (Ps 21:30-31).
Mother of the Church.

“Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: ‘I thirst’” (Jn 19:28)
and she knew in herself the torment that is the thirst of God
and tasted in her mouth the bitter vinegar,
and knew too that this new motherhood was given her
in this new annunciation
to quench the thirst of God with the children of her sorrowful heart:
adorers “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23).
And as she recalled how at Nazareth the Holy Spirit had come upon her
and the power of Most High had overshadowed her (cf. Lk 1:35),
he said, “’It is consummated,’ and bowing his head,
he gave up his spirit” (Jn 19:30).

She lifted her face to receive the breath of his mouth,
and remembered that the Angel too,
having accomplished that for which he was sent from God left her,
leaving God in her womb.
“And the angel departed from her” (Lk 1:38).

Afterwards they took his body down from the cross.
Strange that another Joseph, this one of Arimathea,
should be there helping.
A strong and tender man.
And she remembered her Joseph, also strong and tender,
lifting that tiny newborn body in his calloused hands
to place it in the manger.
And she wept.

They placed his lifeless body in her arms.
He seemed so tired, so spent, so in need of his Sabbath rest.
Bits of a lullaby she used to sing to him went through her mind.
“Sleep, my Yeshua, sleep.
Sleep my Yeshua, sleep until thou wakest.”
She remembered something he had said:
“I will come again and will take thee to myself,
that where I am thou mayest be also” (Jn 14:3).
And she repeated something he had prayed:
“Father, glorify thy Son that thy Son may glorify thee” (Jn 17:1).

They placed him the tomb.
And the stone was rolled across the entrance,
sealing in her heart with his body.
To John she said:
“Come, son, take me home.
‘He has torn, that he may heal us;
he has stricken, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
and on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him’ (Hos 6:1-2).”

And John, saying nothing, looked into her eyes,
just as Jesus had earlier in the day,
and like Jesus, he believed her.

The Eighth Sorrow

Fotografo Enzo LiardoThe eighth Sorrow of my maternal and Immaculate Heart is that my Son is so offended in the Sacrament of His Love. This sorrow of mine will endure until the end of time, when the Real Presence of my Son in the Most Holy Sacrament will give way to the sight of His Divine Majesty.

Then will faith give way to vision, and hope to possession. Then will love be secure and everlasting for all who will have died in the embrace of His Divine Friendship. Until then, know that my maternal Heart suffers and grieves over the irreverence, the coldness, and the ingratitude of so many souls towards the Sacrament of my Son’s undying love.

It is in this Sacrament that He loves His own, loving them to the end — to the end of every created possibility and to the end of this passing world. His Eucharistic Love surpasses all the laws of perishable nature: there is no greater miracle on the face of the earth than the Real Presence of my Son in the Sacrament of the Altar. Even so, He is forsaken, neglected, and handed over to sinners to be betrayed again and again, and this by His chosen ones, His beloved priests, the men whom He chose to be the consolation and joy of His Heart.

This is my own Heart’s eighth Sorrow: the betrayal and neglect of my Son in the Most Holy Eucharist. How is He betrayed? His priests, my own sons, betray Him when they fail to make Him known, when by not teaching the mystery of His Real Presence they leave souls in the darkness of ignorance, without fire or light. They betray my Son when, by their example, they discourage reverence, and adoration, and a loving attention to His presence.

They betray Him when they offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass unworthily, and when they hand Him over to sinners who have no intention of giving Him their hearts and seeking His mercy and His pardon for their sins.

They betray Him when they leave Him alone in locked churches and when they make it difficult or impossible for souls to approach His tabernacles, and rest in the radiance of His Eucharistic Face.

They betray Him when they allow His churches to become places of noise and worldly chatter, and when they do nothing to recall souls to the living Mystery of His Love, that is His presence in the tabernacle.

Shall I tell you more of this eighth Sorrow of my Heart? It is when you are lacking in generosity, when you fail to respond to love with love, when you are not generous
in being present to Him who is present in the Most Holy Eucharist for love of you.

I speak here not only to you, but to all my priest sons and to all consecrated souls who live with my Son under the same roof, and yet treat Him coldly, or casually, or with a distant formality.

This too is the eighth Sorrow of my Heart: that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated quickly, with little reverence, with no thanksgiving, and with all the attention given, not to my Son, the Lamb, but, rather, to the human presence of His minister, who, by calling attention to himself, takes from God what belongs rightly to God alone: the loving attention of every heart during the Holy Mysteries.

What more shall I tell you? Do you not grieve with me over this eighth Sorrow of my Heart, made up of many sorrows repeated again, and again, and again? Grieve with me today, and console my maternal and Immaculate Heart by adoring my Son, the blessed fruit of my womb, and by giving Him all that you are in an immolation of love.

(From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of A Priest)

Ember Wednesday of Lent


Santa Maria Maggiore

One of the graces that comes with living in Rome is the opportunity to go often to the basilica of Saint Mary Major, Santa Maria Maggiore, the stational church of this Ember Wednesday in Lent. The basilica was erected under the patronage of Pope Sixtus III in the wake of the Council Ephesus (431) at which the Immaculate Virgin was solemnly proclaimed Theotókos, that is, Mother of God. The Holy Roman Church expresses her devotion to the Mother of God most notably in the place given to the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in the sacred liturgy. Traditionally, the scrutinies for ordination to the priesthood that take place on the Ember Saturday were held on this day in the basilica dedicated to the Most Holy Virgin of whom Saint Proclus of Constantinople wrote:

O temple, in which God became a priest, not changing our nature, but reclothing it, in his mercy, with that which he is, according to the order of Melchizedek.

Ad Te Levavi
The Introit Psalm is the same one intoned on the First Sunday of Advent in the same stational Church of Saint Mary Major: “To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul. In thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed” (Psalm 24: 1–2).

Moses on Sinai
The First Lesson presents, in the account of Moses entering into the midst of the cloud on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12–18), an image of the priesthood, for every priest is, effectively, called to go apart from the people, to ascend the mountain, and to disappear into the cloud. The same sequence appears in the rites of Holy Mass when the priest, entering the sanctuary, separates himself from the people, ascends the altar steps, and, then, at the beginning of the Canon, disappears into the mystery.

Elias Comforted by an Angel
The Second Lesson gives another image of the priesthood in the prophet Elias. Profoundly discouraged and weary, he sleeps in sorrow. Twice, he is awakened by an angel who says to him: “Arise, eat: for thou hast yet a great way to go” (3 Kings 19:7).  “And he arose, and ate, and drank, and walked in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights, unto the mount of God, Horeb” (3 Kings 19:8)  The Tract that follows, continuing the psalm of the Introit, is the prayer of every priest who says to God, “See my abjection and my labour, and forgive me all my sins”.

Jonas Preaches Penance
The Gospel recounts the preaching of Jonas, a type of every priest of Jesus Christ: “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Prayer and penance go together: the Ninivites represent the works of penance, whereas the Queen of the South, come from afar to hear the wisdom of Solomon, represents the Ecclesia audiens, the listening Church who, in imitation of the Virgo audiens, Mary Most Holy, who “kept all these words, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

With the Virgo Audiens
Our Lady appears explicitly in the Gospel when Our Lord is told that His mother and brethren were standing outside, seeking to speak with Him. Stretching forth His hands to the disciples who were listening to Him, He said: “Behold my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:49–50). The imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, even in the life of the priests, consists in humble listening to the Word, and in obedience to the will of the Father. For this reason, the Offertory Antiphon, which continues the Gospel, has the priest say, in imitation of the Virgin:

I will meditate on thy commandments, which I have loved exceedingly, and I will lift up my hands to thy commandments, which I have loved. (Psalm 118:47–48)

Wavering Hearts
The Secret alludes to the drama of every man’s wavering heart, asking God to correct the inclinations of the heart that make one inconstant and subject to fluctuations. The Communion Antiphon completes the cry of the wavering heart, and develops the prayer already voiced in the Offertory Antiphon:

Give ear, O Lord, to my words, understand my cry. Hearken to the voice of my prayer, O my King and my God. For to thee will I pray: O Lord. (Psalm 5:2–4)

Light to See and Strength to Do
The Prayer Over the People is the petition of a people who, dwelling in darkness, but having heard the call to penance, want to change their lives effectively so as to live in the light:

Enlighten our minds, we beseech Thee, O Lord, with the light of Thy brightness: that we may be able to see what we ought to do, and have strength to do what is right.

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Founded in 2012 in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland, and canonically erected in 2017, Silverstream Priory is a house of monks living under the Rule of Saint Benedict. The monastery is under the patronage of Our Lady of the Cenacle. The monks of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the “Opus Dei” (Work of God, the sacred Liturgy) in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” (Extraordinary Form) of the Roman Rite. As Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration, they aspire to assure ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream offer their life for the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, and a publishing house, the Cenacle Press.

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Audio Homilies

Hundreds of audio homilies from Silverstream Priory may be found on our podcast site here.

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