Christmastide: January 2008 Archives

The Lord, He is God

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How I love this painting by Botticelli (1445–1510)! Saint Jerome is kneeling in his nightshirt in front of his bed. His cardinalatial red hat hangs on the wall behind him. Over his bed is a crucifix with three palms. Saint Jerome receives the Sacred Host from the hands of the priest, Saint Eusebius. Note the beautiful chasuble that Saint Eusebius is wearing, and the apparels on his alb. The most beautiful elements are the painting are the six human faces, all focused on the Body of Christ that a kneeling Saint Jerome is about to receive on his tongue.

January 9


Wednesday After the Epiphany

1 John 4:11-18
Psalm 71: 1-2, 10, 12-13
Mark 6:45-52


How does one discern an authentic spiritual epiphany from something cooked up by our own imagination or desires? First, every authentic epiphany compels one to adore. One cannot experience the Thrice-Holy God without falling to one’s knees (at least inwardly), without humbling oneself, without confessing the sovereign majesty of God. Do you remember what the people did on Mount Carmel, after Elijah prayed and fire descended from heaven to consume the holocaust? “When all the people saw this, they fell on their faces, and they said: The Lord, He is God, the Lord, He is God” (3 K 18:19).


Yesterday, L’Osservatore Romano contained an article by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda, Kazakhstan. It was an invitation to reconsider the traditional practice of receiving Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. L’Osservatore Romano does not publish mere opinions; one of its functions is to educate Catholics. The kernel of Bishop Schneider’s argument is this: “If some nonbeliever arrived [at Mass at the moment of Holy Communion] and observed such an act of adoration, perhaps he, too, would fall down and worship God, declaring, ‘God is really in your midst.’” Adoration — an adoration that is expressed bodily, that is enfleshed — is the human response to every epiphany of the Divine.


Second, every authentic spiritual epiphany calls one to obedience, that is, to conversion of life, to change. After the experience of God, one cannot return to “business as usual.” The Christian life is dynamic. It is movement and it is change, or it is nothing at all. The soul that is not going forward is regressing. This is what Saint Paul means when he says in Second Corinthians that, “we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).


Third, every authentic spiritual epiphany produces peace in the soul. When Our Lord visits a soul by His grace, He leaves behind the impression of a parting kiss, a kiss of ineffable peace. So-called spiritual experiences that leave one in a feverish state of confusion and unrest are not of God. The devil can counterfeit any number of spiritual experiences and charisms, but he cannot counterfeit what Saint Paul calls, “the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding” (Phil 4:7).


Epiphany Inscription Over the Doorway of the Home
20 + C + M + B + 08

The letters have two meanings. They are the initials of the traditional names of the Three Magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They also abbreviate the Latin words “Christus mansionem benedicat.” “May Christ bless the house.” The letters recall the day on which the inscription is made, as well as the purpose of blessing.

The crosses represent the protection of the Precious Blood of Christ, whom we invoke, and the holiness of the Three Magi sanctified by their adoration of the Infant Christ. The inscription is made above the front door, so that all who enter and depart this year may enjoy God’s blessing. The month of January still bears the name of the Roman god Janus, the doorkeeper of heaven and protector of the beginning and end of things. This blessing “christens” the ancient Roman observance of the first month. The inscription is made of chalk, a product of clay, which recalls the human nature taken by the Adorable and Eternal Word of God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

To bless your home this Epiphany, read the Prologue of Saint John’s Gospel, followed by the Our Father, and the Collect of the Epiphany; then write the inscription for this year above your front door with blessed chalk.

I will bless chalk at the end of Holy Mass on the Epiphany, after the Postcommunion and before the Dismissal, using the traditional text as translated by Father Weller:

Sed quid invenientibus?

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Among the Cistercians

A tender and burning love for the Holy Name of Jesus found expression in the lyrical preaching of Saint Bernard and the other twelfth century Cistercian Fathers. In the medieval Cistercian pharmacy of souls, the Name of Jesus was the miracle medicine: the antidote for coldness of heart, bitterness, sadness, fear, lust, greed, vengeance, and every manner of spiritual ill. Today’s Office includes a hymn long attributed to Saint Bernard: Iesu, Dulcis Memoria.

Thirteenth Century

In the thirteenth century, the sweetness of the Name of Jesus inebriated Saint Gertrude and the other Helfta mystics. The itinerant preaching of the Friars, both Franciscan and Dominican, introduced devotion to the Sacred Name to the hearts and homes of lay Christians great and small. The Archconfraternity of the Holy Name, known in the United States as the Holy Name Society, grew out of the labours of Saint Bernardino of Siena and Saint John of Vercelli, both ardent apostles of the Name of Jesus.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory