23 March 2019

Holy Ground


One of the moments of high drama was when Moses saw the burning bush and heard the voice of God. “Moses, Moses,” God said. And then Moses was told to “put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

Of course, we might say with Christ, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The idea of “holy ground” has been tossed out by many, as we slid into the age of multi-purpose church buildings and horizontal architecture.

It’s clear from scripture that there is supposed to be “holy ground” set apart for God’s worship and glory. And we’re expected to treat such places as truly holy. Part of that expectation includes dressing appropriately for worship, speaking respectfully, and refraining from idle conversation when in holy places. It means having a reverent demeanor when we are in God’s House.

Let’s be careful that our churches aren't seen as little more than ecclesiastical malls, gathering places which are simply for our convenience, rather than what they really are: the very dwelling place of the Incarnate God.

18 March 2019

St. Joseph


Very little is known concerning Joseph, and yet enough is known to reveal what his character was. All that we know of him, we know from the Gospels, and it is there that we see him to be a man who was determined to do what is right in the sight of God, and to do it in a kindly way. He was betrothed to Mary, and according to Jewish practice, betrothal was as sacred as marriage. Because of that, any infidelity before the actual marriage were treated in the same way as infidelity after marriage: death by stoning was the punishment for such sins. By all human appearance, Joseph's beloved betrothed was in just such circumstances, and he had to act in the way that seemed best. Certainly, he was a just man, but he was a kind man, too, and surely what Mary told him made a great demand on his faith. But that is the point: Joseph was, above all, a man of faith and completely obedient to the divine will of Almighty God. When it was revealed to him that Mary was to bear the Incarnate Son of God he took her to be his wife. There was no hesitation, no consideration of what others might think or how they might judge. It mattered little to him that it was assumed he was the human father of this Child -- not that he would have encouraged others to believe such a thing, for he knew the truth -- but it was better than having people think that Mary had shamefully conceived with someone else, and so Joseph took the responsibility, knowing that one day the truth would be known, and that Truth "would make men free." It is in this very situation, brought about by God Himself, that Saint Joseph's justness and kindness are both revealed.

His justness is shown in that he was a devout servant of God, and he ordered his life according to the standard of that law which had been revealed to the Jewish nation. He sought to please God in all things, even when it meant that he would be misunderstood or even harshly judged by the world. And because justness does not exclude kindness, his response to the revelation that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit was one of deep gladness and joy, and so he took his place in God's plan without fear or hesitation. This place was not one of glory; rather, it was one of quiet reserve. Whether on the way to Bethlehem, or in the stable, or at the Child's circumcision on the eighth day, or in the Temple when He was presented, or in everyday life in Nazareth, Joseph simply was there. Loved and respected both by the Incarnate Son of God and by the Mother of God, he was a man of deep piety and gracious character.

Within Saint Paul's Cathedral in London is the tomb of its architect, and on that tomb are the words, "If ye seek his monument, look around you." How much more impressive are those words when they are used of Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church. There could be no greater remembrance of Joseph's holy life, than that glorious Church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ, the foster-son of the quiet, just, kind man of God.

O God, who from the family of thy servant David didst raise up St. Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son and the spouse of his Virgin Mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

17 March 2019

St. Cyril of Jerusalem


Cyril of Jerusalem loved to study the Holy Scriptures from the time he was a child, and he made such progress that he became known for his deep faith. He was eventually ordained priest by St. Maximus, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and he was given the work of preaching to the faithful and instructing those preparing for baptism. His Catechetical Instructions, which explain clearly and fully all the teaching of the Church, still exist today for us to read. His treatment of these subjects is so distinct and clear that he refuted not only the heresies of his own time, but also, by a kind of foreknowledge, he was able to expose heresies which would develop later. Upon the death of Patriarch St. Maximus, Cyril was chosen to be bishop in his place.

As bishop he endured many injustices and sufferings for the sake of the faith at the hands of the Arians. They could not bear his strenuous opposition to their heresy, and so they told lies about him, and drove him into exile. They were so violent against him that he fled to Tarsus in Cilicia, but eventually, with a new emperor and the death of many of his enemies, Cyril was able to return to Jerusalem, where he taught his people and led them away from false doctrine and from sin. If once wasn’t enough, he was driven into exile a second time under the Emperor Valens, but eventually peace returned to the Church, and the Arians were once again brought under control, so he was able to return again to Jerusalem. The earnestness and holiness with which he fulfilled the duties of being bishop were evident in the strength and holiness of the Church in Jerusalem.

Tradition states that God gave a sign of His divine blessing upon the spiritual leadership of Cyril by granting the apparition of a cross, brighter than the sun, which was seen by pagans and Christians alike. Another marvel happened when the Jews were commanded by the wicked Emperor Julian to restore the Temple which had been destroyed. They no sooner began the work when an earthquake happened and great balls of fire broke out of the earth and consumed the work, so that Julian and the Jews were terrified and gave up their plan. This had been clearly foretold by Cyril. He lived long enough to see the Arian heresy condemned, and he died as a beloved and holy bishop, eventually acknowledged to be a doctor of the Church.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that at the intercession of thy blessed Bishop Saint Cyril, we may learn to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent; that we may be found worthy to be numbered for ever among the sheep that hear his voice; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

16 March 2019

St. Patrick, Apostle to Ireland

St. Patrick Shrine
Our Lady of the Atonement Church

St. Patrick is known as the Apostle to Ireland. We’re not sure exactly where he was born, except that it was someplace in Britain. Some claim he was born in England, others say he was born in Scotland, and still others claim he was born in Wales. Wherever his birth took place, the year was about 385, and his parents were Romans, living in Britain, because his father was overseeing the Roman colonies in Britain.

When Patrick was fourteen or so, he was captured during a raid being carried out by Irish invaders, and he was taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. During his time of captivity, he learned the language and practices of the people who held him, and even though he was among them as a slave, he began to love the Irish people.

Patrick's captivity lasted until he was twenty years old, and he then escaped, after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. When he reached the sea, he found some sailors who took him back to Britain, and he was reunited with his family.

The time came when he had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him, "We beg you, Patrick, to come and walk among us once more."

He began his studies for the priesthood, and he was eventually ordained. Subsequently Patrick was consecrated to the episcopacy, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland on March 25, 433, and he came upon a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted this chieftain, and he then began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick's message.

St. Patrick preached throughout Ireland for 40 years, working many miracles and writing of his love for God in his “Confessions.” After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring great suffering, he died on March 17, 461.

O Almighty God, who in thy providence didst choose thy servant Patrick to be an apostle to the people of Ireland, to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error to the true light and knowledge of thee: grant us, by his intercession, so to walk in that light; that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

15 March 2019

Behold our Lord transfigured...


The Gospel reading for the Second Sunday in Lent is the account of our Lord’s transfiguration. The contrast between the sobriety of the season and the splendor of the event makes for a powerful statement.

At the time of the transfiguration St. Peter wanted to build a tabernacle, a permanent dwelling place. He wanted to “capture the moment,” so to speak. By itself, that desire wasn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the time. There was still work to be done, still truth to be learned. The opportunity would afford itself later, after the passion and death, after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. It would be later, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles. It would be then that Peter would have the task. He would be asked to build the Church upon that Rock which was chosen by Jesus Christ Himself.

This would be the tabernacle which needed to be built: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. Not far off on a mountaintop would it be built, but a tabernacle which is to be in the midst of the world, allowing everyone to worship the One who lives within it.

Christ gave St. Peter the desire to build and He gave him everything he would need to make the most glorious tabernacle.


Behold our Lord transfigured,
In Sacrament Divine;
His glory deeply hidden,
'Neath forms of Bread and Wine.
Our eyes of faith behold Him,
Salvation is outpoured;
The Saviour dwells among us,
by ev'ry heart adored.

No longer on the mountain
With Peter, James and John,
Our precious Saviour bids us
To walk where saints have gone.
He has no lasting dwelling,
Save in the hearts of men;
He feeds us with His Body,
To make us whole again.

With Moses and Elijah,
We worship Christ our King;
Lord, make our souls transfigured,
Let us with angels sing.
Lead us in paths of glory,
Give tongues to sing thy praise;
Lord Jesus, keep us faithful,
Now and for all our days.

Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: "Ewing" by Alexander C. Ewing, 1853

09 March 2019

First Sunday in Lent


O Lord who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

08 March 2019

St. John of God


St. John of God was born at the end of the 15th century. He tended to be a very impulsive person, from the time he was a child. When he was prompted to do something, he usually stuck with it, no matter what – which is fine, if the prompting comes from God, but it can make life difficult if it’s something from your own imagination.

When he was only eight years old, John heard a someone talking about all the adventures there were out in the world, and so young John took it into his head to run away to seek his fortune. He never saw his parents again, but instead spent time on the road, begging his way from village to town, until he became very sick. A kind man and his family nursed him back to health, and John stayed with them, working as a shepherd until he was 27 years old. Feeling the urge to travel again, John joined the Spanish army, which was at that time in a war against France. As a soldier, he was hardly a model of holiness, taking part in the gambling, drinking, and the wild life along with his comrades. One day, he was thrown from a stolen horse near French lines. Frightened that he would be captured or killed, he reviewed his life and vowed impulsively to make a change.

He took on all sorts of physically hard work – unloading ship cargoes, building fortifications, anything he could find to earn a living. He would work hard all day, but then in the evening he would visit churches, and spend time reading spiritual books. Reading gave him so much pleasure that he decided that he should share this joy with others. He quit his job and became a book peddler, traveling from town to town selling religious books and holy cards. Finally, when he was 41 years old, he came to Granada where he sold books from a little shop.

After hearing a sermon on repentance, he was so overcome by the thought of his sins that the whole town thought he had gone crazy. After hearing the sermon John rushed back to his shop, tore up any secular books he had, gave away all his religious books and all his money. With his clothes torn and constantly crying, he was the target of insults, jokes, and even stones and mud from the townspeople and their children.

Some friends took him to a hospital for the insane. Eventually, the priest who had preached the sermon that had affected John so much, came to see him, and told him that he had gone on like this enough, so John was moved to a better part of the hospital, and where he was free to move about. Although still a patient, he began to help the other sick people around him. In fact, this experience made him decide to start his own hospital for the poor and those who had no one to care for them. He had no money for a building, so he went to the poor and homeless wherever they were – in abandoned buildings or under bridges – and he called those places his hospital. He continued to beg for money, and eventually found a very poor house which gave him a location where he could bring the sick and nurse them.

One day he heard that the hospital where he had been a patient was on fire. He immediately ran there and found that no one was doing anything. He entered the building and carried out the patients one by one, and then went back in to get as much of the contents as he could. As the fire burned more fiercely, he fell through the weakened timbers, and everyone thought he was dead – but almost miraculously, he walked out of the flames, unhurt.

John was ill himself when he heard that a flood was bringing precious driftwood near the town. He jumped out of bed to gather the wood from the raging river. Then when one of his companions fell into the river, John without thought for his illness or safety jumped in after him. He failed to save the boy and caught pneumonia. He died on March 8, his fifty-fifth birthday, of the same impulsive love that had guided his whole life.

John of God is patron saint of booksellers, printers, heart patients, hospitals, nurses, the sick, and firefighters and is considered the founder of the Brothers Hospitallers.

O God, who didst cause blessed John, by the fire of thy love, to pass unhurt amid the flames, and through him didst enrich thy Church with a new offspring: grant, by the pleading of his merits; that our vices may be healed by the fire of thy charity, and that we may obtain thine eternal healing; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 March 2019

The Closed Triptych


The triptych at the High Altar is in its closed position for Lent. It depicts the Annunciation, the mystical beginning of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE FRONT PANELS
(when the triptych is in the closed position)

The front panels of the triptych are painted in the traditional grisaille, a technique using only shades of gray.

The mystery of our salvation begins with the Good News of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. It is this scene that occupies the top register of the work. The Archangel Gabriel is announcing the tidings of Great Joy. He carries the staff of his authority, an iconographic symbol that has roots deep in antiquity. He is vested with a cope and the crossed stole of a priest. His stole bears the following inscriptions:

MATER AMORIS, DOLORIS ET MISERICORDIAE, ORA PRO NOBIS.
Mother of love, of sorrow and of mercy, pray for us.

GAUDE, MARIA, CUNCTAS HERESES SOLA INTEREMISTI IN UNIVERSO MUNDO.
Rejoice, Mary, thou alone has put down all heresies in the whole world.

The inscription honors the title under which this parish honors the Virgin Mary: Our Lady of the Atonement. The stole of the Archangel ends in the coat of arms of Pope John II, the Cross of Jesus, and the initial “M” of the Mother of God.

The Archangel announces “Ave Maria, Dominus Tecum.” The script for this inscription is based on early Gothic capitals of the late 11th century found in manuscripts on the Oxford Collections.

With the hearing of the greeting and the assent of the Virgin Mary, Jesus enters into the world. Following the tradition of the Middle Ages, the tiny figure of the Christ is located above the Archangel. Jesus is carrying a scarlet cross signifying His Passion and Death. This figure is the only color found on these panels other that the grisaille. Jesus is the Light of Life. He cuts into the grayness and darkness of our world with His glory and His power. His is the only figure represented that does not cast a shadow, for there is nothing of darkness about Him.

Gabriel, the holy Archangel, is flanked by two small figures in niches at the tops of the pillars. The tips of his wings cover the image of Eve, our first mother, our earthly mother. His wings shadow her body. No longer are we bound by the fact of the sin that she brought into the world. There is a new life beginning here, not subject to sin and death. Thus her body, representing human birth, is covered in the light of this Annunciation mystery.

Across from Eve is Adam, her husband. The side of our first parent still bears the mark of his missing rib, through which God first created Woman.

The Most Holy Mother of God attends to the Angelic presence. She had been at prayer, as is evidenced by the opened book. However, even at prayer she was in darkness. Her prayer was based on the Old Testament. These scriptures are without the fullness of the Life and Light of Christ. At this very moment there is only one Light in the world, Jesus Christ. The extinguished candle bears mute testimony to the ineffectiveness of natural light when compared to the brilliance of the Christ.

The Virgin responds, “Ecce ancilla Domini.” Her response is painted in such a way that God the Father may “see” her answer. This upside-down painting was a common element of these Annunciation depictions.

The Blessed Mother also is flanked by two images in the pillar niches; the prophet Isaiah, holding his scroll of prophecy about the Virgin, and John the Precursor, who will prepare the way for the Infant brought into the world this day. Saint John holds the Lamb, the representation of the Christ. The Virgin Mary also learns that her kinswoman Elizabeth will bear a son, John, portrayed here. These two figures are different from Adam and Eve. They are not static. Moving out of their niches, taking an active part in the drama, they “rejoice” to see this day.

Above the Mother of God, the Holy Ghost hovers and overshadows. His wings stretch out and cover her with the love and favor of the Eternal God. Next to the Virgin are her traditional lilies, the symbol of her purity. These lilies are topped with three unopened buds, calling to mind the Most Holy Trinity, and with the birth of Christ this Trinity will burst forth into the world. Placed with the lilies are gladioli. The name “”gladiolus” is Latin for “the sword flower,” recalling the sword of sorrow which would pierce the heart of Mary, reminding us of her role in the Atonement of mankind as she stands at the foot of the cross. The angels in the lower registers call to mind the bitter, pain-filled death of Jesus.

They attend the Lord and carry next to their hearts the instruments of the Passion. Yet while they keep this redemptive death before us, they also remind us of the Risen and Glorious Lord, for their gaze and attention are fixed on the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament resides.

Behind both figures there is a repeated symbolic pattern. The center of the pattern is a stylized Tudor rose, a reference to the English roots of the liturgical traditions found at Our Lady of the Atonement Church. From this rose blossoms a lily, for out of the Anglican tradition blossomed the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement. This flower again calls to mind the patronage of Saint Joseph. The lily also reminds us of the generosity of Colonel and Mrs. Robert E. Joseph, Sr., whose gift provided this reredos for the church. Springing from this lily are three nails which refer to the atoning Sacrifice of Jesus and the congregation’s struggle to find a place in the Church. These symbols of pain are crowned with a shield bearing the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II. His coat of arms is wreathed in the laurel crown of victory. Then crowning all this are more lilies, bursting forth in glory and beauty.

The Angel of the Pillar clutches the pillar at which Christ was scourged. His vesture, and the vesture of the accompanying angel, have a distinctive pattern in the material: a cross. This cross is formed by two “Ts,” a reference to the motto of Pope John Paul II, “Totus Tuus.” In this particular context, the motto reminds us that the death of Christ was done all for us.

With sorrowful eyes, the Angel of the Crown of Thorns and the Whip of Flagellation bears the dread instruments of suffering and torture used in the Passion of Jesus.

The inscription across the center of the panels reads HIC EST DOMUS DEI ET PORTA COELI ALLELUIA. This refers both to the tabernacle and, by application, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, with the Alleluia showing, but remaining silent, anticipating the celebration of Easter.

05 March 2019

Ash Wednesday

Thou hast mercy upon all, O Lord, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made, and winkest at the sins of men, because they should amend, and sparest them: for thou art the Lord our God. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee.


Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Masses will be celebrated on Ash Wednesday at 7:00 a.m., 12 noon, and 7:00 p.m., all at the High Altar.  There will be the Imposition of Ashes at each Mass.

02 March 2019

Keep a holy Lent...


Guidelines for Fasting and Abstinence.

Fasting is recommended by the Sacred Scriptures and is practiced by the Church as a means of atonement for sin and commending individuals and their prayers to God. The intent of fasting is penitential in nature and with the purpose of intensifying prayer. The current practice of the Church in the United States allows for one main meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, with some food being allowed at the other two mealtimes, with no food at other times. Liquids do not break this fast. The law of the Church binds Catholics “from the day after their 18th birthday to the day after their 59th birthday.”

Abstinence is followed every Friday in Lent. Abstinence means that we refrain from eating meat or food prepared with meat (including chicken). This practice is to remind us of Jesus’ redeeming death, and to practice the virtue of penance. The law of the Church binds those who are 14 years of age or older.