Holy Communion Nourishes Your Supernatural Life : by Father LAWRENCE G. LOVASIK

Holy Communion Nourishes Your Supernatural Life

  1. LAWRENCE G. LOVASIK

Holy Communion preserves and increases the supernatural life of your soul. In the Holy Eucharist, Christ becomes present so that He may abide bodily among us by His Real Presence in our taber­nacles, renew the Sacrifice of Calvary in an unbloody manner on our altars, and nourish our souls in Holy Communion.

The Eucharist is not only a sacrifice, but a sacrament as well. As a sacrifice, it relates in the first instance to God; as a sacrament, to ourselves. Through the Blessed Sacrament God bestows upon us the grace by which we obtain supernatural life and are saved.

By the imparting of divine grace, God has made it possible for us to share His own nature and His own vital activity. The life of God calls for appropriate food. The Bread of Angels has become, through transubstantiation, the food of man. This Bread, the product of our Savior’s love and power, is the only food that is wor­thy of the Father who gives it and the adopted children who re­ceive it from His hands. It produces wondrous effects in those children. The first and principal effect is that it gives divine life to the soul.

Holy Communion is the Body of Jesus under the form of bread, received as food. With His Body, He gives also His Soul, His divin­ity, His merits, and His grace. All that He is, all that He has, He makes your own. No being on earth is richer and more honored than you are when you bear in your heart your God and Savior. You could not ask for more. Christ could not give you more.

Because Jesus Christ Himself is the very essence of this sacra­ment, it follows that the Holy Eucharist is the most sublime and greatest of all sacraments, not only in dignity but also in power. Holy Communion is the most intimate union of ourselves with Christ, and therefore it must excel all other sacraments in power to sustain and increase the supernatural life within us. It is justly called the Blessed Sacrament.

This article is an excerpt from Fr. Lovasik’s The Basic Book of the Eucharist. Click image to learn more.

Through the Eucharist, you share in the life of God

God is the source of life. From all eternity the Father gives Himself to the Son. Together the Father and the Son give them­selves to the Holy Spirit, sharing with Him Their one divinity.

The eternal Son of God, in His limitless love for our fallen race, became incarnate that men might have life, and might have it more abundantly. At the time of the Incarnation, most of the children of Adam had ceased to live the supernatural life and had devoted themselves to the pursuit of vain honors, deceitful riches, and sinful pleasures. They had ceased to recognize the glorious dignity to which they were called — that of children of God — and had sunk to the lowest depths of sin.

The only-begotten Son of God then condescended to become man so that He might raise man to God. He descended to the depths of humiliation so that He might raise man to a most exalted dignity, to the sharing of God’s own life. It was not enough for Him to offer to God’s offended majesty that atonement which only a divine Person could adequately pay and to merit for man the super­natural life Adam had forfeited, but in His undying love for men, Jesus bequeathed to us a marvelous gift that was to feed and foster the supernatural life within our souls, adorn them with holiness, and thus perfect us more and more in our glorious dignity of divine sonship. This wondrous gift is the living Flesh and Blood of the Word Incarnate, substantially present in the consecrated Host.

The reception of the Blessed Sacrament is of supreme impor­tance to every soul Christ has redeemed. According as that heav­enly banquet is rightly partaken of, or neglected, man will enjoy throughout eternity the fulfillment of the supernatural life in the Beatific Vision of God, or will be excluded from Him.

God wants to give you a share in His divine life. Before doing so, however, He gave His life in all its fullness to the sacred hu­manity of Jesus because of its union with the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. This divine life then extends from Christ, the Head, into the Body of the Church. The members of this Body are the faithful who in turn share in that intimate life of the three Di­vine Persons.

Christ is the Mediator through whom grace comes to all men. By His sacrifice on the Cross, He has merited this divine life that mankind had lost by sinning. Jesus gives you His divine life and unites you with God through the sacraments, especially in Holy Communion, for it is the sacrament of union.

St. Augustine prays, “Other priests offered for themselves and for their people; this Priest, not having sin that He should offer for Himself, offered Himself for the whole world, and by His own Blood entered into the holy place. He, then, is the new Priest and the new Victim, not of the law but above the law, the universal Advocate.”

The Bread of Life is food for your soul

The first effect of Holy Communion is life. All the sacraments either impart supernatural life to the soul or develop it in the soul where it is already found. They do this for certain purposes. For in­stance, the sacrament of Penance raises the soul from death to life; Confirmation bestows on it a special strength to fight against its external enemies. But the Eucharist is concerned with the super­natural life itself. Its function is to intensify and strengthen that life. St. Thomas writes, “We should consider the effects of the Eucharist with regard to the manner in which the sacrament is con­ferred, as it is given in the form of food and drink: thus all the effects that material food and drink produce for the corporal life — that is, to sustain, to cause growth, to repair loss, and to delight — this sacrament produces them also for the spiritual life.”

Holy Communion is a sacrament, and hence, like all the other sacraments, it is a sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Like all the other sacraments, Holy Communion also is designed to give that precise grace of which it is a sign. Baptism, for example, is a symbolic bath; it contains and confers the grace of spiritual cleans­ing from sin. Confirmation is an anointing; it brings with it the grace of spiritual maturity. It makes its recipient firm in the Faith, anointed for the spiritual battle like an athlete of old.

Holy Communion is a sign of nourishment; hence, it is meant to bring to the soul the graces of spiritual nourishment. Holy Communion is meant to do for the soul what material food does for the body, and that is to preserve life and protect it. Material food enables you to continue living and protects you from fatal disease; Holy Communion preserves the spiritual life of your soul and protects you from the spiritual disease of mortal sin.

In His discourse after the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus stresses this fact five times. “I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven; if any one eats of this Bread, he will live for­ever; and the Bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my Flesh. . . . Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The sharing of divine life means that God lives in you and you in Him, and that as God the Son has by nature the same life as the Father in its infinite fullness, so you share it by grace.

Our Lord compared the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar with the manna given to the Jews, because the Holy Eucharist was intended to be the daily spiritual food of Christians, just as manna had been the daily food of the Israelites in the desert.

Manna is like the eucharistic Bread, the Body and Blood of our Lord, which comes from Heaven to feed our souls during our life on earth, until we arrive at last in Heaven, our eternal home, the land of promise. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the Bread which comes down from Heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.”

It is in the midst of a meal, under the form of food, that Jesus chose to institute the Eucharist. He gives Himself to you as the nourishment of your soul: “My Flesh is food indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed.” In the Our Father, he taught us to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This refers to Holy Communion. Like the manna, the Eucharist is bread come down from Heaven to give life by nourishing grace within your soul. The life of your soul is supported and developed by eating the “Bread of Life,” much in the same way as the life of your body is supported by eating your ordinary meals. Just as it is necessary to supply your body with food every day, so you must nourish and feed your soul, since obviously the soul has no less need of spiritual nourishment than the body has of material nourishment.

Jesus has prepared for you this great feast of the Holy Eucha­rist — the food of the soul. If you receive Communion only seldom, you become a prey to temptation and sin, and, growing weaker spiritually, you may fall into mortal sin. Many Catholics have good health and are blessed with the material goods of this world. They are very much alive physically, but are dead spiritually.

Therefore, Jesus comes not only to visit you in Holy Commu­nion, but to be the food of your soul, that receiving Him you may have life — the life of grace here below, the life of glory hereafter.

This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Lovasik’s The Basic Book of the EucharistIt is available as a paperback or ebook from your favorite bookstore and online at Sophia Institute Press.

New Year’s Resolutions for Concerned Catholics: A Few Suggestions by George Weigel

 

New Year’s Resolutions for Concerned Catholics: A Few Suggestions

COMMENTARY: May 2020 be a year full of grace for everyone. We’ll all need it.

George Weigel

During and after the grim martial law period in the early 1980s, many freedom-minded Poles would greet each other on Jan. 1 with a sardonic wish:

“May the new year be better than you know it’s going to be!”

As 2020 opens, that salutation might well be adopted by Catholics concerned about the future of the Church, for more hard news is coming. So let’s get some of that out of the way, preemptively, before considering some resolutions that might help us all deal with the year ahead in faith, hope, and charity.

Financial scandals in the Vatican will intensify. It’s been clear for some months now that the dam of secrecy, masking irresponsibility (and worse), is cracking. So expect more disturbing revelations about corrupt self-dealing, misuse of charitable funds, stupid investments, and general incompetence behind the Leonine Wall.

Vatican diplomacy will continue to disappoint. And the disappointed will include all who care about the human rights the Church proclaims in its social doctrine. Over the past six years, Holy See diplomacy has failed in Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Burma, Cuba, China, and Venezuela. 2020 seems unlikely to see a more robust Vatican defense of human rights. But it will likely witness more extreme Vatican positions on climate change and migrants; that absolutism will help shrink the space for devising a reasonable approach to these issues, as it’s done in the past.

A report on the career of Theodore McCarrick will likely be issued by the Holy See. The report will please no one. Amidst the cacophony that will follow its release, it will be important to remember three salient truths about this tawdry business: Psychopaths fool people, even wise and holy people; McCarrick was a psychopath; and McCarrick fooled lots of people for decades, including his many former friends on the port side of Catholicism in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Aggressive and politically motivated state attorneys general will continue to issue reports on historic sexual abuse cases. The response from cowed Church leaders will be tepid, at best. And what will get lost again — as it got lost after the now-paradigmatic Pennsylvania attorney general’s report — are two realities ignored by too many media outlets, too many institutions with responsibility for the safety of the young, and too many Catholics: that the Catholic Church today is arguably the safest environment for young people in the country; and that, from bitter experience, the Catholic Church has learned some things about creating safe environments from which the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, public schools, and public school teachers’ unions could all learn

And the suggested resolutions?

Resolve to be a missionary disciple at the retail level. Amidst these and other troubles, concerned Catholics constantly ask me, “What can I do?” To which I always respond, “Between now and next Easter, try and bring at least five disaffected Catholics back to Sunday Mass, and try to introduce at least one unevangelized person to Christ.” Retail evangelization is essential to authentic Catholic reform; it’s also deeply satisfying.  Let’s get on with it, irrespective of the troubles.

Resolve to limit your exposure to the Catholic blogosphere. In 2019, many Catholic websites went bonkers. There is no need to click on sites that specialize in all-hysteria or all-propaganda all-the-time. If you want reliable Catholic news, visit the websites of Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register. If you want sane commentary on the turbulent Catholic scene, go to the websites of Catholic World Report, First Things and The Catholic Thing. That’s more than enough for anyone. Limiting your blogosphere browsing to these sites, while ignoring the hysteria-mongers and propagandists, will lower your blood pressure while keeping you well-informed.

Resolve to intensify your prayer for the vindication of Cardinal George Pell. This innocent man’s false conviction will be contested before Australia’s High Court in the first quarter of 2020. Pray that justice is done, that Australia’s reputation as a country governed by the rule of law is restored, and that the cardinal is enabled to resume his crucial role in Catholic affairs.

Resolve to deepen your spiritual life by serious spiritual reading. A good place to be start would be a recently published book by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, Grace in Season — The Riches of the Gospel in Seventy Sermons.

Resolve to thank the good priests and bishops you know for their service. They deserve it.

And may 2020 be a year full of grace for everyone. (We’ll all need it.)

Amen!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  George Weigel is the distinguished senior fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. Weigel’s column is distributed by the Denver                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver

The Magic of the Altar Rail: AUSTIN RUSE

The Magic of the Altar Rail

AUSTIN RUSE

To look at our diocese, you might assume it’s on the liberal side. Located in Northern Virginia and established in 1974, most of the newer churches (and there are many of them) are “in the round.” You know the ones—they look like spaceships. Needless to say, these triumphs of modern ecclesial architecture generally exclude altar rails. Even so, through only four bishops and a plethora of orthodox priests, much of the modern craziness passed us by. We didn’t even get girl altar boys until a few years ago. Reception of the Precious Blood doesn’t happen here.

Our pastor—a very conservative priest—told parishioners several months ago he was putting in an altar rail, and that we would begin using it. He said we could receive standing or kneeling, on the tongue or in the hand, but that we would be lining up along the altar rail. Rather than shuffling ever forward, staring at the neck of the person in front of us, Father thought we might be more recollected if we paused at the altar rail and raised our eyes and souls to the tabernacle, the Crucifix, and the sanctuary.

He published a lovely column about the “functional and sacramental purposes” of the altar rail. “It distinguishes between the sanctuary and the nave and the priest from the people. It harkens back to the Jewish understanding of the Holy of Holies where the people are invited to confidently step up to the very edge of the Holy of Holies in reverence.” Without an altar rail, he wrote, “the people approach the Communion station and, after receiving Communion, hurriedly depart. A panoramic devotional view of a beautiful sanctuary, like the splendor of decorations adorning a wedding feast, is thus unlikely. The reception of Communion is individualistic, not communal.”

But something happened that I didn’t expect.  You would naturally think that those used to standing would continue to stand, and that those taking the Host in hand would continue with that, too. In fact, almost everyone began to kneel. What’s more—and this is quite remarkable—almost everyone now receives on the tongue.

It’s a magical sight. But how did this happen?

It made me think that the magic was in the altar rail itself. Put in an altar rail and, sooner rather than later, everyone will be receiving kneeling and on the tongue. But then I started thinking about other altar rails.

Not far from us is a very orthodox parish, St. Veronica. They put in an altar rail, but the priest still stands in the front and everyone lines up and shuffles along. He does stand behind the altar rail, and there is a cushion there for anyone who wants to use it. Some do. But almost everyone receives standing and almost everyone receives in the hand. Why doesn’t the magic work there?

I think also of the altar rail at St. Agnes Church in New York City. For years and years, when Communion time came, the priests would walk to one end of the rail and everyone would follow their lead, lining the altar rail on their knees. Then, some years ago, a new pastor announced they would use the center aisle. Ever since, the parishioners receive the Eucharist standing and in the hand. There are some die-hards (myself among them, when I’m there) who use the altar rail, kneeling. But I know for a fact that, if the priest still distributed Communion along the altar rail instead of standing in front of the center aisle, all those standers would be kneeling. And they’d be receiving on the tongue, too.

It seems to me that among the most harmful innovations that happened in the Church at mid-century was doing away with the altar rail and caving in to those who insisted on standing and receiving in the hand. I can’t prove it, but I firmly believe that the decline in belief in the Real Presence can be traced to the inevitable lack of reverence that comes with standing and certainly by handling the Sacred Host in our own grubby paws.

The decline in Eucharistic belief was also precipitated, I think, by doing away with other Eucharistic traditions like Adoration and Corpus Christi processions. Thanks be to God all these things are coming back. Hundreds now participate in Corpus Christi processions through the streets of our big cities. Adoration is popping up everywhere—usually attended by new altar rails.

I had thought there was magic in the altar rail itself, but I was wrong. There is a kind of divine magic, however, in a priest using the altar rail. It is like the Eucharist itself: the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood on their own. The priest must confect them. Similarly, the altar rail is a dead thing unless and until the priest stands over to one side and says, “We are going to start using it. We are going to line up along the rail. You can choose to stand or kneel. It’s up to you.” Watch. Something magical happens. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

By Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is a Crisis contributing editor and president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM). He is the author of Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data, published by Regnery; and Little Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us to Christ, published by Tan Books. The views expressed here are solely his own

How the Virgin Mary Converts Sinners by Fr. Edward Looney

How the Virgin Mary Converts Sinners

Fr. Edward Looney

I have visited at least nine places of Marian apparition. I’ve read the messages and studied the apparition’s significance. Of those, one of my favorite Marian apparitions is not as well known as Fatima or Lourdes.

It was a series of apparitions in Beauraing, Belgium, received by five children from the Voisin and Degeimbre families.  The 33 apparitions began on November 29, 1932 and concluded on January 3, 1933.  Mary appeared above a railroad bridge, and later underneath a Hawthorne tree.

The message of Our Lady was quite simple.  She encouraged the children to always be good, to pray very much, and to pray always.  And in the final apparition, she gave a special message to each visionary.  To Gilberte Voisin, she said, “I will convert sinners.”  Such a statement is emphatic, there is a certitude behind it.

But how does she do it?  How will she do it?  How does Mary convert sinners?

By Her Presence

Over the last 200 years, the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared to many different people all though out the world. By her presence in our world, the messages she gave, will be one way in which she will convert sinners.

As we learn the messages she spoke, they challenge us to reflect on how we live our life and consider how God might be inviting us to greater conversion of life. Mary’s presence, her concern for all God’s children, is one way by which she will convert sinners.

By Her Prayers

The first way Mary converts sinners is through her prayers. In a different apparition received by a Belgian immigrant in the United States back in 1859, the Blessed Mother told the seer Adele Brise, “I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners.” Assumed body and soul into Heaven, Mary now intercedes for the world.

As the Queen Mother, she advocates for the world before the throne of her son. Isn’t it the case that the hearts of some hardened sinners have been converted and conquered by the Blessed Virgin’s love?  Conversion stories like Fr. Donald Calloway’s come to mind.

Mary is praying for the conversion of sinners. She’s praying for you and me. And by her prayers, she will obtain the grace of conversion from her Son, and convert sinners.

By Her Example

We meet the Blessed Virgin in the pages of the gospel.  The way by which she lived her life offers us a great example.

When we are confronted with vices, we look Mary’s virtues. When are we tempted towards pride, we remember her humility before God. When we want to be disobedient, we recall her obedience to God’s will. When impurity and unchastity confronts us, her example of purity and chastity inspires to live similarly. When we wish to ignore the needs of our brothers and sister in Christ, her attentiveness and generosity towards Elizabeth beckons us to respond to their needs.

Conclusion

When we are talking about conversion, it becomes quite a personal topic. We all know people in our lives for whose conversion we long to see.  Just think of St. Monica, who for years prayed for her son St. Augustine.

Parents become disappointed with their children because they stopped practicing the faith and their grandchildren are not baptized. Praying for someone’s conversion requires patience. But we hold on to the hope that God will break through in their lives.  And it seems like Mary gives us hope for that.

Mary is praying for the conversion of sinners.  That means Heaven has already been for someone’s conversion before we even started.  Her messages, once heard and interiorized by the Faithful could spark the seed of conversion.  And her example, as we meet her in the Gospels, might convert the hearts of fellow sinners.  Hopefully, it will help us on our own personal journey of conversion.

By Fr. Edward Looney

Fr. Edward Looney was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay in June 2015, and is an internationally recognized Marian theologian, writer, speaker, and radio personality. Author of the best-selling books, A Heart Like Mary’s and A Rosary Litany, he has also written a prayer book for the only American-approved Marian apparition received by Adele Brise in 1859 in Champion, Wisconsin. He currently serves as Administrator of two rural Wisconsin parishes.  You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at the handle @FrEdwardLooney.

The 20 Things Guardian Angels Do for Us by STEPHEN BEALE

The 20 Things Guardian Angels Do for Us

STEPHEN BEALE

Imagine you had a bodyguard who was always with you. He did all the usual bodyguard things like protecting you from danger, warding off assailants, and generally keeping you safe in all situations. But he also did more than this: he offered you moral guidance, helped you become a stronger person, and led you to your ultimate calling in life.

We don’t have to imagine it. We already have such a bodyguard. Christian tradition calls them guardian angels. Their existence is supported by Scripture and both Catholics and Protestants believe in them

But too often we neglect to tap this great spiritual resource. (I, for one, am certainly guilty of this!) In order to better enlist the aid of guardian angels, it might help to have a better appreciation of they can do for us. Here are 20 things:

  1. Ward off demons

Sometimes we visualize moral decision-making as a debate between a bad angel whispering in one ear and a good angel speaking wisely in the other. There is a truth to this: according to St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the roles of the guardian angels is to fight off demons (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 113, Articles 2-6).

 

  1. Protect us from harm

Guardian angels generally protect us from both spiritual and physical harm, according to Aquinas (Question 113, Article 5, Reply 3). This belief is rooted in Scripture. For example, Psalm 91:11-12 declares, “For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”

 

  1. Strengthen us against temptation

Guardian angels do not just ward off evil, they also strengthen us so we can do it ourselves. As St. Bernard says in a sermon, “As often, therefore, as a most serious temptation is perceived to weigh upon you and an excessive trial is threatening, call to your guard, your leader, your helper in your needs, in your tribulation; cry to him and say: ‘Lord, save us; we perish!’”

 

  1. Embolden us

St. Bernard also says that with angels such as these at our side we should have no fear. We should have the courage to live out our faith boldly and confront whatever life might throw our way. As he puts it, “Why should we fear under such guardians? Those who keep us in all our ways can neither be overcome nor be deceived, much less deceive. They are faithful; they are prudent; they are powerful; why do we tremble?”

 

  1. Intervene miraculously to save us from trouble

Guardian angels not only ‘guard,’ they also can save us when we are already in trouble. This is illustrated by the story of Peter in Acts 12, when an angel helps break the apostle out of prison. The story suggests that it is his own personal angel that has intervened (see verse 15). Of course, we cannot count on such miracles. But it’s an added comfort to know that they are possible.

 

  1. Guard us from birth

Church Fathers once debated whether guardian angels were assigned at birth or at baptism. St. Jerome argued decisively for the former. His basis was Matthew 18:10, which is a crucially important Scriptural passage that supports the existence of guardian angels. In the verse Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” The reason that we get guardian angels at birth is that their aid is associated with our nature as rational beings, rather than belonging to the order of grace, according to Aquinas (Question 113, Article 5, Answer).

 

  1. Guard all of us—including unbelievers 

This conclusion follows from the above. Aquinas also makes this clear in explaining that God never leaves any of us, including sinners. As the great dogmatic theologian Ludwig Ott explained, “According to the general teaching of the theologians, however, not only every baptized person, but every human being, including unbelievers, has his own special guardian angel from his birth.” Pope Benedict XVI also taught that guardian angels are “ministers of the divine care for every human being.” (Thanks to Jimmy Akin for highlighting these sources.)

 

  1. Remind us of the dignity of persons

This follows from all that has been said before. It is particularly evident from Matthew 18:10 where Jesus instructs us not to ‘despise’ the ‘little ones’ because they have angels watching over them. (I’m particularly indebted to Protestant preacher John Piper for pointing this out.) As St. Jerome puts it, “The worth of souls is so great that from birth each one has an angel assigned to him for protection.” Piper emphasizes how the presence of guardian angels should lead us to a greater respect for our fellow Christians: “Therefore don’t despise this simple, unimpressive disciple of Jesus! Let his angelic entourage remind you whose son he is.”

 

  1. Remind us of God’s care for all

Aquinas explains how the angels operate in accordance with God’s providential plan for all men (Question 113, Article 6, Answer). It follows that these angels serve as a reminder of His care for us.

 

  1. Bring our needs to God

Akin says that guardian angels act as intercessors who bring our requests directly to God based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:10 about angels beholding the face of God.

 

  1. Bring us closer to God

It follows from the above that guardian angels also aid in bringing us nearer to God. Even when God seems distant, just remember that the guardian angel assigned to you personally is at the same time beholding God directly, as the Catholic Encyclopedia

 

  1. Move us to the good

Guardian angels also move us to the good. As Aquinas writes, “It is moreover manifest that as regards things to be done human knowledge and affection can vary and fail from good in many ways; and so it was necessary that angels should be deputed for the guardianship of men, in order to regulate them and move them to good” This includes prompting us to perform good works, according to Aquinas. (See Question 113, Article 1, Answer and Article 4, Objection 3.)

 

  1. Reinforce God’s commands

According to Aquinas, one of the roles of our angelic guardians is helping us use our reason to pursue virtue. In particular, he says the angels help us in developing prudence by serving as God’s “universal instructor,” passing on God’s precepts (Question 113, Article 1, Reply 2).

 

  1. Illuminate the truth

Angels “propose the intelligible truth to men” through sensible things, according to Aquinas (Question 111, Article 1, Answer). Although he does not elaborate on this point, this it is a basic teaching of the Church that the material world points to invisible spiritual realities. As St. Paul says in Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.”

 

  1. Strengthen our minds

A second way that angels enlighten us, Aquinas says, is by reinforcing our intellects. As he puts it, “[T]he human intellect as the inferior \, is strengthened by the action of the angelic intellect” (Question 111, Article 1).

 

  1. Communicate through our imagination

In addition to working through our senses and intellects, our guardian angels also influence us through our imaginations, according to Aquinas, who gives the example of Joseph’s dreams (Question 111, Article 3, On the Contrary and Answer). But it might not be something as obvious as a dream; it could also be through more subtle means like a ‘phantasm,’ which could be defined as an image brought to the senses or the imagination (Question 111: Article 1, Answer; definition adapted from the Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy by Bernard Wueller, SJ).

 

  1. Influence our wills

Angels cannot directly move the will, but, according to Aquinas, they can indirectly influence it through our senses and intellect, as stated above (Question 111, Article 2 , Answer). This means that our guardian angels influence every part of our being for the better—our senses, intellect, and will.

 

  1. Aid in our salvation

The ultimate goal of all that guardian angels do is to aid in our salvation, according to Aquinas. “Angels are sent to minister, and that efficaciously indeed, for those who shall receive the inheritance of salvation, if we consider the ultimate effect of their guardianship, which is the realizing of that inheritance,” Aquinas writes (Question 113, Article 5, Reply 1). Here he is drawing from Hebrews 1:14, which states, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent to serve, for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”

 

  1. Remind us of our ultimate goal

Inspired by Christ’s words in Matthew 18:10, St. Augustine suggests that guardian angels remind us that our ultimate goal is the beatific vision of God: “As, then, they see, so shall we also see; but not yet do we thus see. Wherefore the apostle uses the words cited a little ago, Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. This vision is reserved as the reward of our faith; and of it the Apostle John also says, When He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2. By the face of God we are to understand His manifestation, and not a part of the body similar to that which in our bodies we call by that name” (City of GodBook 22, Chapter 29).

 

  1. Never leave us 

Guardian angels assume their duties at our birth and maintain them up to our death. For Aquinas, this is just an extension of the broader truth that we never completely leave God’s care, even in sin and doubt: “Now it is evident that neither man, nor anything at all, is entirely withdrawn from the providence of God: for in as far as a thing participates being, so far is it subject to the providence that extends over all being. God indeed is said to forsake man, according to the ordering of His providence, but only in so far as He allows man to suffer some defect of punishment or of fault. In like manner it must be said that the angel guardian never forsakes a man entirely…” (Question 113, Article 6, Answer).

image: By Vassil [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

 

Tagged as: angelsguardian angelsSt. Thomas Aquinas

 

By Stephen Beale

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

What Is Worship? Sacrifice, Participation, and Beauty by STEPHEN BEALE

What Is Worship? Sacrifice, Participation, and Beauty

STEPHEN BEALE

 

Worship, as the Baltimore Catechism states, is the giving of honor to God by various acts.

 

But what exactly does worship consist of? The catechism, without elaborating, gives prayer and sacrifice as two examples. Both Scripture and the Church’s liturgical tradition example allow us to elaborate on this definition. Reviewing what has been revealed to us points to three particularly salient aspects of worship: sacrificial communion, transformative participation in mystery, and contemplation of beauty.

The Mass: Sacrificial Communion

The Church teaches that the Mass is the highest form of worship it has. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it,

 

The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord’s body and blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.

  • The Mass is the foundation for our understanding of what worship is. It is what forms and informs our devotions outside of the Mass and it is the end to which we are constantly journeying in all our prayers and works.

At the center of the Mass is Christ’s sacrifice and ours which is joined to His. In our society, this notion of worship as sacrifice is a foreign concept, perhaps even in some Catholic circles. Instead we tend to think of worship in terms of praise, as this writer points out.

 

Why is sacrifice at the core of worship?

Let’s go back to the definition of worship offered by the Baltimore Catechism as giving honor to God. One way of defining honor is giving someone what is due to Him. In the case of God, what is due to Him, as our Creator, is nothing less than our whole selves, as

 

On the cross, Christ showed how to render perfect worship to God. In imitating Christ, we too must offer our whole selves to God. This acknowledgement of the debt that we owe to God establishes a relationship between man and his Creator. Sacrifice to God thus leads to communion, as St. Paul said,

The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread. Behold Israel according to the flesh: are not they that eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar? (1 Corinthians 10:16-18; Douay-Rheims translation)

Transformative Participation in Mystery

The Mass, of course, is not simply sacrifice, but our participation in Christ’s sacrifice, as St. Paul indicates above. This aspect of worship is well illustrated in one Old Testament passage that foreshadows the Eucharist, where Isaiah glimpses the worship of angels in heaven:

 

In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered. One cried out to the other:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”

 

At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:1-7).

Imagine how out of place Isaiah must have felt. He is a creature of the earth who has been caught up to the heavenly heights and witnesses something he realizes no mortal can see and still live. And yet, far from being cast out, the sacrifice of the altar is extended to Isaiah. The hot coals that burned the sacrifice on the altar now singe his lips.

Participation is thus also transformative. We are changed by the way we worship. Sacrifice necessarily requires a change in the one making the offering. And, our own offering is purified and elevated through our encounter with Christ’s own sacrifice.

What we participate in must always in some sense remain a mystery—if we understand mystery in the sense of the original Greek word as something that is hidden. In the Eucharist the mystery that is God is veiled in the Eucharistic bread and wine. So also in Isaiah 6, God is never seen—only the “train of His garment filling the temple.” In much the same way that God only permitted Moses to observe Him from behind, so also Isaiah can only gaze upon God indirectly. And for much of the scene we can only see God through the eyes of the angels who look upon Him.

Contemplation of Beauty

Worship necessarily is also contemplation of the beauty of God. Such is the beauty of God that biblical writers who describe the worship of the heavenly court cannot describe Him directly in His essence. Instead He is depicted by way of analogy and by His surroundings. This tendency is evident in Isaiah above it is also on display in Revelation:

At once I was caught up in spirit. A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald. Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God.

In front of the throne was something that resembled a sea of glass like crystal (Revelation 4:2-6).

At the forefront of those worshipping are the four living creatures, whose six wings are covered in eyes inside and out. It’s a strange physical attribute indeed, but does it not make some sense in context? God has given the angels a multiplicity of eyes so that they might be able to gaze upon His beauty all the more.

We too are invited to worship God by adoring His beauty. Only in the next chapter do we get a description of Christ as the lamp who was slain. All of creation is involved in worshipping the lamb,  Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out:

“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever,” (Revelation 5:13).

This lamb is the same one about whom John the Baptist spoke when Christ appeared to him—

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In Revelation, worship once again culminates in communion—what the book calls the ‘wedding supper of the lamb,’ which is the eternal celebration of the Eucharistic feast. To this final supper are invited not just the four living creatures and the angels but all those who are saints (see Revelation 19:9).

 

That wedding is between the lamb and the bride—which is the Church. In this mystical encounter, the bride has been transformed by her encounter with the lamb. She too is now beautiful:

Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory.
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come,
his bride has made herself ready.
She was allowed to wear
a bright, clean linen garment.”
(The linen represents the righteous
deeds of the holy ones)
(Revelation 19:7-8).

 

To our secularized society, worship may seem like such a chore. We prefer to be spectators who are entertained. Or information buckets waited to be filled with facts. Or, all too often, in certain contexts, worship can become a therapeutic exercise in self-expression.

Scripture and tradition show us that worship is so much more than this. It is a sacrificial act that establishes communion with God. It is a participation in His mystery and a contemplation of His beauty that utterly transform us.

End Quotes

Christmas, Freedom, and Obedience GEORGE WEIGEL

Christmas, Freedom, and Obedience

GEORGE WEIGEL

On December 17, the day the first “O Antiphon” signaled the intensification of preparations for Christmas, the Church read the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel: writing for a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience, the evangelist stresses that the blessings promised to and through Abraham, and the dynastic promises made to King David, are about to be fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Almost three weeks later, the Church will read the second Jesus-genealogy, in Luke 3:23-38. There, on the cusp of the Epiphany and the public manifestations of Jesus as Lord, the historical lens opens farther: Luke also traces Jesus’s ancestry through David and the patriarchs of Israel, but then extends the line back through “…the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”

 

Why did Luke do that? In order to emphasize to his largely Gentile audience that Jesus is more than the fulfillment of Israel’s desire. He is surely that. But as Joseph Ratzinger wrote in Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, he is also the one who assumes in himself “the whole history of man, and … gives it a decisive re-orientation toward a new manner of human existence.” That evolutionary leap will only be revealed at the Resurrection, in the Risen Lord’s appearances to his disciples—which reminds us that Christmas is a great Christian feast because of Easter, the pre-eminent Christian feast.

And if Christmas only makes Christian sense because of Easter, Christmas is only possible because of Mary and her embrace of the mystery of obedient freedom.

On December 20, the Church read in the Liturgy of the Hours excerpts from a homily by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in which that Cistercian Doctor of the Church reflected on the singular curiosity of God making his plan of salvation dependent on the free choice of a young Jewish woman. Again, Joseph Ratzinger sheds light on this remarkable facet of the Christmas season: “After the error of our first parents, the whole world was shrouded in darkness, under the dominion of death. Now God seeks to enter the world anew. He knocks at Mary’s door. He needs human freedom. The only way he can redeem man, who was created free, is by means of a free ‘yes’ to his will. In creating freedom, [God] made himself in a certain sense dependent upon man. His power is tied to the unenforceable ‘yes’ of a human being.”

And that leads the Pope Emeritus into a Christmastide reflection on the relationship between freedom and obedience. A culture that often confuses freedom with willfulness, with doing things “my way,” will immediately ask, “What has ‘freedom’ to do with ‘obedience’?” To which the Church answers, “The road to true freedom—and, ultimately, to the redemption of humanity—runs through Mary’s response to the angelic announcement: ‘Be it done unto me according to your word’” (Luke 1:38). Benedict XVI then explains the salvific paradox in Luke’s rendering of the Annunciation/Incarnation. It is, he writes, “an utterly humble story, yet one whose very humility gives it … grandeur. It is Mary’s obedience that opens the door to God. God’s word, his Spirit, creates the child in her. He does so through the door of her obedience. In this way Jesus is the new Adam, the new beginning … from the Virgin, who places herself entirely at the disposal of God’s will. So a new creation comes about, which is nevertheless tied to the free ‘yes’ of a human creature, Mary.”

 

The Christmas story is a lengthy meditation on a counterintuitive but essential truth: true freedom, genuine liberation, comes through freely chosen obedience to God’s purposes. That was true, as we have just seen, for Mary. It was also true for Joseph, who freely agrees to take a pregnant teenager for his wife. It was true of the shepherds, who find their long-awaited savior, in previously unimagined circumstances no less, through obedience to an angelic announcement. It was true of the Magi, who freely travel to parts unknown, in obedience to what they perceive as a divine summons, conveyed by a star. And it was true of Jesus himself, who, at the end of the extended Christmas drama, returns as a youngster with his parents to Nazareth, where he was obedient to them—and through that obedience, “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Freely chosen obedience to God’s purposes makes the world anew: from Christmas, to the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.

By George Weigel

George Weigel is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the author, most recently, of The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform (Basic Books, 2019)