Friday, February 1, 2019

Feast February 2 : Presentation of Child Jesus in the Temple - #Candlemas

Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. or Purification of the Blessed Virgin (Greek Hypapante), Observed 2 February in the Latin Rite.
According to the Mosaic law a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification"; for a maid-child the time which excluded the mother from sanctuary was even doubled. When the time (forty or eighty days) was over the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Leviticus 12:2-8)
Forty days after the birth of Christ Mary complied with this precept of the law, she redeemed her first-born from the temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:22 sqq.). No doubt this event, the first solemn introduction of Christ into the house of God, was in the earliest times celebrated in the Church of Jerusalem. We find it attested for the first half of the fourth century by the pilgrim of Bordeaux, Egeria or Silvia. The day (14 February) was solemnly kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, a homily on Luke 2:22 sqq., and the Holy Sacrifice. But the feast then had no proper name; it was simply called the fortieth day after Epiphany. This latter circumstance proves that in Jerusalem Epiphany was then the feast of Christ's birth.
SEE ALSO: Novena for the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple with Plenary Indulgence -
 From Jerusalem the feast of the fortieth day spread over the entire Church and later on was kept on the 2nd of February, since within the last twenty-five years of the fourth century the Roman feast of Christ's nativity (25 December) was introduced. In Antioch it is attested in 526 (Cedrenus); in the entire Eastern Empire it was introduced by the Emperor Justinian I (542) in thanksgiving for the cessation of the great pestilence which had depopulated the city of Constantinople. In the Greek Church it was called Hypapante tou Kyriou, the meeting (occursus) of the Lord and His mother with Simeon and Anna. The Armenians call it: "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple" and still keep it on the 14th of February (Tondini di Quaracchi, Calendrier de la Nation Arménienne, 1906, 48); the Copts term it "presentation of the Lord in the Temple" (Nilles, Kal. man., II 571, 643). Perhaps the decree of Justinian gave occasion also to the Roman Church (to Gregory I?) to introduce this feast, but definite information is wanting on this point. The feast appears in the Gelasianum (manuscript tradition of the seventh century) under the new title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The procession is not mentioned. Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced a procession for this day. The Gregorianum (tradition of the eighth century) does not speak of this procession, which fact proves that the procession of Sergius was the ordinary "station", not the liturgical act of today. The feast was certainly not introduced by Pope Gelasius to suppress the excesses of the Lupercalia (Migne, Missale Gothicum, 691), and it spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the "Lectionary" of Silos (650) nor in the "Calendar" (731-741) of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris. In the East it was celebrated as a feast of the Lord; in the West as a feast of Mary; although the "Invitatorium" (Gaude et lætare, Jerusalem, occurrens Deo tuo), the antiphons and responsories remind us of its original conception as a feast of the Lord. The blessing of the candles did not enter into common use before the eleventh century; it has nothing in common with the procession of the Lupercalia. In the Latin Church this feast (Purificatio B.M.V.) is a double of the second class. In the Middle Ages it had an octave in the larger number of dioceses; also today the religious orders whose special object is the veneration of the Mother of God (Carmelites, Servites) and many dioceses (Loreto, the Province of Siena, etc.) celebrate the octave.
Blessing of candles and procession
According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce, in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, "Nunc dimittis". The antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel" is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon "Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion", composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on 2 February even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to 3 February. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The "Adorna" was preceded by the antiphon "Ave Maria". While now the procession is held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel". At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory, "Gaude Maria Virgo" or the prose, "Inviolata" or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin. Text from the Catholic Encyclopedia

Pope Francis to Orthodox "The Middle East must become a land of peace, it cannot continue to be a land of hostility." FULL TEXT + Video


Friday, 1 February 2019

Dear Brothers,
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Ps 133:1). With these words of the Psalm, I offer you my cordial welcome and I thank you for your commitment to walking along the paths of unity, and for doing so in a spirit of fraternity! I am pleased, every second year, to welcome you to Rome on the occasion of your dialogue which last year was held in the See of Holy Etchmiadzin at the invitation of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Through you, I extend my greetings to my venerable and dear Brothers, Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches. I am grateful for the kind words of His Grace Bishop Kyrillos, the new Co-President of the Commission, whom I assure of my prayers and best wishes for his work. With gratitude, I also remember his predecessor, beloved Metropolitan Anba Bishoy, who was the first Co-President and who recently passed away. I join you in praying for him.
At the conclusion of your work this week, the sixteenth session of your Commission, we can together thank the Lord for the fruits already gathered along the way. Your dialogue expresses well how, between the East and the West, the “various theological expressions are to be considered often as mutually complementary rather than conflicting” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 17), as affirmed by the Second Vatican Council, whose sixtieth anniversary of its announcement we celebrated a few days ago. I offer my prayer and encouragement that your current reflection on the Sacraments may help us to continue the journey towards full communion, towards the shared celebration of the Holy Eucharist. You have dedicated this session to reflecting on the Sacrament of Matrimony. I like to recall what the book of Genesis says about this: “God created man in his own image… male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Man is fully in the image of God not when he is alone, but when he lives in a stable communion of love, because God is a communion of love. I am certain that your work, carried out in an atmosphere of great harmony, will be to the benefit of the family of God’s children, the Spouse of Christ, who we desire to present to the Lord “without spot or wrinkle” (Eph 5:27), without wounds and without divisions, but in the beauty of full communion.
Many of you belong to the Churches of the Middle East which have suffered terribly as a result of war, violence and persecution. As I meet you here, I recall the recent meeting in Bari which brought us together as Heads of Churches for a deeply intense day of prayer and reflection on the situation in the Middle East, an experience, I hope, which may be repeated. I want to assure all the faithful in the Middle East of my closeness, my constant thoughts and my prayers that this land, unique in God’s salvific plan, may, after the long night of conflict, witness the dawn of peace. The Middle East must become a land of peace, it cannot continue to be a land of hostility. May war, the daughter of power and destitution, give way to peace, the daughter of law and justice and may our Christian brothers and sisters be recognized as full citizens enjoying equal rights (cf. Address at the Conclusion of the Dialogue, Bari, 7 July 2018).
The lives of many saints of our Churches are seeds of peace sown in those lands; they are now blossoming in heaven. From there they support us on our journey to full communion, a journey that God desires, a journey that summons us to walk, not according to fleeting convenience, but on the path of openness to the Lord’s will: that “all may be one” (Jn 17:21). He calls us, ever increasingly, to a coherent witness of life and to an authentic pursuit of unity. The seed of this communion, thanks also to your important work, has blossomed and continues to be watered by the blood of the witnesses of unity, by so much blood shed by the martyrs of our time: members of different Churches who, united by the same suffering for the name of Jesus, now share the same glory.
Dear Brothers, as I renew my heartfelt gratitude for your visit, counting on the intercession of these martyrs, I invoke upon you and your ministry the blessing of the Lord. And now, if agreeable to you, we can pray the Our Father, each in our own language.
Official Translation from Vatican va

Pope Francis "...bring the compassion and mercy of Jesus to the sick and the most needy." FULL TEXT


Sala Clementina
Friday, 1 February 2019

Dear brothers,

I welcome you with joy as you are celebrating the 69th General Chapter of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God. I wish to thank you for what you are and what you do in the various expressions of your charism. I thank the Superior General for the words with which he introduced our meeting. And I would like to invite you to focus on three themes: discernment, closeness-hospitality and shared mission.

Discernment. It is a fundamental attitude in the life of the Church and in the consecrated life. Making grateful memory of the past - as in today's Liturgy the Word of God invites us to do - to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope - the three objectives indicated for the Year of Consecrated Life - would be impossible without adequate discernment . Looking at the past, discernment leads to the purification of our history and our charism, to separate the wheat from the straw, to fix our attention on what is important. Looking at the past, we also arrive at the encounter with the first love. Looking at the present, discernment pushes us to live the present moment with the passion that must characterize the consecrated life, away from routine and mediocrity and transforms the passion for Christ into compassion, which is in step with the pains and needs of humanity . Looking to the future, discernment will allow you to continue making the charism of hospitality and care fruitful, facing the new challenges presented to you. Discernment is rooted in a historical dimension.

I hope that this Chapter will remain in the heart and memory of your Congregation as an experience of dialogue and discernment, listening to the Spirit and the brothers and collaborators, without giving in to the temptation of self-reference, which would lead you to close yourselves in yourselves . Please do not make a closed army, a closed reserve, of the Hospitaller Order. Dialogate, discuss and plan together, starting from your roots, the present and the future of your life and mission, always listening to the voice of many sick people and of the people who need you, as did Saint John of God: a passionate man of God and compassionate towards the sick and the poor.

Second attitude: Neighborhood-hospitality. Passion and compassion are energies of the Spirit that will give meaning to your hospital mission, which will animate your spirituality and give quality to your fraternal life in community. In a consecrated person, and in every baptized person, there can be no genuine compassion for others if there is no passion of love for Jesus. Passion for Christ leads us to the prophecy of compassion. May the cause of the human as a cause of God resound in you. And so, feeling a family, you can always be at the service of the wounded and sick world.

In the midst of so many signs of death, think of the evangelical figure of the Samaritan (Lk 10: 15-37). He does not seem to have many means, he does not belong to any center of power that supports him, he has only his saddlebag, but he has a careful look and there, in the depths of his being, his heart has vibrated to the rhythm of the other . The urgency of reaching out to those in need leads him to put his projects aside and stop his journey. Concern for the threatened life of the other brings out the best of his humanity, and makes him pour with tenderness oil and wine on the wounds of that half-dead man.

In this gesture of pure altruism and great humanity hides the secret of your identity as a hospital. In letting you get involved in the other and in the Samaritan's gesture of pouring oil and wine on the wounds of the one who had fallen into the hands of the bandits you will discover the mark of your own identity. A brand that will lead you to keep alive the time of the merciful presence of Jesus who identifies himself with the poor, the sick and the needy, and dedicates himself to their service. In this way you can fulfill your mission of announcing and realizing the Kingdom among the poor and the sick. With your testimony and your apostolic works, assure assistance to the sick and the needy, with a preference for the poorest (cf. General Constitutions, article 5), and promote the pastoral care of health.
The Samaritan took care of the wounded man. The expression "taking care" has a human and spiritual dimension. Jesus wants us to touch human misery, that we touch his flesh in the flesh of those who suffer in body or spirit. Touch, to let us touch. He would do us so much good! And then your life will become an icon of God's mercy of mercy, finally becoming a compassionate and merciful Christ, who passed into the world doing good to all (cf. Acts 10:38) and healing all sorts of diseases and infirmities ( see Mt 4:23).

In this context I ask you for a peaceful discernment on the structures. Your structures must be "inns" - like that of the parable of the Samaritan - at the service of life, spaces where especially the sick and the poor feel welcomed. And it will do you good to ask yourself often how to preserve the memory of these structures that were born as an expression of your charism, because they always remain at the service of the tenderness and attention that we owe to the victims of the social gap. I ask you to create "Samaritan" networks for the weakest, with particular attention to the poor, and that your homes are always open and welcoming communities to globalize compassionate solidarity.

Third word: Shared mission. This is a real urgency, and not only because we are going through moments of scarcity of vocations, but because our charisms are gifts for the whole Church and for the world. Beyond the number and the age, the Spirit always arouses a renewed fruitfulness that passes through adequate discernment and increases the joint formation, so that religious and laity have a missionary heart that rejoices in joy in experiencing the salvation of Christ and shares it as consolation and compassion, running the risk of getting dirty in the mud of the road (cf. Evangelii gaudium, 45).

I encourage you to take care of your formation, without neglecting to train the laity in the charism, in the spirituality and in the mission of Christian hospitality, so that they too have a good sense of belonging and in their works never fail the testimony of the spirituality that nourished the life of Saint John of God.

Dear brothers, bring the compassion and mercy of Jesus to the sick and the most needy. Get out of yourself, your limits, your problems and difficulties, to join others in a caravan of solidarity. May your young people prophesy and your elders do not cease to dream (cf. I accompany you with my blessing; and please do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.
FULL TEXT Release from Vatican va - Unofficial Translation of Italian

#BreakingNews 7 Catholic Underground Churches in China Suppressed by Government - Please Pray

Seven churches and communities suppressed in Qiqihar diocese
by Peter Zhao
Members of the United Front, police, representatives of the Religious Affairs Bureau entered the churches while Mass was being celebrated, interrupted the liturgical services, chased the faithful away, threatened them and decreed the closure of the communities. Msgr. Wei Jingyi, the bishop of Qiqihar, despite being underground, has good relations with the government. The suppression occurred after the signing of the China-Holy See Agreement.
Qiqihar (AsiaNews) - At least seven churches and their communities have been suppressed in recent months in the diocese of Qiqihar, whose bishop, Msgr. Giuseppe Wei Jingyi (photo 2) is recognized by the Holy See, but not by the government. Members of the United Front, police, representatives of the Religious Affairs Bureau entered the churches while mass was being celebrated, interrupted the liturgical services, chased the faithful away, threatened them and decreed the closure of the communities. The priests were asked to leave the territory if they did not want to be forcibly expelled. The suppressed communities are all "underground", that is unregistered. However, until now they had good relations with the local authorities. There are two curious facts: first of all the suppression began at the end of September, shortly after the signing of the agreement between China and the Vatican (22 September) and the lifting of the excommunication of the official bishop of the area, Msgr. Giuseppe Yue Fushen of Harbin; secondly, it should be emphasized that Msgr. Wei, despite being an underground bishop, also enjoyed good relations with the authorities. The dynamics of the suppressions reflect the implementation of the new regulations for religious activities (launched in February 2018), which provide for the elimination of the underground Church. The implementation has been ongoing since the end of September, as if the China-Vatican agreement had precipitated the times: as a sign of challenge, or of the united front’s certainty towards the Vatican.
The faithful denounce the violation of the Chinese Constitution, which guarantees religious freedom for all. Some suspect that the suppression is also endorsed by Bishop Yue Fusheng. In the diocese of Qiqihar, last December, the police semi-destroyed a convent and expelled the nuns (photo 3). Here is a report from the suppressed communities.
At the end of September, Li Fu Min, deputy director of Da Qing's Religious Affairs department, traveled with his collaborators to the city of Shuang Fa. During a meeting in the local government office, he told Father Zhang Feng that the parish was not allowed to carry out religious activities. The priest could either choose to collaborate immediately in interrupting all activities, or they would do it by force.
Later, at the end of October, a delegation led by Xiao Guo Feng, deputy director of the United Front of Zhangzhou County, accompanied by more than 10 people - including members of the local community and the police from the jurisdiction - reached the parish of Zhangzhou shortly before the start of the evening mass, declaring that church was illegal and obliging all the faithful inside to get out. After a few days, several local police officers on behalf of the United Front Department repeatedly expelled the faithful and banned all activities, interfering with the religious life of the community, such as preventing meetings and liturgical activity.
Finally, on December 21st, firefighters declared the two churches of Zhangzhou and Shuang Fa accessible because they lacked the government license for religious activities. The community was also forbidden to celebrate Christmas it in another place that it had rented. The priests and the faithful had to celebrate outside in the cold, in front of the church.
In Feng Le Parish, the city's deputy government secretary went to church at least 10 times accompanied by district police officers, to stop the ceremonies and expel the faithful from the church. They also changed the lock on the church door several times and even threatened to seal the structure if the faithful continued to meet. Before Christmas, dozens of local government officials went to the church of Wu Yuan, forcibly dragging Father Liu away while celebrating mass, sparking great panic among the faithful, showing complete lack of respect for the place of worship and deeply wounding the hearts of those present. They also said that they would expel the priest and it was forbidden to meet and celebrate again there.
From the first half of 2018 until today, United Front and religious affairs officers have been targeting Father Shen. They claim that the priest is an unofficial priest, influenced by foreign powers and asked him to leave Wu Da Lian Chi. On December 24, the head of the Department of Religious Affairs went to the parish and, in the presence of the president, invited Father Shen to leave; if he did not leave by the end of the year (2018), they would force him out.
Before Christmas, they told the faithful of the church of Tong Bei (Bei An) several times that their meetings are illegal and will be banned.
In November and December (2018), the police went to church in Jia Ge Da Qi every 2-3 days preventing us from acknowledging and welcoming our parish priest.
For the faithful these behaviors seriously harm their most basic rights and their freedom and faith. With repression and persecution, our faithful are not allowed to come together and live their faith. The methods used by many government officials trample on the rights of citizens and the faithful and are strongly disrespectful of the sacredness of places of worship.
The faithful of many parishes have expressed their disappointment to their pastors, priests and bishops. They are very angry about the fact that government officials apply the law in an arbitrary manner, even without the directives of the central government. The priests and faithful of the official Church have also spread the word that the government is implementing a policy of repression of the underground community, inviting the faithful to listen to Bishop Yue Fusheng: this situation is causing great anger and a serious internal conflict among the faithful.
FULL TEXT Source: Asia News IT

Pope Francis "You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.” Homily at Mass

Pope at Mass: perseverance with memory and hope in moments of desolation
Celebrating his morning Mass on Feb. 1 in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis urged Christians not to give up and retreat in moments of suffering and desolation but to persevere with hope and memories of good times.
By Robin Gomes

It is when desolation and dark moments make one lose the meaning of things that Christians must persevere in order to reach the promise of the Lord without falling down or retreating.

This was the reflection of Pope Francis in his homily at Mass, Friday morning, in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.  He was referring to the Letter to the Hebrews, whose author addressed Christians passing through a dark moment of persecution, just as every individual goes through, including Jesus who experienced moments of desolation.

The Pope said Christian life is not a carnival or a continuous feast and joy.  It has good times as well as ugly ones, moments of warmth and of detachment, where not everything has meaning... moments of desolation.

The Pope said, “It is during a moment of internal persecution and inner state of the soul that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews urges Christians to perseverance". “You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.”  One needs perseverance to reach the promise.

Memory and hope against desolation
Pope Francis then focused on two things, or a recipe, that help us fight desolation: memory and hope. Like the apostle, he pointed out that one must first of all recall the beautiful moments, the happy days of our encounter with the Lord, the time of love. And, secondly, we must have hope for what has been promised us.  With life consisting of good and bad times, the Pontiff said it is important not to "allow oneself to fall" and "go back" in moments of difficulty.

The Pope urged Christians not to give in to bad times, urging them to endure in memory and hope - an endurance of the heart which, he said, recalls good times and "breathes when looking up to hope". Finding the consolation of the promise of the Lord is what we must do in moments of desolation, the Pope said.

Perseverance of Christian martyrs
Speaking about perseverance, the Holy Father recalled his apostolic visit to Lithuania, in September 2018, where he said he was moved by the courage of so many Christians and martyrs who persevered in faith.

The Pope noted that even today, many men and women suffer for their faith but remember the first encounter with Jesus and gain hope and go ahead. “Perseverance”, the Pope said, “is the advice of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews to Christians in times of persecution and attacks.

The Holy Father urged Christians to always look to the Lord when the devil attacks us with temptations.  With our miseries, he said, we must always look to the Lord, have "the perseverance of the Cross recalling the first beautiful moments of love, of our encounter with the Lord and the hope that awaits us.
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican News va

Today's Mass Readings and Video : 1st Friday, February 1, 2019 - Eucharist

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 321

Reading 1HEB 10:32-39

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.

For, after just a brief moment,
he who is to come shall come;
he shall not delay.
But my just one shall live by faith,
and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.

We are not among those who draw back and perish,
but among those who have faith and will possess life.

Responsorial PsalmPS 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart's requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
By the LORD are the steps of a man made firm,
and he approves his way.
Though he fall, he does not lie prostrate,
for the hand of the LORD sustains him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

AlleluiaSEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
"This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come."

He said,
"To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade."
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.