THE HOLY VIRGIN WAS COMPLETELY DOCILE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

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GOD’S GREAT GIFT TO US IS THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spiritwhom he has given us” (Romans 5:5)

“…if there be among the gifts of God none greater than love, and there is no greater gift of God than the Holy Spirit, what follows more naturally than that He is Himself love….” (Saint Augustine)


Saint Pope John Paul II‘s encyclical on the Holy SpiritDominum et Vivificantem, contains wonderful insights into the nature and mission of the Holy Spirit. In this short note, I will discuss the concept or revelation of the Holy Spirit as “Person-Gift” as developed by John Paul II in the encyclical.

You get married. What an incredible gift you have been given by God: the gift of another person. Truly, excepting God and grace, it is hard to fathom a greater gift than this – your spouse. Marital love then blossoms into the gift of another person: a child destined to praise God for all eternity! These are amazing gifts. These are persons made in the image and likeness of God.

In Dominum et Vivificantem John Paul II points out that in the Old Testament “the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden” (17). But in the New Testament the “Holy Spirit is revealed in a new and fuller way,” not only as a gift from Jesus but as a “Person-Gift” (22). Just as Jesus Christ in His Incarnation is a Person-gift from the Father, so too is the Holy Spirit a Person-gift from God the Father and Jesus. This giving of the Holy Spirit as a gift to us is truly the greatest of all possible gifts, for the Holy Spirit is the “personal love” proceeding from the Father and the Son, which John Paul II calls “uncreated Love-Gift.” It is “through the Holy Spirit [that] God exists in a mode of gift” (10). The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift” (10).

In light of the above insights of John Paul II we can begin to understand why Jesus was so anxious to leave the apostles and return to the Father (“If I go, I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you,” John 16:7). Jesus wanted the apostles – and us – to receive the ultimate gift of His love – the “Person-Gift” and the “Person-Love” of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “the Lord and giver of life”; he is the “Infinite Spirit” of love and the “inexhaustible source” of eternal life. Our Lord’s death, Resurrection and Ascension therefore converge to bring forth a most incredible gift: “The Holy Spirit as a Person who is the gift” (23).

The “eternal love” of the Father and the Son is a Person-Gift: this Person-Gift is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the final gift, the gift of God’s own life within us, justifying us, sanctifying us, filling our hearts with love, a love “welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). And so we say, with renewed fervor, in the words of that ancient hymn of the church, Come Holy Spirit, Creator Blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest.”

Dear friend, draw closer to the Holy Spirit – Who is the greatest GIFT you have ever been given!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: The image of Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost, by Fidelis Schabet, 1867 (photo image released into the public domain by the author per Wikipedia).

P.S. Mary’s life began (as the Immaculate Conception) in profound union with the Holy Spirit, and the angel greets her accordingly as “full of grace.” The progress of the spiritual life is to draw ever closer to the Holy Spirit. It is thus that Saint Louis DeMontfort has such high regard for the prayer,Veni Creator Spiritus. The basic or fundamental truth is that we are made whole, or become our true selves, when united to God. Mary was given this gift of union with God from the very beginning. Mary is our model in the spiritual life.

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THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE COMFORTER OF LONELY HEARTS

“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:5).

“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:5)

In this note we will be discussing the tremendous comfort and strength the Holy Spirit can bring to someone suffering from loneliness, ostracization, and the crushing difficulties of life.

A great spiritual writer of the twentieth century wrote the following:

“God the Holy Spirit is the divine friend of the human souls to whom he is sent. Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to us in order, among other purposes, to banish from our life on earth that which constitutes one of the great pains of our present existence. There are few things so hard for a man to bear as loneliness and isolation. Man is not made to live alone. In a world which is ever hostile to Christ and will always hate his followers as it hated him, the Christian necessarily suffers from a certain measure of ostracism.

Moreover, the Christian has to bear the loneliness that, with the advance of years, is the common lot of mortals. Death and other causes tend to thin the ever narrowing circle of one’s friends and acquaintances. How frequently the pathos of this abandonment shows in the eyes of the aged whose contemporaries have vanished year by year.

Jesus has provided for the comfort of lonely hearts. When it comes to a human creature, neither to love nor to be loved by anyone, then existence has turned to dust and ashes. The disciples of Christ need never experience this dread starvation, this withering of their powers of affection, seeing that they may, by grace, possess within themselves in the closest intimacy a Person who, by the Word of Truth [Jesus], has been declared to be preeminently a consoler (John 14:16) – a Person who may be loved without limits and who repays every mark of affection by more than the hundredfold in warmth and tenderness. Consider for a moment the POWER of loving in the Holy Spirit who is love personified, who IS the personal love between the Father and the Son!

The Holy Spirit has not only an infinite capacity for friendship – He has, as well, an infinite power to make his friendship effective for the consolation and comfort of those he loves. In the great trails of life, notably in the bereavement caused by the death of those dearest to us, how impotent we find the well-meaning efforts of our friends to touch our grief with healing. When the soul is burdened by a great sorrow, nothing can bring alleviation and strength except that which can penetrate and change the spirit of man. This the Divine Friend – the Holy Spirit – alone is capable of doing.

How frequent an experience it is to find the faithful who, when faced with an overwhelming calamity, which should normally paralyze and crush them, manifest a courage, calm and resolution, traceable to no natural source. The origin of this mysterious peace and confidence is the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Their turning to God in their distress has provoked the inner and direct action of the Holy Spirit on the substance of the soul itself.

All that love demands is that it be given free scope to express itself. The affection of the Holy Spirit for the soul he inhabits and adorns is not only strong and ardent…it is faithful as well. Let us train ourselves to be open to this potent, strengthening influence of the Divine Friend within our souls by a constant, loving attention to His presence. The Holy Spirit is the consoler of hearts because Jesus expressly sent Him to us in order to find comfort in all the trials and adversities of life, and Jesus further promised that the Holy Spirit would abide with us forever in a never ending friendship of love (John 14:16).”

This long quote, significantly edited and adapted, is from The Holy Spirit by Father Edward Leen (Scepter Publishers), pages 160-163. Father Leen, who belonged to the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, wrote extensively on spiritual topics and his books are full of powerful spiritual insights.

Dear Friend, be ever more attentive to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the depths of your soul, and of His infinite capacity to help you through the daunting difficulties of this present life, through a most remarkable and intimate friendship that will never end.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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BY ASCENDING INTO HEAVEN JESUS LED OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE INTO GOD’S PRESENCE

 

             “For our citizenship is in heaven”  (Philippians 3:20)

Jesus’ Ascension establishes humanity’s true destiny in Heaven. I picture Jesus returning to the Father in Heaven, saying, “FatherMission Accomplished,” and then saying, “Father, let us breathe forth our Holy Spirit upon the world through my risen and Glorified body.” It was good, then, for Jesus to ascend back to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could be given to us to guide us, likewise, to our heavenly home.“If I go [back to Heaven],” says Jesus, “I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you” (John 16:7).

One lesson we clearly glean from our Lord’s Ascension is that the entire trajectory of Jesus’ earthly life was Heaven. He, Jesus, is the first born of many brethren (Romans 8:29). Therefore, the absolute true meaning of life is Heaven. Saint Paul says it beautifully: “Our citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20). To truly understand the meaning of life we must get this principle straight. Take a look at your Passport: I hope it says “Citizen of Heaven.” Heaven is your true home. We are pilgrims here on planet earth.

Another lesson we glean initially from our Lord’s Resurrection, and ultimately from his Ascension, is the incredibly profound meaning of the the ultimate destiny of the human body. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read the following very significant words: “The Father’s power ‘raised up’ Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as ‘Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead’ ” (CCC 648, my emphasis). “Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again….” (CCC 665). Consequently, any claim that Christianity devalues the body or human nature is misguided. Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily in 2005, stated: “Christ’s Ascension means … that He belongs entirely to God. He, the Eternal Son, led our human existence into God’s presence, taking with Him flesh and blood in a transfigured form. The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God.” C.S. Lewis adds:

“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Christ’s Ascension also signifies the beginning of the final hour of human history. By Christ’s Ascension into Heaven the final age – indeed the final “hour” – of the world has begun. The Catechism states: “Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at ‘the last hour’. ‘Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect’ ” (CCC 670). All Christians are living in “end times,” which means that we should be diligently preparing for the return of the Lord who is already present to us through the Holy Eucharist. 

Finally, our Lord’s Ascension shows that He is the King and High Priest of all creation. There are powerful words in the Epistle to the Hebrews about Jesus’ ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven (words that should really give us great encouragement!). In the seventh chapter of Hebrews we read: “… because Jesus lives forever [in Heaven], he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25; CCC 519). Is it not incredibly encouraging to know that Jesus is always living to make intercession for you! Does not that revelation of his incessant intercession for you fill your heart with confidence!

Moreover, the author of Hebrews identifies Jesus’ never-ending priesthood in Heaven as the true fulfillment of the Order of Melchizedek, the very first priesthood mentioned in the Old Testament (see Genesis 14). In fact, the Order of Melchizedek is mentioned multiple times in Hebrews! This is a very significant point for Catholics because the “thanksgiving offering” made by the priest Melchizedek in the Old Testament was that of bread and wine (Genesis 14:18), which constituted a “communion sacrifice” per Dr. Scott Hahn. Jesus is identified in Hebrews as “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). The true sacramental sign of this New Covenant is identified by Jesus as the Holy Eucharist (“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” – Luke 22:20). As such we are advised in Hebrews not to neglect ‘to meet together” for the New Testament liturgy (Hebrews 10:25), the Mass, of our High Priest, Jesus Christ (see CCC 692). Jesus ascended into Heaven is the true High Priest at every Mass.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: Significantly, Luke 22:20 is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus uses the term, “New Covenant.” For the material in this note on Hebrews and the High Priesthood of Jesus, as it pertains to the Order of Melchizedek and the Eucharist, I am relying predominantly on Dr. Scott Hahn and The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. See also Dr. Hahn’s audio commentary on Hebrews. The quote from Pope Benedict XVI found at

Ascension Thursday and meeting Christ face-to-face 

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THE ASCENSION MEANS THAT JESUS IS LORD OF ALL FOREVER

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“Of all the feasts of Our Lord, I venture to say that…the Ascension is the greatest, because it is the supreme glorification of Christ Jesus” (Blessed Columbra Marmion)

INTRODUCTION

In this short note I wish to make four points about the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

1. JESUS ASCENDED TO THE RIGHT HAND OF HE FATHER

In the Ascension Jesus is lifted up, is raised higher and higher, until we can see that He is above all else! If there are earthly powers, if there are heavenly powers, if there are demonic powers, Jesus is “Lord of the cosmos” and all creation is subject to him (see CCC 668), for “to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” (Hebrews 1:13). Only Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21). In the Ascension, then, we see in the clearest terms that Jesus is Lord, or rather the Lord-God.

It is the ascension of the risen Lord Jesus into Heaven that marks his sovereign Lordship over all things! If in his earthly life Jesus humbled himself to a remarkable degree in order to save us from sin, his ascension constitutes his “supreme exaltation” in light of the “incommensurable glory conferred upon His Holy Humanity” (Blessed Columbra Marmion).

Saint Paul puts it this way:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phillipians 2: 8-11).

We read in Marks’s Gospel that after Jesus ascended into Heaven he “sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Mark 16:19). “By ‘the Father’s right hand’ we understand the glory and honor of divinity, where he who exists as Son of God before all ages, indeed as God, of one being with the Father, is seated bodily after he became incarnate and his flesh was glorified” (CCC 663). “Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s vision concerning the Son of man: ‘To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’ After this event the apostles became witnesses of the ‘kingdom [that] will have no end'” (CCC 664).

2. WE TOO WILL ASCEND ONE DAY TO THE FATHER!

The Lord’s Ascension was essentially for us! After all, his mission of redemption was for us. Thus Jesus said to the apostles, and says also to us, “I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). Really, those are pretty amazing words which demand our attention and meditation. Jesus also said that, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 20:17).

“The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, ‘entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. . . but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.’ There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he ‘always lives to make intercession’ for ‘those who draw near to God through him’. As ‘high priest of the good things to come’ he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven” (CCC 662).

Finally, Saint Paul states that we too already have a seat reserved in Heaven with Jesus due to God’s great love for us in Christ Jesus:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 4-7).

3. WE ARE STILL UNDER ATTACK UNTIL THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS

“Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled ‘with power and great glory’ by the King’s return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ’s Passover. Until everything is subject to him, ‘until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God.’ That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Marana tha! ‘Our Lord, come!’ “ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 671).

4. THE ASCENSION IS A DEMONSTRATION OF GOD’S IMMEASURABLE POWER THAT FLOWS THROUGH TO US THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS

The power that flows to us in faith through an appreciation of Christ’s Ascension is really quite extraordinary. In order to understand what God’s power is capable of doing in us, we are given the supreme example of what it did in Jesus Christ. “All this is said to exalt our sense of the Divine power that so raised up and exalted the God-Man, Christ Jesus – [that is] the same power that still works in believers” (Pulpit Commentary). What Saint Paul is saying in the amazing quote from Ephesians below is that, through the trajectory of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, we can see the immense greatness of God’s power, and through a special spiritual blessing we can further see that this same power is at work in our own lives even here on planet earth, all of which is a great source of hope and confidence for us.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come”  (Ephesians 1: 18-22).

CONCLUSION

Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven clearly manifests his universal Lordship over all things. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:23).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

 

P.S. See also, pertaining to the High Priesthood of Jesus in Heaven,

The meaning of Jesus’ Ascension | Catholic Strength

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: My primary and key reference for the content of this note is Christ In His Mysteries by Blessed Dom Columbra Marmion (B. Herder Book Co.), Chapter 16.

Image:  Ascension by John Singleton Copley, 1775, Public Domain, U.S.A.

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JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN IS THE HIGH PRIEST AT EVERY MASS

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“Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer (Hebrews 8:3). Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 8:1)

The reason why the daily Mass is the greatest event on planet earth each and every day is because it makes present to us in time and space the ever-living prayer within the heart of Jesus Christ ascended into Heaven. What is this prayer? It is the offering of Jesus to the Father of his Calvary sacrifice that is perpetuated by our Eucharistic liturgy (just as Jesus commanded it to be when he instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday as a memorial of his passion and death).

Imagine you have your own personal priest…and that priest is able to offer on your behalf a most beautiful sacrifice to God –  a sacrifice of Infinite value, a sacrifice which is a universal cause of all graces, a sacrifice containing every possible grace needed for your sanctification. How awesome would that be!  And what does Hebrews 8:1 say?: – it says that we do have such a priest who is in heaven right now. And this high priest, says Hebrews, is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices on our behalf (Hebrews 8:3) And how is this done?: – most especially through the Mass, through the Eucharistic sacrifice, through the gifts of bread and wine. And so the true priest at every Mass is Jesus (see CCC 1137).

It is true that the Holy Mass is the Memorial of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. But as a memorial ceremony normally involves the remembrance of someone who is dead, the Mass is altogether unique because Jesus is alive – indeed He is Risen and Glorified!  Jesus is the true Priest who celebrates each and every Mass! So when you go to Mass you are going to a liturgical gathering to pray with Jesus and to join in with Jesus to offer to the Eternal Father Jesus’ Infinite sacrifice which won our redemption. It is therefore an awesome privilege to attend Mass and to make this offering to the Father with our High Priest, Jesus, and to offer yourself to the Father in union with Jesus. In Holy Mass the sacrifice of Calvary is made present to us in a sacramental manner through the ongoing priestly ministry of Jesus Christ (see CCC 1362-1368).

Indeed, there are additional powerful words in the Epistle to the Hebrews about Jesus’ ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven (words that should really give us great encouragement!). In the seventh chapter of Hebrews we read: “… because Jesus lives forever [in Heaven], he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25; CCC 519).

Moreover, the author of Hebrews identifies Jesus’ never-ending priesthood in Heaven as the true fulfillment of the Order of Melchizedek, the very first priesthood mentioned in the Old Testament (see Genesis 14). In fact, the Order of Melchizedek is mentioned multiple times in Hebrews! This is a very significant point for Catholics because the “thanksgiving offering” made by the priest Melchizedek in the Old Testament was that of bread and wine (Genesis 14:18), which constituted a “communion sacrifice” per Dr. Scott Hahn. Jesus is identified in Hebrews as “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). The true sacramental sign of this New Covenant is identified by Jesus as the Holy Eucharist (“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” – Luke 22:20). As such we are advised in Hebrews not to neglect ‘to meet together” for the New Testament liturgy (Hebrews 10:25), the Mass, of our High Priest, Jesus Christ (see CCC 692).

CONCLUSION:
The Mass, then, is the ever-living prayer present in the heart of Jesus Christ.  It’s where the full power of Christ’s universal sacrifice and offering is made present on earth. What a privilege it is for us to attend this daunting and holy ceremony which connects heaven and earth, and to unite our hearts and our prayers to Jesus’ loving oblation to the Father. And then to partake of the fruit of this sacrifice – the supernatural food which feeds our souls. At Mass Jesus is the priest, the victim and our holy communion. “Praise be Jesus Christ, now and forever.”


Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Sources: My source for this note is Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s essay, “Assistance at Mass, the Source of Sanctification,” Chapter 31, Volume 1, of The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life, pages 407-413 (TAN). It is Father Garrigou-LaGrange who states that the the Mass is “the oblation ever living in the heart of Jesus” (p.407). Father Garrigou-LaGrange also states that the Mass “is the greatest act of each of our days,”  that the Mass is “a universal cause of graces,” and that the Mass contains “all the graces we need for our sanctification.” You can see that I have incorporated these precise observations of Father Garrigou-LaGrange in my note. I am also relying on Scott Hahn’s talk, “The Meal of Melchizedek,” and his book, The Lamb’s Supper. The following sections of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, mentioned in The Lamb’s Supper, reinforce some of the key ideas in this note pertaining to the profound value of the Mass:

The celebrants of the heavenly liturgy

1137 The book of Revelation of St. John, read in the Church’s liturgy, first reveals to us, “A throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne”: “the Lord God.”1 It then shows the Lamb, “standing, as though it had been slain”: Christ crucified and risen, the one high priest of the true sanctuary, the same one “who offers and is offered, who gives and is given.”2 Finally it presents “the river of the water of life . . . flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” one of most beautiful symbols of the Holy Spirit.3

. . . is present in the earthly liturgy . . .

1088 “To accomplish so great a work” – the dispensation or communication of his work of salvation – “Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross,’ but especially in the Eucharistic species. By his power he is present in the sacraments so that when anybody baptizes, it is really Christ himself who baptizes. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly, he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised ‘where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them.”‘11

1089 “Christ, indeed, always associates the Church with himself in this great work in which God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is his beloved Bride who calls to her Lord and through him offers worship to the eternal Father.”12

. . . which participates in the liturgy of heaven

1090 “In the earthly liturgy we share in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the Holy City of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle. With all the warriors of the heavenly army we sing a hymn of glory to the Lord; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, until he, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with him in glory.”13

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IS HEBREWS 7:25 THE MOST ENCOURAGING VERSE IN THE BIBLE?

 

“Consequently, [Jesus our High Priest in Heaven] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25)

The upcoming Feast of the Ascension lifts our eyes towards Heaven where we see through verses like Hebrews 7:25 that Jesus’ ongoing ministry in Heaven is truly a most extraordinary enterprise for the well-being of souls on earth.

In addition to John 3:16, Hebrews 7:25 is one of the most powerful and encouraging verses in the Bible. If John 3:16 pertains, in particular, to Jesus’ Incarnation and Passion, Hebrews 7:25 pertains to Jesus’ ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven. Hebrews 7:25 shows that Jesus “exercises an ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven, where he intercedes for the saints at the Father’s right hand” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible). And the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (at 519):

All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.” Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”. He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25). He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us” (Hebrews 9:25).

Hebrews 7:25 tells us very clearly that Jesus, in Heaven, is mightily at work for our good – that, in fact, he always lives to make intercession for us.” Now if the realization that Jesus always lives to make intercession for you doesn’t fill your heart with great encouragement, I’m not sure what will! Moreover, the verse also states that Jesus is “able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.” Not only does Jesus have the power to save you, but he has the power to save you to the uttermost if you draw near to him. Dearest God, these are powerful words from your Holy Spirit!

Now when you visualize Jesus in your heart during prayer, you can see him there in Heaven living his priestly life to constantly intercede for you. This realization will fill your heart with strength, gratitude and fortitude, increasing your confidence in the prayers you make, and increasing also your love for Jesus. And nothing is more important than drawing close to Jesus in love so that he may save you to the uttermost.

I encourage you to meditate on Hebrews 7:25. Dear friend, Jesus always lives to make intercession for you!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Note: For a discussion on how Hebrews 7:25 pertains to Mass, see my previous post, The Mass is the Ever-Living Prayer of Jesus Ascended into Heaven, via this link:

The Mass and the Order of Melchizedek | Catholic Strength

Reference: See Catechism of An Interior Life by the great Father Olier, pertaining to the application of Hebrews 7:25 to interior prayer (Part II), a very valuable reflection.

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MARY CONSECRATED HER LIFE TO GOD BY A VOW OF VIRGINITY

“Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin’.” (Luke 1:34, NLT)

Saint Pope John Paul II explains in Redemptoris Mater that the Virgin Mary consecrated her life to God through a vow of virginity:

Mary accepted her election as Mother of the Son of God, guided by spousal love, the love which totally “consecrates” a human being to God. By virtue of this love, Mary wished to be always and in all things “given to God,” living in virginity. The words “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” express the fact that from the outset she accepted and understood her own motherhood as a total gift of self, a gift of her person to the service of the saving plans of the Most High.  And to the very end she lived her entire maternal sharing in the life of Jesus Christ, her Son, in a way that matched her vocation to virginity (The Mother of the Redeemer, no. 39).

That Mary remained a virgin her entire life is thus a De Fide doctrine of the Catholic Church (see, for example, Documents of Vatican II, LG57, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 499, and Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pages 203-206). But is this doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity contained in Scriptue? An analysis of Luke 1:34 demonstrates that Mary had made a vow of virginity to God.

The relevant verse, Luke 1:34, states: “How shall this be, seeing I do not know man.” These words of Mary to the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation show that Mary did not intend to have conjugal relations with a man; otherwise, Mary surely would have known that conjugal relations with Joseph, her husband, could cause a pregnancy. Catholic theologian Stefano Manelli explains Mary’s strange response to the angel this way:
 
Confronted by this [the angel Gabriel’s] wondrous announcement, however, the virgin finds herself embarrassed; not because of the sublime greatness of the majesty announced to her, but rather for the way in which such a maternity might be realized. The embarrassment would seem inexplicable because, on any reasonable grounds, she is precisely a woman in ideal conditions to conceive a son. She is the young spouse of Joseph – What young spouse would not be inclined to desire a beautiful son? It is obvious, therefore, and must be acknowledged that Mary’s difficulty stems from a precise commitment — vow or promise — “not to know man,” that is, to be and remain a virgin.  St. Augustine rightly says, that ‘Mary certainly would not have spoken those words If she had not vowed her virginity to God.” In fact, only by admitting Mary’s virginal consecration to God, can it be understood why she found herself facing an unsolvable dilemma: How to reconcile her virginal offering to God with the request of maternity on the part of God? How could she become a mother without betraying a promise of virginal consecration to God (Stefano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, pages 137-140).

Warren H. Carroll adds:

“[The] Greek present tense used for Mary’s words in Luke 1:34 corresponds…to the Hebrew and Aramaic active participle indicating a permanent condition. Mary’s words in Aramaic were ki enneni yodaat ish, the yodaat indicating a permanent condition of virginity” (Warren Carroll summarizing and quoting from Manuel Miguen’s “indispensable” work, The Virgin Birth: an Evaluation of Scriptural Evidence (p.81) in The Founding of Christendom, Vol. I, p.310).

CONCLUSION: Mary consecrated her life to God through a vow of virginity. Mary’s words to the angel in Luke 1:34 would hardly make sense unless she had made a vow of virginity.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

Image: A statue of the Virgin Mary in France. Behind the statue is a picture of her crushing the head of Satan, showing the power of her consecrated life over evil.

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THE GREAT GERMAIN GRISEZ WROTE A 31 PAGE LETTER TO POPE FRANCIS ABOUT PROBLEMS WITH AMORIS LAETITIA

“When a bishop acts in persona Christi, fulfilling his duty to teach on matters of faith and morals by identifying propositions to which he calls upon the faithful to assent, he presumably means to state truths that belong to one and the same body of truths: primarily, those entrusted by Jesus to his Church and, secondarily, those necessary to preserve the primary truths as inviolable and/or to expound them with fidelity.” (Germain Grisez and John Finnis)

Germain Grisez, a “towering figure” in the field of Catholic moral theology, passed away this past February. He was the author of a “famed work in moral theology, The Way of the Lord Jesus,” a work very well known to many of us.  He “also left a lasting legacy in the area of natural law, while his magnum opus, the three-volume The Way of the Lord Jesus, became one of the main texts in the study of moral theology, especially its eloquent explanation of Catholic teaching on such key topics as abortion, contraception and chastity” (see references below).

What I would like to bring to the reader’s attention – and to the attention of the whole Catholic world – are the heroic efforts this great moral theologian made near the end of his life to point out potentially deep problems with Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. It is hard to imagine someone more eminently qualified to analyze the moral implications of Amoris Laetitia – and errors therein – than Professor Germain Grisez. Professor Grisez took this responsibility with utmost seriousness, authoring a 31 page letter to Pope Francis, co-written by John Finnis. The full text of that letter is available at the following link:

An Open Letter to Pope Francis | John Finnis and … – First Things

In their 31 page letter, Grisez and Finnis ask Pope Francis “to condemn eight positions against the Catholic faith that are being supported, or likely will be, by the misuse of his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. We ask all bishops to join in this request and to issue their own condemnations of the erroneous positions we identify, while reaffirming the Catholic teachings these positions contradict.”

These eight erroneous arguments are (as stated in the letter):

Position A: A priest administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation may sometimes absolve a penitent who lacks a purpose of amendment with respect to a sin in grave matter that either pertains to his or her ongoing form of life or is habitually repetitive.

Position B: Some of the faithful are too weak to keep God’s commandments; though resigned to committing ongoing and habitual sins in grave matter, they can live in grace.

Position C: No general moral rule is exceptionless. Even divine commandments forbidding specific kinds of actions are subject to exceptions in some situations.

Position D: While some of God’s commandments or precepts seem to require that one never choose an act of one of the kinds to which they refer, those commandments and precepts actually are rules that express ideals and identify goods that one should always serve and strive after as best one can, given one’s weaknesses and one’s complex, concrete situation, which may require one to choose an act at odds with the letter of the rule.

Position E: If one bears in mind one’s concrete situation and personal limitations, one’s conscience may at times discern that doing an act of a kind contrary even to a divine commandment will be doing one’s best to respond to God, which is all that he asks, and then one ought to choose to do that act but also be ready to conform fully to the divine commandment if and when one can do so.

Position F: Choosing to bring about one’s own, another’s, or others’ sexual arousal and/or satisfaction is morally acceptable provided only that (1) no adult has bodily contact with a child; (2) no participant’s body is contacted without his or her free and clear consent to both the mode and the extent of contact; (3) nothing done knowingly brings about or unduly risks significant physical harm, disease transmission, or unwanted pregnancy; and (4) no moral norm governing behavior in general is violated.

Position G: A consummated, sacramental marriage is indissoluble in the sense that spouses ought always to foster marital love and ought never to choose to dissolve their marriage. But by causes beyond the spouses’ control and/or by grave faults of at least one of them, their human relationship as a married couple sometimes deteriorates until it ceases to exist. When a couple’s marriage relationship no longer exists, their marriage has dissolved, and at least one of the parties may rightly obtain a divorce and remarry.

Position H: A Catholic need not believe that many human beings will end in hell.

 

COMMENTARY: I can only imagine that it must have been nearly heartbreaking for Mr. Grisez to read over Amoris Laetitia, especially in light of his profound knowledge of Catholic moral theology. It must have been particularly palpable to Grisez how Amoris Laetitia stood in stark opposition to Veritatis Spendor, the great moral theology encyclical of Pope John Paul II which repudiated in advance many of the arguments put forth in Amoris. To Professor Grisez’s credit, he framed his letter to Pope Francis in a polite and hypothetical manner, but in reality he must have known Amoris was going to have disastrous consequences for the Church if left unchecked. It should be noted, as well, that several pages of the letter written by Grisez and Finnis pertain to the doctrine of hell, and would seem to strongly suggest that Germain Grisez saw a clear causal link between some of the theories in Amoris Laetitia and a general weakening of the Catholic teaching that those who die in mortal sin go to hell. What Pope Francis actually believes about hell was the the subject of much controversy only a few weeks or so ago.

I have personally written about problems with Amoris laetitia in the following post:

WHY AMORIS LAETITIA IS MUCH WORSE THAN ORIGINALLY …

Please say a prayer for a great theologian and defender of the faith, Germain Grisez. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: See link below:

In Memoriam: Germain Grisez, Great Defender of Humanae Vitae …

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THE MEANING OF LIFE IS ETERNAL LIFE

We know that life is a mystery –  and yet we want to understand why there is life, and so much life. The other morning there was a loud noise coming from the back gutter of my house, so I opened a window upstairs and a bunch of Blue jays flew away – a beautiful sight to see! Everywhere we go the world is teeming with life – life, beautiful life!

But it was not supposed to be so! From everything I’ve read, inanimate matter, which preceded organic life, is utterly incapable of generating biological life. Like everywhere else in the universe, there should be physics and chemistry, but the stunning world of biology on planet earth is quite a surprise!!, and in a very real sense it is something akin to the miraculous. “The evolution of modern cells is arguably the most challenging and important problem the field of Biology has ever faced” (Carl Richard Woese, famous American microbiologist).

“…no life, no biology, only physics and chemistry….we only have evidence that it happened on one planet, after a lapse of half a billion to a billion years.  So the sort of lucky event we are looking at could be so wildly improbable that the chances of its happening, somewhere in the universe, could be as low as one in a billion billion billion in any one year.  If it did happen on only one planet, anywhere in the universe, that planet has to be our planet—because here we are talking about it”  (Richard Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable).

The Catholic Church claims to repeat on its altars each day this stunning transformation of inanimate or non-living matter into biological life through, anthropologically speaking, the incantation of a priestly blessing over bread and wine. The whole thing seems wildly improbable, and yet in the well documented literature of Eucharistic miracles there appears to be compelling evidence that it has happened on more than one occasion. Amazing, but then again biological life itself is wildly improbable (see Joan Carroll Cruz’ well researched book, Eucharistic Miracles, which documents many stunning miracles of such sort)!

We come then to the person of Jesus Christ, who claims to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In his teachings he accentuates over and over again the central point that the meaning of life is eternal life. “In the preaching of Jesus everything is directed immediately toward Eternal Life” (Father Garrigou-Lagrange). The Gospel of John, in fact, is often referred to as the “Gospel of Eternal Life.” Now we have this amazing phenomenon that a group of apostles witnessed the dead cellular structure of Jesus’ crucified body come back to life! Jesus, in fact, went out of his way to demonstrate to the apostles – and on more than one occasion – that his resurrected body was a real, human body, the very body he had before his death (“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” – Luke 24:39).

Thus, the apostles were not left wondering whether they had seen Jesus in the flesh following his death and burial – Jesus went out of his way on multiple occasions to make sure that they had!  And these apostles were men that went on to live heroic lives, to suffer and die for what they had witnessed, spawning the amazing rise of the Christian faith despite insurmountable obstacles, and without any resort to violence.

The mystery of life most certainly involves the stunning interplay between inanimate, inert matter and living things. And perhaps in this light it should not be so stunning, after all, that God can bring dry bones back to life! (see Ezekiel 37).

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

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