Jesus Lives On in the Church (Pt. 1): The Theological Tradition

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St. Peter of Alcantara, in ecstasy, being drawn to Christ, the ‘Sun of Justice’ (Mal. 4:2)


The Church: An Infinite Treasure to Men

The Catholic Church, cleansed and adorned with ‘the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled’ (1 Pt. 1:19), is ‘an infinite treasure to men’ (Wis. 7:14); she is ‘the body of Christ’ (1 Cor. 12:27), redeemed out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Apoc. 5:9). United to Jesus Christ, the ‘Head over all the Church’ (Eph. 1:22), ‘we are members of His body, of his flesh, and of his bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is ‘our Everlasting Saviour’ (Bar. 4:22), Who, having loved us ‘with an everlasting love’ (Jer. 31:3), is ‘always living to make intercession for us’ (Heb. 7:25).

Christ: The Life of the Church
If we seek to be saved; if we seek the grace of God in abundance, we have but one thing to do: we have but to cling to the Church, our Mother. We must understand that the prayer of Christ, Who ardently prayed ‘that they may be ONE’ (Jn. 17:11), is not something vague or remote; on the contrary, Jesus continues to live in and through His Church; He continues to offer Himself on its Altars, drawing all men to Himself (Jn. 12:32).

The Eucharist: The Sacrament of Love and Union
In His “unwearying, unconquerable love” (St. John Henry Newman), Christ ‘loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it’ (Eph. 5:25). And why? To the end that He might espouse Himself to the Church in the eternal nuptials of Paradise, of which the Holy Eucharist is both a sign and a pledge: ‘THIS IS MY BODY (Mt. 26:26)… I WILL ESPOUSE THEE TO ME FOR EVER’ (Osee 2:19).

The Prayer of the Bride
We cannot measure His love for His Bride, which lives by His very life (cf. 1 Jn. 4:9). The more intimately we are united with the Church, which is animated by His Spirit, the more surely will our prayers be heard. “The Prayer of the Church,” writes Dom Gueranger, on account of its intimate union with Jesus Christ, is “… the most pleasing to the ear and heart of God, and therefore the most efficacious of all prayers. Happy, then, is he who prays with the Church, and unites his own petitions with those of this Spouse, who is so dear to her Lord, that he gives her all she asks…

‘… shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.’
– Cant. 2:14

It is… Jesus Christ himself who is the source as well as the object of the Liturgy; and hence the Ecclesiastical Year… is neither more nor less than the manifestation of Jesus Christ, and his Mysteries, in the Church and the faithful soul.

“Indeed, although Christ is no longer upon earth, although the historical reality of His mysteries has gone by, He ever remains our Head and the virtue of His actions and of His life is ever fruitful.”
– Bl. Columba Marmion

It is the divine Cycle, in which appear all the works of God, each in its turn; the Seven Days of the Creation; the Pasch and Pentecost of the Jewish people; the ineffable Visit of the Incarnate Word; His Sacrifice and His Victory; the Descent of the Holy Ghost; the Holy Eucharist*; the surpassing glories of the Mother of God, ever a Virgin; the magnificence of the Angels; the merits and triumphs of the Saints.

*“This Sacrament embraces the entire mystery of our salvation.”
St. Thomas Aquinas

… Happy indeed should we deem ourselves, if we could make the faithful understand the grand glory which is given to the Blessed Trinity, to our Saviour, to Mary, to the Angels, and to the Saints, by this annual commemoration of the wondrous works of our God!

‘He hath made a remembrance of His wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord.’ (Ps. 110:4)

If, every year, the Church renews her youth as that of the eagle, she does so because, by means of the Cycle of the Liturgy, she is visited by her divine Spouse, who supplies all her wants. Each year she again sees him an Infant in the manger, fasting in the desert, offering himself on the Cross, rising from the grave, founding his Church, instituting the Sacraments, ascending to the right hand of his Father, and sending the Holy Ghost upon men. The graces of all these divine mysteries are renewed in her; so that, being made fruitful in every good thing, the mystic Garden yields to the Spouse, in every season, under the influence of the spirit he breathes into her, the sweet perfume of aromatic spices.

“… Jesus lives the reality of His mysteries in us, and when we have faith, and rest lovingly united to Him, He draws us with Him, making us partakers of the virtue proper to each of these states. Each year, as the soul follows the Liturgical cycle, it shares ever more intimately in these mysteries, and is identified more and more with Christ, with His thoughts, His feelings, His life.”
– Bl. Columba Marmion (p. 319, ‘Christ the Ideal of the Monk’)

… Now, what the Liturgical Year does for the Church at large, it does also for the soul of each one of the faithful that is careful to receive the gift of God. This succession of mystic seasons imparts to the Christian the elements of that supernatural life, without which every other life is but a sort of death, more or less disguised.” (Dom Gueranger, ‘The Liturgical Year,’ vol. I)

 

The Devil’s Greatest Enemy (Pt. 1): Mary, the New Queen Esther

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Every Kingdom Has Its Queen

Every kingdom has its Queen. The Kingdom of Heaven is no different: Mary, the Mother of God is its Queen, as we shall see. Yes, she is our Queen and Mother. “The Mother of God,” St. Stanislaus Kotska would exclaim, almost ecstatically, “is my Mother!” What joy is ours, what dignity! By baptism, we are of royal birth!

The Woman That Crushes Satan’s Head
Let the praise of Mary be on every tongue, for she is the woman chosen by God to crush the head of the ancient serpent (Gen. 3:15); she is the New Eve, the true ‘Mother of all the living’ (Gen. 3:20), who nourishes us with the blessed Fruit of her virginal womb (Lk. 1:42). ‘She is a tree of Life to them that lay hold on her: and he that shall retain her is blessed’ (Prov. 3:18). God alone can fathom Mary’s greatness: ‘For every tree is known by its fruit’ (Lk. 6:44).

A Remedy to Bad Mariology
If you doubt Mary’s greatness; if you struggle with the thought of invoking her intercession, read the Church Fathers: they will put you on the right path; they will help you to understand the mystical sense of the Scriptures; they will shed much light on the typological reading of the Scriptures (the manna from Heaven, for example, is a type of the Eucharist; King Solomon is a type of Christ, and so on).

Now let us examine some of the Scriptures that speak of Esther, a type of Our Lady. Pay close attention to the clear connections with Mary’s Magnificat (in red).

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THE BOOK OF ESTHER: A FORESHADOWING OF MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS

+ CHAPTER 2

Exceedingly Beautiful
‘… exceeding fair and beautiful.’ (v. 7)
‘With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out: proceed prosperously, and reign.’ (Ps. 44:5)

Finds Favour With God
‘And she pleased Him, and found favour in His sight.’ (v. 9)
St. Gabriel the Archangel: ‘Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.’ (Lk. 1:30)

Amiable to All
‘… her incredible beauty made her appear agreeable and amiable in the eyes of all.’ (v. 15)
‘Wither is thy Beloved gone, O thou most beautiful among women? Wither is thy Beloved turned aside, and we will seek Him with thee?’ (Cant. 5:17)

The King’s Favourite Daughter
‘And the King loved her more than all the women: and she had favour and kindness before Him above all the women.’ (v. 17)
St. Gabriel the Archangel: ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: Blessed art thou among women.’ (Lk. 1:28)

Queen of Heaven
‘And He set the royal crown on her head, and made her Queen…’ (v. 17)
‘The Queen stood on Thy right hand, in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety.’ (Ps. 44:10; cf. Cant. 3:11)

The Littlest and Therefore the Greatest Saint
‘For whatsoever He commanded, Esther observed: and she did all things in the same manner as she was wont at that time when He brought her up, a little one.’ (v. 20)
Mary: ‘Because He hath regarded the humility of His handmaid… all generations shall call me blessed.’ (Lk. 1:48)

+ CHAPTER 5

Almoner of Divine Mercy
‘And the King said to her: What wilt thou, Queen Esther? If thou shouldst even ask one half of the Kingdom, it shall be given to thee.’ (v. 3; v. 6; Esth. 7:2)
‘And the King said to her: My Mother, ask: for I must not turn away thy face.’ (3 Kg. 2:20)

+ CHAPTER 10

Brings Forth Christ, the Sun of Justice and Fount of Life
‘The little fountain which grew into a river, and was turned into a light, and into the sun, and abounded into many waters, is Esther, whom the King married, and made Queen.’ (v. 5, 6)
‘And behold my brook became a great river, and my river came near to a sea. For I make doctrine to shine forth to all as to the morning light…’ (Ecclus. 24:43-44)

+ CHAPTER 14

Loves the Church and Her Liturgy
Esther: ‘They design to change Thy promises, and destroy Thy inheritance, and shut the mouths of them that praise Thee, and extinguish the glory of the temple and altar…’ (v. 9)
‘And the third day, there was a marriage… And the Wine failing, the Mother of Jesus saith to Him: They have no Wine.’ (Jn. 2:1, 3)

Rejoices in God Alone
Esther: ‘… Thy handmaid hath never rejoiced, since I was brought hither unto this day, but in Thee, O Lord, the God of Abraham.’ (v. 18)
Mary: ‘And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.’ (Lk. 1:47)

+ CHAPTER 15

Powerful Advocate
‘And do thou call upon the Lord; and speak to the King for us; and deliver us from death.’ (v. 3)
‘Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid.’ (Heb. 4:16; cf. Wis. 31:26)

N.B. All Scripture quotations are taken from the Douay Rheims.
Certain words (e.g. personal pronouns) have been capitalized, so as to highlight the spiritual meaning of the text. See Esther 15:3 above, for example.

Ven. Louis de Blois: Thoughts on Paradise

Below you will find a compilation of quotes on the topic of Paradise. These have been taken from different works by Ven. Louis de Blois (principally ‘Spiritual Works of Louis of Blois, Abbot of Liesse,’ R & T Washbourne, 1903).

As a preliminary consideration, it will be worthwhile to reflect on a spiritual light given to St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. She learnt that, whereas earthly pleasures, being less than man, enter into him, the joys of Paradise, conversely, are so much greater than man, that he enters into them. Earthly joys, she writes, are like a glass of water; heavenly, like a limitless ocean. St. Thomas concurs with this thought, as do all other theologians, at least implicitly; impelled, as they are, by the inexorable laws of sound philosophy. ‘Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord’ (Mt. 25:21).

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THOUGHT ON PARADISE:
Putting Things in Perspective: The Depths of Mary’s Joy
In fact, if all the joys of the world, all peace, all delights and pleasures were gathered into one, they would appear mere bitterness compared with the least joy that the Blessed Virgin possessed.

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The Company of Countless Angels and Saints
We shall enjoy for ever the society of Mary, the Mother of God, most beautiful, most sweet, most kind, most lovable, of the holy angels and the other citizens of heaven, and we shall know them all right well as our friends… Each one distinctly and perfectly knows every one of the citizens of heaven, and abounds with every sort of riches, delight and joy… [We shall be blessed to] behold the most Blessed Mother of God, to join the chorus of Angels, to have perpetual fellowship with the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, with the holy Apostles and Martyrs, with the holy Confessors and Virgins: to know all the citizens of heaven, and to rejoice with each of them in their eternal happiness.

‘Better is One Day in Thy Courts Above Thousands…’
Truly, that blessed heavenly country is our only fatherland; where an everlasting day always shineth forth, better far than a thousand days here below.

The Hour of Death: Man’s “Hour”
Happy is the hour, and most desirable the moment, when the heavenly Spouse joyfully meets the holy soul coming forth from the prison of the body with gentle words, and invites it, saying, “Arise, make haste, my love. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. Flowers have appeared in our land; the vines in flower yield their sweet smell, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Cant. ii. 10, 11, 12). Come forth with joy, most dear daughter: tremble not, nor be afraid; thou art brought out of exile, thou leavest the miseries of the calamitous world. For “nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow, shall be any more” (Apoc. xxi. 4). Henceforth, the corruptible body shall not weigh down the soul: for when thou art admitted into the joy of thy Lord, thou shalt rejoice for ever in the gift of immortality.

No Need for Food and Drink
They who shall possess God will not need corruptible food and drink, for they will be full of God. God will be to them, food and drink, and whatsoever they can desire; they will have all things in Him, with whose vision they will be filled.

Endless Desire, Endless Satisfaction
They will ever see Him, and ever be satisfied; and they will desire ever to see Him, and ever to be satisfied. They will desire without anxiety, and they will have their fill without satiety.

Beauty Incomparable
Thy gates shine with choice pearls; thy streets are paved with the purest gold; thy walls are bright with most precious stories. In thee, delicious gardens and pleasant vales are ever fresh; in thee, perennial flowers and violets continually flourish; in thee, the cinnamon and balsam incessantly breathe forth an ineffable odour of sweetness; in thee, all kinds of beautiful things abound without fading, remain without passing away, exist without corruption, are eternal without change. In thee is a climate temperate and serene, beyond all human conception; in thee, are peace and repose surpassing all imagination; in thee, is eternal day, and one life in all; in thee, is certain security, and secure eternity, and eternal tranquillity, and tranquil happiness, and happy sweetness, and sweet joy: in thee shall the just shine as the sun (Matth. xiii. 43).

Absolutely Nothing is Lacking
No one can seek, or desire, or love anything, which he will not find in thee. That only which is nothing worth, is not in thee. Oh, what an ocean of unalloyed bliss, what a torrent of unmixed joy, what an abyss of purest delight is it to see the God of gods in Sion (Psalm Ixxxiii. 8), to discern that incomprehensible glory of the Most Holy Trinity: clearly to contemplate that surpassing fairness, perfectly to taste that ineffable sweetness, from whence flows out all the beauty and sweetness of created things…

A Land Free of Every Affliction
… there is no infirmity, no corruption, no fear, no thoughts, no anxiety, no grief, no poverty, no affliction, no sorrow or misery (Apoc. xxi. 4). There wilt thou most happily enjoy that supreme and unchangeable Good, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of mortal man (1 Cor. ii. 9).

Like Iron Cast into the Fire
For thou shalt clearly see the glorious Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the One supremely desirable God. Thou will be in God and God will be in thee in a most excellent manner. Being thus united to God, thou wilt perfectly taste the sweetness of His goodness, and wilt be utterly inebriated with the torrent of divine delights (Psal. xxxv. 9). Thou wilt then most fully know and feel, with what immense love He has loved thee from all eternity.

The Lamb is the Lamb Thereof
Filled with unspeakable and incomprehensible joy, thou wilt behold the Human Face of thy Beloved Jesus, which is verily all gracious, glorious, and sweet; for His beauty and fairness far surpass all that can in this life be wished for or desired.

Beauty, Peace, Truth
There, all are adorned with incorruptible beauty, and enjoy an imperturbable peace. There all are ever glorified by the serene light of the Godhead, and obtain full knowledge of the truth.

God Possesses All Perfections Perfectly
Thou needst not fear lest any of those things which please thee here should be absent. For all the beauty, elegance, sweetness, grace, perfection, and excellence that can here be found in all creatures, exist there most exuberantly and superessentially. In short, there is the influx of every good.

33 Forever
We shall all rise again at the age at which the Lord Jesus was when He died for us. The old man of a hundred years and the infant of one night old will be of the same stature. And although the good may now be lame, or blind, or deformed; yet they will then rise again sound, whole, fair, beautiful, and free from every blemish.

The Glory of the Risen Body
The bodies of the elect will then emit a most sweet odour, and will be seven times more brilliant than the sun, since the glory of their souls will penetrate them. They will also be impassible, so that they can suffer no injury. And they will be endowed with such agility that wherever the soul may wish to be, thither it will in a moment transport the body. They will moreover be so subtle that they will penetrate solid and thick substances with less difficulty than the light of the sun penetrates glass.

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Justice at Last
Then, indeed, the Saints, who during the winter of this exile, like trees stripped of all adornment, appeared lowly and were esteemed barren, will be clothed with unspeakable glory and beauty, and will flourish like palm-trees for ever and ever.