St. Lazarus of Bethany

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St. Lazarus of Bethany

Reputed first Bishop of Marseilles, died in the second half of the first century.

According to a tradition, or rather a series of traditions combined at different epochs, the members of the family at Bethany, the friends of Christ, together with some holy women and others of His disciples, were put out to sea by the Jews hostile to Christianity in a vessel without sails, oars, or helm, and after a miraculous voyage landed in Provence at a place called today the Saintes-Maries. It is related that they separated there to go and preach the Gospel in different parts of the southeast of Gaul. Lazarus, of whom alone we have to treat here, went to Marseilles, and, having converted a number of its inhabitants to Christianity, became their first pastor. During the first persecution under Nero he hid himself in a crypt, over which the celebrated Abbey of St.-Victor was constructed in the fifth century. In this same crypt he was interred, when he shed his blood for the faith. During the new persecution of Domitian he was cast into prison and beheaded in a spot which is believed to be identical with a cave beneath the prison Saint-Lazare. His body was later translated to Autun, and buried in the cathedral of that town. But the inhabitants of Marseilles claim to be in possession of his head which they still venerate. Continue reading

The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Novena: December 9-17; Feast: December 18

This feast was celebrated from the earliest centuries of the Church in Spain, ever since St. Alfonsus, Archbishop of Toledo, during the midnight Matins of this Feast (which was also celebrated in honor of the Annunciation) was favored with an apparition of our Heavenly Mother, who clothed him with a precious chasuble brought by the Angels. This is the origin of the ancient celebration of the Incarnation in the Gothic Kingdoms of Spain. As that feast is now observed on March 25, this festival gives expression to the Blessed Virgin Mary’s ardent longing for the sacred moment of the Birth of her Divine Child. She eagerly awaited Him Whom her soul loved, the most beautiful of the sons of men, the Redeemer of mankind, the only-begotten Son of God. The best preparation that we can make for Christmas is to unite our sentiments with those of our heavenly Mother. Meditation.

“Drop down dew from above, ye heavens, and let the clouds rain the Just One! Let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior!” (Isa. 45:8)

“O Lord, how wonderful Thou art everywhere in the world! Thou hast made for Thyself a worthy dwelling-place in the Virgin Mary!”

Glory be to the Father…

“Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isa. 7:14)

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a Son; and thou shalt call His name Jesus. (Luke 1:30) Hail Mary…

“The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; and therefore the Holy One to be born shall be called the Son of God. But Mary said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:35) Hail Mary…

O holy and Immaculate Virgin, how shall I praise thee as I ought? Thou hast borne in thy womb Him Whom Heaven could not contain. Blessed and worthy of veneration art thou, O Virgin Mary, who didst become the Mother of the Savior while remaining a Virgin. Hail Mary…

Mary speaks:
“I sleep and my heart watches… I to my Beloved, and my Beloved to me, Who feeds among the lilies.” (Cant. 6:2)

Let us Pray:

Grant, we pray Thee, Almighty God, that we who are weighed down by the old yoke of sin, may be freed by the new Birth of Thine only-begotten Son for which we long, Who livest and reignest forever, unto ages of ages. Amen.

HYMN: Alma Redemptoris Mater
Mother of Christ, hear thou thy people’s cry,
Star of the deep and portal of the sky.
Mother of Him Who thee from nothing made,
Sinking, we strive, and call to thee for aid.
Oh, by that joy which Gabriel brought to thee,
Thou Virgin, first and last, let us thy mercy see.

Let us Pray:

O God, Who didst will that Thy Word should take flesh in the womb of the Blessed Mary at the message of an angel, grant to us, Thy humble servants, that we who truly believe Her to be the Mother of God may be helped by Her intercession with Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.


Advent Embertide

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Advent Embertide

Genesis 8:22 “All the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, night and day, shall not cease.”

Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Gaudete Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent) are known as “Advent Embertide,” and they come near the beginning of the Season of Winter (December, January, February). Liturgically, the readings for the days’ Masses follow along with the general themes of Advent, opening up with Wednesday’s Introit of Isaias 45: 8 and Psalm 18:2 :

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior. The heavens show forth the glory of God: and the firmament declareth the work of His hands.

Wednesday’s and Saturday’s Masses will include one and four Lessons, respectively, with all of them concerning the words of the Prophet Isaias except for the last lesson on Saturday, which comes from Daniel and recounts how Sidrach, Misach, and Abdenago are saved from King Nabuchodonosor’s fiery furnace by an angel. This account, which is followed by a glorious hymn, is common to all Embertide Saturdays but for Whit Embertide.

The Gospel readings for the three days concern, respectively, the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-28), Visitation (Luke 1:37-47), and St. John the Baptist’s exhorting us to “prepare the way of the Lord and make straight His paths” (Luke 3:1-6).

The Natural Season

Psalm 147:12, 16-17

“Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Sion.
Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes.
He sendeth his crystal like morsels: who shall stand before the face of his cold?”

Winter is a time of reflection, when human activity is stilled and snow blankets the world with silence. For the Christian, Winter symbolizes Hope: though the world now appears lifeless and makes us think of our own mortality, we hope in our resurrection because of the Resurrection of the One Whose Nativity we await now. How providential that the Christ Child will be born at the beginning of this icy season, bringing with Him all the hope of Spring! Also among our Winter feasts are the Epiphany and Candlemas, two of the loveliest days of the year, the first evoked by water, incense, and gold; the latter by fire…

Yes, despite the typical, unimaginative view of Winter as a long bout with misery, the season is among the most beautiful and filled with charms. The ephemeral beauty of a single snowflake… the pale blue tint of sky reflected in snow that glitters, and gives way with a satisfying crunch under foot… skeletal trees entombed in crystal, white as bones, cold as death, creaking under the weight of their icy shrouds… the wonderful feeling of being inside, next to a fire, while the winds whirl outside… the smell of burning wood mingled with evergreen… warm hands embracing your wind-bitten ones… the brilliant colors of certain winter birds, so shocking against the ocean of white… the wonderfully long nights which lend themselves to a sense of intimacy and quiet! Go outside and look at the clear Winter skies ruled by Taurus, with the Pleiades on its shoulder and Orion nearby… Such beauty!

Even if you are not a “winter person,” consider that Shakespeare had the right idea when he wrote in “Love’s Labours Lost”:

Why should proud summer boast
Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in an abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows.

Associations and Symbols

Winter is characterized by “wet and cold,” and is associated with the golden years of old age, the humour of phlegm, the phlegmatic temperament, 1 and the element of water. Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s fascinating portraits of the season and its associated element lead the imagination in all directions:

Ember Day Fast

The purpose for the fast and abstinence during the Ember Days are to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. This fast and abstinence are to be observed on Ember Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. According to current Church laws all Catholics between the ages of 21 and 59, inclusive, are bound to fast, and all who have attained their seventh year must keep the abstinence (meat only once at the principal meal on Wednesday and Saturday).