On the Transfiguration of our Lord by Richard Challoner

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On the Transfiguration of our Lord
by Richard Challoner, 1807

[1] And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: [2] And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. [3] And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. [4] And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. [5] And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.

[6] And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid. [7] And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them, Arise, and fear not. [8] And they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus. [9] And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead. — St. Matthew 17: 1 – 9

Consider first, how our Lord taking with him Peter, James and John, brought them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them; so that “His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.” “And there appeared to them Moses and Elias, talking with Him, (concerning His decease that he should accomplish in Jerusalem,”) Luke ix. 31. Now Peter being transported with the glory of this vision, cried out, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if thou wilt, let us make nere three tabernaeles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” “And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them; and lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying; “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him,” Matt. xviii. This Transfiguration of our Lord, full of lessons and instructions for us, is honoured by the Church in the festival of this day, with a particular view to the raising up the thoughts and hope of her children, in the midst of the hardships and labours of their mortal pilgrimage to the eternal repose and glory of their heavenly country, that blessed Jerusalem which the true Israelites must never forget; though constrained as yet, by a miserable captivity, to sit down and weep upon the banks of the rivers of Babylon, and lament their distance from the house of God in Sion.

Consider 2dly, in this mystery of the Transfiguration of our Lord; how wonderfully He was here pleased to confirm our faith, as well by the joint testimonies of the Law and the Prophets, bearing witness to the Gospel, represented by the glorious apparition of Moses and Elias with Christ; as by the testimony of God himself in all the three Persons, by the voice of the Father, by the glory of the Son, and by the manifestation of the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud. See how He was pleased by the same glory of this Transfiguration, to encourage all His followers, to bear with patience the afflictions, labours, crosses, and persecutions of this life, in hopes of a share in that eternal glory, of which He has given us as it were a sketch in this mystery, ever remembering that of the Apostle, 2 Cor. iv. 17, “that our present tribulations which is momentary and light, worketh for us above measure exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” But O let us take along with us that other lesson also, which we are taught by the voice of the heavenly Father, in the Transfiguration of our Lord, that the true way to a happy eternity, and to all good, is ever to hear and obey the Son of God.

Consider 3dly, how St. Peter being out of himself, with the joy of this vision, was desirous to be always in the same happy situation, and allways enjoying the like glory; and therefore he cried out, “Lord it is good for us to be here; not knowing, saith St. Luke, what he said, cn. x. 33. Because though it was inconceivably delightful to see and enjoy (though for a short time) the least glimpse of heavenly light and glory; yet as this present life was not to be the time of enjoyment, but of labours and of sufferings; and the Son of God Himself was to enter into His glory, by labours and sufferings (Luke xxiv. 26.); it was inordinate to desire here for a continuance, that which was reserved for here after: and for such only as should be entitled to it by labours and sufferings. Learn from hence, O my soul, with regard to divine consolations, and such like favours, that though thou art to receive them when given, with humility, gratitude and love, admiring the goodness and bounty of God, who is pleased thus to look down upon thee, the most unworthy of sinners: yet art thou not to set thy heart upon them, nor to be disturbed and discouraged, when they are taken away: for merit and perfection consists not in them, but in working, suffering and loving; and for the time of this mortal life, ordinarily speaking, it is far better for thee to be with thy Lord upon Mount Calvary, than upon Mount Thabor.

Conclude instead of being eager after these transitory consolations, which at the best are but as small drops of water that fall from the clouds of Heaven, to refresh us for a moment in this dry desert, through which we are now travelling; to aspire rather continually after that great overflowing river above, which gives joy without end to the City of God; and which alone is capable quenching thy thirst and satisfying thy soul.

St. Xystus

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St. Xystus, or Sixtus II., Pope and Martyr

HE was a Grecian by birth, deacon of the Roman Church under St. Stephen, and upon his demise, in 257 was chosen pope, being the twenty-fifth from St. Peter. St. Dionysius of Alexandria consulted him by three letters on certain difficulties, and recommended to him to bear a little while with the Africans and some among the Asiatics with regard to their error concerning the validity of baptism given by heretics. Accordingly this pope used towards them indulgence, contenting himself with strongly recommending the truth to them; and his successors pursued the same conduct till that error was condemned in the plenary council often mentioned by St. Austin. 1 St. Sixtus is styled by St. Cyprian a peaceable and excellent prelate. Though some have ascribed eight years to his pontificate, it is certain from all the circumstances of his history, that he only sat one year. 2 1
Gallus, the successor of Decius in the empire, and a persecutor of the Christians, being despised for his cowardice, was slain with his son and colleague Volusius in 253, after having reigned eighteen months. Æmilius then assumed the title of emperor; but was killed after he had reigned four months, without having been acknowledged by the senate; and Valerianus, a person of a noble family, and great reputation, who had been censor and chief of the senate, was acknowledged emperor by the consent of the whole world. He was at first more favourable to the Christians than any of the emperors before him had been, not excepting the Philips; and his palace was full of religious persons. By this means the church enjoyed peace during three years and a half: which tranquillity afforded an opportunity of holding many councils; but in 257 Valerian raised the eighth, or, according to Sulpicius Severus, the ninth general persecution, which continued three years and a half, till he was taken prisoner by the Persians. The change wrought in this emperor is ascribed by Eusebius to a motive of superstition, and to the artifices and persuasion of one Macrianus, who was extremely addicted to the Persian sect of the Magians, and to the black art. This man, whom St. Dionysius of Alexandria calls the archmagian of Egypt, had worked himself into the highest favour with the superstitious emperor, was raised by him to the first dignities of the state, and persuaded him that the Christians by being avowed enemies to art magic, and to the gods, obstruct the effects of the sacrifices, and the prosperity of his empire. Valerian had reason to tremble for his own safety upon the pinnacle of his honours; for some compute that only six, out of thirty emperors, who had reigned from Augustus to his time, had escaped the violent hands of murderers; but, by declaring himself an enemy to the servants of God, he dug a pit for his own ruin. He published his first edict against them in April, 257, which was followed by the martyrdom of Pope Stephen and many others. 2
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The Transfiguration of Our Lord

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord

Matt. xviii; Mark ix; Luke ix.

OUR Divine Redeemer, in order to show us that the sufferings of his servants are usually intermingled with frequent spiritual comforts, and to give us a sensible demonstration of the truth of his promises of an eternal glory reserved for us in the world to come, was pleased to manifest a glimpse of his majesty in the mystery of his Transfiguration. Being in Galilee, about a year before his sacred passion, he chose to be witnesses of his glory the same three beloved disciples who were afterwards to be witnesses of his bloody agony in the garden—namely, St. Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, SS. James and John. He took three, that their evidence might be unexceptionable; but he would not publicly discover his glory, to teach his followers to love the closest secrecy in all spiritual graces and favours. All pretences contrary to this rule are suggested by blind self-love, not by the spirit of God; they are a disguised pride, and a dangerous illusion. Every true servant of God loves to be hidden and concealed; his motto in the divine gifts, even when he most ardently invites all creatures to magnify the Lord with him for all His unspeakable mercies, is: My secret to myself, my secret to myself. 1 He fears lest he should be at all considered or thought of in what purely belongs to God alone. Jesus therefore would exhibit this miracle in retirement, and he led these three apostles to a retired mountain, as he was accustomed to repair often to some close solitude to pray. The tradition of the Christians in Palestine, of which St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John Damascen, and other ancient fathers are vouchers, assures us, that this was mount Thabor, which is exceeding high and beautiful, and was anciently covered with green trees and shrubs, and was very fruitful. It rises something like a sugar loaf, in a vast plain, in the middle of Galilee. This was the place in which the Man-God appeared in his glory. He was transfigured whilst at prayer, because it is usually in this heavenly commerce that the soul receives the dew of divine consolations, and tastes how infinitely sweet and good God is to those who sincerely seek him. Many Christians indeed are strangers to this effect of that holy exercise, because they do not apply themselves to it with assiduity and fervour, or neglect to disengage their affections from creatures by perfect humility, self-denial, and mortification of the senses. Without a great purity of heart no man shall see God. A little bird-lime entangles the feathers of a bird, and holds down the strongest pinion from being able to raise the body in the air. So the least earthly dust clogs the wings of the soul, the least inordinate attachment to creatures is a weight which hinders the perfect union of her affections with God, and the full flow of his graces upon her; but a Christian worthily disposed and fitted by the Holy Ghost to receive the spirit of prayer, by assiduity in that holy exercise purifies his love more and more, transforms his affections, and renders them more and more spiritual and heavenly. Of this, the Transfiguration of our Divine Redeemer was, among other transcending prerogatives, a most noble and supereminent prototype. 1 Continue reading

The Dedication of St. Mary Ad Nives

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The Dedication of St. Mary Ad Nives

The Catholic Church celebrates today the annual feast of the dedication of a very remarkable church at Rome, called St. Mary Ad Nives–” St. Mary of the Snow,” or ” St. Mary Major.” The origin of this church is as follows: In the middle of the fourth century, at the time of Pope Liberius, there resided at Rome a nobleman named John. Although rich in temporal goods, he was still wealthier in those which are not of this world, and his wife was his equal in birth, riches and virtue. They had been married many years without having been blessed with children, although they had often prayed to God for them. At last, they resigned themselves to the will of Providence, and resolved to employ all their wealth in honor of the Blessed Virgin, and make her heir to it, as they had always entertained great devotion for her. They were, as yet, uncertain as to the manner in which they should carry out their intention. They both sought refuge in prayer and alms, begging the Blessed Virgin to teach them how they might best appropriate their possessions to her honor.

Mary, the Divine Mother, deigned to make her wishes known to them. Appearing to them both in the night, she told them to go, on the following day, which was the fifth of this month, to the Aesquiline mount, in Rome, and to build a church in her honor on the spot which they would find covered with snow. This, she added, would be more agreeable to her than anything else they could do. When they awoke next morning and told each other their dream or rather their vision, they were filled with inexpressible joy, and immediately repaired to Pope Liberius to hear his opinion on the subject. As the Pope had had the same vision the same night, there was no longer reason to doubt the truth of the revelation. Assembling the clergy and people without delay, the Pontiff formed a procession to go to the appointed spot.

When they arrived there, they saw, in truth, a place large enough for a church, covered with snow. All were greatly surprised at this, which they could not but consider a miracle, since it was in the midst of summer, on the fifth of August, when neither in Rome nor within many miles of it, any snow could naturally have fallen. The pious couple drew from this fact the greatest comfort, as it was an indication that the Almighty and the Blessed Virgin were pleased with their intention. Therefore, hesitating no longer, they forthwith made all the necessary preparations for building a magnificent temple. The building was begun and very soon completed. All that was needed for its erection, as well as for its maintenance, was joyfully furnished. Pope Liberius most solemnly consecrated the new temple; and all the faithful went to it to venerate the Queen of Heaven. At first, this church was called the Basilica, signifying a palace, or the Liberian Basilica, on account of its royal magnificence. It was also called St. Mary ad Nives, for the reason mentioned above. Today it is known as the St. Mary Major, or the Great, as it is the greatest of all the churches of Rome built in honor of the Blessed Virgin, on account of its origin, magnificence and rich endowment. It is also called St. Mary ad Praesepe–St. Mary of the Manger–because in one of its chapels, the crib or manger, in which the new-born Saviour was placed by His virgin mother, is kept.

Pope Gregory the Great, in 509, formed and led the great precession, celebrated in the annals of the church, to implore God, through the intercession of Mary, to avert the dreadful pestilence which ravaged Rome. Its fury somewhat abated, but as it was still in the city, the Pope, in the following year, formed a second precession, headed by the picture of the Blessed Virgin painted by St. Luke, which is kept in the church of St. Mary ad Nives. During the procession, the pestilence left all those houses by which the picture passed, until, at last, when the faithful dispersed, the whole city was free from the terrible scourge. Another miraculous event occurred during the procession, which must not be omitted. Angels were heard singing: “Rejoice, O Queen of Heaven, Alleluia. He whom thou didst deserve to bear, Alleluia! is risen as He said, Alleluia!” The holy Pope, prostrating himself with all the people, finished the angels’ hymn of praise with the words: “Pray for us to God, Alleluia!” When the procession had reached the Mausoleum, or tomb of the Emperor Adrian, the Pope saw upon its summit an angel sheathing his sword, as a sign that the wrath of the Almighty was appeased by the intercession of Mary, and that the pestilence which had so long ravaged the city, would disappear. The rejoicing of the people, and the devotion which was from that time shown to the miraculous picture of the Blessed Virgin, cannot be worthily described.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Those who are not Catholics and who blame us for our veneration of the Queen of Heaven and for the churches built in her honor, may see by the origin of the church of St. Mary ad Nives, how ancient this pious practice is, and how agreeable to God. The building of this celebrated church took place in the fourth century, at a time when Protestants themselves say that the Catholic Church was still the true Church of God. Even at that remote period, Mary was venerated and churches were built in her honor. The church approved of it, and God confirmed it by special miracles. Who dares say that the Church of Christ erred, and that God Himself confirmed that error by a miracle? Even in countries where the population has ceased to be Catholics, we find ancient churches which were built in honor of the Blessed Virgin. Surely, if all Catholics were silent on the subject, the very stones of these sacred edifices would prove the devotion of the early ages to the Divine Mother. Would any one dare to accuse the pious Christians, who built these churches, of having erred? This would be no less foolish than arrogant. Why then do they oppose the church of ancient date? My Catholic reader, take my advice. Let no one disconcert you in your devotion to the Queen of Heaven, and never become cold in her service.

Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.