Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lord, Receive My Spirit...

Today is the Feast of St. Stephen the First Martyr. His martyrdom is recorded in Acts 6:8-7:60:
And Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyre'nians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cili'cia and Asia, arose and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated men, who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel...

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
St. Stephen, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In Nativitate Domini

From the Office of Readings.
Sermo 1 in Nativitate Domini, by Pope St. Leo the Great

Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God's wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: "Glory to God in the highest", and they proclaim, "peace to his people on earth" as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God's goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, "and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ", so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.
Merry Christmas! O Magnum Mysterium!

Celebrate the profundity of this day and this season. Embrace the sacraments, particularly regular confession. Go to Mass. Honor your marriage. Pray. Love one another. If you are angry or resentful, let it go. Lay down your pride. Pick up the Cross. Eat, drink, and make merry (in moderation), but in so doing, remember God's blessings. Thank God for His grace.

The Word has become Flesh. He dwells among us.
O magnum mysterium et admirabile sacramentum
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum
iacentem in praesepio.
Natum vidimus et chorus angelorum
collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia

O great mystery and wonderful sacrament,
that beasts should see the newborn Lord
lying in a manger.
The newborn we have seen and a chorus of angels
praising the Lord. Alleluia

Quem vidistis pastores?
Dicite, annunciate nobis quis apparuit?
Natum vidimus et chorus angelorum
collaudantes Dominum. Alleluia

Whom have you seen, shepherds?
Speak, tell us who has appeared?
The newborn we have seen and a chorus of angels
praising the Lord. Alleluia

O admirabile commercium:
creator generis humani,
animatum corpus sumens
de virgine nasci dignatus est;
et, precedens homo sine semine,
largitus est nobis suam Deitatem.

O wonderful gift:
the creator of the human race,
taking our flesh upon him,
deigns to be born of a virgin;
and, coming forth without seed of man,
bestows his Divinity upon us.
il bambino! il bambino!


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