Archive for March, 2011

Cosmas & Damian

The basilica of the two holy physicians (Anargyri) stands in the Forum, having been adapted by Felix IV in the ancient aulea of the Eroon of Romulus, and the temple Sacrae urbis where the catastal archives of the city were kept. In the Byzantine period it was celebrated as a famous sanctuary where the two martyrs worked all manner of marvellous cures for their clients.

The Basilica of St Clement rises on the site of an ancient Roman domus, which a well-founded tradition connects with the Pope of that name. There is nothing unlikely in the story that Clement, in the days following the Neronian persecution, gathered together the scattered flock of Christians under the very roof of the house which we visit to-day, and encouraged them to persevere in the faith. It appears that later, during the final persecution, there was a deliberate attempt to profane the spot sanctified by Christian worship, by erecting here an altar to Mithras, which, however, under Constantine, gave place once more to the cross of Christ. A careful study of the plan of the basilica allows us to infer that the architect wished to make the position of the altar corre­spond with that of an ancient aula beneath it, which was probably known to be the one used by Clement.

St Jerome particularly mentions the dominicum dementis, and as in early days basilicas were not erected in Rome to the martyrs except over their tombs, or on the site of their dwellings, the tradition concerning the house of Clement does not appear to be in any way doubtful.

The actual basilica was built on a higher level by Paschal II (1099-1118), after the first had been seriously damaged in the great conflagration on the entry of Robert Guiscard into Rome in 1084.

The Introit is derived from Psalm xxv, and is in perfect harmony with the place and the traditions concerning it. Let us call to mind that we are in the house of a martyr, and, in addition, in one of the chief ecclesiastical buildings of Rome. “Redeem me, O Lord, and have mercy on me, for my foot hath stood in the direct way.” It is the martyr himself who is speaking in the person of the Psalmist. “In the churches will I bless the Lord”—that is, in those assemblies which were brought together by Clement in his own house, and which were the forerunners of our stational synaxes. “Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in my innocence, and hoping in the Lord I shall not be weakened.”

In the Collect we beseech God that we may not only afflict the flesh by fasting, but may also abstain from sin and follow justice. Thus we ask for two gifts, the one negative—declina a malo—the other positive—et fac bonum—without which piety would not be a virtue. Every virtue, in fact, disposes us to do good; indeed, it is not possible to conceive a virtue which does not tend to produce tangible result.

The lesson from Daniel (ix 15-19) describes in sorrowful words the sad condition of Rome in the seventh century, when the city was more than once surrounded by its enemies, devastated -by war, famine, plague, and earthquake, so that Gregory the Great expected nothing less than the end of the world. But an immovable confidence in God and an unbounded hope lie under the pathetic lament, so the Romans, like Daniel in Babylon, doubt not that the merits of their great Apostles will avail to save the holy city, and that the great destiny promised to her by the divine Redeemer will surely be fulfilled.

The Gradual comes from Psalm lxix : “Be thou my helper and my deliverer; O Lord, make no delay. Let my enemies be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul.”

What became of Clement after his apostolate and episcopate in Rome? An ancient tradition says that he died in the Chersonesus, and perhaps the Gospel of to-day (John viii 21-29) is intended to allude to this in the words of our Lord to the Jews, when he announces his departure from Judea and the impossibility of their following him : “Whither I go, you cannot come.” For Clement was an exile from Rome, even after death, and the pagan world which refused his teaching and drove him into banishment in the mines of the Crimea could not follow him to the sublime regions of faith and celestial glory.

The Offertory, from Psalm xv, renders thanks to almighty God for having given us understanding, and dwells upon the thought of his constant presence at our side, lest we should waver in face of temptation.

The Secret asks that our sacrifices of praise and propitiation may render us worthy of the divine protection.

The Communion is taken from the first verse of Psalm viii: “O Lord, our Lord, how admirable is thy name in all the earth!” He who represents on earth this name of God is, first of all, Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God, and, in his human nature, the perfect image of the Father. Secondly, it is ourselves, as being created to the likeness of God and raised by grace to participate as far as we are able in the divine nature, and to renew it in Christ by the sanctity of our Christian life.

The Post-Communion is common to many Masses: “May this Communion, O Lord, cleanse us from guilt, and make us partakers of a heavenly remedy.”

In the Prayer over the people we beg that as God has put into our hearts the hope of pardon, so he will bestow upon us also the grace of his accustomed mercy.

Terrible are the crimes caused by envy, so vividly described by St Clement in his epistle to the Church of Corinth, when he attributes to this ignoble passion even the martyrdom of St Peter and St Paul, and the immolation of numerous victims of Nero in the Circus Vaticanus. The Gospel of to-day describes the envy of the Synagogue—that implacable stepmother of the Church throughout the ages—against the divine Redeemer, and at the same time it announces its punishment: “You shall see me—in your hatred and despair —but you shall not find me, nor can your malice touch me; and you shall die in your sin.”

—From The Sacramentary by Blessed Ildefonso Schuster, O.S.B.


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Raphael's Transfiguration

“Peter said unto 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.”

Consider that the Transfiguration of Christ upon Tabor is the type and Divine original of the glorious transfiguration of our soul in heaven, where we “shall be changed,” says the Apostle, “into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Repair in spirit to that blessed abode; forget thou hast a body, and that thou art on earth; forget all the sensible objects which surround thee; forget all mortal creatures, to think, with all the intenseness of which thou art capable, of the eternal joys which; God prepareth from all eternity for those who love Him. Say to thyself, If I am faithful to my obligations, if I love God with my whole heart, and my neighbour as myself, I shall see God, I shall know God, I shall be transformed into God ; I shall be all in Him, and He will, be All in me: the three powers of my soul will each have both their resting-place and their transfiguration; there will be a fulness of God in my memory, the light of God in my understanding, the Joy of God in my will. Yes, thy memory will ever be filled with God; she will have Him ever present, without being able to forget Him, and nothing will be able to efface the sweet remembrance of His goodness and of His mercy. (more…)

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Mary, refuge of sinners

Mary, refuge of sinners

Grievous indeed was the harm, beloved, that one man and one woman inflicted on us all; but God be thanked, through one man and one woman the wrong has been righted and God’s favour to us even increased. It was not one of those cases where the compensation equals the injury: the benefits we received in this instance exceeded the amount of the damage. Most skilful and indulgent of artists, God refused to destroy his creation simply because it had received a battering. He took the more useful course of making from it something quite new: he made us a new Adam out of the old one and transformed Eve into Mary. (more…)

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First Part.

“Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil; and when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterwards an hungred.” He was there tempted as to fleshly appetite, avarice, and ambition, but He sustained these assaults with strength Divine. He defeated the vile tempter by three oracles which confounded him, and obliged him to depart with shame. (St Matt. iv. 1—11.) (more…)

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Day of Repentance

A Meditation Upon Acts of Penitence
Taken from the Gospel for Ash Wednesday

First Part.

Saint Jerome in penitence“When ye fast,” says Jesus Christ, “be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.” (St. Matt. vi. 16.) Fall not into this snare, which the Evil one spreads for thy good works, to make thee lose all their acceptableness. On the contrary, begin thy fasts, thine abstinences, and thy holy practices, with that spiritual joy which thy Saviour demands in the Gospel of the day. Rejoice then with the saints at being by these humiliations a voluntary victim, in time, to thy sins and to the justice of God; so wilt thou assuredly escape being one day their involuntary victim in eternity. (more…)

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Why Keep Lent?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God.”—1 S. Pet. V.6.

It is a pleasure to me, when I see how few of us are able to be in chapel this morning, to remember the thousands and thousands of good people in all parts of the world who have been preparing themselves to keep the Great Fast, and who arc now beginning this most holy season with us. Truly they are a “great multitude which no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” They are not yet before the Throne of God and the Lamb; but they are walking in the way of God and the Lamb: and we know where that will bring them at last In great cities, where every day the bustle and trouble of heaping up this world’s goods is going on,—and towns, and quiet little country villages, there are some who awoke this morning with a determination to deny themselves during these next forty days; to pray more earnestly, to grieve for their sins more truly, and so to prepare themselves for the great feast of Easter. God bless them and help them, wherever they are; and give them grace, not only to begin this Lent well, but to go through it, and end it as becomes servants of that Lord Who fasted forty days in the wilderness, Who was mocked, scourged, reviled, and last of all crucified for us men, and for our salvation! (more…)

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Commonly called Shrove Tuesday.

Whilst the Church imposes upon us abstinences more exact, and fasts more rigorous, in order that we may make amends for our sins, draw down upon us the Divine Mercy, and imitate our Adorable Saviour in His forty days of solitude, prayers, fasts, and conflicts, it is well that we should furnish our souls with those provisions which may sustain them in the long- and painful course on which they are about to enter, lest they should fail in the midst, and that thus we should repay them abundantly for that which we wisely deny to the body, in order to mortify it, and to quell its un­ruly passions. (more…)

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