25 December 2013

Christmas 2013

Sub Tuum

Patriarchal Address on the Feast of the Nativity of O.L.J.C.
A.D. 2013

To the members of the Court of Saint Mary of Walsingham, 

Greetings and Apostolic blessings on this Feast of the Nativity in the year of our Lord 2013. When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, it was a time of great unrest and conflict in what we now know as the Holy Land. This Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus while there is again great unrest in that region of the world. The Christian people of Syria have been hounded, harassed, attacked, and persecuted in this past year, creating many martyrs and refugees, and placing one of the oldest Christian sites in grave peril of irrecoverable loss. What do the governments of the world do as a whole? They remain silent. They do nothing. We can be reasonably assured that had it been Muslims being persecuted or killed, there would have been a loud outcry from the governments demanding that it cease and threatening military intervention or economic sanctions. We see here, then, the evidence of the power of the Cross. The world loves its own and hates what is not of the world, and thus despises the Cross and all the faithful in Christ. The forces of darkness are ever-ready to seek the destruction of the Church wherever they find opportunity. Sometimes the mechanisms are subtle and even imperceptible to most. In Syria, it is direct violence and brutality by Islamists. We ask again: where are the voices of outrage in the international community? Where are the widespread voices of outrage even within the Christian communities of the world? Where are the calls to action?

Over 900 years ago, when the Christian people in the region of the Holy Land were threatened and harassed by expanding Islamic rule, such a call to action was issued by the highest authority in Christendom. In 1095, Pope Urban II issued the first call to Crusade, beginning the first of more than ten such efforts of the high middle ages. The Crusades of that time were first and foremost military actions undertaken with great moral imperative to free the Holy Land from the Muslims and to defend the many pilgrims to the Holy Land. What is our sacred duty to protect we must protect indeed. There ought to be no apology for that in general, and, unfortunate abuses due to the fallen state of mankind notwithstanding, there ought to be no apology for the Crusades. As direct successors to the legacy of the knights of the Holy Church who fought before the Cross, this Patriarchate certainly issues no such apology. Rather, we praise and commend the efforts of all who fought with pure heart against the enemies of the Christian Faith in order to preserve the Church, protect the faithful, and ultimately save lives.

Where, then, we ask yet again, is the call to action to defend the Christian Church in our age? Where is the outrage demanding that action be taken in Syria to institute freedom and defend life? Why does the prevailing attitude among at least vocal Christians seem to be one of weak capitulation and begging pardon for defense of the Faith? Remember the words of the Holy Father Pius XII when he issued the reminder that the Church on earth is known as the Church Militant because "...on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction. Not only in the far-off centuries of the early Church, but down through the ages and in this our day, the enemies of God and Christian civilization make bold to attack the Creator’s supreme dominion and sacrosanct human rights."

The clergy of Christ's Holy Church are leaders in what Pius XII termed the militia of the faithful. Let this holy and spiritual militia of today indeed stand firm against the forces of darkness around the world, inspired by the Passion of our Lord, the blood of the martyrs, the wisdom of the Doctors, the words and deeds of the Confessors, and the example of the shepherds of the flock. Let the powers of the civilized and Christian world likewise stand firm against evil and, in this present situation, stand firm against those who persecute and destroy the Christian civilization of Syria. To the clergy and faithful we admonish prayer; the rosary, novenas, private orations, and the most powerful prayer of all, the Holy Mass. Let us all offer our prayers and service ceaselessly in this never-ending conflict into which the Church Militant has been plunged and will remain until the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory.

May the blessing of Almighty God, the + Father, + Son, and Holy + Ghost, be upon you and remain with you always. R. Amen.

16 December 2013

Gaudete Sunday 2013

Sub Tuum

Today Gaudete Sunday (the Third Sunday in Advent) coincides with the Octave Day of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Gaudete Sunday takes its name from the Introit of the mass for this day, Gaudete in Domino semper, iterum dico gaudete. That is, Rejoice in the Lord always, I say again, rejoice. It continues "Let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh." On this day the vestments are not purple as they are on the rest of the Sunday masses of the Advent season, but rose. Likewise it is customary for the candle in the Advent wreath for this day to be rose instead of purple. It is the day on which we have a glimpse forward to the coming of Christ as celebrated on the Feast of the Nativity. It is a time to rejoice "...for the Lord is nigh." In the midst of our Advent penance and preparation, Gaudete Sunday provides a joyous reminder of just what and who it is we are anticipating. Gaudete Sunday is a time of both joy and anticipation. 

That Gaudete Sunday coincides (or "occurs," to use the technical term) with the Octave Day of the Immaculate Conception this year (as it sometimes does) is particularly interesting to me. The Introit of the mass of the Immaculate Conception begins "I will rejoice." Beyond that liturgical similarity, there is something even more significant. Surely the Immaculate Conception of our Lady as the pure vessel from which our Lord would be born was itself something both of joy and anticipation. Nine months later, she was born. Thus began the first period of anticipation. When she came of age, the Angel Gabriel came to her, and saluting her as full of grace, announced that the Lord was with her. She held in her hands the choice to accept or reject the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Let us rejoice and be thankful that she was the handmaid of the Lord. And then began the next period of anticipation as she carried our Lord within her. The birth of Christ was and is a cause for rejoicing. But then began the next period of anticipation as Christ grew to manhood, began His holy ministry, and then undertook the Passion, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. During this period of anticipation were the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin. Yet imagine the joy of our Lady as she learned of the Resurrection! And imagine her joy as she was assumed, body and soul, into Heaven to be reunited with her Son and reign as Queen, interceding for us always. 

Thus it is that today on Gaudete Sunday we both experience the joy and anticipation of the coming birth of Christ and the Immaculate Conception of His most holy Mother in whose own joy and anticipation we share. We who stand at the foot of the Cross at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass stand alongside Mary Ever-Virgin and experience the joy of the triumph over death and the anticipation of everlasting life!

12 December 2013

Advent and the Persecution of Syrian Christians

Sub Tuum.

What an interesting and sad juxtaposition it is that so many Christians are fleeing their ancient homeland of Syria amid violence and persecution. In a time in which the civilized countries of the world are quick to condemn anything seen as even an insult to Islam, I wonder where the support from the international community is now for the persecuted Christians. 

Here in America it is mostly a joyous time of year. There are the bizarre extremes to which some people go while shopping. However, we also have Christmas lights, music, parties, eggnog, and a general cheery feeling. The outward appearance at least seems far from being a people that walk in darkness. The persecuted Syrian Christians, with their world thrown into chaos, provide a much more obvious example of a people in need of deliverance like the world was over two thousand years ago. I pray that the Syrian Christians are soon delivered from their exile as the Holy Family returned to the Holy Land. More than that, I pray that the Syrian Christians do not lose their faith during their great time of trial for them. 

Our outward circumstances may be different, but it says nothing about our inward circumstances. A persecuted Syrian Christian may be at peace in side, confident and strong in his faith, while an outwardly cheery person in Europe or America or Britain might be experienced great spiritual tumult inside. 

Advent is the start of the liturgical year for a reason. It is the time of the year that we are reminded that the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. We are reminded annually of the need for spiritual renewal, for as the darkness of the world may descend on us, the light of Christ has come and is with us if we only let it in. Remember the old saying that no amount of darkness in the universe can extinguish the light of even a single candle. 

During this Advent season, in particular remember the Syrian Christians and all persecuted Christians both at home and around the world. Let all be comforted by God and let us make straight in the barren desert of this world a highway for our Lord to come.