Easter Peace

The following is an Easter Truce of God, based on one decreed by the emperor Henry IV in 1085.  It is only a suggestion.  Use your prudent judgment.  (Here it is in a more ceremonial form in pdf).

Whereas in our times this holy household has been afflicted beyond measure by tribulations through having to join in suffering so many oppressions and dangers, we have so striven to aid it, with God’s help, that the peace which we could not make lasting by reason of our sins, we should to some extent make binding by at least exempting certain days.

In the year of the Lord’s incarnation, 2010, it has been decreed by God’s mediation, the Queen and all of import unanimously agreeing, that from Holy Thursday at the time of the Lord’s Supper until sunrise on Easter Monday, this decree of peace shall be preserved.

The purpose of it is that those who dwell in this household and all who visit here, as well as all of this household who travel together or separately, and anyone else with whom members of this household may encounter, may enjoy the greatest possible security, so that no one shall commit any act of violence whether with bodily member or weapon, whether with intention to injure or aggravate, whether by physical assault or, sometimes more deadly, by wicked and pestilent words, flung far and wide by the pernicious war machine of the tongue, and that no one, no matter on account of what wrong, shall be at feud by words or acts of intimidation, revilement, provocation, malediction or any species of hurtful, harmful or offensive words, gestures or actions.

Likewise, such cessation of hostilities, during the space for which the peace has been declared, if it shall be necessary for any one to go to another place where that peace is not observed, he may bear arms; provided, nevertheless, that he harm no one unless he is attacked and has to defend himself. However, in nowise is he to respond to provocations which do not threaten his bodily wellbeing, whether such offenses come from Christian or infidel, unless indignities be perpetrated against a damsel, or the weak and poor, the defenseless, and without exception, against Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Holy Mother Mary, the angels and saints, in their images and names, and against Holy Mother Church, in her sanctuaries, sacraments, doctrines, ministers, virgins and monastics.  Moreover, when he returns, he shall lay aside his weapons again. If it shall happen that a castle is being besieged, the besiegers shall cease from the attack during the days included in the peace, unless they are attacked by the besieged, and are obliged to beat them back.

And lest this statute of peace be violated with impunity by any person, the following sentence was decreed by all present:  If a man of age shall have violated it, that is, if he shall done harm outside the duty of governance, he shall show upright example by asking forgiveness and praying ten beads of the Holy Chalplet of the Blessed Virgin for the one thus oppressed.  If violated by child, then the same sentence is to be carried out, and if incorrigible with banishment attached from the common association of the household for a period to be determined.  But if any man wishes to clear himself of the charges against him, he shall be free to present the evidence.  If witnesses are found falsifying evidence against a man, they shall suffer the same sentence in his stead.  Final judgment is reserved to the head of this household and is irrevocable save by his decree.

This Easter peace has been decreed chiefly for the security of all those who are at feud; but not to the end that, after the peace is over, they may dare to seek revenge or resume unchristian behavior with impunity.  For the law and judgment that was in force against them before this peace was decreed shall be most diligently observed, so that they be restrained from iniquity, for those who hate peace are excepted from this divine peace, and, in fact, from every peace.

If any one strive to oppose this pious decree, so that he will neither promise the peace to God nor observe it, let it be known that the peace willed by the Lord and Savior, which the world gives not, belongs not to him, nor the blessings of this sacred time in which we give thanks for our regeneration from unregenerate nature and despair.  But let him also know that the doors of God’s mercy are flung open wide during this most holy time so that even the haters of peace may find redemption for their transgressions and from the bane of slavery to sin if only they turn away from their iniquity and be healed.  Amen.

Stand Down

Thanks to everyone for their prayers.  I had a great retreat, preceded on March 20 by an opportunity to preach a day of recollection to the Courage group in Philadelphia.  I was very edified by this group of very serious Catholics who are struggling, like everyone, to keep the faith.  I had the privilege of meeting Fr. John Harvey.

I here attach a translation of an excerpt from the writings of St. Maximilian Kolbe on the question of human happiness and our last end.  Know your end.  Not altogether unfitting for Holy Week.

I recommend preparing your families for the Truce of God.  This will begin on Holy Thursday with the beginning of the Triduum and end on Easter Monday.  It should not be all that heroic, though given human nature and domestic rivalries it may seem virtually impossible.  Try anyway.  In any case, I am giving several days notice to acclimate yourself to the idea.

The Road to Jerusalem

We begin Passiontide on Sunday, the final part of Lent which is the immediate preparation for the celebration of the Easter Triduum. In consideration of this, I thought I would direct our Third Thursday Mens’ Discussion Group up the path toward Jersusalem.

By the way, we will be live-streaming the meeting, which will begin at 8:10 PM, Eastern Time (Thursday, March 18), and end at approximately 9:30 PM. Any male reader of this blog is welcome to join in. You will be able to see and hear the live video and  to participate via chat. You will need a link and a password, which you may obtain by emailing me at mv@figuadalupe.com. Please put “Live-Stream” in the subject field.

Christ our High priest, walked along the Road to Jerusalem with his eyes wide open. In fact, when Peter remonstrated with him, Our Lord ostracized him and told the other eleven that if they did not come with Him they could forget the whole thing. No one took Our Lord’s life from Him, as he said. He laid it down freely, even though as God he saw clearly what it was through which He was to pass.  He would not shrink from it and He would not candy coat it for His followers.

One of the worst things about suffering and the thing, perhaps, from which we recoil most of all, is the solitude of suffering. It seems to be the worst when there can be no real commiseration, as when a loved one dies and we are left alone, or when we are confronted with a critical illness, or when we carry a heavy responsibility. Even when we share a tragedy in common with family or friends, our own inner confrontation with reality is unique and no one can bring resolution but ourselves. And the more interior the suffering is the worse the predicament in which we find ourselves.

But Our Lord embraced not only the horror of his murder, but the mental anguish of our betrayal and our guilt. He became the scapegoat for our sins, a curse for our sake, by assuming our guilt. He felt the guilt keenly for sins he did not commit, whereas we make light of them. He willingly entered in to our misery out of love for us, as we shrink from toil and effort to correct our faults. Read this and weep—seriously.

Father Daniel Lord, S.J. writes that, like the knights errant of Arthurian legend, Christ fought alone, suffered alone, persevered alone. His companions abandoned him and while His Mother was his stalwart companion and monolith of solidarity, Her broken heart just broke His even more. No one could bear His sorrow or carry His burden, but Her.  The love between them was a martyrdom, more for their great union of purpose and determination.

We find so many reasons to excuse ourselves when we suffer, we find so many reasons to complain. Where do we find the courage to suffer like a man—like the God-man? Only in the mystery of the Cross, which is the theme of the coming two weeks.

The crusaders died to arrive at the source of their devotion, Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher, but their path lead first to Calvary and some of them only saw the glory of the risen Christ after they had endured great personal suffering, and some only after the ultimate sacrifice.

Hope to see you at the discussion.

A Knight’s Morning Offering

Eternal Father, I offer Thee anew, this day, my life and service, joy and suffering, final struggle and death as it may come on the battle field or otherwise in Thy humble service, and especially the order of this day as Thy providence commands and duty enjoins, in union with the toil, suffering and sacrifice of Thy Beloved Son, our King and Captain, Jesus Christ, Who daily renews His victorious passage through the veil of death upon the altars of Thy Holy Church.  May this Great High Priest, the Orient on High, lead the ranks of Thy armies by the lieutenancy of Thy minister to the glorious and eternal day of thy final victory over the fiend and the power of the netherworld and of Thy most perfect glorification.  Lead me to Thine altar, where often I may kneel before Thy majesty, girt about with truth and plated with justice, to be worthily fed from the most fair and spotless Grail of the Son’s Body and Blood.  Thus fortified may I be surely prepared for blessed, brave and honorable death, when with Thy Holy Mother I may be initiated into the company Thy true servants who sing Thy praises forever.  Amen.

Friends of the Cross

St. Louis de Montfort on a theme closely related to both Lent and chivalry:

Friends of the Cross, you are like crusaders united to fight against the world; not like Religious who retreat from the world lest they be overcome, but like brave and valiant warriors on the battle- field, who refuse to retreat or even yield an inch. Be brave and fight courageously.

You must be joined together in a close union of mind and heart, which is stronger and far more formidable to the world and to hell than are the armed forces of a great nation to its enemies. Evil spirits are united to destroy you; you must be united to crush them. The avaricious are united to make money and amass gold and silver; you must combine your efforts to acquire the eternal treasures hidden in the Cross. Pleasure-seekers unite to enjoy themselves; you must be united to suffer.

Quite a different standard than that of the chivalry of the world.

Off to help preach a retreat to post-abortive women with the Sisters of Life. Please pray for the 23 women and for those conducting the retreat this weekend. Theme for the retreat:   In the Cross is Salvation.

The Anthem of Lepanto

The stanzas below I wrote to be sung to the tune Thaxted by Gustav Holst, adapted from a section of Jupiter from his suite The Planets as a setting for the patriotic poem by Cecil Spring-Rice, I vow to Thee my Country.  This exquisitely beautiful and sad melody has a special significance for me, since it was by providence used by Fra Didacus for the memorial video about our deceased knights, Thom and Marc Girard.  At that time it was pointed out to me what the original lyrics where and how appropriate a choice the tune was.

Eternal rest grant to Thom and Marc, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

For your consideration:

I cast myself before Thee, Thy bondsman and Thy fool;
Thy patronage is freedom, Thy slavery my school.
I offer Thee my sword hilt and wait for Thy command
To serve among Thy servants who pledge to take a stand.
That I might die in battle, a victim of Thy love:
My wish, my prayer, my promise, thus written in my blood.

I saw the bark of Peter ride dark into the sun,
But darker still the marking of crescent, hoard and gun.
Her sails lay flat and mellow, Her men had pledged their troth,
Left hand on beaded psalter, the right to keep their oath.
The haughty fiend had counted on fear to win the day,
But Thine own breath has countered to turn the wind their way.

My Queen, to Thee be honor and praise through all Thy knights
Who toiled and bled and parted Thy martyrs robed in white.
All courtesy and prowess, all strength and gentleness,
Thy heart a pyx of virtue, Thy face all loveliness.
Then at the hour of judgment my colors Thou may see,
Thy Son upon His white steed, Thou pray to come for me.

Marian Chivalrous Prayer

The following excerpts are from a prayer by Blessed Henry Heath, or Father Paul of St. Magdalen, as he was known in religion.  As an English Protestant during the persecution under James I, he struggled with the faith of his youth and was inspired to pray to the Blessed Virgin for enlightenment.  He embraced the Catholic faith in 1622, and escaped England to France where he studied at the College of Douai, where he eventually entered the Franciscan Order.  His heart became ever more set upon returning to England as a priest, ministering to the Catholics there and eventually dying a martyr.  The prayer posted below, expresses both his great love for the Blessed Mother and his desire to honor by his ministry, suffering and sacrifice.  In 1643 he returned secretly to England as a priest, but was apprehended on his arrival.  When has was asked by the judge why he had come to England, he replied that he had come to save souls, and when interrogated further he unhesitatingly confessed to being a priest, a crime then under English law.  He was convicted of treason an butchered at Tyburn in the same year.

Henry Heath was among the eighty-five martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22 November 1987.

Witness Marian Chivalry:

Blessed Mother of God and Virgin, beloved Daughter of the Eternal Trinity, Spouse of the Holy Ghost, special Patroness of the Catholic Church, Mother of orphans, Advocate of sinners, most faithful Consoler of the desolate and afflicted, Blessed Mother and Lady, to whom, after God, I owe, not only what I am, but ten thousand times more than I can conceive. Thou knowest what in early times was the intercourse between me and thee, my sleepless nights, my painful struggles, my sighs, my groans, alike of joy and sorrow: of joy, because I possessed thee wholly as my Mother of hope; of sorrow, because I was so unworthy to converse with such a queen. O Mary! who can be found capable of celebrating the excellence of thy merits, thy boundless benignity, and our daily faults; thy constant help, and our many temptations; thy most powerful aid, and the instability of our intentions; thy innumerable incentives to good, and our propensity to evil; thy invitations to virtue, our torpidity towards thee, and the ardent inextinguishable flames of thy charity towards us? O Blessed and ever most Blessed Mother I my sole consolation in this sorrowful pilgrimage on earth is that Jesus Christ is thy only Son, and that through thy gracious intercession He does not reject me. My highest perfection is to try and imitate thy singular humility and obedience and to make myself in all things the servant of God’s good pleasure and commands. All my studies and knowledge tend to this, that I may understand at least some small portion of those mysteries which were infinitely consummated in thee : how God, the Author and Beginning of all things, indivisible in essence, received from thee a Son coeval and coequal with Himself in majesty, distinct in person, but undivided in the participation of substance and glory; how the same Person, who from all eternity claimed by right the Divine nature, laying aside His royal sceptre and power became a weak infant, deriving flesh from thy flesh, fed by the nourishment that flowed from thy breasts, pressed in thine embrace and warmed in thy bosom, but far more happily and deeply cherished by thee in the tenderest affections of thy maternal love. . .

‘O Blessed Virgin, what tongue can describe thy innumerable gifts? Who can worthily celebrate thy praise? What did prophets foretell, apostles preach, fathers defend, and doctors declare, except simple faith in Him who was conceived by thee, born of thee, fed and nourished by thee? My only ambition in this life is to be subject to thee as thy most vile and obedient slave. Called by thee, I run quickly; dismissed, I retire; at thy command I remain. When for the punishment of my sins thou art pleased to withdraw thy accustomed consolation and to chastise me with temporal affliction, I wait patiently. Come what may in this fluctuating and finite world, dead or alive, submerged and shipwrecked or standing on dry ground, in prosperity or adversity, in sweetness or bitterness, in joy or sorrow, all is pleasing to me so long as I have access to thee, and by thee may follow Jesus, to whom, like the prodigal son, I desire to return, upheld by the hope that, notwithstanding my numerous past sins, He will through thy most benign intercession receive me as my most tender and indulgent Father and my most gentle and loving Redeemer. . .

‘O most Blessed Virgin, as from the first moment of my conversion, so now my last will and testament is, that I assign my soul to sweetest Jesus and to thee, that thou mayst claim full possession, authority, and dominion over it; and I leave and abandon my body to be tried and tested by all sorts of torments and sufferings, that it may thereby be exercised from day to day in humility and self-abnegation, and may advance quickly in the path of all the virtues which thy blessed steps have trod. This my last petition and the summit of all my wishes, is, that after such immense and innumerable favours thou wilt add yet one more, and obtain for me fortitude and constancy to press forward in the footsteps of thy faithful and victorious servants who have gone before me. Then, if it be granted me, thou wilt see with what willingness and alacrity I shall give my bare back to be placed upon burning coals, with what joy I shall drink the most bitter chalice, with what glad and eager gaze I shall look on that much desired knife even while it transfixes me, that knife which will deliver me from this wearisome and miserable prison, and introduce me to the longed-for presence of thy dearest Son Jesus, where in company with thee I shall dwell for ever. Amen. Quick, quick, quick?’

Bl Henry Heath’s Prayer to Our Lady is taken from Franciscan Martyrs in England.  This book is out of print, as far as I know and is a real treasure–very inspiring.

Theology of the Body: Of Sign and Fulfillment

I wish to return to my discussion of Theology of the Body, and the exchange between Dr. Lowery and Christopher West.  Specifically, I wish to discuss the topic of theological analogy, because it is so central to the argument and because it is easily misunderstood.

In answering the charge of Dr. Lowery that he is sexualizing Christianity, West turns to the topic of analogy and says that it works both ways:

Of course, it’s an analogy to speak of the marriage of Christ and the Church. Analogies are always inadequate. Yet John Paul believes the spousal analogy is the least inadequate since “in the very essence of marriage a particle of the mystery is captured” (Aug. 18, 1982).

Hence, the Pope says we’re justified in applying the spousal analogy in two directions. Primarily, God reveals the truth about nuptial union (Christian nuptiality). But in some way nuptial union also reveals the truth about God (nuptial Christianity).

In practical matters, West has worked this analogy both ways, not only from the top down, but from the bottom up, that is, from earthly marriage to the divine union, by saying that heaven is like the ultimate climax, that the Holy Spirit inseminates and impregnates Mary with Jesus, that the Easter liturgy is a fertility rite, and that a woman’s womb is like the Holy of Holy’s or the Eucharistic tabernacle.  This is the habit of mind that moves, I believe, Dr. Lowery to say that West is sexualizing Christianity.

Now, in the quote from West above he makes reference to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body Wednesday audience from August 18, 1982.  (I am linking to the original translation but will quote from the more recent Waldstein translation, 90.3-4.)  It is true, as West says, that the Holy Father does indeed say that the analogy works both ways.  However, once again, West latches onto to the Holy Father’s precise philosophical language and then uses it to proclaim all kinds of things the Holy Father never said.

I will not quote at length, but I recommend a careful reading of sections 3 and 4, so that one can verify my interpretation.

First of all, regardless of the inherent logic involved, the Holy Father speaks only of the analogy that St. Paul presents in the fifth chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, namely, Wives, be subject to your husbands . . . as the Church is subject to Christ, and You, husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church (vv. 25, 24).  St. Paul is simply not talking about body parts or sexual acts, and neither is the Holy Father.  They are certainly not using sexual language to describe heavenly or supernatural realities realities.

But what does John Paul II actually mean when he says that “this analogy works in two directions”?  The Holy Father says:

While [this analogy] allows us, on the one hand, to understand better the relationship of Christ with the Church, it permits us, on the other hand, to penetrate more deeply into the essence of the marriage to which Christians are called.

This statement and the Holy Father’s explanation is much more modest than West suggests by means of his practical and erotic applications.  John Paul II merely wants to point out that the analogy allows us to obtain, both a “deeper understanding of the Church,” and a “deeper understanding of marriage.”

But while there is this reciprocal movement in two directions, it is not identical in both instances.  John Paul II says that we must keep in mind “that at the basis of the understanding of marriage in its very essence stands Christ’s spousal relationship with the Church.”  So, in other words, Christ’s relationship to the Church is the foundation of our understanding of marriage.  He goes on to say that “marriage becomes a visible sign of the eternal divine mystery, according to the image of the Church united with Christ” (emphasis in original). Thus, while the relationship of Christ and His Church is the foundation of our understanding of marriage, marriage itself is a visible sign of the mystery of Christ and His Church.  This is the sense in which the analogy works both ways—and only in this sense.

What this means precisely can be elucidated if we further describe the workings of theological analogy.  This is made possible, in a particular way, if we remember the relationship of type and anti-type in sacred scripture, which is a particular use of theological analogy.  Old Testament types such as the Paschal Lamb, in relation to Christ, or the Ark of the Covent in relation to Our Lady, or even marriage (as a sacrament of creation) in relation ship to Christ and the Church, are foreshadowings and signs of something more perfect that is to come.  The Old Testament pre-figurements are the “types,” and the New Testament fulfillments are the “anti-types.”

Yet, no one would suggest that Christ is something like a furry animal or that Our Lady is something like a gold-plated wooden box.  Yes, these analogies work in two ways, but the foundation of our understanding of the Paschal Lamb is Christ as Our Lady is of the Ark of the Covenant.  And Lamb and the Ark are signs of Jesus and Mary, respectively.  The analogy does not work backwards in exactly the same way that it does forwards.

Thus, the way that these analogies work is from the higher to the lower.  We call it exemplarism.  The higher, invisible realities define and illumine the meaning of the lower, and the lower are visible signs and faint hints of the higher.  The anti-types (Jesus and Mary) are the examplars or archetypes of the lower realties (Lamb and Ark).  Yes, these analogies work both ways, but not in the same manner both ways.

But this explanation is not sufficient to deal with the particular analogy that St. Paul uses in the letter to the Ephesians, because the “sign” that St. Paul writes about, namely, marriage is not an Old Testament type, but the New Covenant Sacrament, instituted by Christ, and in itself is a higher reality than the original sacrament of creation.  In fact, both the relationship of Christ and the Church, and of man and woman in the Christian Sacrament are kinds of fulfillments, but they also both point to higher realities.  The Christian Sacrament points to Christ and His relationship to the Church, and the love of the Christ the Bridegroom for His Bride the Church on the Cross points to communion of the Father Son and Holy Spirit.

So we rightly say that analogies work in two directions, the higher, more perfect, and sometimes invisible reality defining and illuminating the meaning of the lower reality, and the lower reality remaining a visible sign and hint of the fuller reality that we are yet to experience or which is experienced in a more hidden way.  Hence, in our experience in this life of Christ’s love for the Church we often find our faith challenged because the interior life, which is Christ’s presence within us, most often goes on without our perception, yet faith tells us that the union can lead to a bliss, concerning which Christian marriage only offers a faint hint.

None of this even begins to suggest that theological analogy in general, or St. Paul’s analogy specifically, justifies our using sexual imagery to explain supernatural realities.  In any case, once again, the Holy Father simply does not make the claim Christopher West suggests he does.  Even more, the imagery in Ephesians five, when taken in the context of what Our Lord has to say of marriage belonging only to this life, drives home the fact that the more perfect must inform the less perfect and not vice-versa.  The less perfect (marriage) being closer and more familiar to us is a sign and helps us to look up to the higher reality which we do not perceive so readily.  In heaven there will be spousal love, but not sex, and even in this life that exclusive and blissful love of spouses can be had without sex.

We should be careful to not introduce more confusion into our sex-saturated world as we attempt to evangelize the masses.