I, Peter

Public Domain Pentecost

Jean II Restout – Pentecôte; courtesy of the Art Renewal Center

 

 

I, Peter

I, Peter, sat in stillness

In hushed silence profound.

Twas but nine days since last my Savior

Did tread this passing ground.

With me united beloved John,

Simon, courageous zealot

True Israel’s son Nathaniel,

And Matthias, newly chosen prelate.

As one together Matthew prayed

And Philip, Forerunner’s guest;

Son of Thunder, James the Greater

And Jude, withal named Thaddeus 

These joined James the Lesser

And Andrew, mine own brother;

Thomas, who in past had doubted

And Mary, Most Blessed Mother.

 My soul thrilled expectantly

My Savior’s words returned,

“From the Father’s heart I will send,

Love, long ages yearned.”

 A mighty wind swept o’er my heart,

A whisper, eternity filling.

Docile to His slightest touch,

My spirit bowed, humbly willing.

Light flowed before my eyes,

As if the wings of a dove.

Drawn from the earth was I consumed,

Lost – nay, found in Trinity’s Love.

 While still my soul in heaven soared

I beheld the Father’s Word,

Illumined by the Holy Spirit,

As yet before unheard.

 His breath mine own replaced,

His Word my willing lips cried,

His love alone my pounding heart took,

Baptized in fire, my old self died.

 To this earth once more I sank,

Yet, heaven remained within.

“Courage brothers!” I sprang erect,

“Come quickly, let us begin!”

 Dazzled eyes and pounding hearts,

Face and flame, the others’ shone.

Then knew I, Peter, Love’s own gift,

I did not reach alone.

 

-©Grace Marie Urlakis

 

 

 

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“Regina Coeli,” an Easter Season Midday Prayer

I recently shared the “Angelus” prayer, which is considered a midday prayer. In the Easter Season (from Easter Sunday through Pentecost), the Angelus is replaced by the Regina Coeli/Caeli, a beautiful prayer which I quote as follows from EWTN:

 

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia. / For He whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.

Has risen, as [H]e said, alleluia. / Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. / For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

Let us pray. O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Tempted to “Cheat” by Sinning? So was Jesus, but He Never Did—by Cameron Daly

On page 722, we read that “For the first two years of the war [meaning WWII], German food supplies were adequate and the production of consumer goods continued.”

When Jesus is in the desert, He is offered great things by the devil—if only He’ll consent to the devil’s will. It may have been Bishop Barron I recently heard describing these “alternative routes” as alternative means of gaining the world to Jesus’ Passion; i.e., if Jesus were to have bowed to the devil’s will, He could have gained the world for Himself without having to suffer. Of course, that would have defeated the whole purpose, but that’s not the point. The point is, things pertaining to the world could be obtained the easy and quick way (or so it would seem–this obviously not taking Purgatory and eternity after death into account) by consenting to the devil’s will.

Would you say that the Nazi regime’s productivity (which could be applied to that of Russian communism as examined in the previous chapter) can be related to this? As if Nazism was a kind of devilish cheat to get a good economy, but at the price of goodness and justice? What similar sorts of temptations to “cheat” would you say might commonly stalk people today? Though you may or may not want to write this as a comment here, what kinds of temptations of this sort stalk you in particular?

“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26, NABRE; though it seems I’ve also heard it put—perhaps in one or more other translations—“his soul” rather than “his life”).

(This is another question I asked of my classmates in my Western Civilization course; for an explanation and the source for the page number, see my post from two days ago.)

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“Bearing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit through Trials”—Annunciation Reflection/College Paper by Cameron Daly

Holy Apostles College & Seminary

 

Bearing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit through Trials

 

by

Cameron Daly

Fr. Jude Surowiec

SAS 460: Luke and the Acts of the Apostles

6 February 2018

 

St. Luke’s account of the Annunciation through Christ’s infancy is, on the outside, one of expectation and joy. It’s what served to make the Blessed Virgin the “Cause of our joy” as she’s called in the Litany of Loreto. And of course, it’s commonly known that for Mary this was often a more scary than joyful time in her life; aside from the written account that she was “greatly troubled” at Gabriel’s appearance and greeting (Lk 1:29, see 28, NABRE), understanding her situation in context makes it clear to us that to be pregnant and not living with a man in first-century Jewish culture often enough meant the persecution of the expecting mother. Yet, interwoven into all of this, there’s also a certain relatability in the Annunciation, pre-Nativity, and Nativity accounts to every person’s spiritual journey, insofar as Mary offers an inspiring example of one who is close to God, experiences trials, and bears great fruit in doing God’s will and allowing Him to work through those trials.

Jesus makes it clear that “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much” (Lk 12:48). His Mother was the only person since Adam and Eve to be entrusted with original holiness. This being the huge deal that it is, God obviously expected a lot from her. The same goes for anyone who grows very close to God: while no one else is given the “head start,” so to speak, in closeness to the Lord that Mary was, the closer we grow to Him over time, the more and more He will expect from us.

Now obviously, growing closer to God makes us stronger, both in pursuing God’s will and in avoiding sin. This growth and this strength pretty much go hand-in-hand. Does this mean that life becomes easy for us when we get closer to God, and that our struggles and trials just dissipate and let us skip happily to heaven? Most definitely not. Again, consider Mary: when Gabriel came to her, she wasn’t instantaneously brimming with jubilance because she was greeted by an angel and was going to give birth to the Son of God. She was afraid, and didn’t understand. She did God’s will, of course, and willingly bore His Son; but did so in fear and ignorance. Remember that this is someone completely free of any stain of sin from the moment of her conception, and therefore someone who was closer to God than anyone else this side of heaven. Yet, like any number of sinners, she feared God’s plan and didn’t fully understand it.

The key factor here, of course, is that Mary never hesitated to consent to God’s plan (contrastable, as I’ve heard it said, to Zechariah’s disbelief in God’s plan—see Lk 1:18). God’s plan entailed the potential shaming and persecution of Mary, along with the rejection of Joseph, for having being pregnant before living with him and not by him (see Mt 1:18-19). She may very well have seen some or all of that coming, given how strong of a rejection her culture had for alleged adulteresses and the severe manner in which adulteresses were punished (that is, by being stoned—see Jn 8:4-6). Yet, despite being asked to do something so difficult, she did not back down from doing God’s will for an instant.

Surely, once Joseph had accepted that Mary had conceived of the Holy Spirit and the concern with being rejected and/or stoned to death was past, Mary had an easy life, right? Surely she got to take a break from trials? No. For not two months later, was she told that her Son would be “a sign that [would] be contradicted,” and that “[she herself] a sword [would] pierce” (Lk 34-35); and, presumably not long after that (to take into consideration another Gospel account), God allowed her to be forced to flee to Egypt in order to prevent her Son from being murdered (see Mt 2:13-14).

After all she had been through during her pregnancy, wouldn’t you think it was time for God to give Mary a break? To let her live easily for a while? You might think just that, if you were to look past the fruits of her acceptance of God’s difficult will.

First of all, Mary had the enormous grace of being able to be the Mother of Jesus. Not only could no parent possibly hope to have a more wonderful child, but Mary, being completely free of sin and thus not having her heart or mind distracted by any harshness, coldness, cruelty, etc. toward her child, would have been able to appreciate being Our Lord’s Mother to the fullest possible extent. She literally bore the greatest “fruit of the Holy Spirit”: the Son of God. “[B]lessed is the fruit of [her] womb” (Lk 1:42).

From there, we can look at Mary as she is now. Mary is one of very, very few who were assumed body and soul into heaven prior to the Parousia; she is the Queen over heaven and Earth; she remains the Spouse of the Holy Spirit and the Mother of God; and, never having been touched by sin, she experiences the very greatest possible degree of joy in heaven and surely is able to act as our most powerful intercessor before her Son.

This is where Mary is an inspiration for those of us still here in this valley of tears. In being asked to be the Mother of God, she was being asked to do a very hard thing. Yet she willingly did it, and because of it, suffered many trials—not the least of which (something I didn’t even directly mention above) was seeing her own Son die a horrendous death on the cross. Despite all that hardship, all that pain, she did not ever turn away from God. And because of that, all that hardship and pain was and is outweighed a hundredfold by the joy (another “fruit of the Holy Spirit”) she possessed and now still does possess.

The lesson we should take away, then, is this: that no matter how hard God’s plan may be for us to live out, no matter how much pain it may cause us to do His will, if we stick by Him and do not stray from the path to life He has opened for us, our hardships will be but a speck compared with the reward Our Lord has in store for us, the joyful fruit of the Holy Spirit we too will bear both in this life and in the next. This is what we see in Mary, and it’s what we will see in ourselves if only we persevere. In our struggles, may we always keep before us Jesus’ own promise, that “everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29). Surely, such things as time, comfort, friends, and other things could be included in this list. May we never despair, or think that God has forgotten or forsaken us. “I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the Lord” (Ez 37:14).

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“Do You Equate Debate with Treason?”—by Cameron Daly

Page 701 notes that “Stalin’s growing paranoia and crude hunger for absolute power led him to equate debate with betrayal and treason.” How often do you equate betrayal or treason with those who disagree or debate with your views? Could this be a signal of similar motives to Stalin’s within yourself?

(Each week in Western Civilization, the students are asked to pose a question to their classmates. I here post mine also to the readers of Roman Catholic Reflections. The textbook quoted is The West: A Narrative History, vol. 2: Since 1400, 3rd ed., by A. Daniel Frankforter and William M. Spellman.)

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“Loving Lord, So Gentle and So Strong”—Poem by a Classmate

Wishing you a happy and blessed Easter Season!
Though it isn’t specifically Easter-themed, an anonymous fellow Holy Apostles student worked throughout Lent to compose the following poem for Roman Catholic Reflections in time for Easter. Thank you so much to that student for your work (and for a job very well done!), and I hope that it is enjoyed by all of its readers!
Loving Lord, so gentle and so strong,
All hearts and minds on earth to Thee belong.
What mind that contemplates the ocean blue,
The starlit heavens or the morning dew,
Can help but wonder at Thy unseen might
Which rules creation’s workings, day and night?
And what heart, seeing that the very small
Need have no fear of those great Hands at all
Which keep the cosmic powers all in line,
Can help but smile that God is so benign?
What human mind can think of Jesus’ Hands
Stretched forth in blessing o’er the Holy Lands
To calm the storms, call back the very dead,
Without a thrill of awe, almost of dread?
And yet what human heart can see those Hands
Stretch forth so tiny from the swaddling bands
To softly touch His Mother’s glowing face,
And not shed tears at God’s so gentle grace?
O loving Lord, so gentle and so strong,
All hearts and minds on earth to Thee belong.
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The Kidron Valley

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”

The Kidron Valley is mentioned by name only eleven times in the entirety of Sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, the Kidron has an association with several of the most important moments throughout Salvation History. This paper will briefly touch upon the significance of this valley as well as the Biblical stories which have their roots tangled throughout the Kidron’s rocks and tombs.KidronValley

Between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives to the east is strung a valley, carved out of the Jerusalem countryside: the Kidron Valley. In the Old Testament, the name “Kidron” is always preceded by the Aramaic word “Wadi,” which has the double meaning of “brook” and “valley,”[1] a testament to its dual role of seasonal river and deeply gored valley. Though the valley descends a staggering 3,912 feet[2] along its twenty mile span, King David is shown to be passing through it in the first reference to the Kidron in Sacred Scripture. Fleeing from his own son, Absalom, David was attempting to save his life and his throne. According to the second book of Samuel, “The whole country wept aloud as all the people passed by; the king crossed the Wadi Kidron… weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot.”[3] Here a tie to the betrayal of Jesus recounted in Saint John’s Gospel is already visible. Only two people in the Bible end their lives through hanging: Ahitophel, Absalom’s conspirator in the betrayal of King David, and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ the King.[4]

The reputation of the Kidron Valley appears to remain entangled with death and destruction throughout the remainder of the Old Testament. During the establishment of the kingdom of Solomon, David’s son, Shimei (the man who had cursed David during his flight from Absolom) was given mercy as long as he remained in Jerusalem, under the decree: “For on the day you go out, and cross the Wadi Kidron, know for certain that you shall die; your blood shall be on your own head.”[5] Unfortunately for Shimei, he chose to disobey and was slain on account of “all the evil that [he] did to…David.”[6]

The books of First Kings and Second Chronicles begin to present the Kidron Valley as somewhat of a garbage dump for unclean objects – such as idols or dead bodies.[7]    By the year 600 B.C. Sacred Scripture makes mention of common graves in the Kidron Valley. It is upon these graves that King Josiah scatters the pulverized dust of an image of the Canaanite mother-goddess Asherah, after having cleansed the Temple of all idol worship.[8] Simultaneously, in the same valley[9], Josiah also burned the vessels used for idol worship and disposed of idolatrous rooftop altars.

The final reference by name to the Kidron Valley in the Old Testament is in Jeremiah’s prophecy of hope to the people of God in exile. In this prophecy, not only is there promised a safe return, a new covenant, and individual retribution, but also the enlargement of Jerusalem wherein “the whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord.”[10] Nevertheless, the Kidron Valley appears once more, though not specifically mentioned by name. In perhaps the most tragic of the moments recorded in the Old Testament (excluding the fall of Adam and Eve), the departure of the Shakina Glory Cloud from the Temple forever, the prophet Ezekiel witnesses God’s presence depart from the Temple Mount [pass through the Kidron Valley] and hesitate for a moment over the Mount of Olives to the east of the city, before disappearing completely.[11]  It is upon this memory that Saint John introduces Jesus Christ – the Son of David – God Himself in human flesh, as He journeys from Jerusalem “with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples [enter].”[12]

There can be no denying the parallel between Jesus and King David evoked through Saint John’s use of words in the above passage. Clearly, Saint John desired to paint for the early Christian community the image of the King of Kings, sinless – unlike King David – yet accused, who faces His betrayer rather than fleeing from him and accepts death for the life of His unworthy subjects. This, though, is not the only reason Saint John chose to name the Kidron Valley. Through His pilgrimage among the tombs, Jesus prefigures the harrowing of Hades which will occur with the fast approaching defeat of death. In His divine presence, the Son of God follows the same path as the Glory Cloud – revealing in fullness what before had been visible only as a shadow. Finally, as the “Image of the invisible God,”[13] the Word made flesh eternally destroys the dark grip of idolatry which clutches at ignorance of God. This cleansing and lifting up of all that was previously shrouded under the cover of death is summarized in Saint John’s Gospel through the prayerful words of Christ to His Father as He climbed the rocky path through the Kidron Valley – a path so familiar to He and His disciples,[14] yet now so threatening – “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”[15]

In conclusion, the Kidron Valley is a place which bears the memory of the consequences brought about through the actions of many individuals in a span of over a thousand years. Betrayal, death, and the possessions of paganism tainted its name, making a valley of trash and tombs. Yet, in Jesus’ actions – and the consequences which poured forth from them – it is transformed, becoming an integral part of the accomplishment of His glorious hour.

– Grace Marie Urlakis; March 28, 2018.

Holy Apostles College and Seminary, SAS 461: Gospel of John.

©GraceMarieUrlakis2018

[1] Emil G. Hirsch, M. Seligsohn, 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, at http://www.jewishencylopedia.com.

[2] M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, (Thomas Nelson, 1897), public domain, at http://www.biblestudytools.com.

[3] 2 Samuel 15:23&30, all citations from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.

[4] Custer, John S., The Gospel of John: A Byzantine Prospective, (Pittsburg, PA: God With Us Publications (2004), pg. 348.

[5] 1 Kings 2:37.

[6] 1 Kings 2:44.

[7] 1 King 15:13, 2 Chronicles 15:16.

[8] 2 Kings 23:6.

[9] 2 Kings 23:4 &12.

[10] Jeremiah 31:40.

[11] Ezekiel11:22-23.

[12] John 18:1.

[13] Colossians 1:15.

[14] John 18:2.

[15] John 17:24.

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