Daily Devotional for September 11-17
*Excerpts this week from the Catholic Saint Josemaria Escriva from Christ is
As we read in holy Scripture, the birth of Jesus means the beginning of the fullness of time. It was the moment God chose to show the extent of his love for men, by giving us his own Son. And God’s will is fulfilled in the simplest, most ordinary of circumstances: a woman who gives birth, a family, a home. The power of God and his splendour come to us through a human reality to which they are joined. Since that moment Christians have known that, with God’s grace, they can and should sanctify everything that is good in their human lives. There is no human situation, no matter how trivial and ordinary it may seem, which cannot be a meeting-place with Christ and a step forward on our journey toward the kingdom of heaven.
It is only natural that the Church rejoices as it contemplates the modest home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We read in the hymn from matins on the feast of the Holy Family: “It is pleasing to recall the lowly house at Nazareth and its slender resources, it is pleasing to tell again in song Jesus’ hidden life. Jesus grows up in hidden seclusion, to be trained in Joseph’s lowly trade. The loving Mother sits beside her dear Son, the good wife by her husband, content if her loving attention can ease and comfort them in their weariness.”
Prayer: O my God I firmly believe that Thou art one God in three Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; I believe that Thy Divine Son became man, and died for our sins, and that he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because Thou hast revealed them, who canst neither deceive nor be deceived. (Act of Faith)
When I think of christian homes, I like to imagine them as being full of the light and joy that were in the home of the holy family. The message of Christmas is heard in all its forcefulness: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.” “And may the peace of Christ triumph in your hearts,” writes the Apostle. It is a peace that comes from knowing that our Father God loves us, and that we are made one with Christ. It results from being under the protection of the Virgin, our Lady, and assisted by St Joseph. This is the great light that illuminates our lives. In the midst of difficulties and of our own personal failings, it encourages us to keep up our effort. Every christian home should be a place of peace and serenity. In spite of the small frustrations of daily life, an atmosphere of profound and sincere affection should reign there together with a deep-rooted calm, which is the result of authentic faith that is put into practice…
The aim is this: to sanctify family life, while creating at the same time a true family atmosphere. Many christian virtues are necessary in order to sanctify each day of one’s life. First, the theological virtues, and then all the others: prudence, loyalty, sincerity, humility, industriousness, cheerfulness…. But when we talk about marriage and married life, we must begin by speaking clearly about the mutual love of husband and wife.
Prayer: Having risen from sleep I hasten to Thee, O Lord, Lover of men, and by Thy loving-kindness I strive to do Thy work, and I pray to Thee: help me at all times, in everything, and deliver me from every evil thing of the world and every attack of the devil, and lead me into Thine eternal Kingdom. For Thou art my Creator, the Giver and Provider of everything good, and all my hope is in Thee, and to Thee I send up glory, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
*Prayer for the next day’s morning
Chastity is not merely continence, but a decisive affirmation on the part of the will in love. It is a virtue that keeps love young in any state in life. There is a kind of chastity that is proper to those who begin to feel the awakening of physical maturity, and a kind of chastity that corresponds to those who are preparing for marriage; there is a chastity for those whom God calls to celibacy, and a chastity for those who have been chosen by him to live in the married state.
I cannot avoid calling to mind the strong and clear counsel given to Tobias by the angel Raphael before the young man’s marriage to Sarah: “Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will show you who are those over whom the devil can prevail. For they who enter into matrimony in such a manner as to shut out God from themselves and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and the mule which have not understanding, are those over whom the devil has power.”
Prayer: Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears! Turn, then, O most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
To every Christian, whatever his state in life — priest or layman, married or single — we can apply fully the words of the Apostle, which we read precisely on the feast of the Holy Family: “…chosen by God, holy and beloved.” This is what we all are, each one in his place and position in the world, despite our errors and in the midst of the struggle to conquer them: men and women chosen by God to give witness to Christ and to bring all those who surround us the joy of knowing that we are God’s children…
For this reason, there is perhaps no better model for a christian couple than that of the christian families of apostolic times: the centurion Cornelius, who obeyed the will of God and in whose home the Church was made accessible to the gentiles; Aquila and Priscilla, who spread Christianity in Corinth and Ephesus, and who cooperated in the apostolate of St Paul; Tabitha, who out of charity attended to the needs of the Christians in Joppe. And so many other homes and families of Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Romans, in which the preaching of our Lord’s first disciples began to bear fruit. Families who lived in union with Christ and who made him known to others. Small christian communities which were centres for the spreading of the Gospel and its message. Families no different from other families of those times, but living with a new spirit, which spread to all those who were in contact with them. This is what the first Christians were, and this is what we have to be: sowers of peace and joy, the peace and joy that Jesus has brought to us.
Prayer: Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia: For He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, Has risen as He said, alleluia. Pray for us to God, alleluia. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia. Because the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray : O God, who by the Resurrection of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, granted joy to the whole world: grant we beg Thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, His Mother, we may lay hold of the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Not too long ago I saw a marble bas-relief representing the adoration of the child Jesus by the Magi. The central figures were surrounded by four angels, each one bearing a symbol: a crown, an orb surmounted by the cross, a sword and a sceptre. The artist had chosen symbols with which we are all familiar to illustrate the event we commemorate today. Some wise men whom tradition describes as kings come to pay homage to a child, after having been to Jerusalem to ask “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?”
Moved by this question, I too now contemplate Jesus “lying in a manger,” in a place fit only for animals. Lord, where is your kingship, your crown, your sword, your sceptre? They are his by right, but he does not want them. He reigns wrapped in swaddling clothes. Our king is unadorned. He comes to us as a defenceless little child. Can we help but recall the words of the Apostle: “He emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave”?
Prayer: The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death.
Our Lord became man to teach us the Father’s will. And this he is already doing as he lies there in the manger. Jesus Christ is seeking us — with a call which is a vocation to sanctity — so that we may carry out the redemption with him. Let us reflect on this first lesson of his. We are to co-redeem, by striving to triumph not over our neighbour, but over ourselves. Like Christ we need to empty ourselves, to consider ourselves as the servants of others, and so to bring them to God.
Where is the king? Could it be that Jesus wants to reign above all in men’s hearts, in your heart? That is why he has become a child, for who can help loving a little baby? Where then is the king? Where is the Christ whom the Holy Spirit wants to fashion in our souls? He cannot be present in the pride that separates us from God, nor in the lack of charity which cuts us off from others. Christ cannot be there. In that loveless state man is left alone.
Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that, we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ our Lord.
We want to identify ourselves with Christ. It is not an easy goal. But it is not difficult either, if we live as our Lord has taught us to live, if we have recourse to his word every day, if we fill our lives with the sacramental reality, the Eucharist, which he has given us for our nourishment. Then the Christian’s path proves to be viable. God has called us clearly and unmistakably. Like the Magi we have discovered a star: a light and a guide in the sky of our soul.
“We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.” We have had the same experience. We too noticed a new light shining in our soul and growing increasingly brighter. It was a desire to live a fully christian life, a keenness to take God seriously. If each one of you were to tell aloud the intimate details of how his vocation made itself felt, the rest of us would conclude immediately that it was all God’s doing. Let us give thanks to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and to Holy Mary, through whom all blessings from heaven come to us, for this gift which, along with our faith, is the greatest the Lord can bestow on any of his creatures. It is a clear desire to attain the fullness of charity, the conviction that sanctity is not only possible but necessary in the midst of our social and professional tasks.
Look how gently the Lord invites us. His words have human warmth; they are the words of a person in love: “I have called you by your name. You are mine.” God, who is beauty and greatness and wisdom, declares that we are his, that we have been chosen as the object of his infinite love. We need a strong life of faith to appreciate the wonder his providence has entrusted to us. A faith like that of the Magi, a conviction that neither the desert, nor the storms, nor the quiet of the oases will keep us from reaching our destination in the eternal Bethlehem: our definitive life with God.
Prayer: May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.