Part Two

The Proper

of the Seasons


Table of Contents

Advent
First Week: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Second Week: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Third Week: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
December 17 December 18 December 19 December 20 December 21 December 22 December 23 December 24
Christmas Sundayin the Octave: Holy Family
December 26 December 27 December 28 December 29 December 30 December 31
Mary, Mother of God
January 2 to Epiphany: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Epiphany Epiphany to the Master's Bath: Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
First Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday: The Master's Bath Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Second Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Third Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fourth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fifth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Sixth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Seventh Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Eighth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Lent
Thursday Friday Saturday
First week of Lent:Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Second Week of Lent: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Third Week of Lent: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fourth Week of Lent: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fifth Week of Lent: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Holy Week: Palm Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Holy Thursday Good Friday Holy Saturday
Easter Sunday
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Second Sunday of Easter Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Third Sunday of Easter Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fourth Sunday of Easter Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fifth Sunday of Easter Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Sixth Sunday of Easter Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Seventh Sunday of Easter Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Spring
Pentecost

Sunday after Pentecost
Trinity

Thursday after Trinity
Corpus Christi

Friday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost
Sacred Heart

Saturday after the Second Sunday after Pentecost
Immaculate Heart of Mary

Ninth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Tenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Thirteenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Summer
Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twemty-First Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Second Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Third Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Autumn
Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Sixth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Eighth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Thirty-Second Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Thirty-Fourth and Last Week of Ordinary Time: Sunday: Christ the King Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday









Advent

First Sunday

First Reading: Isaiah 1.1-18

The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, which deals with Judah and Jerusalem during the times of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, Kings of Judah:
Listen, heaven, and pay attention, earth,
because YHWH has said this:
"I have nurtured children and reared them,
but they have rebelled against me.
Oxen know their owner
and donkeys recognize their master's trough;
but Israel knows nothing;
my people do not think."
What a shame! A sinful nation,
a people burdened down with their immorality,
a brood of degenerates,
children who corrupt everyone!
They have abandoned YHWH
and have provoked the anger
of Israel's Holy One;
they have turned their backs on him.
Why should you be punished once more?
You will only keep up your defiance.
The body's whole head is sick,
its whole heart is frail;
from the sole of its feet to the top of the head
there is nothing sound about it,
only wounds and infected sores
that have not healed over or been bandaged
or soothed with ointment.
Your country is a wasteland,
fire has consumed your cities;
foreigners eat up your land as you look on,
and it is barren, toppled by aliens.
Daughter Zion is left like a hut in a vineyard,
like a shed in a melon patch,
like a city under siege.
If YHWH who commands armies
had not left a few survivors,
we would have become like Sodom,
no better than Gomorrah.
But listen to what YHWH says,
authorities in Sodom;
pay attention to our God's command,
people of Gomorrah:
"What good are all your sacrifices to me?"
YHWH says,
"I have had enough of your holocausts of rams
and of the fat from the cattle you raise;
I take no pleasure in the blood of a bull
or a lamb or a goat.
Who asks this of you
when you come into my presence?
Stop trampling down my courts!
Bring me no more worthless sacrifices,
and incense is something I loathe.
I cannot stand your New Moons
your Sabbaths, convoking assemblies
your immoral sacred meetings;
No, I detest these New Moons and festivals of yours;
they are a nuisance,
and I am sick of them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will close my eyes to you;
and even though you keep praying all the more,
I will not listen,
because your hands are full of blood.
Wash it off; make yourselves clean,
put your vices behind you out of sight of my eyes.
Stop doing evil
and learn to do good;
Pursue virtue,
reprimand oppressors,
defend the fatherless,
take the part of widows.
Come now, let us act reasonably,"
says YHWH.
"And then, though your sins are blood-red,
they will be white as snow;
even if they are crimson,
they will be like wool."

Wash yourselves off; make yourselves clean. Rid your hearts of evil, and keep it out of my sight, and even if your sins are blood-red they will become white as snow.

Stop doing evil and learn to do good; always pursue virtue, and even if your sins are blood-red, they will be white as snow.

Second Reading: Catechetical Instruction by Cyril of Jerusalem

We do not simply preach one coming of the Prince; we announce a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was characterized by the endurance of suffering, while the second will bring a coronation into a divine kingdom.
In general, there are two aspects to anything that deals with our Master Prince Jesus: there is a fathering by God before time began, and a birth from a virgin when time reached its completion. There is a hidden coming, like dew on fleece, and a coming every eye will see, which is still in the future.
At the first coming, he was wrapped in his blanket in a manger; at his second coming he will have light for his clothes; in the first coming, he endured the cross and made nothing of its disgrace; in the second coming, he will be in glory, attended by an army of angels.
And so we look beyond the first coming and are waiting for the second one. At the first coming, we said, "Praise the one who is coming in the Master's name;" at the second we will say it once again;
we will go out with the angels to meet the Master and cry out with admiration, "Praise the one who is coming in the Master's name!"
The Savior is not coming to be subject to our judgment again, but to pass judgment on those he was judged by. During his own trial, he was silent; but then he will speak to those who committed the outrages against him and remind them, "You did all this, and I was silent."
His first coming was to fulfill his loving plan, to teach people by gently persuading them. But this time, whether they like it or not, people will be forced to be subjects of his Kingdom.
The prophet Malachi says this of the two comings: "The Master you are looking for will come suddenly to his Temple." That is one coming. But he says in reference to another coming, "Then the all-powerful Master will come, and will anyone survive the time of his appearing, and who will be able to stand the sight of him? Because he is like a refiner's fire, a fuller's lye, and he will take his seat and refine and cleanse."
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in his letter to Titus: "The blessings of the God who rescues us have shone on every human being and educated us in how to reject secularism and worldly desires, and how to live sensibly, virtuously, and religiously in the present environment, keeping before our eyes in the appearing of the majesty of our great God and rescuer Prince Jesus." Notice how he speaks of a first coming, for which he shows gratitude, and a second, the one we are still waiting for.
That is why the faith we profess has been handed down to you in these words: "He rose into heaven and is enthroned beside the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end."
Our Master Prince Jesus, then, will come down from heaven; he will come at the end of the world, in glory, on the last day--because there will be an end to this world and the created world will be remade into something new.
As I watch from far off, I see the Power of God approaching, and the whole earth enveloped in a cloud. Go out to him and cry, "Tell us if you are the one who is to reign over the people of Israel."
All the peoples on the earth, all of the race of human beings, rich and poor alike, go out to him and cry, "Shepherd of Israel, please listen to us; since you lead Joseph's race as if it were your flock, tell us if you are the one who is to reign over the people of Israel."

Prayer

All-powerful God, since our hearts desire the warmth of your love and our minds are searching for the light of your Word, please increase our longing for our Savior the Prince, and give us the strength to grow in love, so that the dawn of his coming will find us full of joy at his presence, welcoming the light of his truth. We make this request in the name of the Master Jesus.

Resume with the Te Deum

Monday

First Reading: Isaiah 1.21-27, 2.1-5
How much a prostitute the faithful city has become!
It was full of virtue,
Honesty made its home there;
but now it houses murderers.
Your silver has turned into dross,
your will is diluted with water;
your kings are rebels
and friends of thieves;
everyone is fond of bribes
and pursues profit;
they do not defend orphans,
and they ignore the cases widows bring.
And that is why this is said by the Master,
YHWH, commander of armies, the Power of Israel:
"Yes, I will rid myself of my opponents
and avenge myself on my enemies.
I will turn my hand against you,
and burn away your dross
and eliminate all your alloy.
I will restore your judges to what they were at first,
and return your advisors to the starting-place;
and afterward you will be called
city of virtue, faithful city."
Zion will be redeemed by justice,
and those in her who repent by their virtue.
This is what Isaiah, the son of Amoz saw in reference to Judah and Jerusalem:
What will happen some day in the future is
that the mountain where YHWH resides
will be set up as the highest mountain,
and will be raised above the hills;
and every nation will flow into it.
People after people will come and say,
"Come, let us go up YHWH's mountain
to the residence of Jacob's God;
he will teach us his ways,
and we will walk along his paths."
Because it is out of Zion that the Law will be promulgated,
and YHWH's utterances will come from Jerusalem.
He will be the judge over many, many nations
and pass sentence on many, many peoples.
And they will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not raise its swords against nation,
and they will no longer train for war.
Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk
in YHWH's light.

Come, let us go up the Master's mountain to the residence of Jacob's God. He will teach us his ways, and we will walk along his paths.

The Messiah, the one called the Prince, is coming, and when he comes he will teach us everything. He will teach us his ways, and we will walk along his paths.

Second Reading: A pastoral by St. Charles Borromeo

My friends, now is the favorable time spoken of by the Spirit, the day of rescue, peace, and reconciliation: the great season of Advent. This is the time that was so eagerly awaited by the patriarchs and prophets, the time that holy Simeon was so glad to see. This is the season that the Church has always celebrated with special solemnity. We too should always observe it with faith and love, offering our praise and gratitude to the Father for the mercy and love he has shown us in this mystery. In his infinite love for us, even though we were sinners, he sent his only Son to free us from the tyranny of Satan, to invite us to heaven and to welcome us into its most profound depths, to show us truth itself, to train us in proper behavior, to plant seeds of virtue within us, to enrich us with the treasures of grace, and to make us children of God and heirs of eternal life.

Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that the Prince's coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power is still to be communicated to all of us. We will share his power if, in our holy faith in the sacraments, we willingly accept the grace the Prince earned for us, and live by that grace in obedience to the Prince.

The Church asks us to understand that the Prince, who came once bodily, is ready to come again. When we get rid of all the obstacles to his presence, he will come, at any hour or moment, to make his spiritual home in our hearts, and bring with him the riches of his grace.

In her concern for our rescue, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to give us instruction through hymns, songs, and other forms of expression--of voice or ritual--that are used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for such a blessing, and how to gain benefit from it: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of the Prince as if he were still to come into this world. The same lesson is given to us for our imitation by the words and example of the holy men of the Old Treaty.

Blow the trumpets in Zion! Summon the nations! Gather the people and tell them the good news: Our God and our Savior is coming!

Proclaim the good news; let it be heard; tell it to everyone, shout it aloud: Our God and Savior is coming!

Prayer

Master, our God, please help us prepare for the coming of your Son the Prince. May he find us waiting eagerly in joyful prayer. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Isaiah 2.6-22, 4.2-6
You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob,
because they are filled with eastern mystics;
they are fortune tellers, like the Philistines,
and they are attracted to aliens.
Also, their land is full of silver and gold,
and there is no end to their wealth;
their land is full of horses
and there is no end to their chariots;
their land is full of idols
and they worship their own handiwork:
things their own fingers have created.
People bow down to them,
and everyone degrades himself.
And so do not forgive them!
Go into caves in the rocks and hide in the dirt
from terror of YHWH
at the radiance of his majesty.
Conceited stares will be put down,
and arrogance will be disgraced,
and only YHWH will be elevated on that day,
because the day of YHWH, the commander of armies
will come down on everything proud and conceited,
upon everything that elevates itself,
and it will be brought down:
upon all the Lebanon cedars that grow tall on the mountain,
and all the oaks in Bashan;
upon all the lofty mountains
and all the hills that push themselves upward;
upon every high tower
and on every fortified wall;
upon all the ships in Tarshish,
and every stately vessel.
Human superiority will be degraded
and human arrogance will be humbled;
only YHWH will be elevated on that day,
and he will smash all the idols to pieces.
And they will hide in the holes in rocks
and in caves in the ground
from terror of YHWH
and the radiance of his majesty
when he comes forward to send the earth into convulsions.
On that day, a man will throw to moles and bats
his silver idols and his golden gods,
which each of them made for their own worship,
and go into the clefts in the rocks
and into crevices in the cliffs
from terror of YHWH
and the radiance of his majesty
when he comes forward to send the earth into convulsions.
Keep away from men like these,
whose only spirit is the breath in their nostrils;
what good are they?
On that day, YHWH's branch will be lovely and radiant,
and the earth's yield will be excellent and flavorful
for those in Israel who have escaped.
And what will happen is that those who are left in Zion and remain in Jerusalem will be called holy--everyone who is recorded as among the living in Jerusalem. When the Master has cleaned off the filth from the daughters of Zion and purged Jerusalem of the blood within her by the burning wind of his judgment, then YHWH will create above every home on Mount Zion and above all her meeting-places, a cloud of smoke during the day and the glow of a flaming fire at night. Because his glory will be a covering for everything, a tent of shade during the day to protect from the heat, a place of refuge, and a shelter from storm and rain.

Conceited stares will be put down, and arrogance will be disgraced, and only the Master will be elevated on that day.
They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds in the sky with great power and majesty. Only the Master will be elevated on that day.

Second Reading: A sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen

The very Son of God, older than time itself, the invisible, incomprehensible, incorporeal beginning from the beginning, the light from light, the source of life and immortality, the visible counterpart of the model, the unmoved seal, the perfect likeness, the definition and Word of the Father, is the one who comes to his own image and takes our nature for the good of our nature, and unites himself to an intellectual soul for the good of my soul--to purify what is similar by what is similar.

He takes onto himself everything human, except for sin. He was conceived by the Virgin Mary, who had first been prepared in her soul and body by the Spirit (since his engendering had to be given respect, and her virginity also had to be given previous respect). He emerges as God after taking on the nature: one thing from two opposites, matter and spirit, where one bestowed divinity and the other received it.

The one who gives riches becomes poor; he takes on material poverty, so that I can achieve the riches of his divinity. The one who is full becomes empty; he is emptied of his glory for a short time, so that I can share his fullness.

What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that is all around me? I received the image of God, but failed to keep it; but he takes on my matter, to bring rescue to the image, and immortality to matter. He joins us in a second union, a union far more wondrous than the first.

Holiness had to be brought into mankind by the humanity taken by one who was God, so that God would win the battle over the tyrant and by this set us free and lead us back to himself with his Son as the intermediary. The Son brought this about for the honor of the Father, to whom the Son is obedient in every way.

The Good Shepherd, who is ready to give up his life for his sheep, came in search of the straying sheep to the mountains and hills on which you used to offer sacrifices. When he found it, he took it on the shoulders that bore the wood of the cross, and carried it back to the life of heaven.

The Prince, the light of every light, comes after John, the lamp that precedes him. The Word of God comes after the voice in the desert; the bridegroom comes after the bridegroom's friend, who makes a people fit for the Master by bathing them in water in preparation for the Spirit.

We need God to take our matter and die, so that we can live. We have died along with him, so that we will be purified. And we have come back to life again with him, because we have died with him--and we have been glorified with him, because we have come back to life again with him.

When the proper time finally came, God sent his Son into the world, born from a virgin, subject to the Law, to rescue those who were subject to the Law.

Because of his great love for us, God sent his Son in the form of sinful human nature to rescue those who were subject to the Law.

Prayer

God of mercy and consolation, please help us in our weakness and free us from sin; please listen to our prayers, so that we will be able to find joy in the coming of your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Isaiah 5.1-7

Now let me sing about my good friend.
My friend's song about his vineyard.
My good friend has a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He spaded it and cleared its stones,
and planted in it the choicest of vines.
He built a tower in the center of it
and made a winepress within it.
Then he waited for it to produce good grapes,
but it only yielded wild grapes.
Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
settle the case between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done to my vineyard
that I have not done?
Then why, when I looked for it to produce good grapes,
did it produce wild grapes?
And now, please let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge and burn it down;
I will break down its wall and let it be trampled.
I will wreck it completely;
it will not be pruned or cultivated,
and brambles and thorns will grow up in it.
I will also command the clouds
not to send rain upon it.
You see, the vineyard of YHWH, commander of armies,
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah are his cherished plant.
He looked for justice, and there he found oppression,
he tried to find virtue, and heard only cries for help.

Boars come from the woods and root out the vine you planted, and the animals from the fields have eaten it up. Please look at this, Master, and come forward in your mighty power; do not let what your hands have made be destroyed.

Master, God of power and might, please look down from heaven and see this vine and protect it; do not let what your hands have made be destroyed.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Bernard

We know that there are three advents, three comings, of the Master. The third is between the other two; it is invisible, while the other two can be seen. In the first advent, he was seen on earth, living among human beings; he gives evidence himself that they saw him and hated him. In the final advent, "all of matter will see God's rescue, and they will look on the one they have pierced." The advent that is between these is a concealed one; in it only the chosen people see the Master within their own selves, and they are saved. In the first advent, our Master came in our flesh and our weakness; in his central advent, he comes in spirit and power, and in the final advent, he will be seen in glory and majesty.

Because this intermediate advent lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first to the last advent. In the first, the Prince was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this central advent, he is our rest and consolation.

In case anyone thinks that what we are saying about this intermediate advent is something we made up, listen to what our Master himself says: "If anyone loves me, he will keep what I say, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him." And there is another passage of Scripture, which reads, "One who fears God will do good"; but something more has been said about the one who loves: that he will keep what God says. And where is what God says to be kept? Obviously, in the heart, as the prophet says: "I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I will not sin against you."

Keep what God says in this way: Let it enter your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Make goodness your food, and your soul will find satisfaction in its richness. And remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither. Fill your soul with richness and strength.

If you keep what God says in this way, it will also keep you. The Son, along with the Father, will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes everything new. And this coming will fulfill what is written, "Just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we will also bear the likeness of the heavenly man." Just as Adam's sin spread through all mankind and took hold of everyone, so the Prince, who created and redeemed everyone, will glorify everyone, once he takes possession of everyone.

The Master will come down to us, radiant in his splendor, awesome in his power. He will bring his people peace and give them eternal life.

Our God will come, awesome in his power. He will bring his people peace and give them eternal life.

Prayer

Master, our God, please bestow on us the gift of being ready to accept the Prince when he comes in glory, and to share in the banquet of heaven, where he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Isaiah 16.1-5, 17.4-8

The lamb is to be sent from Sela across the desert
to the ruler of the land
on the mountain of the daughter of Zion.
Because the daughters of Moab at the fords of the Arnon
are like birds thrown out of the nest, fluttering about.
Confer together, make your decision;
turn your shadow into a night in the middle of day
to hide the outcasts
and conceal the fugitives.
Let the exiles from Moab live with you;
hide them from those who would loot them.
And when the extortion comes to an end
and the devastation is over,
and the oppressors have eaten up everything in the land and left,
a throne of mercy will be set up
and an honest judge will sit in David's tent
whose judgments follow justice and are swift to do right.
"On that day, what will happen
is that Jacob's glory will ebb,
and his healthy body will grow thin,
as when a reaper is gathering the harvest
and fills his arm with stalks;
like someone gleaning grain
in the Valley of Rephaim.
But still, a few grapes will be left there,
like the olives left after it has been shaken,
with two or three olives on the topmost branch,
and four or five on those most fruitful."
This is what is said by YHWH, the God of Israel.
And on that day, a man will look toward his Maker,
and his eyes will respect Israel's Holy One.
He will not look toward altars,
the work of his own hands;
he will have no respect for what his fingers have produced,
for sacred poles or altars of incense.

I will produce an heir for David: one who virtuous. He will make honest judgments rule upon earth; and this is the name they will give him: The Master is our virtue.

A throne of mercy will be set up, and on it an honest judge will sit: one who seeks justice and is swift to do right. And this is the name they will give him: the Master is our virtue.

Second Reading: A commentary on the Diatessaron by St. Ephrem

To keep his students from asking the time of his coming, Jesus said, "No one knows about that time, not angels, not the Son. It is not for you to know times or occasions." He has kept these things secret so that we will stay alert, with each of us thinking that he will come in our own time. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its zest; it would no longer be something to be yearned for by the nations and the age in which it was revealed. He did promise that he would come, but did not say when he would come; and so every generation and age waits for him eagerly.

Even though the Master set out the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfillment has not been clearly revealed. And these signs have come and gone with a great many changes--even more, they are still with us. His final coming is like the first one: Just as holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would come in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own time, because the Prince has not made clear the day on which he will come.

And this is the main reason why he has not made it clear: so that no one will think that the one whose power and authority rules over all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming, and how could what he has described himself be hidden from him? And so he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day on every generation and age might think that he would come again during their own time.

So stay alert. When the body is asleep, nature takes control of us, and what is done is done by force, by the impulse of nature, not by our will. When deep listlessness takes possession of the soul--for example, with hesitancy or depression--the enemy overpowers it and makes it do what it does not choose to do. The force of nature, the enemy of the soul, is in control.

When the Master commanded us to be alert, he meant alertness in both parts of the human being: in the body, against its tendency to sleep, and in the soul, against laziness and timidity. As Scripture says, "Wake up, virtuous people!" and "I have come back to life, and I am still with you" and also "Do not lose heart. And that is why, since we have this service, we do not lose heart."

I will make an eternal treaty with you; I will extend to you the promise given in my mercy to David. I have put him there as a witness to the peoples, and a leader and teacher of every nation.

This act of rescue God performs is for every nation, and they will pay attention to it. I have put him there as a witness to the peoples, and a leader and teacher of every nation.

Prayer

Father, we need your help. Please set us free of sin and bring us to life; and support us by your power. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Isaiah 19.16-25

On that day the Egyptians will be like women trembling with fear, because YHWH, the commander of armies, is shaking his fist at them. And the land of Judah will be Egypt's terror; everyone who mentions it will quake with fear, because of the plan which YHWH, commander of armies, has in mind for them.

On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear by YHWH, commander of armies; and one of them will be called the "City of the Sun."

And on that day there will be an altar to YHWH within the land of Egypt, and a pillar dedicated to YHWH at its border; and it will stand as a sign and evidence about YHWH, the commander of armies, in the land of Egypt; because they will call out to YHWH because of their oppressors, and he will send them a Savior to be their champion and set them free.

And then YHWH will make himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will acknowledge YHWH on that day, and will make sacrifices and offer gifts to him; yes they will make vows to YHWH, and fulfill them. And YHWH will strike Egypt, but it will heal them; and they will return to YHWH, and they will plead with him and he will heal them.

On that day, there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt, and the Egyptians into Assyria; and the Egyptians will be slaves of Assyria. And on that day Israel will make up a third partnership with Egypt and Assyria: a blessing within the land, something YHWH, commander of armies will bless, and say, "A blessing upon Egypt, my people, and Assyria, my handiwork, and upon Israel, my legacy."

On that day, the Egyptians will acknowledge the Master, and will worship him with offerings and gifts.

They will come from east and west, north and south to be seated in the Kingdom of God, and will worship him with offerings and gifts.

Second Reading: from the Proslogion of St. Anselm

Little man, leave your ordinary business for a little while; hide for a moment from your restless thoughts. Leave aside your cares and troubles, and do not be so concerned about your work and jobs. Take a little time for God, and rest a while in him.

Go into the inner room in your mind. Shut out everything but God and whatever helps you look for him; and when you have shut the door, search him out. Now speak to God and say with your whole heart, "I am looking for your face; Master, it is your face I long for."

Master, my God, please teach my heart where and how to look for you, and where and how to find you. Master, if you are not here, where shall I look for you in your absence? But if you are everywhere, why do I not see you when you are here? Of course, you live in "inaccessible light"; but where is inaccessible light? And how am I to access inaccessible light? Who will guide me there and bring me into it so that I can see you there? And even then, in what guise or what forms will I find you? I have never seen you, Master, my God; I do not know what your face is like.

Supreme Master, what is this expatriate to do, so far from you? What is your slave to do, if he is tormented by love of you and thrown so far off from your face? He longs to see you, but your face is too far away from him; he yearns to approach you, and where you live is unapproachable; he wants to find you, and does not know your residence; he tries so hard to look for you, and cannot recognize your face.

Master, you are my God and you are my Master; but I have never seen you. You made me, and you remade me, and you have given me everything good that I possess, and still I do not know you. I was even made precisely to see you, and have not yet done what I was made for.

Master, how long is it to be? How long, Master, will you forget us? How long will you turn your face away from us? When will you look down on us and hear us? When will you shine into our eyes and show us your face? When will you give yourself back to us?

Please look down on us, Master; listen to us and shine on us; show us your real self. Please give yourself back to us so that we, whose lives are so evil without you, will be able to do well. Have pity on our efforts and our straining toward you, because we have no strength apart from you.

Please teach me how to look for you, and while I am looking, show yourself to me, because I cannot even look for you unless you teach me, and I cannot find you unless you show yourself to me. Let me look for you in desiring you and desire you in looking for you; let me find you in loving you and love you in finding you.

We will never leave you, Master, because you will fill us with life and we will call upon your name. Please show us your face and we will be saved.

Remember us, please, Master, because of the love you have for your people. Come and bring us your rescue; show us your face and we will be saved.

Prayer

Our Master Jesus, please save us from our sins; please come and protect us from every danger and lead us to our rescue, because you are alive and reigning with the Father and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Isaiah 21.6-12

This is what my Master said to me:
"Go, station a watchman,
and have him tell what he sees.
If he sees a chariot with a pair of horses,
someone riding a donkey, or someone riding a camel,
he is to pay attention:
very close attention."
Then the watchman cried,
"I am a lion, my Master!
I stand on the watchtower all through the day,
and I am at my post all night.
And now there is a chariot coming, a chariot with two horses"
and a voice called back,
"It has fallen! Babylon has fallen!
And all the statues of its gods
have been smashed on the ground!"
Ah, my people, grain threshed out on the floor!
I have only told you
what I have heard from YHWH, the commander of armies,
the God of Israel.
An oracle against Edom:
They call to me from Seir,
"Watchman, how is the night?"
"Watchman, how is the night?"
The watchman said,
"Morning has come, and night once again.
If you want to ask, ask;
and then return and come back."

An angel cried in a voice of thunder, "It has fallen. Babylon the Great has fallen!" Then I heard another voice from heaven, "Come out, my people; come out of her! You must not take part in her sins!"

Her wrongs are piled up as high as heaven, and the Master has the list of them in his hand. Come out, my people, come out of her! You must not take part in her sins!

Second Reading: The Value of Patience by St. Cyprian

Patience is a direction for our rescue given us by our Master and teacher: "Anyone who lasts out to the end will be saved." And also, "If you keep hold of what I say, you will be real students of mine; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

My dear brothers and sisters, we must hold out and persevere if we are to reach the truth and freedom we have been allowed to hope for. Faith and hope are the very meaning of our being Christians; but if faith and hope are to reach their goal, patience is required.

We are not to look for glory now in the present; we are to look for future glory, as St. Paul teaches us when he says, "We are saved by hope. But hope which is seen is not hope; how can a man hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we are to wait for it in patience." Patient waiting is required if we are to become complete in what we have begun to be, and if we are to receive from God what we hope for and believe.

In another place, the same Emissary gives instructions and teaches virtuous people and people active in good deeds, as well as those who are adding to their savings in heaven through the rewards God gives them: They are also to be patient, as he says, "And so while we have time, let us do good to everyone, and especially those who belong to the family of the faith. And we should not grow tired of doing good, because we will reap the harvest of our reward at the proper time."

Paul warns us not to grow tired in our good deeds through impatience; not to be distracted or overcome by temptations and give up in the middle of our pilgrimage toward praise and glory, and so let our past good deeds count for nothing, because what we began falls short of completeness.

Finally, the Emissary, when he speaks of love, unites it with perseverance and patience. "Love," he says, "is always patient and kind; it is not jealous, not conceited, is not touchy, does not wish harm, loves everything, believes everything, hopes for everything, and puts up with everything." He shows that love can be persevering because it has learned how to put up with everything.

In another place he says, "Put up with each other lovingly, and try hard to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." He shows that neither unity nor peace can be maintained unless the brothers and sisters love each other with mutual tolerance, and preserve this bond of harmony with patience.

He will finally appear; he is true to his word. Keep watching for him, because he will certainly come without delay.

A little while longer, just a very little while and the one who was promised will come. Keep watching for him, because he will certainly come without delay.

Prayer

Our Father God, since you loved the world enough to give it your only Son to free us from the ancient power of sin and death, please help those of us who are waiting for his coming, and lead us to true freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Second Sunday

in Advent

First Reading: Isaiah 22.8-23

You looked on that day to the armor in the House of the Forest;
you saw the how great the damage was
to David's City;
and you collected water from the lower pool.
You counted the houses in Jerusalem,
and tore down some houses
to repair the wall.
You also made a reservoir between the two walls
for the water of the old pool.
But you did not look to its maker,
or show respect for the one who built it long ago.
And on that day, YHWH, God of armies
called for weeping and mourning,
for shaven heads and wearing sackcloth;
but instead there was fun and games,
slaughtering of steers and butchering sheep,
eating meat and drinking wine;
"Let us eat and drink, because tomorrow we are to die!"
And this reached the ears of YHWH, commander of armies,
"There will be no pardon for this wrong you have done,
not till you die!" says YHWH, God of armies.
And this is what is said by YHWH, God of armies:
"Go, approach this official,
Shebna, master of the palace, and say,
'Who put you here? What is your business here?
You have made a burial-place for yourself up this high
and carved a tomb for yourself in the rock?
Well, YHWH will shake you out of it,
man of power,
he will grab you in his hand
and roll you up into a ball and throw you
out into the field,
and you will die there, and the chariots you boast of
will be the disgrace of your master's house!'
And then, on that day what I will do
is call my slave Eliakim, son of Hilkiah,
and dress him in your robe
and strap your belt upon him,
and give him your authority.
He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem
and to Judah's family.
I will place the key of David
upon his shoulder;
and no one will lock what he opens,
and no one will open what he locks up.
I will fix him like a peg in a secure hole,
in a place of honor for his father's family.

This is what is said by the one who is holy and true, who holds the key of David, "Now I have put in front of you an open door, which no one is able to close.

"You have kept what I have said, and have not repudiated my name. And now I have put in front of you an open door, which no one is able to close."

Second Reading: A commentary on Isaiah by Eusebius of Caesarea

"A voice crying in the desert, 'Ready the Master's road! Smooth out the path for our God!'" The prophesy makes it clear that this is to be fulfilled in the desert, not in Jerusalem; it is there that the Master's glory is to appear, and God's rescue is to be made known to all mankind.

It was in the desert that God's liberating presence was proclaimed by John, who was bathing people, and there that God's rescue was seen. The words of the prophesy were fulfilled when the Prince and his glory were able to be seen by everyone; after his bath, the sky opened up, and the Holy Spirit lighted on him in the form of a dove, and the Father's voice was heard, acting as a witness to his Son: "This is the Son I love; listen to him."

The prophesy meant that God was to come to a deserted place, inaccessible from the beginning. None of the pagans had any knowledge of God, since his holy slaves and prophets were prevented from approaching them. The voice commanded a path to be made ready for the Word of God: the rough and trackless ground is to be leveled, so that our God would find a roadway when he came. "Ready the road for the Master": The road is the proclamation of the Good News, the new report of comfort, ready to bring to all mankind the knowledge of God's liberating power.

"Climb up a high mountain, bearer of good news to Zion! Raise your powerful voice, bearer of good news to Jerusalem!" These words agree very well with the meaning of what went before. They refer appropriately to the evangelists and announce God's coming to human beings, after speaking of the voice crying in the desert. Mention of the evangelists aptly follows the prophesy about John, who bathed the people.

What does "Zion" mean if not the city previously called "Jerusalem"? This is the mountain referred to in that passage from Scripture, "Here is mount Zion, where you had your home." The Emissary says, "You have come to mount Zion." Does not this refer to the group of Emissaries, chosen from the earlier people who were circumcised?

This is the Zion, the Jerusalem, that received God's rescue. It stands high atop the mountain of God, or in other words, it is raised up high on the only legitimate Word of God. It is commanded to climb the high mountain and announce the words that rescue us. And who is the bearer of this good news if not the group of evangelists? And what does it mean to bear the good news except to deliver the proclamation to every nation, but first of all to the cities of Judah: the coming of the Prince on earth.

The Master's herald is coming near, the one the Master referred to when he said, "No one born from woman is greater than John, who bathed the people.

Yes, this is a great prophet, and more than a prophet. This is the one the Master referred to when he said, 'No one born from woman is greater than John, who bathed the people.'"

Prayer

God of power and mercy, please open our hearts in welcome; remove what keeps us from receiving the Prince with joy, so that we can share his wisdom and become one thing in him when he comes in glory, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Isaiah 24.1-18

See how YHWH empties the earth and devastates it,
turns it upside down,
scattering those who live on it.
Then what will happen will be the same
for the people as the priests,
the slaves as the masters,
maids as their mistresses,
buyers as sellers
lenders as borrowers,
creditors as debtors.
The land will be completely emptied and totally looted,
because YHWH has pronounced his utterance.
Earth grieves and decays;
the world mourns and grows sick;
high and low become faint.
The very earth is polluted from those who live in it,
because they have violated the laws,
changed the rules,
and broken the eternal Treaty.
And that is why a curse has eaten the earth up,
and those who live there are aghast;
that is why its inhabitants burn with fever
and few of them are left.
The new wine sours, the vines are diseased,
and all the carousers are joyless.
The happy sound of tambourines is gone,
as well as happy chatter;
glad chords on the harp are silent,
and no one sings as he drinks his wine;
the alcohol the drinkers drink is bitter.
The city, in chaos, falls apart;
every house shut against entry.
In the streets there is a cry for wine,
but darkness has fallen on happiness,
and cheer has vanished from the land.
In the city, all that is left is ruin;
its gates are bent and torn down.
When this happens in the land, among the people,
they will be like a shaken olive tree,
like a gleaned vine when the harvest is over.
These few will raise their voices and sing
about the majesty of YHWH;
they will raise a shout from the sea,
"Give glory to YHWH as the morning dawns,
you there on the shores, praise the name of God YHWH of Israel;"
From the ends of the earth we have heard the songs,
"Give glory to the God of Virtue!"
But I myself said, "I am ruined! Ruined!
Oh no! No! Traitors have sold me out!
Yes, traitors! And they have stabbed me in the back!"
Terror of the pits, snares, and traps
grip everyone living on the earth.
But what will happen
is that those who run away from the screams of terror
will fall into the pits;
and those who climb out of the pits
will be caught in the snares;
because the windows in the sky are open
and the earth's foundations shake.

They raise their voices in songs of praise, "May God be glorified in your teaching."

Sing a new song to the Master: have the whole earth sing songs to the Master.

Second Reading: The Ascent of Mount Carmel

by St. John of the Cross

Under the old Law, prophets and priests looked for revelations from God and visions; and they needed these, because faith did not yet have a firm foundation, and the Law of the Good News had not yet been promulgated. And so their search and God's responses were necessary. He spoke at one time in words, visions, and revelations, and at another in signs and symbols; but no matter how he answered and what he revealed, they were the secrets of our holy faith, either partial glimpses of it, or a definite progression toward it.

But now that faith has its roots in the Prince, and the Law of the Good News has been promulgated in this time of favor, there is no need to look for him in the way that used to be done, nor for him to give these answers. By giving us, as he did, his Son, his only Word, he has in that one Word said everything. There is no need for any additional revelation.

This is the real meaning of Paul's words to the Hebrews, when he urged them to give up their earlier ways of conversing with God, as set out in the Law of Moses, and to put their eyes on the Prince alone: "In far-off ages, God spoke to our forefathers in fragments, in the multiform writings of the prophets; in the final age, our own day, he has spoken to us in his Son." In effect, Paul is saying that God has spoken so completely through his own Word that he chooses to add nothing. Though he had spoken partially through the prophets, he has now said everything in the Prince. He has given us everything: his only Son.

And so anyone who wanted to ask God a question or tried to obtain some new vision or revelation from him would be committing an offense; because, instead of focusing his eyes on the Prince, he would be desiring something other than the Prince or something beyond him.

God could then answer, "'This is the Son I love, the one who pleases me; listen to him.' I have already said everything in my Word; fix your eyes on him alone, because in him I have revealed everything, and you will find more in him than you could ever ask for or desire.

"I came down upon him with my Holy Spirit on Mount Tabor, and said, 'This is the Son I love, the one who pleases me; listen to him.' You do not need new teachings or ways of learning from me; because when I spoke earlier, it was about the Prince who was to come; and when they asked for anything from me, they were only looking for and hoping for the Prince who contains everything good, as the whole teaching of the evangelists and Emissaries clearly testifies."

A great many nations will come and say, "Let us go up to the Master's mountain, to the home of Jacob's God. He will teach us his ways, and we will walk along his paths."

The Messiah, the one called the Prince, is coming, and when he comes he will teach us everything. He will teach us his ways, and we will walk along his paths.

Prayer

Master, please free us from our sins and heal us; please listen to our prayer and make us ready to celebrate the incarnation of your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Isaiah 24.19-25.5

On that day, the earth will break apart;
the earth will split open;
the earth will be in convulsions;
the earth will reel about like a drunk,
and will totter like a flimsy hut.
Its rebellion will weigh it down
and it will fall and never rise again.
And what will happen on that day
is that YHWH will punish the heavenly army in the sky
and the kings of the earth on the ground;
they will be collected
as prisoners are collected in pits;
they will be shut up in a dungeon,
and after a great while they will be punished.
Then the moon will lose its luster
and the sun grow pale,
because YHWH of armies will reign
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
glorious in the sight of his elders.
YHWH, you are my God;
I will tell how great you are;
I will praise your name,
because you have done marvels,
and your ancient plans are fidelity and truth itself.
Yes, you have turned the city into a pile of rubble,
wrecked the so-well fortified city;
the upstarts' palace will never again be a city;
it will never be rebuilt.
And that is why strong people will give you glory,
and savage nations will be in awe of you,
because you have been the strength of the poor,
a support for the downtrodden destitute,
a refuge from storms,
a shade from heat;
because you put down the fury of these barbarians
storming against the walls;
you put down the uproar of the Gentiles
as if with desert heat;
like heat on the shadow of a cloud,
the cries of the savages will be quelled.

Master, you are my God; I will tell how great you are and praise your name, because you have fulfilled your wondrous plans.

Yes, you are a poor man's refuge, and a shelter for the downtrodden destitute, because you have fulfilled your wondrous plans.

Second Reading: The Dogmatic Constitution of the Churchby the Second Vatican Council

The Church, to which we are all called in Jesus the Prince, and in which we acquire holiness through the gift of God, will reach its perfection only in the glory of heaven, when the time comes for everything to be renewed; and the whole world, which is intimately bound up with human beings and reaches its perfection through them, will along with the human race, be perfectly restored in the Prince.

When he was lifted above the ground, the Prince drew everything to himself; as he came back to life, he sent his life-giving Spirit upon his students, and through the Spirit inaugurated his Body, which is the Church, as the universal sacrament of rescue. Now as he is enthroned beside the Father, he is working unceasingly in the world to draw people to the Church and through it to join them more closely to himself, nourishing them with his own body and blood, and so giving them a share in his life of glory.

The promised renewal that we look forward to has already begun in the Prince. It continues in the sending of the Holy Spirit; and through the Spirit, it goes on developing in the Church, where we are taught by faith about the meaning of our life on earth as well, as we bring to fulfillment--with hope in the blessings that are to come--the work that has been entrusted to us in the world by the Father, and in so doing work out our own rescue.

The end of the ages is already with us. The renewal of the world has been instituted, and cannot be revoked. In our era, it is in a true sense anticipated: the Church on earth is already sealed with genuine, if imperfect holiness. Yet, until a new heaven and a new earth are built as the residence of virtue, the pilgrim Church, in its sacraments and institutions belonging to this world of time, bears the imprint of the world that will vanish. It lives in the center of a creating that is still in pain and agony as it waits for the Son of God to be revealed in his glory.

We are waiting eagerly for the coming of our Savior, the Master Prince Jesus; he will make our insignificant bodies new again, and turn them into something like his own glorified body.

We live soberly, virtuously, and in a God-fearing way in this world as we wait in blessed hope for the glorious coming of the all-powerful God; he will make our insignificant bodies new again, and turn them into something like his own glorified body.

Prayer

All-powerful God, please help us to look forward to the glory of the birth of our Savior the Prince, whose coming is announced with joy to the ends of the earth, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Isaiah 25.6-26.6

And on this mountain
YHWH, commander of armies will make for all peoples
a feast of succulent food,
a feast of choice wines,
juicy, rich food,
and pure, fine wines.
And on this mountain he will destroy
the veil that has been thrown over every people,
and the cloth that has covered all the nations.
He will destroy death forever,
and God YHWH will dry tears from every face;
he will remove from the earth
his people's disgrace;
because this is what YHWH has spoken.
And it will be said on that day,
"Yes, this is our God;
the one we have waited for; he will save us.
This is YHWH;
the one we have waited for;
we will celebrate and shout for joy at his rescue."
Because YHWH's hand will rest on this mountain,
and Moab will be trampled under his feet
the way straw is trampled in the dump;
and he will flail his hands among them
as a swimmer flails his hands in swimming,
and bring down their arrogance
along with their deceptive practices.
He will topple
the ramparts on your fortified walls,
and tear it down to the ground, and grind it to dirt.
On that day, this is the song to be sung in the land of Judah:
"We have a strong city;
God protects us with walls and ramparts.
Open the gates
to let in a virtuous nation that acts honestly,
one whose mind is fixed on you,
because it puts its trust in you.
Trust in YHWH forever,
because in YAH, YHWH, there is eternal strength;
and he cuts down those who elevate themselves,
and razes soaring cities;
He tumbles them to the ground,
and grinds them to powder.
And the feet of the poor,
the steps of the indigent,
those feet, will trample them.

I heard a voice crying from the throne, "Now God has a residence among human beings; and he will make his home with them. They will be his people, and he will be God with them.

"The Master will destroy death forever, and dry the tears from every face. They will be his people, and he will be God with them."

Second Reading: A discourse on the psalms by St. Augustine

God set a time for his promises and a time for their fulfillment. The time for promises was the era of the prophets, up until John who bathed the people; from John until the end is the time of fulfillment.

God, who is faithful, put himself in debt to us, not by receiving anything, but by promising so much. And a promise was not even enough for him; he chose to commit himself in writing too, as if he were making a contract with his promises. He wanted us to be able to see the way in which his promises were kept when he began to keep them. In any case, the era of the prophets was, as we have often said, the laying out of the promises.

He promised eternal rescue, eternal happiness with the angels, an immortal inheritance, endless glory, the blissful vision of his face, his holy residence in heaven, and after the resurrection from the dead, no further fear of dying. This is his final promise, so to speak, and the goal of all our efforts. When we reach it, we will not ask for anything more. But as to the way in which we are to arrive at our final goal, he has revealed this too, by his promises and by prophesy.

He promised human beings divinity, mortals immortality, sinners a return to virtue, and the poor a rebirth to glory.

But, my brothers and sisters, because God's promises seemed to human beings something impossible--equality with angels in exchange for mortality, decay, poverty, weakness, dirt and ashes--God not only made a written contract with human beings, to win their belief, but he also provided a mediator of his good faith, who was not an angel or archangel, but his only Son. Through his Son, he wanted to show us and give us the way by which he would lead us to the goal he had promised.

It was not enough for God to make his Son our guide to the way; he made him the way itself, so that you could travel with him as your leader, and on him as the way.

And so the only Son of God was to come among human beings, to take on the nature of a human being, and in this nature to be born as a man. He was to die and come back to life, to rise up into heaven, and to sit enthroned beside the Father, and to fulfill his promises among the nations; and after this, to come again, to demand now what he had asked for before, to separate those who deserve his anger from those who deserve his mercy, to carry out his threats against immoral people, and to reward the virtuous ones as he had promised.

All this had accordingly had to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future, so that we would wait for it in faith, and not discover it as a sudden, dreadful reality.

Our God will again have pity on us; he will remove our wrongdoing and bury our sins deep in the ocean.

All the prophets give evidence about him when they say that everyone who believes in him has forgiveness of his sins through his name. He will remove our wrongdoing and bury our sins deep in the ocean.

Prayer

All-powerful Father, since we are waiting for the healing power of your Son the Prince, please do not let us be discouraged by our weaknesses as we prepare for his coming, and keep us unshaken in your love. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Isaiah 26.7-21

The path virtuous folk travel is smooth;
Yes, Paragon of Virtue,
you smooth out the path for the virtuous.
Yes, we have waited for you, YHWH,
along the path of your verdicts.
Our souls' desire is for your name,
and to keep you in our minds.
My own soul yearns for you all night,
and my spirit looks for you at dawn;
because when your verdicts are pronounced on earth,
those who live in the world will learn what virtue is.
Favor may be given to evil people,
but they will not learn virtue from it;
an evil man will still act corruptly in an honest land
and will not see YHWH's majesty.
YHWH, when you raise your hand before them, they will not see it;
but they will be chagrined when they see
your treatment of your people;
yes, the fire destined for your enemies will eat them up.
YHWH, you will inaugurate peace among us,
because you are the one who performed all our deeds in us.
YHWH, our God, we have had
other masters over us besides you;
but it is only by your power that we can mention your name.
They are dead; they have no life;
they are ghosts that cannot come out of the grave,
because you have punished and destroyed them,
and killed even the memory of them.
But you have made our nation prosper, YHWH;
you have made our nation increase
for your own glory;
and you have stretched the frontiers of our land.
YHWH, in their anguish, they came to see you;
They poured out prayers when they felt your whips.
We have been in your sight, YHWH,
like a pregnant woman,
who feels the pangs and cries aloud
when the time of birth is upon her.
We have been pregnant, in labor,
but we have given birth to wind;
we have managed no liberation for the earth;
no one living on it can bring this about.
But your dead will still live,
and will rise up again, along with my poor corpse.
So wake up and sing, those of you living in the dirt,
because your dew sparkles like dew on shrubs;
and the earth will cough up the dead.
Come, my people, go into your rooms
and shut your doors behind you.
Hide, so to speak, for just a brief moment,
until the outburst of annoyance has passed;
because there is YHWH, coming from his place
to punish those who live on earth for their misconduct;
and earth will reveal the blood that is in her,
and will cover her murder victims no longer.

Wake and sing, those of you sleeping in the dirt, because the Master's dew is a dew of light.

Many of those who sleep in the ground will waken, because the Master's dew is a dew of light.

Second Reading: Sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus

When God saw the world falling into ruin from fear, he immediately called it back to himself with love. He invited it with his grace, preserved it in his love, and embraced it in his tenderness. When earth had become hardened in evil, God sent the flood both to punish it and set it free. He called Noah to be the father of a new era, gave him encouragement with kind words, and showed that he trusted him; he gave him advice like a father about the present catastrophe, and through his grace comforted him with hope for the future. But God did not simply issue commands; no; with Noah helping him in his work, he filled the vessel with the seeds of the future of the whole world. The sense of loving fellowship that was born here took away the fear of a slave, and mutual love could continue to preserve what the shared labor had brought about.

God called Abraham out of the pagan world, symbolically lengthening his name, and made him the father of all believers. God walked with him on his journeys, protected him in foreign countries, enriched him with earthly possessions, and honored him with conquests. He made a Treaty with him, saved him from harm, accepted his hospitality, and astonished him by giving him the offspring he had despaired of. And because he was favored with so many gifts given from the tenderness of God's love, Abraham was to learn to love God rather than fear him; and so love and not fear was what inspired his worship.

God gave Jacob strength by a dream during his escape, roused him to combat at his return, and grasped him with a wrestler's hold to teach him not to be afraid of the one who initiated the struggle, but to love him. God called Moses as a father would, and with fatherly affection invited him to become the liberator of his people.

In all the events we have been recalling, the flame of God's love made human hearts catch fire, and its intoxication overflowed into men's senses. Wounded by love, they longed to look upon God with their bodily eyes. And yet, how could our circumscribed vision attain God, whom the whole world cannot contain? But the law of love is not bothered with what will happen, or what ought to happen, or what can happen. Love does not reflect; it is unreasonable and knows no moderation. Love refuses to accept it when its goal proves impossible, and scorns every obstacle to the attainment of its object. Love destroys the lover if he cannot have what he loves; love follows its own promptings, and does not think in terms of right and wrong. Love sets desire aflame, which impels it toward things that are forbidden.

But why go on? It is intolerable for love not to see the object of its longing. That is why whatever reward they earned was nothing to the saints if they could not see their Master. A love that desires to see God may not have reason on its side, but it is the evidence of the love of a son. It gave Moses the rashness to say, "If I have found favor in your eyes, show me your face." It inspired the psalmist to make the same prayer: "Show me your face." Even the pagans made their statues for this purpose; they wanted actually to see what they mistakenly worshiped.

I will comfort you in the way a mother comforts her children, says the Master; he will come to you from the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen. And you will see this, and your hearts will be full of joy.

I will bring liberation in Zion, and my glory in Jerusalem. And you will see this, and your hearts will be full of joy.

Prayer

Almighty Father, please give us the joy of your life to prepare the way for our Master the Prince; please help us to serve you and each other. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Isaiah 27.1-13

On that day, YHWH, with his cruel, huge, strong sword
will punish Leviathan, the serpent, as he crawls away--
Leviathan, the serpent coiled to strike--
and he will kill the dragon in the sea.
On that day, sing to her,
the vineyard that yields red wine.
I, YHWH, tend it;
I water it every moment,
to keep anything from harming it,
and cultivate it night and day.
I have no rage in me;
but if I found briers and thorns
set out there in opposition to me,
I would plow right through them,
and burn them all in a pile--
unless they grasp me in my power
to sue for peace with me;
then they will have peace with me.
Those to come out of Jacob will take root there;
Israel will bud and blossom there,
and fill the face of the world with fruit.
Has God struck Israel as Israel struck their attackers?
Have they been killed as savagely as those they killed themselves?
No, you fought with moderation,
removing Israel's sin;
Blowing it away in a howling wind,
on the day the east wind blows.
And on this is how Jacob's wrongdoing will be covered over,
and this is the result of removal of his sin,
when God turns all of the stones on the altar
into chalk, ground into powder;
wooden statues and sacred poles will stand no longer.
And still the fortified city will be left abandoned,
the homes stripped and left to go wild;
Calves will feed there, and lie down there,
eating the leaves from the branches.
And when the branches wither, they will snap off,
and women will come and burn them up.
Because these people understand nothing,
and so the one who made them will have no mercy on them,
and the one who formed them will show them no favor.
And what will happen on that day
is that YHWH will thresh out his grain,
from the river valley to the wadi on Egypt's border;
and you will be gleaned one by one,
children of Israel.
That is what will happen on that day.
A huge trumpet will be blown,
and those about to die in Assyria will assemble,
with the exiles in the land of Egypt,
and will worship YHWH on Jerusalem's holy mountain.

The Master will send out his angels with a mighty trumpet blast, and they will collect his chosen people from the four winds, and from one end of the sky to the other.

They will come and worship the Master on his holy mountain in Jerusalem; and they will collect his chosen people from the four winds, and from one end of the sky to the other.

Second Reading: Treatise against Heresies, by St. Irenaeus

As the Master came into his own creation in visible form, he was sustained by his own creation, which he sustains in being himself. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; and the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin who under engagement to a husband, undid the evil lie that tempted Eve, a virgin married to a husband.

As a parallel to Eve, who gave in to the temptation in the words of an angel and then ran away from God after disobeying what he told her, Mary in her turn was given the good news by the words of an angel, and took God into her womb in obedience to what he told her. As Eve was tempted into disobedience to God, Mary was persuaded into obedience to God; and it was in this way that the Virgin Mary became the attorney for the defense of the virgin Eve.

The Prince gathered everything into one unit, by collecting them all into himself. He declared war against our enemy, and crushed the one who had taken us captive in Adam at the beginning; and he stomped on his head, as God told the serpent in Genesis: "I will create enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will make a sudden attack on your head, and you will make a sudden strike at his heel."

The one waiting in ambush for the serpent's head is the one who was born in Adam's form from the woman, the Virgin. This is the offspring spoken of by Paul in the letter to the Galatians: "The law of actions was in force until the offspring to whom the promise was made would come." He shows this even more clearly in the same letter, when he said, "When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, burn from a woman." The enemy would not have been defeated fairly if his conqueror had not been born from a woman, because it was through a woman that he gained mastery over man in the beginning, and set himself up as man's opponent.

And that is why the Master calls himself the Son of Man: the one who renews in himself that first man from whom the race born from women was formed. Just as by a man's defeat, our race fell into the bondage of death, so by a man's victory, we were to rise again to life.

The angel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary, who was engaged to Joseph. The light filled her with fear, but the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. And now you will conceive and give birth to a son, and he will be called the Son of the Supreme Being.

"The Master God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. And now you will conceive and give birth to a son, and he will be called the Son of the Supreme Being."

Prayer

All-powerful God, please help us to look forward in hope to the coming of our Savior; may we live as he has taught us, and be ready to welcome him with burning love and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Isaiah 29.1-8

"Ariel, Ariel, city where David lived,
you are doomed!
Add one year to another,
let the feasts come round again,
and I will bring calamity upon Ariel;
there will be anguish and pain.
To me, you will be another David's Ariel;
I will surround you with camps,
I will build mounds on every side of you,
and bring out my siege engines against you.
You will be torn down,
and your voices will be heard out of the dirt;
Your voices will be like a ghost's coming from the ground,
and your speech will be like insects chirping out of the dirt.
The mob of your enemies
will be as many as grains of dust;
the throng of those you fear
as numerous as flying chaff.
Yes, it will all happen in an instant, suddenly;
you will be punished by YHWH, commander of armies,
with thunder, earthquake, roaring,
storms and hurricanes,
and the flames of all-consuming fire.
The mob of nations that fight against Ariel,
that throng fighting against her and her ramparts
and bring calamity on her,
will be like a dream seen in the night.
It will be like a hungry man's dreams,
and there he is, eating;
but then he wakes up, and his stomach is empty.
Or when a thirsty man is dreaming,
and there he is, drinking;
but he wakes up, and he is still faint
and his soul is still thirsty.
That is how it will be with this mob of nations
who are at war with Zion."

Do not be afraid, Jerusalem; you will not be disgraced, because the Master will come to visit you.

The crowds of those passing by, which have fought against you, will be like flying dust, because the Master will come to visit you.

Second Reading: A sermon by Blessed Isaac of Stella

The Son of God is the firstborn of a great many brothers and sisters. Even though by nature he is the only Son God ever fathered, by grace he has joined many people to himself and made them one thing with him, because "he has given the power to become children of God" to those who accept him.

He became the Son of man, and made many men sons of God by uniting them to himself by his love and power, so that they become one thing. In themselves, there are many of them because of their human ancestry; but in him they are one thing by divine rebirth.

The whole Prince, and the single Prince--the body and the head--are one and the same; they are one and the same because they were born from the same God in heaven, and to the same mother on earth. They are many sons, and yet one Son; head and parts are one Son, and yet many sons; and in the same way, Mary and the Church are one mother, and yet more than one mother; one virgin, and yet more than one virgin.

Both are mothers, and both are virgins. Each conceives by the same Spirit, without sexual desire; each gives birth to a child of God the Father, without sin. Without any sin, Mary gave birth to the Prince, the head, for the sake of his body. By forgiving every sin, the Church gave birth to the body, for the sake of its head. Each is the Prince's mother, but neither gives birth to the whole Prince without the cooperation of the other.

In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary; and what is said in a particular sense of the virgin mother Mary is also correctly understood in a general sense of that virgin mother, the Church. When either one is spoken of, the meaning can be understood of both of them, almost without qualification.

In a way, every Christian is believed to be a bride of God's Word, a mother of the Prince, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fecund. These words are used in a universal sense of the Church, and in a special sense of Mary, and a particular sense of the individual Christian. They are used by God's Wisdom in person, the Word of the Father.

This is why Scripture says, "I will live in the Master's inheritance." The Master's inheritance is, in a general sense, the Church; in a special sense, Mary; and in an individual sense, the Christian. The Prince lived for nine months in the tent of Mary's womb. He lives until the end of the ages in the tent of the Church's faith; and he will live forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul.

I will found my residence among you, and will not reject you; I will walk among you, and I will be your God and you will be my people.

You are the Temple of the living God, as God himself has said. I will walk among you, and I will be your God and you will be my people.

Prayer

Master, please make your glory dawn and remove our darkness; may we be revealed as children of light at the coming of your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Third Sunday

in Advent

Note: If after COLOR="#ff0000", go to the date.

First Reading: Isaiah 29.13-24

And so YHWH said,
"Since these people approach me with their mouths
and honor me with their lips,
but have moved their hearts far from me,
and their respect for me is just observing human rules,
I will for that reason perform a miracle
among this people:
a miracle, an amazing thing:
The wisdom of their sages will vanish
and the intelligence of their advisors will disappear."
Those who try to bury their plans
too deep for YHWH to discover are doomed!
They do their deeds in the dark,
and say, "Can anyone see us?" and "Could anyone recognize us?"
You have turned things upside down;
Is the potter to be thought of as if he were the clay?
Is an artifact to say of its maker,
"He did not make me"?
Is the model to say to the one who formed it,
"He does not understand what he does"?
In just as short time,
Lebanon will be turned into an orchard,
and the orchard will be thought of as a forest;
and on that day the deaf will hear words read out of a book,
and blind eyes will see out of their shadows and darkness;
insignificant people will find great joy in YHWH,
and humanity's poor will take pleasure
in Israel's Holy God;
because the tyrant they fear will be destroyed,
the one who lorded it over them will be eaten up,
and everyone looking for a chance for evil--
those who have men condemned by their lies,
and those who set traps at the gates for their defenders,
and those who cheat honest folk with empty promises--
will be cut down.
This is what is said by YHWH, the one who redeemed Abraham, about the descendants of Jacob:
"Jacob will now have nothing to be ashamed of;
his face will no longer blanch;
but when his descendants see
the deeds my hands perform among them.
They will show reverence for my name;
they will respect Jacob's holy God,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Those whose spirits wandered off will achieve understanding,
and those who found fault will learn the facts.

On that day, the deaf will hear what is read from a book, and blind eyes will see out of shadows and darkness, and the poor will find their joy in Israel's holy God.

Go back and tell John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, cripples walk, the deaf hear, and the poor have good news reported to them. And the poor will find their joy in Israel's holy God.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Augustine

John is the voice, but the Master is "the word who was in existence in the beginning." John is the voice that lasts only a short time; but from the beginning, the Prince is the Word that lives forever.

Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? If there is nothing to understand, there is only a senseless sound. A voice without the word strikes the ear, but is not constructive for the heart.

Still, consider what happens at first when we try to develop our hearts. When I think about what I am going to say, the word or message is already in my heart. When I want to speak to you, I look for a way to share with your heart what is already in mine.

In my search for a way to let this message reach you, so that the word in my heart will find a place in yours too, I use my voice to speak to you. The sound of my voice brings the meaning of the word to you and then vanishes. The word which the sound has brought to you is now in your heart, and yet it is still in mine too.

When the word has been transmitted to you, does not the sound seem to say, "The word ought to grow greater, and I should grow less." The sound of the voice has made itself heard in the service of the word and has gone away, as though it were saying, "My happiness is complete." Let us hold on to the word; we must not lose the word that is conceived within us, in our hearts.

Do you need proof that the voice vanishes but the divine Word remains? Where is John's Bath today? It served its purpose, and it disappeared. Now it is the Prince's Bath we celebrate. We all believe in the Prince; our hope for rescue is in him. And this is the message the voice cried.

Because it is hard to distinguish the word from the sound, even John was thought to be the Prince. The voice was thought to be the word. But the voice acknowledged what it was, and was careful not to insult the word. "I am not the Prince," he said, "nor Elijah, nor the Prophet." And then at the question, "Then who are you," he answered, "I am a voice crying in the desert, 'Smooth the road for the Master.'"

"The voice crying in the desert" is the voice that breaks the silence. "Smooth the road for the Master," he says, as though he were saying, "I am speaking so as to lead him into your hearts; but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you smooth the way for him."

"To smooth the road" means to pray well; it means thinking little of oneself. We should take our lesson from John the Bather; he is thought to be the Prince, and asserts that he is not what they think; he does not take advantage of their mistake for his own enhancement.

If he had said, "I am the Prince," you can imagine how easily he would have been believed, since they believed that he was the Prince even before he spoke. But he did not say this; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he lowered himself.

He saw where his rescue lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and he was afraid that it might be blown out by the wind of pride.

I must grow less and he must grow greater; the one who is coming after me was in existence before me, and I am not fit to untie his sandal straps.

I have bathed you in water; but he will bathe you in the Holy Spirit; I am not fit to untie his sandal straps.

Prayer

Dear God and Master, may those of us who are your people and look forward to the birthday of the Prince experience the joy of rescue and celebrate that feast with love and gratitude. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

Note: If after December 16, go to the date.

First Reading: Isaiah 30.18-26

And so YHWH will wait, to show you favor,
and come forward, to have mercy on you,
because YHWH is a God of justice,
and it is a privilege to wait for him.
People on Zion in Jerusalem,
you will weep no longer;
he will be kind to you at the sound of your call;
when he hears it, he will answer you.
YHWH will give you the bread you yearn for,
and the water to slake your raging thirst,
and your Teacher will no longer hide in a corner;
you will see your Teacher with your own eyes,
and you will hear a voice ring out behind you,
"This is the way; walk in it,"
when ever you turn to the right or left.
You will realize how unclean your silver-plated idols are,
and how filthy the gold you used to mold your statues;
you will throw them away as something defiled,
and say to them, "Get away from me!"
Then he will give you rain for the seeds
you plant in the ground;
and the wheat that the soil produces
will be rich and plentiful.
On that day, your cattle will graze
in spacious pastures,
and the oxen and the little donkeys
that till the ground
will eat silage
tossed to them with shovels and forks.
There will be running streams
on every mountain and hill.
On the day of the great slaughter,
when the towers fall,
the moon's light will rival the sun's,
and the sun will be seven times as bright,
as if seven days' light were stored in it.
Yes, on the day YHWH bandages his people's wounds,
he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

On that day, the Master will bandage his people's wounds and God will heal the bruises left by the blows from his sentence. It is a privilege to wait for him.

Wait for the Master, and act bravely; have a strong heart and be loyal to the Master; it is a privilege to wait for him.

Second Reading: A speech on the Contemplation of God by William of Saint Thierry

It is a fact: only you are the Master. Your sovereignty is our rescue, because to be your slave is nothing more or less than to be saved by you. Master, rescue is your gift, and your blessing falls on your people; your rescue is nothing but receiving from you the gift of loving you or being loved by you. And that, Master, is why it was your will that the Son on the throne beside you, the man you made strong for yourself, would be called "Jesus," or "savior," "because he will save his people from their sins, and there is no one else to look to for rescue." He taught us to love him by first loving us, "even to death on a cross." By loving us and cherishing us to this degree, he incited us to love the one who had preceded them in love to the limit.

And this is obviously the reason: you loved us first so that we would love you--but not because you needed our love, but because we could not be what you created us to be, except by loving you.

You spoke in many ways and at various times to our ancestors through the prophets; and now in these final days, you have spoken to us in the Son, your Word, by whom the heavens were set in place and by the breath of whose mouth their powers came into existence.

And for you to speak in this way in your Son was to bring into the light of day the degree and kind of love you had for us, because you did not spare your own Son; you handed him over for all of us. And he too "loved us and gave himself up for us."

And so this is your Word to us, Master: your omnipotent message: when everything was in midnight silence (that is, the depths of error), he came from his royal throne, the direful conqueror of error and the gentle emissary of love.

Everything he did and everything he said on earth, even enduring the insults, being spat on and slapped in the face, the cross and the grave, was all you speaking to us in your Son, appealing to us by your love and arousing our love for you.

You know that this attitude could not be forced on people's hearts, my God, since you created them; it has to be evoked. This is also true for the additional reason that there is no freedom where there is coercion, and when freedom does not exist, virtue is not present either.

You wanted us to love you, then, since we could not have been saved justly if we had not loved you, and could not have loved you without your gift. And so, Master, as the emissary of your love tells us, and as we have already said, "you loved us first"; you are the first to love all of those who love you.

And so we cherish you by the affection you have planted in us. You are the one who is supremely good and the ultimate goodness. Your love is your goodness, the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. From the beginning of creation, he was the one who hovered over the water--which is to say, over the wavering minds of humans--offering himself to everyone, drawing everything to himself. By his inspiration, his holy breath, and by keeping us from harm and providing for our needs, he unites God to us, and us to God.

My mercy will not leave you, and the Treaty of my peace will not change; I will make all your children learned in the Master, and they will enjoy lasting peace.

I am the Master, your God, who teaches you what is good and guides you in the path you are to walk; I will make all your children learned in the Master, and they will enjoy lasting peace.

Prayer

Master, please listen to our voices as we raise them in prayer, and let the light of the coming of your Son free us from the darkness of sin. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

Note: If after December 16, go to the date.

First Reading: Isaiah 30.27-33, 31.4-9

Now YHWH's name is coming from far off,
burning with rage,
with clouds lowering,
lips spouting fury
and his tongue like a devouring fire.
His breath is like a flood in a ravine
suddenly up to one's neck,
and he will sift the nations with a sieve that destroys them,
and the bridles in the mouths of the people
will lead them off the path.
YHWH will make his glorious voice heard
and show how his arm comes down
with raging fury and consuming fire,
driving storms and falling hail.
And YHWH's voice will shatter Assyria
as he strikes it with his rod;
and everywhere the rod hits
in his punishment of that place,
you will have a song
like the one in the night of a festival,
and your hearts will celebrate
as if you were walking by with a flute
toward YHWH's mountain
up to the Rock of Israel,
along with tambourines and harps;
because the pyre has been there for a long time,
ready for the king;
it is piled wide and deep
with a great deal of grass and wood,
and YHWH's breath, like a river of sulfur
will set it aflame.
This is what YHWH told me:
"YHWH of armies will come down
like a lion roaring,
like a young lion standing over his prey,
and even if a crowd of shepherds gathers against him,
he will have no fear of their voices
or pay attention to their noise;
this is how he will fight for Mount Zion and its foothills.
YHWH of armies will defend Jerusalem
like birds circling overhead;
and he will protect and rescue it,
and spare and preserve it.

Return, descendants of Israel, to the one you have so totally abandoned, because on that day every person will throw away his idols of silver and gold, the sin you fashioned with your own hands.

Then Assyria will fall by a sword that is not human,
and he will be eaten up by this sword that is not human;
he will run away from the sword,
and his young men will be impressed as laborers.
He will run past his fortress in his panic,
and his rulers will be in terror of his banner,"
says YHWH
whose fire is on Zion
and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.

The Master of armies will come down upon Mount Zion; he will protect Jerusalem and cover and rescue it like birds circling overhead.

Your song will be suitable for a night of profound holiness, and your heart will be full of joy; he will protect Jerusalelm and cover and rescue it like birds circling overhead.

Second Reading: The Imitation of Christ

By Thomas à Kempis

Humility and Peace

Do not be very concerned who is with you and who is against you; make your primary care that God is with you in everything you do. Have a good conscience, and God will defend you powerfully; no one can hurt you if God wishes to help you.

If you know how to suffer in silence, you will be certain to receive God's help. Since he knows best the time and way to set you free, abandon yourself to him, because God helps you and frees you from all confusion.

It is often good for us, and helps keep us humble, if others know our weaknesses and confront us with them. When a man belittles himself for his faults, he pleases others more easily and calms those he has made angry. God protects and frees a humble man; he loves and consoles a humble man; he shows favor to a humble man; he showers him with graces; and then, after his suffering, God raises him up to glory.

He reveals his secrets to a humble man, and in his kindness beckons the man to come to himself. When a humble man is brought into consternation, he still experiences peace, because he has a firm footing in God and not in this world. Do not think you have made any progress unless you feel that you are the most insignificant of all human beings.

Above all, keep peace within yourself, and then you will be able to create peace among others. It is better to be peaceful than learned.

A passionate man often thinks badly of a good man and easily believes the worst of him; a good and peaceful man turns everything into good.

A man who lives at peace is not suspicious of anyone; but a man who is tense and agitated by evil is troubled with all kinds of suspicions; he is never at peace with himself, and does not allow others to be at peace. He often speaks when he should be silent, and fails to say what would in fact be useful; he is clearly aware of the obligations of others, but neglects his own.

So be zealous first of all with yourself, and then you will have more justification for expressing zeal for your neighbor. You are good at excusing and justifying your own actions, and yet you will not listen to the excuses of others; it would be more just of you to accuse yourself and excuse your brother. If you wish others to put up with you, first put up with them.

The Master leads humble people to virtue; he teaches unassuming ones his ways. Mercy and truth are the Master's ways, evidence of him to everyone who is looking for him.

Base your judgments on the facts, and have each one be merciful and forgiving to his brother. Mercy and truth are the Master's ways, evidence of him to everyone who is looking for him.

Prayer

Father of love, since you made a new creation through your Son Prince Jesus, may his coming free us from sin and renew his life within us, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

Note: If after December 16, go to the date.

First Reading: Isaiah 31.1-3,32.1-8

Doom will fall
on those who go down to Egypt for help
and rely on horses,
and put their trust in chariots because of their number,
and in the cavalry because of its strength,
and do not look to Israel's Holy One,
or try to find YHWH.
Yes, he is the one who is wise and will bring disaster,
and will not take back what he has said;
he will come forward against this family of outlaws,
and against those who give help to these criminals
The Egyptians are men, not God;
their horses are material things, not spirit.
When YHWH brings down his fist,
the helper will fall and the one helped will collapse;
they will all die together.
And then a virtuous king will reign,
and honest kings will be on the throne.
Each will be a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm.
They will be like rivers in the desert
and the shadow of a rock in a parched land.
The eyes of those looking will not grow dim,
and the ears of those listening will hear;
rash hearts will understand what is to be known,
and stutterers will be able to speak clearly.
Fools will no longer be called noble
and cheats will not be called honorable;
because fools speak fatuously
and plot evil in their hearts:
how to get away with depravity,
to slander YHWH,
to let the hungry go with nothing
and deprive the thirsty of water;
and cheats use cruel deception
in planning their crimes
about how to ruin the poor with their lies
and to get the better of the indigent in the courts.
But noble people have noble plans,
and stand by their noble acts.

The eyes of those looking will not grow dim, and the ears of those listening will hear; hearts of fools will be open to knowledge.

I will create a virtuous branch for David; he will rule as a wise king. Hearts of fools will be open to knowledge.

Second Reading: A Treatise against Heresies by St. Irenaeus

There is one God, who by his word and wisdom created everything and established their order. His Word is our Master Prince Jesus, who in this final age became a human being among human beings to unite the end and the beginning, or in other words man and God.

The prophets, who received the gift of prophecy from this same Word, foretold his material coming, which brought about the union and sharing between God and man that was originated by the Father. From the beginning, the Word of God prophesied that God would be seen by humans and would live among them on earth; he would speak with his own creation and be present to it, bringing it rescue and being visible to it. He would "free us from the hands of everyone who hates us"; that is, from the universal spirit of sin, and enable us to "serve him in holiness and virtue all of our days." Man was to receive the Spirit of God and so attain the glory of the Father.

The prophets, then, foretold that God would be seen by human beings. As the Master says himself, "It is a blessing to have a clean heart, because people of this sort will see God." In his greatness and inexpressible glory, "no one can see God and live," because the Father is beyond comprehension. But in his love and generosity and omnipotence, he allows even this to those who love him--that is, even to see God, as the prophets foretold. "What is impossible for humans is possible for God."

By their own powers human beings cannot see God, yet God will be seen by humans because he wills it. He will be seen by those he chooses, at the time he chooses, and in the way he chooses, because God can do everything. He was seen in ancient times through the Spirit in prophecy; he is seen through the Son by our adoption as his children, and he will be seen in the kingdom of heaven in his own being as the Father. The Spirit prepares us humans to receive the Son of God, the Son leads us to the Father, and the Father, freeing us from change and decay, bestows the eternal life that comes to everyone from seeing God.

In the same way as those who see light are in the light and share its brilliance, those who see God are in God and share his glory; and that glory gives them life. To see God is to share in life.

I will bring a prophet forward for them, and I will place my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command.

I am sending my own Son, the one I love; who is really the prophet who was to come into the world. He will tell them everything I command.

Prayer

Father, may the coming celebration of the birth of your Son bring us your saving help and make us ready for eternal life. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Thursday

Note: If after December 16, go to the date.

First Reading: Isaiah 32.15-33.6

In those days, the Spirit from high above
will pour over us.
Then the desert will become an orchard,
and the orchard will be thought of as a forest.
Justice will have its home in the desert
and virtue will live in the orchard.
Virtue will produce peace,
and justice will bring calm and security.
My people will live in a tranquil country,
in secure homes and quiet settlements.
It will be their privilege to plant their crops beside the streams
and let their oxen and donkeys range freely.
You are doomed, destroyer who was never destroyed,
traitor whom no one betrayed.
When you finish your destruction, you will be ruined,
and when you tire of betraying, you will be betrayed.
YHWH, please have mercy on us; we are waiting for you.
Please be our strength every morning,
our rescue when we are in trouble.
Peoples will run from the roar you make
when you come forward in majesty, and scatter everywhere.
Men will pick up loot as if they were gathering caterpillars;
they will swarm over it like locusts.
YHWH is high above us, in his throne in the sky;
he fills Zion with justice and virtue.
What makes her seasons last and last,
the riches that save her, are wisdom and understanding;
respect for YHWH is her treasure.

My people will be enthroned amid the beauty of peace, and in secure tents, and peace will be the harvest of virtue.

My peace is what I leave you; do not be worried or in despair. And peace will be the harvest of virtue.

Second Reading: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation by the Second Vatican Council

God, who through the Word creates everything and keeps everything in being, provides men with unfailing testimony to himself in creation. With the intention of opening up the way of rescue from above, he also revealed himself to our first parents from the very beginning.

After their fall, he lifted them up to hope for rescue by the promise of redemption, and watched over mankind with unceasing care, so that he could give eternal life to everyone who tries to find rescue in persevering in good deeds.

In his own good time, God called Abraham, to make a mighty nation out of him. After he patriarchs, he taught his nation through Moses and the prophets to acknowledge himself alone as the living and true God, and provident father and just judge, and to look forward to the promised Savior. So, through the ages, he prepared a way for the Good News. After speaking "at various times and in different ways through the prophets, God has finally spoken to us in these days through the Son."

He sent his Son, the eternal Word who enlightens everyone, to make his home among human beings and to make known to them what is innermost in God. Prince Jesus, the Word become flesh, sent as "a man to men, speaks the words of God," and brings to perfection the saving work that the Father gave him to do.

To see him is also to see the Father. By his whole presence and self-revelation, by words and deeds, by signs and miracles, especially by his death and glorious return to life out of death, and finally by sending the Spirit of truth, he completes revelation and brings it to perfection, sealing by divine testimony its message the God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us to eternal life.

The Christian dispensation, because it is the new and definitive Treaty, will never go out of existence, and no new public revelation is any longer to be looked for before the manifestation in glory of our Master Prince Jesus.

Your eyes will look upon your teacher; your ears will hear the warning: this is the path; follow it.

The Master, your God, will bring forward a prophet from among your tribe and from among your relatives. Your ears will hear the warning: this is the path; follow it.

Prayer

Master, since our sins bring us unhappiness, please listen to our prayer for courage and strength, and may the coming of your Son bring us the joy of rescue. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

Note: If after December 16, go to the date.

First Reading: Isaiah 33.7-24

Listen: the men of Ariel are calling in the streets,
and the messengers of Shalem are weeping bitter tears.
The highways are abandoned;
travelers have left the paths;
treaties are broken, their terms ignored,
and yet no one gives it a thought.
The country is sick with grieving;
Lebanon is withering with shame;
Sharon is like a prairie,
and Bashan and Carmel are stripped bare.
"Now I will come forward," says YHWH.
"Now I will be elevated, now I will be raised high.
You conceive hay and give birth to straw;
and my spirit will eat you up like a fire.
The peoples will think they are in a limekiln,
or are brushwood cut down for burning on the fire.
Listen, those of you far off, to what I have done,
and those near, recognize my power!"
On Zion, sinners are in dread;
quaking seizes the unbelievers:
"Can anyone live in this conflagration?
Can anyone survive these eternal flames?"
One who does what is virtuous and speaks honestly,
who scorns what is gained from oppression,
and brushes his hands from contact with bribes,
who plugs his ears not to hear of bloodshed
and closes his eyes not to see evil;
he is the one whose home will be on the mountaintop;
his fortress will be among the rocky cliffs,
and his food and drink will be in steady supply.
Your eyes will see a king in his splendor;
they will look over a vast territory.
Your mind will ponder the terror:
"Where are the important people? Where are the great ones?
Where is the one who counted the towers?"
You will no longer look for help to aliens,
to people whose speech you cannot follow,
babbling a language you cannot understand.
Look to Zion, the city where our festivals are held;
let your eyes see Jerusalem
as a tranquil home, a tent that will not be struck,
with pegs never to be pulled up,
or any of its ropes cut down.
Yes, YHWH will be there with us, in majesty;
yes, YHWH, our judge, YHWH our legislator,
YHWH, our king, is the one who will save us.
In a place of rivers and wide brooks
on which no boat is rowed,
where no tall ship passes,
the rigging hangs limp
and cannot hold up the mast
or keep the sails spread out.
Then the blind will divide enormous loot,
and the lame will carry off the booty.
No one who lives there will say, "I am sick";
the people who have this home will have their guilt forgiven.

The Master is our judge, the Master is our legislator, the Master is our king, and he will come to save us himself.

The Master has taken command; the earth is to celebrate it, and the many shores are to be full of joy. He will come to save us himself.

Second Reading: A Discourse on the Psalms by St. Augustine

"I cried out in the anguish of my heart." There is a hidden anguish which is inaudible to human beings; yet when a man's heart is so taken up with some particular concern that the hurt inside spills over into his voice, one looks for the reason. One will say to oneself, perhaps this is what causes his anguish, or perhaps that has happened to him. But who can be certain of the cause except God, who hears and sees his pain? And so the psalmist says, "I cried out in the anguish of my heart." If humans hear at all, they usually hear only the physical groans, and know nothing of the anguish of the heart which produces them.

Then who is it who knows the cause of a man's groans? "All my desire is before you." No, it is not apparent to other human beings, because they cannot understand the heart; "but all my desire is before you." If your desire is evident to the one who is your Father and who sees what is hidden, he will answer you.

You see, the desire of your heart is itself your prayer. And if the desire is constant, so is your prayer. The Emissary Paul had a purpose in saying, "Pray without ceasing." Are we then constantly to be on bended knees, lying prostrate, or lifting up our hands? Is this what is meant by saying "Pray without ceasing"? Even if we acknowledge that we do pray in this way, I do not believe we can do this all the time.

But there is another, interior, kind of prayer that does not cease: the prayer of the heart. Whatever else you may be doing, if you simply fix your desire on God's Sabbath rest, your prayer will be unending. And so, if you want to pray without ceasing, do not cease to desire.

The continuousness of your desire will itself be the ceaseless voice of your prayer; and that voice of your prayer will be silent only when your love ceases. Who are the silent ones, after all? Those of whom it is said, "Because evil is plentiful, the love of many people will grow cold."

The chilling of love means that the heart is silent, while love on fire is the outcry of the heart. If your love is unending, you are always calling; if you are always calling, you are always desiring; and if you desire, you are recalling your eternal rest in the Master.

"And all my desire is before you." What if the desire of our heart is before him, but not our groans? But how is that possible, since the groans are the voicing of our desire? That is why it is said, "My groans are not hidden from you." They may be hidden from human beings, but they are not hidden from you. Sometimes God's slave seems to be saying in his humility, "My anguish is not hidden from you." At other times, he seems to be laughing. Does that mean that the desire of his heart has died inside him? If the desire is there, the groans are there also; even if human beings fail to hear them, they never stop ringing in the ears of God.

We are the Prince's pilgrim people, journeying until we reach our homeland, singing on the way as we eagerly wait for the fulfillment of our hope. Because if a person has hope, even though his tongue is still, he is always singing in his heart.

But a person who has no hope, no matter what clamor and shouts he makes to be heard by human beings, is speechless in the presence of God. Because if a person has hope, even though his tongue is still, he is always singing in his heart.

Prayer

Omnipotent God, please guide us with your love as we await the coming of your Son, and keep us faithful so that we will be helped through life and brought to rescue. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

Note: From this point on, everything comes from the date.

December 17

First Reading: Isaiah 45.1-13

This is what is said by YHWH to Cyrus, whom I anointed,
whose right hand I hold,
subduing nations before him
and making kings run to serve him,
opening doors before him
and leaving gates unbarred.
I will go before you
and level the mountains;
I will shatter doors even of bronze
and snap the iron bars.
I will give you treasures from the darkness
and riches that have been hidden,
so that you will know that I am YHWH,
the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
It is for the sake of my servant Jacob
and of Israel, whom I chose,
that I called you by your name
and gave you a title, though you were not aware of me.
I am YHWH and there is no one else;
there is no God except me.
I am the one who is arming you, though you are unaware of me,
so that toward the sunrise and sunset
people will know that there is no one besides me.
I am YHWH, and there is no one else;
I make the light and create darkness;
I make prosperity and create hardship;
I, YHWH, do all of this.
Virtue is to descend, heavens, like dew from above;
the skies are to distill it like gentle rain.
Earth is to open and rescue to bud,
and virtue must also burgeon.
I, YHWH, have created this.
Anyone who fights with his Maker is doomed;
he is a piece of pottery among earth's fragments of clay.
Does the clay dare say to its molder, "What are you doing?"
Or "What you are making has no hands"?
One who asks a father "What are you fathering?" is to be pitied,
or a woman, "What are you giving birth to?"
This is what is said by YHWH,
the Holy One of Israel, their maker:
"You presume to question me about my children
or prescribe for me the work my hands are to do?
I was the one who made the earth
and created mankind upon it;
it was my hands that spread out the sky,
and arranged all their army.
I was the one who aroused a man so that virtue would triumph;
and I make all his paths level.
He will rebuild my city
and let my exiles go free
without price or ransom,"
says YHWH of armies.

The sky is to distill gentle showers and the clouds rain the Virtuous Person, and the earth is to produce a Savior.

Master, please send the Lamb, the ruler of the earth, from the Rock in the desert to the mountain of daughter Zion. And the earth is to produce a Savior.

Second Reading: A letter by St. Leo the Great

To speak of our Master, the son of the blessed virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value to us if we do not believe that he is descended from the line of ancestors set out in the Good News. Matthew's report begins by setting out "the genealogy of Prince Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham," and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother's husband Joseph. On the other hand, Luke traces his parentage backward step by step to the actual father of mankind, to show that both the first and last Adam share the same nature.

No doubt the Son of God in his omnipotence could have taught and sanctified human beings by appearing to them in something similar to human form as he did to the patriarchs and prophets, when, for instance, he engaged in a wrestling contest or entered into conversation with them, or when he accepted their hospitality and even ate the food they set before him.

But these appearances were only symbolic precursors, signs that mysteriously foretold the coming of the one who would take a true human nature from the stock of the patriarchs who had preceded him. It was no mere figure, then, that fulfilled the mystery of our being brought into conformity with God, as was arranged from all eternity.

The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon the Virgin, nor had the power of the Supreme Being overshadowed her, so that within her spotless womb Wisdom could build itself a house, and the Word could become flesh. The divine nature and the nature of a slave were to be united in one person, so that the Creator of time would be born in time, and the one through whom everything came into being would be produced among these creatures.

That is, unless the new man, by being made "in the image of sinful humanity," had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in reality with his mother while sharing his Father's reality, and, since he alone was free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominance of Satan. The Conqueror's victory would have been of no use to us if the battle had been fought outside our human condition.

But through this wondrous mixing, the mystery of new birth shone upon us, so that through the same Spirit by whom the Prince was conceived and born, we too would be born again in a spiritual birth; and for this reason the reporter of the Good News declares the faithful to have been "born from God, not from blood or material desire or human choice."

Note: From this day forward, the so-called "O" antiphons of the Magnificat replace the responsory at Matins in this breviary.

Ah, Wisdom, holy Word of God, since you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care, please come and show your people the way to their rescue.

Prayer

Father, creator, and redeemer of mankind, since you issued the decree and your Word, become man, was born from the Virgin Mary, may we come to share in the divinity of the Prince who lowered himself so far as to share in our human nature, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 18

First Reading: Isaiah 46.1-13

Baal is bowing and Nebo stooping,
as their idols ride upon beasts and cows;
they have to be carried upon shoulders
and serve as burdens to tired backs,
and then they stoop and bow together,
unable to save those who are carrying them
as they too go into captivity.
Listen to me, family of Jacob,
and all of you left from the house of Israel,
my burden since you were born,
those I carried from your infancy.
I am the same even in your old age,
and even when your hair is gray I will carry you;
and I am the one who has done this, and I will keep on;
and I will be the one who carries you to safety.
Who would you compare me with as if he were my equal,
or match me with, as though we were alike?
There are those who pour the gold out of their purses
and weigh out silver on their scales,
and then hire a goldsmith to make it into a "god"
that they fall down and worship.
They lift it on their shoulders and carry it,
and when they set it down, it stays there
and does not move from the spot.
And even when they call to it, it does not answer,
and rescues no one from his troubles.
So remember this, and be firm;
bear it carefully in mind, you rebels.
Remember what once happened, long ago.
I am God, and there is no one else who is;
I am God, and there is nothing like me.
I foretell the result at the beginning;
I speak of what is not yet done before it happens.
I say that my plan will remain firm;
I fulfill every goal I have.
I call a bird of prey from the east,
from a distant land out there, to carry out my plan.
Yes, I have spoken it, and I will fulfill it;
I have planned it, and I will do it.
Listen to me, you cowards,
who seem far from virtue's victory:
I am bringing my virtue to you; it is not far off,
and my rescue will not delay;
I will place safety within Zion
and give Israel my glory.

Listen to me, you cowards, who are far from virtue. I will bestow rescue upon Zion and give my glory to Israel.

I am bringing my virtue close to you, and it will not delay, and my rescue will not be late. I will bestow rescue upon Zion and give my glory to Israel.

Second Reading: A Letter to Diognetus

No human being has ever seen God or known him, but God has revealed himself to us through faith, which is the only thing by which it is possible to see him. God, the Master and maker of everything, who created the world and regulated it, not only loved us human beings but was patient with us. That is how he has always been, is now, and always will be: kind, good, free from anger, and truthful; in fact he and he alone is good.

He devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan, and shared it only with his Son. As long as he let it be secret, and kept his own wise purposes to himself, he seemed to be neglecting us, and to have no concern for us. But when he revealed and made public through the Son he loved what he had prepared from the very beginning, he gave us all at once gifts the like of which we could never have dreamed of, including the sight and knowledge of himself.

When God had made all his plans in consultation with his Son, he waited until a later time, and allowed us to follow our caprices, to be swept away by raging passions, and to be led astray by pleasure and desire. Not that he was pleased by our sins; he merely tolerated them; not that he approved of that sinful time, it is that he was planning this era of holiness. When we had demonstrated that we did not deserve life, his goodness was to make us fit for it; when we had made it clear that we could not enter God's kingdom under out own power, we were to be given the ability to do so by the power of God.

When our depravity had reached its peak, it became evident that the punishment was near in the shape of suffering and death. The time then came for God to make known his kindness and power; how immeasurable is God's generosity and love! He did not show hatred for us or take revenge; he was patient with us, he put up with us, and in pity took our sins upon himself; he gave his own Son as the price of our redemption, and the holy one redeemed the corrupt, the virtuous one redeemed the vicious, the incorruptible one those that decay, the immortal one redeemed us mortals. What else could have covered over our sins but his sinlessness? Where else could we in our evil and sinful condition, have found the means of holiness except only in the Son of God?

How wonderful a transformation; how mysterious a design; how inconceivable a blessing! The corruption of many, many people is covered up in the Holy One, and the holiness of this One sanctifies sinners.

Ah, sacred Master of ancient Israel, since you showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the holy law on Mount Sinai, please come, and hold out your mighty hand to set us free.

Prayer

Omnipotent God, please renew us by the coming feast of your Son and free us from our slavery to sin. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 19

First Reading: Isaiah 47.1,3-15

"Come down and sit in the dirt,
virgin daughter, Babylon;
Sit on the ground, dethroned,
daughter of the Chaldeans;
you will no longer be called
refined and delicate.
I will have my vengeance,
and yield to no plea,"
says our redeemer,
whose name is YHWH of armies,
Israel's Holy One.
"Go into the dark and sit there in silence,
daughter of the Chaldeans;
you will no longer be called
mistress and ruler of kingdoms.
I was angry at my people
and profaned my heritage,
and handed them over to you;
but you showed them no mercy,
and put a heavy harness
upon old men.
You said, 'I will last for ever,
and always be ruler and mistress.'
But you did not care about these things;
you paid no attention to their result.
So listen to this now, you prostitute
sitting secure upon your throne,
saying to yourself,
'I am the one; there is no one else!
I will never be a widow
or endure losing my children.'
Both of these disasters will fall on you
all of a sudden, in a single day:
total bereavement and widowhood
will come upon you
because of all your witchcraft
and the great number of your spells;
because you felt secure in your evil
and said, 'No one can see me.'
Your wisdom and knowledge
led you astray,
and you said to yourself,
'I am the one; there is no one else!'
But disaster will happen to you
that you did not know how to predict;
calamity will fall upon you
that you cannot avoid.
There will suddenly come upon you
ruin that you do not expect.
So now, keep up your witchcraft
and your many spells;
perhaps you can look to them for help;
perhaps you can strike terror with them.
You wore yourself out with all your seances
that you worked at from your youth;
then have the astrologers save you,
the stargazers who cast predictions at every new moon
and told you what would happen to you.
See them; they are like subble,
and fire is burning them up.
They cannot save themselves
from the spreading flames;
this is no glowing hearth,
no fire to sit by.
And that is the service you receive from your wizards
with whom you worked from your youth;
each one wanders off by himself,
with no one to save you.

Be glad, heavens, and celebrate this, earth; call out your praise, mountains; because the Master will pity his poor.

Our Redeemer, the Master, God Sabaoth is his name, Israel's Holy One; because the Master will pity his poor.

Second Reading: A Treatise against Heresies by St. Irenaeus

God is the glory of human beings; a human being is the receptacle of God's action and all his wisdom and power.

God is revealed in his conduct with human beings in the same way as a doctor is evaluated by his care for the sick. That is Paul's reason for saying, "God has made the whole world prisoner to unbelief so that he would be able to have mercy on everyone." He was speaking of man, who was disobedient to God, and exiled from immortality, and then found mercy and received the adoption brought by the Son of God.

If the human race, without being conceited or arrogant, has a correct belief about what is created and their divine Creator, who holds everything in his power after having given it being; and if it perseveres in God's love and in obedience and gratitude to him, it will receive even greater glory from him. It will be a glory which will grow brighter and brighter until the human race takes on the likeness of the one who died for it.

He was the one who took on the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin and rid matter of sin, as something now condemned. He wanted to invite mankind to take on his own likeness, setting the human race up as an imitator of God, and establishing mankind in a way of life in obedience to the Father that would lead to the vision of God, and endowing it with the power to receive the Father. He is the Word of God, who made his home among human beings and became the Son of Man, to open the way for man to receive God, for God to take residence with man, as the Father willed.

And this was the reason "the Master himself gave" as the sign of our rescue the one who was born "to the Virgin, Emmanuel." It was "the Master who saved them himself," because in themselves they had no power to be saved. This is why Paul speaks of human weakness, and says, "I know that no good is lodged in my matter." He means that the blessing of our rescue comes from God, not from us. Again, he says, "I am a worthless wreck! Can anyone save me from this body doomed to die?" Then he speaks of a liberator, thanks to our Master, Prince Jesus.

Isaiah says the same thing. "Grow strong, feeble hands; take courage, weak knees; become firm, faint hearts! Do not be afraid; yes, God is judgment, and he will pay them. He will come and save us himself." He means that we could only be saved with God's help, not by ourselves.

h, flower from Jesse's stem, you have sprouted as a sign for every people; kings stand silent in your presence, the nations bow down in worship before you. Please come and do not let anything keep you from helping us.

Prayer

Father, since you show the world the radiance of your glory in the coming of the Prince, born to the Virgin, please give us true faith and love so that we can celebrate the mystery of God become human. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 20

First Reading: Isaiah 48.1-11

Listen to this, family of Jacob,
who are called by Israel's name,
and descended from the stock of Judah,
you people who swear by YHWH's name
and call upon Israel's God
without sincerity or honesty,
though you take your name from the holy city
and put your trust in Israel's God,
whose name is YHWH of armies.
Long ago, I foretold things about the past;
the prophesy issued from my mouth, and I let you hear it,
because I know that you are stubborn,
and your neck has iron for muscles
and your forehead is bronze.
I foretold events from long, long ago,
and let you hear of them before they happened,
so that you would not say, "My idol did this,
my statue, the image I molded gave these commands."
And now that you have heard me, look at all this;
can you deny it?
From now on I will announce new things to you:
secret events that you did not know.
They come into being from not long ago,
and you did not hear of them beforehand,
so that you cannot claim to have known them;
you did not hear of them, or understand them;
they did not reach your ears before now.
Yes, I know you are completely false,
and are rebels from the day you were born.
I am keeping my anger in check for my own name's sake,
and because of my fame, I am holding it back from you,
or I would destroy you.
You see, I have refined you like silver
and proved you in the furnace of suffering.
It is for my sake, for my own sake, that I do this;
why should I put up with profanation?
I will give my glory to no one else.

I have proved you in the furnace of suffering; and it is for my sake, for my own sake, that I do this, so that I will not be blasphemed. I will give my glory to no one else.

In a moment of outrage, I hid my face from you for a while, and suddenly I took action and brought them into existence; but in my eternal mercy, I had pity on you. I will give my glory to no one else.

Second Reading: A Homily in Praise of the Virgin Mother by St. Bernard

You heard, Virgin, that you will become pregnant and give birth to a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel is waiting for an answer; it is time for him to return to God, who sent him. And we are also waiting, my Lady, for a word of pity from you; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily on us.

The price of our rescue is offered to you; we will be set free at once if you agree. In the eternal Word of God we all came into existence--and now we die. In your brief answer, we are to be remade so that we can be recalled to life.

Adam, in tears along with his grieving family, begs this of you, loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise; Abraham is begging it, and David is begging it. All the other patriarchs who are your ancestors are asking you for it, living over in the country under death's shadow. This is what the whole earth is waiting for, as it is prostrate at your feet; and it is right for it to do so, because on your word depends comfort for those who are miserable, ransom for captives, freedom for the condemned, and, in fact, rescue for all the descendants of Adam, the whole of your race.

Please give a quick answer, Virgin. Reply at once to the angel, or rather to the Master through the angel. Answer with just a word, and accept the Word of God. Speak your own word and conceive the divine Word. Breathe an ephemeral word, and embrace the eternal Word.

Why are you hesitating? Why are you afraid? Believe, praise God, and accept it. Humility should be bold, modesty should be confident. This is no time for virginal naivete to forget good judgment; do not forget, prudent Virgin, in this one thing to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasant, obedient speech is now more essential. Open your heart to faith, blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, and your womb to the Creator.

Now the one all the nations desire is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass on because of your hesitation, you would then begin looking for him all over again, to try to find the One your soul loves. Come forward, hurry, open yourself! Come forward in faith, hurry in devotion, open yourself in praise and gratitude. "I am but the Master's little slave," she says, "let it happen to me as you say."

Ah, Key of David, royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven; please come and break down the prison walls of death for those who live in darkness and death's shadow, and lead your people to freedom.

Prayer

God of love and mercy, please help us follow the example of Mary and always be ready to do your will; at the message of an angel, she welcomed your eternal Son and, filled with the light of your Spirit, she became the Temple of your Word, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 21

Peter Canisius, Priest

Born in Nijmegen, Holland, 1521. He studied at Cologne, entered the Society of Jesus, and was ordained in 1546. He worked in Germany for many years to strengthen the Catholic faith. The Catechism is the best known of his books. Died in Fribourg, Switzerland, in 1597

First Reading: Isaiah 48.12-21, 49.9-13

This is what is said by YHWH:
"Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, the one I named.
I am the one who is first; I,
and I am also the one who is last.
Yes, my hand laid the earth's foundation,
and my right hand spread out the sky.
When I call them
they come immediately into being.
All of you gather and listen.
Did any one of you foretell this?
YHWH's friend will do his will
against Babylon and Chaldea's descendants.
I myself have spoken; I have called him,
I have brought him here, and his way is successful.
Come near me and listen to this.
I did not speak it cryptically from the beginning,
and at the time it happens, I am present;
'YHWH and his Spirit has sent me now.'"
This is what is said by YHWH, your redeemer,
Israel's Holy One:
"I, YHWH, your God,
am teaching you what is good for you,
and leading you along the path you should travel.
If you were to pay attention to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your justification like the waves on the ocean;
your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born to you like its grains,
their names never cut off
or erased from my presence.
Go on out of Babylon, run from Chaldea!
Proclaim this with shouts of joy; make it known;
publish it to the ends of the earth, and say,
'YHWH has redeemed his slave Jacob.
They were not thirsty
when he led them through the desert;
he set water flowing from a rock for them;
he split the rock, and water gushed out.'
They will find pasture along the roads;
their feeding grounds will sprout on every bare hill.
They will not feel hunger or thirst,
and the hot wind or sun will not strike them;
because the one who has mercy on them will be their leader
and will guide them to springs.
I will cut roads through all my mountains
and level off my highways.
Now from far off people are coming;
see them, from the north and the west,
and from the land of Syene."
Sing, heavens,
and celebrate, earth!
Break into song, mountains!
Because YHWH has comforted his people,
and will have mercy on those who are suffering.

Sing, heavens, and celebrate, earth; break into song, mountains, because the Master is coming; and he will show mercy to his poor.

In his days, virtue will flower and peace will be plentiful; and he will show mercy to his poor.

Second Reading: A Commentary on Luke, by St. Ambrose

When the angel revealed his message to the Virgin Mary, he gave her a sign to win her trust; he told her of the motherhood of an old, sterile woman, to show that God can do everything that he wishes.

When she heard this, Mary left for the hill country. She did not disbelieve what God said; she felt no uncertainty about the message, or doubt about the sign; she went with a zealous purpose, with a dutiful conscience, and was hurrying in happiness.

Since she was filled with God, where would she hurry to but the high country? The Holy Spirit does not proceed by slow, painful efforts. And the blessings of her comfort and the Master's presence are quickly made clear: "as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit."

Notice the contrast and the choice of words. Elizabeth is the first to hear Mary's voice, but John is the first to be aware of grace. She hears with physical ears, but he leaps for joy at the meaning of the mystery. She is aware of Mary's presence, but he is aware of the Master's; the woman is aware of the woman's presence, and the forerunner is aware of the pledge of our rescue. The women speak of the grace they have received, but the children are active in secret, unfolding the mystery of love with the help of their mothers, who prophesy by the spirit of their sons.

The child leaps in the womb; the mother is filled with the Holy Spirit, but not before her son. Once the son has been filled with the Holy Spirit, he fills his mother with the same Spirit. John leaps for joy, and the spirit of Mary bursts out with joy in her turn. When John leaps for joy, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, but we know that though Mary's spirit is bursting with joy, she does not need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Her Son, who is beyond our understanding, is active in his mother in a way beyond our understanding. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit after conceiving John, while Mary is filled with the Holy Spirit before conceiving the Master. Elizabeth says, "You are extraordinary because you believed."

You are also extraordinary because you have heard and believed. A soul that believes both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and acknowledges what he has done.

Mary's soul ought to be in each of you, so that you will be full of the Master's magnificence. Her spirit should be in each of you, so that you will burst with joy in the Master. The Prince has only one material mother, but we all give birth to the Prince in faith. Every soul receives the Word of God if it only keeps itself pure and stays clean and free from sin, with its modesty undefiled. The soul that succeeds in this is full of the Master's magnificence, just as Mary's soul was full of the Master's magnificence, and her spirit was bursting with joy in God, her Savior.

We read in another place, "Show how magnificent the Master is with me." The Master is made magnificent, not because the human voice can add anything to God, but because he becomes magnificent within us. The Prince is the visible counterpart of God, and if the soul does what is right and holy, it is full of the magnificence of that image of God, in whose image it was created; and in being full of the magnificence of the image of God, the soul has a share in its greatness and is lifted up to the sky.

Ah, radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of virtue; please come and shine on those whose home is darkness and death's shadow.

Prayer

Master, please listen to the prayers of your people, and may those of us who celebrate the birth of your Son as a human being find joy in the gift of eternal life when he comes in glory, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Third Reading: Writings of St. Peter Canisius

Before he set out for Germany--he is correctly called the second apostle of that country--St. Peter Canisius received the apostolic blessing, and underwent a profound spiritual experience. He describes it in these words:

Eternal high priest, in your boundless goodness you allowed me to take advantage of the results and confirmation of that blessing to your Emissaries, those to whom people go on pilgrimage to the Vatican and who work wonders there under your guidance. It was there that I experienced great consolation and the presence of your grace, offered to me through these great intercessors. They too gave their blessings, and confirmed the mission to Germany; they seemed to promise their good will to me as an Emissary to that country. You know, Master, how strongly and how often you committed Germany to my care on that very day; I was to continue to be concerned for it afterwards; I was to desire to live and die for it.

Finally, it was as if you opened the heart in your supremely sacred body to me; it seemed to see it right before my eyes. You told me to drink from this fountain; that is, you invited me to draw the water of my rescue from your source, my Savior. I was extremely eager for streams of faith, hope, and love to flow into me from that spring; I was thirsty for poverty, chastity, and obedience. I asked to be made completely clean by you, to be dressed by you, and to be made gleaming by you.

So after daring to approach your supremely loving heart and to slake my thirst in it, I received a promise from you of a garment made of three parts, which were to cover my soul in its nakedness and to belong particularly to my religious profession; they were peace, love, and perseverance. With the protection of this garment of rescue, I was confident that I had all I needed, and everything would be successful and give you glory.

When a teacher of the law becomes a student of heaven's kingdom, he is like the head of a family who is able to take from his storeroom treasures new and old.

Wisdom makes its home in a discriminating heart, and it can even teach those who are foolish. He is like the head of a family who is able to take from his storeroom treasures new and old.

Prayer

Master, since you gave St. Peter Canisius the wisdom and courage to defend the Catholic faith, may everyone who is searching for the truth have the happiness of finding you by the help of his prayers, and may everyone who believes in you be loyal in professing their faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 22

First Reading: Isaiah 49.14-50.1

"But Zion said, 'YHWH has abandoned me,
and my Master has forgotten me.'
Can a woman forget her nursing child
and not feel sympathy with the son who came from her womb?
Yes, they may forget;
but I will not forget you;
You see, I have written you into the palms of my hands;
your walls are constantly in my presence.
Your children will hurry to rebuild you,
and those who tore you down and wrecked you
will leave you.
Raise your eyes, look around, and see;
they are all gathering to come to you.
As I live," says YHWH,
you will deck yourselves out with them
as you would jewelry,
and fasten them about you
as if you were a bride.
You see, your devastated and ruined places
and the land where you were wrecked
will now be too small for its population,
and those who swallowed you will be far off.
The children you will have
after you lost the others
will again say in your ears,
'This place is too small for me;
give me a place to live in.'
And then you will say in your heart,
'Who is the father of these children,
since I have lost mine, and am abandoned,
a captive, wandering from one place to another.
Who has raised them?
I was left there, alone,
and so where do these come from?'"
This is what is said by God YHWH:
"Now I will lift my hand and swear to the nations
and set up my standard before the peoples;
they will bring you your sons in their arms,
and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
Kings will be foster fathers for you,
and their queens will be their wetnurses;
they will bow to you, with their faces on the ground,
and lick the dust at your feet.
And then you will know that I am YHWH,
and that those who wait for me will not be disappointed."
This is what YHWH says:
"Can loot be taken from a warrior,
or captives removed from a powerful man?
Yes, captives can be taken from a warrior
and loot rescued from a powerful man,
because I will fight with those who fight you,
and I will save your children.
I will make those who oppress you eat the meat of their own bodies,
and they will be as drunk on their blood as on sweet wine;
and everything material will know
that I, YHWH, am your Savior;
that Jacob's Powerful One is your redeemer."
This is what YHWH says:
"Where is the divorce decree
that I gave to separate from your mother?
Or to what creditor did I sell you to?
You have been sold for your disobedience
and your mother was divorced for your crimes.

Can a mother forget her nursing child and not feel sympathy with the son that came from her womb? Yes, she can forget, but I will never forget you, says the Master.

My father and mother neglected me, but you have taken me in your arms, Master. Yes, she can forget, but I will never forget you, says the Master.

Second Reading: A Commentary on Luke by Venerable Bede

"Mary said, 'My soul is full of the Master's magnificence, and my spirit is bursting with joy in God, my Savior."

The Master has elevated me by a gift so great, so unheard of, that language is useless in describing it, and the depths of love in my heart can hardly grasp it. And so I offer all the powers of my soul in praise and gratitude; and as I contemplate his greatness, which knows no limits, I gladly surrender my whole life, my senses and my intellect, because my spirit is bursting with joy in the eternal deity of that Jesus, that Savior, whom I have conceived in this world of time.

"The God of Power, the one whose very name is holy, has done tremendous things in me."

Mary looks back to the beginning of her song, where she said, "My soul is full of the Master's magnificence." Only a soul for whom the Master in his love has done tremendous things can proclaim his greatness with fitting praise and encourage those who share her desire and intention, and say, "Join me in proclaiming the Master's magnificence; we should tell how great his name is together."

Those who know the Master and refuse to declare his greatness and the holiness of his name to the limit of their powers "will be called the most insignificant in the Kingdom of Heaven." His name is called holy because in the sublimity of his unique power, he surpasses every creature and is far removed from everything he has made.

"He has given support to his servant Israel, because he has remembered his merciful promise."

In a beautiful phrase, Mary calls Israel the Master's servant. The Master came to his help to save him; Israel is an obedient and humble servant, in the words of Hosea: "Israel was a slave, and I loved him."

Those who refuse to be humble cannot be saved; they cannot say with the prophet, "Yes, God is coming to help me; the Master is the one who helps my soul." But anyone "who makes himself humble like a little child is greater in the Kingdom of Heaven."

"The promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants for ever."

This refers to the spiritual children, not the physical descendants of Abraham; they are his descendants who have followed him in faith, whether they are circumcised or not, and have not been generated in a merely material sense. Though he was circumcised, Abraham believed; and it was this that was attributed to him as virtue.

The coming of the Savior was promised to Abraham and to his descendants for ever. These are the children of the promise, the ones to whom it is said, "If you belong to the Prince, then you are descendants of Abraham, and heirs following the promise."

Ah, King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; keystone of the mighty arch of humanity, please come and save the creature you fashioned from dirt.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you sent your Son to free mankind from the power of death, may those of us who celebrate the coming of the Prince as man share more fully in his divine life; because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 23

John of Kanty, Priest

Born at Kanty in Poland in 1390. After becoming a priest, he taught for many years in an academy in Krakow, and then became pastor of the parish at Olkusz. He was an orthodox teacher of the faith, and gave an example of piety and love of neighbor. Died in 1473.

First Reading: Isaiah 51.1-11

"Listen to me, those of you pursuing virtue,
who are searching for YHWH:
Look to the rock you were carved from,
to the pit you were quarried in;
Look to your ancestor Abraham
and to Sarah, the one who gave you birth,
because he was the only one I called,
and I blessed him and multiplied him."
Yes, YHWH will send Zion comfort;
he will feel pity for all her ruins.
He will turn her deserts into Eden
and her wilderness into YHWH's garden.
Happiness and joy will be found in it,
and singing and the sounds of music.
"Listen to me, my people,
pay me your attention, my nation.
Law will be issued from me,
and will make my just decrees
into a light for the peoples.
My virtue is nearby;
my rescue has begun its process;
and my arm will pass sentence on the nations.
The many shores will put their hope in me,
and they will trust the power of my arm.
Bring your eyes up into the heavens
and look down on the earth below,
because the sky will dissipate like smoke,
and the earth will grow thin as an old robe,
and those who live on it will waste away too;
but my rescue will last forever,
and my virtue will never be erased.
Listen to me, those of you who know of virtue,
you people who have your heart in my Law;
do not be afraid of the sneers of men
or be intimidated by their insults,
because moths will eat them the way they eat clothes,
and worms will consume them as if they were wool;
but my virtue will last forever,
and my rescue will continue from generation to generation."
Please waken! Waken and put on your strength,
arm of YHWH!
Awaken as you did in olden times,
in the generations long past.
Are you not the arm that cut Rahab apart
and wounded the ancient serpent?
Are you not the one who dried up the sea,
the water in the great ocean,
and made the sea-bed a road
for those you ransomed to cross upon?
In this way those YHWH ransomed will return
and come singing into Zion,
with eternal joy crowning their heads.
They will find happiness and joy;
sorrow and sobs will have vanished.

My people, listen to me; pay me your attention, those of you who belong to my race. My virtuous man is close by; my savior is drawing near.

Now those redeemed by the Master will come back and enter Zion with songs of praise. My virtuous man is close by; my savior is drawing near.

Second Reading: A treatise against the heresy of Noetus by St. Hippolytus

There is only one God, brothers and sisters; and we learn about him only from Sacred Scripture. And so it is our duty to become acquainted with what Scripture declares and to investigate its teachings thoroughly. We should believe these teachings in the sense that the Father wills them, and think of the Son in the way the Father wills, and accept the teaching he wills to give us about the Holy Spirit. Sacred Scripture is God's gift to us, and it should be understood in the way he intends; we should not do violence to it by interpreting it to fit our own preconceived ideas.

God was all alone and nothing existed but himself when he determined to create the world. He thought of it, willed it, and spoke the word and made it. It came into being instantly exactly as he had willed. It is enough, then, for us to be aware of a single fact: nothing is coeternal with God. Apart from God there was simply nothing else. Yet although he was alone, he was multiple, because he was not bereft of either reason, wisdom, power, or good judgment. Everything was in him and he himself was everything. At a moment of his own choosing and in a way he himself determined, God showed his Word, and through him he made the whole universe.

When the Word was hidden within God himself he was invisible to the created world; but God made him visible. First God gave utterance to his voice, fathering light from light, and then he sent his own mind into the world as its Master. Though he was previously visible to God alone and not to the world, God made him visible, so that the world could be saved by seeing him. The mind that entered our world was made known as the Son of God. Everything came into existence through him; but he is the only one who was sired by the Father.

The Son gave us the Law and the prophets, and he filled the prophets with the Holy Spirit to compel them to speak. They were inspired by the Father's power to proclaim the Father's purpose and will.

So the Word became evident, as St. John declares, when, in summing up all the sayings of the prophets, he announces that this is the Word through whom the whole universe was made. He says, "In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was face to face with God, and the Word was God. Everything came into existence through him, and without him there came to be not even one thing that came into existence." And farther along, he adds, "The world came into being through him, and yet the world did not recognize him. He came into his own lands, and his own people did not accept him."

Ah, Emmanuel, King and legislator, desire of the nations, Savior of all peoples, please come and set us free, our Master and God.

Prayer

Father, as we contemplate the birth of your Son, whose mother was the Virgin Mary, and who came to live among us, may we please receive forgiveness and mercy through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Third Reading: A Letter by Clement XIII

St. John of Kanty deserves a high place among the great saints and scholars who practice what they preach and defend the true faith against those who attack it. When heresy and schism were gaining ground in neighboring territories, his teaching at the University of Krakow was untainted by any error. At the pulpit he fought to raise the standard of holiness among the faithful, and his preaching was reinforced by his humility, his chastity, his sympathy, his bodily penance, and the other qualities of a dedicated priest and Emissary.

He was a unique contribution to the reputation and credit of the professors of the university; he also bequeathed a wonderful example to those of his profession, an inspiration of complete dedication to duty and to their teaching--in theology and other sciences--for the honor and glory of the one God.

With the sense of worship that he brought to his teaching of the sacred sciences, he combined humility. He never put himself above anyone else, and treated himself as not mattering, even though he was acknowledged by everyone as their master. He was so far from pretenses that he even wished to be an object of contempt in the eyes of everyone who underestimated his worth. He could take their insults and cutting remarks in stride.

With his humility went a rare and childlike simplicity; the thoughts of his heart were revealed in his words and actions. If he suspected that someone had felt insulted by his speaking the truth, before going to the altar, he would ask forgiveness for what was not so much his own sin as the other person's misunderstanding. Every day after his round of duties, he would go straight from the lecture room to church, where he would spend long hours in contemplation and prayer before the hidden Prince of the eucharist. The God in his heart and the God on his lips were one and the same God.

Share your bread with the hungry and take the poor and homeless into your own house. Then your light will shine out like the dawn, and your holiness will precede you.

When you see a man who is naked, give him clothes, and do not sneer at your brother. Then your light will shine out like the dawn, and your holiness will precede you.

Prayer

Omnipotent Father, may we grow in the wisdom of the saints through the example of John of Kanty, and as we show understanding and kindness to others, may we receive your forgiveness. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 24

First Reading: Isaiah 51.17-52.2, 7-10

Waken! Waken!
Rise from your sleep, Jerusalem,
who drank from YHWH
the cup of his rage.
You have drunk the dregs of the fearful cup
and drained it dry.
Jerusalem has no one to guide her
among all the sons she gave birth to;
there is no one to take her by the hand
among all the children she reared.
Two things have come upon you,
and is there anyone to be sorry for you?
Desolation and ruin, famine and sword;
and who will I find to comfort you?
Your sons have collapsed
and lie in the street-corners
like antelopes in a net.
They are filled with YHWH's rage
and the reprimand of your God.
And so listen to this, my sufferer,
drunk, but not with wine;
this is what is said by your Master,
YHWH, and your God,
who is pleading your case:
"You see, I have taken out of your hand
the fearful cup,
with the dregs of my rage in it;
you are to drink it no longer.
But I will put it into the hand of those who torment you,
who told you
to lie down so that they could walk over you.
And you laid your bodies as if you were ground
or like a street, for them to walk upon."
Waken! Waken!
Put on your strength, Zion;
Put on your lovely clothes,
Jerusalem, holy city.
Because the uncircumcised and the unclean
will no longer enter you.
Shake the dust off yourself. Stand up
and then take your throne, Jerusalem.
Take the ropes off your neck,
captive daughter, Zion.
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the one who brings good news
and announces peace,
and comes with a joyful message of prosperity,
who proclaims rescue,
and says to Zion,
"Your God is on the throne!"
Listen! Your watchmen are raising a cry
and shouting for joy in unison,
because they see directly, in front of their eyes
YHWH entering Zion.
Break out in song; chant it together,
ruins of Jerusalem!
Because YHWH has brought comfort to his people,
and has redeemed Jerusalem.
YHWH has rolled up the sleeves over his holy arm
as all the nations looked on;
and all the ends of the earth will see
our God's rescue.

Wash yourselves off, sons of Israel, says the Master, because tomorrow your Master will come down, and he will remove every weakness from you.

Tomorrow the depravity of the earth will be destroyed, and the Savior of the world will rule over us. And he will remove every weakness from you.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Augustine

Waken, mankind! God has become a human being for your sake. "Waken, those of you who are sleeping, come back from the dead, and the Prince will pour light into you." I will tell you again; it was for your sake that God became a human being.

You would have suffered eternal death, if he had not been born into time. You would never have been freed from your sinful flesh if he had not taken on himself the same sinful flesh. You would have suffered eternal unhappiness if it had not been for his mercy. You would never have come back to life if he had not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not come quickly to help you. You would have gone out of existence if he had not come.

And so let us celebrate the coming of our rescue and redemption with joy. Let us celebrate the feast day on which the one who is the great, eternal day came from the great, endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

"He has become our virtue, our holiness, our redemption, so that, as was written, 'a person who is proud should take pride in the Master.'"

"And so truth has sprung up out of the earth." The Prince, who said, "I am truth," was born to a virgin. "And virtue looked down from heaven" because it is by believing in this new-born child, human beings are made virtuous by God, not from their own efforts.

"Truth has sprung up out of the earth," because "the Word became flesh." "And virtue looked down from heaven" because "every good and perfect gift comes from above."

"Truth has sprung up out of the earth," taking flesh from Mary. "And virtue looked down from heaven" because "humans can receive nothing if it has not been given to them from heaven."

"We should be at peace with God, since we have been made virtuous by faith; because virtue and peace have kissed, through our Master Prince Jesus; because truth has sprung up out of the earth, and through him we have access to the gift in which we can stand up straight, and our pride is in the hope of God's glory;" because "virtue" has not come out of us, but "has looked down from heaven." And so, "if a person is to be proud, he is to be proud" not of himself, but "of the Master."

And this is why, when our Master was born to the Virgin, the messages of the angelic voices was, "Glory to God in the spheres of heaven, and peace on earth to those in his favor."

How could there be peace unless "truth has sprung up out of the earth," that is, unless the Prince were born from our flesh? And "he is our peace, and is the one who made the two into one thing," so that we would be in God's favor, nicely linked by the bond of unity.

And so we should be happy in this favor, so that our pride will give evidence of the good conscience by which we are proud of the Master, not of ourselves. That is why Scripture says, "He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head." What greater gift could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man could in his turn become a son of God?

As if we deserved this; ask for its reason, or its justification, and see if you find any other answer but a sheer gift.

A shoot will spring out of Jesse's root and a flower blossom upon it. Virtue will be the belt about his waist, and fidelity the cord about his body.

The Master's spirit will rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of good advice and strength. Virtue will be the belt about his waist, and fidelity the cord about his body.

Prayer

Come, Master Jesus! Do not delay! Please give new courage to your people, who trust in your love, and by your coming raise us to the joy of your Kingdom, where you are alive and reigning with the Father and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Christmas

First Reading: Isaiah 111-10

This is what is said by YHWH:
A shoot will spring out of Jesse's trunk
and a branch grow out of his root;
YHWH's spirit will rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and understanding
a spirit of good judgment and power,
a spirit of knowledge and respect for YHWH.
He finds his pleasure in reverence for YHWH,
and he will not judge by appearances,
or base his decisions on hearsay;
he will hand down honest verdicts to the poor
and give just decisions to the earth's unassuming people.
He will strike down cruelty with the cudgel of his mouth
and slaughter evil people with the breath that comes from his lips.
He will wear virtue like a sash upon his chest,
and fidelity like a belt around his waist.
Then wolves will share dens with lambs,
and leopards and kids bed together;
calves and lion cubs will forage side by side
with a little child to lead them.
A cow will be grazing next to a bear,
and her calf will take rest with the cub;
lions will eat hay like oxen,
and babies play by cobras' nests,
and children's hands will rest on adders' dens.
There will be no pain or damage anywhere on my holy mountain,
because the whole earth will be as full of knowledge of YHWH
as the ocean is full of water.
On that day, Jesse's root
will be held up as a banner for the people;
because the Gentiles will search him out,
and his residence will be full of glory.

Today, for us the King of heaven chose to be born of his virgin mother, to reclaim those lost to the heavenly kingdom. All the angels are calling out their joy, because God has himself come to save mankind.

Glory to God in the spheres of heaven, and peace on earth to those in his favor. All the angels are calling out their joy, because God has himself come to save mankind.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Leo the Great

My dear friends, today our Savior is born; we should be overjoyed. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life; because the fear of death has been swallowed, and life brings us the joy of the promise of eternal bliss.

No one is closed off from this joy; everyone shares the same reason for happiness. Our Master, the victor over sin and death, who found no human being free of sin, came to free us all. Saints should be glad when they see the palm-branch of victory in their hands; sinners should be joyful in receiving the offer of forgiveness; and pagans should take courage as they are invited to live.

When time reached its completion, the time chosen in the unfathomable depths of God's wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our ordinary humanity to bring it into conformity with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the source of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the Master's birth, the angels chant in joy, "Glory to God in the spheres of heaven," and they announce "peace on earth to those in his favor" as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels above us are so enraptured at this marvelous work of God's goodness, what is the happiness it should bring to the hearts of men here below?

My friends, we must thank God the Father, through his Son, and in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us, he had mercy on us, "and when we were dead in our sins, he brought us to life with the Prince," so that we would be a new creation in him. We must take off our old nature and all its ways and, since we have been born in the Prince, give up material actions.

Remember your dignity, Christian, and now that you share in God's own nature, do not return by sin to the degraded condition you once were in. Keep in mind who your head is and whose body you are a cell in. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God's kingdom.

Through the sacrament of the Bath, you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive off so great a guest by wrong behavior so that you become a slave again to the devil, because your freedom was bought by the Prince's blood.

Today true peace came down to us from heaven. Today the whole earth was filled with heaven's delight.

Today a new day dawns, the day of our redemption, prepared by God from ages long past, the beginning of our never-ending joy. Today the whole earth was filled with heaven's delight.

Prayer

Dear God and Master, we praise you for creating human beings and still more for restoring them in the Prince. Since your Son shared our weakness, may we please share his glory, where he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

Sunday in the Octave

of Christmas:

Holy Family

First Reading: Ephesians 5.21-6.4

Give way to each other out of respect for the Prince's authority. Wives are to submit to their own husbands as if they were the Master; because the husband is the head of his wife more or less in the sense in which the Prince is the head of the community; he is the one who keeps the body safe. So in the sense in which the community listens to the Master, wives are to listen to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, you are to love your wives in the same way as the Prince loved the community and surrendered himself for it, to make it holy by washing it with the bath of the water that has the sacred words said over it, so that he could set the community beside himself as something full of dignity, something holy and stainless, without any spot or wrinkle or anything of the sort. This is the way husbands ought to love their wives-- as if they were their own bodies. When a man loves his wife, he is loving himself; and of course no one hates his own matter; he feeds and takes care of it, just as the Prince cares for his community, because we are the organs of his body.

"With this in view, a man is to leave his father and mother and attach himself to his wife, and the two will become one body." Something very profound is hidden in this; I mean the relation between the Prince and the community; but in its literal meaning it says that each of you must love his wife as being his own self; and the wife is to have respect for her husband.

Children are to obey their parents in the Master; this is what their virtue consists in. "Be respectful to your father and mother" is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it: "so that you will succeed and have a long life on earth." And parents are not to push their children too hard; they are to bring them up with the Master's sort of education and training.

Children, obey your parents in the Master, because that is your duty; respect your father and mother.

Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth, and lived there and was obedient to them. Respect your father and mother.

Second Reading: An Address by Pope Paul VI

Nazareth is a kind of school where we can begin to discover what the Prince's life was like and even to understand his good news. Here we can observe and ponder the simple appeal of the way God's son came to be known, profound yet full of hidden meaning. And gradually, we may even learn to imitate him.

Here we can learn to realize who the Prince really is. And here we can sense and take account of the conditions and circumstances that surrounded and affected his life on earth: the places, the tenor of the times, the culture, the language, religious customs--in brief, everything which Jesus used to make himself known to the world. Here everything speaks to us, everything has meaning. Here we can learn the importance of spiritual training for all those who wish to follow the Prince and live by the teachings of his good news.

How I would like to return to my childhood and attend the simple yet profound school that is Nazareth! How wonderful to be close to Mary, learning again the lesson of the true meaning of life, learning again God's truths. But here we are only on pilgrimage. Time presses and I must set aside my desire to stay and carry on my education in the good news, because that education is never finished. But I cannot leave without recalling, briefly and in passing, some thoughts I take with me from Nazareth.

First, we learn from its silence. If only we could once again appreciate its great value; we need this wonderful state of mind, since we are beset by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times. The silence of Nazareth should teach us how to meditate in peace and quiet, to reflect on the deeply spiritual, and to be open to the voice of God's inner wisdom and the advice of his true teachers. Nazareth can teach us the value of study and preparation, of meditation, of a well-ordered personal spiritual life, and of silent prayer that is known only to God.

Second, we learn about family life. May Nazareth serve as a model of what the family should be. May it show us the family's holy and enduring character exemplifying its basic function in society: a community of love and sharing, beautiful for the problems it poses and the rewards it brings; in sum, the perfect setting for rearing children--and for this there is no substitute.

Finally, in Nazareth, the home of a craftsman's son, we learn about work and the discipline it entails. I would especially like to recognize its value--demanding yet redeeming--and to give it proper respect. I would remind everyone that work has its own dignity. On the other hand, it is not an end in itself. Its value and free character, however, derive not only from its place in the economic system, as they say, but rather from the purpose it serves.

In closing, may I express my deep regard for people everywhere who work for a living. To them I would point out their great model, their brother the Prince, our Master and God, who is their prophet in every cause that promotes their well-being.

Have a glad heart, try to grow holy, help each other, stay united, and live in peace. Sing and make music to the Master in your hearts.

Whatever you do, put your whole self into it, as if for the Master and not human beings. Sing and make music to the Master in your hearts.

Prayer

Father, please help us to live like the holy family, united in respect and love, and bring us to the joy and peace of your eternal home. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

December 26

Stephen, Protomartyr

First Reading: Acts 6.8,7.2,44-59

Stephen, full of talent and power, was performing miracles and proofs of God's favor among the people. At this, some of the ones who belonged to what is called the "Synagogue of the Freedmen," as well as people from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the Province of Asia, stepped forward and took issue with Stephen; but they were not forceful enough to withstand his wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

They then started a rumor with some men claiming that they had heard him utter malicious lies against Moses and God. This provoked the fury of the people, the elders, and the law-experts, who confronted and arrested him and brought him to the Council, where they suborned perjurers, who said, "This man keeps on saying things against this holy place and against the Law: we heard him say that his Jesus of Nazareth was going to destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us."

As all the members of the Council looked at him, they saw his face appear like the face of an angel.

The chief priest said, "Is this the case?"

He answered, "Gentlemen--my brothers and fathers--hear me out! "Our ancestors had the Tent of Testimony in the desert, exactly as the One who spoke to Moses directed them to make it following the model he had seen; and this was what our ancestors of the next generation brought in with Joshua when they replaced the nations God kept driving out up until the time of David, who found favor with God and requested permission to build a home for the house of Jacob--though it was Solomon who built the building for him.

"But the Supreme Being does not live in something man-made; as the prophet says,

"'The sky is my throne
and the earth my footstool;
What sort of house will you build for me?' says the Master;
'what is the place I will rest in?
Was it not my hand that made all this?'

"You are so stiff-necked! Your hearts and ears are so uncircumcised! You always defy the Holy Spirit; you do just what your ancestors did! Is there one prophet that was not persecuted by your ancestors? They even killed the people who predicted the coming of the virtuous man who was betrayed and murdered by you people, who received the Law given by angels and would not obey it!"

What they heard stung them to the heart, and they gnashed their teeth at him--and meanwhile, full of the Holy Spirit, he was looking up into heaven, where he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing beside him. "Look!" he cried. "I see the sky torn open, and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!"

They screamed and covered their ears, and mobbed him; they dragged him outside the city and began to stone him. Those who were taking part gave their cloaks to a young man named Saul to watch--and they kept throwing stones at Stephen, who was calling out, "Master Jesus! Take my spirit!"

He fell to his knees and cried, "Master, do not hold this sin against them!" And at these words, he fell asleep.

And Saul approved of Stephen's execution.

While the Judeans were stoning Stephen, God's slave, the sky opened in front of him; he looked, and entered it. It is such a great privilege for a man to have heaven open before him.

As the stones crashed against him, from the depths of heaven the splendor of life shone on him. It is such a great privilege for a man to have heaven opened before him.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier. Yesterday, our King, dressed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin's womb and deigned to visit the world. Today his soldier leaves the tent of his body and rises triumphantly to heaven.

Our King, despite his elevated majesty, came in humility for our sake; but he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that no only made them rich, but unconquerable in battle: the gift of love, which was to bring human beings a share in his divinity. He gave some of his abundance, yet without losing anything of his own. In a marvelous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers, while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.

And so the love that brought the Prince from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; what was shown first in the king shone out later in his soldier. Love was Stephen's weapon, by which he won every battle, and in this way won the crown indicated by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the savage mob; his love for his neighbor made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to correct those who were mistaken, so that they would change; love led him to pray for those who were stoning him, to save them from punishment. Since he was given strength by the power of his love, he won over the raging cruelty of Saul, and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love, he longed to gain by prayer those he could not convert by his speeches.

And now, finally, Paul is happy with Stephen, and with Stephen he is enjoying the glory of the Prince; with Stephen he is overjoyed, and with Stephen he is reigning. Stephen went first, killed by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed, helped by Stephen's prayer.

And this is obviously the way to live, my brothers and sisters; it is a life where Paul feels no shame because of Stephen's death, and Stephen finds joy in Paul's company, because love fills both of them with happiness. It was Stephen's love that conquered the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul's love that covered the huge number of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the Kingdom of Heaven.

In fact, love is the source of everything good; it is an impregnable defense, and the way that leads to heaven. A person who walks about in love cannot wander off the road or experience fear; love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey's end

My brothers and sisters, the Prince made love the ladder that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. And so, hold fast to it in all sincerity; give each other practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together.

Yesterday, the Master was born on earth so that Stephen would be born in heaven. The Master entered our world so that Stephen would enter heaven.

Yesterday our King, dressed in our flesh, came out of the virgin's womb to live among us. The Master entered our world so that Stephen would enter heaven.

Prayer

Master, today we celebrate the entrance of Stephen into eternal glory. Since he died praying for those who killed him, please help us imitate his goodness and love our enemies. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

December 27

John, Evangelist

First Reading: 1 John 1.2-3

What existed from the beginning, what we heard, what we saw with our own eyes, what we looked on and handled with our hands, dealing with the meaning of life--and the life disclosed itself; we have seen it and swear to it, and we inform you of the eternal life which existed facing the Father and which disclosed itself to us--what we saw and heard is what we are informing you of so that you will have companionship with us. Our companionship is with the Father and with his Son Prince Jesus; and we are writing this for your joy to be complete.

And this is the message we heard from him and are reporting to you: that God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. If we were to say that we had companionship with him and were walking about in darkness, we would be lying and not doing what is true; but if we walk about in the light, in the way that he exists in the light, we have companionship with each other, and the blood of Jesus washes us clean of every sin.

If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us; if we admit our sins, he is faithful and just, and will remove the sins from us and wash us clean of any vice. If we claim that we have not sinned, we are making him a liar, and what he has said is not in us.

My children, I am writing this to keep you from sinning; but if any of us commits a sin, we have a patron to speak for us before the Father, the virtuous Prince Jesus; he is himself the conciliation for our sins, and not simply for ours, but the sins of the whole world. And this is the way we are to recognize that we know him: by keeping his commandments.

We announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has been revealed to us. We are writing of this for you to be happy, and for your happiness to be complete.

All this has been written so that you will believe that Jesus is the Prince, the Son of God, and that by your belief you will have life in his name, and for your happiness to be complete.

Second Reading: Tractates on the First Letter of John

by St. Augustine

"Our message is the Word of life We announce what existed from the beginning, what we heard, what we saw with our own eyes, what we looked on and handled with our hands." Who could touch the Word with his hands unless "The Word became flesh and made his home among us"?

Now this Word, whose flesh was so real that he could be touched by human hands, began to be flesh in the Virgin Mary's womb; but he did not begin to exist at that moment. We know this from what John says, "What existed from the beginning." Notice how John's letter is evidence of his Report of the Good News, which you heard just a moment ago: "In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was face to face with God."

Someone might interpret the phrase "The Word of life" as meaning a word about the Prince, rather than the Prince's body itself which was touched by human hands. But consider what comes next: "and the life was revealed." Hence, the Prince himself is the Word of life.

And how was this life revealed? It existed from the beginning, but was not revealed to human beings, but only to angels, who looked upon it and feasted upon it as their own spiritual bread. But what does Scripture say? "Mankind ate the bread of angels."

Life itself was therefore revealed in the flesh. In this way, what was visible to the heart alone could also become visible to the eye, and so could heal people's hearts. That is, the Word is visible only to the heart, while flesh is visible to bodily eyes as well. We already had the means to see flesh, but we had no way of seeing the Word; and so the Word became flesh so that we could see it, to heal that part of us by which we could see the Word.

John continues, "We have seen it and swear to it, and we inform you of the eternal life which existed facing the Father and which disclosed itself to us"--or, one could say more simply, "was revealed to us."

"We inform you of what we have heard and seen." Make sure that you grasp the meaning of these words. The students saw the Master in the flesh, face to face; they heard the words he spoke, and they in turn proclaimed the message to us; and so we have heard also, though we have not seen anything.

But then are we less favored than those who both saw and heard it? If that were the case, why would John add, "so that you too will have fellowship with us"? They saw what they saw, and we have not seen it; yet we have fellowship with them, because we and they share the same faith.

"And our fellowship is with God the Father and his Son, Prince Jesus. And we write this to you to make your happiness complete." Complete in that fellowship, in that love, and in that unity.

At the last dinner, John lay on the dining-couch close to the Master; it was the privilege of that Emissary to have the secrets of heaven revealed to him.

He drank from the streams of living water which flowed from the Master's heart; it was the privilege of that Emissary to have the secrets of heaven revealed to him.

Prayer

God, our Father, since you have revealed the secrets of your Word through your Emissary John, may we, by prayer and reflection, come to understand the wisdom he taught. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

December 28

Holy Innocents, Martyrs

First Reading: Exodus 1.8-16, 22

A new king, who knew nothing about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his subjects, "Notice how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, even more than we are ourselves. We have to be very careful with them, to stop them from increasing, or if there is a war they might join our enemies and fight against us, and leave our country."

And so taskmasters were set over the Israelites to oppress them with hard labor; and in this way they had to build for Pharaoh the cities of Pithom and Raamses; and yet the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and increased. That caused the Egyptians to dread the Israelites; and they reduced them to cruel slavery, making life bitter for them by hard work in mortar and bricks and all kinds of field work: the whole cruel fate of slaves.

The King of Egypt also told the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was called Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you act as midwives for the Hebrew women and see them giving birth, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she may live."

Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects, "Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews; but you may let the girls live."

I will enjoy my people; never again will weeping and crying be heard among them.

Death will no longer exist; grief, tears, and sorrow will be forgotten, because now I am making everything new. Never again will weeping and crying be heard among them.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Quodvultdeus

A child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from far off, and come to worship the one who is lying in a manger and yet is king over heaven and earth. When they tell of someone who was born to be king, Herod is taken aback, and to save his kingdom, he resolves to kill him--though if he would only have faith in this child, he would reign in peace in this life himself, as well as forever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to supplant you; it is to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this, you are disturbed and enraged, and to destroy the child you are looking for, you show your cruelty in the death of a great many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the death of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You are destroying people with tiny bodies because fear is destroying your heart; you imagine that if you can fulfill your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are trying to kill Life itself.

Your throne is threatened by the source of grace--so small, and yet so great--who is lying in the manger. He is using you, without your having the slightest inkling of it, to work out his own purpose of freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken the children of the enemy up into the ranks of God's adopted children.

The children are dying for the Prince, even though they are unaware of doing so; and their parents are mourning the death of martyrs. The child makes of those unable to speak fitting witnesses of himself. Notice the kind of kingdom he has, since this is the kind of king he came to be. Notice how the rescuer is already producing liberation, and the savior is already producing salvation.

But, Herod, you do not know this, and are disturbed and enraged. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, without being aware of it.

What a great gift of grace this is! What is it the children did to deserve this kind of victory? They cannot speak, and yet they act as witnesses to the Prince; they cannot use their arms to fight in battle, and yet they already are carrying off the palm of victory.

They worshiped the one who lives for ever and ever; they laid down their crowns before the throne of their Master and God.

They fell on their faces before his throne and gave praise to the one who lives for ever and ever. They laid down their crowns before the throne of their Master and God.

Prayer

Father, since the Holy Innocents offered you praise by the death they suffered for the Prince, may our lives also bear witness to the faith we profess with our lips. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

December 29

Thomas à Becket, Martyr

Born in London, 1118. He became chancellor to the King and in 1162 was chosen bishop of Canterbury. His defense of the Church against Henry II brought him exile to France for six years. After returning, he was murdered in 1170 by the King.

First Reading: Colossians 1.1-14

Paul, an emissary of Prince Jesus by the will of God and Timothy my brother, to the sacred people in Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters in the Prince: Blessings and peace to you from God our father.

We keep thanking God the Father of our Master Prince Jesus whenever we pray for you, since we have heard of your belief in Jesus the Prince and of the love you have for all the sacred people because of the hope you have stored in heaven--a hope based on what you heard earlier in the facts you were told in the Report of the good news that came to you--as it is now coming to the whole world; and it is becoming productive and growing as it did with you from the day you first heard and recognized the truth of God's gift, as you were taught by Epaphras, our friend and fellow-slave, who is a faithful servant of the Prince for us, and who informed us of your love in the spirit.

This is why, since the day we heard of this, we have kept praying for you, and asking to have you filled with the knowledge of the Prince's will for you in all your wisdom and spiritual insight as to how to behave as the Master has a right to expect, to make you pleasing to him in every way: flourishing in every good deed you do, and increasing in knowledge of God, and growing strong in every sort of power by the might of his glory, so that you will be able to stand any kind of hardship and tolerate everything gladly, and thank the Father, who has made you fit to share the inheritance of the sacred people in the light--and who extricated us from the power of darkness and moved us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, from whom we have forgiveness and removal of our sins.

Let us show our gratitude to our Father and God, because he has rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves.

Every good and perfect gift comes down to us from above, from the Father of light, because he has rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Bernard

"The goodness and humanity of our Savior God have appeared among us." We thank God for the many consolations he has given us during this sorrowful exile of our pilgrimage here on earth. Before the Son of God became man, his goodness was hidden, though God's mercy is eternal; but how could this goodness be recognized? It was promised but not experienced, and so very few believed in it. "Often and in many ways, the Master once spoke through the prophets."

Among other things, God said, "I think thoughts of peace, not of torment." But what did men answer, since they thought thoughts of torment, and knew nothing of peace? They said, "Peace; peace; but there is no peace." This answer made the "angels of peace weep bitterly," and say, "Master, who has believed our message?" But now people believe it because they see it with their own eyes, and because "God's evidence has now become even more believable." He has gone so far as to "make his residence in the sun" so that even the dimmest eyes can see him.

Notice that peace is not promised; it is sent to us; it is no longer put off, it is given; peace is not prophesied, but achieved. It is as if God the Father sent a purse full of his mercy to earth; and the purse burst open during the Master's suffering, to pour out its hidden contents: the price of our ransom.

It was only a small purse, but it was very full. As Scripture tells us, "A little child has been given to us, but the whole completeness of the Divine nature has its home in him." The fullness of time brought with it the fullness of divinity. God's Son came in the flesh so that mortal men could see and recognize God's kindness; when God reveals his humanity, his goodness cannot possibly remain concealed. What more could he do to show his kindness than to take my human form? And I say my humanity, not Adam's, not the humanity he had before his fall.

How could he have shown his mercy more clearly than by taking our condition upon himself? The Word of God became like grass for our sake. What better proof could he have given of his love? Scripture says, "Master, what is a human being that you should notice him; why does your heart go out to him?" The incarnation teaches us how much God cares for us and what he thinks and feels about us.

We should stop thinking of our own sufferings and remember what he has suffered. Let us think of all the Master has done for us, and then we will realize how his goodness appears through his humanity. The less he became through his human nature, the greater was his goodness; the more he lowered himself for me, the dearer he is to me. "The goodness and humanity of our Savior God have appeared," says the Emissary.

The goodness and humanity of God are really magnificent and evident. He has given us a marvelous proof of his goodness by adding humanity to his own Divine nature.

From all eternity God destined us in Prince Jesus to be his children by adoption, because it was his loving purpose to reveal in us the glory of his grace.

Long ago he knew us and chose to make us as a copy of his own Son, because it was his loving purpose to reveal in us the glory of his grace.

Prayer

Omnipotent and unseen God, since the coming of your light into the world has made darkness vanish, please teach us to announce the birth of your Son, Prince Jesus, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Third Reading: A Letter by St. Thomas à Becket

If those of us who are called bishops want to understand the meaning of our vocation and to deserve it, we must work hard to keep our eyes on the one God chose as high priest forever, and to follow in his footsteps. He offered himself to the Father on the altar of the cross for our sake; and he now looks down from heaven upon our actions and secret thoughts, and one day he will give each of us the payment our deeds deserve.

As successors to his Emissaries, we hold the highest rank in our communities; we have accepted the responsibility of acting as the Prince's representatives on earth; we receive the honor belonging to this office, and enjoy the temporal benefits of our spiritual labor. Therefore, it must be our endeavor to destroy the reign of sin and death, and, by nurturing faith and integrity of life, to build the Church of the Prince into a holy Temple in the Master.

There are a great many bishops in the church, and I wish to God we were the zealous teachers and shepherds that we promised to be at our consecration, and still profess to be. The harvest is good, and one reaper or even several of them would not be enough to gather all of it into the Master's granary; but the Roman Church remains the head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching.

Of this there can be no doubt. Everyone knows that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given to the Rock; and the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built upon his faith and teaching until we all reach maturity in the Prince and attain unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God.

Of course, there are many people needed to plant and many to water, now that the faith has spread so far, and the population has become so great. Even in ancient times, when the people of God had only one altar, many teachers were needed; this is even truer now for an assembly of nations so great that Lebanon itself could not provide fuel for sacrifice, and neither Lebanon nor Judea could supply with beasts for burnt offerings.

Still, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what he plants is the faith of the Rock, and unless he himself agrees with the Rock's teaching. All important questions that arise among God's people are referred to the judgment of the Rock in the person of the Roman Pontiff. Under him, the servants of Mother Church exercise the powers entrusted to them, each in his own sphere of responsibility.

Remember, then, how our fathers worked out their rescue; remember the sufferings through which the Church has grown, and the storms the Rock's ship has weathered because it has the Prince on board. Remember how the crown was gained by those whose sufferings gave new radiance to their faith; the whole company of saints bears witness to the unfailing truth that without real effort no one wins the crown.

The Master crowned you with holiness; he dressed you in glory. God, Israel's Holy One, has his home in you.

You have fought the good fight; you have run the race to the finish; now a crown of holiness is waiting for you. He dressed you in glory. God, Israel's Holy One, has his home in you.

Prayer

Omnipotent God, since you granted the martyr Thomas the grace to give his life for the cause of justice, by his prayers please make us willing to renounce for the Prince our life in this world so that we will find it in heaven. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

December 30

First Reading: Colossians 1.15-2.3

Prince Jesus is the visible counterpart of the invisible God and the first-born of the whole of creation, because everything in heaven and on earth was created in him; everything visible and invisible--Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, and Powers, everything--was created through him and for him; he himself exists before everything and everything is kept in existence in him.

He is also the head of the body which is the community; he is its Principality--its ruler and source--the first-born of the dead, so that he will have the first place in everything; because he thought it proper for all the fullness of being to be located in him, and for everything on earth and in heaven to be brought by him into conformity with him, as he made peace by shedding blood on his cross.

You once had transformed yourselves in the other direction, and had made your minds enemies of God by doing what was evil; but now you have changed back through the death of his material body, and can present yourselves as holy, blameless, and innocent before him, provided you keep yourselves firmly settled on your foundation of belief and do not move off the hope offered in the report of the good news you listened to--which has been delivered in every part of creation under heaven, and is the one I, Paul, am entrusted with.

I am happy now in what I am going through for you; I am in my own flesh completing what was left out of the Prince's suffering for that body of his which is the community, which I serve by the assignment God gave me to complete what God told us: the secret hidden for ages and for generation after generation, and now revealed to his sacred people: those God chose to be aware of what a wealth of glory there is for the Gentiles in this secret--which is the Prince who is in you, and who is your hope of glory, and is the contents of the information we give to every person, and the contents of the teaching of all the wisdom we offer to every person, so that we will be able to present every person as mature in the Prince; this is what I am working and struggling for with the energy that comes from him and works inside me with his power.

And I want you to know the extent of the struggle I am making for you and the Laodiceans, and all the people who have not seen me face to face; I am trying to have your hearts find support and for you to be knit together in love, and to arrive at the full richness of certainty in your knowledge because of your understanding of God's secret, the Prince, who conceals within himself the total accumulation of wisdom and knowledge.

The Prince is the head, and the Church is his body; he is the firstborn of the dead, so that in every way primacy is his.

Before anything came into being, he existed; he holds everything in unity, so that in every way primacy is his.

Second Reading: A Treatise on the Refutation of All Heresies by St. Hippolytus

Our faith is not based on empty words, and we are not driven by whim or taken in by plausble-sounding arguments; we put our faith in words spoken by the Power of God, spoken by the Word Himself at God's command. God wanted to win human beings back from disobedience by appealing to their free will by a call to liberty, not by using force to reduce them to slavery.

The Word spoke in the first place through prophets; but because that message was couched in such obscure language that it could only be imperfectly understood, in the final days the Father sent the Word in person, and commanded him to show himself openly so that the world could see him and be saved.

We know that he refashioned our human nature by taking a body from the Virgin; we know that his manhood was made of the same clay as our own; if this were not true, he could hardly have been a teacher who could expect to be imitated. If he were a different sort of reality from me, he certainly would not have ordered me to do as he did, when I am so weak by my own nature; this sort of demand could not be reconciled with goodness and justice.

No, he wanted us to consider him as no different from ourselves; and so he worked, he was hungry and thirsty, and he slept. He endured his suffering without protest, he submitted to death, and revealed his return to life; and in all these ways he offered his own manhood as the firstfruits of our race, to keep us from losing our courage when suffering comes our way, and to make us look forward to receiving the same reward as his, since we know that we possess the same humanity.

When we have come to know the true God, both our bodies and our souls will be immortal and incorruptible. We will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because while we lived on earth we acknowledged heaven's King. We will be friends of God and coheirs with the Prince, and subject to no evil desires or inclinations, or to any disability of body or soul, because we will have become divine. It was because of our human condition that God allowed us to endure these things; but when we have been deified and made immortal, God has promised us a share in his own attributes.

So the saying, "Know yourself" means that we should recognize and acknowledge in ourselves the God who made us in his own image; because if we do this, we will also be recognized and acknowledged by our Maker. So we ought not to be at war with ourselves; we should change our way of life without delay. "Because the Prince, who is God, elevated above all creation" has removed man's sin and has refashioned our fallen nature. In the beginning, God made man in his image, and so gave proof of his love for us; and if we obey his holy commands and learn to imitate his goodness, we will be like him and he will honor us. God is not miserly, and for his own glory he has given us a share in his divinity.

The Word became man, and lived among us; and we have seen how great he is, with a greatness that belongs to the only Son God ever fathered, full of God's blessings and truth.

He was seen on earth and lived among human beings; and we have seen how great he is, with a greatness that belongs to the only Son God ever fathered, full of God's blessings and truth.

Prayer

Omnipotent God, may the human birth of your Son free us from our former slavery to sin and bring us new life. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

December 31

Sylvester I, Pope

Ordained bishop of Rome in 314. He ruled during the reign of Constantine and during the Arian and Donatist heresies. Died in 335 and is buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Appian Way.

First Reading: Colossians 2.4-15

I am telling you this to keep any of you from being taken in by plausible-sounding arguments. Even if I am not there with you materially, I am with you in spirit, and I am happy to see how logical and solid your belief in the Prince is. And since you have accepted Prince Jesus as your Master, act in him, with your roots and your superstructure in him, and your foundation in the belief you were taught, so that you will overflow with thankfulness.

But be careful not to let anyone spoil this with "scientific facts" or empty speculation based either on human tradition or on the elements of the universe and not on the Prince; because he is the one who embodies the totality of divinity, and the one in whom you reach your fulfillment; he is the head of every Principality or Power; he is the one in whom you received the non-physical circumcision which is the cutting off of your material bodies--the Prince's circumcision, since when you were bathed and you sank into the water, you were buried with him, and that was when you came to life again by your belief in the activity of God who brings people back from death; and when you were dead bodies because of your immorality and the lack of material circumcision, he brought you to life with the Prince, and freely forgave all our immorality; he erased the debt we had written against us; he took it out of our record and nailed it to the cross--and while he was on it he also publicly stripped the Principalities and Powers and made them captured slaves in his triumphal march.

The fullness of divinity lives in the Prince's humanity; he is the head over every power and authority.

In our bath in baptism we were buried with the Prince, and in that bath we have risen to a new life with him through our faith in the power of God. He is the head over every power and authority.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Leo the Great

Although the condition of infancy, which the majesty of the Son of God did not find it undignified to assume, developed with the passage of time into the maturity of manhood, and although after the triumph of his suffering and return to life all the little acts he undertook on our behalf belong to the past, still, today's feast of Christmas renews for us the sacred beginning of Jesus's life: his birth from the Virgin Mary.

In the very act in which we are showing reverence to the birth of our Savior, we are also celebrating our own new birth; because the birth of the Prince is the origin of the Christian people; and the birthday of the head is also the birthday of the body.

Though each and every individual occupies a definite place in this body to which he has been called, and though all the offspring of the Church are differentiated and sealed with the passage of time, it is still true that just as the whole community of the faithful, which was once engendered in the baptismal font, was crucified with the Prince in his suffering, brought back to life with him in the resurrection and at the ascension enthroned beside the Father, that whole community is born with him at his birth, and that is what we are celebrating today.

That is, every believer given new life in the Prince, no matter in what part of the world he lives, breaks with that ancient way of life that comes from original sin, and is transformed by rebirth into a new man. From that time on, he is considered to be of the line of the Prince, not of his earthly father; of the Prince who became Son of Man precisely so that human beings could become children of God; because if he had not come down to us in his humility, none of us by our own merits could have gone up to him.

And so the greatness of the gift which he has bestowed on us demands an appreciation commensurate with its excellence; as the blessed Emissary Paul teaches, "We have not received the spirit of this world, we have received the Spirit which is from God, so that we could understand the gifts bestowed on us by God." The only way that he can be appropriately honored by us is by our offering him what he has already given to us.

But what can we find in the treasure of the Master's generosity more in keeping with the glory of this feast than that peace which was first proclaimed by the choir of angels on the day of his birth? It is that peace, from which children of God are born, that sustains love and is the mother of unity; it refreshes the blessed and shelters eternity; its characteristic function and special blessing is to join to God those it separates from this world.

And so, those "who were born from God, not from blood or material desire or human choice" should offer the Father their harmony as children united in peace; and all those he has adopted as cells in his body should meet in the firstborn of creation who came not to do his own will but the will of the one who sent him; because the grace of the Father has adopted as heirs those who are one thing in thought and love, not those who are fighting or disagreeing with one another. The hearts and minds of those who have been re-formed to one and the same image should be in agreement with each other.

The birthday of the Master is the birthday of peace, as the Emissary Paul says: "Because he is our peace, and has made us both one thing"; because whether we are Judean or Gentile, "through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father."

You were once far from God, but now you have been brought very near through the Prince's blood; the one who made us all one thing is himself our peace.

The Prince came to report the good news to us: peace to those of you who were far off, and peace to those who are near. The one who made us all one thing is himself our peace.

Prayer

Eternally alive God, since in the birth of your Son our religion has its origin and its perfect fulfillment, please help us share in the life of the Prince, because he is mankind's rescue, and is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Third Reading: Ecclesiastical History, by Eusebius of Caesarea

Glory to the omnipotent God, the King of the universe, for all his gifts, and thanks to Prince Jesus, the Savior and redeemer of our souls, through whom we pray that this peace will be preserved for us in a stable and unshaken way forever; and that it will be a peace that will keep us safe from trouble on the outside as well as from every anxiety and disturbance of soul.

When this bright, shining day, darkened by no cloud, shone with heavenly light on the churches of Christ through the world, even those outside our community shared at least some of the blessings God had bestowed on us, though they did not have the same reason for being happy. But it was especially true for those of us who placed our hopes in the Prince, that there was inexpressible joy and a heavenly happiness on every face. We saw every place that shortly before had been devastated by the tyrant's evil actions now restored to life, seeming to recover from a long and fatal disease. Churches were once again rising high into the air out of the ground, far surpassing in splendor and magnificence the ones that had previously been stormed and ruined.

Then came the sight that we had prayed and hoped for: dedication festivals through the cities, and the consecration of the newly-erected houses of worship. And for this there were convocations of bishops, gatherings of pilgrims from far-off lands, warm and loving contact between the different communities, as the members of the Prince's body united in complete unanimity.

The mysterious prophesy, "Bone came together with bone and joint came to joint" was fulfilled in this way, as were all the other prophesies that had been announced with no mistakes by prototypes and symbols. All the cells of the body were filled with the grace of the one divine Spirit, all of them were of one mind, with the same enthusiasm for the faith, and on the lips of all of them there was one hymn of praise.

Yes, and our bishops performed religious rites with full ceremonial; priests officiated at the liturgy, the solemn ritual of the Church, chanting psalms, proclaiming the other parts of the God-given Scriptures, and celebrating the divine mysteries. The bath was also administered, the sacred symbol of our Savior's suffering. Without the slightest distraction, men and women of all ages united in prayer and gratitude, with their minds and hearts full of joy as they gave glory to God, the giver of all good gifts.

The Prince's peace ought to reign in your hearts; you have been called as cells in one body to that peace; be thankful. All of you are one thing in Jesus the Prince.

Sing a new song to the Master; have the believers meet and sing his praises. All of you are one thing in Jesus the Prince.

Prayer

Master, please help and preserve your people by the prayers of Pope Sylvester. Please guide us always in this present life and bring us to the joy that never ends. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

January 1

Mary, Mother of God

First Reading: Hebrews 2.9-17

But we do see Jesus, the one who "became for a short time less than the angels," and who was, by his suffering and death, "crowned with glory and honor," so that he would taste death to bring the favor of God upon everything.

That is, it was appropriate that the one for whom everything exists and by whom everything exists would, in the act of leading many children to glory, complete the act by the suffering of the primary leader of their rescue; because the one who makes holy and those who are made holy come all from a single source. And this is the reason why he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters:"I will announce your name to my brothers; I will sing your praise in their gathering"; and also "I will exist in belief in him"; and again, "Here am I with the children God has given me."

And since the "children" all have blood and flesh in common, he too took an equal share of it, so that by his death he could nullify the power of the one who controls death, the devil, and set free those who through fear of death were enslaved their whole lives long.

That is, he is clearly not concerned with angels; he is "concerned with the descendants of Abraham." And it follows that it was appropriate for him to be like his brothers in every way, for him to be a merciful and faithful high priest in God's service, to win forgiveness for the sins of the people.

What a tremendous privilege you had, Virgin Mary, in carrying within you the Master and Creator of the world; you are the Mother of your Maker, and yet you remain a virgin forever.

We salute you, favorite of God; the Master is with you. You are the Mother of your Maker, and yet you remain a virgin forever.

Second Reading: A Letter by St. Athanasius

The Emissary tells us, "The Word took to himself the descendants of Abraham, and he had to be like his brothers in everything." He had then to take a body like ours. This explains the fact of Mary's presence; she is to provide him with a body of his own, to be offered for our sake. Scripture records her giving birth, and says, "She wrapped him in a blanket." He breasts, which fed him, were called privileged. Sacrifice was offered because the child was her firstborn. Gabriel used careful and wise language when he announced his birth; he did not speak of what will be born in you," to avoid the impression that a body would be introduced into her womb from outside; he spoke of "what will be born from you," so that we would know by faith that her child originated within her and from her.

By taking our nature and offering it in sacrifice, the Word was to destroy it completely and then invest it with his own nature, and so prompt the Emissary to say, "This corruptible body has to put on incorruption; this mortal body must dress itself in immortality."

This was not done only in outward appearance, as some have imagined; this is not true. Our Savior really became a human being, and from this the rescue of humanity as a whole has followed. Our rescue is not imaginary in any way, and it does not merely apply to the body. The rescue of the whole human being--that is, of soul and body--has really been achieved in the Word himself.

What was born to Mary was therefore human by nature, as the inspired Scriptures foretold, and the Master's body was a real body: it was a real body because it was the same as ours. Mary, you see, is our sister, because we are all descended from Adam.

The words of St. John--"The Word became flesh"--have the same meaning, as we can see from a similar turn of phrase in St. Paul: "The Prince became a curse for our sake." The human body has acquired something great through its connection and union with the Word; from being mortal, it has become immortal; though it was a living body, it has become a spiritual one; though it was made from dirt, it has passed through the gates of heaven.

Even when the Word takes a body from Mary, the Trinity remains a Trinity, with neither increase nor decrease. It is forever perfect. In the Trinity, we recognize one Divinity, and hence one God, the Father of the Word, is proclaimed in the Church.

Pure and holy Virgin, how can I find words to praise your beauty? The highest heavens cannot contain the God you carried in your womb.

You are the most remarkable woman in the world, for bearing such a remarkable offspring. The highest heavens cannot contain the God you carried in your womb.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, may we always become better by the prayers of the Virgin Mother Mary, just as you bring us life and rescue through Prince Jesus her Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Te Deum

We sing your praise as God;
we humbly call you Master.
The whole world honors you
as its eternal Father.
all the angels too,
the heavens and the Powers of the universe,
the cherubim and seraphim
cry out in chorus,
"Holy! Holy! Holy Master! God of power and might--
Heaven and earth are filled with the majesty of your glory!"
The glorious college of Apostles,
the venerable guild of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs chant their praise to you;
the holy Church throughout the world acclaims you
as Father of unfathomable majesty,
your true and only Son as worthy of our adoration,
and the Holy Spirit as our Patron.
You, our Prince, are the King of Glory,
the ever-eternal Son of the Father.
And as you undertook to set man free,
you did not recoil at the Virgin's womb;
and when you overcame the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to us believers;
and now you are enthroned beside God in the glory of the Father;
And we believe you will return to be our judge.
And so we beg you, please come to the aid of your family,
whom you have bought with your priceless blood.
Record them with the Sacred People in glory.
Please save your people, Master, and bless your inheritance,
And be their King and support from now for ever.
We sing your praises each and every day,
and sanctify your name for ages and for ages upon ages.
Grant us the blessing, Master, for this day,
to keep us free of sin.
Have your mercy, Master, descend upon us,
since we have put our trust in you.
I have placed my trust in you, my Master;
never let my hopes be shattered.

January 2 to Epiphany

Monday

First Reading: Colossians 2.16-3.4

So do not let anyone criticize what you are eating or drinking, or whether you are observing some traditional Judean festival or new moon or Sabbath; they are shadows of what was to happen; but the body that casts the shadow is the Prince's. Don't let anyone cheat you of what you have by trying to drag your minds down to worshiping angels, even if they pester you in the conceit of their materialistic minds with visions and things they have "seen"; they have lost the head on which the whole body, no matter what its ligaments or joints, depends and is held together, and grows with God's growth.

If you died with the Prince and passed away from the elements of the universe, why do you keep obeying them as if you lived in the universe? "Don't handle this." "Don't eat that." "Don't touch this." All this deals with what ceases to exist after it is consumed, and is based on human commands and learning; it may have reason or wisdom behind it, but only for those who worship their own wills, or whose minds are degraded, or who hate their bodies; but it is actually of no value even in satisfying a person materially.

But then if you did come back to life with the Prince, aim at what is above, where the Prince has his throne beside God's; give your attention to what is above, not what is on the earth. You died, remember, and your life is now concealed with the Prince in God; and when the Prince, who is our life, comes into the open, we will also come into the open with him in glory.

Since you share the Prince's risen life with him, give your attention to what is above, where the Prince is enthroned beside the Father; your thoughts are to be about heavenly things and not earthly ones.

Your heart is where you keep what you value. Your thoughts are to be about heavenly things and not earthly ones.

Second Reading: On the Holy Spirit, by St. Basil the Great

A spiritual man is one who no longer lives materially and is led by the Spirit of God; he is someone called a son of God, remade into an image of God's Son.

We can form a word either as a thought in the mind or a sound on the lips. So the Holy Spirit, in giving evidence to our spirits, cries out in our minds, "Abba! (Dad!)," or speaks in our place, as Scripture says, "It is not you who will be speaking; it is the Spirit of the Father who will be speaking in you."

In the gifts that he distributes, we can see the Spirit as a whole in relation to his parts. We are all organs of each other, but with different gifts, in accordance with the grace that God gives us. "So an eye cannot say to a hand that it doesn't need it, nor can the head tell the feet that it does not need them." All the organs together make up the body of the Prince in the unity of the Spirit, and do each other a necessary service through their gifts. God has arranged the various parts of the body as he himself willed, but there exists among all of them a spiritual fellowship which makes it natural for them to share each other's feelings and be concerned for each other. "If one organ feels bad, all the others feel bad; if one organ receives honor, all of them are happy together." In addition, in the same way as parts are present in a single whole, each of us is in the Spirit, since all those who make up the one body have been bathed into the single Spirit.

The Son is seen in the Spirit in the same sense as the Father is seen in the Son. To worship in the Spirit, then, is to have our minds open to the light, as we learn from our Master's words to the Samaritan woman. Since she was misled by the tradition of her country, she imagined that it was necessary to worship in a certain place; but our Master gave her a different instruction. He told her that a person must worship in Spirit and in truth, and clearly by "truth" he meant himself.

As we speak of worship in the Son because the Son is the visible counterpart of God the Father, so we speak of worship in the Spirit because the Spirit is the manifestation of the divinity of the Master. Though the light of the Spirit we can see the Son, the radiance of God's glory, and through the Son, the very stamp of the Father, we are led to the one who is the source both of his stamp, who is the Son, and of its seal, who is the Holy Spirit.

It is not the spirit of the world that we have received; it is the Spirit of God himself, so that we will know the gifts of God, because the Spirit penetrates the depths of everything, even the deep secrets of God.

God has now revealed in the Spirit to his holy Emissaries and prophets what no other human beings have known, because the Spirit penetrates the depths of everything, even the deep secrets of God.

Prayer

Master, please keep us true in the faith as we speak of your Son the Prince, who is one and the same as you in eternal glory, who became a human being and was born to a virgin mother; please free us from all harm and evil, and lead us to the joy of eternal life. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Colossians 3.5-16

So kill the parts of you that are earthly: casual sex, filthiness, passion, lust, and that greediness which is actually idolatry. These bring God's vengeance, and are the way you used to behave when you lived in them. But now take them all off: vengeance, anger, malice, cursing, and dirty language; don't lie to each other, because you have stripped off the human being you used to be with all of its properties, and have got dressed in a new humanity which keeps renewing itself in knowledge, following the pattern of its creator. Here there are no Greeks and Judeans, circumcised and uncircumcised, foreigners, Scythians, slaves or free people; the Prince is everything and is in everyone.

And the point is that you are to dress yourselves in what is proper for people chosen, sacred and loved by God: tenderness, kindness, humility, patience, and tolerance; put up with each other, and forgive anyone you have a grievance against; you are to forgive others in the way your Master forgave you. And over and above this put on love, which is the cord that ties perfection together.

And then the Prince's peace should govern your hearts; this is what you were called to when you all became a single body; be grateful for it. And what the Prince said ought to find a richly furnished home in you, as with all of his wisdom you teach and inform each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs which you sing with thankful hearts to God.

All those of you who have been bathed in the Prince have dressed yourselves in the Prince. Now all of us are one thing in Prince Jesus our Master.

No longer are we divided into Judean or Greek, slave or free, man or woman. All of us are one thing in Prince Jesus our Master.

Second Reading: A Treatise on John by St. Augustine

The Master, the teacher of love, came full of love in person "with summary judgment upon the world," as had been foretold of him, and showed that the law and the prophets are summed up in the two commandments of love.

Recall, my brothers and sisters, what these two commandments are. They ought to be very familiar to you; they should not only spring to mind when I mention them, they should never be out of your hearts. Keep always in mind that we must love God and our neighbors: "Love God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind, and your neighbor as much as yourself."

These two commandments must always be in your thoughts and your hearts, cherished, acted on, and fulfilled. Love of God is the first thing to be commanded, but love of neighbor is the first to be put into practice. In giving two commandments of love, the Prince would not call to your attention your neighbor first and then God, but first God and then your neighbor.

Since you do not yet see God, you come to deserve the vision of God by loving your neighbors. By loving your neighbors, you prepare your eye to see God. St. John clearly says, "If you do not love your neighbor whom you see, how can you love God whom you do not see?"

Consider what is said to you: Love God. If you tell me, "Show me what I am to love," what shall I say except what St. John says: "No one has ever seen God"? But in case you think that you are completely cut off from the sight of God, he says, "God is love, and anyone who remains in love remains in God." Love your neighbor, then, and see within yourself the power by which you love your neighbor; and there you will see God, as far as you are able.

And so begin by loving your neighbor. "Serve your bread to the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; if you see someone naked, give him clothes, and do not look down on your own flesh and blood."

What will you gain by doing this? "Your light will shine out like the dawn." Your light is your God; he is your "dawn," because he will come to you when the night of time is over. He does not rise or set, but is the same forever.

In loving your neighbor and caring for him, you are on a journey. And where are you traveling, if not to God the Master, to the one we should love with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind? We have not yet reached his presence, but we have our neighbors at our side; and so support these companions in your pilgrimage, if you want to come into the presence of the one with whom you desire to remain forever.

God loved us first, and sent his own Son to be the sacrifice that removes our sin. And since God has loved us so much, we certainly should also love each other.

We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us. And since God has loved us so much, we certainly should also love each other.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since your Son became like us in everything but sin when he was born to the Virgin Mary, may those of us who have been reborn in him be free from our sinful ways. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Colossians 3.17-4.1

Do everything you do and say everything you say in the name of Master Jesus, and be grateful to God, his Father, through him.

Women are to listen to their husbands; this is what is proper in the Master. Men are to love their wives and not be harsh with them. Children are to obey their parents in everything; this is what their duty is in the Master. Parents are not to push their children too hard, or they might give up.

Slaves are to obey their material masters in everything; and the service is not simply to be performed only when they are looking, as if what the masters see were the only important thing; no, it is to be wholehearted, out of respect for your real Master. When you do something, put your whole soul into it, and do it for the Master and not men, because you know that the salary you earn will be an inheritance from the Master. You are to be slaves of Master Jesus, in fact; and he will pay dishonest service what it deserves, because he has no favorites.

Masters, be honest and fair with your slaves, because you know that you too have a Master in heaven.

Whatever you say and whatever you do, do it all in the name of Master Jesus.

Thank our God and Father through his Son; do it all in the name of Master Jesus.

Second Reading: The Five Hundred Chapters by St. Maximus the Confessor

The Word of God, who was born once materially (this is how kind and good he is), is always willing to be born spiritually in those who long for him. He is born in them as an infant as he fashions himself in them by their virtues. He reveals himself to the extent that he knows someone is capable of receiving him. He lessens the revelation of his glory, not out of selfishness, but because he recognizes the capacity and resources of those who desire to see him; and yet, in the transcendence of mystery, he always remains invisible to everyone.

And this is why the Emissary Paul, as he reflects on the power of the mystery, says, "Prince Jesus, yesterday and today; he remains the same forever." You see, he understands the mystery as always new, never growing old through our understanding of it.

The Prince is God, because he had given everything its existence out of nothing. Yet he is born as a man by taking into himself our nature, matter endowed with intelligent spirit. A star glistens during the day in the East, and leads the wise men to the place where the incarnate Word is lying, to show that the Word, which was contained in the Law and the Prophets, surpasses in a mystical way knowledge derived from the senses, and to lead the Gentiles to the full light of knowledge. That is, it is certainly true that the word of the Law and the prophets, when understood with faith, is like a star which leads those who are called by the power of grace in accordance with his decree to recognize the Word incarnate.

Here is the reason why God became a perfect human being, changing nothing of human nature, except to take away sin (which was never natural anyway). His flesh was set before that ravenous, gaping dragon as bait to provoke him: flesh that would be deadly for the dragon, because it would totally destroy him by the power of divinity hidden within it. But for human nature, his flesh was to be a remedy, since the power of divinity in it would restore human nature to its original favor.

Parallel to the way the devil had poisoned the tree of knowledge and spoiled our nature by its taste, he is corrupted himself in presuming to eat the Master's flesh, and is totally destroyed by the power of the divinity hidden within it.

The great mystery of the divine incarnation remains a mystery forever. How can the Word become flesh be essentially the same person that is wholly with the Father? How can the one who is by nature God become by nature completely man without being bereft of either nature, neither the divine one by which he is God, nor the human one by which he became man?

It is only faith that grasps these mysteries; faith alone is the true reality and foundation of everything that goes beyond knowledge and understanding.

The Word became flesh and made his home among us; and we saw how great he was, with a greatness that belongs to the only Son God ever fathered, full of God's blessings and truth.

In the beginning, there was the Word, reason, the meaning of things; and the Word was face to face with God, and the word was God. And we saw how great he was, with a greatness that belongs to the only Son God ever fathered, full of God's blessings and truth.

Prayer

Omnipotent Father, since you sent your Son Prince Jesus to bring the new light of rescue into the world, may he please shine on us with his radiance, because he is the one who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Colossians 4.2-18

Be persistent in your praying; keep at it night and day with gratitude--and remember us sometimes in your prayers, and ask God to give us an opening for what we say as we talk about the Prince's secret--which is the reason I am in prison--so that I can reveal it as well as I ought to in what I say.

Behave wisely toward outsiders; take advantage of opportunities they offer. What you say should always be refined, and interesting to listen to; you should study how to adapt your conversation to different people.

Tychicus, our friend, brother, faithful servant and fellow-slave of the Master, will let you know all about me. This is the real reason I am sending him to you, to inform you about what we are and to give you support and encouragement. I am sending with him Onesimus, a faithful friend and brother, who is one of your countrymen. They will tell you all that is happening here.

Aristarchus, a prisoner with me, sends his regards, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have had instructions about him; if he comes, find a place for him to stay.) Jesus Justus also sends best wishes; he and Mark are the only converts from Judaism who work with me for God's kingdom; they have been a great comfort to me.

Your countryman Epaphras sends regards; he is constantly hard at work as the Prince's slave for you in his prayers to have you firm and mature and perfect in everything that God wishes you to be. I can tell you of my own knowledge how much work he does for you and for those in Laodicea and Hieropolis.

Our friend Luke the physician sends best wishes, and so does Demas.

Give our regards to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the community in her household.

When you have read this letter, please send it along to be read in the community at Laodicea, and ask for the one to Laodicea to be sent to you so that you can read it.

Tell this to Archippus: Take care of the service you have undertaken in the Master; be sure to complete it.

This salutation is in my own handwriting: PAUL.

Remember me in prison here in your prayers.

God's blessings on you.

Let us pray for each other that God will give us a chance to deliver the proclamation about the secret of the Prince.

May the Master open our lips to speak the praises of God, to deliver the proclamation about the secret of the Prince.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Augustine

What human being knows all the riches of wisdom and knowledge hidden in the Prince, concealed in the poverty of his flesh? Scripture says, "Though he was rich, he became poor for us to enrich us by his poverty." He showed himself poor when he took on our mortal nature and destroyed death; yet he promised us riches, because had not been robbed of his wealth; he was keeping it in reserve.

There are such great blessings from his goodness which he keeps ready from those who hold him in reverence and shows to those who put their hopes in him. Until he gives them to us in their fullness, we can have only the faintest conception of them; but to enable us to receive these blessings, the one who is in his divine nature the equal of the Father took on the condition of a slave and became like us, and in so doing restored our likeness to God. The only Son of God became a son of man to make men sons of God. He taught slaves by revealing himself in the form of a slave, and now he makes free men able to see him in the form of God.

"Yes, we are the children of God, and though what we will be has not yet been revealed, we know that when he appears, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is." That is, what are those treasures of wisdom and knowledge if not the one thing that can fulfill our longing? What are the great blessings of his goodness, if not the one thing that will satisfy us? And so "Show us the Father, and that will be all we need."

The Prince speaks both in us and for us when, in one of the psalms, he says to the Father, "I will be satisfied when your glory is revealed." The reason is that he and the Father are one and the same thing, and anyone who is looking at him is seeing the Father. "The Master of armies is himself the King of glory." He will transform us and show us his face, and we will be saved; all our longing will be fulfilled, all our desires will be satisfied.

But this has not yet happened; he has not yet given us the vision that will satisfy every desire; we have not yet drunk our fill out of the fountain of life. So while all this remains in the future and we still walk in faith, away from the Master, while we are still hungry and thirsty for virtue and yearn with inexpressible longing for God's beauty, we should celebrate with reverence the day he was born into our own slavish condition.

Since we can form no conception as yet of his being fathered by the Father before the morning star, let us keep the festival of his birth to a virgin in the hours of the night. Since it is still beyond our understanding that "his name lasts forever and existed before the sun," let us at least recognize "his residence" that he has placed "beneath the sun." We cannot look on him as the only Son, living forever with the Father, and so let us recall his "coming out like a bridegroom from his chamber." We are not yet ready for the Father's banquet, and so let us contemplate the feed box for the animals in which our Master Prince Jesus rested.

This life became visible; we have seen it and we announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

We know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we could know the true God; because we are in his Son, Prince Jesus, who is true God and eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

Prayer

Father, since you make known the rescue of mankind at the birth of your Son, please make us strong in faith and bring us to the glory you promise. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Isaiah 42.1-8

This is my servant, the one I support,
the one I chose, the one who pleases me,
the one on whom I placed my Spirit.
He will bring virtue upon the nations,
but not by ranting or shouting,
and without making his voice heard in the streets;
he will break no reed that is bruised
or quench a smoldering wick
before he sets virtue firmly upon the earth;
the shores will be eager for his teaching.
This is what is said by God YHWH,
who created the sky and spread it out
and who stretched out the earth with its crops,
who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk upon it:
"I, YHWH, have called you to witness the triumph of virtue;
I have taken you by the hand;
I gave you form and set you here
as a treaty for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring prisoners out of confinement,
and those who live in darkness out of their dungeons.
I am YHWH; this is my name,
and I give my glory to no one else;
and I yield no praise to idols.

This is my slave I have chosen; the one I love, who pleases me; every nation will have hope in his name.

My Spirit will rest upon him, and he will teach the nations the meaning of virtue; every nation will have hope in his name.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen

The Prince is bathed in light; we should also be bathed in light. The Prince is bathed in water; we should also go down with him, and come back out with him.

John is bathing people when Jesus approaches. Perhaps he comes to sanctify the one who is bathing him; but certainly, he comes to bury sinful humanity in the water. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and to prepare it for us; the one who is Spirit and matter comes to begin a new creation through Spirit and water.

The Bather protests; Jesus insists. Then John says, "I ought to be being bathed by you." He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Groom, the greatest of all who were born to woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leaped in his mother's womb in the presence of the one who was worshiped while in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of the one who has now come and is also to come again. "I ought to be being bathed by you" and we should add, "and for you," because John is going to be bathed in blood, washed clean like the Rock, but not merely by the washing of his feet.

Jesus rises out of the water, and the world rises with him. Heaven, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, is torn open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, and gives evidence of his divinity. A voice presents testimony to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit comes down in bodily form like the dove that so long before announced the end of the flood, and so gives honor to the body that is one and the same thing as God.

Today, then, let us do honor to the Prince's bath and celebrate this feast in holiness. Make yourselves totally clean and stay clean. Nothing gives as much pleasure to God as the return and the rescue of human beings, for whom every word of his and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, to be lights shining in the world. You are to be gleaming lights as you stand beside the Prince, the great light, bathed in the radiance of the one who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received--even if not fully--a ray of his splendor, emanating from the one God, in our Master Prince Jesus, to whom be glory and power through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the sky opened up, and the water of the sea became sweet and fragrant; the earth was overjoyed, the mountains and hills leaped with happiness, because the Prince was bathed by John in the Jordan.

What happened that the sea ran away, and the Jordan turned back on itself? Because the Prince was bathed by John in the Jordan.

Prayer

Master, please fill our hearts with your light, and have us always acknowledge the Prince as our Savior and be more faithful to his good news; because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Isaiah 61.1-11

The Spirit of God is upon me,
because YHWH has anointed me
to deliver a proclamation of good news for the poor,
to heal those with broken hearts,
to announce to captives that they are free,
and to open prisons for those chained in them,
to herald the year of YHWH's acceptance,
and the day our God takes his vengeance;
to comfort people who are grieving,
to console those in Zion who are in mourning:
to give them beauty to replace their ashes,
the oil of happiness to replace their grief,
clothes of praise to replace their depression,
so that they will be called trees of virtue
planted by YHWH for his own glory.
And they will rebuild the old ruins,
they will reconstruct what used to be desolate;
they will repair the ruined cities,
those abandoned for many generations.
Foreigners will stand by to guard your flocks,
and children of aliens
will be your plowmen and vinedressers;
while you will be called priests of YHWH,
and they will think of you as our God's slaves.
You will eat the riches of the Gentiles
and will bask in their glory.
Instead of shame, you will have twice as much respect,
and in place of consternation, they will be happy with their share.
And that is why they will have twice as much in their own lands,
and enjoy life forever.
Because I, YHWH, love virtue;
I hate stolen burnt offerings.
I will direct their work in the truth,
and will conclude an everlasting Treaty with them.
Their descendants will be famous among the Gentiles,
and their offspring well-known among all peoples.
Everyone who sees them will recognize them,
and know that they are the posterity YHWH blessed.
I will be ecstatic with my joy in YHWH;
my soul will brim over with happiness in my God,
because he has dressed me in clothes of rescue,
and covered me with a robe of virtue,
in the way a bridegroom dresses himself with finery
and a bride adorns herself with jewels.
Yes, just as the earth produces buds,
and as the garden makes what is planted spring up,
Master YHWH will make virtue
and praise spring up in the presence of the nations.

God's spirit rests on me, because the Master has anointed me, and has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, and to announce that captivity is now ended and prisoners are set free.

I have come from God and entered the world; and I did not come by myself; the Father sent me to heal the broken-hearted, and to announce that captivity is now ended and prisoners are set free.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Augustine

My friends, our Master Prince Jesus, the eternal creator of everything, has become our Savior today by being born from a mother. He was born for us today by his own free will, in time, so that he could lead us to the Father's eternity. God became man so man could become God. The Master of angels became man today so that man could eat the bread of angels.

Today, there is the fulfillment of the prophesy that said, "Pour down, heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the one who is virtuous; have the earth open up and bring out a savior." The Master who had created everything is himself created now, so that the one who was lost would be found. In this way man acknowledges, in the words of the psalmist, "Before I was brought down, I sinned." Man sinned and became guilty; God is born a man to free man from his guilt. Man fell, but God came down; man fell miserably, but God came down with mercy; man fell through pride, and God came down with his grace.

My brothers and sisters, what miracles these are! What astounding things! The laws of nature have changed for human beings. God is born. A virgin becomes pregnant with a man. The Word of God marries a woman who has no contact with a man; and she is now at one and the same time mother and virgin. She becomes a mother, but remains a virgin. The virgin bears a son, and yet she has no contact with a man; she remains untouched, yet she is not barren. He alone was born without sin, because she bore him without embracing a man, not by the desire of the flesh, but by the obedience of a mind.

We have seen this with our own eyes, and are swearing to it. The Father sent his own Son to be the Savior of the world.

He has come to remove the burden of our sins and to wash us clean of every stain of evil. The Father sent his own Son to be the Savior of the world.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternal God, since you give us a new vision of your glory in the coming of your Son the Prince, who was born from the virgin Mary and came to share our life, may we come to share his eternal life in the glory of your Kingdom, where he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Epiphany

First Reading: Isaiah 60.1-22

Stand up, shine,
because your light has come
and YHWH's glory has risen upon you.
And yes, darkness will cover the earth
and pitch-blackness surround the people;
but YHWH will rise over you
and his glory will shine on you.
Gentiles will come to your light
and kings will be attracted to the brightness of your rising.
Raise your eyes all around, and look:
they are all gathering, and coming to you;
your sons will come from far off,
and your daughters will be nursed at your side.
Then you will see, and glow,
and your hearts will swell with joy,
because the riches of the sea will be given to you
and the Gentiles' wealth will come to you.
Throngs of camels will cover your land,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
Everyone in Sheba will come
bringing gold and incense,
and singing the praises of YHWH.
All the flocks from Kedar will be brought together to you;
rams from Nebaioth will be sacrificed to you;
they will go up to my altar, at which they will be accepted,
and I will shine my glory into my glorious house.
Who are these people flying along like clouds,
like doves coming home to roost?
They are ships from Tarshish, coming at the front
to bring your children from far away,
carrying their silver and gold on them
in the name of your God YHWH,
the Holy One of Israel,
because he has given you glory.
Children of foreigners will build your walls,
and their kings will be your servants;
because I struck you down in my anger,
but I have had mercy on you because of my favor.
And that is why your gates will always be open--
not shut day or night--
so that people will bring you the wealth of the Gentiles,
with their kings leading the procession;
because the nation and kingdom not serving you will disappear;
those nations will be completely destroyed.
The glory of Lebanon will come to you:
cypress, pine, and box trees,
to beautify the place I make my sanctuary;
and I will make glorious where I place my feet.
And the children of those who tormented you
will come bowing down before you,
and everyone who despised you will fall prostrate at your feet;
and they will call you YHWH's city,
the Holy One of Israel's Zion.
And since you have been abandoned and hated,
so that no one went through you,
I will make you into the pride of eternity,
the joy of generation after generation.
You will drink the milk of the Gentiles
and milk the breasts of kings;
you will know that I, YHWH, the Mighty One of Jacob,
am your savior and your redeemer.
Instead of bronze, I will bring gold;
instead of iron, I will bring silver;
instead of wood, bronze,
and instead of stones, iron.
I will make peace your governor
and virtue your official.
Violence will no longer be heard in your land,
and neither will looting or destruction be within your borders;
you will call your walls, "Preservation,"
and your gates, "Praise."
The sun will no longer be your light in the day,
and the moon will no longer give you its brightness;
YHWH will be an eternal light for you,
and your God will illuminate you.
Your sun will never set
and the moon will never wane,
because YHWH will be your light forever,
and the days of your mourning will end.
And your people will all be virtuous;
they will inherit the land forever.
They are the branch I planted,
the work of my hands
so that I will be glorified.
The small one will become a thousand,
and a little one will become a great nation;
I, YHWH, will bring it about quickly when its time comes.

Stand up and shine, Jerusalem, because your light now has come; the radiance of your God has risen upon you.

All the nations will walk about in your brightness, and kings will go in the splendor of your dawn; the radiance of your God has risen upon you.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Leo the Great

The loving providence of God brought it about that in the last days he would help the world which was set on a course to ruin. He decreed that every nation would be saved in the Prince.

A promise had been made to the holy patriarch Abraham about these nations; he was to have a countless progeny, born not from his body but from the seed of faith; and so his descendants are compared with the army of the stars. The father of nations was to hope for offspring from above, not for earthly issue.

May the complete number of nations now take their places in the family of the patriarchs; the children of the promise should now receive the blessing of the offspring of Abraham, the blessing his physical descendants rejected. In the persons of the Wise Men, every people should adore the Creator of the universe; God is to be known in the whole world, not just in Judea, so that "his name will be great in all of Israel."

Dear friends, now that we have received instruction in this revelation of God's favor, we should celebrate with spiritual joy the day of our first harvesting and of the first calling of the Gentiles. We should show our gratitude to the God of mercy, "who has given us the privilege," in the words of the Emissary, "to share the position of the sacred people in light, who has rescued us from the power of darkness, and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves." As Isaiah prophesied, "The people of the Gentiles, who lived in darkness, have seen a great light; and those whose home is in the realm of the shadow of death have had a light dawn upon them." He spoke of them to the Master: "The Gentiles, who do not know you, will call upon your name, and the peoples who were ignorant of you will take refuge in you."

This is "the day that Abraham saw, and when he saw it it made him glad," when he knew that the sons born from his faith would be blessed in his offspring--or in other words, in the Prince. Since he believed that he would be the father of the nations, he looked into the future, "giving glory to God, in full awareness that God is able to do what he has promised."

This is the day that David prophesied in the psalms, when he said, "All the nations that you have brought into being will come and fall down in adoration in your presence, Master, and give glory to your name." Again, "the Master has made his rescue known; he has revealed his virtue in the sight of the nations."

This came to be fulfilled, as we know, from the time when the star beckoned the three Wise Men out of their distant country and led them to recognize and adore the King of heaven and earth. The obedience of the star calls on us to imitate its humble service: to be servants, as best we can, of the grace that invites everyone to find the Prince.

Dear friends, you must have the same zeal to help each other; and then, in the Kingdom of God, to which faith and good works are the way, you will shine as children of the light, through our Master Prince Jesus, who is alive and reigning with God the Father and the Holy Spirit through all the ages of ages. Amen.

This is the glorious day on which the Prince himself, the savior of the world, appeared; the prophets foretold him, the angels worshiped him; the Wise Men saw his star and were glad to lay their treasures at his feet.

God's holy day has dawned for us at last; come, all you peoples, and worship the Master; the Wise men saw his star and were glad to lay their treasures at his feet.

Prayer

Father, since you revealed your Son to the nations by the guidance of a star, please lead us to your glory in heaven by the light of faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Epiphany to The Master's Bath

Monday

First Reading: Isaiah 61.1-11

The Spirit of God is upon me,

because YHWH has anointed me
to deliver a proclamation of good news for the poor,
to heal those with broken hearts,
to announce to captives that they are free,
and to open prisons for those chained in them,
to herald the year of YHWH's acceptance,
and the day our God takes his vengeance;
to comfort people who are grieving,
to console those in Zion who are in mourning:
to give them beauty to replace their ashes,
the oil of happiness to replace their grief,
clothes of praise to replace their depression,
so that they will be called trees of virtue
planted by YHWH for his own glory.
And they will rebuild the old ruins,
they will reconstruct what used to be desolate;
they will repair the ruined cities,
those abandoned for many generations.
Foreigners will stand by to guard your flocks,
and children of aliens
will be your plowmen and vinedressers;
while you will be called priests of YHWH,
and they will think of you as our God's slaves.
You will eat the riches of the Gentiles
and will bask in their glory.
Instead of shame, you will have twice as much respect,
and in place of consternation, they will be happy with their share.
And that is why they will have twice as much in their own lands,
and enjoy life forever.
Because I, YHWH, love virtue;
I hate stolen burnt offerings.
I will direct their work in the truth,
and will conclude an everlasting Treaty with them.
Their descendants will be famous among the Gentiles,
and their offspring well-known among all peoples.
Everyone who sees them will recognize them,
and know that they are the posterity YHWH blessed.
I will be ecstatic with my joy in YHWH;
my soul will brim over with happiness in my God,
because he has dressed me in clothes of rescue,
and covered me with a robe of virtue,
in the way a bridegroom dresses himself with finery
and a bride adorns herself with jewels.
Yes, just as the earth produces buds,
and as the garden makes what is planted spring up,
Master YHWH will make virtue
and praise spring up in the presence of the nations.

The Spirit of God rests upon me, because the Master has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to announce that captivity is now ended and prisoners are set free.

I have come from God and entered the world; and I did not come by myself; the Father sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to announce that captivity is now ended and prisoners are set free.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Peter Chrysologus

In the mystery of our Master's incarnation there were clear indications of his eternal divinity; but the great events we celebrate today disclose and reveal in different ways the fact that it was God himself who took a human body. Mortal man, shrouded always in darkness, must not be left in ignorance, and in this way be deprived of what he can understand and grasp only by grace.

In choosing to be born for us, God chose to be known by us. And so he reveals himself in this way so that this great sacrament of his love will not be an occasion of serious misunderstanding for us.

Today the Wise Men find crying in a manger the one they followed as he shone in the sky. Today the Wise Men see clearly, wrapped in a blanket, the one they have long waited for as he lay hidden among the stars. Today the Wise Men gaze in deep amazement at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, man in God, God in man, one whom the whole universe cannot hold now enclosed in a tiny body. As they look, they believe and do not question their belief, as their symbolic gifts testify: incense for God, gold for a king, and myrrh for one who is to die.

So the Gentiles, who were last, become the first: the faith of the Wise Men is the firstfruits of the belief of the Gentiles.

Today the Prince enters the Jordan to wash sin off the world. John himself testifies that this is why he came: "Here is God's lamb; here is the one who rids the world of its sins." Today a slave lays his hand on the Master, a man lays his hand on God, John lays his hand on the Prince, but not to forgive him, but to receive forgiveness.

Today, as the psalmist prophesied, "The voice of the Master is heard above the water." What does the voice say? "This is my Son, the one I love, one with whom I am pleased."

Today the Holy Spirit hovers over the water in the form of a dove. A dove announced to Noah that the flood had disappeared from the earth; and now a dove is to reveal that the world's shipwreck is at an end forever. The sign is no longer the olive twig from the old stock; instead, the Spirit pours out on the Prince's head the full richness of a new anointing by the Father, to fulfill what the psalmist had prophesied: "And so God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows."

Today the Prince performs the first of his signs from heaven by turning the water into wine. But water has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that the Prince will be able to offer a spiritual drink from the cup of his body, to fulfill the psalmist's prophesy: "How wonderful is my cup, warming my spirit."

The Wise Men offered three precious gifts to the Master on that day, and each of these gifts has a divine significance: Gold signifies the power of a king, frankincense, the office of high priest, and myrrh, the Master's burial.

The Wise Men came to the stable to worship the source of our rescue, and from their treasures they offered these symbolic gifts: Gold signifies the power of a king, frankincense, the office of high priest, and myrrh, the Master's burial.

Prayer

Master, please let the light of your glory shine inside us and lead us through the darkness of this world to the radiant joy of our eternal home. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the endless ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Isaiah 62.1-12

For Zion's sake I will not be silent,
and I will not rest for Jerusalem's sake,
until her virtue shines out like the dawn
and her rescue becomes a burning lamp.
The Gentiles will see your virtue
and every king will look upon your glory;
you will have a new name
which YHWH's mouth will pronounce.
You will also be a shining winner's wreath
in YHWH's hand,
a royal crown
in the hand of your God.
You will no longer be called "Abandoned"
and your country will be named "Desolate" no more;
you will be called Hephzibah, "My Delight,"
and your land, Beulah, "Wedded,"
because YHWH finds pleasure in you
and your land will be married.
Yes, in the way a young man marries a maiden,
your sons will marry you;
and in the way a groom enjoys his bride,
your sons will enjoy you.
I have put watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be quiet, day or night.
Those of you who invoke YHWH, do not be silent,
and give him no rest until he restores Jerusalem
and makes it the pride of the earth.
YHWH has sworn by his right hand
and by the arm that is his strength
"I am determined not to give your grain
as food for your enemies
and the children of aliens will not drink your new wine
that you worked so hard for;
those who have harvested it will eat the grain
and praise YHWH,
and those who collected the grapes
will drink it in my holy courts."
Go through the gates; pass through them;
prepare a path for the people.
Build up a highway; build it up,
take out the stones,
and raise a banner for the nations.
Yes, YHWH has issued this proclamation
to the end of the world:
"Say to Zion, my daughter,
Your rescuer is certainly coming;
yes, and he has his payment with him,
and his work goes before him."
And his people will be called The Holy People,
those YHWH redeemed;
and you will be called "Frequented,"
a city that has not been left behind.

The nations will see your virtue, and every king will look on your glory; and the Master will himself give you a new name for you to be called by.

You will be a radiant winner's-wreath in the Master's hand, and a royal crown in the hand of your God. And the Master will himself give you a new name for you to be called by.

Second Reading: A Sermon on the Epiphany

attributed to St. Hippolytus

That Jesus would come and be bathed by John is certainly something that should amaze us. To think of the infinite river that gladdens the city of God being bathed in a poor little creek of what is eternal; the bottomless fountain that gives life to every human being being sunk into the shallow water of this transitory world! The one who fills all of creation, who leaves no place empty of his presence, the one who is incomprehensible to angels and hidden from human sight came to be bathed because it was his will. And "then the skies opened and a voice said, 'This is my Son, the one I love, the one who pleases me.'"

The Father who is loved sires love, and spiritual light gives birth to inaccessible light. In his divine nature, he is my only Son, though he was known as the son of Joseph. "This is my Son, the one I love." Though he is hungry himself, he feeds thousands; though he is tired, he refreshes those who are laboring. He has no place to lay his head, yet he holds all creation in his hand. By his suffering, inflicted on him by others, he frees us from the passions unleashed by our disobedience; by receiving a slap on his cheek, he gives the world its freedom; by being pierced in the side, he heals the wound of Adam.

I ask you now to pay close attention, because I want to return to that fountain of life and contemplate its healing water at its source. The Father of immortality sent his immortal Son and Word into the world; he came to us human beings to wash us clean with water and the Spirit. To give us a new birth that would make our bodies and souls immortal, he breathed into us the Spirit of life, and armed us with incorruptibility. Now if we become immortal, we will also be divine; and if we become divine after rebirth in the bath through water and the Holy Spirit, we will also be coheirs with the Prince after the return to life of the dead.

And so, I will cry out in the way a herald does, Peoples of every nation are to come and receive the immortality that flows from the Bath. This is the water that is linked to the Spirit, the water that irrigates Paradise, makes the earth fertile, gives growth to plants, and brings animals to birth--in short, this is the water by which a human being receives new birth and life, the water in which even the Prince was bathed, the water into which the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.

Whoever goes down into this water of rebirth with faith renounces the devil and pledges himself to the Prince. He repudiates the enemy and acknowledges that the Prince is God, he throws off his slavery and is raised to the status of a son. He comes up from the bath as radiant as the sun, resplendent in his purity; but above all, he comes out as a son of God and a coheir with the Prince. Glory and power now and through the ages of ages to him and his most holy, life-giving Spirit. Amen.

I saw the Spirit coming down from the sky like a dove and lighting on him. I saw this, and so I can swear that he is the Son of God.

The one who sent me to bathe you in water said to me, "The one on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest upon is the one who will bathe people in the Holy Spirit. And I saw this, and so I can swear that he is the Son of God.

Prayer

Father, since your Son became like us when he revealed himself in our nature, please help us to become like him, as he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Isaiah 63.7-19

I will go over the favors YHWH has bestowed
and YHWH's glorious deeds,
since YHWH has done so much for us,
and has shown such goodness toward the family of Israel;
he has bestowed this on them because of his mercy,
consistently with his tender love.
He said, "Yes, they are my people,
children who are not disloyal."
So he became their savior;
he shared all their suffering,
and his very presence was the messenger that saved them;
he redeemed them in his own love and pity.
He lifted them up and carried them
in all the days of ancient times.
But they rebelled and made his Holy Spirit grieve,
and so he turned against them as if they were enemies,
and fought with them.
But then he remembered the ancient times,
and his slave Moses, and said,
"Where is the one who brought them out of the sea
with the shepherd of his flock?
Where is the one who put his Holy Spirit into them,
who led them by the right hand of Moses,
with his glorious arm,
dividing the water in front of them,
to make himself an everlasting name;
who led them through the ocean
the way a horse is led through the wild country
so that they would not trip and fall?"
It was in the same way that an animal goes into the valley
and YHWH's spirit makes him take rest,
that you led your people
to make a glorious name for yourself.
Please look down from heaven
and see us from your holy, glorious residence.
Where are your zeal and your strength,
the longing of your heart and your mercies toward me?
Are they tied up?
Because you certainly are our Father,
though Abraham knew nothing of us
and Israel does not recognize us.
You, YHWH, are our Father;
your name is our Redeemer from Eternity.
YHWH, why have you made us wander off your paths
and hardened our hearts to fear of you?
Return to us, for your slaves' sake,
for the tribes that are your heritage.
Your holy people possessed the land for such a short time,
and our enemies have trampled on your sanctuary.
We have become like the ancient people you never ruled,
people never called by your name.
If only you would tear the sky open
and come down
with the mountains quaking before you!

Master, we are like people you never ruled, people never called by your name. If only you would tear the sky open and come down!

We have yearned for virtue and there is none; because rescue is kept far from us. If only you would tear the sky open and come down!

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Proclus of Constantinople

The Prince appeared in the world, and by bringing beauty out of disorder, he gave it luster and joy. He carried the world's sin and crushed the world's enemy. He sanctified the springs of water and enlightened men's minds. He wove even greater miracles into the tapestry of miracles.

Yes, on this day land and sea share between them the Savior's favor, and the whole world is filled with joy. Today's feast of the Epiphany shows even more wonders than the feast of Christmas.

On the feast of the Savior's birth, the earth found joy because it carried its Master in a manger; but on today's feast of the Epiphany, it is the sea that is happy and leaps for joy; it is happy because it receives the blessing of holiness in the river Jordan.

At Christmas we saw a weak baby, giving proof of our weakness. In today's feast, we see a complete man, hinting at the perfect Son who proceeds from the all-perfect Father. At Christmas, the King puts on the royal robe of his body; at Epiphany the very source of water enfolds and, so to speak, clothes the river.

So come and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of Virtue washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the service of a human being.

Today every creature shouts in a resounding song: "Praise the one who is coming in the Master's name!" Praise the one who comes in every age, because this is not his first coming.

And who is he? Tell us more clearly, please, blessed David: "The Master is God, and has shone upon us." David is not alone in prophesying this; the Emissary Paul adds his own testimony, when he says, "The favor of God has appeared bringing rescue to every human being, and teaching us." It was not to some human beings, it was to all of them: God bestows rescue through the Bath to Greeks as well as Judeans, and offers the Bath as the same favor for everyone.

So come and contemplate this new, marvelous deluge, which is greater and more important than the flood in Noah's time. Then the water of the flood destroyed the human race; but now the water of the Bath has recalled the dead to life by the power of the one who was bathed. In the days of the flood, the dove with an olive branch in its beak foreshadowed the fragrance of the good odor of the Prince our Master; now the Holy Spirit, coming in the likeness of a dove, reveals the Master of mercy.

Today Jesus, Light from Light, whom John bathed in the Jordan, has appeared to us; we believe that he was born from the Virgin Mary.

The sky opened above him, and the Father's voice was heard. We believe that he was born from the Virgin Mary.

Prayer

Dear God, light of every nation, please give us the joy of lasting peace and fill us with your radiance as you filled the hearts of our fathers. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Isaiah 64.1-11

If only you would tear apart the heavens
and come down
and make the mountains quake at your presence,
like a fire burning through brush,
a fire so hot water boils;
and this would make your enemies know your name,
and nations tremble before you,
as you performed miracles we did not expect.
In fact, since the beginning of the world
people have not heard or had it enter their ears,
and no eye has seen any God besides you
doing such deeds for those who are waiting for him.
You come to meet anyone who is happy and virtuous
and who remembers you and lives in your ways;
but you are very angry, because we have sinned,
and we continue in our sins,
and need to be saved.
We are like filth;
all our good deeds are simply dirty rags;
we are withering up like leaves
and our misbehavior, like the wind,
is carrying us away;
and there is no one who calls on your name,
or rouses himself to cling to you,
because you have hidden your face from us
and have eaten us up for our misdeeds.
But now, YHWH,
you are our Father;
we are the clay and you the potter,
and we are all the work your hands produced.
Please do not be enraged, YHWH,
or remember our guilt forever.
Please, look upon us; we are all your people,
and your holy cities are a wasteland;
Zion is a desert,
Jerusalem is a ruin.
Our holy, beautiful Temple
where our fathers gave you praise
has been burned to the ground,
and everything we used to enjoy is demolished.
Can you hold back, YHWH, after all this?
Can you remain silent and torture us this much?

Jerusalem, your rescue is coming swiftly; why are you eaten up with sorrow? Has your pain come back now that you have no one to advise you? I will save you and set you free; do not be afraid.

Because I am the Master, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Redeemer. I will save you and set you free; do not be afraid.

Second Reading: A Commentary on John

by St. Cyril of Alexandria

The Creator of the universe, in a plan of extraordinary beauty, decreed the renewal of everything in the Prince. In his design for restoring human nature to its original condition, he gave a promise that he would pour out on it the Holy Spirit along with his other gifts, because otherwise our nature could not take possession of those gifts once again.

And so, he chose a time for the Holy Spirit to come upon us; and this was the time of the Prince's coming. He gave this promise when he said, "In those days," that is, the Savior's days, "I would pour out some of my Spirit on all mankind."

When the time came for this great act of gratuitous generosity, which revealed among us the only Son God ever fathered dressed in flesh, a man born from woman, as Scripture predicted, God the Father gave the Spirit once again. The Prince, as the firstfruits of our restored nature, was the first to receive the Spirit; and John the Bather gave evidence of this when he said, "I saw the Spirit coming down from heaven and lighting on him."

The Prince "received the Spirit" insofar as he was man, and insofar as man could receive the Spirit. He did so in such a way that, though he is the Son of God the Father, sired from his reality even before the incarnation--in fact before time began--he was not insulted at hearing the Father say to him after he had become man, "You are my Son; today I have become your sire."

The Father says of the Prince, who was God, sired by him before time began, that he has been "sired today," because the Father is to accept us in the Prince as his adopted children. The whole of our nature is present in the Prince, insofar as he is man. So the Father can be said to give the Spirit again to the Son, though the Son possesses the Spirit as his own, so that we can receive the Spirit in the Prince. And that is why the Son took upon himself the descendancy from Abraham, as Scripture says, and became like his brothers and sisters in everything.

The only Son God ever Fathered receives the Spirit, but not for his own benefit, because the Spirit is his, and is given in him and through him, as we have already said. He receives it to renew our nature in its completeness and to make it whole again, since in becoming man he took our entire nature upon himself. If we reason correctly, and also use the evidence of Scripture, we can see that the Prince did not receive the Spirit for himself, but instead for us in him; because it is also through the Prince that every gift comes down to us.

I will be their God and they will be my people; the nations will know that I am the Master, the Sanctifier of Israel, when my holiness will be established among them for all eternity.

I will bring to fulfillment my new Treaty with the house of Israel and the house of Judah; the nations will know that I am the Master, the Sanctifier of Israel, when my holiness will be established among them for all eternity.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since the hope of eternal life dawned on our world through your Son the Prince, please give us the light of faith, so that we will always acknowledge him as our Redeemer and come to the glory of his Kingdom, where he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Isaiah 65.13-25

This is what is said by YHWH:
"My slaves will now eat,
but you will go hungry;
now my slaves will drink,
but you will stay thirsty;
my slaves will now be happy,
and you will be disgraced;
my slaves will sing in the joy of their hearts,
and you will scream in your heart's anguish,
and sob out the grief in your spirit.
You will leave your name to my chosen people as a curse,
because God YHWH will slaughter you
and call his slaves by another name;
so that a person who blesses himself on the earth
will bless himself in the God of truth;
because the troubles that once were are forgotten,
and because they are concealed from my sight.
You see, now I am creating a new sky and a new earth,
and the old ones will not be remembered or thought of.
So be happy and enjoy forever what I am creating,
because I am now creating Jerusalem for joy.
I will find my pleasure in Jerusalem
and my happiness in my people;
the sound of weeping will no longer be heard in her,
nor will there be the noise of sobs.
An infant there will no longer live only days;
nor will an old man not have lived his life to the full;
one who dies at a hundred years will die a child;
but a hundred-year-old sinner will feel the curse.
The people will build houses they will live in;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They will not build anything for someone else to inhabit,
they will not plant what someone else eats;
because my people will age like trees,
and my chosen ones will enjoy for ages what their own hands did.
They will not work with no result,
or give birth to children for trouble,
because they will be offspring of those YHWH has blessed,
and so will their own children.
I will bring it about
that I will answer them before they call;
and I will listen while they are still speaking.
Wolves and lambs will forage together,
and lions eat hay like oxen,
but snakes will still eat dirt.
There will be no pain or destruction
on all my holy mountain," says YHWH.

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, and I heard a voice from heaven, which said, "This is God's residence among human beings; and he will make his home with them."

The Master will wipe every tear from their eyes; death will no longer have control of them, because everything that used to exist has disappeared. This is God's residence among human beings, and he will make his home with them.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Maximus of Turin

The Good News tells us that the Master went to the Jordan River to be bathed and that he wished to consecrate himself in the river by signs from heaven.

Reason demands that this feast of the Master's Bath, which I think should be called the feast of his birthday, should follow soon after the Master's birthday, during the same season, even though many years intervened between the two events.

At Christmas he was born a man; today he is reborn sacramentally. Then he was born from a Virgin; today he is born in mystery. When he was born a man, his mother Mary held him close to her heart; when he is born in mystery, God the Father embraces him with his voice when he says, "This is my Son, the one I love, one with whom I am very pleased; listen to him." The mother caresses the tender baby on her lap; the Father serves his Son by his loving testimony. The mother holds the child for the Wise Men to adore; the Father reveals that his Son is to be worshiped by every nation.

That is why Master Jesus went to the river for the Bath, and that is why he wanted his holy body to be washed with Jordan's water.

Someone might ask why a holy man would want a Bath; listen to the answer: The Prince is bathed, not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by his cleansing to purify the water which he touched. You see, the consecration of the Prince involves a more significant consecration of the water.

That is, when the Savior is washed, all water for our Bath is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of the grace of the Bath to the people of future ages. The Prince is the first to be bathed, then, so that Christians will follow him with confidence.

I understand the mystery in this way: The column of fire went before the descendants of Israel through the Red Sea so that they could follow on their brave journey; the column went through the water first to prepare a path for those who followed. As the Emissary Paul said, what was accomplished then was the mystery of the Bath. Clearly, it was a Bath in some sense when the cloud was covering the people and bringing them through the water.

But our Master the Prince does all this: in the column of fire, he went through the sea before the descendants of Israel; now in the column of his body, he goes through the Bath before the Christian people. At the time of the Exodus, the column provided light for the people who followed; now it gives light to the hearts of believers. Then it made a firm pathway through the water; now it strengthens the footsteps of faith in the Bath of Baptism.

John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "That man is God's Lamb; he is the one who has rid the world of its sin."

He will make many, many people virtuous and will carry our sins himself. He is the one who has rid the world of its sin.

Prayer

Omnipotent Father, since you have made known the birth of the Savior by the light of a star, may he please continue to guide us with his light, as he is living and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Isaiah 66.10-14, 18-23

"Congratulate Jerusalem,
and celebrate with her, all of those of you who love her;
Be happy with her joy, those who were mourning for her,
so you will feed yourselves and become full
with comfort from her breasts;
drink deep and enjoy yourselves
from the wealth of her glory.
I will bring peace over her like a flooding river,
and the prosperity of the nations will come in a flowing stream,
and then you will feed upon her
as she carries you in her arms
and fondles you in her lap,
in the way a mother soothes her son,
I will soothe you,
and you will find your comfort in Jerusalem.
When you see this, your hearts will overflow with joy,
and your bodies flourish like grass;
YHWH's power will be known by his slaves,
and his enemies will feel his rage.

I will gather every nation and language, and they will come here and see my glory. I will put a symbol among them, and I will send those who have escaped to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant shores who have not heard my reputation or seen my glory; and they will tell of it among the Gentiles. Then they will bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to YHWH, on horses, in chariots, on litters, on mules, and on camels to my holy mountain Jerusalem," says YHWH, "in the same way the descendants of Israel bring undefiled utensils into YHWH's house; and I will also take some of them for priests and Levites," says YHWH.

"Your descendants and your name will stay
as long as the new sky and new earth
I am to make will remain in my presence;
from one New Moon to the next,
from one Sabbath to the next,
everything material will come to give worship in my presence,"
says YHWH.

Now I am coming to bring together every nation and language; they will come and see my glory and tell of it to far-off lands.

I have revealed your name to those you gave me out of the world; I now send them as you sent me. They will come and see my glory and tell of it to far-off lands.

Second Reading: A Sermon by Faustus of Riez

"Two days later there was a wedding." What wedding could this be but the happy marriage of man's rescue, a marriage celebrated by acknowledging the Trinity or by faith in the return to life of Jesus. That is why the marriage took place "on the third day," which is a reference to the sacred mysteries which this number symbolizes.

This is also why we read elsewhere in the Good News that the return of the younger son--that is, the conversion of the pagans--is marked by song, music, and wedding clothes.

Our God descended to earth in his incarnation "like a bridegroom coming from his wedding chamber," so that he would be united to his Church, which was to be formed from the pagan nations. He gave her a pledge and a dowry: a pledge when God was united to human beings; a dowry when he was sacrificed to rescue mankind. The pledge is our present redemption; the dowry is eternal life.

To those who can only see with material eyes, all these events at Cana are strange and wonderful; to those who have understanding, they are also signs. You see, if we look closely, the water tells us of our rebirth in the Bath; one thing is turned into another from within, and in a hidden way a lesser creature is turned into a greater one. All this points to the hidden reality of our second birth; there, water was changed; later it will cause a change in human beings.

By the Prince's action in Galilee, then, wine is made; that is, the law yields and grace takes its place; the shadows vanish and truth is there; material realities are coupled with spiritual ones, and the old Treaty with its outward regulations is transformed into the new one. As the Emissary says, "The old order has gone away; now, everything is new." The water in the jars is not less than it was before; but it now begins to be what it had not been. In the same way, the Law was not destroyed by the Prince's coming, but was made better than it was.

When the wine runs out, new wine is served: the wine of the old Treaty was good, but the wine of the new one is better. The old Treaty, which the Jews follow, is totally summed up in its letter; the new Treaty, which belongs to us, has the taste of life and is filled with grace.

The "good wine," that is, good rules, refers to the Law. This is what we read: "You are to love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But the Good News is a better and stronger wine. "My command to you is, love your enemies; pray for those who oppress you."

You will shine with wondrous light, city of God; all the ends of the earth will see your light and worship the Master. The Nations will come to you from far off; and they will come with gifts to worship the Master.

They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south; and they will come with gifts to worship the Master.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you made us a new creation through your Son, who shared our nature and became one of us, may we please become more like him with his help, as he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Ordinary Time

First Sunday:

The Master's Bath

First Reading: Isaiah 42.1-9, 49.1-9

Here is my slave, whom I support,

the one I chose, one who pleases me,
the one on whom I put my spirit.
He will give birth to honesty for the nations,
not by shouting, not screaming,
not making his voice heard in the streets.
He will not break a bruised stalk,
and will not quench a smouldering wick
until he brings honesty about on the earth;
all the shores are waiting for his teaching.
This is what is said by God YHWH,
the one who created the heavens and spread them out,
who spread out the earth below with its crops,
who gives breath to his people
and spirit to those walking there:
"I, YHWH, have called you for honesty to conquer;
I have taken you by the hand;
I formed you and set you down there
as a Treaty among the people,
a light for the nations:
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring prisoners out of confinement,
and those who live in darkness out of their dungeons.
I am YHWH; this is my name;
I give my glory to no one else,
and do not lend praise of me to idols.
Now what existed earlier has already happened;
but now I am foretelling something new;
before it comes out into existence
I am announcing it to you."
Listen to me, all you shores,
pay attention, peoples living far off.
YHWH called me from birth;
he gave me my name from my mother's womb.
He made me into a sharp-edged sword
and hid me in the shadow of his arm;
he made me a polished arrow
and hid me in his quiver.
"You are my slave," he said to me,
"Israel, the one through whom I reveal my glory."
Though I thought I had worked for no purpose,
and spent my strength uselessly, for nothing,
it turns out that my reward comes with YHWH,
and my pay from my God.
And now this is said by YHWH,
who formed me from the womb to be his slave,
to bring Jacob back to him,
so that Israel gathers to his side
(Because I will be glorious in YHWH's eyes
and my God will be my strength);
Yes, he says,
"It is too little for you to be my slave
to elevate the tribes of Jacob,
and to restore those of Israel I have preserved.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
so that you will bring my rescue to the ends of the earth."
This is what is said by YHWH,
the liberator of Israel, their Holy One,
"Kings will see and come forward,
and rulers will worship
the one human beings despise,
the one nations detest,
the slave of kings;
because of YHWH, who is loyal,
Israel's Holy One,
who has chosen you."
This is what YHWH says:
"I heard you at the opportune moment;
I gave you help on the day of your liberation;
I will keep you safe and give you
to the people as a Treaty,
to restore the earth,
and parcel out the abandoned heritages,
so that you can tell prisoners, 'Come out,'
and those in darkness, 'Show yourselves.'"

Today in the Jordan as the Master was bathed, the sky opened up and the Spirit lighted on him in the form of a dove; the Father's voice was heard, "This is the Son I love, who pleases me greatly."

The Spirit came down in visible form as a dove, and a voice from heaven was heard, "This is the Son I love, who pleases me greatly."

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen

The Prince is bathed in light; we should also be bathed in light. The Prince is bathed in water; we should also go down with him, and come back out with him.

John is bathing people when Jesus approaches. Perhaps he comes to sanctify the one who is bathing him; but certainly, he comes to bury sinful humanity in the water. He comes to sanctify the Jordan for our sake and to prepare it for us; the one who is Spirit and matter comes to begin a new creation through Spirit and water.

The Bather protests; Jesus insists. Then John says, "I ought to be being bathed by you." He is the lamp in the presence of the sun, the voice in the presence of the Word, the friend in the presence of the Groom, the greatest of all who were born to woman in the presence of the firstborn of all creation, the one who leaped in his mother's womb in the presence of the one who was worshiped while in the womb, the forerunner and future forerunner in the presence of the one who has now come and is also to come again. "I ought to be being bathed by you," and we should add, "and for you," because John is going to be bathed in blood, washed clean like the Rock, but not merely by the washing of his feet.

Jesus rises out of the water, and the world rises with him. Heaven, like Paradise with its flaming sword, closed by Adam for himself and his descendants, is torn open. The Spirit comes to him as to an equal, and gives evidence of his divinity. A voice presents testimony to him from heaven, his place of origin. The Spirit comes down in bodily form like the dove that so long before announced the end of the flood, and so gives honor to the body that is one and the same thing as God.

Today, then, let us do honor to the Prince's bath and celebrate this feast in holiness. Make yourselves totally clean and stay clean. Nothing gives as much pleasure to God as the return and the rescue of human beings, for whom every word of his and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all mankind, to be lights shining in the world. You are to be gleaming lights as you stand beside the Prince, the great light, bathed in the radiance of the one who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received--even if not fully--a ray of his splendor, emanating from the one God, in our Master Prince Jesus, to whom be glory and power through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the sky opened up, and the water of the sea became sweet and fragrant; the earth was overjoyed, the mountains and hills leaped with happiness, because the Prince was bathed by John in the Jordan.

What happened that the sea ran away, and the Jordan turned back on itself? Because the Prince was bathed by John in the Jordan.

Prayer

Father in heaven, since you revealed the Prince as your Son by the voice that spoke over the water of the Jordan, please let all of us who share in the Prince's sonship follow in his path of service to the human race, and reflect the glory of his Kingdom even to the ends of the earth, because he is Master through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Sirach 1.1-20

All wisdom comes from YHWH,
and is with him for ever.
Can anyone count the sand by the sea,
the drops of rain, the days of eternity?
Who is there to explore the height of heaven,
the breadth of earth, the deep abyss, and wisdom?
Wisdom was created before everything,
and good judgment and understanding are eternal.
Has anyone had wisdom's root revealed to him?
Who knows its subtleties?
There is one person whose wisdom is extraordinarily awesome:
the one seated upon his throne.
He is its master; he saw it, comprehended it,
and poured it out on everything he has done.
It is there with every living body, from his gift;
he has showered it upon his friends.
Fear of YHWH is honor and glory,
and happiness and a crown of joy.
Fear of YHWH warms a person's heart,
and gives it happiness and joy and a long life.
The end will be pleasant for a person who fears YHWH,
and he will find favor on the day of his death.
The beginning of wisdom is to have reverent fear of God;
and this is formed in faithful souls within the womb.
It has an eternal foundation in such men,
and it will be passed on to their offspring.
The totality of wisdom consists in reverent fear of YHWH;
it fills human beings with its yield.
It fills up all their households with longed-for gifts,
and crams their granaries with its harvests.
The winner's crown of wisdom is reverent fear of YHWH,
since it blossoms into peace and perfect health;
it rains down understanding and knowledge,
and raises those who dominate it to honor.
The root of wisdom is reverent fear of YHWH,
and its branches are a long life.

Has anyone had wisdom's root revealed to him? Who knows its subtleties? The Supreme God has poured it out upon everything he has done; and he has given it as a gift to everyone who loves him.

All wisdom comes from the Master, who created it through the Holy Spirit; and he has given it as a gift to everyone who loves him.

Second Reading: Letter to Corinth by St. Clement I

We will keep praying constantly to the Creator of the universe for those he has chosen scattered through the world. We pray that he will not allow any of them to lapse, and will preserve them all through the Son he loves, Prince Jesus, through whom he called us out of darkness into light, and out of ignorance into the knowledge of his name.

Please give us the gift, Master, to put our hope in your name, to which every creature owes its reality. Please open our hearts' eyes to know you alone, "the highest one in the highest heavens, the holy one whose residence is in holiness. You level the arrogance of the conceited, you frustrate the schemes of atheists, you elevate the little ones and bring down the high ones. You give people wealth and take it away, you kill them and preserve them and give them new life." You alone are the benefactor of "spirits and the God of everything material, and your gaze penetrates even into deep recesses," as you observe what human beings do. You are the helper of those in danger, the "savior of those in despair"; you created and still watch over everything that has breath. You make peoples on earth multiply, and from them all you choose those who are to love you through Prince Jesus, the Son you love. It is through him that you have taught us, sanctified us, and given us honor.

Master, we beg you, please help us. Please come to assist those in pain, have pity on the downtrodden, raise those who have fallen, show your face to those in need, heal the sick, convert the wanderers, feed the hungry, set captives free, support the weak, and encourage cowards. Please have all nations know that only you are God, that Prince Jesus is your Son, and that "we are your people and the sheep in your pasture."

Master, you created the world in accordance with the eternal decree that is now revealed in what you have done. You are faithful through all the ages, just in your pronouncements, and awesome in power and majesty. You formed your creation with wisdom, and set it up with good judgment; everything we see proclaims your goodness. You are kind and merciful, and never fail those who put their trust in you. Please forgive our faults and sins; do not hold all your slaves' acts of disobedience against them, and purify us by your truth, and "guide our steps" in such a way that "by walking in holiness and virtue and simplicity of heart we will do what is good and pleasing" in your sight and in the sight of those in authority over us.

Please, Master, "let the light of your face shine upon us, so that we will enjoy your blessings" in peace, protected by your strong hand, and freed from every sin by your outstretched arm; and please set us free from those who hate us without reason for doing so.

Please give peace and harmony to us and to all mankind, just as you gave it to our ancestors "when they reverently called upon you in faith and truth." Master, you are the only one who can bestow these gifts--and even greater benefits--upon us. We praise you through Prince Jesus, our high priest and the defender of our souls, through whom may you receive glory and majesty now and for every generation, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles.

You have shown your power to the nations; and with your strong arm, you have liberated your people. You are the God who performs miracles.

Prayer

Father of love, please listen to our prayers; help us to know your will and to perform it with courage and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Sirach 11: 12-28

Here is a man who is slow, needing help,
weaker than others, and full of poverty,
and YHWH's eyes look favorably on him,
and he raises him above his miserable condition,
and holds his head up,
and everyone is astonished at him.
Goodness and badness, life and death,
poverty and riches, are in YHWH's hands.
Wisdom, good judgment, practical knowledge,
love, and virtuous conduct come from YHWH.
Error and darkness were created in sinners from their birth,
and evil grows old along with perpetrators of wrong.
God's gift lasts with the reverent,
and his favor brings eternal success.
There are those who grow rich by scrimping and saving,
and this is all the reward that they are offered.
When they say, "Now I can rest;
I will enjoy what I have,"
they do not know how long they have
before they die and leave it all to someone else.
But you commit yourself to what you agreed to do,
and work hard at it,
and grow old in your work.
Do not be surprised at what sinners do;
believe in YHWH, and keep at your work;
because it is simple in YHWH's eyes
to make a poor man rich in an instant.
God's blessing is the reward for being reverent,
and his good word will have its harvest at the proper time.
Do not say, "What is there for me in this?"
Or "how can I be better off for this?"
And do not say, "I am ruler of my life,
what harm can come to me from now on?"
In times of prosperity, we forget adversity,
and in bad times, we forget the good.
But it is a simple thing for YHWH on the day of death
to give a man what his deeds have earned.
The anguish of the moment makes one not remember pleasure,
and it is at the end that his life becomes clear.
Do not call anyone successful before his death,
because it is by his end that a man is known.

When the wealthy man says, "Now I can rest and enjoy what I have," he does not know how long he has before he dies and leaves it to someone else.

The rich man said in his heart, "I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and put everything I have in them," but he does not know how long he has before he dies and leaves it all to someone else.

Second Reading: Rules for Monks by St. Basil the Great

Love of God cannot be taught. We did not learn from anyone how to enjoy light or the desire to live, or that we love our parents or guardians; and it is the same--perhaps even more--with our love for God; it does not come by being taught by someone else. As soon as a living creature--man--comes into existence, the faculty of reason is planted in us like a seed that contains within it the ability and need to love. When the school of God's law takes in this faculty of reason, it cultivates it carefully, tends it with skill, and with God's help brings it to full flower.

And this is why I find you by God's gift with the zeal required to reach this goal, and on your side you help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I can through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to carry out his commands; and so we have no reason to resent them, as if we were being asked something beyond our capacity. We also have no reason to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we have received. When we use this ability in the proper, suitable way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness; but if we misuse it, we fall into sin.

And this is the definition of sin: the misuse of power given us by God for doing good; a use contrary to God's commandments. But on the other side, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience and in accordance with God's command.

Given this, we can say the same thing about love. Since we received a command to love God, then we have from the first moment of our existence an innate power and ability to love. The proof of this need not be looked for outside ourselves; each of us can learn it from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and look attractive--though at first, different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near us, even though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel benevolent toward our benefactors.

But I ask you, what is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more attractive or satisfying than God's majesty? What desire is stronger or overpowering than the desire planted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and which cries out in its love, "I am wounded by love"? The radiance of God's beauty is completely beyond the power of words to describe.

I love you, Master, my strength, my Master, my Rock, my fortress, my liberator.

God is my Rock; I find protection in him; my Master, my Rock, my fortress, my liberator.

Prayer

Father of love, please listen to our prayers, and help us to know your will and to carry it out with courage and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Sirach 24.1-22

Wisdom sings its own praises,
and boasts before its own people.
It opens its mouth where the Supreme Ones meet,
and boasts before these Powers,
"I have come out of the mouth of the Supreme Being,
and covered the earth in my cloud.
My home is in the highest regions,
and my throne is on a pillar of cloud.
I alone exist throughout heaven's dome,
and wander in the earth's deep abysses.
I am in the waves in the ocean
and in the whole of the earth,
and I own every people and nation.
I looked for a resting-place among all of them,
and searched for the inheritance in which to live.
Then the Creator of everything gave me an order,
and the one who formed me set up my tent;
he said, "You are to make your home in Jacob,
and Israel is your inheritance."
He created me before time began,
and I will not leave for all eternity.
I was his personal servant in his holy tent,
and in this way I came to live in Zion.
In the same way, he set me down in the city he loved,
and gave me authority in Jerusalem.
And I took root in an honorable people,
in the share allotted to YHWH's inheritance.
I grew tall as a cedar on Lebanon,
like a cypress on Mount Hermon;
I grew tall as a palm tree in Engedi,
like a rose in Jericho,
like a beautiful olive tree in the field,
like a plane tree on a bank.
I gave off the scent of cinnamon and balm,
and was redolent of the perfume of myrrh,
and of galbanum and onycha and exotic spice,
and of frankincense in the holy tent.
I spread out my branches like a terebinth,
and my branches are smooth and graceful;
I yielded pleasures like a vine,
and my blossoms become rich fruits.
Come to me, everyone attracted to me,
and fill yourselves with my fruit;
because recalling me is sweeter than honey,
and my legacy is better than a honeycomb.
One who eats me will still be hungry,
and one who drinks will still have thirst;
one who obeys me will never feel disgrace,
and those who serve me will never fail."
All this is what the Book of the Treaty of the Supreme Being is,
the law Moses commanded us to obey,
the inheritance of the community of Jacob.

I am the way, and I am truth and life; no one can come to the Father except through me.

In the beginning, before time began, he created me, and through eternity I will not leave. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Second Reading: Treatise Against Heresies by St. Irenaeus

No one can know the Father independently of God's Word, or in other words, unless the Son reveals him; and no one can know the Son unless the Father wills it.

Now the Son fulfills the Father's wishes; the Father is the one who sends, the Son is sent, and he comes. The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension, but he is known by his Word, who tells us of the one who is beyond all telling. But it is also true that only the Father knows his Word; and the Master has revealed both truths. And so the Son reveals the knowledge of the Father by his revealing himself; knowledge of the Father consists in the self-revelation of the Son, because everything is revealed through the Word.

The Father's purpose in revealing the Son was to make himself known to all of us, and so to welcome into eternal rest those who believe in him, making their virtue permanent, and preserving them from death. To believe in him means to do his will.

Now the Word reveals God the Creator through his own creation. Through the world, he reveals the Master who made the world, and through everything that is made, he reveals the craftsman who made it all. Through the Son, the Word reveals the Father who engendered him as Son.

Everyone speaks of all this in the same language, but they do not believe it in the same way. The Word revealed himself and his Father through the Law and the prophets, and though all the people heard the same message, they did not all believe it equally. The Father was revealed through the Word made visible and tangible, but not everyone believed in him equally--but everyone saw the Father in the Son, because, though the Father of the Son cannot be seen, the Son of the Father can be.

The Son performs everything as a service to the Father, from beginning to end, and no one can know God without the Son. The way to know the Father is the Son; knowledge of the Son is in the Father, and is revealed through the Son. This is why the Master said, "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son has revealed him." The word "revealed" here refers not only to the future, as if the Word only began to reveal the Father when he was born from Mary; but it refers equally to all time. From the beginning, the Son is present to creation, reveals the Father to everyone: to those the Father chooses, when the Father chooses, and as the Father chooses. And so, there is in everyone and through everyone one God the Father, one Word and Son, and one Spirit, and one rescue for everyone who believes in him.

No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the Father's bosom, has made him known.

No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. The only Son, who is in the Father's bosom, has made him known.

Prayer

Father of love, please listen to our prayers, and help us to know your will and to do it with courage and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Sirach 42.15-43.12

I will now recall what God has done,
and tell about what I have seen.
God's actions are in his words;
they do his will as he has ordered them.
The brilliant sun looks down on everything,
and what it does is full of YHWH's glory.
But YHWH has not given power to the holy beings of his
to tell of all his marvelous actions,
though YHWH the Omnipotent has set them there
for everything to stand as evidence of his glory.
He plumbs our depths and searches our hearts,
and understands our devious ways;
because YHWH knows everything that can be known,
and he reads the signs in the world
that speak of the past and the future;
and he reveals their dark secrets.
There is no thought that escapes him,
and nothing said that he does not know.
He has put into the universe the greatness of his wisdom,
and exists from before eternity to all eternity;
nothing can be added to him, nothing removed,
and he needs no one to advise him.
How attractive is everything he has done!
A man's vision can see even a spark!
Everything lives and remains forever,
to fill every need, and they all do as they are told.
Each is different from every other,
and he has made nothing incomplete.
One by one, they show themselves as good,
and can anyone have enough of their beauty?
The clear dome of the sky glows high above,
and reveals the glory of heaven;
the rising sun, his marvelous instrument,
proclaims brilliantly what YHWH has done;
at noon it dries up the land,
and who can stand its burning heat?
A man at a forge creates great heat,
but it burns the mountains three times as much;
it exhales a breath of fire and emits its dazzling rays
that blind the eye.
YHWH who made it is great,
and it is he who spurs it onward.
He also made the moon to measure the changes of time
and to be the seasons' sign.
The moon is what tells us of the feasts,
as it gives its light that dims itself to nothing.
The month is named after it,
as it keeps time with the moon's changes;
it is a tool of the armies there in the sky
that shine in heaven's dome:
the sky's beauty, the glory of the stars,
adorning with their lights YHWH's high places.
It is at his command they keep their positions
and never weaken in their nightly watch.
Look at the rainbow, and praise its maker;
it is lovely in its radiance.
It rings the heavens round in its glorious circle
and it is the Supreme Hands that bent it in this way.

You have the right, our Master and God, to receive glory and honor and power, because you created everything, and by your will they came to be and were created.

You created everything that exists, heaven and earth, and everything the heavens hold within their reach; you are the Master of everything, because you created everything, and by your will they came to be and were created.

Second Reading: Discourse Against the Pagans by St. Athanasius

The absolutely holy Father, whose excellence is far greater than any creature's, by his own wisdom and Word, who is our Master and Savior the Prince, like a skilled pilot guides all creation to safety, regulating and keeping it in existence, as he sees fit. It is proper for creation to exist as he has made it and as we see it existing, because this is his will, which no one can deny. Of course, if the movement of the universe were irrational, and the world went along randomly, then there might be grounds for not believing what we say. But if the world is constructed with reason, wisdom, and knowledge, and is filled with orderly beauty, then it must owe its beginning and its order to no one else but the Word of God.

He is God, the living and creative God of the universe, the Word of the good God, who is God in his own right. The Word is different from everything created; he is the unique Word that belongs to the good Father; this is the Word that created this whole world and gives it light with his loving wisdom. The one who is the good Word of the good Father produced the order in all of creation by joining opposites together and forming from them one harmonious sound. He is God, unique and the sole offspring, who proceeds in his goodness from the Father as from the source of goodness, and who gives order, direction, and unity to creation.

By his eternal Word the Father created everything, and imparted to every creature its nature. But he did not want to see them driven back and forth at the mercy of their own natures, and in this way reduced to nothingness; no, in his goodness he governs and maintains the whole of nature by his Word (who is himself also God), so that under the guidance, providence, and regulating of the Word, the whole of nature can remain stable and coherent in his light.

Nature was to share in the Father's Word, whose reality is the truth, and to be helped in its existing by him, because without him it would cease to exist. The reason is that unless the Word, who is the very "visible counterpart of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation," kept the world in existence, it could not exist. Whatever exists, visible or invisible, remains in existence through him and in him, and he is also the head of the Church, as we are taught by those who serve the truth in their sacred writings.

The omnipotent and totally holy Word of the Father pervades the whole of reality, disclosing his power everywhere and shining on everything visible and invisible. He maintains it all, and ties it all together in himself. He leaves nothing bereft of his power, but gives it life and keeps it in existence through all of creation and within each individual creature.

In the beginning, before he made the earth, before he hollowed out the ocean bed, before he touched the water and made it flow, before the mountains were set into their places, YHWH created me.

When he put the sky in its place, I was there as a master craftsman working at his side; before the mountains were set into their places, YHWH created me.

Prayer

Father of love, please listen to our prayers; help us to know your will and to perform it with courage and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit for all the endless ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Sirach 43.13-35

At his command, the snow plummets down,
and it gives speed to the lightning of his judgment;
and this opens his treasuries,
and clouds pour out like birds.
His majesty gives the clouds their strength,
and breaks up the hailstones.
At the sight of him, mountains shake
and the south wind blows at his will;
The sound of his thunder makes the earth reverberate,
and drives the storm and the hurricane.
He sends down snow like fluttering birds,
and it settles like a swarm of locusts;
eyes are dazzled at its whiteness,
and the mind is overwhelmed by the blizzard.
Frost is poured on the earth as if it were salt,
and shines on the blossoms of the thornbush.
The north wind blows
and makes crystal of the water;
every pond and lake stands frozen,
with its water wearing armor.
He eats up the mountains
and burns the empty places,
and consumes the grass in his fire;
but relief comes quickly in the mist
and restoration with the dew.
His regulations calm the ocean
and plant islands upon it.
Those who sail the sea relate its dangers,
and when this reaches our ears, we are astonished.
Because in it are strange and wondrous things,
all kinds of living things, like the species of whales.
It is by him that each of them succeeds,
and everything exists just as he commands.
We could say much more, and still fall short;
in sum, he is Everything.
How could we be fit to reveal his greatness?
He is greater than everything he has made.
YHWH is awesome, and surpassingly great,
and his power is astounding.
Raise your voice as much as you can in praise;
he is still beyond it;
but glorify him to the limit of your strength,
and do not tire, though you will still fall short.
Has anyone seen him to describe him?
Can anyone praise him as he deserves?
There are greater things even than these,
because we have seen only a bit of what he does,
because YHWH made everything,
and gives wisdom to those who respect him.

Glorify God with all your skill, and still what you say will fall short; in sum, he is Everything.

How shall we be able to give him the praise he deserves? He is much greater than everything he has done; in sum he is Everything.

Second Reading: A Discourse against the Pagans

by St. Athanasius

"In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was face to face with God, and the Word was God. Everything came into being through him, and without him there came to be not even one thing that came into being." In these words the theologian John teaches that nothing exists or remains in existence except in and through the Word.

Think of a musician tuning his lyre. By his skill, he adjusts the high notes to the low ones, and the intermediate ones to all the rest, and produces a harmonious series. The wisdom of God too holds the world like a lyre and adjusts things in the air to those on the earth, and things in heaven to those in the air, and brings each part into tune with the whole. By his edict and will he regulates all of them to produce the beauty and harmony of a single, orderly universe. While remaining unchanged with his Father, he moves the whole of creation by his unchanging nature, in accordance with the Father's will. He gives everything existence and life as its nature dictates, and so creates a marvelous and truly divine harmony.

To illustrate this profound mystery, let us take the example of a choir with many singers. A choir is composed of a variety of men, women and children, of both old and young. Under the direction of the conductor, each sings in the way that is natural for him: men with men's voices, boys with boys' voices, and adolescents with adolescent voices; yet all of them produce a single harmony. Or consider the example of our soul. It moves our senses consistently with their different functions so that in the presence of a single object, they all act simultaneously: the eyes see, the ears hear, the hand touches, the nose smells, the tongue tastes, and often the other parts of the body also act; for example, the feet may be walking.

Though this is only a poor analogy, it gives some idea of how the whole universe is governed. The Word of God has only to give a gesture of command, and everything falls into place; each creature performs its own proper function, and all of them together constitute one single harmonious order.

Praise the God of heaven; show gratitude to him in front of others, because he has done you a great deal of good.

Praise God and sing to him, and proclaim the marvels he has done, because he has done you a great deal of good.

Prayer

Father of love, please listen to our prayers; help us to know your will and to perform it with courage and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Sirach 44.1-2, 16-45.5

Let us now praise famous men,
our ancestors who gave us existence.
YHWH has created great glory
in their greatness from ages gone by.
Enoch pleased YHWH and was taken up
as an example for every generation.
Noah was found completely virtuous,
and renewed the race in the time of rage;
He was left behind on the earth,
because of it, when the flood came.
An eternal treaty was made with him,
not to flood out everything material again.
Abraham was the great father of many nations,
with no one like him in reputation.
He kept the law of the Supreme Being,
who entered into a treaty with him;
a treaty ratified in his own flesh,
and he withstood the test and remained faithful.
And that is why God promised him with an oath
that he would give blessings to nations from his descendants
and make them as numerous as the grains of the earth's dust
and elevate his descendants like the stars in the sky,
and would give them an inheritance from sea to sea
and from the River to the end of the earth.
He extended this also to Isaac
because of his father Abraham:
he gave him the right of the firstborn
and extended the Treaty to him.
Then the blessing rested on Jacob's head;
he acknowledged him as firstborn
and gave him the inheritance.
He set the boundaries for his tribes
and fixed their number at twelve.
And he brought out of him the Man of Mercy,
who found honor in the sight of everything living:
God's favorite and man's, Moses,
whom everyone remembers with praise.
He made him like the Sacred Ones in glory,
and enhanced his fear and respect among the Gentiles.
God performed miracles at his words,
and gave him a great reputation even before kings;
he gave him his commandments for his people
and showed him his glory.
He picked him out for his faithfulness and meekness
and set him apart from every other man.
He allowed him to hear his voice
and brought him into the dark cloud,
where, face to face, he gave him the commandments,
the law of life and understanding,
for him to teach his Treaty to Jacob,
and his orders to Israel.

Listen, Israel, and keep carefully what the Master commanded you, and you will know that your God the Master is a faithful God, true to his promises and merciful to everyone who loves him.

You are to love your God the Master with all your heart and with all your soul and all your strength, and you will know that your God the Master is a faithful God, true to his promises and merciful to everyone who loves him.

Second Reading: A letter to Corinth by St. Clement I

Our objective must be the blessing of God, and our study the way to win it. Go over the records of ancient times; why was Abraham blessed? Was it not because his honest and faithful conduct was inspired by faith? And Isaac's faith was so strong that he allowed himself freely to be offered as a sacrifice, since he knew the result. Jacob had the humility to leave his native country because of his brother, and go to be a slave of Laban; and he was given the twelve tribes of Israel.

Sincere pondering on each of these examples will make us realize the greatness of God's gifts. All the priests and Levites who served at the altar of God were descended from Jacob; the humanity of the Master Prince Jesus came from him. And through the tribe of Judah, kings, sovereigns, and heads of state descended from him. His other tribes also have their honor, because God promised Abraham, "your descendants will be like the stars in the sky."

And so it is obvious that none of these people owed their honor or their elevation to themselves or to their own work or their virtuous acts. And the same is true of us, since we are called in Prince Jesus by his will. We do not become virtuous by our own wisdom, intelligence, devoutness, or any action of our own, no matter how holy it is, but by faith, the one means by which God has made people virtuous from the beginning; may glory be given him through all the ages of ages. Amen.

So then, what are we to do, my brothers and sisters? Give up doing good deeds? Stop practicing Christian love? Of course not. We should be ready and eager for every chance to do good, and put our whole heart into it. Even the Creator and Master of the universe derives satisfaction from what he does. He set the spheres of the heavens in their places by his supreme power, and by his infinite wisdom he arranged them. He separated the land from the water surrounding it and made his own will its firm foundation. And by his command, he brought to life the animals that roam over the earth. He created the ocean and all its living creatures, and then by his power he set its boundaries. Finally, with his own holy and undefiled hands, he formed man, the highest and most intelligent of his creatures, the copy of his own face. "Let us make man," said God, "in our image and likeness. And God made man; he made them male and female." Then, when he had finished making all his creatures, God gave them his approval and blessing: "Increase and multiply," he commanded them.

And so we must recognize that every honest man has been blessed with the gift of good deeds, and even the Master himself took delight in the prestige his deeds gave him. This should inspire us with a firm determination to do his will and make us put our whole strength into the work of living a Christian life.

Our God the Master is strong and faithful, true to his promises and merciful to those who love him, and to everyone who keeps his commandments.

For those who love God, everything works together for good, and to everyone who keeps his commandments.

Prayer

Father of love, please listen to our prayers, and help us to know your will and perform it with courage and faith. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Second Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Deuteronomy 1.1, 6-18

This is the speech Moses gave to the whole of Israel beyond the Jordan in the desert, on the plain opposite Suph, between Paran, Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Dizahab:

Our God YHWH spoke to us in Horeb, and said, "You have lived long enough at this mountain. Leave here and travel into the hill country of the Amorites and to all the surrounding regions on the plain, the mountains, the valleys, to the south, and the shore: to the land inhabited by the Canaanites, and to Lebanon, as far as the great river Euphrates. I have handed that land over to you, and so go into and take over ownership of the land which YHWH swore he would give to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their descendants after them."

At that time I told you, "I am not able to support you alone. Your God YHWH has made you very numerous, and here you stand today, as many as there are stars in the sky. And may YHWH, the God of your ancestors, make you a thousand times more numerous than now, and give you the blessings he has promised you. But how can I deal with all your problems, burdens, and complaints by myself? And so choose wise, intelligent, and learned men from among your tribes, and I will give them authority over you."

And you answered me, "What you told us to do is good," and so I took the heads of your tribes, who were wise and learned men, and gave them authority over you as leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, as well as other officials for your tribes.

What I commanded your judges at that time was this: "Hear the cases between your relatives, and pass honest judgment between a man and his relative or the foreigner who is living with him. You are to show no partiality in your judgment; you are to hear the little people as well as the great ones, and are not to be intimidated by any man who stands before you, because the judgment you give is God's. Bring any cases that are too hard for you to me, and I will hear them." I then gave you all the regulations you were to follow.

Your God the Master is the God over all gods, the great God, who is mighty and awesome. He has no favorites and accepts no bribes.

You are to listen to the little people as well as the great ones and not be intimidated by any man, because the judgment is God's. He has no favorites and accepts no bribes.

Second Reading: A Letter to Ephesus by St. Ignatius of Antioch

It is right for you to give glory in every way to Prince Jesus, who has given glory to you. You are to become holy in everything by being united in perfect obedience in your submission to the bishop and priests.

I am not giving you orders as if I were someone important; and even if I am a prisoner because of the name of the Prince, I have not become perfect in Prince Jesus. I am only beginning to be a student now, and so I am speaking to you as fellow students. You are the ones, in fact, who should be giving me strength because of your faith, your encouragement, your patience, and your serenity.

But since love will not allow me not to say anything about you, I am taking the opportunity to inspire you to be united in conformity with the mind of God; because our life, who is Prince Jesus--without whom we have no life--is the mind of the Father, just as the bishops, appointed all over the whole earth, are in conformity with the mind of Prince Jesus.

And so it is appropriate for you to be in agreement with the mind of the bishop--as you are, in fact. Your excellent priests, who are a credit to God, are in as much accord with the bishop as strings are with a harp; and so in your harmony of mind and heart, the song you sing is Prince Jesus. All of you together form a choir, in such a way that, in your harmony of sound through your harmony of hearts, taking in unity the note from God, you can sing in unison to the Father through Prince Jesus.

If you do this, he will listen to you and see from your good deeds that you are cells in his Son's body; and so it is to your advantage to live in perfect unity, so that you can have your share in God at every moment.

And if I have become, in this short time, so close a friend of your bishop--with a friendship based on the spirit, not a material one--I consider that you must have received a much greater blessing, because you are united with him in the same way as the Church is united to Prince Jesus, and Prince Jesus to the Father, so that everything is in harmony through the Father. No one is to make any mistake about this: unless a person is inside the Holy Place, he is deprived of God's bread; you see, if the prayer of one or two has this power, the power of the prayer of the bishop and the whole Church is far greater.

I beg you in the Master, please lead a life that is suited to the vocation you have been called to. Be careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, and there is only one hope given to you by your calling. Be careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 4.1-8,32-40

Moses said this to the people:

"Now, Israel, listen to the rules and regulations I am teaching you to observe, so that you will live and go in and take over the land which YHWH, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You are not to add to the words of the commands I give you, or remove anything from them, so that you will be able to keep the commandments of your God YHWH, which are the commandments I am giving you.

"You saw what YHWH did at Baal Peor, when he rooted out and killed those among you who followed the Baal of Peor; and those of you who adhered to your God YHWH are alive today, every one of you.

"And the fact is that the regulations and commandments I am teaching you are the commands my God YHWH gave me for you to use to direct your conduct in the land you are to enter and possess. And so be careful to observe them, because this is your wisdom and intelligence in the sight of the peoples who will hear these regulations and say, 'This great nation is a really wise and intelligent people.'

"And what great nation is there that has a god as near to it as our God YHWH is to us, so that we can call on him for any reason at all? And what great nation is there that has rules and just regulations that are comparable to everything in this law which I am proposing to you today?

"Ask this of past ages, the time before yours since the day God created man on the earth, and ask it from one end of the sky to the other: whether anything this great has ever happened, or anything like it has ever been heard of. Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking from within a fire, as you heard, and live? Did any god ever try to go and take a nation to himself from within another nation by proofs, signs, and miracles, by war, by a mighty fist on his outstretched arm that struck enormous terror, as your god YHWH did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

"It was shown to you so that you would know that it is YHWH who is God; there is no other one but he. He let you hear his voice coming out of the sky so that he could teach you, and he showed his great fire on earth, and you heard words from him come from within the fire. And it was because he loved your ancestors that he chose their descendants after them; and he brought you out of Egypt personally, with his mighty power, and drove out of your way nations greater and more powerful than you, to bring you in and give you their land as your inheritance, as it exists today.

"And so realize today, and keep it locked in your heart, that it is YHWH who is God in the sky above and the earth beneath you; and there is no other one. And so you are to keep his regulations and his commandments which I am giving you today, so that you will prosper, and that you and your children who follow you will have a long life in the land which your God YHWH is giving you for all time."

Pay attention, Israel, to the Master's commandments, and write them in your hearts as if they were books. I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

Listen, my people, to my warning--Israel, if only you would listen to me! I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

Second Reading: Letter to Ephesus by St. Ignatius of Antioch

Try to gather more often to show your gratitude to God and give him your praises, because when you come together often, Satan's powers are undermined, and the destruction he threatens is averted because of the unanimity of your faith. Nothing is better than peace, where every form of warfare between heaven and earth is brought to an end.

None of this will escape you if you have complete faith in and love for Prince Jesus; these are the beginning and the end of life: faith is the beginning, and love the end. When these two exist together, God is there, and everything else that deals with living properly follows from them. No one who professes his faith keeps sinning; no one who has love hates anyone. "A tree is known by its fruit." And so those who profess to belong to the Prince will be known by what they do; because the deeds we perform are not a matter of words here and now, but depend on the power of faith and in remaining true to the end.

It is better to remain silent and exist than to talk and not exist. Teaching is good--if the speaker acts also. There was one teacher who "spoke and it came into existence," and even what he did in silence is appropriate to the Father's reality. The one who has within him what Jesus said can also really listen to his silence, so that he will be complete and can act through his speech and be recognized by his silence.

Nothing is hidden from the Master, and even our secrets are there in his presence; and so we should do everything in the knowledge that he has made his home inside us so that we become his temples, and he the God within us. He is--and will show himself--in our sight, to the degree that we have love for him in holiness.

"Make no mistake," my brothers and sisters; those who destroy families "will not inherit the Kingdom of God." If those who do these things in a material sense have died, it will be much worse if a person corrupts with his evil teaching the faith in God for which Prince Jesus was crucified. People of that sort will go out into unquenchable fire, because they are defiled, and so will anyone who listens to them.

You see, the Master received the anointing on his head so that he could breathe incorruptibility into the Church. Do not let yourselves be anointed with the evil odor of the teaching of this world's sovereign, or he will lead you in chains away from the life that is set there before you. Why is it that we are not all wise, when we have received the knowledge of God, which is Prince Jesus? Why do we die in our stupidity, without knowing the gift that God has given us?

My spirit is given up to the menial service of the cross, which is shocking to unbelievers, but is salvation and eternal life to us.

Everything you say or do should be done in the name of our Master Prince Jesus; show your gratitude to God the Father through him.

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God, in the name of our Master Prince Jesus.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 6.4-25

This is what Moses said to the people:

"Hear this, Israel: YHWH, our God YHWH, is the only god. You are to love your God YHWH with your whole heart, your whole soul, and all your strength. Take to heart all the commandments I have told you today; repeat them constantly to your children, speak of them at home and away from home, when you lie down to rest, and when you rise. You are to tie them to your wrists as a reminder, and keep them as a pendant on your foreheads; you are to have them on the doorposts of your houses and on the posts of your gates.

"And this is how you are to act when your God YHWH brings you into the land where he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would give you large, beautiful cities you did not build, houses full of good things of all sorts that you did not put in them, wells already dug which you did not have the digging of, and vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant. And so when you have eaten enough to make you full, be careful not to forget YHWH, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from that place where you were slaves.

"You are to respect your God YHWH and be his slaves, and take oaths in his name. You are not to follow other gods, the gods of the peoples all around you--because your God YHWH, who lives among you, is a jealous God--or you will rouse the anger of your God against you and he will destroy you off the face of the earth.

"You are not to try to challenge your God YHWH in the way you did in Massah. You are to keep faithfully the commandments of your God YHWH, his rules and regulations which he has imposed upon you. You are to do what is right and good in YHWH's eyes, so that you will prosper, and go in and take over the good land which your God YHWH swore to your ancestors he would clear off from all the enemies in your way, as YHWH has spoken.

"And when your son asks you in the days to come, "What is the meaning of these rules and regulations and orders that our God YHWH has imposed on you?" you are to answer your son, "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and YHWH showed signs and miracles before our very eyes, which were tremendous and terrifying, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. And then he brought us out of there, to lead us into the land he was giving us as he swore to our ancestors. And YHWH commanded us to observe all these regulations and to hold our God YHWH in respect, for our everlasting good, so that he would preserve our lives, as we now exist today. Then this will be our virtue: for us to be careful to observe all these commandments in the presence of our God YHWH, as he imposed them on us."

The Master's law is complete, giving life to the soul; the Master's words are trustworthy, giving wisdom to simple people; the Master's command is clear, giving light to the eye.

The man who loves his neighbor fulfills the law; the whole law is summed up in love, because love is the fulfillment of the law. The Master's command is clear, giving light to the eye.

Second Reading: A Letter to Corinth by St. Clement I

A man who is really possessed by love for the Prince should keep his commandments. Can anyone express the binding power of God's love? Can anyone find words for the radiance of its beauty? The heights to which it lifts us are beyond all description.

Love unites us to God; "it cancels innumerable sins," has no limits to what it can put up with, and bears everything patiently. Love is neither sycophantic nor arrogant; it does not provoke divisions or create cliques, but always acts in harmony with others. All God's chosen people are made holy by it, because without it, it is impossible to please him. The Master took us to himself out of love, and because he loved us and it was God's will, our Master Prince Jesus gave his lifeblood for us: he gave us his body to ransom our body, his soul for our soul.

As so, my friends, see what a great, wonderful thing love is, and how it is impossible to express its perfection. Can anyone deserve it unless God makes him so? And that is why we must turn to him and beg his mercy for him to find for us a love free from human bias and one without stain.

Every generation from Adam's time to ours is now gone; but those who were made complete by God's grace now have a home among the sacred people, and when the Prince's kingdom finally appears, they will come into the open. "Take shelter in your rooms for a little while," says Scripture, "until my anger abates. Then I will remember the good days, and I will bring you back out of your graves."

It is a great privilege, my friends, if love enables us to live in harmony and in observance of God's commandments, because then this will gain us forgiveness for our sins. Scripture calls "privileged those whose disobedience is pardoned and whose sins are forgiven. It is a blessing for a man not to have the Master find fault with him, and have no deceit upon his lips." This is the blessing given those God has chosen through our Master Prince Jesus; and may glory be given him through all the ages of ages. Amen.

We have put our faith in the love God has for us. Those who have their home in love have their home in God, and God has his home in them.

We should love each other, because love comes from God. Those who have their home in love have their home in God, and God has his home in them.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 7.6-14, 8.1-6

Moses said this to the people:

"You are a people sacred to your God YHWH; your God YHWH has chosen you to be a people for himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. YHWH did not bestow his love on you or choose you because you were more numerous than other people, since you were the smallest group of any people--but because YHWH loves you, and because he wanted to keep the oath he swore to your ancestors, YHWH brought you out with a mighty hand, and set you free you from your slavery to the hand of Pharaoh, the King of Egypt.

"And so be aware that your God YHWH is the one who is God; he is the faithful God who keeps his treaty and shows his mercy for a thousand generations to those who love him and keep his commandments; but he pays back those who hate him directly, and destroys them. And so you are to keep the commandment, the rules, and the regulations I impose on you today, and observe them.

"And what will happen from this is that, because you listen to these orders and keep and perform them, your God YHWH will keep the Treaty and show you the mercy which he swore to your ancestors. And he will love you and bless you and multiply you; and he will also bless your offspring and the produce of your land, your grain, your new wine, and your oil, the offspring of your cattle and your flocks, in the land which he swore to your ancestors that he would give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; there will not be a sterile male or female among your livestock.

"But you must be careful to observe every commandment I impose upon you today, so that you will live and multiply, and go in and take possession of the land about which YHWH swore to your ancestors. And you are to remember that your God YHWH led you all the way these forty years in the desert, to humble you and challenge you, to know what was in your hearts, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And that was why he humbled you, why he let you go hungry, and then fed you with manna--something you did not know of and which your ancestors did not know, to make you realize that man does not live only by bread, but by every word that comes from YHWH's mouth. Your clothing did not wear out on you or your feet swell during these forty years; so you should recognize in your hearts that your God YHWH punishes you in the same way a man punishes his son.

"In any case, you are to keep the commandments of your God YHWH, and walk along his paths and hold him in respect."

God first loved us and sent his own Son to be the sacrifice that frees us from our sins. We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us.

The Master has himself become our savior; he has redeemed us in his love. We have come to know and believe in the love God has for us.

Second Reading: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church by Vatican II

In his wisdom and goodness the eternal Father created the whole world in accordance with his supremely free and mysterious purpose, and decreed that men were to be raised up to share in the life of God. When they fell in Adam, he did not abandon them, but always kept providing them with aids to salvation, in consideration of the Prince "who is the visible counterpart of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." Before the ages, the Father "already knew" all those who were chosen, "and foreordained them to be made into the likeness of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers."

God resolved to gather into the holy Church everyone who believes in the Prince. The Church, foreshadowed even from the beginning of the world, so marvelously prepared in the history of the people of Israel, established in these last times and revealed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, will be made perfect in glory at the end of time. Then, as we read in the Fathers of the Church, all the virtuous from Adam on--from virtuous Abel, to the last of those chosen--with be gathered into the universal Church in the presence of the Father.

Finally, those who have not yet received the Good News are in their different ways related to God's people.

In the first place, there is that people who were given the Treaties and the promises, and from whom the Prince was born in his human descent: the people who are by God's choice most cherished because of the patriarchs. God never goes back on his gifts or his call.

God's plan of salvation also embraces those who acknowledge the Creator. Among these are especially the Muslims; they profess as their faith the faith of Abraham, and with us they worship one, merciful God, who will judge human beings on the last day.

And God is not far from those others who look for the unknown God in darkness and shadows, because he is the one who gives to every man life, inspiration, and everything else, and as Savior wishes every human being to be saved.

Eternal salvation is open to those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Prince or his Church, but look for God with a sincere heart, and under the inspiration of grace try in their lives to do his will, made known to them by the dictates of their conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the aids necessary for salvation to those who, with no blame on their part, have not yet reached an explicit belief in God, but who strive to lead a good life, under the influence of God's grace.

Whatever goodness and truth is found among them is seen by the Church as a preparation for the Good News, and as given by the one who shines on every human being, so that all of them will finally have life.

It was God's plan that in the fullness of time all creation would be brought together in unity under the Prince.

It pleased God that total perfection would reside in the Prince, and it was through him that God chose to bring everything into conformity with himself, so that all creation would be brought together in unity under the Prince.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers, and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 9.7-21, 25-29

This was what Moses said to the people:

"Keep in mind and do not forget how you provoked your God YHWH in the desert. From the day you left the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious toward YHWH.

"For instance, in Horeb you provoked YHWH's rage, and he was angry enough with you to destroy you. When I went up onto the mountain to receive the stone tablets of the Treaty YHWH made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights, and I ate nothing nor did I drink any water. Then YHWH handed over to me two stone tablets written by God's finger, and on them were all the words YHWH had spoken to you on the mountain out of the fire on the day you gathered. In any case, at the end of the forty days and forty nights, YHWH gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets with the Treaty.

"But then YHWH told me, 'Stand up! Go down from here immediately! Your people, the ones you brought out of Egypt, have turned corrupt! They have wandered off the road I ordered for them, and have made a molten idol!'

"And YHWH added, 'I have looked at this people, and they are pig-headed. Let me alone to destroy them and erase their names from under heaven; and I will make a mightier and greater nation from you than they are.'

"I then turned back and came down the mountain, which was burning in a fire, and the two stone tablets were in my two hands. And I looked out and there you were; you had sinned against your God YHWH, and had made a molten calf for yourselves! You had turned off the path YHWH ordered for you that quickly! And I took the two tablets and threw them down out of my two hands and broke them there before your eyes.

"And then I prostrated myself before YHWH as I had at the beginning, for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sins you committed when you acted vilely in YHWH's sight, and provoked him to anger. You see, I was afraid of the rage and hot indignation that YHWH had in his anger against you, to the extent that he wanted to destroy you. YHWH was also enraged against Aaron, and would have killed him; and so I prayed for Aaron at the same time. Then I took your sin, the calf you made, and melted it down in a fire and ground it up until it was as fine as dust; and I threw its dust into the brook that came down the mountain.

"In any case, I prostrated myself before YHWH in this way--for forty days and forty nights I prostrated myself because YHWH had said that he would destroy you. And I prayed YHWH about this, and said, 'Dear God YHWH, do not destroy the people you have set free by your greatness, the ones you brought out of Egypt with such a mighty hand. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people, or on their vice or their sin, or the land you brought us to will say, "Because YHWH could not bring them into the land he promised them, he brought them out only to kill them in the desert." But they are your people and your heritage, the ones you brought out by your mighty power and your outstretched arm.'"

Moses pleaded with God the Master, and said, "Why, Master, should your anger take fire against your people? Turn from your burning rage; remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom you promised a land flowing with milk and honey." So the Master relented and held back the punishment he had threatened for his people.

God said to Moses, "You have found favor with me; you are my intimate friend." So the Master relented and held back the punishment he had threatened for his people.

Second Reading: A letter by Fulgentius of Ruspe

Notice how at the end of our prayer we never say, "through the Holy Spirit," but only "through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son." By the mystery of the Incarnation, Prince Jesus "became man, the mediator between God and man. He is a priest forever in the line of Melchisedek; and by shedding his own blood he entered once and for all into the Holy Place; he did not enter a place made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one," he entered heaven itself, where he is enthroned beside God and pleading for us. The Church is perfectly correct in continuing to reflect this mystery in her prayer.

This mystery of Prince Jesus as the high priest is reflected in the statement of the Emissary Paul: "Then let us always offer the sacrifice of praise to God through him, since this is the fruit of lips that profess belief in his name." We once were enemies of the Father, but have been brought into conformity with him through the death of the Prince; and so through him we offer our sacrifice of praise, and our prayer to God.

He became our offering to the Father, and it is through him that our offering now is acceptable. And this is the reason that the Emissary the Rock urges us "to be built like living stones into a spiritual house, and be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God through Prince Jesus." And so this is the reason why we offer prayer to God our Father, but through our Master Prince Jesus.

When we speak of the priesthood of the Prince, what else do we mean but the incarnation? Through this mystery, the Son of God, "even though his state was divine, emptied himself and took on the condition of a slave; and as a slave he lowered himself so far as to accept death." Even though he possessed equality with the Father, "he became a little less than the angels." Though he was always equal to the Father, the Son "became" a little less because he became a man. The Prince lowered himself "when he emptied himself to take on the condition of a slave."

By this condition, the Prince, the only Son God ever fathered, and who as such always remained God, became a priest. We offer our sacrifice to him along with the Father; but through him the sacrifice we now offer is holy, living, and pleasing to God. In fact, if the Prince had not sacrificed himself for us, we could not offer any sacrifice, because it is in him that our human nature becomes a redemptive offering. When we offer our prayers through him, our priest, we acknowledge that the Prince really does possess the flesh of our race. This is obviously what the Emissary refers to when he says, "Every high priest is taken from among men. He is appointed to act on behalf of these same men in their relationship to God; he is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God."

But we do not merely say, "your Son" when we end our prayer. We also say, "who is alive and reigning with you as one with the Holy Spirit," and in this way we bring to mind the unity of nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Obviously, then, the Prince who exercises a priestly role on our behalf is the same Prince who enjoys a natural unity and equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Let us approach the throne of grace with perfect confidence; we will find tenderness and grace to help us in time of need.

We do not have a high priest who is incapable of understanding our weakness; we will find tenderness and grace to help us in time of need.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God for all the endless ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 10.12-11.9, 26-28

Moses said this to the people:

"Now, Israel, what is it your God YHWH demands of you but to hold your God YHWH in reverence, and walk along his paths and love him, to serve your God YHWH with all your heart and your whole soul, and to keep YHWH's commandments and regulations I impose upon you today for your good? In fact, the sky and the spheres above the sky belong to your God YHWH and so does the earth and everything in it.

"But YHWH took satisfaction only in your ancestors, and loved them; and he chose their descendants after them, and you above everyone, as he does on this day.

"And so circumcise the foreskin of your hearts and do not be pig-headed any longer, because your God YHWH is God over all gods and Master over all masters; he is the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and takes no bribe. He produces justice for orphans and widows, and loves foreigners and gives them food and clothing. And so you are to love foreigners, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

"You are to hold your God YHWH in reverence, you are to serve him and be loyal to him and take oaths in his name. He is the one you are to praise, and he is your God, the one who did for you these tremendous, awesome things you have seen with your own eyes. Your ancestors went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now your God YHWH has made you as numerous as the starts in the sky.

"And so you are to love your God YHWH, and keep at all times what he demands of you, his rules and regulations, and his commandments. Notice that I am not now speaking to your children, who have not known and seen the retribution of your God YHWH, his greatness and his mighty fist on his outstretched arm: the miracles and deeds he performed among the Egyptians, to Pharaoh the King of Egypt, and to his whole land; what he did to the army of Egypt, their horses and their chariots, how he made the water of the Red Sea overwhelm them as they chased you, and how YHWH has destroyed them to this day; what he did for you in the desert until you came to this place, what he did to Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab the son of Reuben, how the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, their tents, and all the reality that they possessed right out of the midst of Israel. Your eyes have seen every tremendous deed performed by your God YHWH.

"And so you are to keep every commandment I impose upon you today, so that you will be strong and will go in to take possession of the land which you are crossing over to possess, and that you will have long years in the land YHWH swore to give your ancestors and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.

"And now I am proposing to you a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of your God YHWH which I am imposing on you today, and the curse, if you do not obey your God YHWH's commandments and turn aside from the path I am imposing on you today, and go after other gods which you have not known."

We should love God because he has loved us first. To love God means to keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.

The love of God reaches perfection in those who are obedient to what he says, and his commandments are not burdensome.

Second Reading: A Treatise on Spiritual Perfection by Diadochus of Photice<

No one who loves himself is capable of loving God. A person who loves God is one who kills his self-love for the immeasurable blessings of divine love; a man like this never looks to his own reputation, and is only concerned with the glory of God. If a person loves himself, he is concerned with his own reputation; but a person who loves God loves the glory of his Creator. Anyone who is alive to the love of God can be recognized from the way he constantly exerts himself to glorify him by fulfilling all his commandments and by taking satisfaction in his own humiliation.

Because of God's great majesty, it is appropriate for him to receive glory; but if a human being hopes to win God's favor, it is fitting for him to be humble. If we possess this love for God, we will be happy for his glory as John the Bather was, and we will never stop repeating, "He must grow greater, and I must grow less."

I know a man who, even though he regrets the fact that he does not love God as much as he desires, still loves him so much that his soul is on fire with a constant longing for God to be glorified and for his own complete disappearance. This man has no feeling of self-importance even when he receives praise. His desire to belittle himself is so great that he never even thinks of his own dignity; he fulfills his priestly duty by celebrating the Liturgy, but his intense love of God is a chasm that swallows all consciousness of his high office.

His humility makes him ignore any honor it might bring him, so that in his own eyes, he is nothing but a useless slave. Because of his desire for self-humiliation, he thinks of himself as beneath his office. His example is one that we should follow ourselves by shunning all honor and reputation for the innumerable blessings of God's love, because he has loved us so much.

Anyone who loves God in the depths of his heart has already been loved by God. In fact, the standard of a man's love for God depends on how deeply aware he is of God's love for him. When this awareness is keen, it makes whoever has it long to be shined on by the divine light, and this longing is so intense that it seems to penetrate his very bones. He loses all consciousness of himself and is entirely transformed by the love of God.

A man like this lives in this life and at the same time does not live in it, because, even though he inhabits his body, he is constantly leaving it in spirit because of the love that draws him toward God. Once the love of God has released him from self-love, the flame of divine love never ceases to burn in his heart and he remains united to God by an irresistible longing. As the Emissary says, "If we are beside ourselves, it is for the love of God; if we return to our senses, it is for you."

God loved the world enough that he gave us the only Son he ever fathered, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life and not die.

This is the meaning of love: not that we loved God, but that he has loved us, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life and not die.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 16.1-17

"Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover to your God YHWH, because in the month of Abib your God YHWH brought you out of Egypt during the night. And that is why you are to sacrifice the Passover to your God YHWH from the sheep and the cattle in the place where YHWH chooses to establish his name. You are to eat no leavened bread with it; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, that is, the bread of suffering--because you came out of the land of Egypt hurriedly--so that you will remember the day you came out of the land of Egypt your whole life long. And no yeast is to be found among you in all your territory for seven days, and the meat which you sacrifice on the first day at twilight is not to remain overnight until morning.

"You are not to sacrifice the Passover within any of the gates which your God YHWH is giving you, but only at the place your God YHWH chooses to make his name reside; it is there you are to sacrifice the Passover at twilight, as the sun sets, at the time you came out of Egypt. And you are to roast and eat it in the place your God YHWH chooses; and in the morning you are to turn back and go to your tents. You are to eat unleavened bread for six days, and on the seventh day there is to be a gathering sacred to your God YHWH. You are to do no work on it.

"You are then to count out seven weeks; begin the count of seven weeks from the time you begin the grain harvest. Then you are to keep the Feast of Weeks for your God YHWH with the tax of a free offering from your own hand, which you are to give in proportion as your God YHWH blesses you. You are to hold a celebration in honor of your God YHWH: you and your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites within your gates, the foreigners and orphans and widows among you, at the place YHWH chooses to make his name reside. And you are to remember that you were slaves in Egypt; and you are to be careful to observe these regulations.

"You are to observe the Feast of Tents for seven days, when you have finished the grain and wine harvest. And you are to celebrate this feast with your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows who live within your gates. You are to keep this festival sacred to your God YHWH in the place YHWH chooses, because your God YHWH will bless you in all your produce and in all the work your hands do, so that you will in fact be happy.

"All your males are to appear before your God YHWH three times a year in the place he chooses: at the feast of the unleavened bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tents; and they are not to appear before YHWH empty-handed. Every man is to give what he is able to give, in proportion to the blessing your God YHWH has given him."

Your feast must be a time of celebration for you and your sons and daughters, and for the Levites, the foreigners, and orphans and widows; and then the Master will bless you and fill you with joy.

See, even now the messenger of good news comes over the mountain. He cries, "Peace! Be happy, Judah, and celebrate your feasts." And then the Master will bless you and fill you with joy.

Second Reading: A Treatise Against the Heresies by St. Irenaeus

The Church's offering, which the Master taught was to be made throughout the whole world, has been regarded by God as a pure sacrifice, and is acceptable to him. It is not that he needs sacrifice from us; it is that the one who makes the offering receives enhancement himself in the offering, provided that his gift is accepted. Both honor and love are shown to a king through a gift.

The Master wants us to make our offering in all sincerity and freedom from sin. He stated this when he said, "And so when you offer your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift in front of the altar and first go and come into harmony with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift."

We are to offer God the firstfruits of his creation, as Moses said, "You are not to come empty-handed into the presence of your God the Master." In showing gratitude to God for his gifts, human beings are accepted as pleasing to God, and so receive the honor that comes from God.

It is not offerings as such that have met with disapproval. There were offerings in ancient times; there are offerings now. There were sacrifices among the people of Israel, and there are sacrifices in the Church. It is only the kind of offering that has changed; now it is an offering by free men, not by slaves. There is one and the same Master, but the character of an offering made by slaves is different from the one made by sons: their offerings bear the mark of freedom.

With God nothing happens without a purpose, and nothing without meaning and reason. Thus, the people of Israel would dedicate a tenth of their possessions to God; but those who have been given freedom devote everything they possess to God's use. They give it all to him, not simply what is worth less, and they do it cheerfully and freely because they hope for something greater, like the poor widow who put her whole living into God's treasury.

We must make an offering to God, and in every way be found pleasing to God the Creator, in healthy teaching, in sincere faith, in firm hope, in burning love, as we offer the firstfruits of the creatures that are his. The Church alone offers this pure gift to the Creator when it makes its offering to him from his creation, with gratitude.

We offer him what is his, and so we acknowledge publicly our communion and unity and declare our belief in the return to life of body and spirit. Just as bread from the earth, when it receives the blessing of God, is no longer ordinary bread but the Eucharist, made up of two elements, one earthly and the other heavenly, so our bodies, in receiving the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the return to life.

The law was only a shadow of the blessings to come, not a living copy of them. With the same sacrifices offered year after year, it can never bring human beings to completeness. The Prince made one offering, himself, and by virtue of it, he made those who believe in him holy forever.

The Prince loved us and gave himself over to death for us as an offering and sacrifice to God. The Prince made one offering, himself, and by virtue of it, he made those who believe in him holy forever.

Prayer

Father of heaven and earth, please listen to our prayers and show us the way to peace in the world. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Third Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Deuteronomy 18.1-22

This is what Moses said to the people:

"The priests and Levites--all of the tribe of Levi--are to have no share or inheritance with Israel; they are to eat what is offered to YHWH by fire, and consume his share; and that is why they are to have no inheritance among their relatives; YHWH is their inheritance, as he told them.

"And this is what the priests have a right to from the people who are offering a sacrifice, whether it is a bull or a sheep: they are to give the priest the shoulder, the jowls, and the stomach. The firstfruits of your grain and your new wine and oil, and the first of the fleece of the sheep are to be given to them; because your God YHWH has chosen them out of all your tribes to stand before him and give him service in the name of YHWH, and this is true of them and their descendants forever.

"So if a Levite comes from one of your communities where he has his home among all of Israel, to visit, as his heart may desire, the place YHWH chooses, he may perform service there in the name of his God YHWH just like all those of his relatives who are Levites and are in the presence of YHWH. They are to have equal shares of the food, in addition to what comes from the sale of his inheritance.

"When you come into the land which your God YHWH is giving you, you are not to follow the disgusting practices of those nations. There is not to exist among you anyone who makes his son or daughter walk through fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a fortune-teller, one who interprets omens, any sorcerer, anyone who casts spells, any medium, spiritist, or anyone who calls up the dead. Everyone who does things like this is abhorrent to YHWH, and it is because of these disgusting practices that your God YHWH is driving them away from your presence. You are to be without blame in the presence of your God YHWH. These nations you are going to dispossess listened to fortune-tellers and necromancers; but YHWH has not permitted you to do such things.

"Your God YHWH will bring forward from among you a prophet for you like me, someone who is one of your relatives. You are to listen to him, as you requested of your God YHWH at Horeb on the day you were gathered there, when you said, "Please keep us from hearing the voice of our God YHWH again, and do not let us see his great fire any more, or we will die."

"And YHWH told me, "What they said is good. I will bring a prophet forward like you from their relatives, and will put what I have to say in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him to say. And then if anyone does not listen to what I say as he speaks it in my name, I will make him pay the consequences. But any prophet who presumes to say anything in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of some other god, is to die. And if you ask yourself, "How are we to know what words are the ones YHWH has not spoken?" When a prophet speaks in YHWH's name, and what he says does not happen or occur, then that is something that YHWH has not spoken; the prophet has said it presumptuously, and you are not to be afraid of him."

I will bring forward a prophet for them and I will place what I have to say in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command.

I am sending my own Son, the one I love; he is the real prophet who is to come into the world. He will tell them everything I command.

Second Reading: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy

by the Second Vatican Council

The Prince is always present to his Church, especially in the actions of the liturgy. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, in the person of the minister (it is the same Prince who once offered himself on the cross who now offers himself by the ministry of priests) and most of all under the Eucharistic appearance. He is present in the sacraments by his power, in such a way that when someone gives the baptismal bath, it is the Prince himself who bathes the person. He is present in the words uttered, because he is the one who speaks when the holy Scriptures are read in the Church. Finally, he is present when the Church prays and sings, because he himself promised, "Where there are two or three gathered in my name, I am there present among them."

In fact, in this great work which gives perfect glory to God and brings holiness to human beings, the Prince is always joining in partnership with himself the bride he loves, the Church, who calls upon her Master and through him gives worship to the eternal Father.

It is therefore right to see the liturgy as an exercise of the priestly function of Prince Jesus, in which through signs addressed to the senses, man's sanctification is signified and, in a way proper to each of these signs, made effective, and in which public worship is celebrated in its completeness by the mystical body of Prince Jesus: that is, by the head and the other organs.

In accordance with this, every liturgical celebration, as an activity of the Prince who is the priest and of his body which is the Church, is a sacred action of a preeminent kind. No other action of the Church equals its title to power or its degree of effectiveness.

In the liturgy on earth we are given a foretaste and share in the liturgy of heaven, celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem, the goal of our pilgrimage, where the Prince "is enthroned beside God as minister of the sanctuary and of the true Tent." With the whole company of heaven we sing a hymn of praise to the Master; and as we show reverence to the memory of the saints, we hope to have some share with them, and to partake in fellowship with them; "we wait for our Savior, our Master Prince Jesus," until "the one who is our life appears, and we appear with him in glory."

By an apostolic tradition taking its origin from the very day of the Prince's return to life, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day, the day that is properly called the Master's day. On Sunday, the Christian faithful ought to gather, so that by listening to the words God utters and sharing in the Eucharist, they will be able to recall the suffering, death, and return to life of Master Jesus, and show their gratitude to God, who "has given them a new birth with a lively hope through the return to life of Prince Jesus from death." The Master's day is therefore the first and greatest festival, one to be set before the loving devotion of the faithful and impressed upon them, so that it will also be a day of joy and freedom from work. Other celebrations must not take precedence over it, unless they are in fact of the greatest importance, since it is the foundation and kernel of the whole liturgical year.

The Prince prays for us; he is our priest; he prays in us; he is our head; we pray to him; he is our God. And so let us always be aware of our prayer in him and his prayer in us.

When we turn to God in prayer, we must not separate ourselves from his Son. And so let us always be aware of our prayer in him and his prayer in us.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternally alive God, please direct your love that is within us, so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind to unity and peace. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 24.1-25.4

Moses said this to the people:

"When a man accepts a woman as his wife and marries her, and it happens that he is displeased with her because he has found some defilement about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her out of his household, and then after she has left his house and then becomes some other man's wife, and either he finds her displeasing divorces her by handing her another certificate and dismisses her, or this second husband who married her dies, the former husband is not to take her back after she has been defiled, because that is something abhorrent to YHWH, and you are not to bring sin on the land which your God YHWH is giving you as an inheritance.

"When a man has just married, he is not to go to war or be burdened with any business; he is to be free at home for one year, to bring happiness on the wife he has chosen.

"No one is to take as security for a loan an upper or lower millstone, because then he is taking away a person's livelihood as security.

"If anyone is found kidnaping any of his relatives who are descendants of Israel, and mistreats or sells that victim, the kidnapper is to die; and you will remove the evil from among you.

"Pay attention during an outbreak of leprosy to observe carefully and do everything that the priests and Levites instruct you; you are to be careful to act as I have commanded them. Remember what your God YHWH did to Miriam on the journey when you came out of Egypt.

"When you lend anything to a relative, you are not to go to his house to take the collateral. You are to stand outside, and your debtor will take the security out to you. And if the man is poor, you are not to keep the collateral overnight. You are to return the collateral to him in every case before the sun sets, so that he will be able to sleep in his own clothes, and this will count as virtue for you in the sight of your God YHWH.

"You are not to oppress a hired servant who is poor and destitute, whether this is one of your relatives or one of the foreigners who lives in your land and in your community. You are to give him his wages each day and not let the sun set upon this, because he is poor and is counting on it; otherwise, he will cry out against you to YHWH, and it will count as a sin for you.

"Fathers are not to be put to death for their children, nor are children to be put to death for their fathers; a person is to be put to death for his own sin.

"You are not to subvert the justice due a foreigner or orphan, nor take a widow's clothes as collateral for a loan. No, you are to remember that you were slaves in Egypt, and your God YHWH redeemed you from there; and that is why I command you to do this.

"When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf there in the field, you are not to go back to get it; it will be for foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that your God YHWH will bless you in every deed your hands perform. When you beat your olive trees, you are not to go over the branches a second time; what is left is for foreigners, orphans, and widows. When you gather grapes in your vineyard, you are not to glean it afterwards; this will be for foreigners, orphans, and widows. And you are to remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt; and that is why I command you to do this.

"If there is a dispute between two parties and they bring it to court for the judges to settle it, and they acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty party, and if the guilty one receives a sentence of a beating, the judge is to make him lie down and be beaten in his presence in accordance with his guilt, with a definite number of blows. He may give him no more than forty blows, to prevent him from going further and beating him with a great many more blows, which would humiliate your relative in his sight.

"You are not to muzzle an ox when it is treading out grain."

Master, you have told us the truth: there is one God, and we are to love him with our whole heart; to love our neighbor as if he were ourselves is more than any holocaust or sacrifice.

To return a kindness is like an offering of fine flour; our Master God is delighted to see us turn away from evil. To love our neighbor as if he were ourselves is more than any holocaust or sacrifice.

Second Reading: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, by the Second Vatican Council<

Husband and wife, by the covenant of marriage, are no longer two, but one flesh. By their intimate union of persons and of actions they give mutual help and service to each other, experience the meaning of their unity, and gain an ever deeper understanding of it day by day.

This intimate union in the mutual self-giving of two persons, as well as the good of the children, demands full fidelity from both, and an indissoluble unity between them.

Our Master the Prince has abundantly blessed this richly complex love, which springs from the divine source of love and is founded on the model of his union with the Church.

In earlier times God met his people in a Treaty of love and fidelity. So now the Savior of mankind, the Bridegroom of the Church, meets Christian husbands and wives in the sacrament of matrimony. Further, he remains with them in order that, as he loved the Church and gave himself up for her, so husband and wife will be able, in mutual self-giving, to love each other with perpetual fidelity.

True married love is caught up into God's love; it is guided and enriched by the redeeming power of the Prince and the saving action of the Church, so that the partners will be effectively led to God and receive help and strength in the sublime responsibility of parenthood.

Christian partners are therefore strengthened, and as it were consecrated, by a special sacrament for the duties and the dignity of their state. By the power of this sacrament, they fulfill their obligations to each other and to their family and are filled with the spirit of the Prince. This spirit pervades their whole lives with faith, hope, and love. Thus they promote their own perfection and each other's sanctification, and so contribute together to the greater glory of God. Hence, with parents leading the way by example and family prayer, their children--indeed, everyone within the family circle--will find it easier to make progress in natural virtues, in salvation and in holiness. Husband and wife, raised to the dignity and the responsibility of parenthood, will be zealous in fulfilling their task as educators, especially in the sphere of religious education, a task that is primarily their own.

Children, as active members of the family, contribute in their own way to the holiness of their parents. With the love of grateful hearts, with loving respect and trust, they will return the generosity of their parents and will stand by them as true sons and daughters when they meet with hardship and the loneliness of old age.

This is a great secret, but I am saying it about the Prince and his Community: the Prince loved the Community, and gave himself up for it.

A man must love his wife in the same way as he loves himself, and a woman must respect her husband. The Prince loved the Community, and gave himself up for it.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternally living God, please direct your love that is within us, so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind to unity and peace. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 26.1-19

This is what Moses said to the people:

"And then, when you come into the land which your God YHWH is giving you as an inheritance, and you take it over and make your homes in it, you are to take some of the first of everything the ground produces, and bring it from your land that your God YHWH is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place your God YHWH chooses for the residence of his name. And you are to go to the one who is priest at that time and say to him, "I declare today to your God YHWH that I have come to the country that YHWH swore to our ancestors to give us."

"Then the priest is to take the basket out of your hand and set it down before the altar of your God YHWH; and you are to continue, 'My ancestors were Syrians, about to die, and they went down to Egypt and made their home there, and there were few of them; but there they became a great, mighty, and populous nation. But the Egyptians mistreated us, abused us, and laid hard slavery upon us. Then we called out to YHWH, the God of our ancestors, and YHWH heard our voice and looked on our mistreatment and our labor and our oppression. So YHWH brought us out of Egypt with a powerful fist on his outstretched arm, with great terror, and with miracles and wondrous acts. He has brought us to this place and given us this land, "a land flowing with milk and honey." And here now, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, YHWH, have given me.'

"Then you are to set it before your God YHWH, and give worship in the presence of your God YHWH. In this way, you are to enjoy every good thing which your God YHWH has given you and your family, to you and the Levites and the foreigners who live among you.

"When you have finished setting aside the whole tenth of your produce in the third year--the year of tithing--and have given it to the Levites, the foreigners, the orphans, and the widows, so that they will have food in your communities and be satisfied, they you are to say in the presence of your God YHWH, 'I have removed the holy tenth from my house and have given it to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, in accordance with all the commandments you have imposed on me; I have not violated your commandments, and have not forgotten them. I have not eaten any of it while in mourning, and have not removed any of it for an unclean use, nor have I given any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the voice of my God YHWH, and have acted in accordance with all you have commanded. Please look down from your holy residence in heaven and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us just as you swore to our ancestors, "a land flowing with milk and honey."'

"Today, your God YHWH commands you to observe these rules and regulations; and so you are to be careful to observe them with all your heart and your whole soul. Today you have made known that YHWH is to be your God, and that you will pattern your conduct on his guidelines and keep his rules, regulations, commandments, and orders, and that you will obey what he says. Also, YHWH has made known that you are to be his special people, just as he promised you, provided you keep all his commandments; and he will set you high above every nation he has made in praise and honor, so that you will be a holy people to your God YHWH, just as he has spoken."

You are a people God has made his own; once you were not his people, but now you are the people of God. In the past, you knew nothing of God's mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Because he loved you, the Master chose you and brought you out of the land of slavery. In the past, you knew nothing of God's merccy, but now you have received mercy.

Second Reading: Detailed Rules for Monks by St. Basil the Great

Are there any words that can adequately describe God's gifts? They are so numerous it is impossible to count them; they are so great that any one of them demands our total gratitude in response.

Yet even though we cannot speak of it appropriately, there is one gift that no thoughtful person can ignore. God fashioned man in his own image and likeness; he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability to think, which raised him above all living creatures; he allowed him to take pleasure in the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him control over everything on earth.

Then, when man was tempted by the snake and fell into sin, which led to death and all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not abandon him. He first gave man the Law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent the prophets to denounce vice and teach virtue; and he restrained man's evil impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises. Often, as a warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and vice in other people. And in addition, when man continued in disobedience even after he had done all this, God did not desert him.

No, we were not abandoned by the Master's goodness. Even the insult we offered our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us; just the opposite: though we were dead, our Master Prince Jesus restored us to life again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, "because his condition was divine, and yet he did not find equality to God something he had to keep hold of, and emptied himself to take on the condition of a slave."

"He took our weaknesses upon himself and endured our pains. He was wounded for our sake so that we would be healed by his wounds." "He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for our sake," and he submitted to the most shameful sort of death to elevate us to a life of glory. And he was not content merely to summon us back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine nature, and prepared us a place of eternal rest, where there will be happiness so intense as to surpass all human imagination.

Then how are we to repay the Master for all his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks for no compensation except our love; that is the only payment he wants. To speak of my own personal feelings, when I ponder all these blessings, I am overwhelmed by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing disgrace upon the Prince because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivia.

Bless the Master, my soul, and never forget all his kindness; he rescues me from death and crowns me with mercy and love.

The Master loved me and gave himself up to death for me; he rescues me from death and crowns me with mercy and love.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternally living God, please direct your love that is within us, so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind to unity and peace. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 29.2-6, 10-29

Moses summoned all of Israel and said to them, "You have seen all that YHWH did in your presence in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his slaves and his whole country. You saw the great troubles, the miracles, and all the astonishing things. But YHWH has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to listen, to this very day. And I have led you for forty years in the desert, and your clothes have not worn out on you, your sandals have not worn out on your feet, you have not eaten bread or drunk wine or anything like it, so that you would know that I, YHWH, am your God.

"All of you are standing today in the presence of your God YHWH: your leaders, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your children, and your wives, as well as foreigners who live in your camps, from those who chop your wood to those who draw water for you, so that you will be parties of the Treaty which your God YHWH is making with you, and take part in the oath which your God YHWH makes with you today, so that he will set you up today as a people for himself, and so that he will be God for you, just as he has spoken to you, and just as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And I am concluding this Treaty and taking this oath, not simply with you, but with those who are not here today as well as those who are here.

"Now, you know that we used to live in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations you passed through, and you saw their disgusting practices and the idols made of wood, stone, silver, and gold that they had. There is not to exist among you any man or woman, clan, or tribe, whose heart turns away from our God YHWH to go and serve the gods of these nations; there is to be no root among you that grows into such bitterness and poison.

"It is not to be thought of that a person who hears the words of this curse deceives himself in his heart, and says, 'I will have peace, even though I am following the dictates of my own heart' as though he were a drunk who wanted to be considered sober. No, YHWH will not spare him; because in that case, YHWH's anger and jealousy will flare up against that man, and every curse that is written in this book will settle on him, and YHWH will erase his name from under heaven. He will exile him from all the tribes of Israel and single him out for doom, in accordance with the curses that were written in this Book of the Law, so that the generations of your descendants that come after you and the foreigners who come from far away will say this, when they see the torment of that land and the sickness which YHWH has visited on it:

"'The whole land is sulfur and burning salt; it has nothing planted on it, and nothing grows, not even grass; it is like Sodom and Gomorrah, Adamah, and Zeboiim after they were overthrown by YHWH's anger and rage.' And all the nations will say, 'Why has YHWH done this to this land? What does the heat of his fierce anger mean?' And people will answer, 'It is because they abandoned the Treaty which YHWH, the God of their ancestors, made with them when he brought them out of the land of Egypt; they went and served other gods and worshiped them, and then YHWH's anger was roused against this land, and brought on it every curse that is written in this book. And YHWH uprooted them from their land in his rage and furious indignation, and drove them into another land, where they are today.'

"What is still private to our God YHWH and what has been revealed belong to us and to our descendants forever, so that we will be able to observe all that is said in this Law."

The Prince was cursed for our sake so that the blessing of Abraham would be able to include the pagans, and that through faith we could receive the promised Spirit.

God rescued us from the land of Egypt and set us free from the land of slavery, so that through faith we could receive the promised Spirit.

Second Reading: A Sermon on the Song of Songs by St. Bernard

Where can weak people find a place of firm security and peace but in the Savior's wounds? Actually, the more secure my place there is, the more he can do to help me. The world may rage, my flesh may be heavy, and the devil may lay his snares, but I do not fall, because my feet are planted on a firm rock. I may have sinned seriously, and my conscience may be troubled, but it would not be in turmoil, because I would recall the Master's wounds: "He was wounded for our disobedience." Is there any sin so deadly that it cannot be pardoned by the Prince's death? And so if I keep this strong, effective remedy in mind, I can never again be terrified by the poisonousness of sin.

It is certain that the man who said, "My sin is too great to be pardoned" was wrong. He was speaking as if he were not one of the Prince's cells and had no part in his merits for him to claim as his own, in the way a cell in a body can claim what belongs to the head. In my own case, what can I take to myself from the heart of the Master who is overflowing with mercy? They pierced his hands and feet and opened his side with a spear; and through the openings of these wounds I can drink "honey from the rock and oil from the hardest stone": that is, I can "taste and see that the Master is sweet."

He was thinking thoughts of peace, and I did not know it, because "does anyone know the Master's mind, or has anyone been his adviser?" But the nail that pierced him has been the key to unlock the door, for me to see the Master's kindness. And what can I see as I look through the hole? The nail and the wound together cry out that God in the Prince was bringing the world into conformity to himself. "The sword pierced his soul and came close to his heart" so that he would be able to feel sympathy with me in my weakness.

It is through these sacred wounds we can see the secret of his heart, the great mystery of love, "the sincerity of his mercy that brought him to visit us from his high home." Where have your love, your mercy, and your sympathy shone more luminously than in your wounds, my tender, gentle Master of mercy? No one has more mercy than to give up his life for those who are doomed to death.

My deserving anything comes from his mercy, because I deserve a reward to the extent that he pities me. And if the Master possesses many mercies, then I am rich in my privileges. That is, even if I am aware of many sins, what does it matter? "God's favor has overflowed where sin has been heaped up." And if "The Master's mercies exist from all ages for ever," I will also "sing about the Master's mercies forever." Or will I sing about my own virtue? "No, Master, I will only remember your virtue." But that too is my own; because God has made you my virtue.

He was pierced for our infractions; he was crushed for our sins. The punishment that gives us peace is visited on him, and we are healed by his wounds.

The Prince took our sins on his own body, and was nailed to the cross, so that we would die to sin and live for holiness. We are healed by his wounds.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternally living God, please direct your love that is within us so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind unity and peace. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 30.1-20

This was what Moses said to the people:

"When all of these blessings and curses I have proposed to you happen to you, and you remember them among the nations where your God YHWH drives you, and you and your children return to your God YHWH and obey what he has said in everything I am commanding you today with all your heart and soul; then your God YHWH will bring you back from captivity, have pity on you, and gather you once again from all the nations through which your God YHWH has scattered you.

"Even if any of you are driven to the farthest places under heaven, your God YHWH will bring you back together. And then your God YHWH will bring you into the land your ancestors possessed and you will take possession of it yourselves; and your God YHWH will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you will love your God YHWH with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that you will continue to live.

"And then your God YHWH will put all these curses on your enemies and those who hate you and persecuted you; and you will obey once again what your God YHWH said and follow all his commandments which I am imposing on you today. Your God YHWH will give you an abundance in everything your hands do, in your own yield of offspring, increases in your livestock, and in the produce of your fields for your good, because your God YHWH will take pleasure in your benefits as he took pleasure in your ancestors, if you obey your God YHWH's voice and keep his commandments and regulations that are written in the Book of the Law, and if you turn to your God YHWH with all your heart and soul.

"You see, this commandment I impose on you today is no secret from you, and is not something at a distance from you. It is not up in the sky, for you to say, 'Who can rise up into the sky and bring it down to us for us to hear and perform it?' Nor is it beyond the ocean, for you to say, 'Who will travel over the ocean for us and bring it to us, for us to hear and perform it?' No, what is said is very near you, in your mouths and your hearts, so that you can do it.

"Now what I have done is set before you life and goodness, death and harm, because I am commanding you today to love your God YHWH, to walk along his paths, and to keep his commandments, rules, and regulations, so that you will continue to live and multiply, and your God YHWH will bless you in the land you are going into to possess.

"But if your hearts turn away and you do not listen and are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I am making it known to you today that you will certainly die out; you will not live for long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

"I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you that I have set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse; and so choose life, so that both you and your descendants will continue to live, to love your God YHWH, obey his voice, and cling to him, because he is your life and your longevity, and so that you will have a home in the land which YHWH swore he would give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

You will look for me, and when you look with your whole heart, you will find me; I will let myself be found by you, says the Master; I will restore your fortunes.

Look, and you will find what you are looking for; knock, and the door will open. I will let myself be found by you, says the Master; I will restore your fortunes.

Second Reading: A Sermon by John the Serene

"The Master is my light and my rescue; can anyone frighten me?" How great that servant was who knew how he was given light, where it came from, and what sort of man he was when he was favored with that light. The light he saw was not the one that fades at dusk, it was "the light which no eye has seen." Souls illuminated by this light do not fall into sin or stumble into vice.

Our Master said, "Do your traveling while you have the light in you." What other light did he mean but himself? Because it was he who said, "I have come as a light into the world," so that those who have eyes will not see and the blind will receive "the light." Therefore, the Master is our light, the sun of virtue and honesty, who has shone on his Catholic Church diffused throughout the world. The prophet spoke as a metaphor for the Church when he cried, "The Master is my light and my rescue; can anyone frighten me?"

A spiritual man who has had it shine on him does not totter or leave the path, but puts up with anything. Since he glimpses our true country from a distance, he puts up with reverses; he is not dismayed by what belongs to time, and finds his strength in God. He lowers his pride and perseveres, and has patience because of his humility. That true light "which shines on every man who comes into the world" bestows itself on those who respect it, and shines where it pleases, on whomever it pleases, and reveals itself as the will of the Son of God directs.

When this light begins to shine on a man who "sat in darkness and the shadow of death," in the darkness of evil and the shadow of sin, he is shocked, he brings himself up short, he regrets and is ashamed of his misdeeds, and says, "The Master is my light and my rescue; can anyone frighten me?" This rescue is tremendous, my brothers and sisters, if it is not afraid of sickness or fatigue, and disregards pain. And so we should cry out in the fullest sense, not only with our voices but our very souls, "The Master is my light and my rescue; can anyone frighten me?" If he shines on me and saves me, who can intimidate me? Even if the dark shadows of evil suggestions crowd around me, "the Master is my light." They can approach, but cannot win; they can lay siege to our hearts, but they cannot conquer them. Though the blindness of desire attacks us, we need only say again, "The Master is my light." Because he is our strength; he gives himself to us, and we give ourselves to him. Hurry to this physician while you can, or you may not be able to find him when you want him.

Please send out wisdom, Master, from your glorious throne to be with me in my daily labors, so that I will know what pleases you.

Master, please give me the wisdom that is enthroned beside you, so that I will know what pleases you.

Prayer

Omnipotent, eternally living God, please direct you love that is within us, so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind to unity and peace. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 31.1-15, 23

When Moses had said all this to Israel, he told them, "I am one hundred twenty years old today; I can no long move about freely; and YHWH has told me, 'You are not to cross over this Jordan River.' Your God YHWH himself is crossing over in front of you; he will destroy these nations in your path, and you will dispossess them. It will be Joshua who crosses over in front of you, as YHWH has said. And YHWH will do to those people what he did in destroying Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land: YHWH will hand them over to you, for you to do to them everything I have commanded. Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or intimidated by them; because it is your God YHWH who is going with you. He will not leave you or abandon you."

Then Moses called Joshua over and told him in the presence of the whole of Israel, "Be strong and brave, because you are to go with this people to the land which YHWH has sworn to their ancestors to give them; and you will be the one who causes them to inherit it. And it is YHWH who is going in front of you; he will not leave you or abandon you, and so do not be afraid or intimidated."

Then Moses wrote down this Law and gave it to the descendants of Levi, who carried the Chest containing YHWH's Treaty, as well as to all of the elders of Israel. And Moses gave them these commands: "At the end of every seven years, at the proper time in the year of release, at the Festival of Tents, when all of Israel comes to appear before your God YHWH in the place he chooses, you are to read this Law out to Israel as they listen. Gather the people, men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your communities, so that they will hear it and learn to hold your God YHWH in reverence and carefully observe every word in this Law; and so that their descendants, who have not known it, will hear it and learn reverence for your God YHWH as long as you live in the land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess."

Then YHWH told Moses, "Now the time is coming for you to die; call Joshua and present yourselves in the Meeting Tent, so that I can install him." So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the Meeting Tent, and YHWH appeared at the tent as a pillar of cloud, which stood above the door of the tent. Then YHWH installed Joshua son of Nun, and said, "Be strong and brave, because you will bring the descendants of Israel into the land I swore to give them, and I will be with you."

Be strong and brave, because your Master God is going with you. He is going in front of you; there is nothing for you to be afraid of.

The Master will be at your side to keep your foot from tripping. He is going in front of you; there is nothing for you to be afraid of.

Second Reading: A Commentary on the Psalms by John Fisher

First God freed Israel from the bondage of Egypt by performing many signs and wonders. He permitted them to cross the Red Sea dry-shod. He fed them in the desert with food from heaven in the form of manna and quail. When they were suffering from thirst, he produced an overflowing spring of water from the hardest rock. He gave them victory over all the enemies who made war against them. He forced the river to flow backward for a time. He divided the promised land and distributed it among them according to the number of their tribes and families.

Yet even though he treated them so lovingly and generously, the Israelites were ungrateful and seemed forgetful of all this. They abandoned the worship of God and more than once they were guilty of the abominable sin of idolatry.

Then he also took pity on us, "when we were pagans who went off to mute idols wherever we were led." He severed us from the wild olive tree of paganism and, breaking our natural branches, he grafted us onto the true olive tree of Judaism and made us share in the root of his grace and richness. Finally, "he did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, as an offering and a sacrifice to God in a fragrant odor, so that he would redeem us from all our iniquity and cleanse for himself an acceptable people."

Now all these things are not merely certain arguments but also clear proof of his deep love and kindness for us. And yet we are the most ungrateful of men. Indeed, we have gone beyond the bounds of ingratitude: we give no thought to his love, nor do we recognize the extent of his kindnesses to us. Rather we reject the one who lavishes so many favors and even appear to despise him; and the remarkable mercy that he has continually shown to sinners does not move us to form our lives and conduct according to his most holy command.

Clearly these things are worthy to be written down in the second generation so as to preserve their memory for ever. Thus all who are still to be counted among Christians will know the great kindness of God toward us and never cease singing his divine praises.

In your meetings, bless God. Praise the Master, all you descendants of Israel.

Sing a new song to the Master; all the earth is to sing to the Master. Praise the Master, all you descendants of Israel.

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternally living God, please direct your love that is within us, so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind unity and peace. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Deuteronomy 32.48-52, 34.1-12

Then YHWH told Moses on that same day, "Go up this Mount Nebo, in the Abarim Mountains, in the land of Moab across from Jericho, and look over the land of Canaan, which I am giving to Israel's descendants to possess; and you are to die on the mountain you have climbed, and join your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and joined his people. The reason is that you broke faith with me among the descendants of Israel at the river of Meribah-Kadesh in the Desert of Zin in not revealing my holiness to the assembled descendants of Israel. You will look upon the land that faces you, even though you will not go into that land I am giving Israel's descendants."

Then Moses climbed from the plains in Moab up Mount Nebo, to the promontory of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho; and YHWH showed him the whole land of Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphthali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, and toward the south, the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, and as far as Zoar. And YHWH told him, "This is the land I swore to give Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, when I told them I would give it to their descendants. I have allowed your eyes to see it, but you are not to cross over there."

And so YHWH's servant Moses died there in the land of Moab, as YHWH predicted, and he was buried in a valley opposite Beth-Peor in the land of Moab; but no one knows to this day where his grave is. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his eyes had not grown dim, nor had his natural vigor failed him. And the descendants of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days, after which the time of weeping and mourning for Moses was over.

Now Joshua, son of Nun, was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and so the descendants of Israel listened to him, and did as YHWH commanded Moses.

But since then there has not appeared in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom YHWH knew face to face. He had no equal in all the miracles and astounding deeds YHWH sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, in the presence of Pharaoh and all his servants and throughout the land, and for the might and terrifying power Moses exhibited in the sight of all of Israel.

Your feast is to be a time of celebration for you and your sons and daughters, as well as the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows; and then the Master will bless you and fill you with joy.

Yes, even now the messenger of good news is coming over the mountains. "Peace!" he calls. "Enjoy yourself, Judah, and celebrate your feasts!" And then the Master will bless you and fill you with joy.

Second Reading: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church

in the Modern World by the Second Vatican Council

In the face of death, the enigma of human existence reaches its climax. Man is not only the victim of pain and the progressive deterioration of the body; he is also, and more deeply, tormented by the fear of final extinction. But instinctive judgment of his heart is right when he shrinks from, and rejects, this idea of a total collapse and definitive end of his own person. He carries within him the seed of eternity, which cannot be reduced to matter alone, and so he rebels against death. All efforts of technology, however useful they may be, cannot calm his anxieties; the biological extension of his life-span cannot satisfy the desire inescapably present in his heart for a life beyond this life.

Imagination is completely helpless when confronted with death. Yet the Church, instructed by divine revelation, affirms that man has been created by God for a destiny of happiness beyond the reach of earthly trials. Moreover, the Christian faith teaches that bodily death, to which man would not have been subject if he had not sinned, will be conquered; the almighty and merciful Savior will restore man to the wholeness that he had lost through his own fault. God has called man, and still calls him, to be united in his whole being in perpetual communion with himself in the immortality of the divine life. This victory has been gained for us by the risen Prince, who by his own death has freed man from death.

Faith, presented with solid arguments, offers every thinking person the answer to his questionings concerning his future destiny. At the same time, it enables him to be one in the Prince with his loved ones who have been taken from him by death, and gives him hope that they have entered true life with God.

Certainly, the Christian is faced with the necessity, and the duty, of fighting against evil by many trials, and of undergoing death. But by entering the Paschal mystery and being made like the Prince in death, he will look forward, strong in hope, to the return to life.

This is true not only of Christians but also of all men of good will, in whose heart grace is invisibly at work. Since the Prince died for every man, and the ultimate calling of man is in fact one and the same, that is, a divine calling, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to everyone the possibility of being united with this paschal mystery in a way known only to God.

Such is the great mystery of man, enlightening believers through the Christian revelation. Through the Prince and in the Prince, light is thrown on the enigma of pain and death which overwhelms us without his Good News to teach us. The Prince has returned to life, and destroyed death by his own death; he has given us the free gift of life, so that as sons in the Son, we are able to call out in the Spirit, and say, "Abba." "Papa."

The Master is my light and my rescue; who can make me afraid? The Master is my life's refuge; who can intimidate me?

Even if I walk in a valley dark as death, I will fear no harm, because you are there beside me. The Master is my life's refuge; who can intimidate me?

Prayer

Omnipotent and eternally living God, please direct your love that is within us so that our efforts in the name of your Son will bring mankind to unity and peace. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Fourth Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: 1Thessalonians 1.1-2.12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the people of Thessalonica who are a community in God the Father and our Master, Prince Jesus:

God's blessings on you, and peace.

We keep thanking God for all of you, as we mention you in our prayers; we never stop recalling in the presence of God our father what you have done in faith, how hard you have worked in love, and how long you have persevered in hope for our Master, Prince Jesus; because we can see, brothers and sisters God loves so much, how you were chosen, since the report of the good news did not come to you just in words; it came in power, in the holy spirit, and in a great deal of confidence in its truth; it was just what you know we were like with you, for your sake.

And you yourselves began to act as we did, and as the Master did, since you accepted what we said with the joy of the holy spirit, even in the face of severe hardship, and this has made you an example for the believers all over Macedonia and Greece. You are the ones who have spread the news about the Master--and not just in Macedonia and Greece; your faith in God has gone everywhere, so that we really do not need to say anything; the people we come to already have heard from you about how we made a visit to you, how you turned to God from worshiping idols, how you became slaves of the real God who is alive, and how you are waiting for his son Jesus to come from heaven and raise the dead and save us from the punishment that is coming.

And you, brothers and sisters, know yourselves that our trip to you was not a waste of time. We had, as you realize, suffered a great deal and been made fools of in Philippi; but we found courage in God and spoke up, and reported God's good news to you, in spite of the struggle it was. That was because what we do on your behalf does not come from a mistake, or from hypocrisy or fraud; we deliver the good news to you in the same form that God found that we deserved having it entrusted to us; we say what pleases the God who tests our hearts, not what men find attractive.

What we have said has never been to make people feel good, as you know; and God knows that it has never been a cloak for greed. We have never cared about what people think of us, either when we were with you or anyone else, though we could have demanded respect as emissaries of the Prince. No, we were as gentle with you as a nurse is with her children. That was how tender and loving we were when we decided to give you not only the report of God's good news, but our own souls; you were that dear to us. Remember, brothers and sisters, how we sweated and slaved; we took on work night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you as we were delivering the report of God's good news to you.

You know as well as God does how holy, honest, and faultless our conduct was to you believers; and you are just as well aware how we treated each of you individually, the way a father treats his children, and challenged and encouraged you, and gave you an example of how to behave as the God who is calling you to his kingdom and glory has a right to expect you to behave.

God brought you back to himself to serve the true and living God and to wait for the day when his Son Jesus comes down from heaven, the Son he brought back to life, Jesus, the one who is saving us from the punishment that is coming.

May God make your hearts overflow with love, and may he confirm your hearts in holiness for the day when our Master Prince Jesus comes: Jesus, the one who is saving us from the punishment that is coming.

Second Reading: A letter to Smyrna by St. Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius, known as Theophorus, to the Community of God the Father and his beloved Prince Jesus in Smyrna in Asia. I wish all of you joy in a spotless spirit and the Word of God, by whose mercy you have won every gift and are deprived of none of them, since you are filled with faith and love, and are loved by God and productive in your holiness.

I am overjoyed at the glory of Prince Jesus as God, since he is the one responsible for your wisdom; and I am well aware of the perfection of your unshakeable faith. You are like people who have been nailed body and soul to Prince Jesus's cross, and are strengthened in love by his blood.

Speaking of the Master, you firmly believe that he was "a material descendant of David," but God's son by the will and power of God; that he really was born from the Virgin and was bathed by John "so that everything that is virtuous will be completed"; that he really was nailed to a cross in his material body for our sake and suffered this under Pontius Pilate and the Tetrarch Herod, and that we are the result of his blessed suffering. And in this way, by his return to life he lifted the standard over his sacred and faithful people for all time, whether they are Judeans or Gentiles, in the one body of his Community. That is, he endured all this for us, to rescue us; and he really underwent the suffering and just as truly returned from death.

In my own case, I am convinced that he was reunited with his body even after his return to life. When he visited the Rock and his companions, he told them, "Take hold of me and touch me and see that I am not a spirit without a body." And as soon as they touched him, they believed, and grasped his body and his spirit both. And this was the reason they despised death and conquered it. Further, after his return to life, the Master ate and drank with them like a real human being, even though in spirit he was united with his Father.

And so I am giving you serious instruction on these points, my dear friends, even though I am aware that you do believe them to be true.

Through the Law, I died to the Law to live for God. I still live in this human body, but I now live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.

I have been nailed to the cross with the Prince, and it is not I who live now; the one who lives in me is the Prince, who loved me and gave himself up for me.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts, and to love every human being in the way you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: 1 Thessalonians 2.13-3.13

And this is why we never stop thanking God, because when you listened to what we said about God, you did not accept it as human talk, but for what it really is: words God is saying as he acts within you when you believe. And so you became like God's communities in Judea, in Jesus the Prince, because you have had happen to you from your countrymen the same thing that they suffered from the Judeans, the ones who killed Master Jesus and the prophets and kept hounding us--and instead of pleasing God, and in direct opposition to all the people, they kept us from speaking to the Gentiles so they could be saved; and kept piling up their sins all the time right to the brim. And God's punishment has finally fallen on them.

But when we had to leave you for a short while--in body, not in heart--we were terribly anxious to see your faces again. So we kept planning to come back to you; I, Paul, tried at least twice; but Satan kept us from it. After all, what hope or joy or laurel crown do we have except you to wear proudly round our heads, as we stand in the presence of our Master Jesus when he appears again? You are our glory and joy.

And so, when we could not stand it any longer, we decided to have me remain alone in Athens and sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker in reporting the good news about the Prince, for him to keep you firm and give you encouragement in your belief, so you would not be shaken by these hardships. Because you know that that is what we are destined for; when we were there with you, we predicted that we were all going to have hardship; and that is what happened and that is what you found out. That was why, when even I could not bear it any more, I sent him to find out about your belief, because I was afraid that the tempter would have tempted you and my work would have been a waste.

But Timothy has just come back to us from you, with a good report about your belief and love; he said that you still keep pleasant memories of us, and that you would like to see us as much as we would like to see you. This has encouraged us, brothers and sisters; you have put heart in us in our difficulties and hardships with your belief; because our life now depends on your standing straight in the Master. How can we thank God enough for all the joy you have given us before our God as we pray night and day to be allowed to see your faces and to build up whatever remains to be built in your belief?

I hope that our father God himself and our Master Jesus will show us the way to you, and that the Master will make your love fill up and overflow toward each other and toward everyone, just as we love you; so that he will keep your hearts blameless and firm in holiness before God our father when our Master Jesus joins his sacred people.

May the Master be generous in making your hearts overflow with love for each other and for everyone, and may he confirm your hearts in holiness.

May our Master himself inspire your hearts with courage, and may he confirm your hearts in holiness.

Second Reading: A Commentary on the Psalms

by St. Hilary of Poitiers

"See how good it is and how pleasant for brothers to live together in unity." It is good for brothers and sisters to live together in unity, because when they do, their association creates the community which is the Church. The term "brothers" describes the bond of affection that arises from their singleness of purpose.

We read that when the Emissaries first delivered the proclamation of the Good News, the main teaching they gave was summed up in this saying: "The hearts and minds of all the believers were the same." So it is fitting for the people of God to be brothers and sisters under one Father, to live in harmony under one roof, and to be organs of one body.

It is pleasant and good for brothers to live together in unity. The prophet gave a comparison for this good and pleasant activity when he said, "It is like the scented oil upon the head which runs down over Aaron's beard onto the collar of his robe." Aaron's oil was made of the perfumes used to anoint a priest. It was God's decision to have his priest have this consecration first, and that our Master would also be anointed, though not visibly, "by those who are joined with him." Aaron's anointing did not belong to this world; it was not done with the horn used for kings, but "with the oil of gladness." So afterward, Aaron was called the Anointed, as the Law prescribed.

When this oil is poured over men whose hearts are impure, it extinguishes their lives; but when it is received as an anointing of love, it gives off the sweet odor of harmony with God. As Paul says, "We are the pleasant fragrance of the Prince." Hence, just as it was pleasing to God when Aaron was anointed with this oil, so it is good and pleasant for brothers and sisters to live together in unity.

Now the oil ran down the head to his beard. A beard adorns a man of mature years. We must not be children before the Prince except in the restricted Scriptural sense of being children in evil, but not in our way of thinking. Paul calls all those who are weak in faith "children," because they are too feeble to take solid food, and still need milk. As he says, "I fed you with milk rather than the solid food you were not yet ready for; and you are still not ready."

We are all one body in the Prince, and in this one body we are all parts of each other; yet the degree of the gift the Prince gives each of us is different.

We were all bathed into the one Spirit, and all of us has been given the one Spirit to drink; yet the degree of the gift the Prince gives each of us is different.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts, and to love everyone as you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4.1-18

So there is only one thing left, brothers and sisters, for us to ask you. Please, in the name of Master Jesus, behave and be pleasing to God as you heard us explain to you--behave as you have been behaving, only more so.

You know what the orders were that we gave you from Master Jesus. This is God's will for you, and your holiness: for you to keep away from sexual wrongs, for each of you to know how to keep possession of his organism in holiness and honor, and not let desire rule him as the pagans and those who do not know God do, and to know how not to be in competition with or take advantage of his brother or sister in what he does; the Master will make you pay for all of this, as we told you before and made very clear. God called you to holiness, not uncleanness; and anyone who pays no attention to these rules is not ignoring a man; he is ignoring God, who is bestowing on you his holy spirit.

You do not need to have me write anything about brotherly love; you are already taught by God how to care for each other; and you are practicing it toward all your brothers and sisters in the whole of Macedonia. We can only appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to do more of it; try hard to be even-tempered and to mind your own business; and work with your hands, as we told you, so your behavior will be decent toward outsiders and you will not be dependent on anyone.

But I do want to say something, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so you will not be grieving like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and came back to life; and God will do the same thing for those who have fallen asleep with Jesus; he will bring them back with him.

And we tell you this as something that the Master has said: those of us who are left alive when the Master comes out of seclusion will have no advantage over the ones who have fallen asleep; because the Master himself, when the call comes--at the voice of the archangel and the sound of God's trumpet--will come down from heaven; and then those who died in the Prince will come back to life first, and afterwards those of us who are left alive will be lifted up with them into the clouds to meet the Master in the air; and then we will be forever with the Master in this way. So encourage each other with what I have just said.

At the word of command, at the call of the archangel's voice and the sound of God's trumpet, the Master himself will come down from heaven; he will collect the ones he has chosen from the four winds, and from the depths of the earth to the heights of heaven.

When the Son of Man comes, he will send out his angels with a mighty trumpet blast; he will collect the ones he has chosen from the four winds, and from the depths of the earth to the heights of heaven.

Second Reading: Treatise against Heresies by St. Irenaeus

The Word of God became man, the Son of God became the Son of Man, so that he could unite man with himself and make him by adoption a son of God. Only by being united to one who is immune himself could we be preserved from death and decay, and how else could this union have been achieved if he had not first become what we are? How else could what can decay and die in us have been swallowed in his incorruptibility and immortality, so that we could receive adoptive sonship? And so the Son of God, our Master, the Word of the Father, is also the son of man; he became the son of man by a human birth from Mary, a member of the human race.

The Master has himself given us a sign here below and in the heights of heaven, a sign that man did not ask for because he never dreamed that such a thing was possible. A virgin became pregnant and bore a son who is called Emmanuel, which means "God is with us." He came down to the earth here below in search of the sheep that was lost, the sheep that was in fact his own creature; and then rose into the heights of heaven to offer the Father and entrust to his care the human race that he had found again.

The Master himself became the firstfruits of the return to life of mankind, and when its time of punishment for disobedience is over, the rest of the body, to which the whole human race belongs, will rise from the grave as the head has done. By God's help it will grow and be strengthened in all its joints and muscles, with each cell in its proper place in the body. There are many rooms in the Father's house because the body has many cells.

God put up patiently with man when he fell because he foresaw the victory that would be his through the Word. Weakness allowed strength its full play, and so revealed God's kindness and power.

The Prince has been brought back to life, as the firstfruits of the harvest when all the dead will return to life. Just as in Adam everyone dies, so in the Prince everyone will be brought back to life.

Death came through a man, and the return to life from the dead has also come through a man. Just as in Adam everyone dies, so in the Prince everyone will be brought back to life.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts and to love everyone as you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5.1-28

Of course, brothers and sisters, as to the time and date of this, you do not need to have us write anything, because you know perfectly well that the Master's day will come like a thief in the night. When people are talking about peace and security, suddenly disaster will fall on them, the way labor pains begin in a pregnant woman; and there will be no escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, for the day to surprise you like a thief; you are all children of light and children of the day. We do not belong to night or darkness, and so we must not be asleep like everyone else; we have to keep awake and stay sober. Sleepers sleep at night, and drunkards are drunk at night; and so since we belong to the day, we should stay sober, and "put on the armor" of belief and love, and "the helmet" of the hope of "rescue." God has not made us for punishment; he has made us able to buy our rescue through our Master Prince Jesus, who died for us so that we could live together with him--whether we are awake or asleep. So encourage each other and build up each other's strength--as you are doing.

We would also ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who are working hard and leading you in the Master, and advising you on what to do. Show them as much respect as possible in love because of what they are doing.

Be at peace with yourselves.

One more thing, brothers and sisters. Please do this: let the disorderly members know what they are doing, give support to the faint-hearted members, help out the weak ones, and put up with everyone. Be careful not to get even with a person who has cheated you by cheating him; always do good to each other--and to everyone.

Be happy all the time; keep praying; thank God for everything; this is God's will for you in Jesus the Prince.

Do not choke off the Spirit, and do not sneer at what is said under inspiration; but do examine all of it, and keep only what is good and throw out any form of what is bad.

May the God of peace make you completely holy; may he make your spirit and soul and body into one whole, blameless person and keep it that way until our Master, Prince Jesus joins us. He has called you, and he can be trusted; he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us too.

A holy kiss to all the brothers and sisters.

It is my wish in the Master to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The blessing of our Master

Prince Jesus be on you.

God has not destined us to endure his punishments, but to win rescue through our Master Prince Jesus, who died for us, so that we could live in him.

God rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his own beloved Son, who died for us, so that we could live in him.

Second Reading: Treatise on Spiritual Perfection

by Diadochus of Photice

The light of true knowledge makes it possible to distinguish without being mistaken between good evil. Then the path of virtue, which leads to the Sun of Virtue, brings the mind into the infinite light of knowledge, since it never fails to search out the love of God with complete confidence.

And so, we must maintain great stillness of mind, even in the middle of our struggles. We will then be able to distinguish between the different types of thoughts that come to us; and we will store in our memory those that are good, and sent by God; we will reject those that are evil and inspired by the devil. A comparison with the sea may help us: A calm ocean lets the fishermen see down into its depths; and no fish can hide there and escape being seen. But a stormy sea becomes murky when it is shaken up by the wind, and it now hides the depths that it revealed in its placid state--and the fisherman's skill is useless.

Only the Holy Spirit can purify the mind; unless the strong man enters and robs the thief, the loot will not be recovered. And so in every way, but especially by peace of soul, we must try to give the Holy Spirit a resting place; and then we will have the light of knowledge shining within us all the time, and it will show up for what they are all the dark and hateful temptations that come from demons; and not only will it show them up, the exposure to this holy, glorious light will also tremendously weaken their power.

This is why the Emissary says, "Do not choke off the Spirit." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of goodness; do not sadden him by your evil actions and thoughts, and by doing so deprive him of the defense his light gives you. In his own being, which is eternal and vivifying, he is not choked off; but when he is saddened, he turns away and leaves the mind in darkness, and deprived of the light of knowledge.

The mind is capable of tasting and accurately distinguishing whatever is presented to it. Just as when our health is good, we can tell the difference between good and bad food by our bodily sense of taste and are attracted to what is healthy; in the same way, when our mind is strong and free from all anxiety, it is able to taste the riches of divine consolation, and to preserve, through love, the memory of this taste. This teaches us what is best with absolute certainty. As St. Paul says, "My prayer is that your love will increase more and more in knowledge and insight, and in this way enable you to choose what is best."

Bless the Master God all the time, and ask him to guide you in his paths, so that everything you do will be rooted in him.

Ask God to guide you so that you will do what is pleasing to him, in sincerity and with all your strength, so that everything you do will be rooted in him.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts and to love everyone as you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1.1-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the people of Thessalonica who form a community in God our Father and our Master Prince Jesus:

Blessings and peace to you from God the Father and our Master Prince Jesus.

We really have to keep thanking God for you, brothers and sisters; you deserve it, because your belief is growing so great and the love you have for each other is becoming so full that we keep telling everyone in God's communities how proud we are of you, and of your perseverance and belief in all the oppression and hardship you have undergone.

What has happened is evidence of how just God's verdict is: you are coming to deserve having God as your king by what you are suffering. And wouldn't it be fitting for God to oppress the ones oppressing you--and put an end to your torture--when Master Jesus comes out of his seclusion in heaven in fiery flame with the angels of his power? Then he will "pass sentence on those who do not know" God and the ones who do not pay attention to the report of the good news about our Master Jesus; these people are facing the "vengeance of eternal destruction far from the face of the Master" and "from the resplendence of his power," on the day when he comes to be known for what he is among his holy people, filling all the believers with awe--because they believed the evidence we put before you.

This is why we keep praying for you, so you will deserve what God has called you to, and will complete every good plan you have and every deed you do in the power of your faith; and in that way the name of our Master Jesus will have great respect among you, and you will be respected in him because of the gift of our God and Master, Prince Jesus.

The Master will be glorified in his sacred people, and will be adored by everyone who has believed in him.

The Master is faithful in everything he says and loving in everything he does; and will be adored by everyone who has believed in him.

Second Reading: Catecheses by St. Cyril of Jerusalem

The Catholic Church is proud of every action of the Prince; but her supreme pride is the cross. In complete awareness of this, Paul says, "God forbid that I would brag about anything but the cross of our Master Prince Jesus."

At Siloam, there was a sense of amazement, and rightly so. A man born blind received his sight. But what importance does this have, when there are so many blind people in the world? Lazarus came back from death, but even this only affected Lazarus. What of those countless numbers who have died because of their sins? Those five miraculous loaves fed five thousand people; but this is a tiny number in comparison to those all over the world who were starved because of ignorance. After eighteen years, a woman was freed from slavery to Satan; but are we not all shackled by the chains of our own sins?

For us all, however, the cross is the winner's laurel crown; it is brought light to those blinded by ignorance; it has released those enslaved by sin; it has redeemed the whole of mankind.

And so do not be embarrassed by the Prince's cross; take pride in it instead. Although it is shocking to the Judeans and stupidity to the Gentiles, the message of the cross is our rescue. Of course it is stupidity to those who are dying out; but to those of us who are saved, it is the power of God. It was not simply a man who died for us; it was the Son of God: God become man.

In the Mosaic law, a sacrificial lamb drove out the destroyer. But now it is "the Lamb of God, the one who rids the world of its sin." Would he not free us even more from our sins? The blood of an animal, a sheep, brought rescue; then will not the blood of the only Son God ever fathered bring us greater rescue?

He was not killed against his will; he was not forced to give up his life. His sacrifice was voluntary. Listen to his own words: "I have the power to give up my life, and to take it back again." Yes, he voluntarily submitted to his own suffering; he found joy in its accomplishment; he was happy at his winner's crown and he took pleasure in man's rescue. He was not embarrassed by the cross, because he was to save the world by it. No, it was not an insignificant human being who suffered; it was God made flesh; he entered the match for the reward he would win by his perseverance.

So the cross should certainly give you joy in times of peace; but keep the same faith in times of oppression, because otherwise, you will be a friend of Jesus in times of tranquillity and his enemy during war. You are now receiving forgiveness of your sins and the generous gift of grace from your king; so when war comes, fight courageously for him.

Jesus never sinned, and yet he was crucified for you. Will you refuse to be crucified for him, the one who for your sake was nailed to the cross? You are not the one who gives the favor; you have received one first. It was for your sake that he was crucified on Golgotha; and now you are returning his favor; you are fulfilling your debt to him.

To those on the way to destruction, the message of the cross is stupidity; but those of us on the way to being rescued see it as the proof of God's power.

Our proclamation is a crucified Prince, which is shocking to the Judeans and stupidity to the Gentiles; but those of us on the way to being rescued see it as the proof of God's power.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts and to love everyone as you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2.1-17

But now, brothers and sisters, do not, please, let yourselves get excited or anxious about the time when our Master Prince Jesus is to join us and call us into his entourage--whether you hear that the Master's day has arrived either by an inspiration or gossip, or even by a letter that is supposedly from us. Do not be fooled by anyone in any way; it is not going to happen before the rebellion comes, when the Anarchist comes out into the open. He is the Son of Disaster, who is opposed to and who "sets himself above everything" called a "god" or sacred, so that he can "sit enthroned" in the temple "of God" and make himself out to be "God."

Have you forgotten that I told you this while I was there with you? And now you know what is holding him back until he shows himself at the right moment. Oh yes, the secret workings of anarchy have already started their dirty work; but the one who is keeping him in check has been with us up to now. But later the "Anarchist" will come out of hiding, and Master Jesus will "destroy him with the spirit, the breath from his mouth," and annihilate him with the radiance of his appearing among us.

But the appearing of the Anarchist is part of the activity of Satan, and will have all the power and signs and miracles falsehood is capable of, and will perform every trick that unholiness can devise for those who are to be destroyed because they did not accept the love of truth as what would save them. This is why God will send on them the act of being deluded, so they will believe the lie; and that is how the distinction will be made separating from us those who do not believe in the truth and who think that unholiness is what is right.

But we have to keep thanking God, brothers and sisters, for how you have been loved by the Master, because God has chosen you from the beginning for preservation in spiritual holiness and in belief in the truth. He called you to it by the report we brought of the good news, so that you could buy for yourselves the glory of our Master, Prince Jesus.

And so stand up tall, brothers and sisters, and keep hold of what has been handed to you, either by what we said by word of mouth or from our letter; and then our Master, Prince Jesus, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal encouragement and good hope as his gift, should strengthen your hearts and keep you firm in every good thing you do or say.

The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and everyone on earth will see the Son of Man coming with great power and majesty.

Then the evil one will be revealed, and Master Jesus will kill him with the breath from his mouth. And everyone on earth will see the Son of Man coming with great power and majesty.

Second Reading: A Homily by a Spiritual Writer of the 4th Century

Those who have been chosen for the privilege of living as sons of God and being born again by the Holy Spirit from heaven, and who hold within them the Prince who makes them something new and fills them with light are directed by the Spirit in different ways, and in their spiritual rest they are invisibly led in their hearts by grace.

Sometimes they are like people mourning and keening over their fellow men, and as they pour out prayers for the whole human race, they drown themselves in tears and grief, since they are on fire with spiritual love for mankind. At other times, they are set ablaze by the Spirit with so much love and ecstasy that if it were possible, they would clasp in an embrace all mankind with no distinction, bad as well as good.

Sometimes, they are depressed below humanity in degradation of spirit, so that they consider themselves to be in the lowest and most desperate condition; and sometimes they are grasped by the Spirit into unspeakable joy.

At one moment, they are like a courageous man putting on all the King's armor and ready to rush into battle, fight fearlessly against the enemy and defeat it; in this sense, a spiritual man puts on the heavenly armor of the Spirit and marches against the enemy, engages him, and tramples him under his feet. At the next moment, the soul is at rest in the deepest of silence, tranquillity, and peace; simply being--in sheer spiritual pleasure and in indescribable rest and a perfect state of existence.

Now the soul is taught by grace a kind of understanding of the ineffable wisdom and inscrutable knowledge of the Spirit on matters which neither tongue nor lips can pronounce; now the soul becomes like any ordinary man.

Grace works within souls in varied ways such as these; it leads the soul by many different means, and renews it in accordance with God's will and trains it in different ways so that it will take its place before the heavenly Father as pure and intact and blameless.

And so we must also make our prayer to God and beg him in love and great hope to bestow upon us the heavenly grace of the gift of the Spirit. We should pray that we too will be guided by that Spirit and that he will lead us into the fullness of the divine will, and refresh us with the various kinds of rest, so that with the help of this guidance, this exercise of grace, and this spiritual advancement, we will be considered fit to attain the perfection of the fullness of the Prince, as the Emissary says: "That you will be filled with the complete fullness of the Prince."

You have been anointed by the Holy One, and this anointing you have received from him has stayed with you. You do not need anyone to teach you, because his anointing teaches you everything.

Be happy and enjoy life in the Master, your God, because he has given us a teacher to instruct us in holiness. You do not need anyone to teach you, because his anointing teaches you everything.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts and to love everyone as you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: 2 Thessalonians 3.1-18

Finally, pray for us, brothers and sisters, so that the Master's message will spread as quickly and be as respected in other places as it was with you; and pray for us to be able to escape from people who will not listen to reason and who are simply evil; not everyone has faith. Of course, the Master can be trusted, and he will strengthen you and protect you from harm. And we are certain in the Master that you are doing what we tell you, and will keep at it. May the Master direct your hearts to the love of God and the patience of the Prince.

But please, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Master Prince Jesus, stay away from any of the brothers who hangs around doing nothing, and does not accept what we have passed on to you. You know how you are supposed to imitate us: we were not idle while we were there with you, and we would not take our meals as a gift from anyone; we worked and sweated night and day so none of you would find us a burden. And this was not because we did not have the right to our food, but to set an example for you to follow. And while we were there, we told you that if a person did not want to work, he was not to be fed. We have heard that there are some people among you who are going around idle and not working--except for prying into others' business. This message is for them; we appeal to them in the Master Prince Jesus to find some work to earn their own food, and to keep themselves to themselves.

And the rest of you, brothers and sisters, should not grow tired of doing what is right. And if anyone will not listen to what we are saying in this letter, show him that he is wrong by having nothing to do with him until he is ashamed of himself. Do not treat him as if he were an enemy, of course; set him straight like the brother he is.

May the Master of peace bestow peace on you at all times and in every way.

The Master be with all of you.

This signature is in my handwriting: PAUL.

This will prove that any letter is from me, because this is my handwriting.

When you opened your hearts to the message of God, you didn't receive it as human talk, but for what it really is: what God is saying.

You have heard the utterance of the truth, the good news of your rescue. You didn't receive it as human talk, but for what it really is: what God is saying.

Second Reading: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church

in the Modern World by the Second Vatican Council

The activity of man, as it has its origin in man, has man also as its end. Man through his work not only introduces change into things and into society; he also perfects himself. He learns a great deal; he develops his powers; he advances above and beyond himself. This kind of gain, properly understood, is more valuable than any external possessions. Man's worth is greater because of what he is than of what he has.

In the same way, all that men do to secure greater justice, more widespread brotherhood and a more human structure of social relationships has more value than advance in technology. Technological development may provide the raw material for human progress, but of itself it is totally unable to bring it into being.

The criterion, therefore, for assessing man's activity is this: does it, in accordance with God's plan, fit in with the true good of the human race and allow man, individually and corporately, to develop and fulfill his vocation in its entirety?

Many of our contemporaries, however, seem to be afraid that a closer relationship between religion and man's activity will injure the autonomy of men or societies or the different sciences. If by the autonomy of earthly realities we mean that created things and even societies have their own distinctive laws and values, which must be gradually identified, used, and regulated by men, this kind of autonomy is rightly demanded. Not only is it insisted on by modern man, it is also in harmony with the design of the Creator. By the very fact of creation everything is provided with its own stability, its own truth and goodness, its own laws and orderly functioning. Man must respect these, acknowledging the methods proper to each science or art.

One should therefore deplore certain attitudes of mind which are sometimes found even among Christians because of a failure to recognize the legitimate autonomy of science. These mental attitudes have given rise to conflict and controversy and led many to assume that faith and science are mutually opposed.

If, on the other hand, the autonomy of the temporal order is understood to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man may use them without reference to the Creator, all who believe in God will realize how false is this teaching. For creation without the Creator fades into nothingness.

The Master has blessed you in everything you have done; he has watched over your progress as you journeyed through the vast desert. The Master, your God, has been with you; no need of yours has been forgotten.

In the same way as a father teaches his son, the Master, your God, was training you. The Master, your God, has been with you; no need of yours has been forgotten.

Prayer

Dear Master, our God, please help us to love you with all our hearts and to love everyone as you love them. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Fifth Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Galatians 1.1-12

Paul, an emissary--not an emissary of any human being or one authorized by any human being, but an emissary whose authorization is from Prince Jesus and God his Father, who brought him back from death--and from all the brothers and sisters with me--to the communities of the people of Galatia:

Blessings and peace to you from God our Father and our Master Prince Jesus, who sacrificed himself for our sins so that he could rescue us from our present evil environment and fulfill the wishes of our God and Father; may people recognize his greatness for all the endless ages. Amen.

I am appalled at how quickly you turned away from the one who by God's gift called you, and started after a different report of the good news--not that there really is a different one, except that there are people there who want to cause trouble and distort the good news about the Prince.

But if even we--if an angel from heaven!--gives you a report that is different from the report we delivered to you, throw him out of your community! I've said it before, and I say it again; if anyone tells you a report different from the one that you received, throw him out!

Do I look at the effect what I say has on men, or on God? Am I trying to make people like me? If I cared about what people thought of me, I wouldn't be the Prince's slave. So I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the report of the good news that came from me was not something that came from a man; I didn't get it from any man or from being taught; I got it from a revelation by Prince Jesus.

God's blessings and peace from God our Father and our Master Prince Jesus, who gave himself up to death for our sins.

If I cared about what people thought of me, I would not be what I am: the slave of the Prince, who gave himself up to death for our sins.

Second Reading: An Explanation of Galatians by St. Augustine

Paul writes to the Galatians to make them understand that by God's favor, they are no longer under the Law. When the Good News was reported to them, there were some of them known as circumcisers--though they called themselves Christians--who did not grasp the gift they had received. They still wanted to be under the burden of the Law.

But God had imposed that burden on people who were slaves to sin and not on servants of virtue; that is, God had given a just law to sinful men to show them their sin, not to remove it. The Galatians had already received this gift, but the circumcisers claimed that the Good News would not save them unless they underwent circumcision and were also willing to observe the other traditional Jewish rites.

And so the Galatians began to question Paul's reporting of the Good News, because he did not require Gentiles to follow Jewish observances as other Emissaries had done. Even the Rock had yielded to the shocked protests of the circumcisers; he pretended to believe that the Good News would not save the Gentiles unless they fulfilled the burden of the Law, but Paul called him back from this hypocrisy, as is shown in the very same letter. A similar issue arises in Paul's letter to the Romans, but with a clear difference: through his letter to them, Paul was able to resolve the conflict and dispute that had developed between the Jewish and Gentile converts.

In the present letter, Paul is writing to people who were profoundly influenced and disturbed by the circumcisers; the Galatians had begun to believe them, and to think that Paul's reporting was not accurate, since he had not ordered them to be circumcised. That is why the Emissary begins by saying, "I am appalled at how quickly you turned away from the one who by God's gift called you, and started after a different report of good news."

After this, there comes a brief introduction to the point at issue. But remember, in the very opening of the letter Paul had said that he was an Emissary, "not from human beings or authorized by any human being," a statement that does not appear in any other letter of his. He is making it quite clear that the circumcisers are the ones who are from human beings and not God, and that his authority in reporting the Good News must be considered the equal of that of any of the other Emissaries--because he was called to be an Emissary "not from human beings or authorized by any human being," but through God the Father and his Son Prince Jesus.

The Law was our governess until the Prince came and made it possible for us to be brought into conformity with God by faith. And now that the time of faith has come, we are not under the authority of the governess any longer.

Before the time of faith came, the Law kept strict reins upon us, and watched us closely until the faith was disclosed. And now that the time of faith has come, we are not under the authority of the governess any longer.

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Galatians 1.13-2.10

You heard how I behaved when I was a believer in Judaism--how savagely I went after God's community and tried to destroy it, how I went deeper into Judaism than my own people of my own age, and was much more fanatical than they were in keeping the traditions of our ancestors.

But the one who set me apart from before I was born and who called me--not that I deserve it--thought it good to reveal his Son in me so that I could deliver the report about him to the Gentiles; and right away, without consulting any flesh-and-blood person, and without going to Jerusalem to meet the Prince's emissaries who were appointed earlier than I was, I left for Arabia, and then went back to Damascus.

It was three years later that I went to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas (Peter, the Rock); and I stayed with him two weeks, without seeing any other emissary except James, the Master's relative. This is no lie that I am writing to you--before God it is not. Then I went into the country around Syria and Cilicia. Still none of the Judean communities of the Prince knew me by sight; they had only heard tell that the one who used to harass them had started spreading the report that he was once trying to destroy--and they praised God because of me.

Then, fourteen years after that, I came to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with us--I came because of a revelation I had had--and reported privately to people everyone respected about the good news I was delivering to the Gentiles, in case the path I'm following--and was following then--led nowhere. And no one of them thought it necessary for Titus, who was with me, to be circumcised--and he was a Greek.

No, that idea came from some pseudo-brothers around them, who sneaked in to spy on the freedom we had in Jesus the Prince, and who were trying to make slaves of us; but we didn't let them have their way for one minute, because we wanted the freedom of the good news to be kept intact for you.

But the ones people respected--not that this ever made any difference to me, because God doesn't care about what is on the surface--but the fact is that these respectable people held no long discussions on the matter. Just the opposite; they saw that I was given the responsibility for the report to the uncircumcised, in the same way that the Rock was the one responsible for the circumcised; the one who made the Rock one of the Prince's emissaries to the circumcised made me an emissary to the Gentiles.

And when they recognized--these respected pillars, by the way, were James, Cephas, and John--the gift that had been given to me, they shook hands with me and Barnabas and made us partners; we were to go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. The only thing we were told was to keep the poor in mind--which was just what we had been careful to do.

It is by God's gift that I am what I am; and his gift to me has not been wasted.

It was the power of God that made the Rock an emissary to the Jewish people, and it was his power that made me an emissary to the Gentiles; and his gift to me has not been wasted.

Second Reading: A Short Discourse by St. Bonaventure

The source of Sacred Scripture was divine revelation, not human research; and this revelation comes "from the Father of light, from whom the whole concept of fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives." It is from him, through Prince Jesus his Son that the Holy Spirit enters us; and then, through the Holy Spirit, who allots and distributes his gifts to each person as he pleases, we receive the gift of faith, "and through faith the Prince lives in our hearts."

In this way, we come to know the Prince, and this knowledge becomes the main source of a firm understanding of the truth of all Sacred Scripture; and so it is impossible for anyone to achieve this understanding unless he first receives the gift of faith in the Prince, which is the foundation of the whole Bible, a lamp and key to its understanding. As long as our earthly condition keeps us from seeing the Master, this same faith is the firm foundation of all supernatural enlightenment, the light guiding us to it, and the doorway through which we enter it. In addition, the extent of our faith is the criterion for the wisdom which God has given us. Thus, "no one should overestimate his wisdom; he should make his assessment in accordance with the extent of the faith God has given him."

The outcome or the harvest of reading the Holy Scripture is by no means insignificant; it is the totality of eternal happiness; and the reason is that these are the books which tell us of eternal life, and were written not only for us to believe but to actually have everlasting life. When we do live that life, we will have complete understanding, we will have total love, and all our desires will be fully satisfied. Then, with all our needs fulfilled, we will really know "the love that surpasses understanding," and so "be filled with the totality of God." The purpose of the Scriptures, which come to us from God, is to lead us to this totality following the truths contained in those sayings of the Emissaries I have referred to; and to achieve this, we must study Holy Scripture carefully, and teach it and listen to it in the same way.

If we are to attain the ultimate goal of eternal happiness by the path of virtue described in the Scriptures, we have to begin at the very beginning. We must come with a pure faith to the Father of Light and acknowledge him in our hearts; we must ask him to give us, through his Son and in the Holy Spirit, a true knowledge of Prince Jesus, and along with that knowledge a love of him. Knowing and loving him in this way, confirmed in our faith and grounded in our love, we can know "the length, width, height, and depth" of his Sacred Scripture. Through that knowledge, we can finally come to know perfectly and love completely the Blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love, and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment.

Beginning with Moses, and going through all the prophets, Jesus showed them the meaning of those passages of Scripture which had been written about him.

How foolish you are and slow to believe all that the prophets have said! Jesus showed them the meaning of those passages of Scripture which had been written about him.

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Galatians 2.11-3.14

And in fact, when Cephas came to Antioch, I stood up to him and told him to his face that he should be ashamed of himself. He used to eat his meals with Gentiles, until some people came from James; and when they arrived, he stayed away and avoided them, because he was afraid of what the circumcised people would think. And the other Judeans were as dishonest as he was; and even Barnabas got infected with the hypocrisy.

Well, when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth that was reported in the good news, I said to Cephas, "If you're a Judean and you do what the Gentiles do and don't live like a Judean, why do you insist on Judaizing the Gentiles? We--who were born Judeans and not sinners the way the Gentiles are--know that doing what the Law commands doesn't make anyone virtuous; a person only gets that way by belief in Jesus as the Prince; and so we have put our faith in Jesus as Prince, so that we'll become virtuous because of our faith in the Prince and not because of the law--because 'no material thing becomes virtuous' by doing what the Law commands."

Now if trying to be virtuous in the Prince makes us sinners against the Law, does this mean that the Prince is an accomplice of sin? Of course not! But if I started rebuilding what I tore down, then I'd be a sinner! So I've died by the law--and died to the law--so that I can live for God. I have been crucified--for the Prince; and I am not the one who is alive any more; the Prince is living in me. The life I now live in my body is a life I live in belief in the Son of God, who loved me and sacrificed himself for me. I'm not going to throw away God's gift; if virtue can be got through the law, then the Prince died for nothing!

You aren't thinking, brothers and sisters in Galatia! Has someone cast a spell over you? You had the picture drawn before your very eyes of Prince Jesus on the cross. Let me just ask you this one thing: Did you receive the Spirit from doing what the Law says, or from belief in what you heard? Have you no heads? You started spiritually; are you going to end up materialists now? Is everything that happened to you for nothing?

If you keep on this way, it is for nothing! And so the one who condescended to bestow the Spirit on you and who performed deeds of power among you did it because of what you did in obeying the law. Didn't he? Or did he do it because of your belief in what you heard? After all, even Abraham "believed in God, and this was evidence that he was a virtuous man."

So I want you to know that those who base their lives on belief are the ones who are descendants of Abraham. And Scripture foresaw that the Gentiles would become virtuous because of their belief when God gave this prophesy of good news to Abraham: "All the nations--the Gentiles--will find approval in you." So those who live from their belief win approval with the belief of Abraham.

But people who base their lives on doing what the Law says are under a curse; Scripture says, "Every person who does not keep doing everything that is written in the book of the Law is under a curse." And that no one in fact becomes virtuous by doing what the Law says is clear from this: "A virtuous person finds life from his belief." But the Law does not come from belief; it says, "The one who does what these commands say will find life in them."

The Prince bought freedom for us from the Law's curse when he became accursed himself for us; Scripture says, "Everyone who is hanged is accursed"; and that allowed the blessing of Abraham in Prince Jesus to fall on the Gentiles, so that we could receive--through our belief--the Spirit that was promised.

A man does not become virtuous by doing what the Law commands, but through faith in Prince Jesus. We have believed in Jesus the Prince so that we would become holy by faith in him, and not through the observance of the Law.

If holiness comes through keeping the law, then the Prince is of no use. We have believed in Jesus the Prince so that we would become holy by faith in him, and not through the observance of the Law.

Second Reading: A Homily on Genesis, by Origen

"Abraham took wood for the sacrifice and placed it upon his son Isaac, and he took fire and a sword in his hands, and they set out together." Isaac carries the wood for his own holocaust himself; this is a symbol of the Prince, because he took up the burden of the cross; and yet to carry the wood for the holocaust is really the duty of the priest. And so he is both victim and priest; and this is the meaning of the clause, "they set out together." That is, when Abraham, who was to perform the sacrifice, carried the fire and the knife, Isaac did not walk behind him; he was with him. In this way, he showed that he exercised the priesthood equally with Abraham.

What happens after this? "Isaac said to his father Abraham, 'Father.'" This plea from the son was at that instant the voice of temptation, because do you not think that the voice of the son who was about to be sacrificed struck a responsive chord in the heart of the father? Though Abraham did not waver because of his faith, he answered with a voice full of affection, and asked, "What is it, my son?" Isaac answered, "Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?" And Abraham replied, "God will provide a sheep for the holocaust himself, my son."

The careful and yet loving answer of Abraham moves me a great deal. I do not know what he saw in his spirit, because he was speaking of the future, not the present: "God will provide a sheep himself." His answer deals with the future, and yet his son is asking about the present. And, in fact, the Master himself did provide a sheep for himself in the Prince.

"Abraham reached out his hand to take the sword and slaughter his son, and the Master's angel called him from heaven and said, 'Abraham! Abraham!' And he answered, 'I am here.' And the angel said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, because I now know that you have reverence for God.'" Compare those words to those of the Emissary when he speaks of God: "He did not spare his own Son, and gave him up for us all." God outdoes man in magnificent generosity; Abraham offered to God his mortal son, who did not die, and God gave up his immortal Son, who did die--for all of us.

"And as Abraham looked around, he saw a ram caught by the horns on a bush." We said before that Isaac is a forerunner of the Prince; yet this also seems true of the ram. To understand how both symbols of the Prince--Isaac, who was not slaughtered, and the ram which was--is well worth investigating.

The Prince is the Word of God, but "the Word became flesh." And so the Prince suffered and died, but materially, in his flesh. In this respect, the ram is the forerunner, just as John said, "That man is God's lamb, the one who has rid the world of its sin." The Word, however, remained incorruptible; and this is the Prince in his spiritual aspect, and here Isaac is the forerunner. And so the Prince is himself both victim and priest in the spiritual dimension; because he offers the victim to the Father in his material aspect, and is himself offered on the altar of the cross.

They took Jesus into custody and led him away, and carrying his own cross, he went to the place called "the Skull."

Abraham took the wood for the sacrifice and put in on the shoulders of his son Isaac, and carrying his own cross he went to the place called "the Skull."

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Galatians 3.15-4.7

Speaking in purely legal terms, brothers and sisters, no second party can revoke or add any codicil to a document that has been executed properly. And the promises that were given to Abraham were given to him "and to his descendant." Not to "his descendants," plural, but in the singular, "to your descendant," or in other words, to the Prince. So I can say this: A treaty that was duly executed by God is not revoked by a law made four hundred thirty years later, so that its promise is nullified. And if the inheritance came from the law, it would no longer be from the promise; but the gift was given to Abraham by a promise.

Then what was the law for? It was issued to take care of violations of the Treaty on our part until the arrival of the "descendant" who was the recipient of the promise; and it was promulgated by angels, or by the hand of an intermediary. But there's no intermediary when the agent acts for himself; and God is an agent acting for himself.

Anyhow, is the Law in contradiction with the promises? Of course not. If there were such a thing as a law which, once issued, would bestow life, then virtue might possibly be found from the law; but Scripture locked everything up in sin, so that the promise would be given because of belief in Prince Jesus to those who have faith in him.

Before belief came we were kept locked up in legal custody until the future belief would be disclosed. The Law was a kind of governess or school-master seeing to our upbringing toward the Prince, so that we could become virtuous by belief; and now that the belief has come, we aren't under the control of the governess any more.

You are all children of God because of the belief in Jesus as the Prince. Those of you who were bathed in the Prince have put on the livery of the Prince; there's no such thing as Judean or Greek, or anything like slave or freeman, or male or female; you're all one person in Jesus the Prince; and if you are all part of the Prince, you are the "descendant" of Abraham, and so heirs by the promise.

Let me also say this: as long as an heir is a minor, he's no different from a slave, even if he is actually the owner of the whole estate; he has to obey the guardians and trustees until the date named by his father. And that is how we are; when we were minors, we were enslaved by the things that make up the heavenly universe; and then when the time of bondage was up, God sent his Son, born to a woman, and born under the Law, to ransom us from the Law so that we could be adopted as sons and daughters. And to prove that you are sons and daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, where he cries, "Abba!" ("Dad!")

So you're not a slave any more; you are a son; and if you're a son, you are by God's act an heir.

All of you who have been bathed in the Prince have put on the Prince's livery; and now there is neither Judean nor Greek; you are all one thing in Prince Jesus.

You must put on the new man created in the image of God, in true virtue and holiness. You are all one thing in Prince Jesus.

Second Reading: A Letter by St. Ambrose

The person who by the Spirit kills the deeds of our sinful nature will live, says the Emissary. This is not surprising, since a person who has the Spirit of God becomes a child of God--and he is really a child of God because he receives the Spirit that makes us sons, not a spirit that enslaves us. And this is so true that the Holy Spirit testifies to our own spirit that we are sons of God; and here is the testimony of the Holy Spirit: he calls out in our own hearts, "Abba! 'Dad,'" as we read in the letter to the Galatians.

There is also that other great evidence to the fact that we are children of God: "We are heirs of God, and coheirs with the Prince." A coheir is someone who is glorified along with the Prince, and one who is glorified along with him is a person who, in suffering for him, suffers along with him.

To encourage us in suffering, Paul adds that all our sufferings are insignificant in comparison with the wonderful reward that will be revealed in us; our labors do not really earn us the blessings that are ahead of us. We will be restored to the image of God, and considered fit to see him face to face.

He enhances the greatness of the revelation that is coming by adding that creation also looks forward to this revealing of God's children. Creation, he says, is now condemned to frustration, not because of something it committed; but it lives in hope--and its hope is in the Prince, as it waits for the grace of his service; or it hopes that it will share in the glorious freedom of God's children and will be freed from its bondage to decay, so that there will be one freedom, shared by creation and God's children when their glory is revealed.

At the moment, however, while this revealing is delayed, all creation suffers as it looks forward to the glory of adoption and redemption; it is already in labor with that spirit of rescue, and anxious to be freed from its subjection to frustration.

The meaning is clear: those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit are suffering in expectation of their adoption as children. This adoption as children is the adoption of the whole body of creation, when it will be a Son of God, so to speak, and see the divine, eternal goodness face to face. The adoption as children is present in the Master's Church when the Spirit calls, "Abba; Dad," as you read in the letter to the Galatians; but it will be perfect when everyone who is fit to see God's face will return to life incorruptible, and with honor and glory. Then our humanity will know that it really has been redeemed. So Paul is proud to say, "We are saved by hope." Hope saves in the same way faith does; because it is said of faith, "Your faith has saved you."

We are God's heirs and coheirs with the Prince, if we just suffer with him so that we will also be glorified with him.

Now that we have been made virtuous in his blood, it is all the more likely that he will save us from God's anger, if we just suffer with him so that we will also be glorified with him.

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Galatians 4.8-31

But before you knew about God, you were slaves to things which really weren't gods at all. But now that you recognize God--or rather, now that you're recognized by God--why are you turning back to these poor feeble components of the universe, and wanting to enslave yourselves to them all over again? You're starting to observe special days and months and seasons and years. I'm beginning to be afraid that all the trouble I took over you is being wasted.

Please, brothers and sisters, be like me; I became like you. Not that you've done me any harm; you know that it was because I wasn't well that I came to you with the Report the first time, and in spite of the nuisance my condition was, you didn't despise me or sneer at me because of it; you accepted me as if I were one of God's angels, or Jesus the Prince. Where did this happiness come from? I can tell you that if you could, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. And are you going to hate me now for telling you the truth?

There are people there who are working hard on you, and not for your good; they're trying to tie you up and get you working on their side. Now it's a good thing to work hard, but in the right way; and to be working hard all the time, not just when I'm there with you, you little infants of mine--you give me labor pains all over again until the Prince takes shape in you.

I wish I could be with you now, and then I might be able to change my tone; I don't know what to do with you!

Tell me, if you're so anxious to be under the law, why don't you listen to the law? It's written there that Abraham had two sons, one from a slave and one from a free woman. The one born from the slave was born materially; the one born from the free woman was the one that came from the promise.

Now this is an allegory; the two women stand for the two treaties, one of which was ratified on Mount Sinai, and raised children to slavery. This is Hagar. Hagar's mountain Sinai is in Arabia, and it corresponds to the present Jerusalem, which is enslaved and so are its children.

The Jerusalem above is the free woman, and she is our mother. This is what Scripture says: "Be happy, sterile soul without a son; Laugh and shout, woman never in labor; There are more children for the deserted wife than for the one who has the man." And you, brothers and sisters, are the Isaac, the children of the promise. And in those days the child born materially harassed the one born from the spirit; and it's happening again now.

But what does Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave and her child; the slave's child is not to be an heir with the son" of the free woman. So we are the free woman's children, brothers and sisters, not the slave's.

We are like Isaac, children born from the promise, children born from the free woman, not the slave. The Prince has set us free for us to be free.

The Master is the Spirit, and there is freedom where the Master's Spirit is. The Prince has set us free for us to be free.

Second Reading: An Explanation of Galatians by St. Augustine

The Emissary says, "Be like me," because, even though I was born a Judean, from my spiritual insight I now consider material things not to be important. And he adds, "I became like you," or in other words, "I am a man like you." Then he tactfully reminds them of his love, so they will not look on him as an enemy. "Brothers and sisters, I beg you," he says, "not that you did me any harm," as if to say, "Don't imagine I want to harm you." And to have them imitate him as if he were their parent, he addresses them as little children, "My little infants; I have labor pains all over again until the Prince takes shape in you." Actually, he is speaking here more in the person of Mother Church than in his own. And in the same way, he says somewhere else, "I was as gentle among you as a nurse caring for her infants."

The Prince takes shape in a believer by the faith of his inner human being, which is called to the freedom that grace bestows, and is meek and gentle, and does not take pride in nonexistent "merits" but makes some beginning of deserving something through grace. And so he can be called "my most insignificant one" by the one who said, "Insofar as you did it to the most insignificant of my brothers, you did it to me."

The Prince takes shape in the one who receives the Prince's mold, and clings to him with spiritual love. By imitating him he becomes, as far as it possible in his condition, what the Prince is. John says, "A person who makes his home in the Prince should conduct himself as he did."

Children are conceived in order to take shape in their mother's womb; and when they have been formed in this way, mothers go into labor to give them birth. And so we can understand Paul's words, "You give me labor pains until the Prince takes shape in you." By "labor" we are to understand his anxiety for those for whom he is in labor, so that they will be born to the Prince. And he is in labor all over again when he sees them in danger of being led astray. These anxieties, which can be compared to labor pains, will continue until they "come to full maturity in the Prince, so that they won't be blown about by every wind of teaching."

And so he is not talking about the beginnings of faith when they were born, but of strong and perfect faith, when he says, "I am in labor all over again until the Prince takes shape in you." He also refers elsewhere in different words to his being in labor, when he says, "There is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the communities. Is there anyone weak and I am not weak? Is there anyone who falls and I am not enraged?"

Let us tell the truth in love, so that we will grow in every way into the Prince, who is our head.

The path of virtuous people is like the passage of dawn; it grows from first light to the full splendor of day, so that we will grow in every way into the Prince, who is our head.

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Galatians 5.1-25

The Prince set us free for us to be free; and so be firm and don't let them put the saddle of slavery on your backs again.

And I, Paul, am telling you that if you get circumcised, the Prince is no use to you. And I know what I am talking about, and so I repeat that every man who is circumcised has the obligation to do everything the Law commands. Those of you who are trying to be virtuous by the Law have done away with the Prince; you've fallen out of range of the gift. To us, the hope of virtue is something we get from the Spirit by our belief; in Jesus the Prince circumcision has no force, and neither does having a foreskin; the only thing that matters is faith that acts through love.

You used to be running a good race. What kept you from recognizing the truth? Whatever convinced you, it wasn't something that came from the one who called you. A little yeast makes all the dough rise.

--Now I'm confident in the Master that you won't keep holding this wrong opinion; the one who is facing punishment is the one who has been pestering you, whoever he is. Look at me; if my proclamation includes circumcision, why am I still being hounded? No, that would do away with the obstacle that is the cross. I only wish that the people causing trouble there would have the whole thing cut off, not just the foreskin!

Because you were called to be free, brothers and sisters!--only don't turn your freedom into an excuse for indulging your flesh; use it to serve each other in love. The whole Law is summed up in one sentence: "You are to love your neighbor as if he were yourself." But if you keep snapping and biting at each other, be careful or you'll all destroy each other.

Let me also say that if you're behaving spiritually, then you're not satisfying the urges your matter has. Matter has urges that contradict spirit, and the spirit has urges that contradict matter. They are opposed to each other, so that you don't do what you choose to do.

But if you act spiritually, you aren't subject to a law. It's obvious what materialistic acts are: premarital sex, masturbation, homosexual acts, idolatry, magic, hatred, picking fights, working against others, anger, putting others down, forming cliques, excluding people, jealousy, drunkenness, orgies, and so on. I warn you, as I warned you before, that people who do things like this are not heirs of God's kingdom.

But the Spirit's harvest is love, happiness, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, modesty, and self-control; there's no law against things like this. The Prince's people have nailed matter to a cross, with its desires and urges. If we live spiritually, then we have to behave spiritually.

If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. The signs of the Spirit's presence are love, happiness, and peace.

Since we live by the Spirit, let him direct our lives. The signs of the Spirit's presence are love, happiness, and peace.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Leo the Great

Our Master Prince Jesus, who was born true man without ever ceasing to be true God, began in his person a new creation and by the manner of his birth gave man a spiritual origin. Is there a mind that can grasp this mystery or a tongue that can tell properly of this gift of love? Guilt becomes innocence, what is old becomes new, aliens are adopted, and outsiders are made heirs. Wake up, man, and recognize the dignity of your nature; remember that you were made in God's image, and, though it was corrupted in Adam, that image has been restored in the Prince.

Use creatures as they should be used: the earth, the sea, the sky, the air, and the streams and rivers. Give praise and glory to their Creator for all that you find beautiful and wonderful in them. See with your bodily eyes the light that shines on earth, but embrace with your whole soul and all your affections "the true light which comes into the world and shines on every human being." The prophet said, in speaking of this light, "Draw close to him and let his light shine on you; and your face will not blush with shame." If we are really the Temple of God, and if the Spirit of God lives in us, then what every believer has within himself is greater than what he admires in the skies.

Our words and preaching are not intended to make you despise God's works or think that there is anything against your faith in creation, because a good God has made everything good. What we do ask is for you to use all the marvelous creatures which adorn this world with reason and moderation; as the Emissary says, "What is seen is transient, but what is unseen is eternal."

That is, we are born in the present age only to be reborn in the future; and so our attachment should not be for what is transitory, and should fix itself on what is eternal. Let us think of how divine grace has transformed our earthly natures so that we can contemplate our heavenly hope more closely. We hear the Emissary say, "You are dead and your life is hidden with the Prince in God; but when the Prince, who is your life, comes out of concealment, you will also appear with him in glory," as he lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for all the ages of ages. Amen.

I will sing you a new song, my God; I will sing to you and play on the ten-stringed lyre.

You are my God, and I praise you; I thank you, my God. I will sing to you and play on the ten-stringed lyre.

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Galatians 5.25-6.18

If we live spiritually, then we have to behave spiritually; we should stop looking for an empty reputation and challenging each other and competing with each other.

Also, brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, those of you who live spiritually should try to set him straight, but with an attitude of tolerance, keeping in mind how you yourself are, in case you get tempted. Help each other to carry burdens; this is the way you will fulfill the Prince's law.

Because, remember, if a person thinks he is something, when in fact he is nothing, he's fooling himself.

But each of you is to be the judge only of his own conduct; and you're to do it by comparing yourself with yourself and not someone else; each person has a responsibility that belongs to him alone.

A person who is learning about the message should share some of what he has with the one who is teaching him.

Don't be misled; no one makes a fool of God; a person harvests what he has planted. So if your body is the ground you plant in, you'll reap decay from the body; and if you plant in what is spirit, you'll harvest from the Spirit eternal life. So we mustn't grow tired of doing good; if we don't lie down at the work, we'll reap our harvest when the time is right. And so whenever we find the occasion, we should do good to everyone, especially to the members of the family of faith.

Notice these big letters I'm putting down in my own handwriting.

It's people who just want to make a good impression--a material one--who are the ones who are trying to force you to be circumcised; all they care about is to avoid having anyone get after them because of the Prince's cross. And those circumcised people don't even keep the law; they just want you to be circumcised so they can brag about what they've done to your bodies.

But as far as I am concerned, I hope I never have anything to brag about except the cross of our Master Prince Jesus, who has crucified the world from my point of view, and crucified me from the world's. Circumcision makes no difference, and neither does having a foreskin; the only thing that matters is a new creation.

May those of you who base your conduct on this rule have peace and mercy come upon you, and upon God's Israel.

From now on, no one is to make trouble for me; I wear Jesus' wounds in my body.

Blessings from our Master Prince Jesus

on your spirits, brothers and sisters. Amen.

A man can only reap what he has planted; so if you plant in the field of selfishness, it will bring you a harvest of death and decay; if you plant in the field of the Spirit, you will reap the harvest of eternal life.

It is the Spirit that gives life; matter is no use at all. If you plant in the field of the Spirit, you will reap the harvest of eternal life.

Second Reading: A Sermon by Bl. Isaac of Stella

Why, brothers and sisters, do we have so little interest in looking out for someone else's benefit, so that, when we see that there is a greater need, we will be more ready to help carry each other's burdens? Because this is what the blessed Emissary Paul encourages us to do with the words, "Carry each other's burdens, and fulfill the Prince's law in doing so;" and "Give each other support in love." This obviously is the Prince's law.

Why can't I bear patiently the weaknesses I see in my brother or sister which, either out of necessity or because of some physical or moral weakness, can't be corrected? And why is it that I can't generously offer him sympathy instead, as it is written, "The children will be carried on their shoulders and comforted on their knees." Is it because I do not have the virtue which "puts up with everything," is patient enough to bear it all, and generous enough to love?

This is in fact the law of the Prince, who in fact "carried our weaknesses" in his suffering and "bore our suffering" out of pity, because he loved those he carried and carried those he loved. Anyone who attacks a brother in need or plots against him in his weakness, whatever it is, is actually fulfilling the devil's law and is subject to it. And so let us be sympathetic toward each other and love all our brothers and sisters, put up with each other's weaknesses, and yet rid ourselves of our own sins.

The more any way of life makes a sincere effort toward the love of God and the love of our neighbor for God's sake, the more acceptable it is to God, no matter what its observance or external form is. That is, love is the reason why anything should be done or left undone, or changed or left unchanged; it is the primary source and the end toward which everything should be directed. Whatever is honestly done out of love and in accordance with love cannot be culpable; and so may God condescend to bestow on us this love, because we cannot please him without it, and without him we can do absolutely nothing--and he is the one who is alive and reigning through all the ages of ages. Amen.

This is the message you heard from the beginning: love each other.

All God's commands are summed up in this one: love each other.

Prayer

Father, please watch over your family and keep us safe in your care, because all our hope is in you. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Sixth Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Proverbs 1.1-7, 20-33

Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel.

This is so that people will know wisdom and instruction,
understand words full of good sense,
receive training in wise conduct,
virtue, discernment, and justice;
it is to give good judgment to simple souls,
and knowledge and discretion to the young.
A wise man listens and grows in learning,
and an intelligent man looks for wise advice
in understanding proverbs and enigmas,
what wise men say, and the riddles they pose.
It is reverence for YHWH that is the beginning of knowledge;
but fools sneer at wisdom and education.
Wisdom cries out in the street
and calls in the open plazas;
it shouts at the main crossroads
and sends its message as the city gates open:
"How long are you going to love what does not exist, you fools?
Sneerers take their pleasure in scoffing
and fools hate knowledge.
Turn back at my warning,
and I will be sure to pour my spirit on you;
I will make you informed of what I say.
Because I called and you refused to listen;
I reached out my hand, and no one paid attention,
because you all despised my advice,
and ignored my warning.
Then I will laugh at your downfall,
I will make fun of you in your terror
when your doom comes like a storm
and your devastation falls on you like a tornado
and catastrophe and agony come upon you.
The fools will call to me then, but I will not answer;
they will search everywhere for me, but will not find me,
because they hated knowledge
and did not choose to respect YHWH;
they would have nothing to do with my good advice
and despised all the warnings I gave.
And that is why they will eat the fruit they have raised
and glut themselves with their own pipe-dreams;
it is the self-will of simpletons that kills them
and fools' complacency is their ruin;
but anyone who listens to me will be safe in his home
and have no fear of harm."

Never allow yourself to be self-satisfied; if you pride yourself on your wisdom, you will have to unlearn it before you are really wise; the world's wisdom is stupidity in the eyes of God.

Our proclamation deals with the Prince as crucified, and he is the power of God and the wisdom of God; the world's wisdom is stupidity in the eyes of God.

Second Reading: A Commentary on the Diatessaron by St. Ephrem

Master, who can fully understand even one of your words? We lose more than we grasp, like those who drink from a running spring. The reason is that the word God utters has different facets depending on the capacity of the listener, and the Master has portrayed his message in many colors, so that whoever gazes on it can see in it what suits him. He has buried many different sorts of riches within it, so that each of us will grow wealthy as we search them out.

The words God utters are a tree of life that offers us blessed fruit from each of its branches; it is like that rock which was struck open in the desert, from which everyone was offered spiritual drink. As the Emissary says, "They ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink."

And so whenever someone discovers some part of the treasure, he should not think that he has exhausted what God has said; he should feel that this is all of the wealth contained in it that he was able to find. And he should not say that the utterance is weak and sterile, or look down on it simply because this aspect of it was all that he happened to find; and precisely because he could not capture it all, he should be grateful for its riches.

Be glad, then, that you are overwhelmed, and do not be disheartened because he has overcome you. A thirsty man is happy when he is drinking and is not depressed because he has not drunk the spring dry. Let this spring quench your thirst, and not your thirst the spring; because if you can satisfy your thirst without exhausting the spring, then when you are thirsty again, you can drink from it once more; but if the spring is also dry when your thirst is satisfied, then your victory would be your own damage.

And so be thankful for what you have received, and do not be discouraged at all that such an abundance is still there. What you have received and attained is your present share, and what is left will be your heritage; because you will be able to grasp at another time what you could not take at one time because of your weakness, if only you persevere. So do not try foolishly to drain in one swallow what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not give up out of faintheartedness and miss what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.

The utterance of the Master lasts forever; and this same utterance, the Good News, has been reported to you.

This is the book of the commandments of God, the law that stands for ever; and everyone who keeps it will live. This same utterance, the Good News, has been reported to you.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and moral, please help us live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Proverbs 3.1-20

My son, do not forget my law,
and see that your heart keeps my commands;
they will add to your years and give you long life
and will bring you peace.
Do not let kindness and faithfulness leave you;
tie them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart,
and in this way you will find honor and a good reputation
before God and other men.
Trust YHWH with your whole heart,
and do not rely on your own intelligence;
in everything you do, acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
respect YHWH and turn away from evil,
and this will make your body healthy
and your bones strong.
Do honor to YHWH with your possessions
and with the firstfruits of everything you produce
so that your barns will fill up with grain
and your vats will overflow with your new wine.
My son, do not resent YHWH's punishments
or hate his corrections,
because YHWH corrects those he loves
just as a father does when his son delights him.
It is a blessing for a man to find wisdom
and for a man to attain to understanding,
because its rewards are better than the return on silver
and it makes more profit than fine gold;
it is more precious than rubies
and anything you desire cannot be compared with it.
It has long life in its right hand,
and in its left, riches and honor;
its ways are pleasant paths,
and all its roads are peaceful.
It is like a tree of life to those that grasp it,
and it is a blessing for everyone who keeps it.
It is by wisdom that YHWH set up the earth,
and he laid out the heavens with intelligence;
their depths break open by his knowledge
and clouds come and drop the dew.

Do not resent the Master's punishments, and do not hate his corrections, because it is the ones he loves that the Master corrects, just as a father punishes a favorite son.

God is treating you like his sons; is there ever a son that his father does not punish? Because it is the ones he loves that the Master corrects, just as a father punishes a favorite son.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Bernard

Let us work for the food which does not spoil: our rescue. Let us work in the Master's vineyard to earn our daily wage in the wisdom which says, "Those who work in me will not sin." The Prince tells us, "The field is the world." Let us work in it and dig up wisdom, its buried treasure, a treasure we are all looking for and want to acquire.

"If you are looking for it, really search. Turn around and come." Turn around from what? "From your own willfulness." "But," you may say, "if I do not find wisdom in my own will, where will I find it? My soul wants it desperately; and I will not be satisfied when I find it if it is not 'a generous amount, a full measuring-pail, overflowing into my hands.'" You are right, because "it is a blessing for a man to find wisdom and to be full of good judgment."

Look for wisdom while it can still be found. Call for it while it is near. Do you want to know how near it is? "The words you are looking for are in your heart and on your lips," provided that you make an honest search. To the extent that you find wisdom in your heart, good judgment will flow from your lips; but be careful that it flows from them but not away from them, or that you do not throw it up.

If you have found wisdom, you have found honey. But do not eat so much that you become too full and bring it all up. Eat so that you are always hungry. Wisdom says, "Those who eat me continue to feel hunger." Do not think you have too much of it, but do not eat too much or you will throw it up. If you do, what you seem to have eaten will be taken away from you, because you gave up searching too soon. While wisdom is near and while it can be found, search for it and ask for its help. Solomon says, "A man who eats too much honey does himself no good; and a man who looks for fame for himself will be crushed by that same renown."

"It is a blessing for a man to find wisdom." It is even more of a blessing to be a "man who lives in wisdom," because he is aware of its abundance. There are three ways for wisdom or good judgment to be plentiful in you: if you admit your sins, if you show gratitude and praise, and if your speech is constructive. "A man who believes with his heart and soul is virtuous; he acknowledges reality with his lips, and so is saved. "At the outset of his speaking, the virtuous man is his own accuser;" next he praises God, and thirdly, if his wisdom extends that far, he benefits his neighbor.

I have loved wisdom more than health or beauty, and I preferred it to the light of day; everything good came to me along with it.

From my youth, I have loved wisdom and searched for it, and I came to love its beauty; everything good came to me along with it.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and moral, please help us to live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Proverbs 8.1-5, 12-36

Is wisdom not calling

and understanding making itself heard?
It is standing there on the top of the high hill
and at the crossroads,
coming out of the gates that give entry to the city
and at the doors of houses:
"I am calling to you human beings,
and my voice is to be heard by mortal men!
You naive fools, learn common sense!
You half-wits, find an understanding heart!
I, wisdom, share my home with good judgment
and discover knowledge and prudence.
Respect for YHWH is to hate evil;
and I hate pride, arrogance, and immoral conduct
as well as perverse speech.
I give good advice, and healthy guidance;
I am intelligence, and strength belongs to me.
Kings use me to rule,
and rulers make their decisions by me;
heads of state and nobles rule by me,
and all the judges through the earth.
I love those who love me,
and those who make a serious search for me will find me.
Riches and honor come with me:
lasting riches, and virtue.
My yield is better than gold, even refined gold,
and my profit is greater than silver.
I walk along the path of virtue
among the roads of morality,
so that I will grant wealth to those who love me
and fill their treasure-chests.
I belonged to YHWH at the beginning of his actions,
before any of his ancient works were made;
I was created from eternity,
from the beginning, before there ever was an earth;
when there was no chaos, I emerged,
when there were no springs full of water,
before the mountains were set in place,
and before the hills, I came to be;
while he had not yet made the earth or its fields,
or even the primal dust of the universe.
I was there when he readied the heavens,
when he drew a circle on the face of the depths,
when he placed the clouds up in it
and made the solid dome for the heavenly water,
when he assigned the limit for the sea
so that its water would not violate his command,
when he laid the foundations of the earth,
I was beside him as his engineer,
and I was his delight every day,
playing beside him at every moment,
taking pleasure in the living world
and finding joy in mortal men.
And so now, listen to me, my children,
because it is your blessing to keep my ways;
pay attention to my teaching, and be wise,
and do not sneer at it.
It is a blessing for a man to listen to me
watching for me every day at my gates,
waiting at the threshold of my doors,
because anyone who finds me, finds life
and gains favor with YHWH;
but whoever sins against me harms his own soul,
and those who hate me love death."

In the beginning, before he made the earth, the Master created me.

In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was face to face with God, and the Word was God. The Master created me.

Second Reading: Discourses against the Arians by St. Athanasius

The only Son God ever fathered, the Wisdom of God, created the entire universe. Scripture says, "You have made everything by your wisdom, and the earth is full of your creatures." But it was not enough simply to be; God wanted his creatures also to be good; and that is why he was pleased that his own wisdom would come down to their level and impress on each of them singly and all together a kind of resemblance to their Model. It would then be obvious that God's creatures shared in his wisdom and that his works were worthy of him.

That is, just as the word we utter is an image of the Word who is God's Son, the wisdom implanted in us is an image of the Wisdom of God's Son. It gives us the ability to know and understand, and so makes us capable of receiving the one who is the all-creative Wisdom, through whom we also come to know the Father. "Whoever possesses the Son also possesses the Father," says Scripture, and "whoever accepts me accepts the One who sent me." And so, since this image of the Wisdom of God has been produced in us and in every creature, the true and creative Wisdom properly attributes to himself what applies to his creatures and says, "The Master created me in his works."

But because "the world was not wise enough to recognize God in his wisdom," as we have explained, "God decided to save those who believe by the 'stupid' message that we preach." Not wishing to be known any longer, as in earlier times, through the mere image and shadow of his Wisdom existing in creatures, he caused the true Wisdom himself to take on flesh, to become a human being, and to suffer death on the cross so that everyone who believes in him would be saved by that faith.

Yet this was the same Wisdom of God who had in the beginning revealed himself and his Father through himself by means of his image in creatures (which is why Wisdom, too, is said to be created). Later, as John reports, that Wisdom, which is also the Word, became flesh, and after destroying the power of death and saving our race, he revealed himself and his Father through himself more clearly. "Please grant," he prayed, "that they will know you, the only true God, and Prince Jesus as the one you sent."

So now the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of God, since it is one and the same thing to know the Father through the Son, and to know the Son who comes from the Father. The Father takes pleasure from his Son, and with the same joy, the Son delights in the Father and says, "I was his joy; every day I took delight in his presence."

Since you have received Prince Jesus as Master, live your life in union with him, because the totality of divinity lives in him in bodily form.

You have only one teacher, the Prince, because the totality of divinity lives in him in bodily form.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and moral, please help us to live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Proverbs 9.1-18

Wisdom has built its house,
set up her seven pillars,
slaughtered her meat,
mixed her wine,
and set her table
and sent out her maidservants;
she is calling from the heights over the city,
"Any uninformed person should turn in here!"
And she says to the ignorant,
"Come, eat my bread
and drink the wine I have mixed;
abandon foolishness and live
and walk on the intelligent path!"
A person who corrects a sarcastic man only earns embarrassment,
and one who reprimands a sinner hurts himself;
do not correct the arrogant, or they will hate you,
reprimand wise men, and they will love you.
Tell a wise man what to do, and he will be wiser still,
teach a virtuous man, and he advances in learning.
Respect for YHWH is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the one who is holy is understanding;
because it is by me that your life will be prolonged,
and you will add extra years to your existence.
If you are wise, your wisdom benefits you,
and if you sneer at everything, you bear everything alone.
Stupidity is a raucous woman,
an idiot who knows nothing.
She sits at her house door
on a seat looking over the city's heights,
and calls on passersby,
"Any uninformed person should turn in here!"
And she says to the ignorant,
"Stolen water is sweet,
and bread got by stealth tastes fine!"
But they do not know that inside are corpses
and that her guests are in the world beneath the earth.

A man once prepared a great banquet and sent all his servants to tell the guests, "Come, everything is ready."

Come, eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed for you. Come, everything is ready.

Second Reading: Commentary on Proverbs by Procopius of Gaza

"Wisdom built itself a house." God the Father's Power, who is a person himself, has built as his residence the whole world in which he lives by his activity, and also man who, since he was created in God's own image and likeness, has a nature which is partly visible and partly hidden from our eyes.

"And it has set up seven pillars." Wisdom gave the seven gifts on the Spirit to human beings who were made in the Prince's image to enable them to believe in the Prince and keep his commandments. A spiritual man grows by these gifts and develops until he finally reaches maturity through firm faith and the supernatural graces he receives. Knowledge stimulates virtue and virtue reflects knowledge; respect for the Master, understanding, and knowledge give the true orientation to his natural wisdom. Power makes him eager to search for understanding of the will of God as revealed in the laws by which the whole of creation is governed. Good advice distinguishes these very sacred and eternal laws of God from anything opposed to them, because these laws are meant for human beings to ponder, to promulgate, and to fulfill. Insight makes a man ready to embrace these expressions of God's will and to reject whatever contradicts them.

"It has mixed the wine in a bowl and set the table." Because the Word of God has mixed in human beings, as if they were bowls, a spiritual and material nature, and has given them a knowledge both of creation and himself as Creator, it is natural for what belongs to God to have the effect of wine on human minds. The Prince, the bread from heaven, is himself their nourishment which enables them to grow in virtue, and it is the Prince who quenches their thirst and gives them satisfaction from his teaching. He has prepared this rich banquet and spiritual feast for everyone who wants to share in it.

"It has sent out its maidservants with the sublime message that everyone is to come to drink from the bowl." The Prince has sent his Emissaries, the servants of his divine will, to deliver the message of the Good News, which, since it is spiritual, transcends both the natural and the written law. And he calls us by this to himself, in whom, as in a bowl, there was achieved a miraculous mixing of divine and human natures, while each still remains distinct. And he calls out through the Emissaries, "Is anyone uninformed? Turn to me." If anyone is so uninformed as to think in his heart that there is no God, he should renounce his disbelief and turn to me by faith; he is to know that I am the maker of everything and its Master.

And he says to those who have no wisdom, "Come, eat my bread and drink the wine I have prepared for you." He says to those who still have none of the deeds of faith and the higher knowledge that inspires them, "Come, eat my body, the bread that is nourishment for virtue, and drink my blood, the wine that cheers you with the joy of true knowledge and makes you divine, because in a miraculous way, I have mixed my divinity with my blood for your rescue."

Wisdom has built itself a house and set up seven pillars; it has prepared its wine and set its table.

Anyone who eats the meat of my body and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him, says the Master. It has prepared its wine and set its table.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and moral, please help us to live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Proverbs 10.6-32

Blessings fall on virtuous heads,
but a slap stops a vicious mouth.
A virtuous man's memory receives blessings,
while a vicious man's name will rot.
A wise man listens to what he is commanded;
it is blustering fools who trip.
If a man conducts himself with integrity, he is secure,
while those who take devious paths will be found out.
A person who closes his eyes to trouble causes it,
but a person who reprimands frankly promotes peace.
A virtuous man's mouth is a spring of life,
but the mouth of immoral people has lips of violence.
Hatred foments conflict
while love covers over every sin.
Wisdom is found on intelligent lips,
but a switch goes on a stupid back.
The wise store up knowledge,
while the mouths of fools bring on their ruin.
A rich man's wealth is his fortified city,
while what ruins the poor is their poverty.
Virtuous labor leads to life,
and what immoral people earn is sin.
To listen to lessons is the path to life,
while to refuse correction is to wander aimlessly.
A person who hides his hatred has lips that lie,
and anyone who spreads gossip is a fool.
An abundance of words is not without sin,
and one who curbs his lips is wise.
A virtuous tongue is refined silver;
an immoral heart is not worth much.
Virtuous lips nourish many people,
while fools die out from their stupidity.
YHWH's blessing makes a man rich
and he adds no suffering to it.
Immorality is a fool's game;
it is an intelligent man who has wisdom.
The fears of evil people will be realized,
while the desire of the virtuous will be granted.
When the tornado passes, immoral people are gone,
but the foundation of virtue stands firm forever.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke in the eyes
is a lazy man to those sending him on errands.
Respect for YHWH prolongs life,
but vice shortens one's years.
The hope of the virtuous gives them joy,
while vicious ambitions come to nothing.
YHWH's ways are honest men's strength,
and ruin comes to those who cheat.
Virtuous people will never be disturbed,
but evil people will not find homes on earth.
A virtuous mouth gives birth to wisdom,
while a perverse tongue will be cut out.
Virtuous lips know how to please,
and immoral mouths, how to pervert.

A virtuous mouth gives birth to wisdom, and its tongue says what is right; God's law is in the man's heart.

A virtuous man will be remembered forever; he will have no fear of bad news; God's law is in the man's heart.

Second Reading: Explanations of the Psalms by St. Ambrose

We must always meditate on God's wisdom, and keep it in our hearts and on our lips. Our tongues must speak virtue, and the Law of God must be in our hearts. Scripture tells us, "You are to speak of these commandments when you are seated in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you rise." So let us speak of Master Jesus, because he is wisdom, he is the word, in fact the Word of God.

It is also written, "Open your lips, and let God's word be heard." God's word is uttered by those who repeat the teachings of the Prince and meditate on his sayings. We should speak this word. When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of the Prince; when we speak of virtue, we are speaking of the Prince; when we speak of peace, we are speaking of the Prince, and when we speak of truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of the Prince.

"Open your lips," says Scripture, "and let God's word be heard." It is for you to open them, and it is for him to be heard. Similarly, David said, "I will listen to what the Master says in me." The very Son of God says, "Open your lips, and I will fill them." Not everyone can reach the perfection of wisdom as Solomon or Daniel did, but the spirit of wisdom is poured onto everyone in relation to capacity--that is, on all the faithful; if you believe, you have the spirit of wisdom.

And so meditate at all times on what deals with God, and speak of what deals with God "when you are seated in your house." By "house" we can understand the Church, or the hidden place within us, so that we are to speak within ourselves. Speak with good judgment, so that you will not fall into sin by excess talking. "When you are seated in your house" speak to yourself as if you were talking to a judge. "When you speak along the road," speak in such a way as never to be idle. You speak "along the road" if you speak in the Prince, because the Prince is the way. When you walk along this way, speak to yourself, and speak to the Prince. Hear him say to you, "I desire to have people pray in every place, and lift holy hands without anger or quarreling." When you lie down, speak so that the sleep of death will not steal in on you. Listen and learn how you are to speak as you lie down: "I will not give sleep to my eyes or let my eyelids doze off until I find a place for the Master, a home for the God of Jacob."

When you get up or rise again, speak of the Prince, so as to fulfill what you are commanded. Listen and learn how the Prince is to wake you from sleep: your soul says, "I hear my brother knocking at the door." Then the Prince says to you, "Open the door for me, my sister, my wife." Listen and learn how you are to waken the Prince: Your soul says, "I beg you, daughters of Jerusalem, waken or reawaken the love of my heart." The Prince is that love.

God has given us Jesus the Prince to be our wisdom, our strength, our holiness, and our redemption; this is why Scripture tells us: "If you want to brag, brag about the Master."

We have all received some of what in him is complete; we have received as gifts what belongs to him by right. This is why Scripture tells us, "If you want to brag, brag about the Master."

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and moral, please help us live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Proverbs 15.8-9, 16-17, 25-26, 29, 33, 16.1-9, 17.5

A sacrifice from an immoral man is disgusting to YHWH,
but prayer from an honest man is his delight.
Immoral conduct is disgusting to YHWH,
but he loves people who follow virtue.
A little possessed with respect for YHWH
is better than great wealth with anxiety.
A dinner with nothing but vegetables and love
is better than a fattened calf with hatred.
YHWH will destroy the proud man's house,
but keep the widow's territory intact.
What immoral people think is disgusting to YHWH,
but what pure people say he finds pleasant.
YHWH keeps himself aloof from immoral people
but listens to virtuous people's prayers.
Respect for YHWH is training in wisdom,
and self-effacement goes before honor.
Plans in the heart belong to men,
but what the tongue says belongs to YHWH.
Everything a man does is pure in his own eyes,
but YHWH weighs his spirit.
Entrust what you do to YHWH
and your plans will succeed.
YHWH made everything for himself,
and he even made the immoral for the day of doom.
Everyone whose heart is proud is disgusting to YHWH;
all of them together will not escape punishment.
It is by mercy and fidelity
that evil deeds are atoned,
and a person leaves sin by respecting YHWH.
When a person's conduct pleases YHWH
he makes even his enemies be at peace with him.
A little with virtue
is better than vast wealth without honesty.
A man's mind plans his conduct,
but YHWH directs his steps.

Never forget the Master, who led you out of Egypt; you are to respect the Master, your God, and be a slave only to him.

Respect for the Master is training in wisdom, and humility is the path to honor. You are to respect the Master, your God, and be a slave only to him.

Second Reading: Treatises on the First Letter of John by St. Augustine

We have been promised that "we will be like him because we will see him as he is." By these words, the tongue has done its best; now we must apply meditation in our hearts. Though they are the words of St. John, what are they in comparison with the divine reality? And how can we, so far below John in what we deserve, add anything of our own? Yet we have received, as John told us, an anointing by the Holy One, which teaches us within ourselves more than our tongue can speak. So let us turn to this source of knowledge, and because at present we cannot see, make it our business to desire the divine vision.

The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not see what you long for, but the very act of desiring makes you ready, so that when he comes you will see and be completely satisfied.

Suppose you are going to fill some receptacle or container, and you know you will be given a large amount. You begin stretching the sack or wineskin or whatever it is. Why? Because you know how much you will have to put in it, and your eyes tell you there is not enough room. And so by stretching it, you increase the volume of the sack, and this is how God deals with us; simply by making us wait, he increases our desire, which in turn enlarges the capacity of our soul, making it able to receive what is to be given to us.

And so, brothers and sisters, let us go on desiring, because we will be filled. Notice St. Paul stretching, so to speak, his ability to receive what is to come: "It is not that I have already attained it," he said, "or am perfect. My brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have already attained it." We could ask him, "If you have not attained it, what are you doing in this life?" And Paul answers, "I do this one thing: I forget what is there behind me and stretch forward to what lies ahead, and hurry on toward the prize I am called to in the life above." Not only did Paul say he stretched forward, but he added that he hurried on toward a chosen goal. He realized that in fact he was still short of receiving "what no eye has seen or ear heard, what has not entered man's mind to conceive."

This is our Christian life. By desiring heaven we exercise the powers of the soul. But this exercise will only be effective to the extent that we free ourselves from desires leading to infatuation with this world. Let me return to the example I already used, that of filling an empty container. God means to fill each of you with what is good--so dump out what is bad. If he wishes to fill you with honey and you are full of vinegar, where is the honey to go? The container has to be emptied of its contents and then washed. Yes, it must be washed clean even if you have to work hard and scour it; it must be made fit for the new thing, whatever it is.

We could go on speaking analogously of honey, gold, or wine, but whatever we say cannot express the reality we are to receive. The name of that reality is God. But can anyone claim that in that one syllable we utter the full expanse of our heart's desire? And so, whatever we say is necessarily less than the full truth; we must stretch ourselves toward the standard of the Prince, so that when he comes he will be able to fill us with his presence. "Then we will be like him, because we will see him as he is."

Find your pleasure in the Master, and he will give you your heart's desire.

Commit your life to the Master and trust in him, and he will give you your heart's desire.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and moral, please help us to live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Proverbs 31.10-31

Can anyone find a virtuous wife?
Her value is far beyond rubies.
Her husband safely trusts his heart to her,
and he will have nothing but benefit from it.
She does him good, not harm
every day of her life.
She finds wool and flax
and does not mind working with her hands.
She is like merchant ships,
bringing food from far-off places;
she rises while it is still night
and provides food for her family,
seeing to it that the servants receive their share.
She examines a field and buys it,
and from her earnings, plants a vineyard.
She puts on the belt of strength
and develops her arms.
She sees to it that what she produces is good,
and has her lamp lit at night.
She puts her hand to the distaff
with her fingers twirling the spindle.
She holds out her hands to the poor
and extends a hand to the destitute.
She has no fear of snow for her family,
because all of them are dressed in warm clothes.
She makes her own coverlets;
and her clothing is fine linen and velvet.
Her husband is prominent at the city gates,
where he sits with the elders of the land.
She makes linen clothes, which she sells,
and supplies belts for the merchants.
She dresses herself in strength and dignity,
and will find her joy in times to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and kindly advices comes from her tongue.
She watches over what her household does
and does not sit back and do nothing but eat.
Her children come forward to admire her,
and her husband sings her praises:
"Many girls have done well,
but you are better than all of them."
Charm is deceitful, and beauty does not last;
it is a woman who respects YHWH who wins praise.
Give her everything she deserves,
and let what she does be what is praised in the city gates.

She sat down to work with courage and put out all her strength; and so her lamp will never go out.

The Master will help her at dawn; his loving presence will be with her. He has his home in her, and she will not waver; and so her lamp will never go out.

Second Reading: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church

in the Modern World by the Second Vatican Council

Husband and wife, by the marriage compact, are no longer two; they are one physical thing. By their intimate union of persons and of actions, they give mutual help and service to each other, experience the meaning of their unity, and gain an ever deeper understanding of it day by day.

This intimate union in the mutual self-giving of two persons, as well as the good of the children, demands full fidelity from both, and an indissoluble unity between them.

The Prince, the Master, has abundantly blessed this richly complex love, which springs from the divine source of love and is founded on the model of his union with the Church.

In earlier times, God met his people in a Treaty of love and fidelity. So now the Savior of mankind, the Bridegroom of the Church, meets Christian husbands and wives in the sacrament of matrimony. Further, he remains with them so that, just as he loved the Church and gave himself up for her, husband and wife will, in mutual self-giving, love each other with perpetual fidelity.

True married love is caught up into God's love; it is guided and enriched by the redeeming power of the Prince and the saving action of the Church, so that the partners will be effectively led to God, and receive help and strength in the sublime responsibility of parenthood.

Christian partners are therefore strengthened, and, so to speak, consecrated, by a special sacrament for the duties and the dignity of their state. By the power of this sacrament, they fulfill their obligations to each other and to their family, and are filled with the spirit of the Prince. This spirit pervades their whole lives with faith, hope, and love, and thus they promote their own perfection and each other's sanctification, and so contribute together to the greater glory of God.

Hence, with parents leading the way by example and family prayer, their children--in fact, everyone within the family circle--will find it easier to make progress in natural virtues, in salvation, and in holiness. Husband and wife, raised to the dignity and the responsibility of parenthood, will be zealous in fulfilling their task as educators, especially in the sphere of religious education, a task that is primarily their own.

Children, as active members of the family, contribute in their own way to the holiness of their parents. With the love of grateful hearts, with loving respect and trust, they will return the generosity of their parents, and will stand by them as true sons and daughters when their parents meet with hardship and the loneliness of old age.

This is a great mystery, but I am saying it of the Prince and of his Church; the Prince loved the Church and gave himself up for her.

A man must love his wife as he loves himself, and a woman must respect her husband; the Prince loved the Church and gave himself up for her.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, since you have promised to remain forever with those who do what is virtuous and right, please help us to live in your presence. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Seventh Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Qoheleth 1.1-18

Words of David's son Qoheleth,

King in Jerusalem:
Futility! Complete futility! says Qoheleth;
Futility! Complete futility! Everything is futile!
What good does all a man's labor do him
as he sweats at it under the sun?
One generation goes, another comes
and the earth stays the same forever.
The sun, too, rises and the sun sets
and goes back to the place where it rises.
The wind blows south
and turns around to the north;
the wind turns this way and that constantly,
and comes back round on itself.
All the rivers run down to the sea,
but the sea never fills up;
the rivers go back again
to the place they came from.
Everything is full of drudgery;
no man can speak of all of it.
Eyes are not sated with their seeing,
and ears do not fill up with hearing.
What has happened is what will happen;
what is done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything where it can be said, "Look! This is new!"?
It has already happened in the ancient times before us.
There is no recollection of the past,
and there will be no remembrance of the future
by the ones who come after it.

I, Qoheleth, was King over Israel in Jerusalem; and I determined to examine and search out with wisdom everything that happens under the sun: this wearisome task God has given mortal men for their exercise. I have seen everything that has been done under the sun, and in fact it is all a futile attempt to grasp hold of the wind.

What is crooked cannot be straightened,
and what is missing cannot be replaced.

I pondered this in my heart, and said, "I have now reached greatness and achieved more wisdom than everyone before me in Jerusalem; my heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge." And I applied myself to know wisdom and to know madness and foolishness. And I realized that this is also an attempt grasp hold of the wind,

because there is a great deal of suffering in wisdom,
and a person who gains knowledge gains grief.

I have seen everything that happens beneath the sun, and that it is all a futile attempt to grasp hold of the wind. Just as a man comes naked out of his mother's womb, he will go away naked in the end; there is nothing he can take with him.

We brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can take nothing with us when we go. Just as a man comes naked from his mother's womb, he will go away naked in the end; there is nothing he can take with him.

Second Reading: Chapters on Charity by St. Maximus the Confessor

Charity is an attitude of mind which prefers nothing to the knowledge of God. If a man possesses any strong attachment to what is on this earth, he cannot possess true charity. That is, anyone who really loves God would rather know and love God than his creatures; the whole set and longing of his mind is always directed toward him.

And that is because God is far superior to all his creation, since everything which exists has been made by God and for him; and so, in deserting God, who is beyond compare, for the inferior works of creation, a man shows that he values God, the source of creation, less than creation itself.

The Master reminds us himself, "Whoever loves me will keep my commandments. And this is my commandment: for you to love each other." So a man who does not love his neighbor is not obeying God's command, and one who does not obey his command cannot love God. It is a blessing for a man to love all other human beings equally; but if he really loves God, he must love his neighbors absolutely. This kind of man cannot hoard wealth; instead, like God himself, he gives generously from his own resources to each person as his needs warrant.

And since he imitates God's generosity, the only distinction he draws is the person's need; he does not distinguish between a good man and a bad one, a virtuous man and a vicious one. But his own will's goodness makes him prefer the man who is trying to be virtuous over the one who is depraved.

A charitable mind is not displayed simply in giving money; it is shown even more by personal service as well as by the communication of what God says to others. In fact, if a man's service toward his brothers is genuine, and if he really renounces worldly concerns, he is freed from selfish desires, because he now shares in God's own knowledge and love. Since he does possess God's love, he does not experience weariness as he follows the Master, his God; instead, following the prophet Jeremiah, he withstands every type of reprimand and hardship without even harboring an evil thought against anyone.

That is, Jeremiah warns us, "We are the Master's Temple." And you should not be saying, "Mere faith in our Master Prince Jesus can save me." By itself faith accomplishes nothing; because even the devils believe and are terrified. No, faith must be joined to an active love of God which is expressed in good deeds. A charitable man is distinguished by sincere and patient service to his fellow men; it also means using things correctly.

I am giving you a new commandment: you are to have the same love for each other as I have for you. Anyone who loves his brother lives in the light.

We can be sure that we know the Prince only if we keep his commandments. Anyone who loves his brother lives in the light.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us to be like him in what we say and do. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Qoheleth 2.1-3, 12-26

I said to myself, "Come now, I will experiment with pleasure; and so enjoy what you like." But in fact, this was also futility. I called laughter insanity, and said of pleasure, "What is it good for?" I searched out ways of satisfying my body with wine while I guided my mind with wisdom, and I took up foolishness to see what was good for mortal men to do under heaven during the time they lived.

I went on to consider wisdom, insanity, and foolishness;
and then I saw that wisdom is as much greater than foolishness
as light is than darkness;
a wise man has eyes in his head,
while a fool walks around in darkness.
Yet I noticed myself
that the same fate happens to all of them,
So I told myself,
"What happens to fools
happens to me,
So how was I wiser?"
Then I told myself,
"This is futile also."
There is no more remembrance of a wise man
than of a fool as time goes on,
since everything that now exists will be forgotten in the future;
and how does a wise man die?
Like a fool.

And so I hated my live, because what I did under the sun was painful to me, because everything is a futile attempt to catch the wind.

And then I hated the work I toiled at under the sun, because I had to leave its return to the man who is to come after me; and who knows whether he is wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all the work I labored at and revealed my wisdom under the sun. This is more futility.

So I became depressed and despaired of all the labor I had worked at under the son, because here we have a man whose labor is wisely done, and done with knowledge and skill; and yet he must leave his property to someone else who has not worked for it. This is more futility, and a terrible wrong. What does a man have to show for all his work and for his worry and his effort exerted under the sun? All his days are painful, and his work is a burden, and even in the night his heart finds no rest. This is also futile.

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink, and for his soul to enjoy good results from his work; and I also saw that this was from the hand of God. That is, can anyone eat and enjoy himself more than I? God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man is good in his sight; but he gives sinners the work of amassing and collecting things, for him to give to whoever God sees fit. This is more futility, and an attempt to grasp the wind.

God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to the one who pleases him; but to the sinner he gives a weary heart and a foolish eagerness to amass riches. This is futility, and an attempt to grasp the wind.

The love of money is the root of everything bad, and some men in their greed have brought on themselves a great deal of bitter suffering. This is futility and an attempt to grasp the wind.

Second Reading: A Homily on Qoheleth by St. Gregory of Nyssa

We will be blessed with clear vision if we keep our eyes fixed on the Prince, because, as Paul teaches, he is our head, and has no shadow of evil in him. St. Paul himself and everyone who has reached the same level of sanctity had their eyes on the Prince, and so has everyone who lives and moves and has his being in him.

Since no darkness can be seen by anyone surrounded by light, no trivialities can capture the attention of anyone who has his eyes on the Prince. The one who keeps his eyes on the head and source of the whole universe has them on virtue in all its perfection; he has them on truth, on honesty, on immortality, and on everything else that is good, because the Prince is goodness itself.

"A wise man, then, turns his eyes toward the One who is his head, but a fool gropes about in darkness." No one who puts his lamp under a bed instead of on a lampstand will receive any light from it. People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their goal and devote themselves to contemplation of God; but Paul took pride in this and declared himself a fool for the Prince's sake. The reason he said "We are fools for the Prince's sake" was that his mind was free from all earthly preoccupations. It was as though he said, "We are blind to the life here below because our eyes are raised toward the One who is our head."

And so, without board or lodging, he traveled from place to place, destitute, naked, and exhausted by hunger and thirst. When people saw him in captivity, or whipped, or shipwrecked, or led about in chains, they could hardly help thinking him a miserable sight. Still, even while he suffered all this at men's hand's he always looked toward the One who was his head, and asked, "What can separate us from the Prince's love, which is in Jesus? Suffering? Pain? Persecution? Hunger" Nakedness? Danger? Death?" In other words, "What can force me to take my eyes from the one who is my head and turn them toward what is contemptible?"

He asks us to follow his example: "Search for what is above," which is only another way of saying, "Keep your eyes on the Prince."

Just as the eyes of slaves are on their masters, our eyes are fixed on the Master, our God, as we wait for him to have mercy on us.

I am the light of the world. No one who follows me will ever walk in darkness; he will have the light of life. Our eyes are fixed on the Master, our God, as we wait for him to have mercy on us.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us to be like him in what we say and do, since he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Qoheleth 3.1-22

There is an occasion for everything,
and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to reap what was planted;
a time to kill,
and a time to heal;
a time to tear down,
and a time to build;
a time to weep
and a time to laugh;
a time to grieve
and a time to dance;
a time to throw stones away
and a time to collect stones;
a time to embrace
and a time to keep from embracing;
a time to gain
and a time to lose;
a time to preserve
and a time to discard;
a time to rip
and a time to sew;
a time to be quiet
and a time to speak;
a time to love
and a time to hate;
a time for war
and a time for peace.

What benefit does a laborer receive from his labor? I have seen the God-given tasks which men are to busy themselves with. He made everything appropriate for its time; but he has put eternity into their hearts, even though men cannot discover what God has done from beginning to end.

I know nothing better for human beings than to enjoy themselves, and to do good in their lives; also that human beings should eat and drink and enjoy the benefits of his work; this is God's gift.

I know that, whatever God does,
it will last forever.
Nothing can add to it,
and nothing be removed from it.
God does it for human beings to show him reverence.
Whatever exists has already existed,
and whatever will exist has already existed;
and God restores what has gone by.
I also saw this under the sun:
Instead of good judgment,
there was evil;
Instead of virtue,
there was vice.
I said in my heart,
God will be judge over the virtuous and the vicious,
because there is a time there for every goal and every deed.

I said in my heart, "As to the way men are, God gives them troubles, so that they will see that they are themselves like animals." What happens to human beings also happens to animals; the same thing occurs in them; one dies in the same way as the other. They all obviously have the same breath, the same spirit, and humans have no advantage over animals, since everything is futile. Everyone goes to the same place; everything comes from dirt and everything goes back to dirt. Who knows if the spirit in human beings goes up and animals' spirits go down?

So I saw that there was nothing better for a man than to enjoy what he has done, because that is his heritage--because who can enable him to see what will happen after him?

The time is growing short, and those who have to deal with the world should not become absorbed in it, because the world as we know it is going to cease to exist.

There is an occasion for everything and a time for every purpose under the sun, because the world as we know it is going to cease to exist.

Second Reading: A Homily on Qoheleth by St. Gregory of Nyssa

"There is a time to be born and a time to die." The fact that there is a natural link between birth and death is expressed very clearly in this text of Scripture. Death invariably follows birth, and everyone who is born finally comes to the grave.

"There is a time to be born and a time to die." God grant that my birth and my death will be at the right time! Of course, no one imagines that the speaker regards as acts of natural virtue our physical birth and death, neither of which our own will plays any part in. A woman does not give birth because she chooses to do so; and no one dies as a result of his own decision. Obviously, there is neither virtue nor vice in anything that is beyond our control, so we must consider what is meant by a birth and death that are at the right time.

It seems to me that the birth referred to here is our rescue, as is suggested by the prophet Isaiah. This reaches its full term and is not stillborn when, after it is conceived by reverence for God, the soul's own labor pains bring it to the light of day. We are in a sense our own parents, and we give birth to ourselves by our own free choice of what is good. This kind of choice becomes possible for us when we have taken God into ourselves and become children of God, children of the Supreme Being. On the other hand, if what the Emissary calls "the form of the Prince" has not been produced in us, we abort ourselves. The man of God must reach maturity.

Now if the meaning of a birth "at the right time" is clear, the meaning of a timely death is also. For St. Paul, every moment was a time to die, as he declares in his letters: "I swear by the pride I take in you that I face death every day." Elsewhere, he says, "For your sake we are being assassinated daily" and "we feel like people condemned to death." How Paul died every day is perfectly obvious; he never gave himself up to a sinful life, and kept his body under constant control. He carried death with him--the Prince's death--wherever he went. He was always being crucified with the Prince; it was not his own life he lived; it was the Prince who lived in him. This certainly was a timely death, a death whose end was true life.

"I put to death and I give life," God says, teaching us that death to sin and life in the Spirit is his gift, and promising that whatever he kills he will restore to life again.

I alone bring both death and life; I alone wound and heal. No one can escape my grasp.

I hold the keys of death and the land of the dead. No one can escape my grasp.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us be like him in what we say and do, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Qoheleth 5.10-6.8

A man who loves money will not be satisfied with money,
and one who loves wealth with more wealth.
This too is futility.
When possessions increase,
the ones who consume them increase;
so what good does this do their owners
except to feast their eyes on them?
A working man's sleep is pleasant
whether he eats little or a great deal;
but a rich man's abundance will not let him sleep.
There is a serious harm I have seen under the sun:
riches kept to the detriment of the owner.
When he loses the wealth because of reverses,
and he fathers a son, there is nothing in his hand.
A man will return naked, just as he came from his mother's womb;
he will go the way he came
and will take nothing from his labor
to carry away with him in his hands.
And this is also a terrible wrong,
to leave just exactly as one came,
and what good did it do him to labor under the sun?
He eats in darkness every day of his life,
and has a great deal of suffering, sickness, and anger.

Here is what I have seen: It is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and enjoy the benefit of all the work he toils at under the sun every day of his life that God gives him; this is his heritage. And even for the man God has given riches and wealth to and power to consume it, the gift of God is to accept his heritage and enjoy his work; because he will not pay attention to how short his life is, because God keeps him busy enjoying himself.

There is something bad I have seen under the sun which is common with people: a man God has given riches and property and honor, so that he has all that he could desire, and yet God has not given him the power to consume it, and a stranger eats it up. This is futility and a serious wrong.

If a man fathers a hundred children and lives a long time, so that he reaches a great age--but his soul is not satisfied with his possessions, or if he is deprived of burial, then I say that a stillborn child is better off then he, because the child comes in futility and leaves in darkness, and his name is covered in darkness. Though he has not seen the sun or had any knowledge, he has more rest than the other man, even if he lives a thousand years longer, and has had no satisfaction with what he has. Do not both of them go to the same place?

All of man's work is for his mouth,
and yet the soul is not satisfied.
What more does a wise man have than a fool?
What does a poor man have
if he knows how to behave in life?

Please keep falsehood and lying from me, Master; give me neither poverty nor riches, and please provide me only with the food I need.

I have put my trust in you, Master; my destiny is in your hands. Please provide me only with the food I need.

Second Reading: Commentary on Qoheleth by St. Jerome

"Every man has received a gift from God if God has given him wealth and property and power to enjoy them and to accept his heritage and enjoy his work, because he will not notice his life as it passes because God has filled his heart with joy." Compare this man with the one who is anxious about his wealth and is full of annoyance as he piles up possessions that are going to go out of existence. Our text says that it is better to enjoy what you have. The first man at least has some pleasure in what he has, while the second is bothered by too much worry.

And the reason is that the ability to enjoy riches is a gift from God; "he does not pay attention to his life as it passes," because God allows him to enjoy the moment. Still, it is better to understand the text with the Emissary as referring to God's gift of spiritual food and drink; human beings should contemplate goodness in their deeds, because it takes a great deal of work and study for us to contemplate true goodness. And this is our heritage: to enjoy study and work. This is a good goal, but not completely good "until the Prince is revealed in our lives."

"All the work of a man is to satisfy his mouth, and yet his spirit will be hungry, because what does a wise man have more than a fool, except the knowledge of how to live?" All that human beings work for in this world is consumed by their mouths, chewed up by their teeth, and passed into the stomach for digestion. And even when something pleases taste, the pleasure only lasts as long as the person can taste it.

But after all this, the mind of the eater gets no satisfaction, because he will want to eat again, and neither wise man nor fool can live without food, and even a poor man wants nothing more than to keep his body alive and not die of starvation. Again, it may be because the spirit gains nothing useful from feeding the body. Food is the same for wise men and fools alike, and for a poor man, food is wealth.

But it is better to understand this text as referring to the man in Qoheleth who is learned in the sacred Scripture, and knows that neither mouth nor spirit is satisfied as long as he still desires learning. In this, a wise man has an advantage over a fool, because if he knows himself to be poor (and the poor are said to have received a blessing in the Good News), he makes an effort to understand the important things in life, and he walks the "cramped and narrow road that leads to life." He is poor in immorality, and he knows where the Prince, who is our life, is to be found.

Master, Father and God of my life, please do not leave me to my evil thoughts, never let me look down disdainfully on others, protect me from the passionate cravings of my body, and preserve my soul from useless and shameful desire.

Please do not abandon me, my Master, or my faults will increase and my sins will grow more and more; and preserve my soul from useless and shameful desire.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us to be like him in what we say and do, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Qoheleth 6.12-7.28

And who knows what is good for a man in life, every day of his futile life which he passes like a shadow? Who can tell a man what will happen after him under the sun?

A good name is better than precious perfume,
and the day of death is better than the day of birth;
it is better to go into a house of mourning
than to enter a house where there is feasting,
because that is the end of every man,
and the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
because a heart is improved by a sad face;
hearts of the wise are in the house of mourning;
it is the hearts of fools that are in houses where there is mirth.
It is better to hear a reprimand from a wise man
than for a man to be the subject of fools' songs;
because the laughter of a fool
is like thorns crackling under a pot.
And this is also futility.
True, oppression destroy's a wise man's reason,
and a bribe degrades one's heart.
The end of something is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
Do not be quick in your spirit to be angry,
because anger lives in the breasts of fools.
Do not say,
"Why were the old days better than these?"
because your question here is not a wise one.
Wisdom is good--with an inheritance,
and it is a benefit to those who see the sun;
because wisdom is protection just as money is protection,
but the virtue of wisdom is that wisdom gives life to its possessors.
Consider what God has done.
Who can straighten what he has made crooked?
In time of prosperity, enjoy it,
but think of this in hard times:
God certainly made one just as much as the other
so that humans can find no fault with him.
I saw everything in my futile days:
a good man dies in his virtue,
and an evil man lives long in his vice.
Do not be too virtuous
or excessively wise;
why should you destroy yourself?
Do not be too immoral,
or be stupid;
why should you die before your time?
It is good for you to grasp this,
but not let the other rule go,
because a man who respects God will escape everything.
Wisdom gives more strength to a wise man
than ten rulers of the city,
but there is no virtuous man on earth who does good
and does not sin.
Do not take to heart everything people say,
or you might hear your slave curse you;
because you know that many times
you have cursed others yourself.
I examined all this in wisdom;
I said, "I will be wise";
but it is far from me.
And who can discover
what is far off and very, very deep?
I applied my mind to know,
to search and find out wisdom and the reason for things;
to know that immorality is stupidity,
and stupidity is insanity.
I find more bitter than death
a woman whose heart is snares and nets,
whose hands are chains.
A man who pleases God will escape her,
but she will trap a sinner.
"Here is what I have discovered," says Qoheleth,
"adding one thing to another to find the reason
which my soul is looking for but cannot find.
I have found one man in a thousand here,
but I have found no woman among all of them."

Can anyone say, "My heart is pure; I am not a sinner"? There is no living man so holy that he does good and never sins.

If we claim to be sinless, we are deceiving ourselves; but if we admit our sins, then God, who is faithful and just, will forgive us. There is no living man so holy that he does good and never sins.

Second Reading: An Instruction by St. Columban

God is everywhere in his immensity, and is nearby everywhere. As he says of himself, "I am a god that is close by, not a God that is far away." The God we are searching for is not one who lives at a distance from us, because we have him present with us, if only we are deserving. He has his home in us in the same way the soul lives in the body, if we are healthy cells in his body; if we are dead to sin. Then in actual fact, the one who said, "I will make my home in them and walk among them" is living in us. If we deserve to have his presence in us, then in fact we are made living by him as living cells in his body. As the Emissary says, "We live, move, and have our being in him."

And I ask, who will search out the Supreme Being in his own reality, because he is beyond words or understanding? Who will penetrate the secrets of God? Who will make the claim that he knows the infinite God, who fills everything, and yet includes everything, who pervades everything and reaches beyond everything, who holds everything in his hand and yet escapes the grasp of anything? "No one has ever seen him as he is."

And so no one is to presume to search out the unsearchable things of God: his nature, the kind of existence he has, his selfhood. These are beyond telling, beyond scrutiny, beyond investigation. Simply believe with simplicity, but with strength too, that this is how God is and how he will be, because God is incapable of change.

Then who is God? He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; one God. Those who want to understand the unfathomable depths of God must first consider the world of nature. Knowledge of the Trinity is fittingly compared with the depth of the ocean. Wisdom asks, "Who will find out what is so very deep?" In the same way as the depths of the sea are invisible to human sight, the Godhead of the Trinity is found to be beyond the grasp of human understanding. If anyone, I say, wants to know what he should believe, he must not imagine that he understands better through speech than through belief; the knowledge of God that he is looking for will be farther off than it was before.

So search out the highest wisdom by the perfection of your life, not by reasoning in words, by the faith that comes from simplicity of heart, not be speech and not from the learned speculations of immoral people. If you look for the God who cannot be defined in words by means of discussions, "he will go farther away from you" than he was before. If you search him out by faith, "wisdom will stand" where wisdom lives, "at the gates." Wisdom will be seen, at least in part, where wisdom is. But wisdom is also to some extent truly attained when the invisible God is the object of faith, in a way beyond our understanding, because we must believe in God, even though he is invisible, because he is partly seen by a heart that is pure.

Master, your love reaches to the heavens and your fidelity to the clouds. Your virtue is like the mountains of God, and your pronouncements like the fathomless ocean.

How deep are the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments! Your virtue is like the mountains of God, and your pronouncements like the fathomless ocean.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us to be like him in what we say and do, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Qoheleth 8.5-9.10

One who keeps YHWH's command will have no harm happen to him,
and a wise man's heart knows times and the proper choice,
because there is a time and a proper choice for everything--
though it adds a great deal to man's suffering
that he does not know what will happen.
Who can tell him how things will be?
No one has power over his breath to keep it,
and no one has power over the day of his death.
There is no cease-fire in that war,
and immorality will not save those who devote themselves to it.

I have seen all this, and applied my mind to every deed done under the sun; while one man tyrannizes over another to his harm.

Then I saw evil men buried; and as they left the sacred place, they were praised in the city for what they had done. And this too is futility, because the sentence against wrongdoers is not carried out quickly, and this is why the hearts of mortal men are fixed on doing wrong.

But even though a sinner does evil a hundred times and lives a long life, I know for certain that good will come to those who respect God and have reverence for him, and ruin will come on immoral people, and his days will not go on and on, because they are like a shadow, since he has no respect for God.

There is futility that happens on earth: that there are virtuous people who have happen to them what should be the result of immoral actions, and there are immoral people who have happen to them what should result from virtuous actions. I said that this too is futility.

So I recommended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy himself; this is what will stay with him in his work all the days of life which God gives him under the sun.

When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to see what people busy themselves with on earth, I found out that a man cannot discover all the work God does under the sun, even if he sees no sleep day or night. Even though a man works hard at finding it, he will not discover it; and even if a wise man tries to know it, he will not find it either.

But I kept this in mind so that I could report all of it: that virtuous and wise people and what they do are in God's hands. People cannot recognize love or hatred by what they see before them; everything happens to everyone without differentiation.

The same event happens to virtuous and vicious people,
to good, clean ones, and to unclean ones,
to the people making sacrifices and those who make no sacrifice.
The sinner is the same as a good man;
one who curses and a person who is afraid to curse.

And this is a wrong that happens under the sun: that the same thing happens to everyone. It is true that men's hearts are full of evil; there is insanity in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the land of the dead. But there is hope for those who are among the living; a living dog is better than a dead lion.

True, the living know that they will die,
but corpses know nothing,
and they have no more reward,
because there is no more remembrance of them.
And their love, their hatred, and their envy have died,
and they will never again have a share
in what is done under the sun.
Go eat your bread and enjoy it,
and drink your wine with pleasure,
because God has already accepted what you have done;
dress yourselves in white clothes
and do not spare the scented oil on your head.

Live and take pleasure in the wife whom you love all the days of the futile life he has given you under the sun--for all your days of futility, because that is your lot in life and in the work you perform under the sun.

Do whatever your hand finds to do with all your might, because there is no work or reasoning or knowledge or wisdom in the grave you are headed for.

No eye has seen, no ear heard, nor has the heart of man conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. God has revealed this through his Spirit, who scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

Man stands bewildered before the mystery of all God's deeds. God has revealed this through his Spirit, who scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

Second Reading: Commentary on Qoheleth by St. Gregory of Argrigentum

"Come eat your bread and enjoy it, and take pleasure in drinking your win, because what you have done has pleased God." If we were to interpret this text in its obvious, ordinary sense, it would be correct to call it a virtuous encouragement, in which Qoheleth advises us to take up a simple way of life and be led by teaching that involves a genuine faith in God. Then we can eat our bread and enjoy it and take pleasure in drinking our wine; we will not fall into slanderous speech or be involved in anything devious; we would think what is right and, as far as we can, help the poor and destitute with mercy and generosity, and really be dedicated to pursuits and good deeds that please God.

But a spiritual interpretation of the text leads us to a higher meaning, and teaches us to take this as the heavenly and mystical bread, the one that has come down from heaven and brought life to the world, and to drink a spiritual wine and take pleasure in it, the wine being what flowed from the side of the real vine at the time of his suffering that saved us. The Good News of our rescue says this on this point: "When Jesus had taken bread and said the blessing over it, he told his holy students and emissaries, 'Take this and eat it; this is my body, which is broken for you for forgiveness of sins'; and in the same way, he took the cup and said, 'All of you drink from this; this is my blood ratifying the new treaty, blood which will be shed for you and for many, many others for the forgiveness of sins.'" That is, whoever eats this bread and drinks this mystical wine enjoys true happiness and exclaims in his joy, "You have put happiness into my heart!"

In fact, I think this is the bread and the wine referred to in the book of Proverbs by God's personified Wisdom, our Savior the Prince, when it says, "Come eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed for you," and by doing so refers to our mystical sharing in the Word. That is, those who have the right to receive this are always dressed in deeds of light, which shine like a brilliant illumination, as the Master says in the Good News: "Have your light shine in front of people, so that they will see your good deeds and praise your Father who is in heaven." And, in fact, oil appears to flow over their heads continually, the oil that is the Spirit of Truth, who guards and preserves them from all the harm of sin.

The Master is right beside me; I will not be dislodged. And that is why my heart is full of joy, and my spirit is glad.

The Master is my inheritance and the cup I am served. And that is why my heart is full of joy, and my spirit is glad.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us to be like him in what we say and do, because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Qoheleth 11.7-12.14

Light is really pleasant;
and it is cheering for the eyes to see the sun;
but if a man lives many years
and enjoys all of them,
he still should remember the time of darkness,
because it will be long.
Everything that is coming is futility.
Enjoy your youth, young man,
and take your pleasure while you are young;
follow your heart
and your eyes,
but realize for all of this
God will pass his judgment on you.
And so root sorrow out of your heart
and remove evil from your body,
because childhood and youth are futility.
And remember your Creator now, during your youth,
before the hard times come
and the years approach when you will say,
"I have no pleasure in them"
while the sun and the light
and the moon and stars
are not darkened,
and the clouds do not return after rain,
in the days when the guards of the house are frightened
and strong men bow down,
when grinders stop making flour, because there are few of them,
and those looking through windows grow blind,
when doors are shut in the streets,
and the sounds of mills are muffled,
when a man is startled at the sound of a bird,
since all music's daughters have died off,
when one is afraid of high places
and of terrors along the road,
when almond trees blossom
and locusts grow tired,
and desire fails,
because man is going to his eternal home
and mourners are out in the streets.
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is untied
or the golden bowl is broken
or the pitcher shattered at the spring
or the wheel broken at the well;
because then the dirt will return to the earth as it was,
and the spirit will return to God, who gave it.
"Futility and more than futility," says Qoheleth.
"Everything is futility."

In addition to this, because Qoheleth was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and investigated and arranged many proverbs. Qoheleth tried to find proper words, and what was written was honest: words of truth. The words of wise men are like spurs, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one shepherd. Also, my son, take advice from these. There is no end to the writing of books, and a great deal of wasted effort in a great deal of study.

Let us listen to the conclusion of the whole matter:
Have reverence for God and keep his commandments,
because this is all there is for man,
because God will bring everything man does into court,
including everything secret,
whether it is good or evil.

My God, you taught me from the time I was young, and to this day I acknowledge your marvelous deeds. Please do not abandon me in my old age.

Your presence fills me with joy, and eternal pleasures are there beside you. Please do not abandon me in my old age.

Second Reading: A Commentary on Qoheleth

by St. Gregory of Agrigentum

In the words of Qoheleth, "Light is pleasant in itself," and it is a pleasure for the eye to be able to see the sun. A world devoid of light would be without beauty, and life would be lifeless. That was why Moses, who saw God, said in anticipation, "And God saw the light and said that it was good."

But to reflect on the true and eternal light is even more fitting for us. This light is the Prince, who "shines on every man who comes into the world," the savior and redeemer of the world. He is the one who became man and sank to the very depths of the human condition. As David said, "Sing to God a hymn in his name; make a highway for the one who rises in the west. His name is the Master; celebrate him!"

He called this light gratifying and foretold that it would be good to see the sun of glory. In the days of his incarnation, he said, "I am the world's light; anyone who follows me will not walk in darkness, since he will possess the light of life." On another occasion, he said, "This is the verdict: that light has come into the world."

And so sunlight is a symbol. What we see with our eyes foretells the coming of the Sun of Virtue. He was a supremely gratifying light for those who had the privilege of being taught by him personally; he was also a radiance to those who saw him with their physical eyes when he lived on earth as a man among men. It was not just any man they saw, because he was really God. He made the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear; he washed the lepers clean, and by a simple command raised the dead back to life.

And now it is our supreme delight to look on him and contemplate his divine splendor with the eyes of our spirit. When we participate in and associate with that beauty, we are illuminated and adorned, and this is what we take pleasure in. We enjoy being saturated with the pleasantness of the Spirit, in being dressed in holiness, and in achieving wisdom. And finally, we are filled with a joy that comes from God and lasts through all the days of our earthly life. In the wise words of Qoheleth, "A man may live for many years, and he will experience happiness all the days of his life." That is, everyone who gazes on the Sun of Virtue has him as his supreme pleasure. David spoke of these people in this way: "They are to enjoy themselves before God and leap about with happiness." In fact, he even said, "Make the Master your pleasure, virtuous people, because praise comes appropriately from honest folk."

Join me in giving glory to God, and let us praise his name together. Look to him and be radiant with happiness, and never let your faces blush with embarrassment.

God has given us the privilege of sharing the fate of his sacred people in the light; he has set us free from the power of darkness. Look to him and be radiant with happiness, and never let your faces blush with embarrassment.

Prayer

Dear Father, please keep before us the wisdom and love you have revealed in your Son, and help us be like him in what we say and do,because he is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Eighth Sunday

in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Job 1.1-22

In the land of Uz, there was an irreproachable, honest man named Job, one who respected God and avoided evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household; and so was the greatest of all his people in the east.

His sons used to take turns having parties in their houses, and would invite their three sisters to dine with them. And when the parties were over, Job would send for them and purify them by rising early in the morning and making a holocaust for each of them, since Job said, "It is possible that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Job did this regularly.

One day, when the descendants of God, accompanied by Satan, came to present themselves before YHWH, YHWH said to Satan, "Where did you come from?"

"From roaming over the earth and patrolling it," Satan answered.

YHWH said, "Did you notice my slave Job, who has no peer on earth? He is an irreproachable, honest man, who respects God and avoids evil."

And Satan answered, "Does he respect God for nothing? Have you not built a hedge around him and his household and everything he has everywhere? You have blessed everything his hands have done, and his possessions have grown through the land. But if you were to reach out and touch all he has, he would be sure to curse you to your face."

Then YHWH told Satan, "Very well; he is in your power, but do not lay a hand on his person." And Satan left YHWH's presence.

One day, when Job's sons and daughters were dining in their oldest brother's house, a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing with donkeys grazing beside them, when the Sabeans stole them in a raid; in fact, they slaughtered the slaves with their swords, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!"

While he was still speaking, another came up and said, "Lightning fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the slaves completely; and I am the only one to escape and tell you!"

And while he spoke, still another came up and said, "The Chaldeans divided into three gangs, raided the camels and stole them, and killed the slaves with their swords too; and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!"

And while he too was still speaking, another came up and said, "Your sons and daughters were dining in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a windstorm came across the desert and hit the house on all four sides, and it fell on the young people; and they are dead. I am the only one to escape and tell you!"

Then Job stood up, tore his robe, and cut off his hair. He fell prostrate in worship, and said,

"I came naked from my mother's womb,
and I will go back naked.
The Master gave me these things, and the Master has taken them back.
Blessed be YHWH's name."

And in all this, Job did not blame God or accuse him of wrong.

If we accept happiness from God, should we not accept misery too? The Master gives us things, and the Master takes them back; let his will be done. Blessed be the Master's name.

I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will go back naked. The Master gives us things, and the Master takes them back; let his will be done. Blessed be the Master's name.

Second Reading: Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

Some men are so innocent that they do not recognize what virtue is; but the more they abandon the innocence of true simplicity, the less they rise to moral excellence, since in not knowing how to guide their actions by correct living, they are to simple to remain innocent.

And so Paul warns his students with these words, "I want you to be wise in what is good, but innocent of evil." Again, he says, "Do not be like children in your thinking; be like infants in evil." And the Truth himself similarly tells his students, "Be wise as snakes and simple as doves." In this command, he has deliberately joined the two ideas together; the snake's cunning compliments the dove's simplicity, and the dove's simplicity moderates the snake's cunning.

This is why the Holy Spirit reveals his presence to human beings not only as a dove but as fire too; the dove represents simplicity, and the fire, intense dedication. And so the dove and the fire, taken together, have a special significance: whoever is filled with the Holy Spirit becomes so dedicated to this gentle simplicity that he is also on fire with the zeal of virtue against the faults of sinners.

"An innocent, honest man is one who respects God and turns away from evil." Whoever is looking for our eternal country obviously lives an innocent, virtuous life. He is innocent in his deeds, honest in his faith; he is innocent in the good actions he performs here on earth, and honest in the high ideals he perceives deep within himself. There are, of course, some who are not simple in this good action, because they are looking for an external reputation, not an inner reward. And so the wise man correctly said, "The sinner who walks the earth along two paths is doomed." Sinners do, in fact, walk over the face of the earth in two directions: externally, their actions seem to be holy, but internally, their thoughts are worldly.

This is a good saying, then: "He respects God and turns away from evil," because the holy Church of the chosen people sets out along the path of simplicity and virtue in fear, but finishes it in love, since it is the Church's task to turn completely away from evil; once she has begun by love of God, she rejects sin. If she still does good only out of frea, she has not inwardly withdrawn from evil, because she commits sin by desiring to sin, if she could only sin without punishment.

And so Job was correctly said to respect God, because he turned away from evil; because love is moved by respect when the mind rejects the thought of sin.

May God give you all the goodness you need to do his will; may he accomplish in you everything that pleases him through Prince Jesus.

May he open your heart to his law and his regulations; may he accomplish in you everything that pleases him through Prince Jesus.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Job 2.1-13

Another day when God's descendants came to present themselves before YHWH, Satan also came among them to present himself before YHWH, and YHWH said to Satan, "Where did you come from?"

"From roaming the earth, and patrolling it," answered Satan.

"Did you notice my slave Job?" YHWH asked Satan. "There is no one like him on earth, an innocent, honest man, a man who respects God and avoids evil. And he still holds on to his integrity, even though you egged me on to ruin him for no reason."

Satan replied to YHWH, "Skin for skin! Yes, a man will give everything he has for his life; but reach out now and touch his bones and flesh, and he will be sure to curse you to your face."

And YHWH said to Satan, "Very well, he is in your power; but spare his life."

So Satan left YHWH's presence and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head; and he took a broken pot to scratch himself while he sat in the ashes. And then his wife told him, "Are you still holding on to that integrity of yours? Curse God and die!"

But he answered her, "You speak like a woman without sense. We accept good things from God; should we not accept bad things?" And in all this Job committed no sin with his lips.

Then, when Job's three friends heard of all these reverses that had come upon him, each came from his own place: Eliphaz from Teman, Bildad from Shuh, and Zophar from Naamath. They met and journeyed together to give him sympathy and comfort; and when they looked up from a distance and did not recognize him, they cried out and wept, and each of them tore his robe and threw dirt down upon his head, and sat down with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, while no one spoke a word to him, since they saw how enormous his grief was.

Dear God, please do not punish me in your anger; your arrows have pierced right through me. My body is sick because of your indignation.

My friends and neighbors avoid me in my sickness; my body is sick because of your indignation.

Second Reading: Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

When Paul saw within himself the riches of internal wisdom, yet was aware of the corruptibility of his own body, he was led to say, "We have this treasure in earthenware pots." Here in blessed Job, the earthenware pot felt the gaping sores in its exterior, while the treasure of wisdom remained whole and intact inside it. That is, outwardly, his body was in agony, but inwardly, from the treasure of wisdom came holy thoughts: "If we have accepted good things from the Master's hand, why should we not endure bad things?" The "good" here refers either to the temporal or the eternal gifts of God, and the "evil" to the disasters of the present time, about which the Master says through the prophet, "I am the Master and there is no other one. I form light and create darkness; I make peace and create harm."

"I form light and create darkness," because though outwardly these disasters create the darkness of anguish, inwardly knowledge lights the light of the mind. "I make peace and create harm," because peace with God is restored to us when what was properly created for us but not ordinarily desired are turned into plagues and become harm for us. It is through sin that we become opposed to God, and so it is fitting for us to return to his peace by way of disasters. In this way, when everything created for good is turned into a source of pain for us, the mind of the punished man can be humbly renewed and restored to peace with his Creator.

We should take particular note of Job's words to see how skillfully he meets his wife's urging: "If we have accepted good things from God, why should we not accept bad things?" It is a great comfort in suffering if, in times of trouble, we recall the gifts our Creator has given us. And overwhelming pain will not break us if we quickly call to mind the gifts that have sustained us. That is, it is written, "Do not forget hardship in times of prosperity, and in times of hardship, do not forget prosperity." That is, if a man accepts God's gifts, but forgets his hardship, he can fall through his own excess of happiness. On the other hand, when a man is bruised by these whippings, but is not at all consoled by the though of the blessings he has been lucky enough to receive, he is completely devastated.

And so both attitudes have to be united, so that one will support the other: the memory of the gift can temper the pain of hardship, and the dread and fear of hardship can modify the joy of the gift. And so holy Job, to soothe his soul's depression in the midst of his injuries, weighs the pleasurable gifts he has received even while he suffers his whipping, and says, "If we have accepted good things from the Master's hand, why should we not endure bad things?"

If we receive happiness from God, should we not also accept suffering? The Master gives us gifts and the Master takes them back; may his will be done. Blessed be the Master's name.

In all his sufferings, Job did not sin, and did not cast blame upon God. The Master gives us gifts and the Master takes them back; may his will be done. Blessed be the Master's name.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Job 3.1-26

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born. Job began speaking, and said,

"I wish the day I was born never existed
or the night when they said,
'A boy is born!'
Turn that day into darkness!
Do not let God above look for it
or light shine on it!
Have darkness and the shadow of death claim it,
and a cloud settle over it.
Make the blackness terrify that day
and let darkness take over the night;
give it no joy among the days of the year,
and keep it out of the count of the months!
If only that night had been barren,
with no joyful shout coming into it!
Have those who curse the sea curse that day,
those who are there to disturb Leviathan.
Darken the stars of its morning;
may it look for light and find none,
and not see the dawning of the day,
because it did not shut the doors of my mother's womb
or hide my eyes from agony!
Why did I not die at birth?
Why did I not end my life as I came from the womb?
Why did the knees receive me?
Why did I find breasts to nurse?
Then I would have lain down and been quiet;
I would have been asleep;
then I would have been at rest
with kings and their advisors over the earth
who built for themselves what now are ruins--
or with heads of state who had gold
and filled their houses with silver.
Why was I not buried like a stillborn child,
like infants who never saw light?
There, evil people stop causing trouble,
and there, the weary are at rest.
There, prisoners relax together,
and cannot hear the voice of their oppressors.
The little ones and the great ones are there,
and slaves are free of their masters.
Why is light given to those in misery
and life to those whose lives are bitter,
who long for death that does not come,
and search for it more than for a hidden treasure,
who are overjoyed
and jubilant when they find the grave?
Why is light given to those whose paths are hidden,
and those whom God has trapped?
Sobs come to me in place of food
and groaning pour out of me like water,
because what I dreaded has happened to me.
I have no peace now, no quiet,
and no rest, because trouble has taken over."<

My sobs have become my food, and my tears pour out of me like streams; everything I am afraid of happens, and whatever I dread comes upon me; and trouble takes over, Master.

I am a man without help, and assistance is beyond my reach; and trouble takes over, Master.

Second Reading: The Confessions of St. Augustine

Master, you know me; please let me know you. Let me come to know you "as well as I am known." You are my soul's strength; please enter it and make it a place that is fit for you to live in, a possession "without any spot or blemish." This is my hope, and the reason I am speaking; I find my happiness in this hope when my happiness is the proper one. As for other things in this life, the less they deserve tears, the more likely they are to be wept over, and the more they deserve tears, the less likely people will be to grieve over them. "Yes, you have loved the truth, because the one who does what is true enters light." I want to do what is true only in your eyes by praising you, and in the eyes of many, many others looking on by writing about you.

Master, the depths of a man's conscience are perfectly clear to your eyes. Could anything in me stay hidden, even if I did not want to admit it to you? In that case, I would only be hiding you from myself, not myself from you. But my sobs are enough evidence that I am not satisfied with myself, and that you are my light and the source of my happiness, as well as that you are loved and desired. I am totally ashamed of myself; I have given myself up and chosen you, with the recognition that I cannot please either you or myself unless you make me able to do so.

Whoever I am, Master, I am a book open to your scrutiny. I have already told you about the good it does me when I acknowledge what I am to you; and I do not make my confession with physical words, with physical language; I do so with words in my soul and my mind's cries, which you hear and understand. When I do wrong, my confession to you is an expression of my dissatisfaction with myself; but when I do good, my admissions consist in not ascribing this goodness to myself. That is, "You bless a virtuous man, Master," but first "you make an evil person virtuous." And so I make my confession to you in silence--and yet not in silence; my voice is silent, but my heart cries out.

You are my judge, Master. "Because even though no one knows a man's most intimate thoughts except the man's own interior spirit," there is still something in a man which even his own spirit does not know. But you know all about him, because you made him. In my own case, I despise myself in your sight, since I know that I am nothing but dirt and ashes; and yet I know something about you that I do not know about myself.

True, "we see now indistinctly, as if it were in a darkened mirror, and not yet face to face." And so, as long as I am in exile from you, I am more present to myself than to you; but I do not that you cannot be conquered, while I am not sure which temptations I can resist and which I cannot. Still, I have hope, because you "are faithful and do not let us be tempted beyond our endurance; but you give us the means to withstand the temptation as you give it."

And so I will confess what I know about myself, and also what I do not know. The knowledge that I have of myself I possess because you have given me light, while the knowledge of myself that I do not possess yet will not be mine until my darkness will become like the noonday sun before your face.

Master, you have examined me and you know me; you perceive my thoughts from far off.

Where would I go away from your spirit? Where would I escape from your presence? You perceive my thoughts from far off.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Job 7 1-21

Is not man's whole life on earth drudgery?
Are not his days like a hired hand's--
like a slave, who longs for shade
or a worker who thinks of nothing but salary.
I have been assigned months of futility,
and nights of worry are what I have been given.
When I lie down, I say, "When will I get up
and the night be over?"
Because I have had my fill of tossing and turning till dawn.
My body is caked with worms and dirt,
and my skin is cracking and breaking out.
My days go by more quickly than a weaver's shuttle,
and come to an end with no hope.
Remember that my life is a breath;
I will never again see anything good.
The eyes that are looking at me will not see me any longer;
you will look for me, and I will not be there.
A man who goes down to the grave does not come up;
he is like a cloud that dissipates and is gone.
He will never go back to his house,
and his place will no longer know him.
And so I will not put a rein on my mouth;
I will speak out in my spirit's agony;
I will complain in my soul's bitterness.
Am I the ocean, or some monster in it
that you set a guard to watch me?
When I say, "my bed will be my comfort,
the couch will ease my suffering,"
you terrify me with dreams
and horrify me with visions,
so that my soul would rather strangle
and die than stay in my body.
I loathe my life;
I do not want to live forever.
Leave me alone,
because my days are only a breath.
What is man, for you to elevate him,
or for you to set your heart on him,
for you to visit him every morning
and torment him at every moment?
How long is it to last?
Please, won't you look away from me
and let me alone to swallow my saliva?
Have I sinned?
What have I done to you, you examiner of men?
Why have you made me your target,
so that I am a burden to myself?
Why do you not pardon my guilt
and take away the wrong I have done?
Because I will now lie down in the dirt
and you will look and look for me;
but I will no longer exist.

My body is covered with decay; my skin is cracked and breaking out. Please remember, Master, that my life is a breath.

My life passes as quickly as a weaver's shuttle, and once gone there is no hope of calling it back again. Please remember, Master, that my life is a breath.

Second Reading: The Confessions of St. Augustine

Where did I find you, so that I came to know you? You were not in my memory before I learned about you. Then where did I find you before I came to know you, if not there inside yourself, far above me? We come to you and we go from you, but there is no place involved in this; you, my Truth, are present to those who are looking for help from you, and at one and the same time you answer everyone, even though they are making different requests.

And you answer clearly; but not everyone hears you clearly. Everyone asks for what he wants, but they do not always hear the answer they want. Your best servant is the one who is interested in choosing whatever he hears from you, rather than in hearing his plea answered.

It was a long time before I loved you, Beauty that is always old, always new; it was a long time before I loved you. You were inside me; it was I who was outside, and there is where I searched for you. In my ugliness, I plunged into the lovely things you created; you were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you--and yet if they had not been in you, they would not have existed at all.

You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness; you sparkled and shone, and you rid me of my blindness; you breathed your fragrance on me, and I inhaled, and now I am panting for you. I have tasted you, and now I am hungry and thirsty for more; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

When I am once united to you with my whole being, I will be free at last of suffering and drudgery; and then my life will be alive and filled entirely with you. When you fill someone, you take off his burden; but because I am not filled with you as yet, I am still a burden to myself. My happiness when I should be weeping struggles with my suffering when I should be happy. I do not know where my victory is. I am a wreck! Master, please have mercy on me! My evil pains and good pleasures are at war with each other; I do not know where my victory is. I am a wreck! Master, Please have mercy on me. I am a wreck! I am not trying to hide my wounds at all; you are the doctor, and I am the patient. You are merciful, and I need mercy.

"Is not man's life on earth drudgery?" Who would want troubles and difficulties? You command us to put up with them, not to love them; no one loves what he puts up with, though he may love the act of enduring--because, even if he is happy to endure his own burden, he would still rather have the burden not exist. I long for prosperity in times of hardship, and I am afraid of hardship when times are good; and yet what middle ground is there between these two extremes where man's life would be anything but drudgery?

Pity this world's prosperity; pity it a second time and once again, because it corrupts happiness and brings the fear of hardship. Pity this world's hardship; pity it again and then a third time, because it fills people with a yearning for prosperity, and because hardship itself is difficult to bear and can even break their endurance. "Is not man's life on earth drudgery," continuous drudgery?

All my hope rests only on your great mercy.

It was a long time before I loved you, Beauty that is always old, always new; it was a long time before I loved you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.

The Son of Man came to search out the lost and lead them to rescue. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Job 11.1-20

Zophar from Naamath spoke up and said,
"Shouldn't this torrent of words have an answer?
Should a man full of talk win?
Should your empty mouthings silence everyone,
and when you sneer, should no one take you up?
You claim what you teach is pure
and that you are clean in God's eyes.
Ah, but if God were to speak
and open his lips against you
for him to show you the secrets of his wisdom,
and how they are twice as smart as you.
Know that God is demanding from you
less than your crimes deserve.
Can you penetrate the deep designs of God?
Can you set limits for omnipotence?
These secrets are higher than heaven. What can you do?
They are deeper than the world below. What can you know?
They extend farther than the earth
and are wider than the ocean.
If he comes by and claps you into prison, and condemns you,
who can stop him?
He knows how deceitful men are.
And he sees the evil that is there,
and is he not to take it into account?
An empty-headed man will be wise
when a donkey's colt is born a human being.
If you were to straighten out your heart
and stretch out your hands to him;
if you were to remove all injustice from your hands
and would not let evil find a home in your tents,
then you could be sure to lift up your immaculate face,
and you could be secure, without any fear,
because you would forget your misery
and remember it like water under the bridge;
you life would be as bright as noon,
and any darkness in you would be like the morning;
and you would be secure, because there is hope.
Yes, you would dig out a resting-place and lie down safely,
and you would take your rest, and no one would intimidate you;
and many people would be begging for your favor,
while immoral eyes would look on with envy--
and they will find no escape,
and their only hope will be to die."

We are tormented in every way, but not overwhelmed; we are bewildered but do not lose hope. We suffer oppression, but have not been abandoned.

At every moment, we carry in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be revealed in our bodies too. We suffer oppression, but have not been abandoned.

Second Reading: Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

How are we to interpret this law of God? How, if not by love--the love that stamps the regulations of correct living on the mind and demands that we put them into practice. Listen to Truth speak of this law: "This is my commandment: for you to love each other." Listen to Paul: "The whole law," he says, "is summed up in love"; and again, "Help each other in your troubles, and you will fulfill the Prince's law." The Prince's law; does anything other than love describe it better? Yes, we are keeping this law when, out of love, we go to help a brother in trouble.

But we are told that this law is many-faceted. Why? Because love's zealous concern for others is reflected in all the virtues. It begins with two commands, but soon embraces many more. Paul gives a good summary of its various aspects: "Love is patient," he says, "and kind; it is not ambitious, not selfish, not touchy; it does not harbor grudges, and is not happy over others' troubles; it is happy over a good life."

A person ruled by this love shows his patience by putting up with wrongs calmly; he shows his kindness by generously repaying good for evil. Jealousy is something foreign to him; it is impossible to envy worldly success when a person has no worldly desires. He is not conceited; the prizes he is aiming for are within him, and outward blessings do not give him pleasure. His conduct is irreproachable, because he cannot do wrong in devoting himself entirely to the love of God and his neighbor.

The welfare of his own soul is what he cares about; apart from that, he has no interest in anything. He is not selfish; since he cannot keep anything he has in this world, he is as indifferent to it as if it belonged to someone else. In fact, in his own eyes, nothing belongs to him except what will always belong to him. He is not touchy; even under provocation, thoughts of revenge never enter his mind. The reward he is looking for after this life will be greater in proportion to what he has to put up with. He harbors no evil thoughts. Hatred is utterly rooted out of a heart whose only love is goodness; thoughts that contaminate a man can find no entry. He does not gloat over other people's harm; an enemy's fall gives him no pleasure, because, in loving everyone, he is anxious for their rescue.

On the other hand, "he finds pleasure in a virtuous life." Since he loves everyone else as much as he loves himself, he takes as much pleasure in whatever good he sees in them as if the progress were his own. That is why the law of God is many-faceted.

Owe no one anything except the debt of love to each other, because anyone who loves his neighbor fulfills the law. Love is the fulfillment of the law.

All God's commandments are summed up in this one: Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Love is the fulfillment of the law.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Job 12.1-25

Job then spoke, and said,

"Of course you are the only people who matter,
and wisdom will die with you!
But I have intelligence too,
and it is not worse than yours.
And is there anyone who does not know what you said?
Here I am, made fun of by my friends:
'He is the one who calls on God, and he answers,
the virtuous, innocent man,'--the one people make fun of!
A person resting thinks little of a lamp,
which is for people whose feet might slip.
Robbers' tents are full of wealth,
and those who provoke God are secure
in what God's hands bestow on them.
But now ask the animals to teach you something,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you--
or ask the earth itself to teach you
and the fish in the ocean to explain things to you.
Is there anything among all of them that does not know
that YHWH's hand has done this?
Every living thing has its life in his hands,
as well as all mankind's breath and spirit.
Is the ear not to be judge of words
the way the mouth tastes its food?
Wisdom belongs to old men,
and intelligence comes as the years pass by.
He has wisdom and power as his possession,
and sage advice and understanding belong to him.
If he demolishes something, it cannot be rebuilt;
if he imprisons someone, there is can be no release.
If he holds back the water, streams dry up;
if he pours it out, they drown the land.
Strength and good judgment belong to him;
he owns deceivers and those they deceive;
he takes advisors away after they are looted,
and makes fools of judges.
He unties what kings have bound up
and leaves only a loincloth on the kings;
he sends ministers away with nothing
and topples the powerful;
he silences advisors
and deprives the elders of their discretion;
he pours contempt on those in authority
and disarms those in power;
he reveals what is hidden in darkness
and brings the shadow of death to light.
He makes nations great and destroys them,
he increases their territory and abandons them;
he removes understanding from the leaders of the land
and makes them wander in a pathless desert;
they grope around in the dark, without light,
and he makes them stagger about like drunks."

All wisdom and power belong to God, and he own sage advice and understanding. When he destroys something, there is no rebuilding it, and if he imprisons a man, no one can release him.

Once he has decided, no one can change his mind; whatever he determines to do, he does. When he destroys something, there is no rebuilding it, and if he imprisons a man, no one can release him.

Second Reading: Moral Reflections on Job by St. Gregory the Great

"If anyone is made fun of by his friends in the way I am, he will call on God, and God will listen to him." A weak-minded person is often distracted toward going after external happiness when the breath of popular favor comes along with his good actions. Then he gives up his own personal choices, and prefers to be at the mercy of whatever he hears from others; and in this way, he is happy at being called fortunate, not so much at being so. Since he is eager to be praised, he gives up what he has begun to be, and so he is cut off from God by the very means by which he seemed to be approved by God.

But sometimes a soul steadfastly exerts himself for virtue, and yet is attacked by ridicule from people; he does what is admirable, but only receives derision. He might have gone away from himself because of human praise, but he returns to himself when he is repelled by their abuse. And since he finds to rest outside, he clings more strongly to God within him. All his hope is fixed on his Creator, and among all the ridicule and abuse, he listens only to his interior witness. One who has this kind of trouble grows closer to God the more the turns away from human popularity; he immediately pours himself out in prayer, and because of the pressure from outside, he is refined with a more complete purity to penetrate what is inside him.

In this context, the words apply: "If anyone is made fun of by his friends in the way I am, he will call upon God, and God will listen to him." While immoral people speak disparagingly of virtuous ones, they show them the one they should look to as the witness of their actions. And when it is in this kind of trouble, the soul strengthens itself by prayer; it is united interiorly to the one who listens from high above, precisely because it is cut off externally from the praise of human beings. Again, we should notice how appropriately the words "in the way I am" are inserted. There are some people who are both oppressed by ridicule from human beings and yet are deprived of a favorable hearing from God; because when ridicule comes to a person because of his own sin, it obviously does not produce the merit that is due to virtue.

"A virtuous man's naivete is laughed to scorn." It is the wisdom of this world to conceal the heart with deviousness, to veil one's thoughts with one's words, and to make what is false appear true and what is true appear false. On the other hand, it is the wisdom of virtue never to pretend anything for appearance's sake, and always to use words to express one's thoughts, to love the truth as it is and avoid what is fales, to do what is right without reward and to be more willing to put up with evil than to perpetrate it, not to try to avenge a worng, and to consider as a benefit any insult incurred for truth's sake. But this naivete is sneered at, because the virtue of innocence is considered foolishness by the wise people of this world. Anything that is done out of innocence they are certain to consider stupidity, and whatever truth approves of is in practice called foolishness by their worldly wisdom.

I hate the ways of falseness. Your words are a lantern which guides my steps; a light for the pathway in front of me.

Master, who will we go to? What you say is eternal life. Your words are a lantern which guides my steps; a light for the pathway in front of me.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Job 13.13-14.6

Job answered his friends in this way:
"Be quiet and let me speak,
and then let come on me what may come!
Why do I take my flesh between my teeth
and grasp my life in my hands?
Even if he slaughters me, I will trust him,
but even so, I will defend myself before him.
And he will be my rescue,
because a hypocrite could not appear before him.
So listen carefully to what I have to say
and give your ears to what I am asserting,
because now I have prepared my case,
and know that I will win my suit;
if anyone can make a counter-case against me,
then I will hold my tongue and die.
Only do not do two things to me
so that I will not run away from you and hide:
Take your hand off me
and do not let my dread of you overwhelm me.
Then call on me, and I will answer;
or let me speak first, and then you answer me.
What exactly are the faults and sins I committed?
Let me know my crimes and offenses.
Why are you hiding your face
and treating me as if I were an enemy?
Will you persecute a leaf driven back and forth by the wind?
Will you go after dry stubble?
You draw up bitter indictments against me
and punish me for faults back in my youth.
You put my feet in the stocks
and watch everywhere I walk
and dog my every footstep.
Man decays like meat rotting,
like a moth-eaten piece of clothing.
Man who is born from woman
has only a few days of life, and they are full of trouble.
He blossoms like a flower and then withers,
he flits away like a shadow and does not stay.
And would you bestow your glance on this kind of thing
and bring me up before you to pass judgment on?
Who can make an unclean thing clean?
No one!
Since his time of life has a limit
and the number of months he has here is up to you,
you have decided his limit, which he cannot pass;
so look away from him, and give him rest,
so that like a hired man, he can finish his day.

Master, please do not hide your face from me; lift the weight of your hand off me, and do not let dread of you overwhelm me.

Dear God, reprimand me gently, not with anger, because your anger will reduce me to nothing; and do not let dread of you overwhelm me.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Zeno of Verona

Is Job a forerunner of the Prince? If I am right, he is, and the comparison will show the truth of my claim. But though Job was called a virtuous man by God, God is himself the source of virtue from whom all the holy people drink. See what Scripture says: "The sun of virtue will rise for you." Job was called truthful, but the Master is, as he says in the Good News, "the way, and truth, and life." And while Job was rich, the Master is far richer, because "the earth belongs to the Master, and so does everything in it, as well as the inhabited world and everyone who lives there." All the rich man are his slaves, and so is the whole world and all of nature.

But we can compare Job and the Prince in many way: Just as Job was tempted by the devil three times, the Prince was also tempted three times. The Master set aside his riches out of love for us, and chose poverty for us to become rich, while Job lost everything he owned. A violent wind killed Job's sons, while the sons of God, the prophets, were killed by the rage of the Pharisees. Job became ulcerated and disfigured, while the Master, by becoming man, took on the defilement of the sins committed by all mankind. The wife of Job tempted him to sin, much as the synagogue tried to force the Master to yield to corrupt leadership. And in this way he was insulted by priests, the servants of his altar, just as Job was insulted by his friends. And just as Job sat on a dunghill full of worms, so all the evil of the world is really a dunghill which became the Master's home, while man that are full of every sort of crime and disgusting desire are really worms.

The restoration of riches and health to Job prefigures the resurrection, which gives health and eternal life to those who believe in the Prince. When he regained mastery over the whole world, the Prince says, "Everything has been given to me by my Father." And just as Job fathered other sons, the Prince did also, because the Emissaries, the sons of the Master, succeeded the prophets.

Job died happily and at peace, but there is no death for the Master. He is being praised forever, just as he was before time began, and he always will be, as time continues and moves into eternity.

Let us remove every encumbrance and run steadily on the race which we started, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source of our faith and our goal.

Let us prove ourselves by patient endurance of troubles, in times of difficulty and hardship, and when we are whipped or imprisoned, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the source of our faith and its goal.

Prayer

Dear Master, please guide the course of world events and give your Church the joy and peace of serving you in freedom. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Lent

Ash Wednesday

First Reading: Isaiah 58.1-12

This is what is said by Master YHWH:
"Cry out at the top of your voice; do not spare yourself;
raise your voice to the volume of a trumpet,
and tell my people what their disobedience is,
and inform the house of Jacob of their sins.
In spite of them, they search me out every day
and take pleasure in knowing my ways,
as if they were a nation that did what is right
and had not abandoned their God's commands.
They ask me for the rules for virtue,
and take pleasure in approaching God.
'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have ignored it?
Why have we mortified ourselves, if you do not notice it?'
In fact, on your fast day, you do what you please
and take advantage of all your laborers.
Your fast ends in fights and arguments
and you strike each other down with evil fists.
You are not to fast in this way
if you want to make your voice heard in heaven.
Is this the kind of fasting I wish
or the mortification I am looking for?
Is it to bend your head down as if it were a bulrush
and to lie down in sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast
and a day that is acceptable to YHWH?
Is not this the kind of fast I choose:
to untie those unjustly bound,
to take off heavy burdens,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring into your house the evicted poor?
When you see the naked, do you cover them
rather than hide away from your own flesh and blood.
Then your light will break out like the dawn
and your wounds will heal at once;
your virtue will precede you;
and YHWH's glory will take up the rear.
Then you will call, and YHWH will answer;
you will cry out, and he will say, 'I am here.'
If you remove saddles from people's backs
and eliminate accusations and lying speech;
if you reach out your life to the hungry
and satisfy those suffering hardship,
then your light will dawn in the darkness
and your midnight will look like noon.
YHWH will guide you at every moment
and slake your soul during drought;
he will strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never dries;
your own people
will rebuild the old ruins;
you will raise buildings on foundations from generations past,
and you will be called 'Those who repair the wrecks,
and restore the streets to livability.'"

The Master says, "The kind of fast that pleases me is sharing your food with the hungry and sheltering the poor and homeless. Do this and I will listen to your prayers; when you call on me, I will say, 'I am here.'"

When the Son of Man comes in glory, he will say to those on his right, "Come, inherit the Kingdom, because I was hungry and you gave me food. Do this and I will listen to your prayers; when you call on me, I will say, 'I am here.'"

Second Reading: A Letter to the Corinthians by St. Clement

Let us fix our attention on the Prince's blood and recognize how valuable it is to his Father God, since it was shed for our rescue and brought the gift of a change of mind to the whole world.

If we look over the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Master has "offered the opportunity to change heart" to anyone who was willing to turn to him. When Noah reported God's message of a change of heart, everyone who listened to him was saved. Jonah told the Ninevites that they were going to be destroyed, but when they changed their attitude, their prayers gained God's forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they did not belong to God's people.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the agents of God's grace have spoken of a change of attitude; in fact, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of a change of attitude with an oath: "As I live," says the Master, "I do not wish the death of sinners; I want them to change their attitude." He added this evidence of his goodness: "House of Israel, change your attitude from your wrongdoing. Tell the sons of my people, that if their sins were to reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, 'Father,' and I will listen to you as much as if you were a holy people."

In other words, God wanted all those he loved to have the opportunity to change their attitude, and he confirmed this desire by his own omnipotent will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully beg his mercy and kindness. We should debase ourselves before him and turn to his pity, rejecting futile deeds and quarreling and jealousy, which only lead to death.

Brothers and sisters, we should have humble minds, and put aside all arrogance, pride, and foolish anger. What we should do is act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: "A wise man is not to take pride in his wisdom, or a strong man in his strength, or a rich man in his wealth. Anyone who is proud should be taking pride in the Master by looking for him and doing what is right and virtuous." Recall especially what Master Jesus said when he taught gentleness and patience. "Be merciful," he said, "so that you will be shown mercy. Forgive so that you will be forgiven. You will be treated in the same way you treat others; you will receive what you give; you will be judged in the same way as you judge; you will be treated kindly insofar as you treat others kindly; the degree of your giving will be the degree to which you receive."

These commandments and regulations should strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks, "Who am I to look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful man who trembles when I speak?"

And so, since we share in the heritage of such a number of vast, glorious achievements, we should hurry on toward the goal of peace, which was set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid, transcendent gifts of peace, and all his blessings.

An evil man is to give up his way of life, and a sinful man his thoughts; he is to turn back to the Master, and the Master will have mercy on him. Our God is kind and sympathetic, and always ready to forgive.

The Master does not wish sinners to die; he wants them to turn back to him and live. Our God is kind and sympathetic, and always ready to forgive.

Prayer

Dear Master, please protect us in our struggle against evil, and as we begin the exercise that is Lent, please make this day holy by our rejection of ourselves. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Exodus 1.1-22

These are the names of the descendants of Israel who, along with their households, came to Egypt with Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Benjamin, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. Jacob's descendants numbered seventy persons, since Joseph was already in Egypt.

Joseph died, and so did all his brothers and that whole generation; but the descendants of Israel were fertile and increased rapidly; they multiplied and grew very powerful, and the land was filled with them.

Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt; and he told his people, "Look, there are more descendants of Israel and they are more powerful than we are; so we should be clever in dealing with them, or they will grow more still, and might join our enemies and fight against us, and then leave our country."

And so they set foremen over them to oppress them with forced labor, building for them the cities of Pithom and Rameses. But the more hardship then inflicted on them, the more they multiplied and grew; and they were in dread of Israel's descendants. So the Egyptians imposed even harder service upon Israel's descendants; they made their lives bitter with hard work in bricks and mortar, and all kinds of slavery in the fields. Every form of service they were to perform was hard.

Then the King of Egypt told the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, "When you assist as midives for the Hebrew women and see them giving birth, you are to kill the child if he is a son; but you may let the daughters live." But the midwives respected God and did not do what the king of Egypt commanded; they saved the male children alive.

So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said, "Why have you done this? Why have you allowed the male children to live?"

The midwives answered Pharaoh, "Because Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are strong, and give birth before the midwives can get to them."

And that was why God dealt favorably with the midwives; and the people multiplied and grew very strong; and because the midwives respected God, he built up families for them.

Pharaoh then commanded his subject, "You are to throw into the river every son that is born to the Hebrews; but you may let the daughters live."

The Master told Abraham, "Know this for certain; your descendants will be exiles in a land not their own, enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. Then I will punish the nation that enslaved them.

I am the Master, your Savior and Redeemer. Then I will punish the nation that enslaved them.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Leo the Great

Dear friends, "at every moment the earth is full of God's mercy," and nature is itself a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The sky, the sea, and all that is in them give evidence of the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvelous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from intelligent creation a fitting expression of gratitude.

But with the return of that season designated in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the Passover feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit. The special characteristic of the Passover feast is this: the whole Church expresses its joy in the forgiveness of sins. It is joyful for the forgiveness not only of those who are then reborn in the holy Bath, but of those too who are already included in the list of God's adopted children.

Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of the Bath; but they still need a renewal every day to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature; and whatever degree of progress has been made, there is no one who ought not to be farther along still. Everyone must therefore exert himself to ensure that on the day of redemption no one will be found in the sins of his former life.

Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at every moment should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast imposed by the Emissaries will be fulfilled, not simply by refraining from eating food, but above all by the renunciation of sin.

There is no more beneficial practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of charitable giving. This includes under the single name of "mercy" many excellent deeds of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful will be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang, "Glory to God in the spheres of heaven, and peace on earth to those in his favor." A person who shows love and sympathy to those in any kind of hardship is blessed not only with the virtue of good will, but with the gift of peace.

The deeds of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that when it comes to charitable giving, not only the rich and affluent but those of average means and even the poor are also able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in love within their hearts.

This time of fasting opens the gates of heaven to us. Let us welcome it and pray that when Easter comes we will share in the joy of the risen Master.

In everything we do, we should show that we are the slaves of God, so that when Easter comes we will share in the joy of the risen Master.

Prayer

Dear Master, may everything we do begin by your inspiration, continue with your help, and reach completion under your guidance. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Exodus 2.1-22, 18.4

A man descended from Levi married another descendant of Levi, after which the woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him for three months; but when she could no longer hide him, she made a box out of papyrus and caulked it with tar and pitch, put the child in it, and hid it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister kept watch at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

Once, Pharaoh's daughter came down to bathe in the river, while her maids walked along the bank. She caught sight of the box among the reeds, and set her maid to get it; and when she opened it, she saw the child, and suddenly the baby burst into tears. She pitied him, and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children."

His sister then said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, so that she can feed the child for you?"

Pharaoh's daughter told her to go; and so the young girl left and called the child's mother, and Pharaoh's daughter told her, "Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the child and nursed him, and the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, who took him in as her son, and named him Moses, and said "This is because I drew him out of the water."

It happened after Moses grew up that he went out to his relatives to see their forced labor; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, a relative of his. He looked around him, and since he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.

But then when he went out the day after and saw two Hebrew men fighting, he said to the one who was in the wrong, "Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?"

He answered, "Who made you our sovereign and judge? Are you going to kill me the way you killed the Egyptian?"

This alarmed Moses, and he said, "This affair must be known, then!" And when Pharaoh heard of it, he tried to have him put to death; but Moses escaped from him and went to live in the land of Midian.

Once, as he was seated there by a well, there came seven daughters of a priest in Midian to draw water; and they filled the troughs to water their father's flock. Shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and defended them, and watered their flock.

When they came to their father Reuel, he said, "How is it you came back so early today?"

"An Egyptian saved us from being attacked by shepherds," they answered, "and he also drew enough water for us to water the flock."

"Where is he?" he asked his daughters. "Why did you leave him? Call him and invite him to dinner!"

Then Moses agreed to live with the man, who gave him his daughter Zipporah as his wife. She bore him a son, whom he called Gershom, because he said, "I have been a foreigner in a foreign land." The other son was called Eliezer, because he said, "My ancestors' God was my help, and he saved me from Pharaoh's sword."

When he grew up Moses, guided by faith, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter; he chose to suffer with the People of God rather than have the fleeting pleasures of sin. He fixed his eyes on the reward God had promised.

To bear the wound of the Prince was more to him than all the treasures of Egypt. With faith as his guild, he left Egypt behind. He fixed his eyes on the reward God had promised.

Second Reading: A Homily by St. John Chrysostom

Prayer and communication with God is a supreme good; it is a partnership and union with God. In the same way as the eyes of the body are lit up when they see light, our spirit is also illuminated by the infinite light of God when it directs its attention to him. I am not referring to the outward observance of prayer; I mean prayer from the heart, continuous throughout the day and not, not confined to fixted times or periods.

Our spirit should be eager to reach out toward God, and not simply when it is engaged in meditation, but also at other times, when it is carrying out its duties, caring for the destitute, performing deeds of charity, giving generously in the service of others, our spirit should be longing for God and keep him in mind, so that these works will be seasoned with the salt of God's love, and so become a delicious offering to the Master of the universe. We can enjoy the benefit of prayer through the whole of our lives if we devote a great deal of time to it.

Prayer is the light of the spirit; it is true knowledge of God, and mediates between God and man. The spirit, once it is lifted up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the greatest tenderness; like a child calling tearfully to his mother, it craves the milk that God provides it. It seeks the satisfaction of its desires, and receives gifts outweighing the whole world of nature.

Prayer stands in God's presence as an honored ambassador. It gives joy to the spirit, and peace to the heart. I am speaking of prayer, not words. It is a longing for God, a love too deep for words, and gift given by God's grace, not something that comes from man. The Emissary Paul says, "We do not know how to pray; but the Spirit takes our inarticulate cries and makes them into a plea for us."

When the Master gives this kind of prayer to a man, he gives him riches that cannot be taken away, heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. A person who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal longing for the Master; his spirit burns as if it were in a fire of extreme intensity.

Practice prayer from the beginning. Paint your house with the tints of modesty and humility. Make it shine with the light of honesty; decorate it with the finest gold leaf of good deeds, and adorn it with the walls and stones of faith and generosity. Crown it with the dome of prayer, and in this way you will make it a perfect home for the Master. You will be able to receive him as if you were doing so in a splendid palace, and through his grace you will already possess him, with his image enthroned in the temple of your spirit.

Will you forget us forever? Will you leave us abandoned day after day? Please turn us back to you, Master, and we will come to you.

Please save us, Master, or we will die! Please turn us back to you, Master, and we will come to you.

Prayer

Master, with your loving care, please guide the change of attitude that we have begun, and help us to persevere with love and sincerity. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Exodus 3.1-20

Once, when Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert to God's mountain Horeb, and one of YHWH's angels appeared to him in a fire flaming from the middle of a bush. He gazed at it, and saw that, though the bush was on fire, it was not being burnt up; and so Moses said, "I will go over and look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush does not burn."

When YHWH saw that he was coming over for a closer look, God called to him from inside the bush, and said, "Moses! Moses!"

"I am here," he answered.

"Do not come near this place," said the voice. "Take your sandals from your feet, because the place you are standing is holy ground." He added, "I am the God of your ancestors--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Then YHWH said, "I have, you may be sure, seen the oppression of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cries because of their slave drivers, and I know their suffering; so I have come down to free them from the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them from there to a land that is good and extensive, a land flowing with milk and honey; to the place where the Caananites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites now inhabit. Once the cries of the descendants of Israel reached me, I saw the oppression visited on them by the Egyptians; and so come to me now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, for you to bring my people, Israel's descendants, out of Egypt."

Moses answered God, "Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the descendants of Israel out of Egypt?"

YHWH answered, "You may be sure that I will be with you; and this will be your evidence that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this very mountain."

Then Moses asked God, "Yes, but when I come to Israel's descendants and tell them that the God of their ancestors has sent me to them, and they say to me, 'What is his name?' What shall I tell them?"

Then God answered Moses, "I AM the one who is." He added, "You are to tell Israel's descendants, " I AM sent me to you." And then he told Moses, "This is what you are to say to Israel's descendants, 'YHWH, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered by every generation.' Go and have a meeting of Israel's elders and tell them, 'YHWH, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, appeared to me and said, "Know that I have visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt, and I have said I will bring you up out of the suffering of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey."'

"They will then listen to you, and you and the elders of Israel are to go to the King of Egypt and say to him, 'God YHWH of the Hebrews has met with us; and so please let us now go three days' journey into the desert to make a sacrifice to our God YHWH.'"

"Yet I am certain that the King of Egypt will not let you go, unless he is forced; and so I will double my fist and hit Egypt with all sorts of miracles that I will perform among the people; and after that, he will let you go."

God said to Moses, "I am the one who is." Tell the people of Israel, 'I AM sent me to you.'"

I, and only I, am Master; there is no one else who can save you. Tell the people of Israel, "I AM sent me to you."

Second Reading: The Treatise Against Heresies by St. Irenaeus

Our Master, the Word of God, first drew men to God as slaves, but later freed those who had been made subject to him. He testified to this himself, "I do not call you slaves any longer, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I call you friends, those I love, since I have told you everything I have learned from my Father." Friendship with God brings the gift of immortality to those who accept it.

In the beginning, God created Adam, not because he needed mankind, but because he wanted to have someone on whom to bestow his blessings. And it was not simply before Adam, but before the whole of creation, that the Word was giving glory to the Father in whom he had his home, and was himself being glorified by the Father. The Word said himself, "Father, give me the glory that I had with you before the world existed."

And the Master did not need our service either. He commanded us to follow him, but the gift he gave was the gift of rescue. To follow the Savior is to share in his rescue; to follow the light is to enjoy light. Those who are in the light do not brighten the light; they are brightened themselves and illuminated by the light. They add nothing to the light; they are its beneficiaries, because they are brightened by the light.

The same is true of service to God; it adds nothing to God, and God does not need human service. No, he gives life and immortality and eternal glory to those who follow and serve him. He confers a benefit on his servants in return for their service, and on his followers in return for their loyalty; but he receives no benefit from them. He is rich, perfect, and needs nothing.

The reason why God demands service from human beings is this: because he is good and merciful, he desires to confer benefits on those who persevere in his service. In proportion to God's need of nothing is man's need for union with God.

This is the glory of human beings: to persevere and remain in the service of God. It was for this reason the Master told his students, "You did not choose me; I chose you." He meant that his students did not give him glory by following him, but that in following the Son of God they were receiving glory from him. As he said, "My will is that they will also be where I am, so that they will see my glory."

This is what the Master God asks of you: to hold him in reverence, to love, and to serve him with all your heart and soul.

This is the first and greatest commandment: to hold him in reverence, to love, and to serve him with all your heart and soul.

Prayer

Father, please look kindly on our weakness and reach out to help us with your loving power. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

First Sunday in Lent

First Reading: Exodus 5.1-6.1

Afterward, Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, "This is what is said by YHWH, God of Israel: 'Let my people go so that they can hold a festival to me in the desert.'"

"Who is this YHWH," said Pharaoh, "for me to obey him and let Israel go? I do not know any YHWH; and I will not let Israel go."

They answered, "The Hebrews' God has met with us. Please let us go three days' journey into the desert so that we can offer a sacrifice to our God YHWH, or he will visit a pestilence and war on us."

Then the King of Egypt told them, "Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people from their work? Get back to your labor." And Pharaoh added, "See how many people are on the land already, and you are making them rest from their work!"

So the same day Pharaoh gave this command to the people's slave-drivers and their foremen: "You are no longer to give the people straw to make bricks, as you used to. Have them go gather straw for themselves. And you are to impose on them the same quota of bricks they made before. You are not to reduce it, because they are lazy, and that is why they are crying to be let go to sacrifice to their God. Give even more work to the men for them to keep them busy and not pay attention to lies."

So the people's slave-drivers and their foremen left and told the people, "Pharaoh says he will not give you straw, and you are to go get straw for yourselves wherever you can find it; but none of your work is going to be reduced." Then the people scattered through the whole land of Egypt to collect stubble instead of straw; and the slave-drivers rushed them, and said, "Finish your work, the daily quota you had when there was straw."

The Israelites' foremen then came and complained to Pharaoh, "Why are you acting this way with your slaves? We are given no straw and still they tell us to make bricks. Your slaves may be beaten, but the fault is with your own people!"

He answered, "You are lazy! Lazy! That is why you are asking me to leave and sacrifice to YHWH. So leave and get to work; you will not be given any straw, but you are to produce your quota of bricks!" The Israelites' foremen realized that they were in trouble, because they were told they would not have the amount of bricks reduced.

Then, as they left Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron, who were there waiting for them; and they told them, "Tell YHWH to look at you and be your judge! You made us something Pharaoh and his servants hate, and they will take up their swords and kill us!"

So Moses returned to YHWH and said, "Master, why have you brought trouble on this people? Why is it you sent me? Since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done harm to this people; and you have not set them free at all."

Then YHWH answered Moses, "You will now see what I will do to Pharaoh. He will be forced to let them go, and even be forced to drive them out of his land."

Moses stood before Pharaoh and said, "This is what is said by the Master, the God of Israel: 'Let my people go, for them to keep a feast in my honor in the desert.'"

The Master, the God of the Hebrews has sent me to you with this message: Let my people go, for them to keep a feast in my honor in the desert.

Second Reading: A Commentary on the Psalms by St. Augustine

"Dear God, please listen to my plea, and attend to my prayer." Who is speaking? An individual, it seems. But see if it is an individual: "I called to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in turmoil." Now it is no longer one person--or rather, it is one in the sense that the Prince is one, and we are all cells in his body. What single individual can call from the ends of the earth? The one who calls from the ends of the earth has to be the Son's heir. It was said of him, "You have but to ask me, and I will give you nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your own."

This possession of the Prince, this inheritance, this body of the Prince, this one Church of the Prince, this unit that we are, calls out from the ends of the earth. And what does it call? "Please listen, dear God, to my plea, and attend to my prayer! I called you from the ends of the earth." That is, I made this cry to you "from the ends of the earth" or in other words, from everywhere.

And why did I make this cry? "While my heart was in turmoil." The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations in a troubled condition, not one of elevated glory.

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trouble; we progress by means of trouble. No one knows himself except through troubles, or receives a winner's crown except after victory, or exerts himself without an enemy or temptation.

The one who is crying from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. The Prince chose to foreshadow us, his body, by his body, in which he has died, come back to life, and risen to heaven, so that the cells in his body can hope to follow where their head has preceded them.

He made us one and the same thing with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We hear in the Good News how the Master Prince Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness; and the Prince was certainly tempted by the devil. In the Prince, you were tempted, because the Prince received his flesh from your nature, but gained rescue by his own power; he suffered death in your nature, but gained life for you by his own power; he suffered insults in your nature, but gained glory for you by his own power; and that means that he suffered temptation in your nature, but gained victory for you by his own power.

If we have been tempted in the Prince, then it is in him that we overcome the devil. Do you think only of the Princes temptations and neglect to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil away from himself, but if he were not tempted, he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.

They will fight you, but they will not defeat you, because I am with you to rescue you, says the Master.

You will not fall under a sword; I will keep you safe, because I am with you to rescue you, says the Master.

Prayer

Dear God, our Master, since you formed man from the earth's clay and breathed into him the spirit of life, and yet he turned from your face and sinned, in this time of changing our attitude, we call out for your mercy. Please bring us back to you and to the life your Son won for us by his death on the cross. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Exodus 6.2-13

God then spoke to Moses and said, "I am YHWH. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the Omnipotent God; but I was not known to them by my name YHWH. I also entered into a Treaty with them, whereby I would give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, where they were foreigners.

"I have also listened to the cries of pain of Israel's descendants whom the Egyptians kept as slaves, and I have kept my Treaty in mind. And this is why you are to say to Israel's descendants, "I am YHWH; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians; I will rescue you from slavery to them, and I will set you free with a strong fist and severe punishments. I will take you on as my people, and I will be your God. You will then recognize that I am your God YHWH, the one who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will also bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as your inheritance. I am YHWH."

This was what Moses relayed to Israel's descendants; but they paid no attention to Moses, because of their mental suffering and their cruel slavery.

And then YHWH spoke to Moses again, and said, "Go and tell Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to let Israel's descendants go out of his land."

Moses answered YHWH, and said, "Israel's descendants pay no attention to me, so how will Pharaoh pay attention? I have uncircumcised lips."

But YHWH gave Moses and Aaron orders to deliver to Israel's descendants and to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to bring Israel's descendants out of the land of Egypt.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people God has made his own. Once you were not his people, but now you are the people of God. I will adopt you as my own people, and I will be your God.

I, your Master, will free you from Egypt's slavery; my strong arm will bring you back. I will adopt you as my own people, and I will be your God.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Gregory Nazianzen

Acknowledge the one to whom you owe the fact that you exist, that you are breathing, that you can understand, that you are wise, and above all, that you know God and hope for the kingdom of heaven and the vision of glory, now darkened as if seen in a poor mirror, but then with greater completeness and purity. We have been made a son of God, coheirs with the Prince. Where did you get all this, and from whom?

Let me turn to what is of less importance: the visible world around us. What benefactor has made you able to look out on the beauty of the sky, the sun in its travels, the circling moon, the countless number of stars, with the arrangement and order they have, like the music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with skill in farming, with different kinds of food, with technology, houses, laws, countries, a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the close familiarity of kinship?

Who gave you power over animals, not only the tame one, but those you use for food? Who made you lord and master over everything on earth? In short, who endowed you with everything that makes man superior to all other living creatures?

Is it not God, the one who asks you in your turn to show yourself more generous than any other creature, and for the sake of all the other creatures? Because we have received so many wonderful gifts from him, would it not be a disgrace for us to refuse him this one thing, our generosity? Though he is God and Master, he is not afraid to be known as our Father; and shall we for our part repudiate those who are our kith and kin?

My brothers and sisters and friends, we should never let ourselves misuse what has been given to us as God's gift. If we do, we will hear St. Peter say, "Be embarrassed that you are holding on to what belongs to someone else. Resolve to imitate God's virtue, and no one will be poor." We should not work at piling up and hoarding wealth while others remain needy. If we do, the prophet Amos will speak out against us with these sharp words of warning: "Come now, those of you that are asking when the new moon will be over, for you to begin selling, and when the Sabbath will be over for you to begin opening your treasures."

We should put into practice the supreme, primary law of God. He sends down rain on the virtuous and vicious alike, and makes the sun rise on everyone without distinction. He has given the broad earth, the springs, rivers, and forests to all earth's creatures. He has given the air to the birds, and the bodies of water to those that live in water. He has given more than enough of all the basic needs of live, not as something private or restricted by law, not divided up with boundaries, but as something common to everything; and he has given it lavishly and with full measure. His gifts are not niggardly in any way, because he wanted to give an equal blessing to equal worth, and to show the abundance of his generosity.

Love your enemies, do good, share what you have freely, and ask for nothing in return; then you will be true sons of your Father, who makes the sun shine on good people and bad ones, and sends his rain upon both virtuous and vicious men.

Be kind in the way your Father is kind: your Father, who makes the sun shine on good people and bad ones, and sends his rain upon both virtuous and vicious men.

Prayer

Dear God, our Savior, please bring us back to you and fill our minds with your wisdom; may we be enriched by our observance of Lent. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Exodus 6.29-7.25

YHWH told Moses, "I am YHWH. Tell Pharaoh, King of Egypt, everything I say to you."

But Moses answered, "My lips are uncircumcised! How would Pharaoh pay attention to me?"

God returned, "You see, I have made you into a something like god to Pharaoh, and Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say all I command you; and your brother Aaron will tell Pharaoh to send Israel's descendants out of his land. But I will make Pharaoh stubborn, and perform more and more miracles and wonders in the land of Egypt; and still Pharaoh will not listen to you, and so I will smash Egypt with my fist and bring my armies and my people, Israel's descendants, out of the land of Egypt with tremendous punishments. And the Egyptians will recognize that I am YHWH when I bring my fist down upon Egypt and lead out Israel's descendants from among them."

Then Moses and Aaron did as YHWH commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Then YHWH said to Moses and Aaron, "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Show me one of your "miracles,"' you tell Aaron, 'Take your staff and through it down in front of Pharaoh, and it will turn into a snake.' So Moses and Aaron had an audience with Pharaoh and they did just what YHWH commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh, and it became a snake.

But Pharaoh then called in his wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same thing with their incantations; every one of them threw down his staff, and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed their staffs. At this, however, Pharaoh grew stubborn, and did not listen to them, as YHWH said.

Then YHWH told Moses, "Pharaoh is obstinate; he refuses to let the people go. So go to Pharaoh in the morning when he goes out to the water to bathe, and stand by the riverbank to meet him, with the staff that turned into a snake in your hand. You are to tell him, 'YHWH, the God of the Hebrews has sent me to you and said, "Let my people go to perform service to me in the wilderness." Up to this time you have not listened, and so now this is what YHWH says; "This is how you will know that I am YHWH: I will strike the water in the river with the staff in my hand, and it will turn to blood; and the fish in the river will die, the river will reek with pollution, and the Egyptians will not be able to drink the river's water.'"

Then YHWH told Moses, "Tell Aaron, 'Take your staff and hold it out in your hand over the bodies of water in Egypt, over their streams, ponds, and all their pools, for them to become blood; and there will be blood throughout the land of Egypt, even in wooden pails and stone pitchers." And Moses and Aaron did this, just as YHWH commanded; Aaron lifted up his staff and struck the water in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and his slaves--and all the water in the river turned into blood; the fish in the river died, the river reeked with pollution, and the Egyptians could not drink the river's water. And there was blood throughout the land of Egypt.

Then the Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their incantations, and Pharaoh grew obdurate, and paid no attention to them, as YHWH had said. Pharaoh turned back and went into his palace, without being moved by it. And all the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water that was in the river. Seven days passed after YHWH struck the river.

The angel poured his bowl into the river, and the water turned to blood; then I heard him cry, "You are just, Holy One, and the punishment you have decreed is a just one. These men have spilled the blood of the sacred people and the prophets.

Then I heard another angel cry from the altar, "Master, Omnipotent God, your judgments are true and just. These men have spilled the blood of the sacred people and the prophets.

Second Reading: A Treatise on the Master's Prayer by St. Cyprian

My dear brothers and sisters, the commands in the Good News are nothing but God's lessons, the foundations on which to build hope, the underpinnings that strengthen faith, and the food that nourishes the heart. They are the rudder for keeping us on the right course, the protection that keeps our rescue secure. As they teach the receptive minds of believers on earth, they lead them safely to the kingdom of heaven.

God willed that a great many things would be said by his servants the prophets, and listened to by his people. But what is spoken by the Son is much, much greater than these; they are verified by the very Word of God who spoke through the prophets. The Word of God does not now command us to prepare for his coming: he has come in person and is opening up the way for us, and directing us toward it. Before this, we wandered around in the darkness of death, aimlessly and blindly; but now we have the light of grace shining on us, and we are to keep on the highway of life, with the Master going before us and directing us.

The Master has given us a great deal of good advice and commandments to help us toward our rescue. He has even given us a model for our prayer, and taught us how to pray. He has given us life, and with his usual generosity, also instructed us in how to pray. He made it easy for us to be heard as we pray to the Father in the words taught us by the Son.

He had already foretold that the time was coming when true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth. He fulfilled what he had promised earlier, so that those of us who have received the spirit and the truth through the holiness he gave us would be able to worship in truth and in spirit through the prayer he taught.

Could any prayer be more a prayer in the spirit than the one given us by the Prince, the one by whom the Holy Spirit was sent to us? What prayer could be more a prayer in truth than the one spoken by the lips of the Son, who is Truth himself?

It follows that to pray in any other way than as the Son taught us is not only a result of ignorance, but sin. He commanded it himself, and said, "You reject the command of God to set up your own tradition."

And so, my brothers and sisters, let us pray as our Master God has taught us. Asking the Father in words his Son gave us, letting him hear the prayer of the Prince ring in his ears, is to make our prayer one of friendship, a family prayer. Have the Father recognize the words of his Son. Have the Son who lives in our hearts also be upon our lips. We have him as the sinners' defense attorney before the Father; and so when we ask forgiveness for our sins, we should use the words given us by our attorney. He tells us, "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you." What more effective prayer could we make in the name of the Prince than the one using the words of his own prayer?

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive what you ask, for your joy to be complete.

Whatever you ask the Father in my name I will give you, so that the Son will show what the Father is really like. Ask, and you will receive what you ask, for your joy to be complete.

Prayer

Father, please look kindly on your children, and through the training we undergo in Lent, help us grow in our desire for you. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Exodus 10.21-11.10

Then YHWH told Moses, "Hold our your hand toward the sky, for there to be darkness over the land of Egypt, so dark that it can be felt." So Moses reached out his hand toward the sky, and a thick darkness fell over all the land of Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else; and no one could move from where he was for three days. But the descendants of Israel had light where they lived.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and told him, "Go and perform your service to YHWH, but leave your flocks and herds back here. Your children may leave with you."

Moses answered, "You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings to perform our rituals to our God YHWH. So our livestock are to go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to take some of them to perform our service to our God YHWH; and even we do not know what we are to use for the service until we arrive."

But then YHWH made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let them go. Pharaoh told Moses, "Take yourself out of my sight! Be careful not to let me see you again! The day you see my face, you will die!"

Moses answered, "You are perfectly correct. I will never see your face again."

Then YHWH told Moses, "I will bring one more disaster on Pharaoh and on Egypt, and after that he will let you leave here; and he will not only let you go, he will actually drive you away. Now speak to the people, have every man and every woman ask from their neighbors articles of silver and gold." Then YHWH made the Egyptians look favorably on the people; and Moses himself had great prestige among Pharaoh's slaves and among the people.

Moses then said, "This is what is said by YHWH: 'About midnight, I will go out into Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt will die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the servant woman sitting behind her handmill, as well as the firstborn of the animals. Then there will be such wailing throughout all the land of Egypt as never happened before and will never happen again. But not a dog will lick any of the descendants of Israel, or any of their animals, so that you will know that YHWH has made a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these servants of yours will come down to me and bow down to me and say, 'Leave! And let all the people follow you!' After that I will leave." Then he left Pharaoh's presence in great anger.

But YHWH told Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that my miracles will become that much more numerous in the land of Egypt." And so Moses and Aaron performed all these miracles in Pharaoh's presence; but YHWH made Pharaoh obstinate, and he would not let the descendants of Israel leave his land.

How justly those who enslaved your children deserved to be deprived of light, because through your children the imperishable light of the Law was to be given to the world.

The deep gloom of night descended on Egypt, but a radiant light shone on your sacred people, because through your children the imperishable light of the Law was to be given to the world.

Second Reading: A Demonstration by Aphraates

Law and Treaty have been entirely changed. God changed the first agreement with Adam, and gave a new one to Noah; he gave another to Abraham, and changed this to give a new one to Moses. When the Treaty with Moses was no longer observed, he gave another Treaty in the final age, a Treaty never to be changed.

He established a law for Adam, that he was not to eat from the tree of life. He gave Noah the sign of the rainbow in the clouds. He then gave Abraham, chosen for his faith, the mark and seal of circumcision for his descendants. Moses was given the Passover lamb, the atonement for the people.

All these treaties were different from each other; and in addition, the circumcision that was acceptable to the giver of those treaties is the kind spoken of by Jeremiah: "Circumcise your hearts." If God's Treaty with Abraham was firm, this Treaty is also firm and trustworthy, and no other law can be passed, whether its origin is outside the law or among those subject to the law.

God gave Moses a law together with his rules and regulations; and when it was no longer kept, he made the law and the regulations null and void. He promised a new Treaty, different from the first, though the issuer of both is one and the same. This is the Treaty that he promised: "Everyone is to know me, from the least to the greatest." In this Treaty, there is no longer any circumcision of the flesh, or any seal on the people.

We know, my dear friends, that God set up different laws in different ages, which were in force as long as it pleased him. Afterward, they were made null. In the words of the Emissary, "In earlier times, the Kingdom of God existed under different signs."

In addition, our God is truthful and his commandments are perfectly trustworthy. Every Treaty was shown to be binding and trustworthy in its own time, and those who have been circumcised in heart are brought to life and receive a second circumcision beside the real Jordan, the water of the bath of baptism that brings forgiveness of sins.

Joshua son of Nun renewed the people's circumcision with a stone knife when he had crossed the Jordan with the Israelites. Jesus our Savior renews the circumcision of the heart for the nations who believe in him and are washed in the Bath: circumcision by the "sword of his word, sharper than any two-edged sword."

Joshua son of Nun led the people across the Jordan into the promised land; Jesus our Savior has promised the land of the living to everyone who crosses the real Jordan and believes and is circumcised in heart.

It is a blessing, then, to be circumcised in one's heart, and to have been born again in water through this second circumcision. These people will receive their inheritance with Abraham, the faithful leader and father of every nation, because his faith was what was taken to be his virtue.

I will make a new Treaty with the house of Israel; I will put my laws in their minds and engrave them on their hearts not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.

I will not write my laws upon stone tablets; it will be upon the tablets of human hearts, and I will engrave them on their hearts not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.

Prayer

Master, please look kindly on us and listen to our prayer; and by the good works you inspire, please help us to train our bodies and be renewed in our spirits. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Exodus 12.1-20

YHWH then spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, and said, "This month is to be the beginning month; it is to be the first month of your year. Say this to all of Israel gathered here, 'On the tenth of this month, even man is to find himself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, he and his next-door neighbor are to obtain one, depending on the number of persons involved; you are to assign the lambs in proportion to the needs of each man. Your lamb is not to have any defects, and be a male in its first year; you may obtain it from either the sheep or the goats. You are then to keep it until the fourteenth of that month.

At that time, the whole of Israel will gather and kill the lambs at twilight; and they are to take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where they eat it. They are then to eat its meat on that night, roasted, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat it raw or boiled; it is to be roasted at a fire, including its head, its legs, and its inner organs. None of it is to remain until the morning; you are to burn up in the fire whatever would be left over until the morning. And you are to eat it with your belt upon your waist, and your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. You are to eat it hurriedly, because it is YHWH's Passover.

The reason is that I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, of both humans and animals, and I will execute retribution upon all the gods of Egypt. I am YHWH. And the blood will be your evidence as to where the houses are that you are in; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the destructive blow will not come upon you when I strike the land of Egypt.

And that day will be a memorial feast for you; you are to keep it as a festival to YHWH through every generation; you are to keep this festival as a perpetual institution. You are to eat unleavened bread for seven days, removing leaven from your households on the first day. Whoever eats leavened bread from the first to the seventh day will be excommunicated from Israel. On the first day, there will be a sacred assembly, and on the seventh day another sacred assembly. No sort of work is to be done on these days except what is connected with what you are to eat; that alone may be prepared.

That is how you are to keep the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, because it is on this very day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt; and that is why you are to observe this day as a perpetual institution, through every generation.

In the fourteenth day of the first month in the evening, you are to eat unleavened bread until the evening of the twenty-first of the month. There is to be no leaven in your houses, and whoever eats what is leavened is to be excommunicated from the community of Israel, whether he is a foreigner or a native. You are to eat nothing leavened; in all your houses you are to eat unleavened bread.

The elders fell prostrate before the Lamb and sang this new song: It was by your blood, Master, you have ransomed us for God.

We have not been redeemed by ephemeral gold and silver, but by the priceless blood of the Prince, the lamb without spot or defect. It was by your blood, Master, you have ransomed us for God.

Second Reading: A Homily by St. Asterius of Amasea

You were made in the image of God. Then if you want to be like him, follow his example; and since the very name you bear as Christians is a profession of love for human beings, imitate the love of the Prince.

Reflect for a moment on the riches of his kindness. Before he came as a man to be with human beings, he sent John the Bather to announce a change of attitude and lead men to put this into practice. John was also preceded by the prophets, who were to teach the people to change their attitude, to return to God and reform their lives.

Then the Prince came himself, and with his own lips cried, "Come to me, all of you who are worn out with work and overburdened, and I will give you rest." How did he accept those who listened to his call? He willingly forgave their sins, and instantly freed them from everything that troubled them. The Word made them holy, and the Spirit set his seal on them; then new man was reborn with the vigor of grace.

And what was the result? Those who had been God's enemies became his friends, those estranged from him became his children, and those who did not know him came to worship and love him.

And so we should be shepherds like the Master. We should meditate on the Good News, and as we see in this mirror the example of zeal and loving kindness, we should become thoroughly schooled in these virtues.

We see them reflected in the form of an analogy of a shepherd with a hundred sheep. When one of them became separated from the flock and lost its way, that shepherd did not stay with the sheep who kept together in the pasture; he left to look for the stray. He crossed many, many valleys and thickets, he climbed high, towering mountains, he spent a great deal of time and work in wandering through lonely places until at last he found his sheep. And when he found it, he did not punish it; he did not beat it and drive it back; he gently placed it on his own shoulders and carried it back to the flock. He was happier about this one sheep that was lost and found than all the others.

Let us look more closely at the hidden meaning of this analogy. The sheep is more than a sheep, and the shepherd more than a shepherd; they are illustrations of holy truths. They teach us that we should not look on people as lost or beyond hope; we should not abandon them when they are in danger, or be slow to come to help them. When they turn away from the right path and wander off, we must lead them back, and celebrate their return, as we welcome them back into the company of those who lead good and holy lives.

Pass honest judgments, and have each person be merciful and forgiving to his brother or sister.

If you forgive others' sins, you Father in heaven will also forgive your sins. Have each person be merciful and forgiving to his brother or sister.

Prayer

Father, since we can do nothing without you, please help us by your Spirit to do know what is right and to be eager in doing your will. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit for all the endless ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Exodus 12.21-36

Then Moses called all the elders of Israel together and told them, "Pick out lambs for yourselves in proportion to your families, and slaughter them as Passover sacrifices. You are to gather a bundle of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and sprinkle it on the lintel and the two doorposts of your houses; and none of you are to go out of the house until morning, because YHWH will pass through to strike down the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintels and the doorposts, YHWH will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses and strike you down.

And you are to observe this as a regulation for you and your descendants forever. When you come into the land YHWH gives you as he promised, and when your children ask you, "What is this ritual about?" you are to answer, "It is the Passover sacrifice to YHWH, commemorating when he passed over the houses of Israel's descendants in Egypt when he struck down the Egyptians and set our families free."

So the people bowed and gave worship to God; and then Israel's descendants left and did exactly what YHWH had commanded Moses and Aaron.

What happened at midnight was that YHWH struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat upon his throne to the firstborn of the captives in their dungeons, as well as all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh woke up in the middle of the night, and so did all of his servants and all the Egyptians; and a great cry arose, because there was not one household where there was not at least one person dead.

Pharaoh then called for Moses and Aaron during the night and said, "Wake your people and leave my people, you and all the descendants of Israel! Go perform your service to YHWH as you said; and take your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone from here, and you will be doing me a favor!"

The Egyptians also urged the people on, trying to send them out of the land as quickly as they could. They said, "If not, we will all be dead!" And so the people took their dough before it was leavened, since they had their kneading bowls bundled with the clothes on their shoulders; and the descendants of Israel had done what Moses told them, and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and clothing; and YHWH made the Egyptians look favorably on them, and grant their requests; and so they plundered the Egyptians.

The descendants of Israel are to put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of their houses. This blood will be your sign.

You have been redeemed by the priceless blood of the Prince, the lamb without any defect. This blood will be your sign.

Second Reading: The Mirror of Love by St. Aelred

The perfection of brotherly love lies in love for one's enemies. We can find no greater inspiration for this than grateful remembrance of the wonderful patience of the Prince. The one who is "more handsome than any mortal man" offered his handsome face to be spat on by sinners; he allowed the eyes that rule the universe to be blindfolded by reprobates; he bared his back to people who whipped him; he submitted the head that strikes terror in angels and archangels to the sharpness of thorns; he allowed himself to be made fun of and sneered at, and at the end of it all endured the cross, the nails, the lance, the gall, and the vinegar, and always stayed gentle, meek, and full of peace. In short, "he was led to slaughter like a lamb, and, like a lamb, was silent before the shearers, and did not open his mouth."

Could anyone listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, love, and unutterable serenity--"Father, please forgive them"--and balk at embracing his enemies with overwhelming love? "Father," he says, "please forgive them." Is there any lack of gentleness or love in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to pray for them; he wanted to find an excuse for them. "Father, please forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing." They are great sinners, yes, but they do not have much wisdom; and so "Father, please forgive them." They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross; "if they had known, they would never have crucified the Master of glory"; and so "Father, please forgive them." They think it is an outlaw, an impostor claiming to be God, a demagogue. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory, and so "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing."

Now if someone wants to love himself, he should not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wants to resist the promptings of his sinful nature, he must enlarge the horizon of his love to contemplate the loving gentleness of the Master's humanity. Also, if he wants to taste the happiness of brotherly love with greater perfection and enjoyment, he must extend the embrace of true love even to his enemies.

But if he wants to prevent the fire of divine love from growing cold because of the injuries he has received, he should keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Master and Savior.

He surrendered himself to death and was included among outlaws. He took on himself the crimes of many, many others, and prayed all the while for sinners.

Jesus prayed, "Father, please forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing." He took on himself the crimes of many, many others, and prayed all the while for sinners.

Prayer

Master, may our observance of Lent help to renew us, and to prepare us to celebrate the death and return to life of the Prince, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday

First Reading: Exodus 12.37-49, 13.11-16

Then the descendants of Israel, about six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting the children, traveled from Rameses to Succoth; there was a crowd of mixed ancestry with them, along with their flocks and herds, which was a great deal of livestock.

They baked unleavened cakes with the dough they had brought out of Egypt; it was not leavened because they were driven out of Egypt and could not wait for it; and they did not even have provisions for themselves.

The time the descendants of Israel stayed in Egypt was four hundred thirty years; and at the end of this four hundred thirty years--on the very day of the anniversary--all YHWH's armies left the land of Egypt. And this is a night of solemn commemoration to YHWH for bringing them out of the land of Egypt; this is YHWH's night, a solemn commemoration for all of Israel's descendants for every generation.

Then YHWH told Moses and Aaron, "These are the regulations for Passover: No foreigner is to eat it, except every man's slave who is purchased for money and then circumcised. Resident aliens and hired servants are not to eat it. It is to be eaten in one house, and you are not to carry the meat outside the house, or break any of its bones. The whole community of Israel is to keep the feast; and if a foreigner who is living with you wants to keep the Passover to YHWH, all of his males are to be circumcised, and then he may approach and keep it and be treated as if he were a native of the country; but no uncircumcised person is to eat it. The same law will apply to natives as to resident aliens.

"And when YHWH brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you, you are to set apart for YHWH everything that opens the womb: that is, every firstborn male that comes from an animal you own belongs to YHWH. You are to redeem every firstborn of a donkey with a lamb; and if you do not redeem it, then you are to break its neck. You are also to redeem all the firstborn human sons; and when in the future your son asks you what this means, you are to tell him, 'YHWH brought us out of Egypt, where we were held as slaves, with his strong hand. And what happened was that when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, YHWH killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human and animal; and that is why I sacrifice to YHWH all the males that open the womb, and redeem the firstborn of my sons.' This is to be like a sign tattooed on your hand or a pendant on your forehead, because YHWH brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand.

The parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Master, because the Master's law prescribed that every firstborn male had to be consecrated to him.

They offered to the Master on his behalf a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, because the Master's law prescribed that every firstborn male had to be consecrated to him.

Second Reading: The Pastoral Constitution on the Church

in the Modern World, by the Second Vatican Council

The world of today reveals itself as at once powerful and weak, capable of achieving the best or the worst. There lies open before it the way of freedom or slavery, progress or regression, brotherhood or hatred. In addition, man is becoming aware that it is for himself to give the right direction to the forces that he has himself awakened, forces that can be his master or his servant. He therefore puts questions to himself.

The tensions disturbing the world of today are in fact related to a more fundamental tension rooted in the human heart. In man himself many elements are in conflict with each other. On one side, he has experience of his many limitations as a creature. On the other, he knows that there is no limit to his aspirations, and that he is called to a higher kind of life.

Many things compete for his attention, but he is always compelled to make a choice among them, and to renounce some. What is more, in his weakness and sinfulness he often does what he does not want to do, and fails to do what he would like to do. In consequence, he suffers from a conflict within himself, and this in turn gives rise to so many great tensions in society.

Very many people, infected as they are with a materialistic way of life, cannot see this dramatic state of affairs in all its clarity, or at least are prevented from giving thought to it because of the unhappiness that they themselves experience.

Many think that they can find peace in the different philosophies that are proposed.

Some look for complete and genuine liberation for man from man's efforts alone. They are convinced that the coming kingdom of man on earth will satisfy all the desires of his heart.

There are those who despair of finding any meaning in life: they commend the boldness of those who deny all significance to human existence in itself, and seek to impose a total meaning on it only from within themselves.

But in the face of the way in which the world is developing today, there is an increasing number of people who are asking the most fundamental questions or are seeing them with a keener awareness: What is man? What is the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which still persist in spite of such great progress? What is the use of those successes, achieved at such a cost? What can man contribute to society, what can he expect from society? What will come after this life on earth?

The Church believes that the Prince died and returned to life for everyone, and can give man light and strength through his Spirit to fulfill his highest calling: his is the only name under heaven in which men can be saved.

So too the Church believes that the center and goal of all human history is found in her Lord and Master.

The Church also affirms that underlying all changes there are many things that do not change; they have their ultimate foundation in the Prince, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Death, where is your victory? Where, death, is your sting? It is sin that gives death its sting; but thank God for giving us the victory through our Master Prince Jesus.

The Master is good to those who trust him, and to everyone who searches for him. But thank god for giving us the victory through our Master Prince Jesus.

Prayer

Eternal Father, please turn our hearts to you; and may we by searching for your kingdom and loving one another become a people who worship you in spirit and in truth. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Second Sunday in Lent

First Reading: Exodus 13.17-14.9

Then, when Pharaoh had led the people go, God did not lead them through the land of the Philistines, even though that was the nearest route, because God said, "This is in case the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt." So God led the people around through the desert beyond the Red Sea; and the descendants of Israel left Egypt in battle array.

Moses brought Joseph's bones with him, because he had bound Israel's descendants by a solemn oath and declared, "God will be certain to come to you, and you are to carry my bones from here with you."

They then journeyed from Succoth and camped in Etham at the edge of the desert; and YHWH preceded them during the day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and during the night in a pillar of fire, so that they could travel during both day and night. He did not remove the pillar of cloud during the day or the pillar of fire during the night from in front of the people.

Then YHWH told Moses, "Tell Israel's descendants that they are to turn aside and camp before Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; there is where you are to camp by the sea; because Pharaoh will say about Israel's descendants, 'They have become confused by the land; the desert has trapped them.' Then I will make Pharaoh stubborn, and he will pursue them, and I will gain a great reputation over Pharaoh and his whole army, so that the Egyptians will realize that I am YHWH." They did as he told them.

It was reported to the King of Egypt that the people had escaped, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people, and they said, "Why have we done this? We let Israel free from serving us!" So he prepared his chariot and took his people with him, along with six hundred of his best chariots, as well as all the other chariots in Egypt with warriors on all of them. And YHWH made Pharaoh, King of Egypt, obstinate, and he pursued Israel's descendants, even while they were marching bravely away. So the Egyptians were then after them, with all Pharaoh's horses and chariots, and his cavalry and army; and they caught up with them as they were camping by the sea beside Pi-Harioth, opposite Baal Zephon.

When Israel came out of Egypt, and the family of Jacob came from a foreign land, Judah became God's sanctuary, and Israel his domain.

The Master preceded them in a pillar of cloud to show them the way. Jacob became God's sanctuary, and Israel his domain.

Second Reading: A Sermon by St. Leo the Great

The Master reveals his glory in the presence of selected witnesses; his body is like the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such radiance that his face becomes like the sun in its splendor, and his clothes as white as snow.

The most significant reason for this transfiguration was to remove the obstacle of the cross from the hearts of his students, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that was hidden.

He was also providing with equal foresight a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of the Prince was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. The cells in that body were to look forward to a share in the glory which first blazed out in their head, the Prince.

The Master had spoken of this himself when he foretold the splendor of his coming: "Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in their Father's kingdom." The Emissary St. Paul also testified to this same truth when he said, "I consider that the sufferings of the present are not to be compared with the future glory that is to be revealed in us." In another place, he says, "You are dead, and your life is concealed with the Prince in God. And when the Prince, who is your life, comes out into the open, you will also be revealed with him in glory."

The miracle of the transfiguration also contains another lesson for the Emissaries, to strengthen them and lead them to complete knowledge. Moses and Elijah, the Law and the prophets, appeared with the Master in conversation with him; and this was to fulfill exactly, through the presence of these five men, the text which says, "Every statement is to be confirmed by two or three witnesses." What words could be more solidly confirmed and more securely founded than the words proclaimed by both the old and new Treaties sounding in unison, and the utterances of the ancient prophecy and the teaching of the Good News in full agreement with each other?

The writings of the two Treaties support each other. The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under veils of secrecy. As St. John says, "the Law was given by Moses, but God's blessings and truth came into being through Jesus the Prince." The promise made through the shadows of prophecy stands revealed in him, along with the complete meaning of the regulations of the Law. He is the one who teaches the truth of prophecy through his presence, and makes obedience to his commandments possible through grace.

In the proclamation of the holy Good News, everyone should receive a strengthening of his faith. No one should be embarrassed by the Prince's cross, since it was through it that the world was redeemed.

And no one should be afraid to suffer for the sake of virtue; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through work, the way to life is through death. The Prince has taken on himself the whole weakness of our insignificant human nature; and so if we are firm in our faith in him and our love for him, we win the victory he won, and we receive what he promised.

When it comes to obeying the commandments or putting up with hardship, the words uttered by the Father should always ring in our ears: "This is my Son, the one I love, who pleases me greatly. Listen to him."

You have come to Jesus, mediator of the new Treaty; do not refuse to listen to him. If those who refused to listen to his warning them on earth did not escape punishment, it will be much less likely for us to escape if we do not listen to the one who warns us from heaven.

If only you would listen to his voice today and not grow obstinate! If those who refused to listen to his warning them on earth did not escape punishment, it will be much less likely for us to escape if we do not listen to the one who warns us from heaven.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, please help us to listen to your Son; shine on us with your Word so that we will find the way to your glory. We make this request through our Master Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday

First Reading: Exodus 14.10-31

Pharaoh was already close when the descendants of Israel looked over and there were the Egyptians marching after them. They were terrified, and the descendants of Israel called out to YHWH, and said to Moses, "Was it because Egypt had no graves that you took us away to die in the desert? Why have you done this to us, bring us away from Egypt? Did we not tell you in Egypt to let us keep being slaves to the Egyptians? It would have been better to be slaves to the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"

Moses answered, "Do not be afraid. Hold your ground, and watch the rescue YHWH will win for you today; the Egyptians you see today you will never see again; YHWH will fight for you, and you need only be still."

Then YHWH said to Moses. "Why are you calling me? Tell the descendants of Israel to go on, and you raise your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea, and divide it; and the descendants of Israel will go through the middle of the sea on dry ground. But I will make the Egyptians obstinate, and they will follow, for me to gain the respect because of Pharaoh and his army with its chariots and horsemen. The Egyptians will then know that I am YHWH, when I have won respect for myself because of Pharaoh and his army with its chariots and horsemen."

Then God's angel, the one who went at the head of the Israelite camp, moved around behind them, and the column of cloud moved from in front of them to their rear, where it came between the Egyptian and Israelite camp. It acted like a dark cloud to the Egyptians and a light for the Israelites, with the result that they did not come any closer to each other that night.

Then Moses stretched his hand over the sea, and YHWH made the sea recede by a strong wind that blew all night, and turned the sea into dry land, dividing the water; and so the descendants of Israel went into the middle of the sea on dry ground, with the water a wall to their right and to their left. The Egyptians, with all of Pharaoh's horses, chariots, and horsemen, pursued them and followed them into the middle of the sea.

What happened then, during the time before dawn, was that YHWH looked out on the Egyptian army through the column of fire and cloud, and threw it into a panic; he clogged their chariot wheels so that they could hardly move. The Egyptians said, "Retreat! Escape from in front of Israel, because YHWH is fighting for them against the Egyptians!"

Then YHWH told Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea and let the water flow back over the Egyptians with their chariots and horsemen." And Moses stretched his hand over the sea, and when morning came, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing through it; and so YHWH drowned the Egyptians in the middle of the sea, and as the water returned, it covered the chariots and horsemen and all the army of Pharaoh that had entered the sea after the Israelites. Not so much as one of them survived. But the descendants of Israel had walked on dry land through the middle of the sea, with the water like a wall to their right and left.

That was how YHWH saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians on that day; and Israel looked at the Egyptians dead on the shore. Israel saw in this way the tremendous deed YHWH had done in Egypt; and so the people were in awe of YHWH, and believed in YHWH and in his servant Moses.

Let us sing to the Master, who is glorious in his triumph; he has thrown horses and their riders into the sea. The Master is my refuge and my defense; he has become my savior.

The Master is a warrior; YHWH is his name; the Master is my refuge and my defense; he has become my savior.

Second Reading: The Catecheses of St. John Chrysostom

The Israelites witnessed marvels, but you will see marvels too, that are greater and more splendid than the ones which happened to them as they left Egypt. You did not see Pharaoh drowned with his armies; but you saw the devil with his weapons conquered by the water of the Bath. The Israelites passed through the sea; you passed from death to life. They were saved from the Egyptians; you have been saved from the powers of darkness. They were freed from slavery to a pagan people, and you have been freed from the far greater slavery to sin.

Would you like another reason to show that the gifts you received are greater than theirs? The Israelites could not look at the face of Moses in its radiance, though he was their fellow slave and relative; but you saw the face of the Prince in his glory. Paul proclaimed, "We see the glory of the Master with unveiled faces."

In those days, the Prince was present to the Israelites as he followed them; but he is present to us in a much deeper sense. The Master was with them because of the favor he showed Moses, but now he is with us not simply because of Moses but because of your obedience. After Egypt, the people lived in the desert; after you leave this place, you will live in heaven. Their great leader and commander was Moses; we have a new Moses, God himself, as our leader and commander.

What was the distinguishing characteristic of the first Moses? "Moses," Scripture tells us, "was more gentle than anyone who lived on the earth." We can properly say the same thing about the new Moses, because with him there is the very Spirit of gentleness, united to him in his inmost being. In those days, Moses raised his hands to heaven and brought down manna, angels' bread, while the new Moses raises his hands to heaven and gives us the food of eternal life. Moses struck the rock and brought out streams of water; the Prince touches his table, strikes the spiritual rock of the New Treaty, and brings out the living water of the Spirit. This rock is like a fountain in the middle of the Prince's table, so that from everywhere the flocks can draw near to this living spring and refresh themselves with the water of rescue.

Since this fountain, this source of life, this table, surrounds us with too many blessings to tell and fills us with the gifts of the Spirit, we should come to it with sincere hearts and pure consciences to receive grace and mercy in our time of need. May grace and mercy be yours from the only Son God ever fathered, our Master and Savior Prince Jesus; through him and with him may glory, honor, and power come to the Father and the life-giving Spirit, now and always, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

When he grew up, Moses, guided by faith, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter; he chose to suffer with the people of God rather than have the ephemeral pleasures of sin. He fixed his gaze on the reward God had promised.

To bear the wound of the Prince was more to him than all the treasures of Egypt; with faith as his guide, he left Egypt behind. He fixed his gaze on the reward God had promised.

Prayer

Dear God, our Father, please teach us to find new life through a change of attitude, keep us from sin, and help us live by your commandment of love. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Tuesday

First Reading: Exodus 16.1-18, 35

Traveling from Elim, the whole community of descendants of Israel came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth of the second month after they left Egypt. There, the whole community of descendants of Israel muttered this complaint against Moses and Aaron in the desert, "We should have died at YHWH's hands in the land of Egypt when at least we had meat in our pots and ate all the bread we wanted! You brought us out into this desert to starve the whole community to death!"

Then YHWH told Moses, "Very well; I will rain bread down out of the sky for you; and the people are to go out and collect a definite amount every day, so that I can test whether they will follow my law or not. On the sixth day, they are to collect twice as much as every other day."

Then Moses and Aaron said to all of the descendants of Israel, "At evening, you will know that YHWH brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see how great YHWH is, because he heard what your problems are with YHWH. That is, who are we for you to be complaining about us?"

Moses added, "You will see this when YHWH gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning. Yes, YHWH listens to the complaints you are making about him. Who are we? Your complaints are against YHWH, not us."

Then Moses told Aaron, "Tell the whole community of descendants of Israel, 'Come into YHWH's presence to listen, because he has heard your complaints.'" And as Aaron spoke to the whole assembly of the descendants of Israel, what happened was that, as they looked out into the desert, suddenly YHWH's radiance appeared in the cloud.

Then YHWH spoke to Moses, and said, "I have heard the complaints of Israel's descendants. Tell them this: 'At twilight, you will eat meat, and in the morning, you will be filled with bread; and you will recognize that I, YHWH, am your God.'"

And so in the evening, quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning, dew lay all around the camp; and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert were small round flakes like hoarfrost. When the descendants of Israel saw it, they said, "What is it?" because they did not know what it was.

Moses told them, "This is the bread YHWH gave you to eat; this is what YHWH commanded: 'Each man is to collect what he needs, an omer per person in his tent.'"

The descendants of Israel did this, and some collected more and others less; and when they measured it into omers, the one who collected more had nothing left over, and the one who gathered only a little did not have any deficiency; everyone had collected what each person needed. The descendants of Israel ate manna for forty years, until they came to settled land; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.

You fed your people with angels' bread, bread from the sky, ready, nearby, the source of every enjoyment and satisfying to every taste.

It was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; it is my Father who gives you bread that really does come from heaven, the source of every enjoyment and satisfying to every taste.

Second Reading: A Commentary on the Psalms, by St. Augustine

"Master, I cried to you; please listen to me!" This is a prayer we can all say; it is not my prayer, it is the prayer of the whole Prince. Or rather, it is said in the name of his body. When the Prince was on earth, he prayed in his human nature, and prayed to the Father in the name of his body; and when he prayed, drops of blood fell from his whole body. This is what was written in the Good News: "Jesus prayed fervently, and sweated blood." What is this blood streaming from his body but the martyrdom of the whole Church?

"Master, I cried to you; please listen to me! Please pay attention to the sound of my prayer when I call out to you!" Did you imagine that the calling came to an end when you said, "I cried to you"? You called out, but you do not yet feel as if you are freed from your worries. If anguish ends, calling for help ends; but if the Church, the Prince's body, must suffer anguish until the end of time, it must not only say, "I cried to you; please listen to me," it must also say, "Please pay attention to the sound of my prayer when I call out to you."

"Have my prayer rise up like incense in your sight; let the raising of my hands be an evening sacrifice." This is usually understood of the Prince, the head, as every Christian recognizes. When day was fading into evening, the Master gave up his life on the cross, to take it back again; he did not lose his life against his will. But we too are symbolized here. What part of him hung upon the cross if it was not the part that he received from us? How could God the Father ever throw aside and abandon his only Son, who is in fact one and the same God with him? Yet, the Prince, in nailing our weakness to the cross (where, as the Emissary says, "our old nature was nailed to the cross with him"), cried out with the very voice of our humanity, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

The evening sacrifice is then the suffering of the Master, the cross of the Master, the offering of the victim that brings rescue, and the holocaust God finds acceptable. In his return to life, he made this evening sacrifice a morning sacrifice. Prayer offered in holiness from a faithful heart rises like incense from a holy altar; nothing is more fragrant than the fragrance of the Master. May everyone who believes share this fragrance.

And so "our old nature," in the words of the Emissary, "was nailed to the cross with him, so that," as he says, "our sinful body would be destroyed, and so that we would be slaves to sin no longer."

I have been nailed to the cross with the Prince, and I now live my own life no longer; it is the Prince's life that is alive in me.

I live by faith in the Son of god, who loved me and gave up his life for me; and I now live my own life no longer; it is the Prince's life that is alive in me.

Prayer

Dear Master, please watch over your Church and guide it with your unfailing love; please protect us from what could harm us and lead us to what will save us. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Wednesday

First Reading: Exodus 17.1-16

Then the whole community of the descendants of Israel began their journey from the Desert of Sin as YHWH commanded, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water there for the people to drink. And so the people revolted against with Moses and told him, "Give us water to drink!"

Moses answered, "Why are you rebelling against me? Why are you revolting against YHWH?"

But the people were thirsty, and mutinied against Moses. "Why is it you brought us out of Egypt, if you are going to kill us and our children and cattle with thirst?"

Moses then called upon YHWH, and said, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me?" And YHWH told Moses, "Go out in front of the people with the staff you struck the river with in your hand, taking some of the elders with you. I will then stand before you on the rock in Horeb; you are to strike the rock, and water for the people to drink will come out of it."

Moses did this as the elders of Israel watched. He called that place Massah and Meribah, because of the mutiny of the descendants of Israel against YHWH as they said, "Is YHWH among us or not?"

Amalek then came and fought with Israel in Rephidim; and Moses told Joshua, "Gather some men and go out and fight against Amalek. I will stand on the top of the hill with God's staff in my hand." Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And when Moses had his hand raised, Israel started winning the battle, and when he lowered his hand, Amalek began to win.

But then Moses' hand grew tired, and they found a stone for him to sit on, and Aaron and Hur on each side held up a hand; and his hands remained steady until sunset, with the result that Joshua defeated Amalek and his people in the battle.

Then YHWH told Moses, "Write this down in a book to be remembered and read it out in Joshua's hearing, that I will completely erase Amalek's memory from under the sky. Moses also built an altar there, which he called, YHWH-Missi (YHWH is my banner), and said, "This is what YHWH has sworn; YHWH will war against Amalek generation after generation."

You will draw water with joy from the spring of rescue, and on that day, you will say, "Thank the Master and call upon his name."

The water I give you will become a spring of water inside you gushing up to eternal life. And on that day, you will say, "Thank the Master, and call on his name."

Second Reading: Treatise Against Heresies by St. Irenaeus

From the beginning, God created mankind out of his own generosity. He chose the patriarchs to give them rescue; he took his people in hand, and taught them, even though they were unteachable, to follow him. He gave them prophets, and accustomed mankind to carry his Spirit and unite with God on earth.

The one who stands in need of no one bestowed union with himself on those who need him; like an architect, he drew up the plan of rescue to those who tried to please him. He gave food by his own hand in Egypt to people who did not see him, he gave a law perfectly suited to those who were restless in the desert, and he gave a fitting inheritance to those who entered the prosperous land. He killed the calf he had been fattening to those who turned to him as their Father, and dressed them in the finest clothes. In these many ways, he was training the human race to participate in the harmonious song of rescue.

This is why John in the Book of Revelation says, "His voice was like the sound of a great deal of water." The Spirit of God is in fact a great deal of water, because the Father is rich and great. As the Word passed among all these people he provided a generous amount of help for those who were obedient to him, by drawing up a law that was fitting and proper for every circumstance.

He established a law for people governing the construction of the Tent and the building of the Temple, the choice of Levites, the sacrifices, the offerings, the rites of purification, and the rest of what belonged to worship.

But he needs none of all this himself; he is always full of everything good. Even before Moses existed, he had within himself every fragrance of everything pleasant; yet he tried to teach his people, even though they were always ready to return to idols. Through many acts of lenience, he tried to prepare them for perseverance in his service; he kept calling them to what was primary through what was secondary; that is, through foreshadowings of the reality, and through temporal things to eternity, through material things to what is spiritual, and through earthly things to what belongs to heaven. As he said to Moses, "You are to make everything following the pattern you saw on the mountain."

For forty days, Moses was engaged in remembering what God had said, and the heavenly patterns and spiritual images and foreshadowings of what was to come. St. Paul says, "They drank from the rock that followed them, and the rock was the Prince." After speaking of what is in the Law, he continues, "All of these things happened to them as symbols; they were written to teach those of us on whom the end of the ages has come."

Through foreshadowings of the future they were learning reverence for God and perseverance in his service; and so the Law was a school to teach them, and a prophesy of what was to come.

The law was our nursemaid until the Prince came and made it possible for us to be brought into conformity with God by faith; and now that the time of faith has come, we are not under the nursemaid any longer.

Before the time of faith came, the Law kept us strictly in check, and watched us closely until faith was revealed; and now that the time of faith has come, we are not under the nursemaid any longer.

Prayer

Dear Father, please teach us to live good lives, encourage us with your support, and bring us to eternal life. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday

First Reading: Exodus 18.13-27

Moses took his seat to decide cases for the people, and the people stood waiting for him to make his decisions from morning until evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why are you the only one to sit on the bench, with all the people standing waiting for you from morning to night?"

"Because the people come to me," answered Moses to his father-in-law, "to consult God. When they have a problem, they come to me, and I pass judgment between them; and I let them know God's regulations and laws."

Then Moses' father-in-law said, "This is not good, what you are doing. You will be sure to wear yourself out, and so will the people with you; it is too much for you; you can't do it by yourself. Listen to what I say, now; I am giving good advice, and God will be with you. Stand for the people before God, so that you can bring the problems to God; and you should teach them the regulations and laws and show them how to behave and the work they have to do. But you should also choose capable men who fear God from among the people, men who are truthful and hate greed, and set them over them to govern thousands, hundred, fifties, and tens; and have them be the judges of the people in ordinary cases. And then if there is any very serious matter, they should bring it to you; but they can judge the trivial cases themselves. That way, it will be easier for you, because they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and if God commands it, then you will be able to survive, and all these people will go home in peace."

Moses listened to what his father-in-law said and did what he suggested. Moses chose capable people from the whole of Israel and made them heads of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens; and they were the ordinary judges of the people; hard cases were brought to Moses, while they took the trivial ones.

Then Moses saw his father-in-law off to his own country.

The Master came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses, and took some of the spirit he had given to Moses and gave it to the seventy elders, and when this spirit came upon them, they prophesied.

Moses chose capable men from all of the Israelites and made them leaders of the people; and when this spirit came upon them, they prophesied.

Second Reading: A Treatise on the Psalms by St. Hilary

"It is a blessing to fear the Master and follow the conduct he prescribes." Notice that when Scripture speaks of the "fear of the Master," it does not leave the phrase in isolation, as if it were a complete compendium of the faith. No, there is a great deal added to it, or presupposed by it; and from this we can learn its meaning and excellence. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon tells us, "If you call for wisdom and cry out for understanding; if you look for it as if it were silver and search for it as if it were a treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Master." We see here the difficult journey we must undertake before we can arrive at the fear of the Master.

We must begin by calling for wisdom; we must hand over to our intellect the duty of making every decision. We must look for wisdom and search it out; and then we must understand the fear of the Master.

"Fear" is not to be taken in the ordinary sense; fear in this ordinary sense is the fright our weak humanity feels when it is afraid of undergoing something it does not want to happen. We are afraid, or become afraid, because of a guilty conscience, the rights of someone stronger, an attack from a stronger person, sickness, meeting a wild animal, suffering harm in any form. This kind of fear is not taught; it happens because we are weak. We do not have to learn what we should be afraid of, because objects of fear bring their own terror with them.

But this is what is written about the fear of the Master: "Come, my children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Master." Then the fear of the Master has to be learned, because it can be taught. It does not lie in terror, but in something that can be taught; it does not arise from the timidity of our nature, and has to be acquired by obedience to the commandments, by holiness of life and knowledge of the truth.

For us, the fear of God consists totally in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its completion; our love for God is entrusted with its own responsibility: to observe his suggestions, to obey his laws, and to trust his promises. Let us hear what Scripture says: "And now, Israel, what does your God the Master ask of you except to fear your God the Master and behave as he tells you and love him and keep his commandments with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that things will go well with you."

There are many things God tells us to do, though he is himself the way. When he speaks of himself, he calls himself the way, and shows us the reason why he called himself the way. "No one can come to the Father except through me."

We must ask for these many ways we are to behave, we must travel along these many paths, to find the one that is good. That is, we will find the one way to eternal life through the guidance of many teachers; these ways are found in the law, the prophets, the Good News, the writings of the Emissaries, and in the different good deeds by which we fulfill the commandments. It is a blessing for people to follow this conduct in the fear of the Master.

Those who fear the Master do their best to please him; those who love him are aware of his law.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. Those who love him are aware of his law.

Prayer

Dear God of love, please bring us back to you, and send your Spirit to make us strong in faith and active in good deeds. We make this request through our Master, Prince Jesus, your Son, who is alive and reigning with you and the Holy Spirit as one God, through all the ages of ages. Amen.

Friday

First Reading: Exodus 19.1-19, 20.18-21

On the first day of the third month after the descendants of Israel had left Egypt, they arrived at the Desert of Sinai, after setting out from Rephidim; and they pitched camp there in the Desert of Sinai, in front of the mountain.

Moses then climbed the mountain to God, and YHWH called him from the mountain, and said, "This is what you are to say to the household of Jacob and tell the descendants of Israel: 'You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you to Myself on eagles' wings. And so if you will now obey my voice and keep my Treaty, you will be my special treasure, dearer to me than any other people, though the whole earth belongs to me. And you will be my kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.' This is what you are to tell the descendants of Israel."

Moses then came down and called the elders of the people, and put to them all that YHWH had commanded him to say, and then the people answered in unison, "We will do everything that YHWH has told us." Moses then brought back the people's answer to YHWH, and YHWH told Moses, "I am now going to come to you in a thick cloud, for the people to pay attention when I speak to you, and believe you forever." And Moses relayed to YHWH the people's reply to this.

Then YHWH told Moses "Go to the people and have them become holy today and tomorrow; have them wash their clothes, and be ready for the third day, because on the third day, YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai as all the people look on. You are to set up a boundary around it, and tell the people, "Be careful not to go up to the mountain or touch its base; if anyone touches the mountain, he must be put to death. No hand is to touch him; he is to be stoned or shot with arrows; but whether he is man or beast, he is not to live."

So Moses descended the mountain to the people, whom he made holy, and who washed their clothes, and he told the people to be ready for the third day and not to have intercourse with their wives.

What happened on the third day was that in the morning there was thunder and lightning from a thick cloud covering the mountain; there came an ear-splitting trumpet blast, making everyone in the camp quake. Moses then brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke, because YHWH had come down on it in fire; its smoke was like that of a furnace, and the whole mountain shook violently. Then, when a new, long trumpet blast sounded and grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him with thunder.

And all the people witnessed the thunder and the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when they saw it, they quaked in fear and stood farther away, and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; do not let God speak to us or we will die!"

Moses answered, "Do not be afraid. God has only come to test you, to put fear of him in you, to keep you from sinning." Still the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

If you do what I tell you and keep my Treaty, you will be my own possession, set apart from all the nations, dearer to me than any other people. You will be my kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people God has claimed as his own. You will be my kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.