2012년 3월 26일 월요일

Our Lady and Annunciation

De Maria, numquam satis.

I am very sorry this post was rather late.
It is still the Feast of Annunciation across the Atlantic so Happy Feast, brothers in Faith!
It was a First Class Feast so we could all enjoy some dispensations from our Lenten observances. Another was St Joseph's day.

I am going to put up a painting that might raise some of your eyebrows...
Kim Ki Chang, South Korean Catholic Artist, Annunciation
I have already used Fra Angelico's painting of the Annunciation which is without a reasonable doubt the best depiction of Our Lady's Annunciation, with all its rich endowment of Biblical symbolism and the sublime countenance of Our Lady; in awe and wonder, not in fear. But Our Lady is quite beautifully drawn in this picture as well.
Now that I have said "nice" things about this picture, let me say not so "nice" things about this picture also.
In Korean custom, only married ladies wore navy skirts; Our Lady was only engaged, not yet quite married, upon the point of Annunciation. There can be a couple of possible justifications for this. First one is that it was the artist's adaptation of Her status. Confucianism demanded almost schizophrenic separation between men and women so until marriage, they could not even sit in a same room. Women of noble or royal births could not speak to men without blinds stopping them from exchanging glances. So the artist might have adapted it to mean that Our Lady and St Joseph could be considered married in Korean terms. Their relationship was indeed, in modern terms, closer than betrothal but not quite Marriage yet. Or maybe, the following. Before Our Lady says "Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.", Angel Gabriel does indeed say "Ave, gratia plena." Therefore, even before she conceived Our Blessed Lord, Our Lady was already "full of Grace". Specifically, Sanctifying Grace.

Since the end and aim of all efficacious grace is directed to the production of sanctifying grace where it does not already exist, or to retain and increase it where it is already present, its excellence, dignity, and importance become immediately apparent; for holiness and the sonship of God depend solely upon the possession of sanctifying grace, wherefore it is frequently called simply grace without any qualifying word to accompany it as, for instance, in the phrases "to live in grace" or "to fall from grace".


Her Soul enjoyed a specific, Divinely ordained Sanctifying Grace from Her Immaculate Conception. The very fact that She was Immaculately conceived, needless to stress, is a Divinely ordained Grace on Her. Her Soul was ordained to be the bride of Holy Ghost from Her very conception. Our Lady did get to say "Fiat mihi, secundum verbum tuum." (Luke 1:38) but I believe God knew from the beginning that She will confess Her all-consuming Love and Desire to be His Bride. It is also the case that She is ever-Virgin as She is the Singular Vessel of the Holy Ghost, eternally married to Her God. Bluntly put, Our Blessed Lord has made one ever-sufficient Sacrifice on Calvary and no one else but Our Blessed Lady was chosen, once and for all eternity. She is the ONLY Mother of God. There are ancient writings such as Protoevangelium of James that supports this idea of Our Lady's Eternal Virginity known to have been written in sub-apostolic era but the case is already more than clear to show that Our Lady's Vocation (as Divine Will), as it were, was to be married to Holy Ghost and St Joseph's was to remain Her guardian throughout his life.
It is extremely insulting to see certain misled christian leaders saying Our Lady was not perpetually virgin and broke the vow of Her Eternal Matrimony. The insult is so damning it eclipses and almost does not give St Joseph a chance to be insulted about it, for it is first and foremost an insult to Holy Ghost. They will be held accountable for such insults before the judgment seat. And they can jolly well expect to see Our Heavenly Queen seated on Our Lord's side.

Speaking of Divine Will, my name in Korean means some thing like that (Jimin/지민/).
I have always liked my name very much and I have always been grateful to my parents for it. But having written most of today's post on Our Lady's Annunciation, I feel unworthy of such a name. Her humble "Fiat" was Her answer to Divine Providence, Divine Providence none else but that of mankind's Salvation. She experienced Divine Providence not as a speculation (e.g. It must have been providential!) but physically; as She said these words, God the Holy Ghost entered Her, the Second Ark of the Covenant, protected from all stains and impurities and dwelt in Her. Nobody else experienced Divine Providence in any remotely similar way as She did. What a truly wonderful Mother we have, indeed!

I have composed a collection of short verses in Korean and English below in Her Honour. She takes up all our sincere prayers to Our Lord's Throne of Mercy however unworthy they may be. I hope She finds them pleasing to Her ears!

어머니 당신님을 목놓아 체읍하며 한없이 그립니다
별보다 반짝이는 당신의 눈동자에 진리를 품으시고
오뉴월 꽃밭보다 포근한 무릎맡에 진리를 눕히시고
십이월 눈밭보다 더하얀 가슴안에 진리를 묻으셨던
어머니 당신님을 목놓아 체읍하며 한없이 그립니다
Mother my soul weeps in longing for thee.
Who conceived Truth in your eyes brighter than stars,
Who laid Truth on your knees fairer than May flowers,
Who buried Truth in your Heart whiter than December snows,
Mother my soul weeps in longing for thee.

I think it works better in Korean. I still pray in Korean when I do mental prayers, even after eight years of study in England!
Verse 3 refers to the moments where Our Blessed Lord would have lied on His Mother's knees, listening to Her sweet lullabies as a child.
Verse 4 refers to Her Immaculate Heart and Our Lord's death.
We say in Korean that when a son passes away before his mother, his mother buries him in her heart as the grief is so great and never forgettable that it is ineffaceably engraved in her heart. The last picture is so painful to see it is almost savage; but such was the Passion of Our Lord (and the brutality of men still has not been tamed yet) and such was Her pain of burying Her Son in Her Heart and in a tomb. Interestingly enough, the tomb was a new one, too; never been used. Could there be some significance to that?

A parting gift for today is Diffusa est gratia, graduale for the feast in 1962 Missal. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAry6M8YOzw

2012년 3월 20일 화요일

Our Lady and Thomism

De Maria, numquam satis.
Thomism is an enormous school of thought in the Church. St Thomas Aquinas is best known for his work Summa Theologica, a Theological-Philosophical treatise on more or less anything imaginable! You get the famous five ways of proving God's existence, you get his system of hierarchy of Laws (Eternal, Divine, Natural and Human) the list goes on. Summa Theologica was considered as the official philosophical text by the Church until the Second Vatican Council in the sixties but it still remains as a core text for many seminaries. He is famously quoted for saying "everything I have written seems like straw compared to what I have seen." after a conversation he was known to have with Christ.
When he was to be canonised, the Devil's advocate team argued that there were no reported miracles. But a cardinal replied "there were as many miracles as the articles in Summa Theologica; thousands." He was pronounced a Saint by the See of Avignon at that time.
Beatific Vision from Dante's Divine Comedy, Gustave Dore
Interestingly, a medieval view depicted so exquisitely in the Divine Comedy by Dante, was that there is such thing as a limit to Theology. When Dante ascends to the highest sphere of Heaven (Empyrean), Beatrice, his guide and a lover from childhood (who embodies human reason) could not take him to Empyrean as "Theology has reached its limit." so in her stead, St Bernard of Clairvaux, a spiritual giant in contemplative life, leads him to Empyrean where he prays to Our Lady for Dante. Then he sees God face-to-face (which is what we may call a Beatific Vision) and experiences the Love in its true form, the very Love that "turns the Sun and all the other stars." Beatific Vision, indeed, is something that cannot be obtained through human reason alone. However excellent in virtue and strength it may be, human reason is never enough for the enjoyment eternal of God, St Thomas Aquinas's supreme ultimate goal for human existence.

The question we must ask ourselves here though, since this blog is dedicated to Our Lady, is that whether Our Lady would have had such Theology and Revelation. One thing is for sure; Our Blessed Lord would have had Beatific Vision as He was living amongst us two thousand years ago. The Eternal word of God that took flesh would have seen everything in its truest form in an intuitive manner. This started to sound almost platonic but you see what I mean!
But what about Our Lady? One teaching we can employ is that human beings can only be given Beatific Vision at the consummation of their earthly lives. And I suppose it makes sense. Our soulful selves are limited by our bodily existence and Beatific Vision is an intuitive faculty to see God face-to-face, the Infinite. I suspect it could even be called the final Marriage of souls to their Eternal Bridegroom in that no more will this soul be separated from God and will be irrevocably betrothed to the Bridegroom. For such thing as Marriage, we have a great Theologian to quote, Dietrich Von Hildebrand.

"But two human beings can also turn to face one another, and in touching one another, in an interpenetrating glance, give birth to a mysterious fusion of their souls. They become conscious of one another, and making the other the object of his contemplation and responses, each can spiritually immerse himself in the other. This is the I-thou relationship, in which the partners are not side by side, but face to face. "

Botticini, Assumption of the Virgin, National Gallery
Hm... I still do not know if Our Lady would have had Beatific Vision. She would have had the Original Integrity in that Her Reason would have perfectly controlled Her bodily self, Her enjoyment of pleasures only limited to what we define as legitimate. She is the human being closest to God. I am guessing also from Divine Comedy (since it is known to reflect Medieval Theology quite faithfully) that Our Lady would not just have had human reason to speculate upon God but also something of a revelation or intuition to aid Her by the fact that She was in Empyrean with God in Divine Comedy. Lastly, I have always held the view that Our Lady would not have suffered bodily death before being taken up to Heaven as death is a handmade of sin and She had none! One person who did not die before being taken up to Heaven was Elijah and he was a prophet so God's revelation was something of his specialty. But that still does not mean he would have had Beatific Vision! If there is anybody who knows the answer to this subject, please let me know!

Parting gift for today is Stabat Mater by Vivaldi, sung by a Canadian called Mary-Nicole Lemieux. Stabat Mater is a short hymn we sing during Via Crucis. I think her rendition of this piece is the best amongst the ones I have listened to. And since we have passed Laetare Sunday, I thought it would have been useful to remind you that it is extremely important that we go to Via Crucis every friday of Lent and if you have not yet taken part in it this Lent, may I urge you to go and receive Plenary Indulgence ! (with usual conditions)

2012년 3월 8일 목요일

Our Lady and Her sinful children

De Maria, numquam satis.

When I commit sins, many things come to my mind.
First thing that kicks in is "Is this a mortal sin?"
Now, I know it is an archaic thing; after all, we are all called to God's Love and Mercy and there is no such thing as a sin that kills the life of God in you, right? L.O.L.

Mortal sin does kill the life of God in you.
It drags you down from the state of Grace that we have been restored to in our Baptism.
You cannot take part in the Salvific mission of the Church, you cannot take part in the Sacramental life of the Church. Your prayers cannot earn merits derived from the Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. It is truly a terrible state and one must always pray that one never falls into such a state of spiritual destitute. It is a destitute far surpassing in agony and distress over and above any physical pain or poverty.

Of course, there are venial sins as well. Those sins that are not quite mortal in that they kill the life of God in you but nevertheless harmful to one's Spiritual health and offends the infinitely good Saviour. Petty they may seem but pennies make pounds. It is indeed a spiritual negligence when one examines one's conscience and do not bother to reflect on venial sins that he has committed. Whilst they are not spiritually lethal per se, they do gradually grab one's soul away from the Sacramental life of the Church and darken his conscience.

What would Our Lady say about us committing sins?
She offers herself to us as a refuge when we must turn to God from our sinful selves.
She is the advocate of sinners. We must remember to be in good terms with Her as She will be our Prime Advocate in our private judgement. Imagine a murderer and his lawyer. Does the lawyer also commit a murder just so that he can "fully" understand what his client has done? Is a lawyer completely inadequate as a lawyer if he has not committed the crimes of his client? The adequacy and efficacy of a lawyer in his job is not calibrated by his "personal participatory experience" of his client's wrongdoings but by his merits (well, at least ideally). Now, can anybody lay claim to be more spiritually excellent and meritorious as Our Lady?

She does indeed hate sins. There are many sacred images of Her feet garlanded with roses trampling on the snakes. She may have the most beautiful, exquisite and prayerful countenance but her feet are crushing the head of the serpent. As I keep saying, you do not mess with Mater Dei! But her hatred does not extend to us; even for those who do not accept Her as their mother. One admirable thing I observed from my monarchist friends (and they are some pretty fearsome ones) is that they do not seek to serve the Queen because She takes interest in charitable things. It is nothing else but that She IS their Queen. Not for Her merits (and they very humbly confess it is above their plane to speak of Her merits) but for Her Queenship. And I am pretty sure that She considers Her subjects not by their merits and demerits but solely by the fact that they are Her subjects. And such unconditional mutual allegiance is what binds us to Our Heavenly Queen; except in much higher degree in nobility, strength and Love.

When I commit sins, many things come to my mind.
I am angry about myself; that I am so pathetic a human being to fall into the same old stuff yet again. I am sad in that I have lost the state of Grace and my prayers will not be able to be used for the Salvific Mission of the Church. I feel guilty and ashamed. I am even angry to God sometimes; that I was born such a wretch. Then my eyes land on Our Lady's images and statues. Initially I would ask Her "What would you know about my sins? How would you understand me?" But She always brings me back to senses. She reminds me that it is my spiritual pride telling myself all these things and that in Truth I love Her dearly. She tells me not to despair in God's mercy and to be truly sorry for my sins to be forgiven. I am not going mad; She relates Herself with us all that intimately. She gladly offered Her Son as the One and Last Lamb to God and submitted Her will to God's so that Her Son may suffer and die for us. No greater love can a man have than to lay down his life for his friends. No motherly love can be greater than to give one's Son for His friends.

And you see, we all have that mother for each of us.

 If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool. (Isiah 1:18)

A parting gift for today is, for a change, a short video clip. You will see why I posted it!


2012년 3월 1일 목요일

Our Lady and fasting

De Maria numquam satis.

Wedding feast at Cana
Did Our Lady fast?!
She would not have had any sins to be forgiven! Why would She need to do penance?

But She would have.
In the scriptures, we hear of Our Lady observing Jewish practices diligently.
We have the feasts of Our Lord's Circumcision (I wonder if it is still in the New calendar) and Our Lady's Purification. So, yes, in short, She would have fasted on the fasting days in Jewish calendar.

But then why should we fast?
After all, that is a Jewish practice, right? Why should Catholics observe laws and traditions of Judaism?
Our Lord's very existence was not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
(Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfillFor amen I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall not pass of the law, till all be fulfilled.  Mt 5:17-18) Do you remember when Christ says "Consummatum est" (Jn 19:30)? In Douay Rheims, He says "It is consummated." (Sometimes the problem I find with Vulgate Bible and Douay-Rheims, because they are so close in context, Douay-Rheims do not quite go far enough for a half-wit like me) Perhaps it is the Consummation we have been talking about in this blog post. But this Consummation is not abolition; it is the fulfillment of the Old Law. So Whilst it is difficult to guess what Our Lady would have given up for Lent, it is difficult to imagine that She would not have given up something or fasted for a certain number of days/hours during Lent had She been living amongst us in 2012.

All our corporal works of Charity and abstinence are given legitimacy solely from Our Lord's Passion. Without His Passion and Resurrection, all these would be in vain. Also without the Humility to recognise that and that by ourselves, we cannot quite achieve our missions; Discipleship, Ministry and Salvation of souls. (I cast not away the grace of God. For if justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain. Gal 2:21) Observing what the Church requires us to keep as rules is important but I think it is also very useful to note that without Christ's Death, it would not have been quite the same thing.

So as we always do, we must ask for Our Lady's help, that all Our works of Charity (I am not doing much but still) may be fitting to be taken up to Heaven, before the Throne of the Blessed Trinity, through Her intercession. The Heavenly Gardener will pluck out the thorns, pluck out nasty bits and give all our prayers/abstinence a good wash before Our Lord receives them as the most exquisite wreathes of roses to garland His Throne. And we all do it for the greater Glory of God, right? Ad maiorem Dei Gloriam!

A parting gift for today is Ave Verum Corpus Natum.
It is a sweet little prayer in honour of the Blessed Sacrament connecting Our Lord's Nativity and Passion. I say it often after Communion and it is so short you can learn it in fifteen minutes!

Ave verum Corpus natum
De Maria Virgine:
Vere passum, immolatum
In cruce pro homine:
Cuius latus perforatum
Fluxit aqua et sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
Mortis in examine.
O Iesu dulcis!
O Iesu pie!
O Iesu Fili Mariae. Amen