2012년 2월 27일 월요일

Our Lady and Time

De Maria numquam satis.

Have you ever thought to yourself "Why, does time not fly?!" especially when you found yourself cooking pancakes on Shrove Tuesday when Christmas felt just moments ago. That was what I felt like for this Lent. Our Lord has fast-forwarded time in some pretty radical fashion; two months in the Liturgical Calendar can mean 33 years sometimes!

What is interesting about Our Lord's Incarnation is that The God-Man who was conceived in a Virgin's womb that was the God Eternal existing outside Time and Space, agreed to take on the DNA of a mortal human being. Imagine; they would have looked alike! I do not know what part of Our Lady Christ would have had but it would have been nice to have Our Lady's eyes; not that I mind my travel-size eyes but... Regarding whether Our Lady was strictly speaking mortal or not, I know there are disputes. I tend to think She did not; death is a consequence of the Fall and since Our Lady was preserved from the effects of the Fall, I think She would have just "fallen asleep" when She was taken up to Heaven. But nevertheless there is little doubt that She was a fragile human being; She needed to eat, She needed to sleep etc.. A mortal human conceived the immortal God!
Blessed Fra Angelico, "Annunciation"
This is Blessed Fra Angelico's Annunciation. I never knew he was beatified! Apparently he had such an angelic temperament people called him Fra Angelico after his death. In the painting, do you notice a couple with a sad expression? I initially thought it was nothing significant but really, I started to believe they were Adam and Eve in the background! So really, as soon as they are cast out of the Garden of Eden, Our Lady conceives Christ?! But what about all the Old Testament stories; Noah's Ark (it's gonna be floody floody) etc... Does that mean, in the end, in the back of God's Eternal Mind, He already had it all thought out as soon as they were driven out of the Garden of Eden? Actually, there might be some Biblical evidence to that, too; I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel. Gen 3:15) I guess God's first thought of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception even before St Ann was born would have been a happy thought though; God would have given Her so many virtues, beautiful features, lovely singing voice... The only boast of the human race.

Now for Her, She sits in Her Queen's Throne in Heaven. In Heaven, there is neither time nor space. What matters now as for "Time" to Her is how much quality time we spend with Her in prayers. I am still keeping the 15 minutes a day Skype promise; although it always ends up being much longer than that. Actually, five decades of the Rosary usually take about 15 minutes. Maybe I should Skype Our Lady more often then!

Parting gift for today is Ave Maris Stella. You will be familiar with it if you do the Total Consecration to Our Lady by St Louis-Marie Montfort (link: http://fisheaters.com/totalconsecrationmontfort.html) or if you say the Little Office.

Ave Maris Stella: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVmbEC-jumc&feature=related

2012년 2월 23일 목요일

Our Lady Courageous

De Maria, numquam satis.

It is easy to think Our Lady would have been just a good housewife who ticked boxes for a good Jewish mummy and not being very vocal about anything. We do not hear of Our Lady in the Gospel "fighting" for anything at all. Even for Her Son's Death, She quietly stood by that life-restoring tree where the Prince of Glory died. But was She just a timid, passive little lady?

Our Lady, Immaculately conceived, is capable of loving perfectly due to the fact that She was free from original sin. And since Charity without Truth is no Charity at all but "niceness" or some other liberal gibberish, I think She would have been very vocal about the cause for Truth. Same goes with unjust law. An unjust law is no law at all, says St Augustine. For example, a law that not only fails to promote justice and common good but also permits women to abort their children, I think should be called an unjust law. A law that denies food and water to a dying patient out of a "charitable cause" I think should be called an unjust law, too. There are a number of other laws that I have seen being passed that I would have thought unjust but I will not bother to enumerate them.

We know we are on the winning side. Truth will win out in the end. Because that is the very nature of Truth; it silences false. And Our Lady as the Queen of Angels, will join us in Her prayers whilst we ask God to be with us when we unify ourselves in prayer. Look at Her in that picture; She is standing on the serpent and it can barely breathe. You do not mess with Mater Dei. "If God be with us, there is no one else left to fear." said St Philip Neri.

So this Lent, I am going to take it to the streets and join in with 40 days for life.
I would humbly ask all of you to pray for the group for they really do make contribution for the cause for life. They do not dictate, they do not condemn, they hardly say anything but prayers. The media's depiction of them is entirely false. I have met some of the most dedicated Catholics (and an evangelical as well!) at 40 days for life and they were really nice people, too. I have provided a youtube link to 40 days for life England and I have met some of the people at the interviews. They do not look like religious fanatics, do they? Plus they say a lot of Rosaries which adds nicely to your Rosary mileage for Lent. The passers-by are probably going to call us names and give us guilt trips and all sorts of things. A lovely girl I met from 40 days for life (and her contribution towards it is epic!) was told "You should have been aborted!" but in her gentleness she apparently replied "...Yes! You have a nice day, too!"

But hey, Catholicism is not about making false peace with the secular society, right?

p.s. It is absolutely laudable to pray for the cause for life in your personal prayers and it will be even better if you could ask your parish priest to add it in the intentions for Mass, although Mass is always said for the entire world and that is, strictly speaking, not necessary. This blog post is not about nudging people to come to 40 days for life.

A parting gift for today is Sub tuum praesidium.
It is known to be the oldest Marian hymn from 3rd Century. It is very short and I think it is a good prayer to add in your Marian devotion.

Sub tuum praesidium, confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix. Nostras deprecationes ne despicias, in necessitatibus nostris, sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper. Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

 In the audio, the monks seem to have a slight accent. I cannot quite tell whether it is the classical pronunciation or just German. They say "confughimus" and "ghenetrix". Any ideas? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPEXrrFEf5A

40 days for life England http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXG57MA4ocE        http://www.40daysforlife.com/london/

Our Lady and St Peter

De Maria, numquam satis.

I am afraid I have already made retreats from my Lenten battlefield.
I am trying hard not to be despondent but It is difficult to overcome the shame of a defeated soldier. Perhaps that is what our first Pope felt like.

St Peter, with his fiery devotion to Our Lord, denied Him three times when danger of death came to him. He actually told Our Lord that he would follow him to whatever ends, be it prison or death. That must have made him doubly sorrowful for his "perceived" lack of devotion. The following painting is "St Peter weeping before the Virgin" by Guercino.

Quite refreshing, is it not? Our Lady looks barely 20 and St Peter, already bald and with grey hair, is weeping like a child. It must have been Her Immaculate Conception; She just does not age, does she? (Although I do think She would have aged in real life, very gracefully.) And Our Lady sitting by him listening to him carefully. She does not take any physical gestures except with Her hands joined and a plaintive expression on Her countenance. But her gaze down on St Peter is not that of "You denied my Son.". The way I saw it was Our Lady pitying St Peter for his sorrow. The slight wrinkling on her forehead, I think it was because of Her Sorrow to witness someone born in Original Sin (that includes all of us, too!) and what pain and wrongdoings one brings to himself because of that inheritance. Perhaps a slight lamenting on the power of Sin over us conceived in Sin (Psalm 50: 7). Just like Our Lord had the same, almost anger, for the effect of Sin on us (And Jesus having compassion on him, stretched forth his hand; and touching him, saith to him: I will. Be thou made clean. Mark 1:41* Compassion here, some interpret it as quasi-"anger") As mother of all Apostles, She chooses not to rebuke them but to have pity on them and pray for them that they may remain strong and true to their job. (Yes, that is right, their job.)

St Peter is indeed forgiven in St John's Gospel but only after having confessed and reaffirmed his love to Our Lord. He is restored to the status of Vicar of Christ after such confession and is given the role of a shepherd.

Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

Actually, according to Church tradition, St Peter actually denies Our Lord yet again in Rome, when persecution reached a peak and everybody was worrying about St Peter's safety. One might argue that St Peter's "moment" was not when Our Lord was to be glorified in His Passion but this time?! The picture on the left is named "Domine, quo vadis?" by Carracci. Our Lord says "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." Now of course, theologically, Our Lord's Passion on Golgotha was once for ever sufficient as the Sacrifice of Agnus Dei. I guess it was just...
A Divine bluff? lol Anyway, St Peter then realises that it was God's will that he were to be martyred in Rome and goes back. He says "I do not deserve to be martyred the way My God was; crucify me upside down." So whenever people ask "Why do you have upside down crosses in your Churches? Is that not something demonic?!", just tell them, "Actually, that is the Cross of our first Pope, because he felt unworthy to die the way Our Lord died."

Anyway, going back to Guercino's "St Peter weeping before the Virgin", I guess that is Our Lady's role. Maybe that is why Guercino deliberately painted Her without any explicit gesture; He knew full well that it was NOT Our Lady's job to forgive sins and did not want to cause any confusion. But Her loving eyes, if only I could see them, too!
Her soothing gaze upon our sinful selves, the most eloquent expression of Our Lady only despising Our sins and so plentiful in mercy towards Her Sons. Her most benevolent gaze on Her sons!

When we argue and sort of... sulk(?), my mum and I do not quite ignore each other but sort of pull that face where "Humph!" might be the best expression for it. But I guess my mum had a hint of that gaze of Our Lady, too. I firmly believe she wants whatever is best for me and whenever we make it up to each other, we merrily go about as though nothing happened. She does not tell me much of her prayers but I do feel my mum's prayers in work very often. She prayed with St Monica when I was going through a difficult time and as a result I obtained help from a guy called Augustine. That sort of stuff. Maybe my mum has a prayer frequency different to mine? Sometimes I find it a bit too much when my mum skypes me incessantly but as a Lenten promise, I have decided to set aside at least 15 minutes a day to skype her. She said "So after Lent you are going to go back to your little cave?" jokingly but I think she already knows I will.lol Only joking! (She is my friend on Facebook and she might see this and get annoyed. Although her English is not perfect, she understands far better than she speaks. Another Marian trait, perhaps?)

May Our Lady take pity on THIS defeated soldier and pray for my victory over my concupiscence, that I may continue to fight a good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) and one day gloriously bear witness to the Love, which moves the sun and the other starts, that demands my soul, my life, my all.

A parting gift for today, I found a wonderful recording of Passion according to St John by Bach, conducted by Sir Gardiner. Listen to 0:05-3:44 and you will be amazed at Bach's insight into St Peter's bitter anguish over his shortfalls.

2012년 2월 21일 화요일

Our Lady and Lent

De Maria numquam satis.

The dreaded season of Lent is right in front of us as we speak.
Oooh.. is it going to be chocolate again? Poor Chocolate industry, their livestock happens to be the most popular denial for Lent. But then they are merrily going on so that must mean we sort of give up giving chocolate up shortly after the fateful Wednesday, right? I always set off my Lenten expedition with epic resolutions and not even half of them reach the shore. Really, I am hardly qualified to talk about Lent and Penance. These pixies with horns always win over me!

How would have Our Lady spent Her Lent if she were to?
Well, one thing is clear; She probably would not have said Hail Mary! She would not salute to Herself, right? No, but seriously, I think She would have only done things that would have been perfectly to God's liking. As the uniquely immaculately conceived, mankind's one pride, She was the only human being who could perfectly love whilst on earth. She did not have the stain of Original Sin and therefore that means Her love would have been of entirely different dimension as ours, born with Original Sin and still suffering from its aftermath.

So maybe, drawing ourselves closer spiritually as well as physically (wherever possible) to Christ is the name of the game. Our Lord says "I am meek and humble of heart." (Matthew 11:29) Maybe I should try to be meeker and humbler of heart. (By the way, how Our Lord could be "humble" I cannot fully understand but I did read "He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death..." refer to Phil 2:6-9) He also says "I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Maybe whilst I cannot give life as He did, I could at least evangelise more fervently and by so doing, bring more people to Christ that they may have that life more abundantly. Isaiah tells us of Christ's Passion; "But He was wounded for our iniquities: He was bruised for our sins." (Isaiah 53:4-6) It might require much spiritual direction to take on corporal mortification but at least I could try to kneel more in Church and sleep on the floor for a few days in Lent. I found a brilliant quote for this; "When the Head is crowned with thorns ....(....).... surely the members should be ashamed to be pampered." (St Bernard, quote from "Penance and Fasting" by Msgr Philip E. Hallett)
One thing I found very helpful, I started to shut my eyes during Liturgy of the Eucharist as mortification of sight. St Thomas Aquinas tells us that "Sight, touch and taste in Thee are each deceived; The ear alone most safely is believed." I also get very easily distracted and day-dream constantly. So I keep my eyes shut and so long as I stay awake, I seem to find it easier to stay focused in Mass.
Lastly, as the Psalmist says in Miserere mei (Ps Ch 50 : 19), "A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit; a contrite and humbled heart O God, thou wilt not despise." if I persevere in that right mindset, God will find my Lenten observances pleasing.

My Spiritual Director introduced me to Asceticism. I guess it was about time that I took my Faith seriously. I always conveniently evaded mortification, penance etc saying "Oh, I am not very good at that." or "Oh, I have no will power at all!" or even "I will take things up instead!" But Asceticism is about purging, illuminating and unifying. I need to overcome the first hurdle, purgative, to even dream of being closer to God.

So how does all this relate to Our Lady, in the end? She needed no Asceticism; she needed no purging, no illuminating and no unifying. But as always, She will be watching us by our side as we die to our sin and concupiscence, as She watched Her Son sacrificing Himself to atone for them. Her witness of Her Son's death, whilst it would have tortured Her in anguish beyond compare, with Her reason without any impurities, would have been a witness to the fulfillment of God's promise from the Old Testament era. She might have even, in some way, rejoiced, in seeing the consummation of God's Will. She only wishes what God desires; if God's desire was restoration of mankind to the state of grace, She would have also waited eagerly for it. As one of the very few people who watched Christ's Death at the foot of the Cross, I believe Our Lady would have seen and contemplated on some very valuable things. By the way, for those people who go on about "Collegiality of bishops", the only collegiality of bishops I have seen from the Gospels was them fleeing at the sight of danger. L.O.L.

Anyway, a Happy (Stations of the Cross?), fulfilling (yeah, right) and Holy Lent may I wish for all of us, that we may put up a good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) for these 40 days (Sundays do not count!), overcome our worst demons through prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:20 in Douay-Rheims; unless otherwise stated, I quote Douay-Rheims) and eventually welcome the triumphant season of Easter.

2012년 2월 20일 월요일

Just how far can we go?

De Maria, numquam satis.

I am not sure about you but when I first started blogging (that is not even a week ago), I was a bit uncertain as to how far I could go with Mariology. We have all been, at least once in our lifetime, asked by our Protestant brothers, a question with regards to the Catholic devotion to Our Lady. "Why do Catholics pray to Mary?!!!" as though Mary was this girl living down the street. She is Theotokos, have some respect!!

All of us know why we pray to Our Lady. To be exact, we do not quite pray "to" Her in that we consider Her as some sort of Deity but rather, we invoke Her help frequently when we pray to the Blessed Trinity that through her intercessions and elaborate polishing, our prayers may deserve to reach the Throne of Mercy. Our Lady's intercessions are indeed strong, Scriptures show us that. ("They have no wine." John 2:3)

Whilst the Death of Our Lord was entirely His decision to offer His life for Our liberty from Sin, I think it may also be interesting to think about the Passion from Our Lady's perspectives. There is not much we hear of her during the Passion. What we do observe from St John's Gospel though, is that Our Lady stood by Her dying Son and was given St John as Her son. (John Ch 19) But nowhere in the scriptures do we ever see Our Lady trying to defend Her Son. Perhaps, She realised that Simeon's prophesy (that Her heart will be pierced by a sword, Luke 2:35) were to be fulfilled at that precise moment. As the Lamb of God was dying, the Mystical Rose was withering, too, of sorrow beyond compare. Indeed it is insignificant to Our Lord's Passion in that Our Lord's Passion was, by its own merit, the Perfect Sacrifice. But Our Lady sacrificing Her Motherhood in total unity with Her Son's Passion was nonetheless heroic; She wished nothing else but what God wished. It was Eternal Word of God She conceived and the Death of the same She embraced, as She freely chose to.

Therefore, rather than asking ourselves "How far can we go?" with regards to Mariology, it seems much more appropriate to ask ourselves "What more can we do?". Our Lady is prepared to go that far for us and truly "Of Mary, nothing is enough." 
Going that extra mile for Our Lady cannot be that difficult in the end. We get a glimpse of Our Lady's inextinguishable love for us from our own mothers. Those faithful students of Our Lady show us what the true Mother-Child relationship must look like, although they may wake us up too early sometimes. Our Lady who offered Her dearest Motherhood to the Divine Will remains as the best Model of Motherhood.

To conclude, my take on Mariology and its proper limits is this; if one truly and properly devotes oneself to Our Lady, that She may remain as one's strong Advocate and Intercessor, Our Lady will not let that soul cross the "Mary line". Whilst one's devotion to Our Lady may be great, we always experience God Himself in a much more intimate manner; the Holy Eucharist. We also intuitively know that She is what Corona is to the Sun; that all Her Sanctity comes from God, not by Her own merits but through Her willful, total dedication of Herself to the Blessed Trinity. Corona is indeed beautiful but the beauty is given by the Sun itself. 

But you see, without the Corona, Solar eclipse would be that much less interesting to watch!

2012년 2월 18일 토요일

De Maria, numquam satis.

De Maria, numquam satis.

I find it incredibly difficult to sit down and get some work done.
Trust me, I have tried everything... From triple shots of espresso to gingko powder (which tastes absolutely vile). I thought it was a problem of concentration; I just could not sit down and process through simple questions of Calculus. That, if you are a Maths student, means something is going seriously wrong. But I realised it was more to do with lack of motivation.

Then I came across this phrase - Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God).
Many students in the olden days (and those truly were the golden days, yes?) would write that down on their front pages when they started studying thereby dedicate their time and effort towards the greater glory of God. So I gave that a go. I will write a review on that in some three months time.

"De Maria, numquam satis." contains the idea that we can never give enough praise and honour to Our Lady. Our Lady as Mother of God, would have done everything for Her Son with motherly devotion but in supernatural perfection. For Her, it would have been "For my Son, it is never enough." When she made a soup for Christ, it would have been a soup fitting for Christ. When she baked a biscuit for Christ, it would have been a biscuit fitting for Christ. Soup and biscuit for the greater glory of God! So when we ask Her for Her help for all our devotional practices and even the most mundane daily activities to be offered to God, we also pray that She may consider our prayers as Her own and offer them to God with that same motherly devotion in supernatural perfection. Ultimately, in doing so, we strive for perfection of our prayer lives.

Having lived abroad for some eight years, it does get quite difficult, even for this twenty something year old, to not miss my parents, especially my mum. I have hardly ever argued with dad in my life; not out of intimidation (ahem!) but out of filial obedience (ahem!!). But with mum, we argue day in and day out. She would throw things, I would dodge them (you would not believe)... She would go on about how awful a child I would be and dad and I would exchange a triumphant wink on her back... But somehow, I guess that is one way family members relate to each other. When mum and I argued, it was not because we hated each other; it was just that I did not get my homework done or skived sports or quite often, she would make me wear silly clothes or she herself would turn up to appointments with teachers in silly clothes. But when that bickering was no longer there, I found something similar with Our Lady, admittedly though, without the fun.

So I guess, in the end, the choice of blog name was not only to do with me trying to do my tiny bit "for the greater glory of God" but also to properly show my love to my two mummies; one some 6000 miles away and the other closer. And I am going to collect all my entries and translate them as my mum's birthday present so if there is anything you think may be particularly relevant or heartwarming, I would love to hear from you!

As for now, I should go to bed. I have a long day tomorrow at a Church dedicated to my mummy's heart.