Testimony of the Light

taken from the sermons of Saint Augustine of Hippo; readings at Matins on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Outside the most holy Birthday of the Lord, we find celebrated in the Gospel the birth of only one other, namely, that of the blessed Baptist, John. As regardeth all others among God’s holy and chosen ones we know that that day is observed whereon, with their work finished, and the world conquered and finally trampled down, they were born from this into a better life, even one of everlasting blessedness. In others is honoured the crowning of the struggle on their last day of dying life, but in John is honoured the first day; in him the very beginning is found hallowed. And the reason of this is, without doubt, because he was sent from God to bear witness to the coming of the Light, lest when It came It might take the darkness by surprise, and the darkness might not comprehend It. Now, John was a figure of the Old Testament, and showed in his own person a typical embodiment of the Law; and therefore John heralded beforehand the coming of the Saviour, even as the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to the grace of Christ (Galatians 3:24).

But as touching this, that he prophesied while yet in the hidden depths of his mother’s womb, and while himself lightless bore testimony to the Truth, we are to understand it as a figure how that while himself wrapped round with the veil and carnal ordinances of the letter, he by the spirit preached unto the world a Redeemer, and testified that Jesus is our Lord even while for himself, working under the Law, the birth of the new dispensation was still in the womb of the future, and not come today. The Jews were estranged from the womb, that is from the Law, that womb heavy with the Christ That was to be; they went astray from the belly, speaking lies (Psalms 57:4), and therefore John came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe (John 1:7).

‘He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.’ (John 1:8)

But as for this, that when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples (Matthew 11:2). This is the Law sending to the Gospel; for John here was a figure of the Law, imprisoned in ignorance, lying in the dark, and in a hidden place, and he was fettered through Jewish misunderstanding within the bonds of the letter. But of him was it said, as is written in the Blessed Evangelist: ‘He was a burning and a shining light,’ that is to say, when the whole world was wrapt in the night of ignorance, this Saint was kindled by the fire of the Holy Ghost, to show before men the light of salvation, and at the hour of the thickest darkness of sin appeared like a bright morning star to herald the rising of that Sun so right gloriously radiant, the Son of righteousness, Christ our Lord. And this is why John said of himself: ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord.’ (John 1:15)

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Eucharistic Devotion of Saint Thomas Aquinas

taken from the January–February 1996 issue of the Soul Magazine, a publication by the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima; written by Warren H. Carroll, renowned ecclesiastical historian and author

Mother of the Eucharist – the Inexhaustible Chalice

Since the Blessed Virgin Mary bore Our Lord Jesus Christ in her immaculate womb, and as His one human parent alone gave Him His physical body, she has an intimate and unique association with the Eucharist, Christ’s Real Presence among us in the Host consecrated at Mass. Our Lady is therefore present in a special way in Eucharistic devotion, and has a particularly close relationship with those who practice it ardently.

St Thomas Aquinas is usually thought of as one of the greatest – perhaps the greatest – of Catholic philosophers and theologians; and that he most certainly was. But he was also one of the supreme advocates of Eucharistic devotion and exponents of the nature of the mysterious process by which the host becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. Indeed, it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who not only explained transubstantiation but provided for the first time the word for it.

His work was not intended only for the very learned. Saint Thomas Aquinas, an active Dominican, was a great teacher. Of his teaching he said, at his inaugural lecture at the University of Paris in 1256:

‘Teachers are comparable to mountains for three reasons: their elevation from the earth, their splendour in illumination, and their protective shelter against harm. … Therefore teachers should be elevated in their lives so as to illumine the faithful by their preaching, enlighten students by their teaching, and defend the faith by their disputations against error.’

When a new Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) was added to the Church calendar in 1264, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote the liturgy for it. Saint Thomas’ Corpus Christi liturgy included the magnificent Sequence ‘Laude Sion‘, the Vespers hymn ‘Pange Lingua‘ (concluding with the ‘Tantum Ergo‘, sung during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament), the Matins hymn ‘Sacis Solemnis‘ (concluding with ‘Panis Angelicus‘) and the Lauds hymn ‘Verbum Supernum Prodiens‘ (concluding with another Benediction song, ‘O Salutaris Hostia‘). Familiar for centuries to every Catholic, these glorious Latin hymns continue to be widely sung to this day.

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord

The fourth stanza of the ‘Pange Lingua‘ contains in a few words the essence of the Eucharistic doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, totally embraced by the Church:

Word made flesh, by Word He maketh
Very bread his flesh to be;
Man in wine Christ’s Blood partaketh,
And if his senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh,
To behold the mystery.

The Common Doctor of the Church (as Saint Thomas Aquinas has long been known) did not write only for scholars. In the office of Corpus Christi he wrote for the simple Catholic worshipper all down the ages.

By 1272, Saint Thomas had completed the second part of his supreme work, the Summa Theologiae, and begun on the third, concerning the Incarnation and the Sacraments. His last disputation at the University of Paris was on the Incarnation. Later, in 1272, he established a new study centre in his home territory near Naples, and there in Lent 1273 he delivered a series of 59 homilies on charity, the commandments, the Apostles Creed, the ‘Our Father’, and (significantly) the ‘Hail Mary’. One of these homilies was given every day. Thousands of people came out from Naples to hear them.

One night, in the chapel of the Dominican priory in Naples where Saint Thomas was then living, the sacristan concealed himself to watch the Saint at prayer. He saw him lifted into the air, and heard Christ speaking to him from the crucifix on the chapel wall:

‘Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward will you have?’

‘Lord, nothing but Yourself.’

St Thomas Aquinas in his glory

His request was soon answered. On 6 December 1273, Saint Thomas Aquinas was saying Mass for the Feast of Saint Nicholas in the chapel where the crucifix had spoken to him. Some profound experience – spiritual, mental, and physical suddenly overwhelmed him. He showed few external signs of the change at first; but he declared to his long-time secretary that he could write no more. ‘All that I have written,’ he said, ‘seems like straw to me.’

During the next few weeks he spent almost all his time in prayer; on 7 March 1274, he died. He was only 49, but his work was done. Christ’s Church and its Mother Mary had their champion upon the loftiest peaks of human intellect! No greater mind has been seen among the children of men than the mind of Thomas Aquinas, and he laid all his genius at the feet of Christ.

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The Greatest Wonder

taken from the sermons by Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Blessed Sacrament

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor

Among the immeasurable benefits, which the goodness of God hath bestowed on the Christian people, is a dignity beyond all price. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is unto us? The only-begotten Son of God was pleased to make us partakers of His divine nature ; that is, He took our nature upon Him, being himself made man that He might, as it were, make men into gods. And this body, which He took from us, He gave wholly unto our salvation. For, on the Altar of the Cross, He offered up his body to God the Father, as a sacrifice for our reconciliation, and thereon He shed His own blood for our redemption ; that is, His blood is the price whereby He redeemeth us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby He cleanseth us from all sin. And for a noble and abiding Memorial of this His so great work of goodness, He hath left unto His faithful ones the same His very Body for Meat, and the same His very Blood for Drink, with which we are fed under the forms of Bread and Wine.

O how precious a thing then, how marvellous, how health-giving, yielding royal dainties, is the Supper of the Lord. Than this Supper can anything be more precious? Therein there is put before us for meat, not as of old time, the flesh of bulls and of goats, but Christ Himself, our very God. Than this Sacrament can anything be more marvellous? Therein it is that Bread and Wine become unto us the very Body and Blood of Christ; that is to say, perfect God and perfect Man, Christ Himself, is there under the veils of a little bread and wine. His faithful ones eat Him, but He is not mangled; nay, when the veil which shroudeth Him in the Sacrament is broken, in each broken fragment thereof remaineth the whole Christ Himself, perfect God and perfect Man. All that the senses can reach in this Sacrament, all these abide of bread and wine, but the Thing is not bread and wine. And thus room is left for faith. For Christ, who hath a Form that can be seen, is herein taken and received not only unseen, but seeming to be bread and wine, and the senses, which judge by the wonted look, are warranted against error.

Than this Sacrament can anything be more health-giving? Thereby are sins purged away, strength is renewed, and the soul fed upon the fatness of spiritual gifts. This Supper is offered up in the Church, both for the quick and the dead; it was ordained to the health of all, all get the good of it. Than this Sacrament can anything yield more of royal dainties? The glorious sweetness thereof is of a truth such that no man can fully tell it. Therein ghostly comfort is sucked from its very well-head. Therein a Memorial is made of that exceeding great love which Christ shewed in time of his sufferings.

Procession of the Blessed Sacrament

It was in order that the boundless goodness of that His great love might be driven home into the hearts of His faithful ones, that when He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, and the Last Supper was ended, then, knowing that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end, and instituted this Sacrament. For this Sacrament is the everlasting forth-shewing of His death until He come again; this Sacrament is the embodied fulfilment of all the ancient types and figures; this Sacrament is the greatest wonder which ever He wrought, and the one mighty joy of them that now have sorrow, till He shall come again ; and thereby their heart shall rejoice, and their joy no man take from them.

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