Friday, July 19, 2019

Whether the active life is more excellent than the contemplative?

Summa Theologiae > Second Part of the Second Part > Question 182: Article 1. 

Nothing prevents certain things being more excellent in themselves, whereas they are surpassed by another in some respect. Accordingly, we must reply that the contemplative life is simply more excellent than the active: and the Philosopher proves this by eight reasons (Ethic. x, 7,8). The first is, because the contemplative life becomes man according to that which is best in him, namely the intellect, and according to its proper objects, namely things intelligible; whereas the active life is occupied with externals. Hence Rachael, by whom the contemplative life is signified, is interpreted "the vision of the principle," [Or rather, 'One seeing the principle,' if derived from rah and irzn; Cf. Jerome, De Nom. Hebr.] whereas as Gregory says (Moral. vi, 37) the active life is signified by Lia who was blear-eyed. The second reason is because the contemplative life can be more continuous, although not as regards the highest degree of contemplation, as stated above (II-II:180:8 ad 2; II-II:181:4 ad 3), wherefore Mary, by whom the contemplative life is signified, is described as "sitting" all the time "at the Lord's feet." Thirdly, because the contemplative life is more delightful than the active; wherefore Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. Serm. ciii) that "Martha was troubled, but Mary feasted." Fourthly, because in the contemplative life man is more self-sufficient, since he needs fewer things for that purpose; wherefore it was said (Luke 10:41): "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and art troubled about many things." Fifthly, because the contemplative life is loved more for its own sake, while the active life is directed to something else. Hence it is written (Psalm 36:4): "One thing I have asked of the Lord, this will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, that I may see the delight of the Lord." Sixthly, because the contemplative life consists in leisure and rest, according to Psalm 45:11, "Be still and see that I am God." Seventhly, because the contemplative life is according to Divine things, whereas active life is according to human things; wherefore Augustine says (De Verb. Dom. Serm. civ): "'In the beginning was the Word': to Him was Mary hearkening: 'The Word was made flesh': Him was Martha serving." Eighthly, because the contemplative life is according to that which is most proper to man, namely his intellect; whereas in the works of the active life the lower powers also, which are common to us and brutes, have their part; wherefore (Psalm 35:7) after the words, "Men and beasts Thou wilt preserve, O Lord," that which is special to man is added (Psalm 35:10): "In Thy light we shall see light."

Our Lord adds a ninth reason (Luke 10:42) when He says: "Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her," which words Augustine (De Verb. Dom. Serm. ciii) expounds thus: "Not—Thou hast chosen badly but—She has chosen better. Why better? Listen—because it shall not be taken away from her. But the burden of necessity shall at length be taken from thee: whereas the sweetness of truth is eternal."

\Yet in a restricted sense and in a particular case one should prefer the active life on account of the needs of the present life. Thus too the Philosopher says (Topic. iii, 2): "It is better to be wise than to be rich, yet for one who is in need, it is better to be rich . . ."

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Collect: The 16th Sunday

This collect is not found in the Roman liturgy before the 20th Century, but comes from Sacramentarium Bergomense, the Liturgy of Northern Italy, transmitted in a 9th Century manuscript, which reflects the early usage of the Ambrosian Liturgy.  

Propitiare, Domine, famulis tuis, et clementer gratiae tuae  super eos dona multiplica, ut, spe, fide, et caritate ferventes, semper in mandatis tuis vigili custodia perseverent.

Be gracious, O Lord, to your servants, and mercifully multiply upon them the gifts of your grace, that fervent in faith, hope and love, they may ever persevere vigilantly in keeping your commandments.  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Traditional Sequence for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Flos Carmeli,
vitis florigera,
splendor caeli,
virgo puerpera

Mater mitis
sed viri nescia
da privilegia
Stella Maris.

Radix Jesse
germinans flosculum
nos ad esse
tecum in saeculum

Inter spinas
quae crescis lilium
serva puras
mentes fragilium

fortis pugnantium
furunt bella
tende praesidium

Per incerta
prudens consilium
per adversa
iuge solatium

Mater dulcis
Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam
reple laetitia
qua bearis.

clavis et ianua,
fac nos duci
quo, Mater, gloria

Flower of Carmel,
Tall vine blossom laden;
Splendour of heaven,
Childbearing yet maiden.
None equals thee.

Mother so tender,
Who no man didst know,
On Carmel's children
Thy favours bestow.
Star of the Sea.

Strong stem of Jesse,
Who bore one bright flower,
Be ever near us
And guard us each hour,
who serve thee here.

Purest of lilies,
That flowers among thorns,
Bring help to the true heart
That in weakness turns
and trusts in thee.

Strongest of armour,
We trust in thy might:
Under thy mantle,
Hard press'd in the fight,
we call to thee.

Our way uncertain,
Surrounded by foes,
Unfailing counsel
You give to those
who turn to thee.

O gentle Mother
Who in Carmel reigns,
Share with your servants
That gladness you gained
and now enjoy.

Hail, Gate of Heaven,
With glory now crowned,
Bring us to safety
Where thy Son is found,
true joy to see.
Amen. (Alleluia.)

Sermon of St. Thomas of Villanova: The Assumption IV: The contemplative life of the Blessed Virgin

What was Mary's life but one long act of contemplation, a continual outpouring of devotion, the incessant burning of a spiritual flame? We are not told of the blessed Virgin that she performed many miracles and signs or made long journeys to spread the gospel, or gave extraordinary alms (which would have been impossible, because she lacked the means), or tended the sick, or redeemed captives, or built large numbers of churches or endowed religious houses with particular generosity. No; all the glory of the king's daughter was within, in the fervor of her heart, and in those golden borders, her pure thoughts and keen desires and the virtues which she possessed in all their manifold variety.

This does not mean that she did not perform Martha's noble tasks as well: she did, and brilliantly—far better than we can: for where we serve God in the persons of his servants, her service was given to him directly. Doing Martha's work did not stop the holy Virgin from fulfilling Mary's function. I lie asleep; but oh, my heart is wakeful, we read of her. Which is as if she were to say: "As far as my outward behavior is concerned, I am asleep, because I am busy with my work; but inwardly I am awake, since all the time I am intent on prayer".

From the time when she soared up like an eagle and fixed her strong eyes on the dazzling brightness of the Godhead, she never looked back at the things of earth. Before she bore God's Word in her womb, she gave herself to prayer and contemplation day and night, in company with the other virgins who lived with her in the Temple, where at the age of three she had been presented by her parents. She knew God before she knew herself, and before she could pray in words she habitually prayed in her heart. After the angel had brought her the message and she had become God's mother, she was always absorbed by the thought of the great mysteries accomplished in her. It was as though she were totally immersed in a vast sea of light and inwardly ravished in continual ecstasy, as the gospel shows us when it says that she treasured up all these sayings, and reflected on them in her heart. How could she forget God when she had carried him inside her body, nursed him on her lap and held him at her breast with her hands? Could a mother forget the son she bore in her womb? Could she possibly forget him if he was a Son like this one? After his ascension into heaven we are told nothing more about Mary, except that she is said to have lived enclosed in an oratory, turning over in her mind all that she had seen and heard. That is all there was in the Virgin's life. That, in brief, is the whole story of her pilgrimage.

St. Bonaventure: Sermon IV: The Assumption: "He that made me rested in my tabernacle"

The Virgin Mary can say, He that made me rested in my tabernacle, because the Creator of all that is chose her virginal womb to rest in on his wedding night, there to become our Brother; and made of it a royal throne, there to sit as our King; and put on a priestly robe in it, so to make himself our Priest. Through the marriage-union the Virgin became God's mother, the royal throne made her Queen of Heaven, the priestly robe the advocate of the human race. It was appropriate that she should be all these things, since she belonged to the human race herself and her ancestors had been kings and priests. How that Virgin loved God, and how justifiably she can say: He that made me rested in my tabernacle.
That God would consummate his marriage in her womb David foresaw in the Spirit with prophetic certitude when he said, He hath set his tabernacle in the sun. He added as a bridegroom because the Virgin's room was the bridal room in which God was united to human nature, the place where he kissed his bride as he made the contract that bound her to him in marriage.

In that womb also God set up his royal throne, there to sit as our King. As the prophet says: Mercy and faithfulness return; a throne set up in David's dwelling-place, for a judge that loves right and gives redress speedily.

And from that womb God took the priestly vestment which he would have to wear if he was to enter the holy of holies. Christ has taken his place as our high priest, to win us blessings that still lie in the future. He makes use of a greater, a more complete tabernacle, which human hands never fashioned; it does not belong to this order of creation at all. It is his own blood, nor the blood of goats and calves, that has enabled him to enter, once for all, the sanctuary. On his way to the holy of holies, Christ our high priest passed through the Virgin's womb, where he put on the priest's robe, and from there proceeded to the cross, where he offered the holiest Of all victims and so obtained for us God's friendship. The reason why the Lord was bent on robing in the tabernacle of the Virgin's womb was this: he wanted to make her our advocate as well as himself. There could be no resisting mother and Son together; the two of them would bring firm confidence to us poor wanderers, bidding us cling to the hope we have in view. I will set my tabernacle in the midst of you, he said, and my soul shall no more cast you off for the blessed Virgin, our advocate, can never ask in vain.

We can approach the Virgin, then, with every confidence; whatever our need, we can go to her in all security. We shall do well to honor this tabernacle and flee to it for refuge, since the Lord himself took his ease there and the blessed Virgin could say with literal truth: He that made me rested in my tabernacle.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

St. Augustine: The Good Samaritan

A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; Adam himself is meant; Jerusalem is the heavenly city of peace, from whose blessedness Adam fell; Jericho means the moon, and signifies our mortality, because it is born, waxes, wanes, and dies. Thieves are the devil and his angels. Who stripped him, namely; of his immortality; and beat him, by persuading him to sin; and left him half-dead, because in so far as man can understand and know God, he lives, but in so far as he is wasted and oppressed by sin, he is dead; he is therefore called half-dead. The priest and the Levite who saw him and passed by, signify the priesthood and ministry of the Old Testament which could profit nothing for salvation. Samaritan means Guardian, and therefore the Lord Himself is signified by this name. The binding of the wounds is the restraint of sin. Oil is the comfort of good hope; wine the exhortation to work with fervent spirit. The beast is the flesh in which He deigned to come to us. The being set upon the beast is belief in the incarnation of Christ. The inn is the Church, where travelers returning to their heavenly country are refreshed after pilgrimage. The morrow is after the resurrection of the Lord. The two pence are either the two precepts of love, or the promise of this life and of that which is to come. The innkeeper is the Apostle. The supererogatory payment is either his counsel of celibacy, or the fact that he worked with his own hands lest he should be a burden to any of the weaker brethren when the Gospel was new, though it was lawful for him “to live by the gospel” (Dodd 1961: 13-14; slightly abridged).

Friday, July 12, 2019

Prayer of William Laud

Most gracious Father,

we pray to you for your holy Church.

Fill it with all truth;

in all truth with all peace.

Where it is corrupt, purge it.

Where it is in error, direct it.

Where anything is amiss, reform it.

Where it is right, strengthen and defend it.

Where it is in want, provide for it.

Where it is divided, heal it and reunite it in your love;

for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

– William Laud 1573-1645AD