Happiest of Feasts

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw
him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “
The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Today is one of the greatest Feasts of the Church. So great, in fact, that I don’t understand why Lent isn’t completely suspended for a day. This is the feast of the Incarnation. Sure it comes to fruition in the Nativity, but this is the day we celebrate that God came to Earth. Today we grapple with the mystery of kenosis. Today the very God of very God, the eternal and incomprehensible chooses the Virgin’s womb for a Temple wherein to dwell.

The incorporeal become corporeal. The Word becomes flesh to dwell among us.

In the midst of all the Easter TV programmes challenging all of the orthodoxies of the Faith, cries of critics and doubters, it is a good thing to rejoice. I also feel sad, because they cannot share the joy. They spend their time trying to dig up ways to prove that Jesus wasn’t really the Jesus of the Gospels. He must be anyone other than who He was, His life told to us by eyewitnesses and faithful transmitted to us by the Holy Evangelists and from them by our Holy Fathers who have gone before us. There must be conspiracies and power plays, intrigue and underhanded dealings. And all of it must be because they knew the story wasn’t true. It was made up much later. Tiresome and sad.

So let us rejoice in the love of God shown to us in the Incarnation. Let us rejoice in so great a salvation.

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy
is His name.
And His mercy
is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered
the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from
their thrones,
And exalted
the lowly.
He has filled
the hungry with good things,
And
the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of
His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.

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The Other Saint Boniface

When most people think of St Boniface, they think of the Apostle to the Germans – the patron saint of Germany and the Netherlands who died in 754. Today, however, is the commemoration of another Boniface who was martyred in about 290 in St Paul’s hometown of Tarsus.

He was from Rome. After he and his rich lover (some say he was he was also her slave) repented of fornication, he went East where there was great persecution going on, to gather relics of martyrs to make sure they were cared for properly. When he got to Tarsus, he found Christians being martyred in the city centre. He rushed to them to ask for their prayers and declared to the authorities that he was a Christian.

They beat him and tortured him by methods that vary somewhat in the relating of the story, but all include that his tormenters poured molten tin or lead down his throat. He was unharmed by this, as well as by being thrown in boiling tar. They finally got him with sword parting his head from his shoulders.

St Boniface is a clear testimony to the adage that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The miracles surrounding his death caused several hundred people to embrace Christ. His own relics were returned to Rome where his erstwhile lover built a church over his grave. As is the custom with martyrs, the miracles just kept happening.

So when you think you are being treated a bit badly by those around you, especially if it for your faith, remember Holy Boniface and you probably don’t have it so bad.

St Boniface of Rome, pray to God for us!

Miracles are Normal

This may be a faithless nation, but the most viewed story right now on Reuters UK involves a miracle chair. The chair is in Italy. You probably wouldn’t find a chair like this in Britain – it’s a Matthew 13:58 situation.

The chair in Naples is where women who want to get pregnant sit while they are touched with a reliquary containing a vertebra and a lock of hair from St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds of Jesus, who died in 1791. It seems to me that the relics are the sacramental contact point rather than the chair. Perhaps St Mary Frances used to sit in it, but the article doesn’t say.

I suppose it doesn’t matter, because either way she intercedes and/or the power of the Holy Spirit residual in her mortal remains energises the woman and babies are conceived. That’s the way miracles work.

I often see belligerence toward the reality of miracles. It’s not just a lack of belief, but antagonism toward any belief in them. They must have some scientifically verifiable explanation or else they have been falsified. Miracles really upset the applecart of the secularist. They claim God can’t exist because He doesn’t show Himself, then when He does, they don’t know what to do.

For a believer, miracles are normative. Every Divine Liturgy or Mass is centred around the miracle of the Body and Blood of the Lord. In them we participate in the moment that Jesus gave Himself up for the life of the world. That’s really another miracle. This month we look forward to the Nativity, the fruition of the miracle of the Incarnation. Once you believe that God became Man, took away the sin of the world, and shares Himself with the faithful, the success of one saint’s intercession for a couple to conceive a child is small potatoes. Really nice small potatoes, especially if you are the couple.