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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 Ember Day

Today is my dearly departed Mother's (Rosella) birthday; please pray for her.

Isaiah, Chapter 19, verse 16
On that day the Egyptians shall be like women, trembling with fear, because of the LORD of hosts shaking his fist at them.

To shake your fist at someone is a way of showing a person you are angry with them. Sometimes God permits the stubbornly evil and impenitent to suffer the inevitable destructive effects upon their bodies and souls that their sinfulness has triggered. We may see these often as giants in our life. What are the giants in your life? Unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed malice, deceit, extravagance, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, recklessness all comes from within. These giants are not out there; there in here; in the heart. The hearts fears make giants. Love is the cure. Love endures Love hopes. Love does small tasks. Love is like a water drop that outlasts the mountain; wearing it away. Love stands defiant before the giants in your life. In and through love we come to discover the giants in our life were shadows all along.

Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s light shining somewhere nearby. (Ruth Renkle)

Live each day as if it were your last. Death brings an end to all, and man’s life suddenly passes away like a fleeting shadow.

Lord, for those in mortal sin, death is the gateway to hell, but for those in sanctifying grace, it is the pathway to Heaven. Let my greatest desire in life be to live in such a way that I can die fearlessly at any moment. Let me fear sin more than death or any other earthly harm. Amen.[1]

Yet, If we insist on going our own way, following the "I did it my way" philosophy (made famous in Frank Sinatra's hit song!), then God's anger means that He will respect the freedom He gave to us, and say to us, in effect: "OK, do it your way, if you insist. I will not compel you to turn away from your sins and be sanctified. But if you do decide to 'do it your way,' you will have to experience the rotten fruits — the self-destructive effects — of the path you have chosen, both in this life and the life to come." For those cruel and cold-hearted souls who remain stubbornly impenitent and who resist God's grace to the end of their lives, God's anger takes the form of the "eternal punishment" of sinners, which simply means that He allows them to turn their backs on Him and live forever in their self-chosen exile from the light of His countenance. That is why the catechism defines "hell" as essentially "a state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed". As Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, explained in the book Pillars of Fire in My Soul: The Spirituality of St. Faustina (Marian Press, 2003): God is totally opposed to all evil, and sends His lightning bolts to oppose it (so to speak), yet we cling by our sins to the lightning rod of evil, and then complain that He is a God of wrath! Clearly, God does not want us to suffer His wrath and indignation. As Jesus once said to St. Faustina (Diary entry 1588): "I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My Merciful Heart. I use punishment when they themselves force Me to do so; My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice." Another time He said to her (entry 1728) that when sinful souls "bring all My graces to naught, I begin to be angry with them, leaving them alone and giving them what they want."  Thanks be to God, that His mercy is so much greater than our sins! We do not need to be afraid at all, for as He said to St. Faustina (entry 1485): "Do not be afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to come to Me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His graces on you. ... My Mercy is greater than your sins, and those of the entire world."[2]

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful. (Jl. 2:12-13)

Baptism[3]

 

Supernatural Life begins at baptism. Jesus himself spoke of baptism in terms of a strict obligation: “unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” When new believers asked St. Peter, the first pope, what they should do, he declared: “Repent, and be baptized”. It is easy for us to take God’s fatherhood for granted. We say easily, “God is our Father” yet we forget that that during Christ’s time to say that could get you killed. This was why the Jews sought to kill Jesus because he called God his Father. When we are born anew in baptism we are born not of human parentage but heavenly by what theologians call the “marvelous exchange”. In Jesus, God became what we are so that we might become what his is. This is why God became man and this is why he gave us baptism. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in you mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:11-14).

 

Ember Day[4]


The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost). The English title for these days, "Ember," is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the "Four Times" or "Four Seasons." The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass. The Old Law prescribes a "fast of the fourth month, and a fast of the fifth, and a fast of the seventh, and a fast of tenth" (Zechariah 8:19). There was also a Jewish custom at the time of Jesus to fast every Tuesday and Thursday of the week. The first Christians amended both of these customs, fasting instead on every Wednesday and Friday: Wednesday because it is the day that Christ was betrayed, and Friday because it is the day that He was slain. (And we now know that this biweekly fast is actually older than some books of the New Testament). Later, Christians from both East and West added their own commemorations of the seasons. The Ember Days thus perfectly express and reflect the essence of Christianity. In the case of both the Hebrew seasonal fasts and the Christian Ember Days, we are invited to consider the wonder of the natural seasons and their relation to God. The seasons, for example, can be said to intimate individually the bliss of Heaven, where there is "the beauty of spring, the brightness of summer, the plenty of autumn, the rest of winter" (St. Thomas Aquinas).The Liturgical seasons of the Church are meant to initiate us annually into the mysteries of our redemption, they should also include some commemoration of nature for the simple reason that nature is the very thing which grace perfects. Another variation of Embertides, instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 494, is to use Ember Saturdays as the day to confer Holy Orders.* Apostolic tradition prescribed that ordinations be preceded by fast and prayer (see Acts 13:3), and so it seemed quite reasonable to place ordinations at the end of this fast period. Moreover, this allows the entire community to join the men in fasting and praying for God’s blessing upon their calling and to share their joy in being called. Embertides thus afford us the opportunity to ruminate on a number of important things: the wondrous cycle of nature and the more wondrous story of our redemption, the splendid differentiation of God’s ordained servants -- and lastly, the condition of our own souls. Traditionally, these were times of spiritual exercises and personal self-examination, the ancient equivalent of our modern retreats and missions. Little wonder, then, that a host of customs and folklore grew up around them affirming the special character of these days.





[1] Paone, Anthony J., S.J. My Daily Bread, Confraternity of the Precious Blood.
[3] Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 3. Baptism.



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