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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday, September 21, 2016 Feast of Saint Matthew/Ember Day

Romans, Chapter 15, Verse 13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Put your hope in Christ and not in money, possessions, or position as did the Apostle Matthew.

Feast of Saint Matthew[1]

MATTHEW, also called Levi, a son of Alpheus, and brother of the holy apostle James the Less, was a receiver in the Roman custom-house on Lake Tiberius. Such officers were hated by the Jews for their injustice, and were called publicans, or public sinners. While he was sitting at the receipt of custom he was called by Christ to be one of His disciples, and immediately leaving his lucrative office and all that he had, followed Him. On account of his distinguished zeal he was afterwards received into the number of the apostles. After the descent of the Holy Ghost he remained in Judea, preached the Gospel, wrote the passion of Our Lord as contained in his gospel, and lived strictly in the fear of God. At a later day he travelled through Persia, Ethiopia, and other countries. At last he was killed at the altar, by command of King Hirtacus, for opposing his marriage with the Princess Iphigenia, who, by St. Matthew’s direction, had vowed to God perpetual virginity. His holy remains were brought to Salerno, Italy in the tenth century. Thus may great sinners become great saints by following faith fully, like St. Matthew, the voice of God.

St Matthew Facts[2]

·         Matthew was a tax collector, also called a publican.  This profession was among the most reviled in Judea.  Tax collectors worked for Rome, and not only did Jews pay Roman taxes to them, the collectors received a percentage for their own profit.  Jews in good standing did not associate with publicans.
·         Once Matthew begins to follow Jesus, he holds a dinner for other tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10).  The Pharisees, the strict Jewish law abiders that were leaders in the community, complained about Jesus, a teacher eating with sinners.  Jesus said, "For I have come to call the not the righteous but the sinners." (Matthew 9:13)
·         Early church writers claim that after Jesus' death and resurrection that Matthew preached Christianity in Persia, Macedonia, and Syria.
·         In the Orthodox Church, tradition says that St. Matthew refused to die even after several attempts.  He was first placed upside down and lit on fire, then sunk in a coffin in the sea overnight.  The ruler of Ethiopia, who tried to kill Matthew, apologized to the apostle and converted to Christianity.
·         St Matthew was one of Jesus' 12 disciples and writer of the Gospel of Matthew.  His feast day is held on September 21 in the Roman Catholic Church and November 16 in the Orthodox faith.


Inner Peace of Christ[3]

On Dec. 14, 1989, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of Christian Meditation." This document, approved by Pope John Paul II, recognizes that some Christians, experiencing a "spiritual restlessness arising from a life subjected to the driving pace of a technologically advanced society," have investigated certain Eastern techniques of prayer, seeking "a path to interior peace and psychic balance." Eastern methods of prayer often depart from Christian principles by "abandoning not only meditation on the salvific works accomplished in history by the God of the Old and New Covenant, but also the very idea of the One and Triune God." Instead, inner peace and union with the Absolute is attained by "immersion 'in the indeterminate abyss of the divinity'"; hence, a person can lose his identity by being "swallowed up" by the Deity. Contemporary Catholics seeking inner peace need not dive headlong into Eastern mysticism. A host of Catholic writers has advocated ways by which spiritual happiness may be realized. One of the best but least recognized guides is Saint Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751), a Franciscan friar known for his preaching in defense of the Immaculate Conception. He offered four "rules" to help achieve peace of soul.

1.      To be attached only to God. Status and wealth may be beneficial, but to be overly concerned about them is to invite inner spiritual havoc. The soul's primary need is communication with its Creator. One needs to view objects and persons in reference to God and His will if peace is to reign. To be "dead" to the world and creatures is paramount.
2.      To surrender to Divine Providence. All Catholic spiritual writers are unanimous on this point: Sanctity and inner peace are attained only when God's will holds sway. The Lord knows best. Humbly accepting His will is vastly different from reluctantly putting up with it. When a person yields to the divine plan, he demonstrates a belief that God will sustain him--come what may.
3.      To welcome suffering and hardship. Human nature tends to resist difficulties. Yet, spiritual perfection entails carrying the cross of Jesus. Scorn and rejection from others--while hardly pleasant--must be seen as an opportunity to experience solidarity with the suffering Christ.
4.      To undertake only that which our situation in life demands. Often a person takes upon himself too many activities at once. "The more, the better" does not necessarily apply in the realm of good works. Prudence dictates what one can accomplish. Inner turmoil may spring from a plethora of activities, even when they are morally good acts. Prayer and counsel will determine what to undertake and what to forego.

When thousands are turning to Eastern methods of prayer in search of peace, Catholics should take heed of the advice offered nearly three centuries ago by this Italian preacher. Happiness of soul occurs when a person conforms himself to Christ through acceptance of the Father's will. Only then may one experience the peace which the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).

Today is the first Ember Day.

1.                  What Are Ember Days?[4]

The term “Ember Days” is derived from the Latin term Quatuor Tempora, which literally means “four times.” There are four sets of Ember Days each calendar year; three days each – Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Ember Days fall at the start of a new season and they are ordered as days of fast and abstinence. The significance of the days of the week are that Wednesday was the day Christ was betrayed, Friday was the day He was crucified, and Saturday was the day He was entombed.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the purpose of Ember Days, “besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.”

2.                  The Four Occurrences of Ember Days are as Follows:

·         Winter: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy.
·         Spring: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Ash Wednesday.
·         Summer: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after Pentecost.
·         Fall: the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of the Holy Cross.

3.                  What is an Ember Week?

The term Ember Week simply refers to the week in which the Ember Days occur.







[1] Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.

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