Tuesday, December 4, 2018

St. Barbara's branch

Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verse 2-4
2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, 3 and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, 4 But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.

This is the source of the traditional names of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “piety” for “fear of the Lord” in its first occurrence, thus listing seven gifts.[1]

Feast of St. Barbara [2]

Barbara (from Nicomedia) was the daughter of a pagan noble who worshipped false gods. Because of her striking beauty, her father enclosed her in a tower to hide her from the snares of men. Barbara vowed virginity, and during an absence of her father had a third window added to her quarters in honor of the Blessed Trinity; at the same time, she also adorned her bath with the sign of the holy Cross. Upon his return her father was so angered over these changes that a miracle was needed to save her life. She was presented before the magistrate, subjected to much torturing, and finally her own father wielded the sword that severed her head. Immediately God's vengeance struck him dead. The holy virgin is highly honored both in the East and the West as patroness of artillery men and of miners. She is especially invoked for preservation from sudden death. She is one of the "Fourteen Holy Helpers."

In the past, the following prayer to St. Barbara was often recited:
Saint Barbara, thou noble bride,
To thee my body I confide
As well in life as at life's end.
Come, aid me when I breathe my last,
That I may, ere here all is past,
Receive the Blessed Sacrament!

In certain parts of Europe, the so-called "Barbara branch" is brought into homes today. It consists of a small cherry twig that is set in water and should blossom on Christmas eve. The custom is deeply Biblical and liturgical. "The bud from the root of Jesse and the flower from its root" is Jesus Christ, whom we expectantly await during Advent and who will blossom forth as a flower at Christmas.

Things to Do

·         Celebrating for the Feast of St. Barbara. See also Painting Angels, Saints and Their Symbols for a description of St. Barbara's symbols.
·         Have a St. Barbara's Party, Syrian Style.
·         Further reading:
-          Encyclopedia of Catholic Saints
-          Short Biography and History by Father Weiser.
-          Read about the German custom of St. Barbara's Twig, where every member of the family puts a small cherry or peach branch into water so that it will blossom on Christmas. If you have a young lady in your home desiring marriage, the custom of St. Barbara's Cherry Twigs will have St. Barbara pick the right husband for young unmarried girls. An alternative idea to this custom would be forcing Amaryllis or other bulbs to bloom for Christmas. Start the bulbs today!
·         St. Barbara is the patron of artillerymen. Offer your rosary or say a prayer for all our enlisted men and women who are in harm's way. This page provides the Legend of St. Barbara and the explanation why she is the patron of artillerymen. Read the Ballad of St. Barbara by G. K. Chesterton.
·         Read about Barb├│rka, Miners Day, which is celebrated in Poland and other European countries.

Married love should be a union of two friends but because of human nature each friend in order to give themselves fully to the other must practice the virtue of chastity. To do otherwise is to invite unhappiness.

The fifth and sixth beatitudes[3]

Blessed are the Merciful

Fifth, we want our rights. That's why, if we are moral, we work for justice, for others' rights. We are practicing the Golden Rule, the Categorical Imperative. This is justice. Christ does not condemn it, but he does not call this "blessed". Because that is only a minimum, not a maximum; that is only the beginning, not the end; the foundation, not the house. It is not enough. Justice alone cannot ensure peace — in the world, in the family, or in friendships. Only mercy can.

Our hope should not be that we will get justice — my goodness, what would become of us if we did? Our hope is "under the mercy". It was mercy that created us. How could we justly deserve the gift's existence if we didn't even exist? It was mercy that redeemed us from the justice that we deserved by our sins. And it is mercy that will gratuitously and graciously raise us higher than the angels in uniting us with the divine nature. Christ did not become an angel, and no angel will ever become hypostatically united with God. We are told by one who always meant exactly what he said that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." The mere act of giving is necessarily best, including the act of giving mercy. We do not give mercy in order to obtain mercy; that is justice, not mercy. We give mercy in order that the other may get mercy. And only thus, only by giving without the intention of getting mercy, do we get mercy — not from the human we give it to but from God, who started this chain of mercy givers by the mercy of creation, and ends it with the mercy of redemption and glorification. The Book of Revelation should not be called The Last Judgment, but The Last Mercy. It ends there: "Let him who wills come and take the water of life without price." That's the Gospel.

Blessed are the Pure in Heart

Sixth, when we hear the word 'purity' in the beatitude "Blessed are the pure in heart," we immediately think of sexual purity. Perhaps Christ had that primarily in mind, perhaps not; but our reaction tells us something significant about us, namely that sex is, quite simply, our society's new god, our new absolute. Anything is done, tolerated, sacrificed, justified, sanctified, or glorified for this god. A third of our mothers murder their own unborn babies in sacrifice to this god. Of course abortion is about sex; the only reason for abortion is to have sex without babies. Abortion is backup contraception. Or look at the acceptance of divorce. Families, the one absolutely necessary building block of all societies, are destroyed for this god. Half of all America's citizens commit suicide for this god, for divorce is the suicide of the "one flesh" that love had created. No one justifies lying, cheating, betraying, promise-breaking, or devastating and harming strangers; but we justify, we expect, we tolerate, doing this to the one person we promise most seriously to be faithful to forever. We justify divorce. No one justifies child abuse, except for sex. Divorce is child abuse for the sake of sex. Even all the churches justify divorce, except one, the one that does not claim the authority to correct Christ — and she is accused of being 'authoritarian'. Why is purity of heart blessed? It doesn't seem to be. Well, because lust gives such an immediate thrill of delight, Christ's beatitude that blesses purity of heart, that is, purity of desire, strikes us a paradox. But anything that is natural is happier and more blessed in its pure and natural condition. St. Thomas Aquinas deduces from this principle that sexual pleasure was far greater before the fall. When Christ specifies the reward as "seeing God", he does not mean merely in the next life. He does not mean merely that we will get box seats instead of bleachers in heaven's stadium as a just reward for paying more for the tickets here on earth. The reward can be experienced in this life. St. Thomas himself exemplified it. His wonderful clarity of mind came partly from his purity of heart, a gift which was supernaturally given to him at one specific point in his life, when he resisted his brothers' attempt to seduce him out of the Dominican order by a prostitute. So his mind became free from his passions, free for the high vocation God planned for him. Most modern readers are very surprised to find all the great Doctors of the Church, including St. Augustine, St. Thomas and St. John of the Cross, locating the chief harm of lust in its blinding of the reason, a remarkable narrowing and skewering of vision, of perspective. Surely there is an intimate connection between the impurity of the desires of most modern students and the impurity of their motivation for education; between the decline of the sexual love of the other for the other, and of the intellectual love of the truth for the truth; a connection between the contemplative wonder and respect towards the body's mate, and the contemplative wonder and respect towards the mind's mate, truth. To love truth primarily for itself is one thing; to love it primarily for your own sake, for some further utilitarian, instrumental, pragmatic, personal end, is another thing. That is a form of impurity of heart, a sort of intellectual prostitution. And it has cursed modern philosophy ever since Bacon. The blessing Christ promises here is verifiable in this life, in experience, though perfected only in the next. How many theologians fail to see God, to understand purely, because of impure desires? Almost all theological 'dissent' in our age — we used to call it heresy — astonishingly focuses on sexual morality. It looks suspiciously like addicts obsessing about their drug and not really caring about much else. Is that why most homilies are so bland and why we never hear a homily on sexual morality, even though that is the single most controversial and divisive issue in our Church and in our culture today? Could it be that the reason we lack the blessing of understanding God, and that our children suffer an incredible absence of basic theological education, is because the educators, the writers of those stunningly dull CCD and RCIA textbooks, have not the pure desire for truth that Christ specifies as the virtue that draws to itself that reward. If we analyzed the blood that their hearts pump into their brains, might we find it mixed with fluids from their lower organs? Could it be that our liturgical language, and especially our liturgical music, is so fascinatingly dull and brilliantly dumbed down and passionately wimpy because our liturgists' passions are disordered?

49 Godly Character Traits[4]

As we begin the Advent season let us take up the nature of God by reflecting on these traits that make us a model for our children and our sisters and brothers in Christ. Today reflect on:

Contentment vs. Covetousness

Realizing that God has provided everything I need for my present happiness (I Timothy 6:8)

377 The "mastery" over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.

2517 The heart is the seat of moral personality: "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication. . . . " The struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance:

Remain simple and innocent, and you will be like little children who do not know the evil that destroys man's life.

The Way[5] Heart

"Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won't tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul."

So now it's tears! It hurts, doesn't it? Of course, man!
It was meant to.

Daily Devotions
·         Drops of Christ’s Blood



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