Introduction to Hebrews
As early as the second century, this treatise, which is of great rhetorical power and force in its admonition to faithful pilgrimage under Christ’s leadership, bore the title “To the Hebrews.” It was assumed to be directed to Jewish Christians. Usually Hebrews was attached in Greek manuscripts to the collection of letters by Paul. The main theme is the priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus as a means of restoring their lost fervor and strengthening them in their faith. Another important theme of the letter is that of the pilgrimage of the people of God to the heavenly Jerusalem. This theme is intimately connected with that of Jesus’ ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. This work is a “message of encouragement”. Hebrews is probably therefore a written homily, to which the author gave an epistolary ending. The author begins with a reminder of the preexistence, incarnation, and exaltation of Jesus that proclaimed him the climax of God’s word to humanity. He dwells upon the dignity of the person of Christ, superior to the angels. Christ is God’s final word of salvation communicated not merely by word but through his suffering in the humanity common to him and to all others. This enactment of salvation went beyond the pattern known to Moses, faithful prophet of God’s word though he was, for Jesus as high priest expiated sin and was faithful to God with the faithfulness of God’s own Son. Just as the infidelity of the people thwarted Moses’ efforts to save them, so the infidelity of any Christian may thwart God’s plan in Christ. Christians are to reflect that it is their humanity that Jesus took upon himself, with all its defects save sinfulness, and that he bore the burden of it until death out of obedience to God. God declared this work of his Son to be the cause of salvation for all. Although Christians recognize this fundamental teaching, they may grow weary of it and of its implications, and therefore require other reflections to stimulate their faith. Therefore, the author presents to the readers for their reflection the everlasting priesthood of Christ, a priesthood that fulfills the promise of the Old Testament. It also provides the meaning God ultimately intended in the sacrifices of the Old Testament: these pointed to the unique sacrifice of Christ, which alone obtains forgiveness of sins. The trial of faith experienced by the readers should resolve itself through their consideration of Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and his perpetual intercession there on their behalf. They should also be strengthened by the assurance of his foreordained parousia, and by the fruits of faith that they have already enjoyed. It is in the nature of faith to recognize the reality of what is not yet seen and is the object of hope, and the saints of the Old Testament give striking example of that faith. The perseverance to which the author exhorts the readers is shown forth in the earthly life of Jesus. Despite the afflictions of his ministry and the supreme trial of his suffering and death, he remained confident of the triumph that God would bring him. The difficulties of human life have meaning when they are accepted as God’s discipline, and if Christians persevere in fidelity to the word in which they have believed, they are assured of possessing forever the unshakable kingdom of God. The letter concludes with specific moral commandments, in the course of which the author recalls again his central theme of the sacrifice of Jesus and the courage needed to associate oneself with it in faith.
SEPTEMBER 29 Thursday
FEAST OF SAINT MICHAEL
26 If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins 27 but a FEARFUL prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries.
Have you not been attending Mass? Do you have habitual sins that plague you? Have you lost hope after having full knowledge of the truth? Do not abandon hope in the promises of Christ. There will be a second coming. Turn around for here is a very solemn warning about deliberate sin. If you turn your back on the sacrifice of Christ, there is no other sacrifice for sin to appeal to. Do not reject salvation that comes from the Son of God. Only His blood can save us from the inescapable judgment of God. Therefore go to confession attend Mass weekly and increase in faith, hope, and love.
How do you “get saved” as a Catholic? This is something I’ve had on the burner for a long time and have started writing more than once before. Now my dearest reader asks the question and I’m motivated to come up with a concise response. “Getting saved,” in the parlance of Evangelical Protestants, refers to the experience of salvation by faith, being regenerated and justified by God’s grace, receiving the Holy Spirit, and becoming a Christian. It’s not a term that Catholics generally talk about: In the Catholic understanding, as I’ve discussed before, salvation is not a singular, one-time event, but a journey and a process, an ongoing series of events and encounters with God’s grace, especially through the Sacraments. The reader will know from my blog how one already a Christian becomes a Catholic; but how does one who has no relationship with God at all, the unchurched sinner, become a Christian in the Catholic Church? Does one pray a “sinner’s prayer”? I was taken aback by the question; I’d never really thought about it. The “sinner’s prayer,” in the Evangelical tradition, is a simple acknowledgement to God that one is a sinner in need of His grace and salvation, repenting of those sins and asking Him to come into one’s life and heart. In the traditions my reader and I grew up in, “praying the sinner’s prayer” is shorthand for salvation, after which one is “saved”; and while many even in those traditions would admit that God continues to work in our lives through sanctification, that is generally understood to be “it,” all there is to “getting saved.” (Interestingly, even in the Southern Baptist Convention there has been a recent turn away from this attitude.) Generally speaking, no, Catholics do not believe that praying a “sinner’s prayer,” by itself, will “get one saved.” So, if, in the Catholic understanding, salvation is a journey, how does one take her first steps? Sacramentally speaking, Baptism is the entrance into the Christian life of grace and into the Church, one’s initial justification and when one can rightly say to be “getting saved.” But generally, one must go through months of classes as a catechumen in RCIA before one can even be baptized — which seems to the Evangelical mind to be the very antithesis of evangelism and outreach, making it positively difficult, apparently, for sinners to come into the kingdom. (The critic would raise, and he would be right, that the earliest Christians in Acts 2 didn’t have to endure through months of a catechumenate before they could receive Baptism. But St. Justin Martyr attests that by the mid–second century, some period of preparation and instruction in Christian doctrine was required. There are exceptions: Any priest can expedite the process of initiation if there is a good reason to, e.g. the catechumen demonstrates a thorough understanding of what she’s getting herself into; and in fact anyone, even a layperson, can baptize in cases of dire need, e.g. the sinner is in danger of death. Since the earliest times, the Church has understood that for the catechumen awaiting Baptism who dies in that desire, God works that saving grace anyway.) What is the sinner supposed to do, then, who longs to know God and partake of His grace, but is told she has to wait and first be instructed? The Evangelical mode, at least, serves that immediate moment and desire — though there is then the danger of considering salvation “over and done.” And certainly, there is that desire, and it can start with a moment, and in that moment and even before, God’s grace is working in the sinner’s life, calling her to repentance and faith. I think one reason Evangelical Protestants so easily misunderstand the Catholic view of salvation, calling it salvation by works in contrast to salvation by faith, is because faith is immediate and cannot be put off. Saying that salvation begins with Baptism seems to dismiss the role of faith and place emphasis on what seems to be a work. But just as the Catholic understanding of salvation is that of a journey, the preparation for that journey is itself a journey, the journey to the baptismal font: and in those initial steps God’s grace is already working, cultivating the sinner’s faith. Marriage begins with a wedding: a pledge of faith, commitment, covenant, and espousal; but generally, one does not choose to be married unless one already has faith in one’s betrothed: one’s relationship with the Bridegroom has already been building for some time. Catholics take a long and patient view of salvation; and we should: we’ve been ushering sinners down that road for 2,000 years! I would say, now that I’ve thought about it, that something like a “sinner’s prayer” is a good first step, even for embarking on the Catholic road: not that the formulaic words themselves are efficacious or “get one saved,” but that the confession that one is a sinner and wants to make Jesus Christ Lord of one’s life is an appropriate response to what is surely the grace of God already working in one’s life and bringing one to repentance and faith. Pray a “sinner’s prayer”; better yet, make that confession out loud to God and to others. Begin reading the Bible and the Catechism and attending Mass. Talk to a priest and enroll in RCIA. Through all this, God is working in your life, building you in faith, drawing you nearer to Him; and when it does come time for you to receive the graces of Baptism and the Sacraments, you will be saved by faith
Feast of Saint Michael
SAINT MICHAEL is the prince of the heavenly armies, who first contended against the proud Lucifer. The holy Church honors him as a particular defender, and the faithful call upon him in all dangers of soul and body, but they particularly implore his intercession at the hour of death, in order that, after having, according to his example, courageously fought against Satan, they may receive the crown of victory, and that their souls may by him be brought before the throne of God. Let us also venerate him, and, full of confidence, cry out with the holy Church, “Holy archangel Michael, protect us in battle that we may not perish in the tremendous judgment.”
O God, Who with wonderful order dost direct the ministry of angels and of men, mercifully grant that our life on earth may be protected by those who ever minister before Thee in heaven. Amen.
EPISTLE. Apocalypse i. 1-5.
In those days God made known the things which must shortly come to pass and signified, sending by His angel to His servant John, who hath given testimony to the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, what things soever He hath seen. Blessed is he that readeth and heareth the words of this prophecy: and keepeth those things which are written in it. For the time is at hand. John to the seven churches which are in Asia : Grace be unto you and peace from Him that is, and that was, and that is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, Who is the faithful witness, the first-begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, Who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins, in His own blood. This epistle is read to-day because St. Michael so bravely contended against the sedition of Satan, and, after gaining the victory, drove him and his adherents from heaven.
GOSPEL. Matt, xviii. 1-10.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest Thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus calling unto Him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. Wo to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless, wo to that man by whom the scandal cometh. And if thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee having one eye to enter into life, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father Who is in heaven.
Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
Great prince of heaven, St. Michael, to thy protection I commend my soul and body, and, by the glory which thou possesses in heaven, I beseech thee that thou wouldst ever assist me, particularly at the close of my life; that thou wouldst strengthen my faint-heartedness, and obtain for me from God the remission of my sins, and an entire submission to His holy will, that my soul may depart full of comfort. Then receive it, and bring it, under the guidance of the holy angels, before the face of God, to enjoy the contemplation of Him for all eternity. Amen.
St. Michael, Champion of the Church
The Church of God has always considered Saint Michael as its special protector. The archangel himself has acknowledged this to Constantine after the completion of a church in his honor saying,
“I am Michael, the chief of the angelic legions of the Lord of hosts, the protector of the Christian religion, who whilst thou wast battling against godless tyrants, placed the weapons in thy hands.”
Assuredly, St. Michael will not fail to come to the aid of our Holy Church. His assistance shall be forth coming in these troubled times when legions of evil are visible throughout the world exciting the minds of men. We behold their activities in the events of the media and the world-wide propaganda against morality and religion everywhere. Yet, despite this we are beneath his mighty leadership and with the aid of his own unvanquishable legions we shall not fail.
Michaelmas (September 29th) 
The anniversary of the dedication of St. Michael the Archangel's basilica outside of Rome by Pope Boniface II in 530 A.D. affords the Church the opportunity to honor one of its most significant saints. Tradition holds that Michael is the heavenly spirit who cast Satan and his minions into Hell after their revolt from God. As the "Governor of Heaven" (Praepositus Paradisi), he is ranked only below the Mother of God in the Confiteor. The Roman church also identifies him as the angel whom St. John saw in heaven standing near the altar of God and offering the prayers of the saints like an odor of sweetness (see the offertory blessing of incense at a High Mass). He is also singled out in the Requiem Mass as the banner-bearer who leads the departed to purgatory and heaven (see offertory prayers). Finally, Michael's victory over the devil's army renders him not only the patron saint of souls, but of Christian soldiers. All of this leads to the conclusion that Michael is one of our most potent allies and helps us see why the Roman rite has traditionally venerated him with such affection and respect.
Consequently, Michaelmas (pronounced "mikk-el-mes") was one of the great public holidays and religious feasts of early and medieval Europe. Saint Michael's parades, Michael's fairs, Michael's Plays, etc. would in many places constitute the climax of autumn harvest celebrations. Michaelmas also coincided with the "quarter days" in Northern Europe, one of the four times in the year when free men would sit in court, make laws, and pay rents.
Things to do:
· This is a good feast to learn more about the angels. Children especially are fascinated by these celestial beings. The best place to start is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 328-336 to see the teachings of the Church on angels. John Paul II also did a Catechesis on the Angels during his General Audiences from July 9 to August 20, 1986.
· Find the passages in the Bible about angels, in particular the passages about Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.
· Read the section on angels in the Directory on Popular Piety and Liturgy. The document examines the doctrine and devotions of the angels. Devotion to angels is good, but also can have deviations.
Devotion to the Holy Angels gives rise to a certain form of the Christian life which is characterized by:
· devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of man.
· an attitude of devotion deriving from the knowledge of living constantly in the presence of the Holy Angels of God — serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of His Holy Angels. Among the prayers to the Guardian Angels the Angele Dei is especially popular, and is often recited by families at morning and evening prayers, or at the recitation of the Angelus.
217. Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations:
· when, as sometimes can happen, the faithful are taken by the idea that the world is subject to demiurgical struggles, or an incessant battle between good and evil spirits, or Angels and daemons, in which man is left at the mercy of superior forces and over which he is helpless; such cosmologies bear little relation to the true Gospel vision of the struggle to overcome the devil, which requires moral commitment, a fundamental option for the Gospel, humility and prayer;
· when the daily events of life, which have nothing or little to do with our progressive maturing on the journey towards Christ are read schematically or simplistically, indeed childishly, so as to ascribe all setbacks to the devil and all success to the Guardian Angels. The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.
· Also read All About the Angels.
· Memorize the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Although no longer formally recited after Mass, our Holy Father John Paul II has encouraged us to recite this prayer daily. Read about this prayer. Here is the Regina Caeli message from April 24, 1994 during which the pope encouraged this prayer.
· In honor of St. Gabriel, Learn the Angelus and recite it daily. Traditionally, the prayer is prayed at the 6:00 and 12:00 hours (am and pm). There is a partial indulgence attached to those who pray this prayer.
· Read the Book of Tobit for the story of St. Raphael helping Tobit and Tobias.
· Make some recipes related to Michaelmas. Of special mention is the St. Michael Bannock from Scotland, roast goose and stuffing from Britain, waffles from France, and roast duck from Germany or France, gnocchi from Italy. Blackberries, apples and carrots also play a large role on this feast in various countries. Other ideas: make an angel food cake, devil's food cake or angel hair pasta. Decorate with white, symbolizing the angels, or use other symbolic colors (see above). Non-dessert items: deviled eggs, deviled meats, etc.
· Try to find the Michaelmas daisy, a purple aster, to use for decoration. It also comes in other colors, including white, but purple is the most popular. It usually blooms in late summer until October. The official name is Aster novi-belgii, but is also known as New York aster. If you find plants or seeds to plan for next year's garden. This site has photos and gardening information for the Michaelmas daisy.
Folklore in the British Isles suggests that
Michaelmas day is the last day that blackberries can be picked. It is said that
when St. Michael expelled Lucifer, the devil, from heaven, he fell from the
skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, scorched
them with his fiery breath, and stamped and spat on them, so that they would be
unfit for eating. A traditional Irish proverb says:
On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on the blackberries.
If you have access to blackberries, make this the last picking and eating. Perhaps make a blackberry pie? See Michaelmas Pie for a great recipe.
The Catholic Tradition of Harvest Feasts of Thanksgiving
The High Middle Ages (approximately 1000 to 1250 A.D.) marked the beginning of harvest feasts of thanksgiving with Catholic nations. These festivals were attached to particular saint or feast days. Not all days were celebrated everywhere, but they would vary in different countries throughout the liturgical year. Each date links to the CatholicCulture.org page on which the sidebar provides further information in the sections of Activities, Prayers, Recipes, etc. for the feast day:
- Feast of St. Michael or Michaelmas, September 29—In England this was a “quarter day” and huge harvest feast, with a roasted goose as the centerpiece.
- Solemnity of All Saints, November 1—All Saints’ Day was originally on May 13 in Rome, but the feast day was transferred to November 1, right at the time of harvest to provide food for the pilgrims traveling to Rome. I wouldn’t say this was an official harvest feast, but the timing was around the harvest. I have also included it because of Father Joseph Minihan’s article: The Church’s Thanksgiving Day.
- Feast of St. Martin or Martinmas, November 11—For most of the European continent Martinmas was the biggest and final fall harvest feast. The festivities were especially for the wine harvest and the great winter slaughters of animals. The feasting usually centered around a Martinmas goose accompanied with apples. Advent used to be 40 days in length, beginning a few days after St. Martin’s. There were more strenuous requirements of fasting and abstinence, so Martinmas would also be a celebration to use up fats and meats in preparation for Advent, similar to Fat Tuesday before Lent. See my previous post, Feastday Highlights: 11-11, Honoring the Real St. Martin of Tours.
- Feast of St. Leopold, November 15—Most of Austria would wait for their fall harvest feast until St. Leopold’s day, as he is the patron saint of Austria. Today was also referred to as “Goose Day” in Austria.
- Feast of St. Andrew, November 30—In Britain also known as “Andermess,” this marks the end of autumn and the last harvest feast. In later centuries when Advent was shortened, November 30 marked the beginning of the Advent season. See more information in my previous post, Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with St. Andrew.
Thursday is the day of the week that our Lord gave himself up for consumption. Thursday commemorates the last supper. Some theologians believe after Sunday Thursday is the holiest day of the week. We should then try to make this day special by making a visit to the blessed sacrament chapel, Mass or even stop by the grave of a loved one. Why not plan to count the blessing of the week and thank our Lord. Plan a special meal. Be at Peace.
Feast of the day: Vodka Sauce Chicken Parmesan (Couldn’t find a goose for a tradition St. Michael’s day feast-Vodka sauce is made with Grey Goose Vodka)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
PART THREE: LIFE IN CHRIST
SECTION ONE-MAN'S VOCATION LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
1699 Life in the Holy Spirit fulfills the vocation of man (chapter one). This life is made up of divine charity and human solidarity (chapter two). It is graciously offered as salvation (chapter three).
· Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus
 The Collegeville Bible Commentary
 Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896.
 St. Michael and the Angels, Tan Books, 1983.