The World Is Changing

The world is changing.  Russia’s annexation of Crimea is the first time since 1945 that the armies of a major world power have crossed an international border and seized territory with the intent of keeping that territory for itself.  A revolution in world affairs has just occurred; the passing shadow of this world that we have known for the entire life span of most of the people reading these words has ended.  Many are still putting their heads in the sand about this fact but doubtless it will not be too many more days, weeks, or months (I very much doubt that it will be years) before that is no longer an option.  The Western world’s morality sunk into the toilet two generations ago and is now flushing itself into the sewer, so it would be ridiculous to think that they could keep up their geopolitical domination of the planet in their present moral state.  The world is changing so we must pray.  Pray the Rosary every day.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary

Once again my own personal thoughts, interspersed with those of others and doubtless not originating with me in any case, borne of time spent meditating on the Luminous Mysteries.  If I repeat anything that anyone else has written elsewhere without giving them due credit then I beg forgiveness as it is not intentional.

The Luminous Mysteries begin with the Baptism of the Lord in the Jordan River.  John the Baptist had been going throughout the Jordan river valley preaching a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins, the vox clamantis in deserto; Dirigite viam Domini!  Just as the prophet Isaiah had proclaimed eight centuries before: here was this man dressed in rough clothes shouting back into the ‘civilized’ world from the wild lands that something new was coming, something wholly unexpected, and that they had better prepare themselves.  Then one day Jesus walks up to him beside the Jordan river and he cries out: Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi.  This is a cry echoed down to this day by the priest celebrating Mass when he holds up the consecrated Host before the faithful and calls out: Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sin of the world.  Our Lord is then baptized by John in the Jordan, plunged down underneath the waters then raised up anew into the air to breathe.  Our Lord’s Baptism is both a prefiguring of the future and look back into the past.  There is much commentary from the Fathers of the Church about how this event prefigures the death of Our Lord and his laying in the tomb only to be raised back up on the third day.  Also this is linked to the Israelites crossing the Red Sea during the Exodus.  Once He is back on dry land the Holy Spirit descends like a dove down upon Him and the voice of the Father rings out: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi complacui.

The Wedding at Cana is Our Lord’s first public miracle.  The details are thus: Jesus, his mother, and his disciples are attending a wedding at Cana in Galilee when the guests’ supply of wine runs out.  Mary sees this and runs to her son to ask Him to help.  He asks what concern it is of theirs since it is not yet his hour and she tells the servants to do whatever He tells them.  Jesus tells them to fill up six giant cisterns used for the extensive and elaborate Jewish ceremonial washing of the day with water, and to take a cup of that water to the chief steward.  The chief steward takes a drink and, to paraphrase St. John, discovers that this stuff is the best wine he has ever tasted and goes on to scold the (probably completely confused and perplexed) host because he did not serve it sooner.  What to make of this?  How do we think of this as we meditate?  One way is to use this is as an excellent meditation on the relationship between Our Lord and his Mother: those who go through her to find Him will not fail.  Another is to take a cue from Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth: from the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration where he points out that this is a prefiguring of how Our Lord would cleanse the world with his own Blood.  The fact that the ineffectual water in these ceremonial washing cisterns would be replaced by the wine of the Mass, the Blood of the New and everlasting Covenant, is inescapable here I think.

Quoniam implementum est tempus, et appropinquavit regnum Dei: poenitemini, et credite Evangelio.  “The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the Gospel. (Mk. 1: 15)”  The first public proclamation of his mission from the lips of Our Lord Himself.  The public birth of the new age and the new world.  The Old Law has now been fulfilled and the New is being born.  The Author of Life is in our midst from this moment until the end of time.  I like to meditate for the Mystery of the Proclamation of the Kingdom on the relationship of Jesus Christ’s above cited proclamation in Mark to the Hail Mary itself.  Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum; Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.  The Angel’s announcement to Mary in the grotto of the Annunciation announced that the time had now been fulfilled and accomplished: the birth of the new world was at hand.  Benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui Iesus; Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.  Through the acquiescence of Mary Jesus was born in the world and in Him and through the choice of his Mother the kingdom of God has come to us.  Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus nunc et in hora mortis nostrae; Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Pray for us O Holy Mother of God that we repent and believe in the Gospel, and that we enter the kingdom of God.

The Transfiguration is Jesus revelation of his divinity to his apostles.  Peter, James, and John climb the mountain, following Him up to the high peak and are tired.  After a deep sleep they awaken to see Our Lord clothed with the sun and two men, who would have been to their minds the two greatest human beings ever to walk the earth, Moses and Elijah at his feet.  This reveals to them the superiority of this man over all other men who have ever lived.  An oft expressed point that I have heard in homilies on this subject is that, seeing this incredible scene, the three apostles want to stay.  They don’t want to go back down the mountains; they want to stay there forever and wait on the three.  This is why Peter wants to erect three tents.  The will of God is of course something else.  The voice of the Father comes down from the heavens, echoing his words at the Lord’s Baptism, and tells them to listen to his Son.  A message is this: God will take whom He wills in this world up to the mountaintop and reveal Himself to them but we do not stay there.  We must listen to Our Lord and follow Him down from the mountain on his journey to Jerusalem and take up the Cross.

The Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist.  The beginning of the Mass.  In the Gospel of Luke Our Lord tells his apostles at the Last Supper that He had greatly desired to eat that meal with them before He suffered.  When we think of Him not as a thirty year old carpenter from Nazareth but as the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity this statement take on a whole new significance.  This was the Word who had created the world.  He was there at the beginning; He was there when Adam and Eve fell from grace; He was there when Cain murdered his brother Abel; He who warned Noah of the Flood; it was He who called Abram from his father’s house in Haran and brought him to the land of Canaan promising to multiply his offspring like the sands of the seashore; it was He spoke to Moses from the burning bush; He who guided the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land; He who spoke through the prophets of Israel.  Now here He was, and here He is in every Mass, offering Himself for the forgiveness of sins to set right what once went wrong.  The Institution of the Most Holy Eucharist truly fulfills the exclamation of John the Baptist that begins the Luminous Mysteries: Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi.

The Luminous Mysteries were first proposed by Blessed John Paul II in his 2002 Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.  There are those who are skeptical of these Mysteries because of their lack of antiquity but this is the way of the Rosary.  The Rosary is a living devotion.  It was first given to St. Dominic by the Blessed Mother during the early 13th century and the details of its early history, save that there was a combination of meditation on the mysteries of our salvation and the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin (The Angelical Salutation), is quite murky.  It was not until 1569, some 350 years later, that Pope St. Pius V finalized the 15 ‘traditional’ Mysteries.  The Luminous Mysteries, when combined with the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries are a completion of the picture of the life of Christ and doubtless bring one closer to Him.

Offer the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, for its liberty and its salvation and the restoration of its ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome, and for the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The See of Alexandria

It is hard to imagine the Catholic Church as we know it without the contributions of the See of Alexandria.  Reputed by tradition to have been founded by the evangelist St. Mark, the list of Fathers of the Church who came from the school of Alexandria is too long to cover fully but includes such great names as St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St. Athanasius, and St. Cyril of Alexandria.  The doctrines concerning the Trinity and the Person of Christ as we now have them came largely from the work of the school of Alexandria and as such this ancient See has had more influence on the Catholic Church save any but the Apostolic See of Rome.

Alexandria was already a great city at the turn of the age when the Incarnation occurred.  The city was founded in Egypt just west of the Nile Delta three hundred years earlier by Alexander the Great as he stormed out on his road of conquest and was ruled by his successors the Ptolemies for the next three centuries until Octavian defeated Cleopatra who had made common cause with his rival Marc Antony at Actium in 31 B.C. and absorbed Alexandria and the Nile Valley into the Roman Empire thus completing the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean and making Alexandria the second city of the empire and the great city of the East.  During their reign the Ptolemies sought to collect all of the literature, scientific, and philosophical knowledge from around the known world and store it in the Library of Alexandria which transformed the city into the intellectual powerhouse of the Mediterranean world.

The Church came early to Alexandria.  There were Jews from Egypt visiting Jerusalem who were converted by St. Peter’s sermon preached from the Upper Room on Pentecost (Acts 2: 16), but we do not have a specific date beyond that for the establishment of the church of Alexandria.  Tradition tells us that St. Mark the evangelist and companion of Saints Peter and Paul was its founder but it is a rather sketchy though not necessarily unreliable tradition.  The church of Alexandria and its catechetical school developed fast however due to the city’s reputation in the Empire with those who were following intellectual pursuits.  By the second century already many of the leading thinkers and theologians of the Church came from Alexandria.

Origen at the beginning of the third century began seriously to tackle the question of the Trinity and, although he seems to have fallen into error at the end of his life, his work had an impact on the Church which continues to this day.  The Trinity was to remain a fixation of the city and its school after the Edict of Milan and during all of the Christological disputes of the subsequent centuries.  The Arian heresy was born in Alexandria with the preaching of Arius but its intellectual foundation stemmed from Antioch.  During the subsequent centuries of dispute and discord Alexandria produced many great defenders of the Divinity of Christ and of the Trinity; first among them St. Athanasius.

The dispute over the nature of Christ was to be the death knell of the unity of the Alexandrian church.  Following the declarations of the two natures of Christ by the Council of Chalcedon a large segment of the church of Alexandria split off and formed what was to become the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt.  These theological and Christological disputes thus began to merge with imperial political disputes and the influence of the Alexandrian church rapidly diminished.  The city and its church was largely cut off from Rome and Constantinople after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the middle seventh century.  The city of Alexandria rapidly diminished in importance with the cutting off of trans Mediterranean trade by the Islamic conquests and the center of gravity of Egyptian life moved south to Cairo.

The Catholic Church was then largely removed from Egyptian life but Coptic church has endured and Christians continued to form a majority of the Egyptian population well into the Middle Ages before falling prey to the Islamization policies of Egypt’s Mameluke rulers following the Mongol invasions of the Middle East during 13th century.  Coptic Christians today form about 10% of the Egyptian population but have been placed in an extremely precarious position by the ongoing upheaval in that country over the last three years.  The current Patriarch of Alexandria, the Coptic ‘pope’, is Theodoros (Tawadros) II in his office since November 18, 2012.  Pray the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, for its liberty and its salvation, for the restoration of its ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Muslim peoples.