Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Thursday, January 17, 2019

"a bruised reed he shall not break"

"a bruised reed he shall not break" was in one of the Biblical readings from the Old Testament (Isaiah 42) on Sunday January 13, 2019 at Holy Rosary Roman Catholic parish in Toronto where we attended Mass. The words "a bruised reed he shall not break" reminded me of Our Lord Jesus Christ who was described in such a beautiful expression that he does not break the little souls but rather as he said "The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19: 10). It is also a reminder to us of our generous heavenly Father who did not wait for his lost son to complete his return to the home of his father but threw himself on his rebellious son and asked his servants to celebrate the son's return; for he "was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'" (Luke 15: 32). Fr. George Farah described the "Parable of the Lost Son" very well. The reader may wish to reflect on it here. In 1973, I listened to the late Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III commenting on God's love for the little souls where he mentioned "a bruised reed he shall not break". His lecture was so much imprinted in my memory that soon after coming to Canada, I asked the servants in the Coptic Orthodox parish in Toronto whether they had a tape of the sermon that I could buy. On January 7, 2019, his successor the open-minded Pope Tawadros II headed the celebration of our Lord's nativity in the new larger Cathedral of the Nativity in the new Administrative Capital in Egypt.  He was accompanied by Coptic Orthodox Archbishops and Bishops in the Mass sung by a large choir of the ancient Church as the Egyptian President visited and said a word to all Egyptians; a gesture of good will to Egyptian Christians that he insisted on since he became the Egyptian leader in 2013. The reader may wish to see the Mass or excerpts here.
In his homily on Sunday January 13, 2019, the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad commented on the new baptism that Jesus Christ ushered in the world (in French "Lui vous baptisera dans l’Esprit et le Feu" here). Baptism makes us children of God, and children of the Church, he said. Is this designation for children of God limited to Christians? How about the Prophets and the sheep of Israel that came before Christ? How about non-Christians who seek the truth in their lives as much as they are able? Are Muslims, that we always see around, destined for hell? How about those who no longer practice their faith? Atheists? Are they too destined for hell? And his reassuring answer was "No." He quoted St. Augustine's "Many are in the Church but are not in her, and many are outside the Church, yet they are Christians." Everyone who seeks the truth can hope for eternal life in the love of our merciful Father of all. It is in the mystical Body of Christ that people are baptized by the Holy Spirit (i.e. the Spirit of Truth) and fire (the warmth of love). In the 19th century, Pope Blessed Pius IX had justified the possibility of salvation of those who did not hear the Gospel "Invincible Ignorance" reiterated by the Holy See in the case of the Jesuit priest Fr. Leonard Finney who in 1949 had  mistakenly said that "outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation" (see an article on this here)  The Ecumenical Second Vatican Council took Pope Pius IX's declaration further as a reference when the Fathers of the Council issued in 1964 the Church's Dogmatic Constitution (Lumen Gentium) which can be read here. Of particular relevance is Paragraph 16 - There the reader will find "Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention." - I have omitted the reference numbers that are found in official Church declarations but the interested reader can always find them here
In 2000, The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published "Dominus Iesus" approved by Pope Saint John Paul II. In it, the faithful are reminded that salvation is possible only through the Lord Jesus Christ (here). Of particular relevance is this paragraph:
[Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, “does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors'”. Therefore, the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain.]
In 2008, the late American Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote an article in "First Things" which I shared and discussed with Fr. Daniel Callam since I see in it Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman's "The Development of Christian Doctrine"- In this case, it is in my opinion an expression of the development of the doctrine of salvation (found also in the insistence of the Alexandrian Bishops on  using new non-Biblical expressions for the faith at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD) ...The article (Who can be saved?) can be read here.
I thank God for the much healing and knowledge that God provided me through prayers and suffering of my parents, parents-in-law, family, brothers and sisters-in-law as well as many friends, students, priests and bishops that I know or knew and great doctors who helped me live and through-whom God extended my life. I am thankful particularly for Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J., Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, S.J., Fr. Rafic Greiche (Pastor of St. Cyril's Greek Melkite Catholic parish in Heliopolis, Egypt) - His recent beautiful sermon on Jesus leaving his town Nazareth - where he grew to preach in Capernaum, make disciples and serve - does reflect a deep understanding of the person by Fr. Rafic Greiche - the baby who leaves the womb of his mother to start life; the student who leaves home with his parents blessing to start school; the university student who looks for the one to share life with; and the couple who get married to share life and beget new life in spite of much sacrifice - It is a vocation given by God - Read it here in Arabic. I am also thankful for Msgr. Robert Nusca Pastor of Holy Rosary Roman Catholic parish in Toronto who continues to provide me access to the online Catholic site Formed.org which is a source of much teaching sponsored by The Augustine Institute. There, I read the great sacrifice of life by Saint Maximilian Kolbe for a fellow person imprisoned with him by the Nazi occupation in Poland as well as a retreat for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I am thankful too for  Fr. Daniel Callam, CSB the moderate Thomist and great preacher who teaches frequently at St. Thomas University in Houston;  Fr. Georges Farah (highly-knowledgeable and former Pastor of Jesus the King Melkite Catholic parish in Toronto) together with Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, BSO (current Pastor at Jesus the King) and the Assistant Pastors Fr. Michel Chalhoub and Fr. Youhanna Hanna.
In science and scientific research, readers may wish to read how Artificial Intelligence will revolutionize business performance according to a recent IBM study. The findings were published by TechRepublic on January 15, 2019 (here).  In an article published by Quanta Magazine on January 16, 2019,  findings that the brain maps out ideas and memories like spaces by the Neuroscientist Professor Dr. John O'Keefe were commented on here. In late December 2018, scientists from CERN published reports on their findings throughout the past year including more findings of the early hot universe, compared to findings by the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in the U.S. and new "Higgs signatures". Interested readers may wish to read it here and share the content.
Our concerns remain regarding promiscuity and the permissive culture in the West and on the other hand Islamic Radicalism that continues to rock the world - The atheistic world needs to wake up for there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom everyone may attain eternal joy. See my post here.
Since tomorrow marks the first day of prayers for Christian unity, let us ask our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ to help Christians attain complete unity through the intercession of his mother and ours, the Church: the Ever Virgin Mary.
Need we say more? I would rather sing this beautiful hymn with the congregation at St. Anne's in Belfast...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw5ZCZeS32M  
Notes:
1) Msgr. Robert Nusca, Pastor of Holy Rosary Catholic parish in Toronto, is a renowned Biblical scholar, Senior Fellow at St. Paul's Center. He holds a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is Professor of Biblical Studies at St. Augustine's Seminary; a member College of the Toronto School of Theology affiliated with the University of Toronto.
2) Fr. Henri Boulad, S.J. is a Jesuit scholar whose homilies in French are uploaded weekly on YouTube. Fluent in French, English and Arabic, he is a missionary who went to The Sudan in the 1980s, and tours Europe and Canada every year where he gives homilies and retreats as he does also in Egypt where he is resident. He taught theology at the High Institute of Theology in Cairo and visited Lebanon where he gave retreats.
3) Fluent in Arabic, French, and English, Fr. Georges Farah is a Lebanese Melkite Catholic scholar whose credentials include a doctorate in philosophy and another in theology from the renowned Sorbonne University in Paris.

4) Fr. Daniel Callam, CSB earned a Master's degree in Mathematics from the University of Toronto followed by a Doctorate degree in Divinity/Theology from Oxford University. He continues to teach theology and philosophy at St. Thomas University in Houston.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Today's Epiphany

Epiphany is such a beautiful expression in Christian life. In the ancient Church, it is marked by the baptism of Jesus Christ our Lord when he was baptized by John the Baptist by immersion in the water of the Jordan river - The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove on the Son of God and a voice was heard from heaven "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3: 21-22). In the ancient Church, receiving the Sacrament of Baptism of a Christian was the first event in his new life. In baptism the baptized person receives the Divine Christ who resurrected from the dead and is cleansed from their sins. He would first face West and renounce the Devil and his works of darkness, then face East symbolizing that a new day has dawned on him/her. The Bishop would proceed to baptize the person by immersing him/her in water three times. The person to be baptized would have to answer a question from the Creed every time before the immersion: Do you believe in God the Father Almighty?  Answer: I do - Do you believe in Jesus Christ his only Son? Answer: I do - Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy catholic Church? Answer: I do (Source: https://formed.org/study/ from Augustine Institute - presented by Dr. Edward Sri; with special thanks to Msgr. Robert Nusca, Pastor of Holy Rosary parish in Toronto and his team for providing the access code). This experience of the Sacrament of Baptism is the same in the Churches of the East. Some ancient Christian Churches such as the Coptic and Armenian Churches still celebrate Christmas on January 6 - Now January 7 due to the difference between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Epiphany is celebrated on January 6, but refers to the event of the Magi arrival to worship the newborn king of the Jews as the stars guided them (Matthew 2: 1-12). The Magi were astronomers in the first century BC (i.e. Before Christ) who followed the movement of stars and planets and interpreted them according to their beliefs. "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and came to do him homage" they asked as they arrived in Jerusalem. As Herod the King boiled at the idea that there is the probability of another king just born, he sought the advice of the chief priests as to where the Prophets indicated where the King of the Jews, son of David, will be born. They told him "in Bethlehem of Judea" (Matthew 2: 5). He then asked the Magi to go worship the new king and come back to tell him so that he can go and do him homage too. The Magi found Jesus in the manger with his mother and presented him their gifts. In a vision they were told to ignore Herod and go directly back to their land in Persia. They were probably the first to evangelize their world about Christ! The theological School of Nisbis was founded by the Christian community near Persia in the 3rd century. It was influential in Mesopotamia and the East (Cf. John Meyndorff; Imperial unity and Christian divisions; 1989) - Correction may be required as to dates, but the idea is highly significant.
In his homily on Epiphany, the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad spoke of Jerusalem where the Magi first went. He made the clear view that the Council of Jerusalem opened the nascent Church to the nations not requiring them to become Jews first before they are baptized in Christ. According to him this was Catholicity or the Universal Church - a concept introduced by the first Jesuits in China when they accommodated the liturgy to the diverse cultures of the Chinese people. It is the same universality that Vatican II in the 1960s also called for. His homily is found in French here.

How does this square in with modern science and the findings of the Big Bang? There are many good answers for Christians today; notably Joseph Ratzinger's "An Introduction to Christianity" (Revised Edition, 2004). In it Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI shows that the Church accepts quantum mechanics based on Schrodinger's particle-wave superposition. He interprets the experiment as the subjective experience of the scientist's mind (created by the of Super-mind of God - Read me here). I wrote about the "Quantum Universe" here. In Quanta Magazine, a recent article published in December 2018 shows how a new experiment conducted in Paris demonstrated that quantum communication is superior to classical ways of transmitting information (read it here). An article published on January 4, 2019 in LiveScience further makes the claim that combines the gravitational fields found by Einstein with Quantum fields (see it here). The most intriguing lecture given by Professor Tong at Cambridge in 2017 (here) was a step to another event conducted by Dr.Brian Greene at the World Science Festival in February 2018 (here). Another fascinating talk about Quantum Physics and Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity was given by Dr. Philip Ball at Cambridge in September 2018 (see it here). There is yet a more recent article written here by Dr. Robert Kurland on January 3, 2019  in the Catholic Magis Center (https://www.magiscenter.com) where he questions whether Quantum Mechanics speaks to Catholic teaching. His opinion may be pessimistic. Read carefully The Nobel-Laureate Feynman Lectures on Quantum Physics here and Nanotechnology here. At CERN, a recent report published on December 19, 2018 here shows that new projects are underway and are designed to provide answers to the host of unresolved questions relating to matter and the universe, such as the nature of dark matter, which makes up most of the universe, and the mysterious imbalance between matter and antimatter.
It is a fact that discoveries in modern science became possible through much thought that goes back to the philosophical inquiries by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Albert the Great who brought out the so called "Philosophy of Nature" of Aristotle. Professor John Haldane commented with other scholars on the impact of St. Thomas Aquinas that continues to be taught in universities - Listen to BBC program here.
It is fair to say that St. John of Damascus, an Eastern theologian, who lived in Syria and spoke Arabic before becoming a monk in Palestine has influenced Medieval Western Christianity by his theological writings in Greek and was called "The first Scholastic" (Cf. The Catholic Encyclopedia here)

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018: A Year in Review

I thank God for the way he blessed me and extended my life through the work of giant physicians since May 1986 (over 32 years ago). I thank God for my wife and children who generously care for me as well as my brothers, sisters-in-law and their children and those who call me almost daily to ask about my health (If interested see the post in October 2018 here and this one ten years earlier in July 2008 here). I would like to mention my devoted students at Jesus the King Melkite Catholic parish whom I taught "Christian Questions Today" for 7 years.
Yesterday December 30, 2018 was the memorial of the Holy Family. At Holy Rosary parish in Toronto, Fr. Daniel Callam, CSB, PhD. gave a homily on marriage in Canada and the West in general where same-sex marriage is legal. He compared it to the sacramental marriage in the Church between a man and a woman that is permanent and open to procreation while love between husband and wife constitutes the way children are raised at home before they are in school. The reader may wish to read it here. Fr. Callam holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford University. Quite active, he often lectures at St. Thomas University in  Houston, Texas. A few days ago I found the conversion story of R.R. Reno (who is now the Editor of First Things) to the Catholic Church (here). The Pastor, Msgr. Robert Nusca - a renowned Biblical scholar, who earned his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is quite active, commented on it that it was a good story for the faithful to hold on to the faith.
Yesterday too Jesus the King Council of the Knights of Columbus released its December newsletter - I contributed an article titled "The Gospel of Life" based on the teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II  and so did the Grand Knight, the Ontario State Deputy and the Chaplain (attached).
On Christmas Day I wrote a post commenting on the homily at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration by Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, BSO and showing the beauty of the renowned Homsy choir, the Eastern Byzantine Church and its tradition - It shows also how an Eastern Christian Saint John of Damascus has influenced Christianity in the West in Medieval times - He spoke Arabic and learned Greek and wrote "The Fount of Wisdom" which is a collection of the Fathers and Church teachings  -  John of Damascus fought with his pen the Iconoclast heresy started by the Byzantine emperor Leo the Isorian as the emperor forbade Christians to venerate the icons of Christ and the saints (see it here).
My beloved mentor and Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad continues his active missionary work in Egypt, Europe (particularly in France and Hungary) and in Canada where he gave a retreat in Montreal in October. His latest homilies include this one on Sunday December 23 ("Marie, qui prépare la venue de Jésus ..." here). In his words, Fr. Boulad said that the Holy Spirit drove Mary (already pregnant in Jesus) out of herself as she was able to travel 200 kms on foot to go help her aged cousin Elizabeth.
It is important to recall and relive Christianity based on a good understanding of its history (a slightly long post written here in March 2018).
The Lord' Prayer is an integral prayer that Christians know by heart. It is important to note that "Give us this day our daily bread" is an invitation of Christ to be in us through the reception of his body and blood in the Mystery of the Eucharist (see this essay written in August 2018 here).
Building human civilization in a world that keeps changing with technology is not an easy task, but still an important one. 
If we go back to January 2018, we find "The Axis of History" here based on works by Fr. Henri Boulad, Bishop Robert Barron, and Sir John Polkinghorne. 
With regard to cosmic physics see also my post in June 2018 on Black Holes here.
Recent scientific findings in CERN were announced a few days ago where it published an article titled "The future of particle physics in Europe is taking shape" here. This does not mean that America, Russia, or China is behind in any way. On December 28, 2018, The Washington Post published an article claiming that Russia's military intelligence using advanced computer technology is active in Europe and other parts of the world. Read it here. China's XiPing too is working to assimilate the power of the United States and Russia. MIT Technology Review published recently an  article claiming that the U.S. attempt to keep Artificial Intelligence out of China could actually help China (read it here).
As the business corporate leaders rethink implementations of digital technology, TechRepublic wrote that technologies are driving business in 2019: Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, 5G and edge computing. I had written on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data as well as other information here and here.
I am reading two books that I received a couple of days ago. 
1) The 500-pages "Introduction to Quantum Mechanics" by Professor David Griffiths (He earned his PhD. from Harvard and taught modern physics at 5 universities including University of Massachusetts and Stanford University). It is a text book taught to university students
2) "Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology" by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). In this voluminous book, Ratzinger show the anthropology and development of philosophical thought including the 20th century "Philosophy of History". His theological insight is decidedly "deep in the water", a reference to Christology. 
We have great hopes that in God's merciful love the new year will be a blessing to all of humanity.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Fr. Daniel Callam, CSB, PhD. : The Feast of the Holy Family


Holy Family                            30 xii 2018                    Holy Rosary

I
t has always been difficult for the homilist to preach on the feast of the Holy Family. In the old days, the priest would deliver a string of platitudes about loving mothers, provident fathers and so on. There’s a joke people used to tell about such sermons. After Mass Mrs. Smith said to Mrs. Jones, “I wish I knew as little about marriage as he does.” It’s still difficult to preach on the feast, but for a totally different reason; for how in heaven’s name do you define a family today? There are single-parent families or families with two male, or two female parents. Polygamy—one man with several or even multiple wives—is practised in Canada, and not only by the Mormons in Bountiful B.C. A woman told me that one of her co-workers announced that she was going to be married “in the Moslem way.” When asked what that meant, she replied that she would be the second wife of her husband, not legally, of course, but in accord with the Koran that allows a man to have up to four wives. And then there’s polyandry, a word that you may not know. It refers to one woman with several husbands, in what I might call “the Canadian way,” that is, with only one being legal. The Globe and Mail had a laudatory article on one such “family” a couple of weeks ago, with a photograph of the woman, her two partners and their smiling offspring. Besides these, there are other arrangements that I would not dare to describe or even mention for the pulpit. Concomitant with these developments is the growing discomfort with the terms “husband” and “wife”—now simply “partners,”—with “mother” and “father”—now “parents”—and with “son” and “daughter”—now “offspring” or “sibling.”
What in the world is the poor preacher to say on the feast of the Holy Family? . . . now that we have been educated to be so tolerant that we can no longer tolerate anyone who would question the legitimacy of these new arrangements. It’s not only a difficulty for the preacher, for you like me are members of a Church that views Tradition as valid a vehicle of revelation as Scripture itself. Simply call to mind the language of the creed that we shall shortly recite: we believe in God the Father and God the Son. Are we now to abandon those hallowed titles and in baptizing, instead of using the time-honoured phrase “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” say something like this: “I baptize you in the name of the Source, the Effect and the Union”? Furthermore, in the Bible Jesus is described as the bridegroom of his bride, the Church. Mary, too, we address with the title “Mother of God” and also as our mother. And so on. I fear that if I were merely to enunciate our traditional teaching about marriage some of you would walk out and the rest would bombard me with their hymnals. And it is shocking to modern Canadian ears as you find it in, e.g., the Catechism. Its starting point is what Saint Augustine identified as “the three goods of marriage.”[1] The first is “fidelity,” which points to the mutual love and support of one spouse for the other. Then, “children,” referring to the obligation to provide, and provide for, the next generation. And finally, he speaks of the “sacrament,” i.e., the permanence of Christian marriage in that it is a sacramental sign of Christ’s love for the Church. As he will not abandon his bride, the Church, nor she him, so husband and wife are permanently joined until death separates them.
The most offensive statement in this traditional description of marriage is: “the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children.” A word of caution may be in order before your indignation becomes violent. The word “primary” here is used in the sense that we find it in, e.g., primary school—i.e., the foundation upon which higher learning will be built. Thus, learning one’s ABCs is not superior to reading Shakespeare, but is an essential first step. For, if you cannot read, the great works of literature will remain for you literally a closed book. So too with procreation. It is the biological fact upon which can be raised the edifice of mutual support, a loving relationship and a mature spirituality.
The implications of Saint Augustine’s approach to marriage are wide-ranging, in that the noble titles of husband and wife, mother and father, are paradigmatic for all of society, including those of us who are unmarried. For each one of us, what ever his condition, is called upon to imitate the generous and self-sacrificing service that marriage requires from the spouses in their relationship to one another and to their children. In general, then, we can say that all the machinery of the modern state—industry, government, education, entertainment—is in place to serve the family, i.e., to encourage, to facilitate the union of man and woman in the establishment of a home. Teachers, e.g., act to supplement the education of the young that begins and continues in the home. Commerce, too, exists primarily to provide household goods that it would be too difficult or too time consuming for a family to make on its own. Similarly, government should act to safeguard the public good in passing laws and providing assistance to preserve the well-being of all its members, especially in such things as affordable housing and family assistance. In short, family life, at best, reminds us that the essential purpose of the paraphernalia of society is service rather than profit or self-aggrandizement. You can see, I am sure, that this traditional doctrine constitutes a radical critique of Canada today. But what is one to do? I may not be able directly to alter what is going on in city hall or Queen’s Park or Ottawa; I may not be able to monitor the media; I may not be able to influence the stock market; but I can reflect on my own situation and act so as to conform my behaviour to what is required of a faithful follower of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.a


[1]Fides, proles et sacramentum”; cf. Augustine, De bono coniugali, XXIV.32.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Amazing Christmas Night Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration

I wish to share my joy as we participated in the Christmas Eve Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Transfiguration in the mid-night or rather the very early hours of Tuesday December 25, 2018.  At the Dome of the Cathedral's Byzantine architecture,  the faithful look up Mary Mother of God and her son our Lord Jesus Christ in her lap overlooking the entire creation. The mosaic is called "Our Lady of the Wide Universe" سيدة الرحاب. In the Eastern churches the Virgin Mary is never alone in images as she is always dependent on her son the God-Man. Furthermore, the Eastern churches do not have sculptures of Jesus or saints as in the Roman Catholic churches. The Universal Church built on Christ never tires from building up a civilization of love even if sometimes it is troubled by a few lost sheep. See here a quick overview of the history of Christianity.
The entire Mass was served by the Pastor Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad, BSO; assisted by his Assistant Pastor Fr. Michel Chalhoub, and, for serving the Holy Eucharist, Fr. Youhanna Hanna, MP helped the \above-mentioned priests. In Eastern Churches, parishioners are expected to stand most of the time because when Christ rose from the dead, he raised us with Him. People genuflect but they do not kneel. See this majestic video from a church in Moscow here. Confessionals are not part of the tradition - Generally a person confesses his sins and receives absolution from the parish pastor or another priest associated with the parish (his spiritual advisor).
The renowned Homsy Choir sang the hymns for Christmas including some very beautiful ones: "All of you who have been baptized into Christ, Have put on Christ". With incense going up to the Dome as a sign of praise to the Triune-God, the Choir sings "Magnify, O my soul, the Virgin more glorious than the heavenly powers. Behold a strange and wonderful mystery: the cave is heaven, the Virgin a Cherubic throne, the manger a noble place where reposes Christ the Uncontainable God. Let us praise and magnify him!" In the second kathisma, the Choir continues thus "Mary why are you rapt in wonder? Why are you astounded in your inner self? And she answers: 'Behold: because I have given birth in time to a Son who is not bound by time. I do not even understand how I conceived: how is this possible when I knew not a man? Who ever saw a birth without human seed?' But where God wills, the laws of nature are upset. It was written: 'Christ shall be born of a virgin in Bethlehem of Juda'. (for more on the Homsy Choir hymns in the Divine Liturgy, see their hymns in the first Mass at the Cathedral on Sunday November 27, 2016 here).
After the readings from St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 4: 4-7), and the Gospel according to St. Luke (Luke 2: 1-12), Fr. Ibrahim El-Haddad said an impressive homily which he based on five dimensions for us to learn:
1. In Jesus birth, heaven was brought to earth; the cave contained God so abundantly loving of every person. It is the entire humanity for which Christ was born.
2. The Virgin Mary and Joseph could not find a place in the inn for Jesus to be born. He was born in a manger - It tells us how God is so humble. We learn not to be arrogant and show-off our talents - What each of us has is a gift from God...We should also forgive those who despise us as Christ forgives us.
3. Like the Wise Men (Magi), let us follow the real wisdom of God - Jesus Christ is the "Fount of Wisdom" (See St. John Damascene "Fount of Wisdom" and his great influence on the Western Church that he was called the first scholastic - Written here in the Catholic Encyclopedia). The Choir sings "Your nativity, O Christ our God, has shed the light of knowledge upon the world. Through it, those who had been star-worshipers learned through a star to worship You, O Sun of justice, and recognize in You the One who rises from on high. O Lord, Glory to You!"
St. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote that Christ took on our human nature so that we can put on His Divine Nature" (De Incarnatione Verbi Dei) - "Theosis" is the basis of the call of humanity to God through Christ which was made a reality in the incarnation of the Word of God according to the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad.
3. Bethlehem is a small town. Yet God chose the small and the little to be born in them. Let us not despise the poor and associate our selves with only the rich people on this earth. Let us welcome the poor in our homes and visit the sick and needy. Let us visit the imprisoned and help the unwanted. The Knights of Columbus at Jesus the King is a good starting point for helping others more in need.  (This is important when we consider the crime of abortion which is never justified and the crime of  helping to end someone's life in assisted-suicide of the distressed and highly-sick people. God is the author of life from conception in the womb to natural death. Health-care professionals and patients should be aware of the demands of conscience trained in God's laws.)
4. Let us help our children grow in a Church environment and in a morally-abiding family. Why our youths are not getting married? Rather than spending time watching games let us pray together as much as we can. The birth of Christ ushered the new civilization of love - Build your family on His love.
On some of the above notes see my lectures : Is abortion justified in case of rape? here and Why Our Youths Are Not Getting Married Today here.
Probably the best homily I have ever heard about Christmas comes from the mouth of the Jesuit scholar Fr. Henri Boulad here:
"The scandal of the Incarnation, which means that we cannot believe that God could debase himself , becomes the key and the supreme proof  that this is the truth"


"But a God in heaven well served who looks to me and says 'You suffer. Have courage. Perhaps one day you will be with me in my heaven' is not God. A God who says 'Patience. I am fine here but you over there can suffer' is not God. This is the false God that we, often, figure that he sends us prophets from time to time to console us' . NO, NO. NO. This God who looks to me with a telescope is not my God. I do not want him."

"If there is a phenomenon of atheism today in the West as well as in Egypt, it is precisely because men say we are in fact better than God. The walk that I walk to help when I see a hungry person or a thirsty one or a person without faith, can't God do it? Has he no choice regarding his honor?"

"No. He did it. This is the supreme proof of the Christian Mystery. Do not look somewhere else. 'Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down...' He descended. No more seventh heaven..."

"The only God I can believe, love and worship is the God Jesus Christ because he descended to me."

"'Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down...' "

And the great preacher and Jesuit scholar Henri Boulad finished here his homily.


At Christmas, the surprise disclosed by heaven continues - See "Surprised!" here

It is on this occasion that I thank God for all the care that He has given me through great physicians, my parents, my spouse and her parents , my brothers and their families, and many caring relatives and friends. I wrote a little post here last April about God's love for me that extended my life. 

In closing let us listen to a Christmas hymn received from a very close brother - Here it is.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)







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