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Archive for the ‘Fathers of the Church’ Category

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There is no greater stumbling block in developing the spiritual life than the issue of “unanswered” prayer. When we pray from the depths of our hearts for what we honestly perceive as the good and God seems absent, it can send many into despair. St. Augustine tackles this in today’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours:

St Augustine’s letter to Proba

We do not know how to pray as we ought

Perhaps you may still ask why St Paul said when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, since it is impossible that he or those to whom he wrote should not have known the Lord’s Prayer.

Yet Paul himself was not exempt from such ignorance. When, to prevent him from becoming swollen-headed over the greatness of the revelations that had been given to him, he was given in addition a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, he asked the Lord three times to take it away from him. Surely that was not knowing to pray as he ought? For in the end he heard the Lord’s reply, telling him why even such a great saint’s prayer had to be refused: “My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.”

So when we are suffering afflictions that might be doing us either good or harm, we do not to know how to pray as we ought. But because they are hard to endure and painful, because they are contrary to our nature (which is weak) we, like all mankind, pray to have our afflictions taken from us. At least, though, we owe this much respect to the Lord our God, that if he does not take our afflictions away we should not consider ourselves ignored and neglected, but should hope to gain some greater good through the patient acceptance of suffering. “For my power is at its best in weakness.”

Scripture says this so that we should not be proud of ourselves if our prayer is heard, when we ask for something it would be better for us not to get; and so that we should not become utterly dejected if we are not given what we ask for, despairing of God’s mercy towards us: it might be that what we have been asking for could have brought us some still greater affliction, or it could have brought us the kind of good fortune that brings corruption and ruin. In such cases, it is clear that we cannot know how to pray as we ought.

Hence if anything happens contrary to our prayer, we ought to bear the disappointment patiently, give thanks to God, and be sure that it was better for God’s will to be done than our own. The Mediator himself has given us an example of this. When he had prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by,” he transformed the human will that was in him because he had assumed human nature and added “Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.” Thus, truly, By the obedience of one man many have been made righteous.

In a culture so saturated in addictions of every kind, the recovery of many will probably involve some “thorn in the flesh” for the rest of one’s life. The allure of the addictive behavior in moments of weakness may always be there, and when it manifests, it becomes an opportunity for God to manifest His strength and glory in our weakness. Augustine really says it all, and this passage is worth marinating in.

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Today the Church celebrates the life of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor, as in Doctor of the Church. He was certainly no doctor of biology, though the pro-abortion folks love to celebrate his primitive understanding of embryology as somehow an indication that the Church has not always condemned abortion as it does today.

Pro-aborts claim Augustine questioned when the developing human became animated with life, and thus, when ensoulment occurred. The quotes below suggest otherwise. At no time did he ever countenance contraception or abortion. Rather, he condemned both, as the following excerpts attest:

Sometimes, indeed, this lustful cruelty, or if you please, cruel lust, resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness; or else, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed by some means previous to birth, preferring that its offspring should rather perish than receive vitality; or if it was advancing to life within the womb, should be slain before it was born.

-De Nube et Concupiscentia 1.17 (15)

On the undeveloped fetus:

Hence in the first place arises a question about abortive conceptions, which have indeed been born in the mother’s womb, but not so born that they could be born again. For if we shall decide that these are to rise again, we cannot object to any conclusion that may be drawn in regard to those which are fully formed. Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish, like seeds that have never fructified? But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting, any more than the blemishes which time did bring shall be present: so that the nature shall neither want anything suitable and in harmony with it that length of days would have added, nor be debased by the presence of anything of an opposite kind that length of days has added; but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed.

-Enchiridion 23.85.4

On therapeutic abortion:

And therefore the following question may be very carefully inquired into and discussed by learned men, though I do not know whether it is in man’s power to resolve it: At what time the infant begins to live in the womb: whether life exists in a latent form before it manifests itself in the motions of the living being. To deny that the young who are cut out limb by limb from the womb, lest if they were left there dead the mother should die too, have never been alive, seems too audacious. Now, from the time that a man begins to live, from that time it is possible for him to die. And if he die, wheresoever death may overtake him, I cannot discover on what principle he can be denied an interest in the resurrection of the dead.

-Enchiridion 23.86

Therefore brothers, you see how perverse they are and hastening wickedness, who are immature, they seek abortion of the conception before the birth; they are those who tell us, “I do not see that which you say must be believed.”

- Sermon 126, line 12

If Augustine questions the formation of the early aborted baby with this line, which is a favorite of pro-aborts:

Now who is there that is not rather disposed to think that unformed abortions perish, like seeds that have never fructified?

But Augustine makes no doubt about the human identity and status of those unfructified seeds in the very next sentence:

“But who will dare to deny, though he may not dare to affirm, that at the resurrection every defect in the form shall be supplied, and that thus the perfection which time would have brought shall not be wanting… but that what is not yet complete shall be completed, just as what has been injured shall be renewed.”

This is a critical point for pro-life apologists. Augustine demolishes the modern abortion apologia by positing the human essence at the very earliest stages of development, clearly indicating that these human beings will not only be present on the last day, but that their bodily resurrection will be manifest in complete developmental form. It didn’t matter to Augustine whether or not the embryo is just a clump of cells. It is human, fully human if it is to appear at the resurrection of the dead.

Apart from engaging in a bald-faced lie, the pro-aborts also show the illogic of their approach in trying to impute to Augustine a primitive understanding of developmental biology and concomitant lack of human attribution to that entity. If on the one hand the argument goes that spiritual matters are a function of biological knowledge (As they falsely impute to Augustine), then they have destroyed themselves in the modern era. The field of developmental biology has spoken decisively of the human identity and status of the embryo from the moment of conception. By their logic, it follows that the embryo indeed has a soul.

Reaching back to a period of perceived uncertitude as a rationale for abortion is an absurdity when placed alongside the modern certitude of the embryo’s human identity and status.

Priests for Life has compiled a lengthy list of early Church condemnations of abortion, beginning in the First Century. The list makes it clear that the Church has condemned abortion consistently from its very founding.

Augustine was simply one in a long line of Bishops to do so.

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Today is the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He was the greatest and most prolific theologian of the Church. He stands at the head of the Doctors of the Church. For all of his learned writing, for his Summae, which were standard texts for centuries, Thomas had a vision one day while saying Mass that changed him. His vision, he said, made all that he wrote seem as so much straw. He never wrote again.

What glories, what love did Thomas see? As Said Paul tells us, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, the glories…” that await us in Heaven. The revelation given to Thomas came through his focus on Jesus’ sufferings on the cross and his saintly imitation of them.

From today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings.

From a conference by Saint Thomas Aquinas, priest

The Cross exemplifies every virtue

Why did the Son of God have to suffer for us? There was a great need, and it can be considered in a twofold way: in the first place, as a remedy for sin, and secondly, as an example of how to act.

It is a remedy, for, in the face of all the evils which we incur on account of our sins, we have found relief through the passion of Christ. Yet, it is no less an example, for the passion of Christ completely suffices to fashion our lives. Whoever wishes to live perfectly should do nothing but disdain what Christ disdained on the cross and desire what he desired, for the cross exemplifies every virtue.

If you seek the example of love: Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for his friends. Such a man was Christ on the cross. And if he gave his life for us, then it should not be difficult to bear whatever hardships arise for his sake.

If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things which one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the cross, and did so patiently, because when he suffered he did not threaten; he was led like a sheep to the slaughter and he did not open his mouth. Therefore Christ’s patience on the cross was great. In patience let us run for the prize set before us, looking upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before him, bore his cross and despised the shame.

If you seek an example of humility, look upon the crucified one, for God wished to be judged by Pontius Pilate and to die.

If you seek an example of obedience, follow him who became obedient to the Father even unto death. For just as by the disobedience of one man, namely, Adam, many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one man, many were made righteous.

If you seek an example of despising earthly things, follow him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Upon the cross he was stripped, mocked, spat upon, struck, crowned with thorns, and given only vinegar and gall to drink.

Do not be attached, therefore, to clothing and riches, because they divided my garments among themselves. Nor to honours, for he experienced harsh words and scourgings. Nor to greatness of rank, for weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on my head. Nor to anything delightful, for in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

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Today is the seventh day of the Octave of Christmas.

In today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings Pope St. Gregory the Great meditates not just on our human dignity being elevated by becoming members of the Body of Christ in Baptism, but also on our dignity being elevated by sharing in His Nativity, his coming into the world like us, as a baby. He shared our humanity, and through that sharing gave us a share in His divinity.

Had Margaret Sanger grasped that truth, that cornerstone of Christian Anthropology, we would be inhabiting a very different world today. Science cannot blind itself to its crossroads with Christian Anthropology without resulting in unspeakable tragedy, as we have seen again and again.

A sermon of Pope St Leo the Great

The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace.

“God’s Son did not disdain to become a baby. Although with the passing of the years he moved from infancy to maturity, and although with the triumph of his passion and resurrection all the actions of humility which he undertook for us were finished, still today’s festival renews for us the holy childhood of Jesus born of the Virgin Mary. In adoring the birth of our Saviour, we find we are celebrating the commencement of our own life, for the birth of Christ is the source of life for Christian folk, and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body.

Every individual that is called has his own place, and all the sons of the Church are separated from one another by intervals of time. Nevertheless, just as the entire body of the faithful is born in the font of baptism, crucified with Christ in his passion, raised again in his resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in his ascension, so with Him are they born in this nativity.

For this is true of any believer in whatever part of the world, that once he is reborn in Christ he abandons the old paths of his original nature and passes into a new man by being reborn. He is no longer counted as part of his earthly father’s stock but among the seed of the Saviour, who became the Son of man in order that we might have the power to be the sons of God.

For unless He came down to us in this humiliation, no one could reach his presence by any merits of his own.

The very greatness of the gift conferred demands of us reverence worthy of its splendour. For, as the blessed Apostle teaches, We have received not the spirit of this world but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are given us by God. That Spirit can in no other way be rightly worshipped, except by offering him that which we received from him.

But in the treasures of the Lord’s bounty what can we find so suitable to the honour of the present feast as the peace which at the Lord’s nativity was first proclaimed by the angel-choir?

For it is that peace which brings forth the sons of God. That peace is the nurse of love and the mother of unity, the rest of the blessed and our eternal home. That peace has the special task of joining to God those whom it removes from the world.

So those who are born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God must offer to the Father the unanimity of peace-loving sons, and all of them, adopted parts of the mystical Body of Christ, must meet in the First-begotten of the new creation. He came to do not his own will but the will of the one who sent him; and so too the Father in his gracious favour has adopted as his heirs not those that are discordant nor those that are unlike him, but those that are one with him in feeling and in affection. Those who are re-modelled after one pattern must have a spirit like the model.

The birthday of the Lord is the birthday of peace: for thus says the Apostle, He is our peace, who made both one; because whether we are Jew or Gentile, through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

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A commenter in the comboxes believes Margaret Sanger to be misunderstood, and that we would all do well to follow the lead of her disciples at New York University.

Mike Wallace interviewed Margaret Sanger 9/21/57. Watch the video here.

Sanger really starts fidgeting, ducking and weaving, telling lies and conveniently forgetting in the second half of the interview.

She outright lies in the first half, when speaking of the opposition of the Christian Churches to Birth Control in the beginning of her movement.

“At that time (1920′s) there was no opposition as far as the Church was concerned- any Church. It was mainly the law-federal law and state laws that one had to think of.”

In reality, all mainline churches opposed contraception until the Anglicans broke with tradition at the Lambeth Conference of 1930. Only then did others follow suit.

Surely Sanger must have remembered how Pope Pius XI wrote the famous Encyclical Castii Connubii (On Christian Marriage) four months after the Lambeth Conference of 1930, wherein he states that the teaching against contraception was “uninterrupted Christian tradition” (see paragraph 56 in the document).

After watching Sanger’s sanitized, Disney version of her motives for pushing birth control, consider what she didn’t say:

“Our failure to segregate morons who are increasing and multiplying
… demonstrates our foolhardy and extravagant sentimentalism …
[Philanthropists] encourage the healthier and more normal sections of the
world to shoulder the burden of unthinking and indiscriminate fecundity of
others; which brings with it, as I think the reader must agree, a dead
weight of human waste. Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the
stocks that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world,
it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant … We are paying
for, and even submitting to, the dictates of an ever-increasing,
unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born
at all.”


– Margaret Sanger. The Pivot of Civilization , 1922. Chapter on “The
Cruelty of Charity,” pages 116, 122, and 189. Swarthmore College Library
edition.

“Today eugenics is suggested by the most diverse minds as the most
adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and
social problems.
“I think you must agree … that the campaign for birth control is not
merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical with the final aims
of eugenics … Birth control propaganda is thus the entering wedge for the
eugenic educator.
“As an advocate of birth control I wish … to point out that the
unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly
the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the
inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this
matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-
minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be
held up for emulation.
“On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and
discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

– Margaret Sanger. “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.”
Birth Control Review , October 1921, page 5.

“The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless
ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose
religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers.
Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper
element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their
support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the
procreation of this group should be stopped.”

– Margaret Sanger. Speech quoted in Birth Control: What It Is, How It
Works, What It Will Do. The Proceedings of the First American Birth
Control Conference . Held at the Hotel Plaza, New York City, November 11-
12, 1921. Published by the Birth Control Review , Gothic Press, pages 172
and 174.

“In passing, we should here recognize the difficulties presented by the
idea of ‘fit’ and ‘unfit.’ Who is to decide this question? The grosser,
the more obvious, the undeniably feeble-minded should, indeed, not only be
discouraged but prevented from propagating their kind. But among the
writings of the representative Eugenists [sic], one cannot ignore the
distinct middle-class bias that prevails.”

– Margaret Sanger, quoted in Charles Valenza. “Was Margaret Sanger a
Racist?” Family Planning Perspectives , January-February 1985, page 44.

In fairness to Sanger, Idiot, Imbicile, and Moron were medical diagnostic categories in their day. Also to be fair to Sanger, she dripped with contempt for these people. She had no appreciation for their humanity, and in her hardened heart, could not imagine that the poor might enjoy meaning in the midst of poverty. Nor could she imagine that the children of the poor might rise above the poverty. My parents grew up in tenements in grinding poverty during the great depression. I lived in those same tenements until age 13. Of five children in my family four went to college and graduate school. All live lives of productive contribution to society.

But even the most handicapped among us has great individual value and moral worth. In the most bitter of ironies, it was Margaret Sanger herself who added to societal misery on the same scale she imagined it in other quarters. If as she suggested the handicapped had little to offer, it is all the more certain that Sanger wasted much. A terrible epitaph.

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Today is the Feast of the Martyrdom of Saint Stephen. For speaking truth, for bearing witness to Jesus, Stephen was stoned to death. Saul of Tarsus, prize student of the great Rabbi Gamaliel, stood by and approved. He can be seen standing with stony approval to the right in the painting.

We know what happened next, how Stephen upon seeing Jesus at the Right hand of the Father prayed this sin not be held against his murderers; how Saul, later Paul, would be converted from his single-minded mission to exterminate this new sect, to spreading the Gospel all over the world. Note the crown of martyrdom being given Stephen. Also note a second being held back in the distance by another angel-that one meant for Saint Paul.

We see plenty of Sauls-turned-Paul in the pro-life movement. Norma McCorvey of Roe, Dr. Bernard Nathanson-both of whom converted to Catholicism. This year, Abby Johnson walked out as Planned Parenthood clinic director and joined those on the demonstration line.

They all share something in common with Saint Paul. They were prayed for by those being arrested, being ridiculed for their fidelity to the Lord. It wasn’t Ivy League apologetics that swayed them.

It was love.

Perhaps that’s why, writing years later to the Corinthians, Saint Paul said, “I can speak with the tongues of angels, but if I have not love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal”.

There’s a lesson in that for us in the pro-life movement, and here in the pro-life blogosphere where passions can run high. For my part, I will not tolerate incivility on my threads, from either side. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Above all, we must pray.

Stephen was the first of many martyrs to follow. So many in the pro-life movement suffer martyrdom on many levels. I’ve been ridiculed roundly, as have so many others. That doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ve moved on to a place where I simply cannot grasp how others can’t see, won’t see the intrinsic value of an individual human life, without regard to form or function. And so, at this juncture, I’m left with one certain truth.

We must pray.

Praying with the Church in her closing prayer from the Office of Readings:

Concluding Prayer
Give us, Lord, the gift of practising what we worship and loving our enemies:
for we are celebrating Stephen’s birth into heaven.
He knew how to pray even for those who were killing him.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
Amen.

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Todays Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

From a sermon by Saint Augustine

Truth has arisen from the earth and justice has looked down from heaven

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.
Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.
For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

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Bouguereau, Song of the Angels

From the Liturgy of the Hours, Christmas Day, Office of Readings

A sermon of Pope St Leo the Great

Christian, remember your dignity

Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.

No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.

In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.

And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.

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From today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

St. Ambrose: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The angel Gabriel had announced the news of something that was as yet hidden and so, to buttress the Virgin Mary’s faith by means of a real example, he told her also that an old and sterile woman had conceived, showing that everything that God willed was possible to God.

When Mary heard this she did not disbelieve the prophecy, she was not uncertain of the message, she did not doubt the example: but happy because of the promise that had been given, eager to fulfil her duty as a cousin, hurried by her joy, she went up into the hill country.

Where could she hurry to except to the hills, filled with God as she was? The grace of the Holy Spirit does not admit of delays. And Mary’s arrival and the presence of her Son quickly show their effects: As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting her child leapt in her womb and she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

See the careful distinction in the choice of words. Elizabeth was the first to hear the voice but her son John was the first to feel the effects of grace. She heard as one hears in the natural course of things; he leapt because of the mystery that was there. She sensed the coming of Mary, he the coming of the Lord — the woman knew the woman, the child knew the child. The women speak of grace while inside them grace works on their babies. And by a double miracle the women prophesy under the inspiration of their unborn children.

The infant leapt and the mother was filled with the Spirit. The mother was not filled before her son: her son was filled with the Holy Spirit and in turn filled his mother. John leapt and so did Mary’s spirit. John leapt and filled Elizabeth with the Spirit; but we know that Mary was not filled but her spirit rejoiced. For the Incomprehensible was working incomprehensibly within his mother. Elizabeth had been filled with the Spirit after she conceived, but Mary before, at the moment the angel had come. “Blessed are you,” said Elizabeth, “who believed”.

You too, my people, are blessed, you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes — that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognises his works.

Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you, to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one of you, to rejoice in God. According to the flesh only one woman can be the mother of Christ but in the world of faith Christ is the fruit of all of us. For every soul can receive the Word of God if only it is pure and preserves itself in chastity and modesty.

The soul that has been able to reach this state proclaims the greatness of the Lord just as Mary did and rejoices in God its saviour just like her.

The Lord’s greatness is proclaimed, as you have read elsewhere, where it says Join me in magnifying the Lord. This does not mean that anything can be added to the Lord’s greatness by human words, but that he is magnified in us. Christ is the image of God and so any good or religious act that a soul performs magnifies that image of God in that soul, the God in whose likeness the soul itself was made. And thus the soul itself has some share in his greatness and is ennobled.

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From today’s Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings

A Sermon of Saint Bernard

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

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For those who say that the Catholic Church has not maintained a constant witness against abortion from the beginning, the link gives the rich detail. Here are two teachings from the first century, in the age of the Apostles. The rest in the link.

The Didache

“The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child” (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]).

The Letter of Barnabas

“The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born” (Letter of Barnabas 19 [A.D. 74]).

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