Relics of the Passion – 2 – The True Cross

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Relics of the True Cross

After the death of Jesus Christ, the very last thing the leaders of the Jews wanted at the time was any mention of Christ being able to rise from the dead (Mayo, 2018). They had heard enough of that in the preceding years and wanted no more of it. For them it was blasphemy. Thus, to prevent such a thing from happening, after Christ died, the Jews proceeded to dump the wood of the Cross into a ditch and covered it over with several boulders to prevent it from ever being found. But in 320, the aged Saint Helena[1] visited Jerusalem in the hope of learning more about Christ’s life and the places where He had been (Socrates Scholasticus, 1984).

With the support of both her son and Saint Macarius of Jerusalem,[2] Helena ordered that the 2nd century temple to Venus,[3] which had been built upon what was suspected to be the tomb of Christ, be destroyed and replaced by what is today known as the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (ibid.; Eusebius of Caesarea, 4th cent.). But as workers were carrying out the demolition and excavation works in compliance with Helena’s request, under the religio-jurisdictional supervision of Macarius, three crosses were found buried among the rubble on September 14:[4] the Cross of Christ, with the titular inscription I. N. B. I.[5] still attached to it; and the crosses of Saint Dismas, the good thief, and Gesmas, the bad thief (da Varagine,[6] 1260).

Macarius ordered that the three crosses be placed alternatively upon a woman who was so ill that she was considered to be on her deathbed (Socrates Scholasticus, 1984). The woman is said to have recovered when touched by the third cross, which was the Cross of Christ with its inscription.

A large part of the True Cross of Christ was then placed in a silver casket and has remained at the Basilica of Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem (Marucchi, 1908; McClure, 1919). A second large part was later taken to Rome, Italy, and placed for veneration at the Basilica della Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, which was also built by Helena. A third large part was taken by the queen to the palace in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), where Constantine proceeded to declare the city impregnable to enemy attacks. Smaller parts of the Cross were broken up into fragments and widely distributed to the faithful throughout the world.

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From the wood of the True Cross

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 350) declared that

The holy wood of the Cross bears witness, seen among us to this day, and from this place now almost filling the whole world, by means of those who in faith take portions of it.

Significant parts of the Cross can, among others, also be found at the Monastery of Koutloumousiou on Mount Athos, Greece; the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, France; the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption in Pisa, Italy; the Monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, Spain; and at the Monasterio de Tarlac in San Jose, Philippines.

Presented above are photographs of two small relics of the True Cross in a sealed brass reliquary, together with their detail. They are placed one upon the other to form of a cross. These fragments of the Cross of Christ come from that part of the True Cross that can be found in Istanbul. Their provenance was certified in 2004 by Paul Karatas, then Archbishop of the Chaldean Eparchy of Diarbekir, Turkey.

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[1] Mother of the Emperor Constantine.

[2] Macarius was the bishop of Jerusalem from 312 to 335.

[3] The goddess of love, beauty, sex, fertility, prostitution, and victory (Garcia, 2013). Venus was the mother of Hermaphroditos who epitomized androgyny.

[4] In 335, this day was proclaimed thenceforth in the Church as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (or Triumph of the Holy Cross), with the first feast being held on the dedication of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (Holy Sepulcher, n. d.).

[5] Iησος Ναζωραος Bασιλες τν ουδαίων [Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Judeans] as had been ordered to be written by Pontius Pilate despite the objections raised by the Jewish leaders: “O γέγραφα γέγραφα” [What I have written, I have written] (Brown, 1988; cf. Ps 56, 57).

[6] Blessed Jacobus da Varagine was the archbishop of Genova from 1288 until his death 10 years later. According to da Varagine, the Cross of Christ was made from the different types of wood of three trees, the seeds of which had been planted by Seth in the mouth of Adam’s corpse during his father’s burial. These trees of cedar, cypress and pine (Roman, 2005; cf. Is 60:13) were said to have sprouted in one spot from the seeds of the Tree of Mercy in the Garden of Eden. The wood from the three trees had been used to build Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.

Relics of the Passion and their history

At this time of Passiontide, posts over the coming days will address nine holy relics of the Passion and Death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, together with their history and provenance. These posts are intended specifically for your edification. Relics addressed will be the following:

  1. Two relics of the True Cross;
  2. A few strands from one of the Ropes with which Christ was flogged during the Scourging at the Pillar;
  3. A small piece of the Column of Flagellation;
  4. A piece of the Purple Robe that Christ was forced to wear during the Crowning with Thorns;
  5. A sliver from the Crown of Thorns;
  6. A true effigy of the Holy Face according to the Veil of Veronica;
  7. One thread from the Burial Shroud;
  8. A fragment from the Stone of the Anointing; and
  9. A stone from the Holy Sepulcher.

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References

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For those who want to know more

In response to questions received, for those who may want to know more about this devotion, you can find everything you need in this book:

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Look for the Father

If you want happiness, peace and order in your life, look for the Father – your Father. Wherever the Heavenly Father lives, discord and disorder become absent as the Father is order, love, peace, and happiness in Himself. There is one reason alone why near-chaos is reigning in today’s world and that is because the vast majority of people have either forgotten or do not know that they have a Father who loves them with unparalleled love.

On the standing of Luisa Piccarreta in the Catholic Church

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Many American ‘sources’ have once again raised their heads in an attempt to condemn as heretical the writings of the Servant of God, Luisa Piccarreta, whose cause for beatification is underway at the Vatican. To clear up any unwitting or malicious falsehoods about Luisa, here is the official status and timeline with regard to her present standing in the Catholic Church:

  1. The cause of her beatification is proceeding uninterrupted;
  2. The diocesan process was concluded in 2005 and her cause passed to Rome, which opened their investigation in 2006;
  3. Two priest-censors librorum appointed by the Holy See to read Luisa’s writings concluded their examinations in mid-2010 and declared their approval of her writings. They additionally declared that no errors had been found in relation to faith and morals.

For those who wish to learn more about Luisa Piccarreta and the Gift of Living in the Divine Will, please be referred to the over 700-page critical dissertation with the same name written by the Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, S. T. D. The dissertation was approved and released by the Pontifical Gregorian University (Gregoriana) in Rome, Italy.

Aborted children do not lose the Beatific Vision forever

This question has once again arisen so the below bears restating in order that the general public is not misled on the subject matter.

THE DIVINE HEART OF GOD THE FATHER

For those who keep insisting, wrongly, that children who are aborted in the womb lose the Beatific Vision forever, here is a prayer, given by Christ Himself in 1998 to Barnabas Nwoye, that manifests otherwise:

Heavenly Father, Your love is eternal. In Your ocean of love, You saved the world through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Now look at Your only Son on the Cross Who is constantly bleeding for love of His people, and forgive Your world. Purify and baptize aborted children with the Precious Blood and water from the Sacred Side of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Who hung dead on the Cross for their salvation; in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May they, through the holy death of Jesus Christ, gain everlasting life, through His wounds be healed and through His Precious Blood be freed. There to rejoice with…

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On the misunderstanding of private vows in the Catholic Church

Recently there arose the question of whether a lay person making private vows becomes a religious when they make those vows, whether privately or in conjunction with the sacred liturgy. The answer is no. The lay person remains a common lay person in terms of their canonical standing in the Catholic Church like all the rest of the vast multitude of common lay people who have not made such vows. They do not become a “type” of religious brother or sister. To claim otherwise, therefore, is outright falsehood and reflects neither the mind nor the official teachings of the Church.

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

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“Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to attribute His operations to the opposite spirit, as says Basil the Great. How does one do this? Whenever one sees miracles brought about by the Holy Spirit or any of the other divine gifts in any of his brethren – that is compunction or tears, or humility, or divine knowledge, or a word of wisdom from on high, or anything else that is bestowed by the Holy Spirit on those who love God – and says that this comes from the deceit of the devil. But he also blasphemes against the Holy Spirit who works in them, who says that those who as sons of God are led by the divine Spirit, and perform the commandments of their God and Father, are being deceived by demons. This is what the Jews of old said against the Son of God.

“Like unbelievers and those completely uninitiated into the divine mysteries when they hear anything about divine illumination, or of the enlightenment of soul and mind, or of contemplation and freedom from passion, or of humility and tears that are poured out by the working and grace of the Holy Spirit, the eyes of their hearts are darkened rather than enlightened . . . They audaciously aver that these things come from the deceit of demons . . . To deny that at this present time there are some who love God and that they have been granted the Holy Spirit . . . that they have become gods by knowledge . . . and contemplation, that wholly subverts the Incarnation of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ! It denies the renewal of the image that had been corrupted and put to death, and its return to incorruption and immortality” (Saint Symeon the New Theologian, The Discourses).

God the Father to Mother Eugenia Ravasio

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“Even if your sins were as repulsive as mud, your confidence and your love will make Me forget them, so you will not be judged! I am just, it is true, but love pays for everything! . . . I make you a promise which will have an eternal effect. It is this: call Me by the name of Father, with confidence and love, and you will receive everything from this Father, with love and mercy . . . If you love Me and call Me by the sweet name of Father, you will begin to live, here and now, in the love and the trust which will make you happy in eternity and which you will sing in heaven in the company of the elect…..

“I would like to make My home in every family, as in My domain, so that all can say with absolute assurance: ‘We have a Father Who is infinitely good, infinitely rich and greatly merciful. He thinks about us and is close to us. He looks after us, supports us. He will give us everything we need if we ask Him. All his riches are ours, we will have everything we need.’ I am there precisely in order that you should ask Me for what you need. ‘Ask and you will receive.’ In My fatherly goodness I will give you everything provided that all regard Me as a true Father, living among His family as I indeed do…..

Father, I love You, I adore You, I worship You.

“You who especially need someone to take care of you in life, so that you can avoid evil, come to Me! I am the Father Who loves you more than any other creature will ever be able to do! Take refuge close, very close to Me, confide in Me your thoughts and your desires. I will love you tenderly. I will give you graces for the present and bless your future. You can be sure I will not forget you after fifteen or twenty-five or thirty years, having created you. Come! I see that you greatly need a sweet and infinitely good Father like Me….. (more…)

The Apostolic Pardon

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The infinite love and mercy of God are a scandal to many, including some in the Catholic Church itself.

As of late, writings have been appearing in some American sources about Purgatory, and the justice of God, that make it seem as though it is next to impossible for a common sinner not to end up spending, at least, some time in Purgatory after they die. This presentation of the Christian Faith is outright wrong in addition to removing hope from people, rather than giving them hope. But apart from the fact that these writers seem to never have heard of Saint Dismas, the good thief who ‘stole’ heaven at the last moments of his life and became an insta-saint to boot, what the said writers are propagating is a skewed subjectivist version of what the Catholic Church teaches about Purgatory.

For all who wish to know more, therefore, about the reality of personal sins and death, here is what the Church actually says in relation to the afterlife:

The name of God is Mercy – Pope Francis

If you die in a state of grace and obtain a plenary indulgence, you will go straight to heaven with zero time in Purgatory. Numerous are the plenary indulgences that can be obtained under the usual conditions. Consult the Manual of Indulgences for further information (older editions are invalid). Above all, however, there is one plenary indulgence that is so easy to obtain through the infinite love and mercy of God – and of which so few people (and even priests) know about – that it deserves particular mention. This is the Apostolic Pardon, which grants total remission of sins and punishment at the very moment of death. Here is what the Church teaches about it:

The Apostolic Pardon

  1. The faithful can obtain this plenary indulgence at the hour of death even if they have already acquired a plenary indulgence on that same day;
  2. A priest who administers the sacraments to someone in danger of death should not fail to impart the apostolic blessing to which a plenary indulgence is attached;
  3. If a priest is unavailable, Holy Mother Church benevolently grants to the Christian faithful, who are duly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime. In such a case, the Church supplies for the three conditions ordinarily required for a plenary indulgence;
  4. In this latter case, the use of a cross or crucifix in obtaining the plenary indulgence is commendable.

For those who may wish to carry with them the wording of the Apostolic Pardon for a priest’s use, here are two versions of it; one long, one short:

  1. By the authority which the Apostolic See has given me, I grant you a full pardon and the remission of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may Almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of Paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.

It is salutary to remember that just one single sin exists that cannot be forgiven, rather than unhealthily obsessing over sins: that is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Consecration Prayer to the Divine Heart of God the Father in Spanish

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Below you can find the consecration prayer to the Divine Heart of God the Father (shown above) translated into Spanish. The Spanish translation of the prayer is also available for download from here: Consecration to the Divine Heart in Spanish.

Oración de Consagración al Divino Corazón de Dios Padre

Padre Celestial, fuente de Vida, Amor y Felicidad Eterna. Tú nos has otorgado el don precioso de la vida misma. Te imploramos, Padre Celestial, que nunca nos permitas dar por hecho este regalo. Es más, a lo que nos has llamado es a la santidad. Tú nos has llamado a participar en la vida de Tu Divina Familia a través de, con y en Jesu Cristo. Te pedimos que nos concedas, en Tu beneficencia, todas las gracias necesarias para vivir de acuerdo a Tu Divina Voluntad y ofrecerte, a cada momento, nuestra gratitud plena, nuestra veneración, nuestra acción de gracias y nuestra súplica. Nos consagramos formalmente a Ti, como hijos pródigos regresando al Padre que nos ama. Acéptanos y pon una diadema real en nuestro dedo. Cúbrenos con un manto de púrpura real y prepáranos para la fiesta, el banquete, que Tú has preparado para todos Tus hijos fieles. Amén.

 

The deification of the Virgin Mary: A brief response

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He was made man that we might become god (Athanasius of Alexandria, De Inc, 54.3).

Many individuals these days, both in the Catholic Church (especially in America) and in Protestant ecclesial communities, tend to make the claim that the Virgin Mary is not deified, was not deified at the very instance of her conception, and has never been deified. Such a claim seems to be originating from the deep-seated fear, likely Protestant in origin, that the Holy Virgin is being worshipped with the worship that should be reserved for God alone, instead of just being honored as the Mother of God. Both, however, are wrong in their above-referenced claims. They are also wrong in their comprehension and use of the terms deification and worship.

What is worship?

Two kinds of worship exist: the worship of latreia and the worship of proskynesis (Bartolo-Abela, 2017). Latreia is the worship that is reserved only for God, whereas proskynesis is the relative worship that can be legitimately given to the saints. Proskynesis is more commonly understood by the people as veneration. However, it is still worship, even though not the kind of worship that should be reserved for God alone.

What is deification?

God, you see, wants to make you a god; not by nature, of course, like the One whom He begot but by His gift and by adoption (Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 166.4).

Through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature (Paul VI, Dei Verbum, 1965).

The Most High knew that Adam wanted to become a god, so He sent His Son who put him on in order to grant him his desire (Ephraim the Syrian, Nisb. Hymns, LXIX.12).

According to Dionysus the Aeropagite, deification is defined as “the attaining of likeness to God and union with Him so far as is possible” (EH 1. 3, PG 3. 376a). Maximus the Confessor called deification “the invocation of the great God and Father, the symbol of the authentic and real adoption, according to the gift and grace of the Holy Spirit, thanks to the bestowal of which the saints become and will remain the sons of God” (Ad Thalas 61, PG 90, 636C; Scholia 6, ibid. 644C). Thomas Aquinas stated that deification allowed “this name God [to be] communicable, not in its whole signification, but in some part of it by way of similitude so that those are called gods who share in divinity by likeness, according to the text I have said, ‘You are gods (Ps 82:6)’ (Summa Theologica, Response to I.13,9).

Gross (1938/2002) explained that deification, [the] “divinization of the Christian is not an identification with God [but] an assimilation, a very eminent restoration of the original divine likeness [whereby one] participates by grace in the perfections that God possesses by nature . . . The Spirit transforms the soul to the image of the Logos, the natural Son of God, thus making the Christian an adoptive child of God. Affecting, it seems the very essence of the soul, this mysterious conformation is not of a moral nature only but of a physical nature; it is a veritable partaking of the divine nature and of the divine life” (p. 272). Aquinas further elaborated that in deification “the gift of grace surpasses every capability of created nature, since it is nothing short of a partaking of the Divine Nature, which exceeds every other nature . . . God alone should deify, bestowing a partaking of the Divine Nature by a participated likeness” (Summa Theologica, 2.1:112.1).

The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary

He has given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature (2 P 1:4).

According to Pius IX (1854), “From the very beginning, and before time began, the eternal Father chose and prepared for his only-begotten Son a Mother in whom the Son of God would become incarnate and from whom, in the blessed fullness of time, he would be born into this world. Above all creatures did God so love her that truly in her was the Father well pleased with singular delight. Therefore, far above all the angels and all the saints, so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity that this mother, ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity than which, under God, one cannot even imagine anything greater, and which, outside of God, no mind can succeed in comprehending fully.

“And indeed it was wholly fitting that so wonderful a mother should be ever resplendent with the glory of most sublime holiness and so completely free from all taint of original sin that she would triumph utterly over the ancient serpent. To her did the Father will to give his only-begotten Son — the Son whom, equal to the Father and begotten by him, the Father loves from his heart — and to give this Son in such a way that he would be the one and the same common Son of God the Father and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was she whom the Son himself chose to make his Mother and it was from her that the Holy Spirit willed and brought it about that he should be conceived and born from whom he himself proceeds” (Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, para. 1-2).

Note: This would become known as the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church, a dogma that was implicitly and not-so-implicitly held also by the early Fathers of the Orthodox Church, namely the Byzantine Fathers.

Discussion

Is it not written in your Law: I said, ‘You are gods?’ (Jn 10:34).

We are gods, not so by nature, but by grace. ‘But as many as received him he gave power of becoming sons of God.’ I made man for that purpose, that from men they may become gods. ‘I said: You are gods, all of you sons of the most High’ (Jerome of Stridon, Hom, 14).

When God was born to be man, the purpose was not that the Godhead should be lost, but that, the Godhead remaining, man should be born to be God (Hilary of Poitiers, De Trin, 10.7).

As can be seen from the above, the Virgin Mary is deified, was deified at the very instance of her conception, and has always been deified. Otherwise, she would not have been sufficiently worthy of being the Theotokos, the bearer of the sinless Word. The eternal Father Himself attested to Mary’s deification at the beginning of all time (Gn 3:15), as did her Son during the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:4) and the Archangel Gabriel during the Annunciation (Lk 1:28).

That having been said, the Virgin Mary is not God, nor has she ever been (or claimed to be) God. Deification does not mean that one becomes a god by nature – that is an erroneous understanding of deification; a false understanding borne of fear if not miseducation.

Deification is “God’s perfect and full penetration of man” (Staniloae, 2002, p. 362) and “all who share in this [divine] light are referred to as deified . . . above nature and virtue and knowledge . . . [as] this grace effects this ineffable union” (Gregory Palamas, 1338/1983). Hence as the Virgin Mary is, was, and will always be the Immaculate Conception, she is, as Palamas (2005) stated, the epitome of deification.

References

  • Bartolo-Abela, M. (2017). Icons as resistance: Challenging the new iconoclasm in the Catholic Church.
  • Dionysus the Aeropagite. EH 1. 3, PG 3. 376a.
  • Gregory Palamas. (1338/1983). The triads in defense of the holy hesychasts.
  • _____. (2005). Mary the Mother of God: Sermons by Saint Gregory Palamas.
  • Gross, J. (1938/2002). The divinization of the Christian according to the Greek Fathers.
  • Maximus the Confessor. Ad Thalas 61, PG 90, 636C.
  • _____. Scholia 6, ibid. 644C.
  • Pius IX. (1854). Ineffabilis Deus. 
  • Staniloae, D. (2002). The experience of God: Orthodox dogmatic theology, Vol. 2, The world: Creation and deification.
  • Thomas Aquinas. (1225-1274). Summa Theologica.