Written by Judith McRae
A talk given at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church on December 6, on the occasion of the Calgary Regional Meeting of the Catholic Women’s League
Many of you are aware that today is the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, because this morning, your children or your grandchildren woke up and found that he had come to visit them in the night, leaving candy, money, and little toys in their shoes.
Today is also Monday of the second week of Advent, which means that we are preparing for the coming of Christ, re-presented at Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the reciting or singing of the Christmas Proclamation at midnight, and the placing of an image of the Baby Jesus in a creche near the Altar.
The character of Santa Claus is based upon the legend of St. Nicholas, especially his generosity toward children and the poor, and of course we have all played the role of Santa Claus to make sure that the children we love and the poor in our neighbourhood are well looked after at Christmas time.
There are a great many other legends about St. Nicholas that remind us of his generosity and his special kindness toward children. Some of us may have forgotten that he was a real person - he was the Bishop of Myra, which at that time was a small town in Greece - today, it’s a small town in Turkey, and it was recently renamed - it’s called Demre - St. Nicholas was present at the First Council of Nicaea, in 325 AD.
We know whose birth we celebrate at Christmas because St. Nicholas helped to give us these words and was influential in adding them to the Nicene Creed:
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
consubstantial with the Father;
These words were added in response to the teachings of the heretical Bishop, Arius, who denied that Christ was God, saying He was inferior to the Father. St. Nicholas was a follower of St. Athanasius, who was The Church's champion against Arianism, and by their combined efforts, the heresy was condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325.
In AD 325 Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, the very first ecumenical council. More than 300 bishops came from all over the Christian world to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity. It was one of the early church’s most intense theological questions. Arius, from Egypt, was teaching that Jesus the Son was not equal to God the Father. Arius forcefully argued his position at length. The bishops listened respectfully.
As Arius vigorously continued, Nicholas became more and more agitated. Finally, he could no longer bear what he believed was essential being attacked. The outraged Nicholas got up, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face! The bishops were shocked. It was unbelievable that a bishop would lose control and be so hotheaded in such a solemn assembly. They brought Nicholas to Constantine. Constantine said even though it was illegal for anyone to strike another in his presence, in this case, the bishops themselves must determine the punishment.
The bishops stripped Nicholas of his bishop’s garments, chained him, and threw him into jail. That would keep Nicholas away from the meeting. When the Council ended a final decision would be made about his future.
Nicholas was ashamed and prayed for forgiveness, though he did not waver in his belief. During the night, Jesus and Mary his Mother, appeared, asking, “Why are you in jail?” “Because of my love for you,” Nicholas replied. Jesus then gave the Book of the Gospels to Nicholas. Mary gave him an omophorion, so Nicholas would again be dressed as a bishop. Now at peace, Nicholas studied the Scriptures for the rest of the night.
When the jailer came in the morning, he found the chains loose on the floor and Nicholas dressed in bishop’s robes, quietly reading the Scriptures. When Constantine was told of this, the emperor asked that Nicholas be freed. Nicholas was then fully reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.
The Council of Nicaea agreed with Nicholas’ views, deciding the question against Arius. The work of the Council produced the Nicene Creed which to this day many Christians repeat weekly when they stand to say what they believe.
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Written by Rev. Pilmaiken Lezano
This time of the pandemic is a challenge to everyone. The pandemic has brought lockdowns, isolation, loneliness, mental illness, and as for lately, it has become the seed of division. Everything seems to be hanging from a thread, on the brink of collapse.
And yet, even in the midst of the instability that surrounds us, we can find God’s hands leading us to create spaces where we can get together, enjoy the company of one another, be able to check on our loved ones, and above all, to bring faith and hope to one another.
The Catholic Women’s League has a beautiful tradition in the way its members treat to each other. Each of the members has a strong sense of belonging to the league, and strong sense of sisterhood. It is a family that gets together, and brave together the storms that they have to face.
Today’s meeting is just a glimpse of that sense of sisterhood, of togetherness, of fellowship. With ingenuity each of the members have found ways to be at the disposal of the rest of the sisters, to be present and to the of service. With ingenuity, each of the sisters of the League is able to bring their own contribution, thus building up a strong group of women who continue to work for God, the Church and Canada.
So in the midst of the challenging times in which we live in, that sense of fellowship and sisterhood has to become stronger every day. Pope Benedict in a reflection of the spirit of fellowship reminds us.
“Just as in the commercial world there is an insidious devaluation of currency when the coins in circulation are no longer backed by a corresponding weight of objective assets and production, so too the currency of the mind- the word- is in danger of being emptied out by a kind of inflation when the force of convictions and views is no longer able to keep the scale from tipping toward the surplus verbal coins that are issued so carelessly. Many of the greatest words of the human mind -heart, love, and happiness, for example- have succumbed to devaluation in this way; the profound Christian word "brotherhood" or “sisterhood” seems today about to suffer the same fate. We said before that words are the currency of the mind because in them the mind of one person imparts itself to another; someone who values the word for the sake of the mind will do two things when inflation threatens to consume the word: he will use the great coin of the word sparingly and not take it upon his lips when it is doomed to meaninglessness; on the other hand, he will try to strengthen those convictions which lend life and strength to words.
What is the intellectual backing behind the word “Christian brotherhood/sisterhood”? The central point on which this word lives, in which its force is rooted, is nothing other than the central point of Christian reality in general: the table fellowship of the faithful with the risen Lord. People have always experienced sharing a meal as the most effective way of creating fellowship; here, though, when they eat the one divine bread that the Lord himself desired to become for us, this is raised to the highest power: it is in the final analysis nothing other than incorporation into the Lord´s body, into the realm of the Risen Christ.”
The sense of fellowship, and among the members of the League, the sense of Sisterhood is at stake nowadays, if we take the term lightly. Sisterhood cannot be condemned to be a meaningless word, losing its value as a word and above all, losing its value as what it really means.
Christ teaches us, by his example the meaning of fellowship, of relationship, of brotherhood and of sisterhood. He took it all the way to the Cross, but in between, the left for us the milestones that bring us together even closer in him. The Eucharist, the summit of our faith. Sisterhood cannot be a reality, if we do not break bread, if we do not break the bread that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist, the sign of the fellowship Christ shares with us. It is in this intimate place that Jesus invites us to be part of him and part of one another, thus we become a is community.
So the community, the Church, is another gift from Jesus to us. A real community is where sisterhood is found at its best. It is in sharing and caring for one another that the bonds of the sisters is strengthened. It is in the community that each person gets to know each other. It is in the spirit of selfless giving of each other that the love, goodness and kindness of Christ is displayed in the community.
It is in the community that faith is exercised, with no hint of shame and shyness, because, God invites us to exercise this beautiful gift in the midst of the community. Faith, thus, strengthens the bond of fellowship.
Fellowship sisterhood, invites us spend is intentional time with God & with your sisters.
It is in fellowship that we are “devoted” to God & to each other.
Fellowship doesn’t happen by accident. In order to be in true fellowship with each other we need to do so intentionally, and not just making plans to hang out, but making sure that we are spending time with the focus of giving God Glory.
It’s hard to be accountable, bond, trust, that you only see once per week in minimal doses. And like I said earlier for many of us in church context “fellowship” has been boiled down to this once per week thing.
Therefore, as we get together, even though it is virtual, we are still making it tangible, in a way, the sense of fellowship and sisterhood among the members of the League. The sense of sisterhood that engages the mind and heart, is what keeps each of the councils active, each of the members engaged in the different activities. Sisterhood, in its real sense, the sense given to it by God, is to be a relationship of love, goodness and kindness.
Presented by Fr Pilmaiken Lezano at the 25 September 2021 Calgary Diocesan Fall Meeting
The month of November provides a special opportunity to remember and pray for our beloved dead. On Friday, November 1st we celebrate All Saints’ Day. In our churches, we have memorial books where the names of those dear to us are recorded and remembered. With this in mind, let me write to you about the importance of All Souls’ Day on November 2nd.
On All Saints Day, we honor the Church in Heaven and on All Souls Day, we commemorate the Church in Purgatory—the deceased faithful who are on their way to Heaven. Their present period of purification will infallibly end with their vision of God and union with the other saints. This, then, is not a day of mourning. We rejoice because our faithful departed have been judged worthy to be with God.
As early as the seventh century, certain monastic communities had specific days for commemorating the dead of their community. This practice spread, and by the ninth century it had become a commemoration of all the dead. In 998 St. Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, France, established that in his communities the commemoration of the faithful departed was to be celebrated on November 2nd.
In the fifteenth century, the custom arose in Spain of celebrating three Masses for the deceased on November 2nd and this custom prevailed throughout Spain, Portugal, and Spanish America.
Then in 1915, Pope Benedict XV—aware of the great number of deaths during World War I, which was then raging—extended to the entire Latin Church the privilege of celebrating three Masses for the deceased on this day.
Throughout the month of November, we can remember the Purgatorial Church with special prayers and visits to cemeteries. By so doing, we can actively live out the Collect for All Souls’ Day, when the Church prays:
Listen kindly to our prayers, O Lord,
and, as our faith in your Son,
raised from the dead, is deepened,
so may our hope of resurrection for your
departed servants also find new strength.
This month also affords us to pray for a holy death for ourselves, so that we too may one day be numbered among the Saints.
Father Jonathan Gibson
Diocesan Spiritual Advisor
Written by Cardinal Thomas Collins
The Scriptures do not stand on their own; they must be explained, interpreted within the context of the living faith of the community, and applied to its present circumstances, often radically different from those out of which the text first arose. The proclamation of God’s word in the liturgy provides the best possible context for the authentic interpretation of the Bible. In the liturgy the biblical context is proclaimed to the assembled Christians, and the apostolic leader of the community explains its significance by relating it to its original situation, to the whole plan of God, to the faith of the Church, to the practical concerns of his particular community, and to the experience of the Lord in the Eucharist.
The Jewish tradition of liturgical proclamation of the Scriptures includes a tradition of interpretation. In the synagogue services of ancient Palestine, the Scriptures were read in Hebrew, but since many in the congregation understood only Aramaic, an official of the synagogue would provide a running translation in that language, a targum, which was a kind of paraphrase including within it a commentary on the text. The spiritual leaders of the synagogue community would also preach on the various scriptural texts. In Luke 4 we have an account of Jesus reading the scriptural text and commenting on it.
In Justin’s description of the Eucharistic liturgy, a member of the community reads the texts and then the leader explains their meaning. Down through the centuries, liturgical proclamation of the Scriptures has been inseparable from the homiletic interpretation. Many scriptural commentaries of the Fathers of the Church are really homilies on the texts proclaimed in the liturgy. In our own day the Constitution on the Liturgy states that “through the homily, the hidden realities of faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are explained over the course of the liturgical year from the text of the scripture: (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 52). The homily is a basic element of the liturgical reading of the Bible.
Written by Cardinal Thomas Collins
The Eucharist is shaped by the Scriptures. The various prayers, and especially the Eucharistic prayers, constantly allude to the Bible. In the First Eucharistic Prayer it is assumed that the Christian is familiar with the significance of Abel, of Melchizedek, and of Abraham, our father in faith. One reason for encouraging a deeper understanding of the Scriptures is to help Christians appreciate the Eucharistic texts. The most important way in which Christians encounter the Bible at the Eucharist is in the Liturgy of the Word, when portions of the sacred text are read from the lectionary.
When the first Christians developed a Liturgy of the Word to precede the celebration of the Eucharist, they were influenced by the practice of the Jewish synagogue, where the main liturgical event was a series of scriptural readings. The five books of Moses - the Torah - were read systematically, section by section. Other passages, from the prophets were also read. It took time for the New Testament writings to be accepted as “Scripture” by the first Christians: when they thought of Scripture they normally meant what we call the Old Testament. But gradually, as we see in the quote from Justin (November Newsletter), they came to read out passages not only from the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, but also from writings concerning Christ.
In early centuries the various Christian communities had different ways of arranging the readings. A common pattern was to have one or more Old Testament readings (The Prophet), New Testament readings (The Apostle), and a Gospel. As the various Christian communities developed their systems, the appropriate passages were marked in the biblical text to guide the reader. Later, the texts were copied out into special books, the first lectionaries.