Amid the blazing fires of destruction and chaos currently scourging the Land of the Two Rivers, there are tiny oases that are extinguishing the flames of human cruelty and viciousness. From these oases, “rivers of living water flow” (Jn 7:38) and irrigate the parched lands, which are then transformed into patches of “green pastures” (Ps 23:2) where the “weary and burdened… find rest” (Mt 11:28).
Holy Week is a privileged time of encounter with the grace of the Passion of our Lord, which is, through faith, the cause of the power and efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance.
- Pray for the virtue of penance.
It might be helpful to think of penance as a counterpart to gratitude: just as we owe gratitude to God for the benefits He has given us, so too we owe God sorrow for the offenses we’ve committed against Him. This reasonable sorrow about our sins is called the virtue of penance, and it is at the heart of the Sacrament of Penance. The more deeply we are rooted in the virtue of penance, the more powerful our confessions will be.
For many students, we have entered into the season of fatigue. Caffeine doesn’t actually help at this stage; it only delays. Some resort to chewing tobacco. Others buy standing desks. Still others go in for ten-pound bags of unsalted sunflower seeds (autobiographical). At times it can feel like wearing a lead mask underneath your skin, or like your facial features are collapsing around the bridge of your nose. I often find that my morning offerings change from intelligible words to audible groans. My prayers before bed usually include double sleep power (a grace sometimes given for those interested). I’ll even find myself using the old responses for Mass: “It is right to give him thanks and praise. Oops.” Fatigue gets into everything—your food, your prayer, your conversation—making the day into one long waking dream.
Dominicana Blog is happy to offer this audio recording of “St. John of the Cross: Night Ascent.” It was given by Br. Edmund McCullough, O.P. as the final installment of a four-part series of Lenten Conferences, offered at the Dominican House of Studies.
Of the many memorials here in Washington, DC, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is especially notable. Commemorating those soldiers whose fates we do not know, it pays tribute to sacrifices hidden from the sight of men. Yet it recognizes that no sacrifice, no deed, is unknown to God, bearing an inscription reading:
Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God
In a certain sense, this qualification of unknown—“known but to God”—isn’t exactly a subtle exception. Once we acknowledge the reality of God’s omnipotence then it immediately follows that nothing can be absolutely unknown, but rather that, at most, things can only remain unknown to men.
Dominicana is excited to announce the launch of a new website, coming this Easter Monday! The new address will be www.DominicanaJournal.org, where all visitors to our usual blog site will be automatically directed. But don’t worry! All previous content has already been transferred over, and the new site will keep up the same, steady supply of daily blog posts. This time, however, you’ll find them presented with a sharper look, and the site will be more closely tied to our bi-annual print journal, produced by the same authors you know well.
Lastly, we’d like to offer our thanks to our many faithful readers over the past years. May God bless you during these last days of Lent, and may He meet you with much joy and many graces this Easter season. So, tune in April 5th to continue the journey with us.
During my friend’s Master’s defense, she stood before her committee, nervously pinching her necklace between her thumb and forefinger. I remember her words clearly: “I consider myself spiritual, but not religious.” She was trying to express the thought and meaning in her design. She hoped her design would inspire something beyond materiality and superficiality without resorting to traditional motifs or symbols.
Most of us have encountered these words in some respect or another. Someone may elaborate by saying, “Well, I think there is something higher, something spiritual in us, in our world, but I don’t think that religion captures it. Religion tries to get at it, but I think ultimately religion restricts it, or abuses it.” The prominent New Atheist Sam Harris puts it this way:
Our world is dangerously riven by religious doctrines that all educated people should condemn, and yet there is more to understanding the human condition than science and secular culture generally admit.
We can see evidence of this aspiration being built, in an ironic way, in the architectural project included above.
One of my favorite things at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the series of mosaics depicting the original fifteen mysteries of the Rosary. Each mystery is paired with an event in the Old Testament that somehow foretells it. Some of the connections are fairly obvious. The slaughter of the Passover lamb, for example, is paired with the death of Jesus, and the Nativity is connected with Isaiah’s prophecy to King Ahaz: “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Is 7:14). Some are more obscure. For example, the finding of Jesus teaching in the Temple is connected with the rescue of Susanna, when the young Daniel defended her before the assembly against the two perjuring elders.
One of the most striking juxtapositions is that of the angel’s annunciation to Mary and the call of Moses at Mount Horeb by way of the burning bush. The connection has been made at least since the fourth century, when St. Gregory of Nyssa observed, “The light of divinity . . . did not consume the burning bush, even as the flower of her virginity was not withered by giving birth.”
Dominicana Blog is happy to offer this audio recording of “St. Benedict Joseph Labre: Tramping with the Cross.” It was given by Br. Thomas Martin Miller, O.P. as the third installment of a four-part series of Lenten Conferences, offered at the Dominican House of Studies.
All conferences are open to the public. Join us for last installment “St. John of the Cross: Night Ascent” given by Br. Edmund McCullough. It begins at 8 p.m. tomorrow night, March 25.
“He who sings, prays twice,” said Augustine. Well, except that he didn’t. He had plenty to say about singing, but his most famous line on the subject turns out not to have been his. Still, whether singing does double duty or not, it’s clear that it does augment prayer somehow. During Lent, then, when we’re invited to a deeper relationship with Christ through fasting and almsgiving and, yes, prayer, it makes sense that singing is given more attention. One example is the Church’s instruction that during Lent musical instruments be used in the liturgy only insofar as they are needed to support the singing; another is the increased intricacy and beauty of our Dominican chants proper to Lent, such as the In Pace and the Media Vita.
Composers seem to have sensed for ages the fit between sublime music and Lenten meditations on the Passion, from the plaintive polyphony of Victoria’s Tenebrae responsories to the brooding brilliance of Bach’s Matthäus-Passion, BWV 244. One of the chorales in this latter work, Herzliebster Jesu, was a popular German hymn which Bach arranged and used for the Matthäus-Passion’s third and fifty-fifth movements. The text is best known in English in the beautiful translation by Robert Bridges, which is still sung today to essentially the same tune:
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,
That man to judge thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.