Greetings! I started a new blog called The Ever Blessed this past Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Check out its latest post. I will no longer be blogging @ Shmuelson. Godspeed and Ave Maria!

491 Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, “full of grace” through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: 

The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

492 The “splendor of an entirely unique holiness” by which Mary is “enriched from the first instant of her conception” comes wholly from Christ: she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son“. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.

-Catechism of the Catholic Church

I came across this lovely variation of the Gloria Patri penned by St. John of Damascus and I thought I’d share it…

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Be my soul’s Defender, O God, for I step over many snares. Deliver me from them and save me, O Good One, in Thy love for man.

Now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Let us not silently hymn the most glorious Mother of God, holiest of holy Angels, but confess her with heart and mouth to be the Mother of God, for she truly bore God incarnate for us, and prays without ceasing for our souls. Amen.

Venerate my sanctuary, says the Lord our God (Leviticus 19:30). Why should we? Well, first off, because He says so. It is His will. And it is our duty as His people, to follow His will. Yet, for those of us that need to understand why we need to obey Him before we obey Him (Lord, have mercy), in venerating God’s sanctuary, we worship Him. Honor given to a type passes to the prototype.

As tactile beings with senses, we need to have this sort of dynamic in worshipping the invisible God. In the Mosaic covenant, the people of God fulfilled this commandment by building and adorning the tabernacle and temple, by carrying before them in a worshipful procession the ark of the covenant (which was also richly adorned), and by praying towards Jerusalem—each of these forms of veneration being appropriate to worshipping God’s particular presence in the Holy of Holies. In the new and everlasting covenant, the people of God fulfill this commandment in ways that are appropriate to God’s particular presence in His Incarnate and  Eternal Word, Jesus Christ. We venerate His virgin mother whose womb became His tabernacle; whose flesh became His flesh—the means by which He dwelt among us and accomplished our salvation. We venerate His saints in Heaven, who attained salvation through the infused dwelling of the Holy Spirit within each of them (being therefore temples of that same Holy Spirit). And, we venerate His tabernacles in the Churches and Cathedrals where He now dwells among us “to the end of the age” in the Most Holy Eucharist. We venerate His sanctuary, and therefore offer Him worship that is pleasing to Him

We will go into his tabernacle: we will adore in the place where his feet stood. Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified. Let your priests be clothed with justice: and let your saints rejoice.

Psalm 132

During his recent trip to the U.K., Pope Benedict XVI beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman. I came across this quote of Newman’s on our Lady and found it very representative of why Catholics venerate Mary. Check it out below. And, if you are curious about the Beatification and Canonization process (the cause for Sainthood), follow this link for a comprehensive yet brief explanation.

Mary is exalted for the sake of Jesus. It was fitting that she, as being a creature, though the first of creatures, should have an office of ministration. She, as others, came into the world to do a work, she had a mission to fulfil; her grace and her glory are not for her own sake, but for her Maker’s; and to her is committed the custody of the Incarnation; this is her appointed office,—”A Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel”. As she was once on earth, and was personally the guardian of her Divine Child, as she carried Him in her womb, folded Him in her embrace, and suckled Him at her breast, so now, and to the latest hour of the Church, do her glories and the devotion paid her proclaim and define the right faith concerning Him as God and man.

–Blessed John Henry Newman

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

Do you believe in the Incarnation of the Word of God? Do you concede that God worked His plan of salvation through matter, that is, through the hypostatic taking on of human flesh? Do you believe that through that same matter, the Divine power was manifested in miracles and the forgiveness of sins? Yes? Then you already have a belief structure invested in sacramentalism. In other words, you already agree with a mode of God’s grace and presence being conferred through a physical and sacramental sign. Surprise! ;)

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:21-23

Where is that in Protestantism? Where is that even referenced or explained in the Protestant faiths? To understand this scripture better, let’s consider its context. This event occurs after Mary Magdalene encounters a man outside of the empty tomb of our Lord on the third day following His suffering and death. This man, whom she mistook for a gardener, turns out to be Christ and once she realizes this she cries out “Rabbo’ni!” which is Hebrew for “my teacher”. And being her Teacher, sure enough the first words out of our risen Lord’s mouth in this gospel account are words of teaching. “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go tell MY BRETHREN and say to them, I am ascending to my Father, and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God.”

There is a paradigm shift here in Jesus’ relationship with His Apostles, one that explains the ultimate reality of the power of His resurrection and the Church’s authority to forgive sins. Not only did the incarnation of Christ allow man to share in God’s friendship (John 15:15-17), but His resurrection allows us to be born anew as sons of the Father and brothers of the Son thereby becoming participants in the life of the Trinity. What is the life of the Trinity? It is the life of love (1 John 4:7-8), and therefore reconciliation—the forgiveness of sins.

Let’s return to the verse in question. Within the aforementioned context of becoming sons of God the Father and brethren of God the Son, our Lord appears to His apostles and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Note that Christ is appearing to the 12 here before the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost. There is a more specified gift of authority being given to the Apostles here then there will be in the more general or universal (or Catholic) gift to the entire Church at the Pentecost event. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Why did the Father send His Son into the world? In brief, to reconcile a fallen humanity to Himself. What power did the Son have in order to do so? The authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-12). And with that, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Again, I have to ask, where is that in Protestantism? The reality is, it’s not. It does exist, however, in……drumroll please……Catholicism. Throughout history, the gift of the Son’s reconciling authority has been preserved in the Catholic Church through ordination of her clergy—the successors of the apostles. And that authority, that gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive sins by virtue of Christ’s authority on earth to do so, and by virtue of His Sonship and ours, has not diminished in its capacity or power. It is the same power. The power of God’s only begotten Son: our Master, our Rabbi, and our Brother.

Well that’s it for the first two parts of this series. In the next section we will discuss participation in the life of Christ via baptism, sharing in His sufferings, and through Holy Communion. So stay tuned.

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