Why does the devil often prevail?

After the resurrection of Christ, the devil is bound. Some may say,'If he is bound, why does he often prevail?' It is perfectly true, my brethren, he does often prevail; but its is tepid and careless, and who do not really fear God, that he overcomes.

He is tied up like a dog on a chain, and only bites someone who, sure of himself, goes near him. Wouldn't you think a man a fool who let himself be bitten by a chained dog? 

Contemplation on the 1st hour of the Eve of Monday (1)

How should you hate your life?

“Let him follow Me” means this: Let him walk in my ways, and not in his own; as it written elsewhere, “He that said he abides in Christ, should himself also walk just as He walked.” For he should, if supplying food to the hungry, to do it in the way of mercy and not of boasting, seeking nothing else but the doing of good. In other words, all of that kind of self seeking should be completely separated from a work of charity. He that serves in this way serves Christ, and will have it rightly said to him, “Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of those who are My, you did it to me.” And thus doing not only those acts of mercy that pertain to the body but every good workm for the sake of Christ (for then will all be good, because “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes”), he is Christ’s servant even to that work of special love, which is to lay down his life for the brethren, for that were to lay it down also for Christ. For this also will He say hereafter in behalf of His members: Inasmuch as you did it for these, you have done it for me.

Contemplation on the 1st hour of Holy Monday (1)

Created in His image and likeness

You have printed Your traits on us! You created us in Your image and according Your likeness! You made us Your currency; yet Your coins should not remain in darkness. Send the ray of Your wisdom to scatter our darkness, for Your image to shine in us…Do not think how to return the reward to Him …Reflect back on His image; He does not ask for more…He wants His coin back…Do offer Him something of yours, because when you do this, you would only offer Him sin.

Contemplation on the 6th hour of the Eve of Thursday (1)

Why would we blame the Jews for their disbelief, when God has blinded their eyes?

They could not believe, because Isaiah so prophesised, as God told him what their situation would be. But, if you ask: what was the reason of their disbelief, I will instantly answer: They did not want to. As God foresaw their corrupted will, He so foretold His prophet, as the future is not hidden from Him….God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, as He foresook them, and denied them His care.

Who is Saint Augustine?

Bishop of Hippo, Doctor of the Church (A.D. 430)

Introduction

    "And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?"

These words of repentance marked the beginning of Augustine's new life. A few years after he came in contact with God, he said, "Our hearts, O Lord, were made for you, and they are restless until the rest in you."

Saint Augustine is one of the greatest Fathers of the Church. He was an original thinker who became recognized as a remarkable leader of Christian faith. One of the guiding forces in Saint Augustine's life was his Christian mother, Saint Monica.

His Childhood and Youth

Saint Augustine, who used commonly to be called Austin in English, was born on November 13, 354 at Tagaste, a small town of Numidia in north Africa, not far from Hippo. His father, Patricius, was a pagan and of a violent disposition; but through the example and prudent conduct of his wife, Saint Monica, he was baptized a little before his death.

As a child, Saint Monica instructed him in the Christian religion and taught him how to pray; falling dangerously ill, he desired baptism and his mother got everything ready for it: but he suddenly grew better, and it was put off.

His father wanted him to become a man of learning and cared very little about his character. In his writings, Augustine accuses himself of often studying by constraint, disobeying his parents and masters, not writing, reading, or minding his lessons so much as was required of him; and this he did not for lack of wit or memory, but out of love of play. But he prayed to God with great earnestness that he might escape punishment at school. He later on did so well with his studies that he went to Carthage in 370 when he was still 17. He studied rhetoric with eagerness and pleasure; but his motives were vanity and ambition, and to them he joined loose living.

Years away from Christ

At Carthage, he entered into relations with a woman (to whom he remained faithful until he sent her away from him 15 years later). She bore him a son, Adeodatus, in 372. His father had died in 371, but he continued at Carthage and switched to philosophy and the search for the truth. He also studied the Scriptures but from a subjective attitude. He was offended with the simplicity of style, and could not relish their humility or penetrate their spirit. Then he fell into Manichaeism – a combination of pagan religions and philosophy. The darkening of the understanding and clumsiness in the use of the faculties helped to betray him into his company; and pride did the rest. "I sought with pride", he says, "what only humility could make me find. Fool that I was, I left the nest, imagining myself able to fly; and I fell to the ground."

For nine years he had his own schools of rhetoric and grammar in Tagaste and Carthage, while his devoted mother, Saint Monica, spurred on by the assurance of a holy bishop that "the son of so many tears could not perish", never ceased by prayer and gentle persuasion to try to bring him to conversion and reform.

In 383 he departed to Rome, secretly, lest his mother should prevent him from going to the big city. He opened a school or rhetoric, and then was appointed by the government as a teacher in Milan, where his mother, and his friend Alipius joined him. Saint Monica's only ambition was to convert her son to Christianity.

His Repentance

In Milan, Saint Augustine came under the influence of Saint Ambrose the bishop; he began to go to his sermons, not so much with an expectation of profiting by them as to gratify his curiosity and to enjoy the eloquence. He found that the discourses more learned than the heresies he adopted and began to read the New Testament especially Saint Paul's writings. In the same time, the mother of Adeodatus his son left back to Africa leaving the child behind.

Saint Augustine's spiritual, moral and intellectual struggle went on; he was convinced of the truth of Christianity, but his will was weaker than the worldly temptations, and delayed his return to Christ for many months. "Soon, in a little while, I shall make up my mind, but not right now" he kept telling himself. In his half desires of conversion he was accustomed to beg of God the grace of chastity, but was at the same time in some measure afraid of being heard too soon. He realized that his problem was a moral one. The Divine truth for which he was seeking would never be his unless he first overcame his weakness.

Soon after, Pontitian, an African, came to visit Saint Augustine and his friend Alipius; he told them about two men who had been suddenly turned to the service of God by reading about the life of Saint Anthony. His words had a powerful influence on the mind of Saint Augustine. He was ashamed his will has been so weak and said to Alipius:

    "What are we doing to let the unlearned seize Heaven by force, whilst we with all our knowledge remain behind, cowardly and heartless, wallowing in our sins? Because they have outstripped us and gone before, are we ashamed to follow them? Is it not more shameful not even to follow them?"

He rushed to the garden, greatly upset; tears filling his eyes, he threw himself on the grass under a fig tree and reproached himself bitterly crying out:

    "And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?"

As he spoke these words he heard a child's voice singing "Tolle lege! Tolle lege!" (Take up and read! Take up and read!). He could not remember any childhood game he played with any such words. He remembered that Saint Anthony was converted from the world by hearing a single verse. He took up Saint Paul's epistles and read the first chapter that met his eyes: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, fulfil the lusts thereof." (Romans 13:13-14)

When he told Alipius what he had experienced, Alipius took the book and read, he found the next words to be: "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye" and applied them to himself and joined his friend in his resolution.

This high point in the conversion of Saint Augustine took place in the September of 386, when he was 32 years old. He, his son Adeodatus and Alipius were baptized by Saint Ambrose at Easter the following year in the presence of saint Monica. She knew that her prayers were answered and died shortly after. Saint Augustine prayed:

    "Too late, have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved Thee! Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee; I was abroad, running after those beauties which Thou hast made; those things which could have no being but in Thee kept me away from Thee. Thou hast called, Thou hast cried out, and hast pierced my deafness. Thou hast enlightened, Thou hast shone forth, and my blindness is dispelled. I have tasted Thee, and am hungry of Thee. Thou hast touched me, and I am afire with the desire of thy embraces."

A Priest and then a Bishop

From that time, Saint Augustine went back to Tagaste, his native city, and lived for three years with his friends and shared a life of prayer, study and poverty. All things were in common and were distributed according to everyone's needs. He had no idea of becoming a priest, but in 391 he was ordained as an assistant to Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, and he had to move to that city.

He established a sort of monastery in his house, living with Saint Alipius, Saint Evodius, Saint Possidius and others according to the rule of the holy Apostles. Valerius who had an impediment in speaking appointed Saint Augustine to preach in his own presence and he has not interrupted the course of his sermons until his death (nearly 400 sermons). He vigorously opposed the Manicheans and the Donatists.

In 395 he was consecrated bishop as co-adjutor to Valerius, and succeeded him in the see of Hippo on his death soon after. He established regular and common life in his episcopal residence, and required all the priests, deacons, and subdeacons to renounce property following the regular mode of life recognized by the early Church as instituted by the Apostles.

He founded a community of religious women and on the death of his sister, the first "abbess", he addressed a letter on the general ascetic principles of the religious life; this letter is known as the "Rule of Saint Augustine".

He employed the revenues of his church in relieving the poor and in redeeming the captives. Like another Moses or Saint Paul, he said to his people: "I do not want to be saved without you. What shall I desire? What shall I say? Why am I a bishop? Why am I in the world? Only to live in Jesus Christ: but to live in Him with you. This is my passion, my honor, my glory, my joy and my riches."

There is a good example of Saint Augustine's modesty and humility in his discussion with Saint Jerome over the interpretation of a text of Galatians. Owing to the miscarriage of a letter Saint Jerome, not an easily patient man, deemed himself publicly attacked. Saint Augustine wrote to him: "I entreat you again and again to correct me confidently when you perceive me to stand in need of it; for though the office of a bishop be greater than that of a priest, yet in many things Augustine is inferior to Jerome."

Through his 35 years as a bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine had to defend the faith against one heresy or another. He opposed the Donatists, the Pelagians, and the Alarians. In order to finish his valuable writings, and to provide against a troublesome election after his death, he proposed to his clergy and people to choose for his co-adjutor Heraclius, the youngest among his deacons, and his election was confirmed by acclamation in 426.

Saint Augustine calmly resigned his spirit into the hands of God on August 28, 430, after having lived 76 years and spent almost 40 of them in the labors of the ministry. Among his greatest work is the 15 volume "On the City of God" which took him 30 years to write, and his "Confessions".

May the prayers and supplications of the great Saint Augustine be with us. Amen.

Contemplation on the 11th hour of the Eve of Tuesday (1)

The Last day..

Everyone should think of concerning his own last day; lest happly when you judge or think the last day of the world to be far distant, you slumber with respect to your own last day…Let noone then search out for the last Day, when it is to be; but let us watch all by our good lives, lest the last day of any one of us find us unprepared, and such as any one shall depart hence on his last day, such he be found in the last day of the world. Nothing will then assist you which you shall not have done here. His own works will help, or his own works will overwhelm everyone.

Contemplation on the 1st hour of Great Friday (2)

Why was our Lord wearing white?

It is significant that Jesus is clothed in a white garment by Herod. It denotes His sinless passion; because the Lamb of God without stain and with glory accepted the sins of the world. (John 1:29) Herod and Pilate, who became friends instead of enemies through Jesus Christ, symbolize the peoples of Israel and the Gentiles, since the future harmony of both follows from the Lord's passion (Eph 2:13) First, the people of the nations capture the Word of God and bring it to the people of the Jew, through the devotion of their faith. They clothe with glory the body of Christ, who they had previously despised.

Note: Now our Lord is wearing the white garments, but in the next hour, they shall be crimson, reddened by our sins and stained by our iniquities. 

Contemplation on the 11th hour of the Eve of Great Friday (3)

Why did Peter weep?

To wash away the sin of denial, Peter needed the baptism of tears. From where would he get this, unless the Lord gave him this too? That is why the apostle Paul gave this advice to his people concerning deviant opinions and about how they should deal with them. He said they must be "correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth." (2 Tim 2:25) So even repentance is a gift from God. The heart of the proud is hard ground. It is softened for repentance only if it is rained on by God's grace. 

Contemplation on the 6th hour of Holy Wednesday (2)

What does the aroma symbolize? (John 12:1-8)

The sweet odor symbolizes the good report which is earned by a life of good works; and the man who wins this, while following in the footsteps of Christ, anoints His feet (so to speak) with the most precious ointment. *Please note that this icon is of the sinful woman at the house of simon, not Mary in Bethany, which the fathers think annointed Christ in this gospel. But is inserted here to remind us of her love, repentance and humility.

Contemplation on the 9th hour of the Eve of Thursday (1)

What is the difference between being "snatched out of the Father's hand" and out of Christ's hand? (John 10:29-38)christ enthroned

Do the Father and the Son have one hand, or is the Son Himself, shall we say, the hand of His Father?…the Father's hand is the Son Himself, which is not to be so understood as if God had the himan form, and as it were, bodily members: but that all things were made by Him.

For men also are in the habit of calling other men their hands, by whom they get done what they wish. And sometimes also the very work done by a man's handis called his hand; as one is said to recognize his hand when he recognizes what he has written. Since, then, there are many ways of speaking of the hand of a man, who literally has a hand among the members of his body; how much rather must there be more than one way of understanding it, when we read of the hand of God, who has no bodily form? And in this way it is better here, by the hand of the Father and the Son, to understand the power of the Father and the Son; lest, in taking here the hand of the Father as spoken of the Son, some carnal thought also about the Son Himself should set us looking for the Son as somehow to be similarly regarded as the hand of Christ. Therefore, "no one plucks them out of my Father's hand;" that is, no one plucks them from Me…

Contemplation on the Liturgy of the blessing of the water (2)

The washing of the feet, repentance and baptism

He who has been washed has need still to wash his feet…[for] in holy baptism a man has all of him washed, not everything but his feet, but every part. But after living in ths human state, he cannot fail to tread on the ground with his feet, Thus our human feelings themselves, which are inseparable from our mortal life on earth, are like feet with which we come into sensible contact with human affairs…

Therefore, every day He who intercedes for us is washing our feet. We, too have a daily need to be washing our feet, that is ordering aright the path of our spriritual footsteps, we acknowledge even in the Lord's prayer, when we say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we also forgive those who trespass against us." For "If we confess out sins," then truly He who washed His disciples' feet is "faithful and just to forgive us our sings, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) 

Accordingly the Church, which Christ cleanses with the washing of water in the word, is without spot and wrinkle, not only in the case of those who are taken away immediately after the washing of regeneration from the contagious influence of this life, and tread not the earth so aso to make necessary the washing of their feet, but in those also who have experienced such mercy from the Lord as to be enabled to quit this present life even with feet that have been washed.

But although the Church is also clean in respect of those who tarry on earth, because they live righteously; they still need to be washing their feet, because they assuredly are not without sin. This is why it is said in the Song of Songs, "I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?" For one so speaks when he is constrained to come to Christ, and in coming has to bring his feet into contact with the ground.

Contemplation on the 6th hour of the Eve of Wednesday (1)

The Virgins: Is this story only to those who live a life of virginity? (Matt 25:1-13)

The whole church consists of virgins, and boys, and married men and married women, which is referred to by one name called a Virgin. How can we prove this? Hear the Apostle saying, not to the religious women only but to the whole church together; "I have betrothed you to One Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:2) And because the devil, the corrupter of this virginity, is to be guarded against, the Apostle connected this verse with, "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Cor. 11:3) Few have virginity in the body; in the heart all should have it.