Reciting the Ave Maria is good for a person’s health because of the

calming power of prayer, a study says today.


Repeating the rosary prayer slows down breathing, thereby improving

the workings of the heart and lungs, according to a team from Italy.


They found that the Catholic practice was as effective as yoga in

controlling breathing, enhancing concentration and inducing a

feeling of calm.


Researches from the University of Pavia published their findings in

the British Medical Journal following an analysis of breathing rates

in 23 adults.


The beneficial effects of the familiar prayer emerged after participants

were examined while talking normally, chanting a yoga mantra, reciting

the Ave Maria, and during six minutes of controlled breathing.


The team found that both the Ave Maria, the Latin version of the

Hail Mary, and the mantra, slowed breathing to around six breaths

per minute, a rate believed to be favourable to the functioning of the

heart. It also is thought to improve concentration and induce calm.




Here’s a message that will give you chills. Have you ever felt the urge to pray for someone and then just put it on a list and said, “I’ll pray for them later”? Or has anyone ever called you and said “I need you to pray for me, I have this need?”


Read this following story that was sent to me and it may change the way that you may think about prayer and also the way you pray. You will be blessed by this. A missionary on furlough told this story while preaching in his home church in Michigan….


“While serving at a small field hospital in Africa, ever two weeks I traveled by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. This was a journey of two days and required camping overnight at the halfway point. On one of these journeys, I arrived in the city where I planned to collect money from a bank, purchase medicine supplies, and then begin my two-day journey back to the field hospital. Upon arrival in the city, I observed two men fighting, one of them had been seriously injured. I treated him for his injuries and at the same time talked to him about the Lord. I then traveled two days, camping overnight, and arrived home without incident. Two weeks later I repeated my journey. Upon arriving in the city, I was approached by the young man I had treated. He told me that he had known that I carried money and medicines. He told me that along with some friends  he had followed me into the jungle. knowing I would camp overnight. They planned to kill me and take the money and drugs. But just as they were about to move into the camp they saw that I as surrounded by 26 armed guards. At this I laughed


and said that I was certainly all alone in that jungle campsite. The young man pressed the point. “No sir,” he said “I was not the only person to see the guards. My five friends also saw them and we all counted them. It was because of those guards that we were afraid and left you alone.””


At this point in the sermon, one of the men in the congregation jumped to his feet and interrupted the missionary and asked him if he could tell him the exact day this happened. The missionary told the congregation the date, and the man who interrupted told him this story: “On the night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was playing golf. I was just about to putt when I felt the urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong that I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary to pray for you. Would all of those men who met with me on that day stand up?” The men who had met together to pray that day stood up. The missionary wasn’t concerned with who they were, he was too busy counting how many men he saw. There were 26!


This story is an incredible example of how the ‘Spirit of the Lord moves in mysterious ways. If you ever hear such prodding, go along with it. Nothing is ever hurt by prayer except the gates of hell. I encourage you to forward this to as many people as you know. If we all take it to heart, we can turn this world towards God once again. As the above true story clearly illustrates “With God all things are possible” and more importantly, how God hears and answers the prayers of the faithful.


After you read this, please pass it on and give God thanks for the beautiful gift of your faith, for the powerful gift of prayer. and the many miracles he works in your own daily life. We walk on this earth but one time………each time we touch someone, we leave a part of ourselves…….and we walk away with a part of them. Touch kindly…..

(This story was sent to me by a friend in London, who had received it from the USA.)


188. A Psalm for Busy People.


The Lord is my Pacesetter, I will not rush.

He makes me stop and rest for quiet intervals.

He provides me with images of stillness, which restore my serenity.

He leads me in ways of efficiency, through calmness of mind.

And His guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things to

accomplish each day, I will not fret.

For his presence is here; His timeliness,

His all-importance will keep me in balance.

He prepares refreshment and renewal for me

in the midst of activity.

By anointing my mind with His oil of tranquility,

my cup of joyous energy overflows.

Surely harmony and effectiveness shall be

the fruits of my hours,

For I shall walk in the pace of my Lord forever.




New York September 11th 2001


     The following was received from someone in the USA and

                      seems to capture many people’s reactions to recent events.


                        On Monday people were fighting against prayers in schools.

                       On Tuesday you would have been hard pressed to find a

                                     school where someone was not praying.


                             On Monday people were trying to separate each other

                                          by race, sex, colour and creed.

                                    On Tuesday they were holding hands.


                                    On Monday we thought we were secure.

                                              On Tuesday we learnt better.


                        On Monday we were talking about athletes as heroes.

                                On Tuesday we learnt what ‘hero’ means.


               On Monday people went to work at the World Trade Centre as usual.

                                             On Tuesday they died.


                            On Monday people were fighting the teaching of

                                    The Ten Commandments in schools.

                   On Tuesday the same people all said “God help us all” while

                                         thinking “Thou shalt not kill.”


         On Monday people argued with their kids about cleaning up their room.

   On Tuesday the same people could not get home fast enough to hug  them.


 On Monday people were upset that their dry cleaning was not ready on  time.

                              On Tuesday they were lining up to give blood.


                              On Monday some children had solid families.

                                           On Tuesday they were orphans.


                                            On Monday we emailed jokes.

                                                 On Tuesday we did not.


190. To Love


To love, and be rejected; to spend every

     effort to help, and be turned down;

To be in a situation of having to compete to

      be heard, and be silent;

To have answers, and not be able to

      convey them;

To love, knowing you can win, and not be



To go to the end of the line

      when you were there first;

To tell the truth, and it be made a lie…

To try to be saintly, and be made out to be a devil…


To be on the inside – and be cast outside…

     To be with many, and know you are really alone;

To give yourself unreservedly to others…

     And be a victim of their envy…


To dedicate your life to a purpose…

     And have that purpose turn against you;

To be innocent, and be accused…

     As Jesus was…


To be stripped of all authority,

     earthly power, and position… 

       And be nothing…


Is to have our hearts lacerated with humility…

     To the greatest depth;

And receive, at the greatest heights,

     God’s blessing of walking Jesus’ path…


          This is Love!



191. The Farmer and the Mule.


A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule.


The mule fell into a farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule ‘braying’ – or whatever mules do when they fall in wells. After carefully assessing the situation. the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the  well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened….and enlisted them to haul dirt to bury the mule in the well and put him out of his misery.


Initially, he old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer an his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back…..a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed in his back    HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did, blow after blow.


Shake it off and step up…..shake it off and step up……shake it off and step up!” he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought ‘panic’ and just kept on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP!


You’re right! It wasn’t long before the old mule battered and exhausted STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THAT WELL! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him    all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.


THAT’S LIFE! If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity…THE ADVERSITIES THAT COME ALONG TO BURY US USUALLY HAVE WITHIN THEM THE POTENTIAL BENEFIT AND BLESS US!


Remember that FORGIVENESS – FAITH – PRAYER – PRAISE – and HOPE    are all excellent ways to “SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP” out of the wells in which we find ourselves!


With each Ave Maria, we shake loose our ties to this earth –                               

                            TAKE A STEP UP!


192. A Dot.Com Prayer.


Every single evening

As I’m lying here in bed

This tiny little prayer

Keeps running though my head.


God bless all my family

Wherever they may be

Keep them warm and safe from harm

For they’re so close to me.


And God there is one more thing

I wish that you could do

Hope you don’t mind me asking

Bless my computer too.


Now I know that it’s not normal

To bless a motherboard

But listen just a second

While I explain ‘My Lord’.


You see that little metal box

Holds more than odds and ends

Inside those small compartments

Rest so many of my FRIENDS.


I know so much about them

By the kindness that they give

And this little scrap of metal

Takes me in to where they live.

By faith is how I know them

Much the same as you

We share in what life brings us

And from that our friendships grew.


Please take an extra minute

From your duties up above,

To bless those in my address book

That’s filled with so much love!


Wherever else this prayer may reach

To each and every friend,

Bless each e-mail box

And the person who hits ‘Send.’


When you update your heavenly list

On your own CD-Rom,

Remember each who’ve said this prayer Sent up to God.com.                             Amen.


193. The Passion of Jesus.


It will never be possible to understand Jesus’ complete suffering (it isn’t even possible to know how much our nearest and dearest are suffering when they are ill. Pain is a very personal thing. We only know how much we can bear ourselves.)


We know the cause of Jesus’ suffering was our sins but are we able to consider the mental anguish which Jesus had to control? In Jesus we have someone who is truly God and truly Man. Dare we suggest that during the Passion Jesus became only Man? Certainly not! But accepting that Jesus remained always truly God and truly Man brings with it an incredible situation. As God Jesus could, at any moment, have called on angels who would have come and saved him.


          [Pilate said] “Art thou the king of the Jews? ‘Jesus answered, “Dost

          thou say this of thyself, or have others told thee of me?” Pilate

          answered. Am I am Jew? Thy own people and the chief priests have

          delivered thee to me. What has thou done?” Jesus answered, “My

          kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my

          followers would have fought that I might not be delivered to the Jews.

          But, as it is my kingdom is not from here John 18:33-36.


So Jesus, as God, could at any moment of the Passion, have called on the heavenly choirs of angels to rescue him. His passion can therefore be considered in two quite separate phases. 1. The physical pain. 2. The Mental pain caused by his complete acceptance of His Father’s Will that he should suffer.


Can we even begin to comprehend what that means? That at any time during the passion, when the scourging was taking place, when the crowning with thorns was taking place, when the carrying of the cross was taking place, when the nails were being driven through his hands and feet, when he was undergoing the unbelievable pain of hanging on the cross, trying to reduce the pain on his arms by pressing on his feet, then in turn trying to reduce the pain in his feet by taking the weight on his arms; he could at any moment have brought all this pain to an end.


So it wasn’t only a matter of accepting His Father’s will and enduring the pain of the Passion. But on top of all that Jesus had to use His own will power to stop Him using his God given power to release himself from the torments of the passion.


So in the Garden of Gethsemane, in accepting His Father’s Will, Jesus also accepted the mental pain of saying “No” to his own Will. He couldn’t put that Will on ‘hold’. He had to control that Will. What sort of mental anguish would that have caused? It is difficult, even

impossible, for us to understand.



If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, it would look something like the following;        There would be:


57 Asians.

21 Europeans.

14 From the Western Hemisphere, both north and south.

  8 Africans.


52 Would be female.

48 Would be male.

70 Would be non-white.

30 Would be white.

70 Would be non Christian.

30 Would be Christian.

89 Would be heterosexual.

11 Would be homosexual.


  6 People would possess 59% of the (village’s) world’s wealth.

     (And all six would be from the USA.)


80 Would live in substandard housing.

70 Would be unable to read.

50 Would suffer from malnutrition.

  1 Would be near death.

  1 Would be near birth.

  1 (Yes, only one) would have a college education.

  1 Would own a computer.


When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need

for both acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.


The following is something to ponder;


If you wake up in our real world with more health than illness then you are more blessed than the million (1,000,000) who will not survive this week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation then you are ahead of 500 million (500,000,000) people in the world.


If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, and death then you are more blessed than the 3 Billion (3,000,000,000) people in the world.


If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head  and a place to sleep then you are richer then 75% of the people of this world.


If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish some place, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.


A little perspective helps, doesn’t it?


N.B. I have no way of confirming these figures but, sadly, I suspect they are true.


Michael Blackburn. May 2002.


195 Who Will Gain Entry To Heaven?                                             May 2002.


At this time, around the world, fighting is taking place in the name of religion, in the name of freedom, and in the name of a God who only wants peace. Those who are fighting think that their efforts will gain them an immediate entry to heaven. Theirs is a false logic because what they are doing will ensure that they are refused entry. What they are doing is completely contrary to what God wants. Only after a time in purgatory will they be granted access.


The appalling situation in Palestine between the Jews, Muslims and Christians, and in other parts of the world where religion is used to wage war will ensure that the perpetrators will find heaven’s door firmly closed. The present situation in the Sudan where those in the North are arbitrarily killing those in the South,n  and all in the name of oil, will ensure a closed heavenly gate. Similar situations exist in Laos and Burma. A time in Purgatory is the only place for the perpetrators of such atrocities.


Another false logic is the misuse of the word ‘Martyr.’ Nowadays a martyr is considered to be someone who is prepared to kill themselves while, at the same time, killing others. These people are not martyrs they are murderers. A true martyr is one who is put to death for their faith. To kill oneself is suicide and to kill others in the process is murder. People who carry out these atrocities will not gain the immediate entry to heaven which they anticipate. Once again Purgatory will be their reward.


It is sad, because many have been falsely led to believe that, after their atrocities, heaven’s gates will be open to them. The moment when they realise that they have been badly misled will be a terrible time for them. But the fact that “I didn’t know” will be no excuse. It does not take much brain power to realise ‘right’ from ‘wrong.’ In due course those who teach what is ‘wrong’ will receive the result of their wrongdoing.


The same applies to anyone who, although not physically fighting, have hate in their hearts. No-one with hate in their hearts will enter heaven. Think of the situation in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. Any of those who harbour hate will not gain entry to heaven without a time of cleansing.


Another section of people who will find Heaven’s door closed is those who have racist feelings. Racism is a sin in whatever form it takes. It can be the indigenous with racist feelings to the immigrants or the immigrants with racist feelings to the indigenous. Racism is neither black nor white. In either case the Heavenly gates will be closed until a cleansing has taken place.


If only everyone world-wide would realise that love, and love alone, is the passport to heaven. ‘Religious conflicts’, ‘hate’ and ‘racism’ in any form will be the cause of great distress to those who find themselves outside the Heavenly Gates for as long as it takes for them to be cleansed.


In all cases ‘Love’ is the passport for entry to Heaven.


196. A Burning Candle.


The symbol of a burning candle is at the heart of t-oday’s feast. I invite you simply to look at the candle before you and let your mind flow freely between what you observe and what is symbolised.


Our gaze is drawn, I think, immediately to the tongue of the flame, a moving column of light and heat. This represents, of course, Christ, the light of the world. In the radiance of this light, we see the face of the Father looking on us with love, sending his Son to redeem us and to give us communion in his own eternal life through the gift of the Holy Spirit, in whom we are sons and daughters. The heat the flame gives off is the warmth of love.


The flame is communicated to us as one candle is lighted from another. The image comes to mind of the tongues of flame that descended on each of the apostles at Pentecost. And the spirit of charity can be communicated from one human heart to another, the surging of prayer from teacher to disciple.


You will notice that the flame is not part of the candle as such, ie, the cylinder of tallow or wax with a wick through its centre. It must receive the flame from outside itself, but it can do so, it has the capacity to receive the flame of the Spirit. And what happens then? The flame is nourished on the inert wax and, bit by bit, consumes it and converts it into flame. It the terms of our analogy, the Spirit-flame that is given us transforms our heavy natural substance into Spirit, into love and light.


In one sense the candle loses itself, it is consumed by the flame, just as we must lose ourselves to become spiritual men and women, that is, animated by the Spirit. A reasonable candle might object to this process. He might point to the laborious effort of so many bees who had fabricated the wonderful substance of wax. And had they not been programmed by God in his wisdom to do so? He might demand that his waxen nature be respected, that he be given a happiness suited to that nature. Why should he


be sacrificed to this ephemeral flame and the folly of its prodigal giving of light to all without discrimination? O Lord, let me, dull and opaque as I am. Must I die? ‘If you wish


to become light and love, then yes,’ says Christ, ‘you must follow me in my death to self so that my Spirit-flame may live and shine in you. Sacrifice is your hidden name, your anointed destiny. That is why you must be presented in God’s temple.’


The Orthodox speak of this in terms of the light of Mount Tabor, the light that shone from Christ on the mountain of the Transfiguration. The idea is that in the saint, the man or woman totally animated by the Spirit of Christ, this same light should be visible, in some degree. And there have been persons in whom it indeed has.


     197. The Spiritual Mobile Phone.


           In a hospital, a priest was been taken to the Intensive

            Care Department, and the nurse who was with him said,

“Do you have a mobile phone?” “No”, said the priest. “I don’t!”

The nurse replied “But you should have one.” “I’m sorry”, the

priest replied, ”I don’t have one.” “Then take mine!” said the

nurse and handed the priest her Rosary Beads. The priest

looked puzzled and the nurse explained; “It’s a good one. You

can always get through, you never get a wrong number and

you always get an answer!”




One day an Indian woman brought her daughter of 7 to Mahatma Gandhi. Knowing his purity of heart and the immense impact he had on people, she was hoping that a word from him would convince the little girl not to east sugar anymore, for she was severely sick from diabetes. Gandhi listened to the mother and when he spoke to the little girl, he was very loving to her but didn’t mention at all the necessity for her to avoid sugar. The mother was puzzled and a little upset. Gandhi simply greeted her and said: “Come again next week!” So both mother and the child came back a week later and the same request was made by the mother. This time, Gandhi did ask the girl to avoid sugar. Then the mother asked him why he had not said so the very first time? He replied “I was myself enjoying sugar. Therefore how could I ask the child not to? I needed to renounce it myself first before I could demand the same thing from the child!”






The labour of obedience should bring back the Oblate from where they may have drifted through sloth and disobedience.


First of all, every time Oblates begin good works, they must pray to God, most earnestly, to bring those works to perfection. Remembering to make such prayers will remind Oblates of their commitment to the Rule of St Benedict.




Chapter 4. The Tools for Good Works.


The whole of this chapter appertains to Oblates. It involves the wonder and beauty of ‘Love of God and Love of your Neighbour’.


Chapter 5. Obedience.


This is another which applies to Oblates. Obedience to the orders of our superiors without cringing, sluggishness, half-heartedness or reaction or unwillingness.


Chapter 6. Restraint of Speech.


The rule tells us: ‘….so important is silence that permission to speak should seldom be granted even to mature disciples, no matter how good or holy or constructive their talk.’ Learning to refrain for unnecessary speech will be another reminder of our Oblate commitment.


Chapter 7 Humility.


‘In his dream Jacob saw the angels ascending and descending.’ We need to have our own ladder which we erect during our life on earth. Our body and soul are the sides of the ladder. The rungs, on which we climb, are the various steps of humility. There are twelve rungs as follows:


         1. Keep the fear of God always before your eyes knowing that all we do

             or say or think is known by God.


         2. We must love the will of the Lord and not our own pleasures and will.


         3. We must submit to our superiors. For Oblates that might mean  

             maintaining the speed limit and obeying other laws of the land.


         4. To be prepared to be obedient even when things are unjust and

             unfavourable even to the point of quietly embracing such suffering.

             (The words of Job might help: “If we take happiness from God’s hand,

             must we not take sorrow too?” Job 2:10.)


         5. A regular examination of conscience.


         6. Regard yourselves as poor and worthless in whatever you do. If we

             do a job well then it is by God’s grace that we have done it. We must

             take no credit for it. We must not be reluctant to accept menial tasks.



         7. We must verbally admit that we are inferior to all. If we are of any

             worth then the praise must be to God who made us and sustains us.


         8. As Oblates we must ensure that all our actions are in accordance

             with the Rule of St Benedict.


         9. Controlling our tongues. The tongue gives abundant cause for

             uncharitableness. Thinking before we speak will save us from this



        10. Spiritual happiness does not necessitate laughter. Out in the world

              not to laugh might be regarded as strange. But be careful of sinful

              laughter. Make it known that you will not listen to perverted humour.


        11. Similar to Rule 9; when we do speak we should do so quietly without

              unnecessary laughter  “A wise man is known by his few words.”


        12. We must manifest humility in our bearing and in our speech.

              Constantly repeat the words; “Lord, I am a sinner, not worthy to look

              up to heaven.”


If we can practice and accept these twelve steps then we will arrive at the perfect love of God which casts out all fear.


20. Reverence in Prayer.


Our prayers must have great reverence knowing that we are talking to the God who made us. God can read our hearts and knows whether we are sincere. Prayers need to be pure but do not need not be lengthy.


25. Serious Faults.


If we are aware of our serious faults then we must endeavour by all means to correct them. Not to do so means that we are being unfaithful to the Benedictine Community to which we belong and to our promises made at our final Oblation.


34. Distribition of Goods According to Need.


Do we really need that extra material luxury which we have set our hearts on? As soon as we have it aren’t we going to realise that its acquisition was unnecessary and without it we could have increased our contribution to the latest

3rd World Disaster?


39. The Proper Amount of Food.


Overindulgence is a sin Gluttony (one of the seven ‘capital sins’). Let us be temperate in our eating.


40 The Proper Amount of Drink.


Overindulgence in drink can quickly lead on a path to destructive alcoholism.


48. The Daily Manual Labour.


‘Idleness is the enemy of the soul.’ We must keep ourselves busy. Try to always have a project to look forward to.


49. The Observance of Lent.


Lent can give us to opportunity to examine ourselves as Oblates. Are we living up to the promises made at our Final Oblation. Do we need talk to the Oblate Director who will be able to help us with our difficulties?


52. The Oratory of the Monastery.


As our churches become more and more noisy we are reminded of Jesus driving the noisy rabble out of the

Temple. John 2:14. Oblates can set an example by their reverent silence.


55. The Clothing and Footwear of The Brothers.


Modesty at all times. Do not give cause for offence.


71. Mutal Obedience.


We must show  respect to everyone and especially to those who may see us as their superiors.

72. The Good Zeal of Monks


We must encourage ourselves in good zeal which fosters love. Support everyone with great patience and compete in obedience to one another.


73. This Rule is Only the Beginning of Perfection.


So when we have perfected all the rules we have not crossed the finishing line we are only at the starting line! Then we can proceed forward with courage in the knowledge that the Rules have taught us the safe and narrow path which will lead us to everlasting life.




       Night is falling dear Mother, the long day is o’er!

       And before thy loved image I am kneeling once more.

       To thank thee for keeping me safe through the day.

       To ask thee this night to keep evil away.


       Many times have I fallen today, Mother Dear,

       Many graces neglected. since last I knelt here;

       Wilt thou not in pity, my own Mother mild,

       Ask Jesus to pardon the sins of thy child?


        I am going to rest, for the day’s work is done,

       Its hours and its moments have passed one by one;

       And the God who will judge me has noted them all,

       He has numbered each grace, He has counted each fall.


       In His book that are written against the last day,

       O Mother, ask Jesus to wash them away;

       For one drop of his blood for which sinners was spilt,

       Is sufficient to cleanse the whole world of its guilt.


       And if ere the dawn I should draw my last breath

       And the sleep that I take be the long sleep of death,

       Be near me, dear Mother, for dear Jesus’ sake

       When my soul on Eternity’s shore shall awake.




        In my car I have a small crucifix, medallions of Our Lady, St Christopher, and St

        Padre Pio, car stickers of St Philomena, St Padre Pio and The Christian Road

        Safety Association and on my key ring I have a Benedictine Medal.


        I reckon it would take a miracle for me to have an accident!


        Henry John.


202 Prayer of St. Francis de Sales.


Do not look forward to what may

happen tomorrow.


The same loving Father who looks

after us today will look after us

tomorrow and every day.


Either, he will shield us from suffering,


Or, he will give us unfailing strength to

bear it.


Be at peace then, and put aside all

anxious thoughts and imaginings.



203. Getting the Lapsed to Pray.


Like all other parents and grandparents I worry about my lapsed children and granddaughters. Perhaps they do pray, but I have my doubts. Then an opportunity came to ask my granddaughters to pray. A ten month old baby is to have a serious operation on two holes in its heart. I know that my three granddaughters love babies and little children, surely it wouldn’t be too difficult for me to ask them to pray for a successful operation. As I had probably never spoken to them about prayer (my fault not theirs) I did find it difficult to make the first call. But I had no need to worry. “Yes” they were concerned for the baby. “Yes” they would pray and one of them has since confirmed that she is remembering to do so. I now have a means of communication which I will use, but hopefully not abuse. My thanks must go to the Holy Spirit and Our Lady who I suspect, between them, gave me the idea.





204 Telephoning Heaven.


You know how modern-day phone calls involve ‘talking’ to an electronic voice giving endless instructions to press various buttons. We thought you would enjoy the following as an example:


“Thank you for calling Heaven. Please select one of the following options. Press 1 for Requests; Press 2 for Thanksgivings; Press 3 for complaints; Press 4 for other inquiries.


I am sorry all our angels and saints are busy helping other sinners right now. However your prayer is important to us, and we will answer it in the order it was received. Please stay on the line.


If you would like to speak to God the Father, Press 1; God the Son, Press 2; God the Holy Spirit, Press 3. If you would like to hear King David sing a Psalm while you are holding, Press 4.


To find a loved one who has been assigned to Heaven, Press 5, then enter his/her social security number followed by the Pound sign. (If you receive a negative response, hang up and try area code 666).


For reservations at Heaven, please enter J-O-H-N followed by the numbers



For answers to nagging questions about dinosaurs, the age of the Earth, life on other Planets, and where Noah’s Ark is, please wait until you arrive. Our computers show that you have already prayed today; please hang up and try again tomorrow. This office is now closed for the weekend to observe a religious holiday; please pray again on Monday after 9.00a.m.; if you are calling after hours and need emergency assistance, please contact your local Parish Priest. Thank you and have a heavenly day.”


Questions to be answered before entering Heaven – you have three seconds to answer.


               How many days in the week begin with T excluding Tuesday and Thursday?


            Two – Today and Tomorrow.


 How many seconds in the year?


Twelve – January 2nd, February 2nd etc.


What is God’s Christian Name?







What is life if we don’t know God?

We travel on not knowing and just plod.


We look around with wonder but blind.

The things we see but leave them behind.


Just stop and think at what you see.

The world was made for you and me.


It is a wonderful gift we can’t ignore.

So open up your eyes and minds we implore.


Let God into your hearts then you will know.

That life on earth is a wonderful show.


Jim Kilgannon. (An octogenarian)..




Our life is a gift from God no matter what you think.

So let us stop abortion and pull back from the brink.

A woman’s body has a womb.

Don’t let us turn it into a tomb.

A child starts life a little seed when into the womb it goes.

But a woman’s body feeds it and it slowly grows.

It does not ask for favours but only to survive,

And we all wait to see the little one arrive.

Some mothers may think their child will be a strain,

And may abort them, so let’s hope they will think again.

They can get help and advice and will have help with the cost.

So think what you will suffer when your child is lost.

We know it won’t be easy but life is a precious thing.

So let’s thank God above and his praises we can sing.

His son gave his life that we might live and the world a better place.

So don’t abort our children and throw it back in his face.


Jim Kilgannon. (An octogenarian).




                          Today, Dear Lord, I’m 80

                   and there’s much I haven’t done.

        I hope, Dear Lord, you’ll let ,me live until I’m 81.

               But if I haven’t finished all I want to do

           Would you let me stay awhile – until I’m 82?


            So many lands to visit, so very much to see

          Do you think you could manage to make it 83?

                     The world is changing very fast,

                            there is much in store,

             I’d like it very much to live until I’m 84.


      And if by then I’m still alive, I’d like to stay till 85.

              There’s more to air travel – can you fix

                             for me to last till 86?

                  I know Dear Lord, it’s much to ask

                    (and it must be nice in Heaven)

             But I would really like to stay until I’m 87.


                   I know by then I won’t move fast

                        and sometimes will be late,

          But it would be so pleasant to be around at 88.

    I will have seen so many things and had a lovely time.

           So I’m sure that I’ll be willing to leave at 89.


       Reproduced from The Crusader.


208. Life’s Clock.


                        The Clock of Life is wound but once,

                            And no man has the power

                        To tell just where the hands will stop

                            At late or early hour.


                        To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed;

                            To lose one’s health is more;

                        To lose one’s soul is such a loss

                            As no man can restore.


                        The ‘present’ only is our own,

                            Live, love, toil with a will –

                        Place no faith in ‘Tomorrow’ – for

                            The Clock may then be still.


209. Peace. We can make difference.


We all want peace. But are we doing anything to promote it or do we feel helpless and just leave it to politicians and governments to sort out?


Governments have ‘trade agreements’ which mean that they are obliged to supply goods to various ‘warring’ countries even though those same goods may be used against us. Basically it is all to do with ‘business’. If we stop supplying, then companies will lose orders and people will be out of work. We have to accept that decisions which politicians have to make are not easy. We can thank God that they are not decisions which we have to make. We can wonder why anyone wants to become a politician!


The only way that peace will come is if I promote I myself. But how can I make a difference? Is anyone going to listen to me? Certainly they won’t if I don’t try. Let’s give it a try.


How? After the resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the disciples with the doors locked he came and stood among them a said “Peace be with you.” By using those same words we can spread ‘Peace’. Yes, to start with it might be embarrassing. But watch the face of the person who you have just spoken to. Their faces light up, they will probably comment on the words and, from my experience, they will welcome the words and, when you leave them it is with a feeling of peace. I use the words in shops, in banks, in restaurants and especially where the staff seem to be working under pressure.


Go on! Give it a try. It helps to spread ‘Peace’ and means that we are doing something positive towards an eventual world Peace. Believe in it. It is possible.


Reprinted from Catena. The Magazine of the Catenian Association.


210. Where is God?


“Where is God?” we ask. The standard answer seems to be “God is everywhere?” But rather than answering the question that leaves us in greater confusion. What does ‘everywhere’ mean? To satisfy our desire to know and Love God we need a more specific answer. So where can we find God? We can find Him in the beauty of His creation, in the flora and fauna around us. But it still leaves the question “where is God?” My answer to finding God is that He is in every person I see. But I must be prepared to look. Not like the person who came back from a holiday in Switzerland and was asked how they had enjoyed the scenery. “Didn’t see any” was the reply “the mountains were in the way!” We must prepared to look searchingly. Although sometimes God is so obvious that we hardly need to look at all. For instance think of Mother Teresa. God was so obviously present in her that a glance was sufficient. But it can be more difficult. Someone might dash past me to get into a shop and let the door slam in my face. “Ah”, I say “There’s God in a hurry!” God is in the polite seller of The Big Issue and, despite our protestations at “He should get a job” God is in the beggar with his notice ‘Cold, Hungry please help.’ At times it can seem to be an almost impossible challenge but, If we keep looking, we will find God in everyone we see.


Reprinted from Catena. The Magazine of the Catenian Association.


211. Poetry Corner.


Dear Lord I have a problem

My Memory is failing

I do such stupid things these days

It really is degrading.

I wake up in the morning

Is it Tuesday? Is it Monday?

To make things worse I often find

The fact is – it is Sunday!

My hearings not so good now

And its hard to be inspired,

Especially now my eyesight

Leaves a lot of be desired.

But much of this I can accept

Its all to do with age,

Its just this darned confusion

Which gets me in a rage

I lose things and mislay things

It isn’t very nice,

Some things I forget to do

And others I do twice.

And now I sit here on the stairs

Brows furrowed in a frown.

Dear Lord – please tell me

Was I going up or coming down?


212 Unchained Melody (By Mark Salzman).


An oversized cello case looks exactly like a coffin, so as I pushed mine through the facility for juvenile offenders, I attracted plenty of attention. I was on my way to the chapel, after getting roped into performing for the young inmates by Sister Janet Harris, who co-ordinated volunteer activities. The project closest to her heart was a writing course she had helped to create on which I’d recently started teaching.


My students were high-risk offenders, who’d been charged with murder of armed robbery and were waiting for their cases to be tried.


Somehow Sister Janet had learnt that I played the cello as a hobby and asked me to perform. I tried to reason with her, recalling the last time I played for a group of kids. It was a birthday party where the birthday boy kicked the end pin of my instrument and declared that the cello stupid. Only the accordion is more uncool.


“Sister Janet”, I said ”Have you ever been to a school assembly where classical music is on the programme? It can get ugly,”


“Ah.” she had replied, smiling “but that was school. The boys here would never behalf like that.” “Here” was the Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles.


After passing through a maze of chain-link fencing, I reached a building with a cross on its roof. Over the roar of amplified music coming from inside, I introduced myself to someone with a clipboard and a walkie-talkie, and he leafed through a schedule until he found my name. “You’re up next.”


He led me to the chaplain’s office, where I could unpack my cello and warm up. “When we call you, go through that door and you’ll be right on the stage,” he explained.


After he left. I decided to open the door just enough to peek in; I was curious to see what kind of act I’d be following. It was a hip-hop group; their music was heavily amplified and the audience of prisoners was swaying and clapping along. One of the performers was an attractive young woman wearing tight jeans and a shirt that revealed her belly button. Although she did not sing and her use of the tambourine suggested a minimum of training, a glance at the all-male prisoner audience confirmed that she was the star of the show.


I closed the door and slumped into the chaplain’s chair. “Am I disturbing you?” a voice asked from behind me. It was Sister Janet.


I don’t think that having me play was such a good idea.” I told her.


“Why not?”


“Listen to what’s going on in there! They’re stamping their feet and working up a sweat, and that’s just from watching the girl in the bikini, never mind the music. Can you imagine the let-down when I go out there?”


“They’ve got a girl in a bikini.” Sister Janet asked.


“It might as well be a bikini. This isn’t gong to work.”


“Have a little faith,” she urged.


At precisely two o’clock the amplification was unceremoniously turned off and the group left. Unlike most concerts, where people cheer and shout for encores at the end of a performance, this audience had to sit quietly. But no-one looked happy.


A man with an ill-fitting toupee shuffled down the aisle between the pews, turned to face the audience, then read from a clipboard: “And now, Mr Slazman will play the violin. He shuffled away out of the chapel.


The silence in the room so unnerved me that I failed to see the raised platform on the stage, I walked right into it, stubbing my big toe and careering forward. I narrowly avoided a fall by using the cello as a ski pole, planting the end pin into the dais and pivoting towards the audience. I hadn’t intended to enter like Buster Keaton, but that’s how it came across and the inmates rewarded me with laughter and a round of applause.


I stalled for time explaining to my audience that almost everything they saw on the cello, except for the metal strings and the end pin, had once been part of a living thing: the spruce top, the maple back with its tiger-stripe grain, the ebony fingerboard, the snakewood bow with hair from a horse’s tail and the pieces of ivory from the tusks of a mammoth frozen in the tundra for tens of thousands of years. When we play the instrument, I said we bring these pieces to life again.


About then I ran out of little-known facts about the cello, so I told the boys that the first piece I was going to play, “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens, always made me think of my mother,. Then I started to play. With its high ceiling, bare walls and hard floor, the chapel was as resonant as a giant shower room. The cello sounded divine in that room, which excited me, but then a rustling from the audience brought me back to reality. The boys were bored as I had feared..


The rustling grew in intensity. It wasn’t quite the sound of fidgeting and wasn’t quite the sound of whispering. I glanced at the audience and saw a roomful of boys with tears running down their faces. What I’d heard was the sound of sniffling and nose wiping – music to my musicians ears.


I played the rest of the piece better than I’d ever played it in my life, and when I had finished the applause was deafening. It was a mediocre cellist’s dream come true. For my next piece I chose a saraband from one of the Bach suites. The boys rewarded me with another round of applause. Then someone shouted, “Play the one about mothers again”. A cheer rose up from the crowd. I realised then that it was the invocation of motherhood that had moved them so deeply.


I played “The Swan” again, some more Bach and “The Swan” a third time. When the man with the toupee signalled that my time was up, the inmates booed him.. Then they gave me a final ovation.


From an Article in Reader’s Digest.


213. Be very kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle - St Philo of Alexandra


Subject: Fw: Thoughtful lines...


I asked God to take away my habit.
God said, No.
It is not for me to take away, but for you to give it up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
God said, No.
His spirit is whole, his body is only temporary

I asked God to grant me patience.
God said, No.
Patience is a by-product of tribulations; it isn't granted, it is learned.

I asked God to give me happiness.
God said, No.
I give you blessings; Happiness is up to you.

I asked God to spare me pain.
God said, No.
Suffering draws you apart from worldly cares and brings you closer to me.

I asked God to make my spirit grow.
God said, No.
You must grow on your own! , but I will prune you to make you fruitful.



I asked God for all things that I might enjoy life.
God said, No.

I will give you life, so that you may enjoy all things.

I asked God to help me LOVE others, as much as He loves me.
God said...Ahhhh, finally you're getting the idea.

If you love God, send this to ten people and
back to the person that sent it.


May God Bless You,

"To the world you might be one person,
but to one
person you just might be the world"


214 Major Social Concerns in the Covenant. Deuteronomy.


Personal Security                                   Rest on Sabbath

Everyone’s person is to                            Everyone. down to the humblest

be secure.                                                 servant, and the resident alien,

                                                                  is to share in the weekly rest.


False Accusation.                                   Marriage.

Everyone is to be secure                         The marriage relationship is

against slander and false                         to be kept inviolate.



Woman.                                                 Exploitation.

No woman is to be taken                         No-one, however disabled,

advantage of within her                           impoverished or powerless

subordinate status in society.                  is to be oppressed or exploited.


Punishment.                                            Fair Trial.

Punishment for wrongdoing shall           Everyone is to have free access to

not be excessive so that the                     the courts and is to be afforded a 

culprit is dehumanised.                           fair trial.


Dignity.                                                    Social Order.

Every Israelite’s dignity and right           Every person’s God-given place in

to be God’s freedman and                       the social order is to be honoured.

servant are to honoured and                



Inheritance.                                             Law.

Every Israelite’s inheritance in               No-one shall be above the law,

the promised land is to be secure.            not even the king.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Property                                                 Fruit of Labour.

Everyone’s property is to                        Everyone is to receive the fruit

be secure.                                                 of his labours.                                                                                                                   .


Fruit of the Ground.                             Animals.

Everyone is to share the fruit                 Concern for the welfare of other

of the ground.                                         creatures us to be extended to

                                                                the animal world.


Reading these details of the Covenant makes one realise how perfect it is. If only the Israelites had kept to it. Even today the Covenant stands as a way forward for the whole world and especially for the situation in Palestine/Israel.



215. My Twelve Days of Christmas.


On the first day of Christmas,

    my true love said to me

“I’m glad we bought fresh turkey,

    and a proper Christmas tree”.


On the second day of Christmas

   much laughter could be heard

  As we tucked into our turkey,

       a most delicious bird.


            On the third day

we entertained the people from next door

     The turkey tasted just as good,

          as it had the day before.


Day four, relations came to stay;

       poor gran is looking old

We finished up the Christmas pud,

        and ate he turkey cold.


   On the fifth day of Christmas,

  outside the snow flakes flurried

But we were nice and warm inside,

   for we had our turkey curried


    On the sixth day, I must admit,

        the Christmas spirit died

 The children fought and bickered,

   we ate the turkey rissoles fried.


On the seventh day of Christmas

   my true love he did wince

 When he sat down at the table

  and was offered turkey mince.


Day eight and nerves were getting frayed,

         the dog had run for shelter

       I served up turkey pancakes

        with a glass of Alka Seltzer


On day nine our cat left home,

  by lunch time dad was blotto

He said he had to have a drink

       to face turkey risotto


By the tenth day, the booze had gone

   (except our home made brew)

   As if that wasn’t bad enough,

      we suffered turkey stew.


On the eleventh day of Christmas,

  the Christmas tree was moulting

The mince pies were as hard as rock

    and the turkey was revolting


            On the twelfth day.

my true love had a smile upon his lips

The guests had gone, the turkey too,

  and we dined on fish and chips.


Written by a Mr E R Colthorpe of Slough.


216. Signing Petitions.


There seem to be a plethora of petitions. “Sign this; sign that; disagree with this; disagree with that”. We are under constant pressure. Is it a good thing? Yes, but only up to a point. Signing petitions can give us a false sense of security. Having signed we feel we have done our bit. Can we walk away with a clear conscience? No we can’t. After the signing comes the important part - praying! If we rely on signing alone then we are living in ‘cloud cuckoo land!’ Prayer and Prayer alone will ensure that we have put our seal on our signature.





In the time of Jesus one of the lowest jobs but nevertheless an important one was being a shepherd. It was considered to be so lowly that the Priests and Pharisees looked down on shepherds. The reason for that is that Shepherds could not leave their flocks to attend the Temple or Synagogue. Those who did not attend were considered unworthy – no account was made for their devotion to their flocks.

The best known reference to The Shepherd has to be Psalm 23 ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’. It pictures God, the Good Shepherd. He provides all that his people need. He leads them through life. He secures them from all harm. The psalm tells of God, the perfect host, feasting his people with good things. And it goes further: because ‘in the Old Testament world, to eat and drink at someone’s table created a bond of loyalty’ the picture is not simply of a guest but of a friend.   

At the instructions of God, the prophet Ezekiel condemns the Shepherds of those times for their greed, cruelty and selfishness. The Sheep; ‘sleek and strong’, are also condemned for having oppressed the other sheep. Ezekiel continues: ‘I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David (a ruler like David and from his line) he will tend them and be their shepherd. Ezekiel 37:24.  That shepherd is Jesus.  

We must bear in mind that being a shepherd could be a dangerous job. In the time of Jesus wild animals roamed the countryside intent on getting a meal and a sheep or lamb was an excellent way of feeding one’s appetite.

Everyone knew the shepherd’s lot and Jesus brought them into his sermons so it would make it easier for his audience to understand. But his most poignant words were when he equated himself with being a shepherd.

To understand Jesus’ words we have to visualise the sheepfold. A large enclosure surrounded by a fence. There is just one entrance gate and every evening each shepherd brings his sheep and drives them into the enclosure. A night watch is kept. Next morning each shepherd comes and calls his sheep. They recognise his voice and they follow him to the pasture. 

In John’s gospel Jesus said: “In all truth I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a bandit. He who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock, the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out all those that are his, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not recognise the voice of strangers.” John 10:1-5

John’s gospel continues: ‘Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he was saying to them.’ So Jesus spoke to them again.

“In all truth I tell you, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All who have come before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep took no notice of them”.

“I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: such a one will go in and out and will find pasture.”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd, and the sheep do not belong to him, abandon the sheep as soon as he sees the wolf coming, and runs away, and then the wolf attacks and scatters he sheep; he runs away because he is only a hired man he has no concern for the sheep.”

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

“And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.” John 10:6-16.

There are times when Jesus has to be cruel to be kind and that is explained very graphically by Ronald Rolheiser who is known for his weekly column in The Catholic Herald.

In his book ‘The Shattered Lantern’ he tells the following story:

‘Some years ago, in a class I was teaching, a woman shared with us this story. She had been raised in a religious home and had been a pious and regular churchgoer. During her years at university, however, her interest and practice in religion had progressively slipped so that by the time she graduated she no longer attended church or prayed. This indifference to prayer and churchgoing continued for several years after her graduation. The story she told us focused on how all that changed.

One day, some four years after having given up all practice of prayer and church, she flew to Colorado to spend some time with her sister and do some skiing.  She arrived on a Saturday evening and the next morning, Sunday, her sister invited her to go to Mass with her. She politely refused and went skiing instead. On her first run down the ski-slopes she hit a tree and broke a leg. Sporting a huge cast, she was released from hospital the following Saturday. The next morning, her sister again invited her to come to Mass. This time (‘there wasn’t anything else to do’) she accepted the invitation.

As luck would have it, it was Good Shepherd Sunday.  As chance would have it, there happened to be a priest visiting from Israel. He could not see her, complete with cast, sitting in the pews and yet he began his homily in this way.

There is a custom among shepherds in Israel that existed at the time of Jesus and is still practiced today that needs to be understood in order to appreciate this text. Sometimes very early on in the life of a lamb, a shepherd senses that it is going to be a congenital stray, one forever drifting away from the herd. What the shepherd does then is to take

the lamb and deliberately break its leg so that he has to carry it until its leg is healed. By that time the lamb has become so attached to the shepherd that it never strays again.

I may be dense!’ concluded the woman, ‘but given my broken leg and this chance coincidence, hearing this woke up something inside me. Fifteen years have passed since then and I have prayed and gone to church regularly ever since!’


The reason that Jesus is called ‘The Lamb of God’ is because he was sacrificed for us, as was the lamb in the Jewish ritual.

The Old Testament has many references to a Lamb and many of them are a direct prophecy to Jesus who, by dying on the Cross, became the Sacrificial Lamb for the whole world.

Here are just three of those references:

As Isaac and Abraham climbed Mount Moriah Isaac said to his      father“. Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham replied “My son, God himself will provide the lamb”. The words “God himself” are very poignant. God, in the person of Jesus, did  provide the Lamb on Calvary. Genesis 22:7-8.

At the first Passover on the night when the Israelites were to be   released from the slavery of the Egyptians Moses tells the elders “Go and choose a lamb…….and kill the Passover victim.” Exodus 12:21. One thousand three and sixty years later at the time of The Passover. Jesus is the lamb who is sacrificed on the Cross.

The Prophet Jeremiah writes ‘I for my part was like a trustful lamb being led to the slaughterhouse’ Jeremiah 11:19. Jesus trusts us not to sin, and ‘will not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength’ 1 Corinthians 10:13. But we repeatedly let him down and he suffers for our sins. Effectively ‘we lead him to the slaughterhouse’.

The lamb is surely the meekest of the sheep family. But it is the one which  Jesus adopts as a comparison to himself. I recall years ago when I had a black Labrador called Brutus. One day I took him a walk in the countryside where he had never been before. In the middle of a field we came across a small flock of sheep. Despite my calls to ‘heel’ & ‘come’ it made no difference. Brutus set off at high speed to play with what he probably thought were a pack of white dogs. As he approached them one sheep bravely separated itself from the flock and faced the oncoming dog. Then I noticed its big horns – it was a ram. When Brutus got to it, it lowered is head and gave him a thump! Brutus came running back to me equally as fast as he had gone. He had learnt a lesson in a far better way than I could ever have taught him.

Surely Jesus, who protects us, could be called ‘The Ram of God.’ But the words ‘Ram of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us’, don’t sound right do they? A ram being led to the slaughter might buck and fight – Jesus didn’t fight; and in the garden of Gethsemani, even stopped his apostles from defending him. “Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”. Matthew 26:52.

In the New Testament the first person to call Jesus ‘The Lamb of God’ was John the Baptist. The Baptist was preparing his disciples to leave him and follow Jesus. He sees Jesus and says “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29. By these words The Baptist was saying that Jesus would be the sacrifice that would atone for the sin of the world.

In the Acts of the Apostles Philip explains to the Ethiopian eunuch the passage from Isaiah which he was reading:

‘Like a lamb led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb in front of its shearers, he never opens his mouth. In his humiliation fair judgement was denied him.’ Acts 8:32.

St Peter in his first Epistle calls Jesus ‘The spotless lamb…’ 1 Peter 1:19.

But it is when we come to the book of Revelation that we find a veritable explosion of Jesus being called ‘the lamb’. Here are a few quotes:

‘Worthy is the Lamb that was sacrificed to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.’ Revelation 5:12.

‘These are the people who have been through the great trial; they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:14.

‘I did not see a temple in the city because the Lord God Almighty and the lamb are its temple. Revelation 21:22.

‘The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve him’. Revelation 22:3.

The essence of ‘sacrifice’ was not in the killing of the lamb but in the releasing of its blood. Life was seen as being in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). With that in mind we can see how far Jesus went in bleeding for us. He bled at the scourging, he bled at the crowning with thorns, he bled during his journey to Calvary, he bled when the nails were driven into his hands and feet and as if that wasn’t enough, even after death, he bled when the lance pierced his heart.

Jesus is truly the Lamb of God.

So at Holy Mass we can proudly and reverently say:

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us”.

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us”.

“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace”.






Preface - The book is written in what at first appears to be an overtly religious style.  One becomes used to this and realises that it would have been difficult to have written of the subject in any other way.  Our Lady’s words are recorded in similar fashion, but how else can we expect Our Lady to have spoken?  The fact that the mode of speech is strange to us reflects on the mundane matters on which we normally converse compared to the heavenly matters on which Our Lady was conversing.


Mary of Agred came from a very holy family.  In 1619 her father entered a Franciscan friary where her two brothers were already living as religious.  Her father had left the family home so that it could become a convent of disalced nuns of The Immaculate Conception.  Mary’s mother, Mary’s sister and Mary herself were the first to take the habit.  After receiving many ‘commands from the Most High’ Mary commenced her writing in 1637 at which time she was abbess of the order.  Mary was filled with many fears and after finishing the writings she burned them on the order of a confessor (in the absence of her regular confessor).  For this she had to endure ‘most severe reproaches ... from my superiors and from the regular confessor.  In order to force me to rewrite this history, they threatened me with censures’.  (This makes an interesting comparison with the Polish nun, Sister Faustina, 1905-1938, who kept a diary of her visions of Jesus and who also had to rewrite the diary after destroying it on the instructions of a temporary confessor).



Testimonies - These tell us that The Mystical City of God has been accepted by almost all faculties.  In writing about the book the University of Louvain, one of the greatest universities in Europe, said ‘All can easily persuade themselves that, if the interior life of Christ our Lord and of the most Holy Virgin was not just as described in the book, it could certainly have been like it’.  They go on to state ‘Of course, there are certain points in this work which might give rise to apparent difficulties ... we must confess that we might possibly be ourselves mistaken in making these objections.’


The book has been recommended by the following Popes: Innocent XI, Alexander VIII, Clement IX, Benedict XIII, Benedict XIV, Clement XIV.  In 1912 the book was granted an imprimatur by Bishop H J Aldering of Fort Wayne, USA. The most recent formal sanction of the book was in 1949 when an imprimatur was granted by Archbishop Edwin V Byrne D.D. of Santa Fe, New Mexico.



The book has four headings: Conception, Incarnation, Transfixion and Coronation.

The Conception


In encouraging Mary of Agreda to write the book, the Lord said to her, ‘I do not intend that the descriptions and declarations of the life of the Blessed Virgin shall be mere opinions or contemplations, but reliable truth.  Thus speaks the Lord God Almighty.’


Mary of Agreda started by receiving an understanding of God himself, ‘God comprehends in himself all things by one indivisible, most simple and instantaneous act.  He does not go on from the understanding of one thing to the understanding of another.’


Then an understanding of God’s creation of man, ‘The divine mind prearranged the harmony and adornment of the human nature composed of an organic and a vivifying soul, endowed with faculties to know and enjoy its creator, to discern between good and evil, and with a free will to love that same Lord.’


The Creation of the Angels and the Fall of Lucifer: The angels were made aware of God’s intention to create a human nature of reasoning creatures lower than the angels.  The good angels gave their assent to this creation, but Lucifer, full of envy and pride, resisted and induced his followers to resist likewise.  Also at this time it was revealed to the angels that they would have to admit as a superior, conjointly with God, a woman, in whose womb the only begotten Son of the Father was to assume flesh.  Once again, the good angels assented but Lucifer and confederates  rose to a high pitch of pride.  He aspired to be himself the head of all the angels and of the human race.  He opposed the fact that the Mother of God was to be superior to him.  It was at this juncture that God told Lucifer, ‘This woman, whom thou refusest to honour, shall crush thy head ...’.  Then followed the great heavenly battle when St Michael and his angels threw Lucifer and his followers out of Heaven.  Lucifer threatened to destroy the whole human race.


Creation and Fall of Man: God deceived Lucifer.  God had told Lucifer that ‘the Word’ was to assume human nature from the womb of a woman, but not how and when.  Therefore when God created Adam and Eve, Lucifer was confused.  He thought that Adam had come forth from Eve and that he was ‘the Word’ and Eve was the woman who would ‘crush his head’.  It was because of this that he first tempted the woman.  He did not dare first tempt the person who he thought was Christ.  Lucifer’s temptation worked and he celebrated in triumph.  He expected God to be cruel in his treatment of Adam and Eve.  But he saw God’s love and forgiveness in giving Adam and Eve the chance of repentance and giving them hope of pardon and return of grace.  When the effect of penance and forgiveness were perceived all hell was in confusion.  More than ever Lucifer was watchful for the ‘woman who would crush his head.’


Expectation of a Redeemer: God commenced the coming of his Son by choosing St Joachim and St Anne to be the parents of Our Lady.  St Joachim lived in Nazareth and St Anne in Bethlehem.  Both were good holy people.  God sent the Archangel Gabriel to St Anne to tell her that she was to marry St Joachim.  The angel Gabriel knew that St Anne’s child was to be the Mother of Christ but did not mention this.  Likewise, the Archangel appeared to St Joachim as a dream in his sleep telling him that he should marry St Anne.  St Joachim and St Anne were married and lived in Nazareth, but neither of them told the other of their angelic manifestations until several years later.


They were perfect in their charity and in this respect each year they divided their income into three parts, one part being given to the temple, another part distributed to the poor and the third part retained for their own sustenance.  (The book states ‘The rents of their income and estates ..’ and ‘Joachim hastened ... to a farm or storehouse which he possessed ...’ which gives the impression that St Joachim and St Anne were not poor).


St Joachim and St Anne lived together for 20 years without issue.  In those times and amongst the Jews this was considered a disgrace.  Because of this they had to bear many insults from neighbours and acquaintances.  They made a vow that if God would give them issue then they would consecrate it to his service in the temple in Jerusalem.  They prayed for an issue and God sent the angel Gabriel to St Joachim to tell him that St Anne would conceive and bear a daughter who was to be called ‘Mary’.  St Joachim was not told that Mary was to be the Mother of God.  The Archangel Gabriel also appeared to St Anne telling her that she would conceive and bear a daughter who would be called Mary and St Anne was also told that this same Mary would be the Mother of God.  Following these heavenly manifestations, St Joachim and St Anne told each other of the secrets of their manifestations with the Archangel 20 years earlier.  But St Anne never disclosed the secret that her daughter was to be the Mother of God.


The Immaculate Conception: This chapter gives the impression that Our Lady was conceived miraculously, rather than by the intervention of St Joachim.  There are two quotes which give this impression.  ‘I will descend from Heaven into her womb and in it vest myself from her substance with human nature’ and ‘On the Saturday next following, the Almighty created the soul of his mother and infused it into the body ...’.  If this is correct, then the birth was miraculous, but not a virgin birth.  In this creation God had made the most perfect being to be honoured and loved above the angels, second only to himself.  God appointed 900 angels to be guardians and servants of this beautiful soul.  He also assigned 12 others who would assist Our Lady by taking visual form.  18 other angels were chosen who would ascend and descend the mystical stairs of Jacob with messages from Our Lady to God and from God to Our Lady.


From the moment of the first instant in the womb of St Anne Our Lady ‘was wiser, more prudent, more enlightened and more capable of comprehending God and all his works, than all creatures have been or ever will be in eternity, excepting of course her most Holy Son.’  At this first instant God showed her the angels who were to protect her and endowed her with knowledge of her genealogy and of all the holy people chosen by God.  She asked the angels to help her to glorify God.  (It is difficult for us to comprehend that from the very moment of conception Our Lady was able to think and understand in a mature way.  Mary of Agreda had similar difficulties of belief but reports what she is instructed to report).


The Birth of Mary Immaculate: Lucifer was ever watchful for ‘the woman who would crush his head’ and whilst he sensed that St Anne was a good and holy woman the knowledge that the woman who he feared was to be born from St Anne was withheld from him.  Nevertheless he vented his rage on St Anne by tempting her.  When this did not work, he tempted a woman of her acquaintance to quarrel with her.  Then he tempted a servant girl who worked for St Anne to be annoying and malicious towards her mistress.  St Anne bore everything with a great holiness.  At the time of the birth Our Lady was ‘ravished into a most high ecstasy.  Hence she was born into the world without perceiving it by her senses, for their operations and faculties were held in suspense’.  At the time of the birth St Anne was freed from the ‘toils and labours, which other mothers usually endure in such circumstances’.  (Hence, it can be understood that the birth was miraculous).  So was born into the world ‘the most exquisite treasure of all the universe, inferior only to God and superior to all other creatures.’


God gave St Anne an interior message to tell her that she should inwardly hold her child in reverence but outwardly treat her as other mothers treat their daughters.  At the moment of Our Lady’s birth the angel Gabriel went, as an envoy, to Limbo to give the joyful news to the souls awaiting their release into Heaven.  After her birth God had his angels take Our Lady into Heaven where ‘for a short time she might be ... where later on she was to be placed for all eternity.’  ‘This was the first time in which the most holy soul of Mary saw the Blessed Trinity in unveiled beatific vision’.  It was hidden from Our Lady that she was to be the Mother of God incarnate.  Her simple humility did not allow her to even think this could be the purpose for which God had created her.


Our Lady’s Early Years: As a child, Our Lady was treated like others of her age.  In every way she was the perfect child.  She would have moments of sighing and weeping for the sins of the world.  Her pleasant countenance was often mixed with gravity and a strange majesty.  She remained in enforced silence as appertaining to her age though from the moment of conception she was in possession of her faculties.  Her nor speaking was a virtue and a great perfection though an exception was made in respect of the angels which surrounded her.  St Anne did not know of Our Lady’s ability to speak from birth.  Our Lady was totally obedient to her parents and she knew beforehand all their thoughts and was anxious to fulfil them.


At the age of two, Our Lady began to exercise special pity and charity towards the poor.  Never did she give alms to the poor without conferring still greater favours on their souls.  As Our Lady approached the age of three there grew in St Anne the dread of punctually fulfilling her promise of presenting her child to the temple.  Six months before her third birthday Our Lady began to prepare for living in the temple.  St Anne and St Joachim suffered greatly at the thought of giving their perfect child to the temple but they reminded themselves of their promise and determined to fulfill it with humble submission.


St Anne and St Joachim took Our Lady from Nazareth to Jerusalem so that they could keep their promise.  On Our Lady’s third birthday they entered the temple and after praying together they took Our Lady to ‘the portion of the temple buildings, where many young girls lived to be brought up in virtuous habits until old enough to assume the state of matrimony.’  ‘15 stairs led up to the entrance of these apartments.  Priests came down these stairs in order to welcome the blessed child Mary.  The one that had received them, being according to the law one of a minor order, placed her on the first step.  Mary, with his permission, turned, and kneeling down before Joachim and Anne, asked their blessing and kissed their hands, recommending herself to their prayers before God.  The holy parents in tenderest tears gave her their blessing; whereupon she ascended the 15 stairs without any assistance.  She hastened upward with incomparable fervour and joy, neither turning back, nor shedding tears, nor showing any childish regrets at parting from her parents.  To see her, in so tender an age, so full of strange majesty and firmness of mind, excited the admiration of all those present.  The priests received her among the rest of the maidens, and Saint Simeon consigned her to her teachers, one of whom was the prophetess Anne’.


Shortly after entering her apartment ‘... accompanied by her angels ... the celestial child was raised body and soul to heaven where she was received by the Holy Trinity.’  ‘The Most high was much pleased with ... the heavenly child, and he gave her to understand that he would admit her to suffering and labour for his love in the course of her life, without at the time revealing to her the order and the manner in which he was to dispense them’.  Our Lady offered to make the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and perpetual enclosure.  She was told that she could accept the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience but it was indicated to he that the course of her life, which was not yet known to her, would not make it possible to fulfill all her desires ... Heavenly music bore back the holy child from Heaven to her place in the temple’.  Back in the temple Our Lady gave all her possessions to her instructress, the prophetess Anne.  The only possessions she kept were her clothes and some books.


Those who were to have charge of Our Lady and to teach her ‘felt within themselves a great enlightenment and a divine impulse to attend especially to this heavenly child.’  They gave Our Lady the following routine ‘At eight (p.m.) thou will retire for sleep and at the beginning of dawn thou wilt arise in order to praise the Lord until the third hour (9 am).  From the third hour until the evening thou wilt occupy thyself in some manual works, in order that thou mayest be instructed in all things.  At meals, of which thou wilt partake after thy exercise, observe befitting moderation.  Then thou wilt go to hear the instructions of thy teacher: the rest of the day thou wilt engage thyself in the reading of Holy Scriptures...’.  Our Lady followed the directions of her superiors to perfection and was also perfect in the virtues of faith, hope and charity.


During her time in the temple, Our Lady became an adult in her wisdom whilst remaining a child in years.  Our Lady was given prior notice of her father’s, St Joachim’s, death, which took place six months after she had entered the temple.  She did not go to her father’s bedside but sent angels who not only appeared to him, but also consoled him and gave him messages of love from his daughter.  When St Joachim entered Limbo, where the souls of the just awaited their redemption, he was given the duty of announcing that the dawn of redemption was at hand.


During her time in the temple, Our Lady was given trials.  One was that God suspended the continual visions which he had so far vouchsafed her.  Also the angels surrounding her concealed themselves.  These things surprised Our Lady.  She had been told to expect trials but not the nature of those trials.  She accepted them with humility and great fortitude.  The devil took the opportunity of tempting Our Lady.  He did not know that she was to be the Mother of God, but he could sense her great courage and constancy.  Our Lady distinguished herself in all virtues and the devil was vanquished and left to his pride and arrogance.  The devil turned his attention to other maidens in the temple and encouraged them to turn against Our Lady.  The temple maidens began to plot amongst themselves and agreed to molest and persecute Our Lady.  She bore all this with great fortitude.  The more they persecuted her, the more humble she became and this drove them into an even greater rage against her.  The period of time when these trials were given to Our Lady was ten years commencing eight days before the death of her father, St Joachim.  At about this time Our Lady was told that her mother was about to die.  During the night, Our Lady was transported by angels to her mother’s sick bed where she was able to converse with and console St Anne.


The Incarnation


At the age of 13 and a half years, God informed her that she was to become betrothed. Our Lady had, from an early age, taken a vow of chastity. In complete obedience she had to suspend this vow, although she felt sadness at doing so.  God spoke to the high priest Simeon and commanded him to arrange the marriage of Mary.  Our Lady told Simeon of her desire to remain a virgin, but also her desire to obey the Lord. Simeon told her that ‘no maiden of Israel abstains from marriage as long as we expect the coming of the Messiah’.  This happened nine days before the date by which a marriage should be arranged, which was Our Lady’s 14th birthday.  On that day male descendants of the tribe of Judea and of the race of David came to the temple, and amongst them was Joseph of Nazareth.  He was then 33 years old and was handsome but was also most chaste in thought and conduct.  In order to choose Mary’s husband-to-be, the Holy Spirit spoke to the High Priest and asked that all the men be given a dry stick to hold.  They then prayed.  Of all the men, Joseph was the most humble in his thoughts for he had also taken a vow of chastity.  Nevertheless, it was his stick which was seen to blossom.  At this, the priests declared Joseph to be the spouse of Mary.


Mary went with Joseph to Nazareth where she had inherited her parents’ possessions and estates. They were welcomed and visited by friends and relations with joyful congratulations.  It was the custom that for the first few days of their married state the husband and wife should enter upon a study or trial of each other.  During this time, Our Lady and St Joseph declared to each other their previous vows of chastity.  Both ratified their vows and agreed to live as companions.  At this the two felt an incomparable joy and consolation.  They immediately set about dividing the property inherited from St Joachim and St Anne.  One part they offered to the temple, another they gave to the poor and the third was kept for their sustenance.  St Joseph was trained as a carpenter.  He and Our Lady agreed that he should exercise that trade.  They agreed to remain poor and be lovers of the poor.


In the six months and 17 days which intervened between her espousal and the incarnation of the Word, Our Lady busied herself in charitable works to her friends and neighbours.  God prepared Our Lady in a special manner in the nine days prior to the incarnation.  (As we will see later, ‘nine days’ became very special to Our Lady).  Each day he gave her more and more knowledge and graces.  When praying she would prostrate herself on the ground in the form of a cross.  The Holy Ghost had taught her this way to pray.  Our Lady, while aware of the promise of a Messiah, had no idea that she was to be the virgin who would conceive.  Her complete humility made it impossible for her to consider this.  At this time she was 14 years and six months and 17 days old.  At the time when the ‘embassy of Heaven’ came to her she was engaged in prayer.  It was on a Thursday at 6 pm in the evening.  Her complete humility protected her from considering that the incarnation could happen through her.  Therefore when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, she was disturbed.  On account of this perturbation the angel Gabriel proceeded to explain to her the decree of the Lord, saying: ‘Do not fear, Mary, for thou hast found grace before the Lord; behold, thou shalt conceive a son in thy womb, and thou shalt give birth to him, and thou shalt call him Jesus ...’.  Our Lady realised the greatness of what was being said to her.  She replied: ‘How shall this happen, that I conceive as I know not, nor can know, man?’  Gabriel replied: ‘Lady, it is easy for the divine power to make thee a mother without the co-operation of man; the Holy Spirit shall remain with thee by a presence and the virtue of the most high shall overshadow thee, so that the Holy of Holies can be born of thee, who shall himself be called the Son of God.  And behold, thy cousin Elizabeth has likewise conceived a son in her sterile years and this is the sixth month of her conception; for nothing is impossible with God.  He that can make her conceive, who is sterile, can bring it about, that thou, Lady, be his mother, still preserving thy virginity and enhancing thy purity’.  Mary having considered all that had been said to her, inclined her head, joined her hands and said, ‘May it be to me as you have said’.  At this four things happened.  Firstly, the most holy body of Christ our Lord was formed from three drops of blood furnished by the heart of the most holy Mary.  Secondly, the most holy soul of the same Lord was created, just as the other souls.  Thirdly, the soul and the body united, in order to compose his perfect humanity.  Fourthly, the divinity united itself in the person of the Word with the humanity which together became one.  Thus was formed Christ, true God and man, our Lord and Redeemer.  This happened in springtime on the 25th day of March, at break of dawning day...


The Visitation: The City of God states the story as given in the Bible that Our Lady and St Joseph went to visit St Elizabeth, but it gives a definite reason for the visit.  Our Lady wanted to be with her cousin, Elizabeth, so that she could sanctify the child in Elizabeth’s womb and release it from the bond of original sin.  Elizabeth and Zacharias lived 26 leagues (approximately 60 miles) from Nazareth.  The journey took four days.  After the initial salutations between Our Lady and Elizabeth they retired to a private place where they continued their discourse. Our Lady said: ‘May God save thee, my dearest cousin, and may his divine light communicate to thee grace and life’.  At these words, the child in Elizabeth’s womb was sanctified from original sin.  After three days, St Joseph returned alone to Nazareth, as yet unaware of the child in Mary’s womb.  During her stay, Our Lady looked after her cousin as handmaid.  Our Lady was still with Elizabeth when her baby was born.  Shortly after that St Joseph was sent for so that he could accompany Our Lady back home.


Our Lady was five months into her pregnancy when Joseph noticed the condition of the virgin.  He was confused and wounded to his inmost heart.  One of his great fears was the dread of being obligated to hand his spouse over to the authorities to be stoned.  St Joseph persevered in prayer in order to decide what action he should take.  Sometimes, carried away by his grief, he spoke to his heavenly spouse with some degree of severity such as he had not shown before.  This was the natural effect of the affliction of heart, not of anger or vengeful feelings.  Our Lady became aware of St Joseph’s resolve to leave her.  One night St Joseph decided to depart and packed some clothes and other trifles for his journey, having also claimed some wages which were due to him.  Before leaving he prayed for guidance and resolved to offer up some of the money to the temple to ask God to protect Our Lady.  Then the prepared himself for a short sleep with the intention of leaving at midnight.  Our Lady was allowed, by divine intervention, to observe all that took place and she was filled with tender compassion and prayed to the Lord for his providence.  In his sleep all was revealed to him and he awoke with the full consciousness that his spouse was the true Mother of God and he gave thanks to the Lord.  The Lord looked on him in benevolence and kindness as upon no other man, for he accepted him as his foster father.


The Bible story, whereby Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register under the decree of Caesar Augustus is followed in Mary Agred’s book.  Joseph was especially concerned at this journey as Our Lady was now far advanced in her pregnancy.  As so many were travelling St Joseph had difficulty in obtaining a donkey to carry Our Lady.  But eventually one was found.  Joseph and Mary being modest and retiring found the noisy taverns disagreeable and had many hardships on their journey.  Thus did our weary travellers arrive at Bethlehem at four o’clock on the fifth day of travelling.  It was a Saturday.  It was winter and the sun was already sinking in the sky.  They wandered through many streets trying to find somewhere to stay, but everywhere they were turned away and at some places they were met with harsh words and insults.  While wandering the streets they passed the office of the public registry and they inscribed their names and paid the fiscal tribute in order to comply with the edict and not be obliged to return.  Finally, after being turned away from more than 50 places, St Joseph, full of sorrow, told his spouse that he was heartbroken and could only think that Heaven, in thus allowing the hearts of men to be so unmoved, must conceal some mystery. Then he remembered that outside the city walls there was a cave which served as a shelter for shepherds and their flocks.  They found the cave unoccupied and thanked God for this favour.


The Birth of Christ our Saviour: The cave was formed entirely of bare and coarse rocks without any natural beauty or artificial adornment; a place intended merely for the shelter of animals.  The angelic spirits showed themselves in their visible forms also to St Joseph.  Our Lady set about cleaning the cave with her own hands.  St Joseph joined in this work and cleaned the floor of the cave.  The holy angels in their visible form also joined in the work of cleaning the cave, also filling it with a holy fragrance.  St Joseph started a fire and he and Mary sat by the fire and partook of the food which they had brought with them.  The Queen of Heaven was so absorbed with the thought of her impending divine delivery that she would not have partaken of any food had she not been urged to by obedience to her spouse.


After supper they gave thanks to God and spent a short time in prayer.  Our Lady felt the approach of the most blessed birth.  She requested her spouse to betake himself to rest and sleep as the night was already far advanced.  St Joseph yielded to her request and urged her to do the same.  For this purpose he prepared a sort of couch with the articles of wear in their possession, making use of a manger that had been left by shepherds for their animals.  Leaving the most holy Mary in the portion of the cave thus furnished, St Joseph retired to a corner of the entrance where he began to pray.  He was immediately visited by a divine spirit and went into an ecstasy from which he did not return until his heavenly spouse called him.


Meanwhile, Our Lady was called from her resting place by a loud voice of the most High.  This was one of the most admirable ecstasies of her most holy life.  She remained in this ecstasy for a whole hour preceding her divine deliverance.  At the moment when she came out of the ecstasy she felt and saw the body of the infant God begin to move in her womb, releasing and freeing himself from the place which in the course of nature he had occupied for nine months.  He now prepared to issue forth from that sacred bridal chamber.  This movement not only did not cause any pain or hardship, as happens with other daughters of Adam and Eve in their child births, but filled Our Lady with incomparable joy and delight.  In this way, Our Lady gave to the world the only begotten Son of the Father whilst her virginity was not impaired (a miraculous birth).  This happened at the hour of midnight on a Sunday.  Saints Michael and Gabriel were present when the incarnate Word issued forth.  They received him in their hands in great reverence in the same way a priest exhibits the sacred Host.  So these two celestial ministers presented to the divine Mother her glorious Son.  Immediately the Son was able to speak to his mother and they held a heavenly discourse.


It was now time to call St Joseph who, having adored the child King, assisted holy Mary with the wrappings and swaddling clothes, before laying the child in the crib.  Our Lady had prepared the crib by arranging the straw and hay.  An ox from a neighbouring field ran up in haste and, entering the cave, joined the donkey which had brought Our Lady from Nazareth.  Thus God made man was placed between the two animals, wrapped in swaddling clothes, wonderfully fulfilling the prophesy that ‘the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib.’ (Isaiah 13).


The Adoration of the Shepherds: At the birth of Jesus, St Michael visited Limbo to tell the souls there that Christ had been born.  He gave special congratulation to St Anne and St Joachim and told them that their daughter now held in her arms him who had been foretold by the prophets.  Another angel was sent, with the good news, to St Elizabeth and her son John.  Mary of Agreda’s writings of the shepherds is similar to that given in the Bible.  The shepherds are said to have conversed with Our Lady and to have stayed in the cave from the beginning of dawn until midday, when Our Lady gave them something to eat before they departed.  Our Lady and St Joseph showed great reverence when approaching the child Jesus.  They made three genuflections, kissing the earth and making acts of humility and worship.


The Circumcision: Our Lady had been given no command or intimation of the will of God regarding the circumcision of Jesus.  She decided that as her holy Son had come to honour and confirm the law by fulfilling it, he should therefore conform to it by being circumcised.  This was despite her knowledge that circumcision was intended to cleanse from original sin, and her child did not have that stain.  St Joseph agreed with Our Lady’s wishes.  Our Lady asked Joseph to obtain a crystal or glass vessel for preserving the sacred relic of the circumcision and Our Lady prepared linen cloths to catch the sacred blood which for the first time would be shed.  Our Lady told St Joseph that, when the baby was in her womb, it had been revealed to her that his name should be ‘Jesus’.  All preparations being made, the priest came to the cave along with two other officials.  The sparseness of the cave astonished them, but Our Lady spoke a welcome with such modesty and grace that their constraint was soon changed into one of admiration.  Thus Jesus was circumcised.  At the moment of the circumcision, Jesus offered up to his eternal Father three sacrifices.  One that he, being innocent and the Son of the true God, assumed the condition of a sinner by subjecting himself to a rite instituted as a remedy for original sin.  Second was his willingness to suffer pain.  Third was the most ardent love with which he began to shed his blood for the human race.  When the priest asked for the name, Our Lady asked St Joseph to state the name, which he did, ‘Jesus’.


The Adoration of the Magi: The three magi kings came from Persia, Arabia and Sabba, which are all countries to the east of Palestine.  A holy angel had brought the news of the birth to the kings.  Although the kings set off separately from their various countries, they soon met as they were following the same star.  The kings conferred among themselves and discovered that their plans were identical.  The star guided them to the cave where Our Lady awaited, standing, with the child in her arms.  The kings entered and were, for a considerable space of time, overwhelmed with wonder.  They worshipped and adored the infant, acknowledging him as the true God and man, and as the Saviour of the human race.  They congratulated Our Lady and St Joseph and expressed their wonder and compassion at the great poverty, beneath which were hidden the great mysteries of heaven and earth.  They spent three hours with the Holy Family and then went to find lodgings as there was no room for the in the cave.  Whilst with the Holy Family, the kings had perceived the multitude of angelic spirits who, as servants and ministers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, attended upon him.  Some others had attended the kings but they had only seen the destitute and neglected condition of the mother and her husband.  Though wondering at the strange events, they perceived nothing of its mystery.  Having found themselves lodgings, the kings spent much of the night talking in wonder about what they had seen.  Recognising the poverty of the Holy Family, they sent their servants with many gifts, which Mary and Joseph received with humble acknowledgement.  These gifts enabled Our Lady to offer sustenance to ordinary guests and alms for the poor and the needy.  The next day, at dawn, the kings returned to the cave and offered special gifts which they had prepared.  As the Scriptures tell us, they offered gold, incense and myrrh.  They questioned Our Lady in regard to many mysteries and practices of faith.  Our Lady heard them and conferred interiorly with her infant son concerning all they had asked in order to properly answer and instruct these sons of the new law.  The kings were so overcome with the sanctity, sweetness and attraction of her words that they could scarcely part from her.  But an angel of the Lord appeared to them reminding them of the necessity that they should return to their countries.  Before leaving and in accordance with the custom of their countries, the offered to Our Lady some gems of great value.  Because these gifts had no mysterious significance and did not refer to Jesus, she returned them to the kings, keeping only the gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.  In order not to send the kings away empty handed, Our Lady gave them some of the clothes in which she had wrapped Jesus.  The kings accepted these with great joy and encased them in gold and precious stones.  These relics spread a great fragrance a league in circumference (approximately 2 miles).  Only those who believed in God’s coming into the world were able to perceive the fragrance.  Back in their own countries the magi performed great miracles through the use of these relics.  Before taking their leave of the Holy Family the magi offered property and possessions to Our Lady or to build a house for her.  These kind offers were kindly refused and there was a tearful parting.  The kings asked Our Lady and St Joseph to always remember them.  The kings went back a different way to avoid meeting Herod and were led by another star provided by an angel.


Presentation in the Temple: St Joseph and Our Lady, having provided themselves with a turtle dove and two candles, wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and make their way to the temple.  Having arrived at the temple gate, Our Lady joined other women in bowing and kneeling to adore the Lord in his holy temple.  The high priest, Simeon, moved by the Holy Ghost, came to the temple.  As he approached Our Lady and the child Jesus, he saw them enveloped in splendour and glory.  The prophetess Anne, had also come to the temple and she also saw the wonderful light which surrounded Our Lady and Jesus.  The high priest received Jesus into his arms and gave his testimony that the Lord, having kept his promise, could now release him from this earth.  He also prophesied Our Lady’s future sufferings.  At the mention of these sufferings, Our Lady felt a great sorrow and thus, in advance, she was wounded by the sword which Simeon had predicted.  When the ceremony of the presentation was over Our Lady kissed the hand of the priest and of Anne, her former teacher.  Then she and St Joseph returned to their lodgings.  Our Lady and St Joseph planned to stay in Bethlehem for a further nine days in order to visit the temple each day to repeat the offering of their son.  Our Lady has a special veneration for number nine in memory of the nine days during which she prepared for the incarnation of the Word.  She commenced a novena when she presented her child in the temple.  As an answer to her petitions God have her special privileges amongst which was that as long as the world would last she could obtain all that she would ever ask for her clients and that the greatest sinners, if they availed themselves of her intercession, would find salvation.


homeland, as Herod was attempting to find Jesus and kill him.  They would be told when it was safe to return.  St Joseph Flight into Egypt: On the fifth day of the novena Our Lady was told that she was not to complete it, but that she and St Joseph must take the child to Egypt and flee their was given the same message in a dream.  They wasted no time, but immediately started on their journey.  They stopped for two days in the town of Gaza so that they could rest as they were worn out by the journey.  St Elizabeth had sent a man servant carrying gifts for the child Jesus.  This servant was sent back to St Elizabeth for Gaza carrying messages from the Holy Family.  St Joseph cautioned him not to tell anyone of their whereabouts.  But God provided against this danger by taking away his memory, leaving only the message which he was to convey.  During their two days in Gaza Our Lady did many kind deeds.  She freed two sick people from the danger of death and restored a crippled woman to full health.  After leaving Gaza they had to cross the sandy deserts of Bersabe, which was a journey of 60 leagues (approximately 130 miles).  During the desert crossing, which was made in winter, great privations had to be overcome by the Holy Family.  Eventually they entered Heliopolis, which is today’s Cairo.  In order to provide for his family, St Joseph carried out his trade as a carpenter.  During their seven years in Egypt, Our Lady performed many miracles and was always perfect in her alms giving.  During Jesus’ early years Our Lady noticed that he preferred not to use any footwear.  He agreed to her request that he should do so, but only until his time of public preaching would commence.  Then he would have to be barefooted.  He agreed to Our Lady making him a seamless garment.  Our Lady made this herself, choosing the wool and spinning it herself.  She wove a garment of one piece and without a seam.  During this time the mystery of Jesus’ love and devotion to mankind was apparent.  He would often prostrate himself on the ground and was sometimes raised from the ground in the shape of a cross.  On other occasions, in the presence of his holy Mother, he would perspire blood.  This happened many times before his agony in the garden.  Eventually they received the message that it was safe to return to Nazareth.


The Transfixion


The Finding in the Temple: In accordance with the Jewish law, all men were obliged to present themselves in the temple in Jerusalem three times a year.  St Joseph and Our Lady agreed that she and Jesus would accompany St Joseph on two of these occasions each year.  When Jesus was 12 years old the Holy Family went to Jerusalem in accordance with the law.  It was the feast of the Passover.  The festival lasted for seven days and at the end of this time Our Lady and St Joseph commenced their journey home.  Jesus withdrew himself from them without their knowledge.  This was not difficult to do as the men and women walked in separate groups and Our Lady and St Joseph both thought that Jesus was with the other group.  They travelled a whole day before realising that Jesus was not with them.  When they discovered their loss they were, for quite a while, both struck dumb with amazement and surprise.  They both felt over-whelmed with self reproach at being so remiss.  They blamed themselves for his loss.  After their initial shock, they felt profound sorrow and discussed what should be done.  They agreed to return at once to Jerusalem to search for Jesus.  Their initial search proved fruitless.  None of their relatives or friends were able to help.  Thus they continued their search for three days ‘without sleeping or eating anything’.On the third day Our Lady decided that Jesus must have gone to join St John in the desert and she resolved to go into the desert to search for him there.  At this the Holy Angels intervened telling her that her son was not in the desert.  But they did not disclose his whereabouts.  She also thought of going to Bethlehem to see whether he had gone to the cave of his birth.  Once again the angels dissuaded her telling her that he was not far off.  Our Lady suffered many trials and much sorrow and, in dealing with the problem, God left her to her natural resources.  Eventually when asking a woman whether she had seen Jesus and giving a description the woman said that a boy of that description had been at her door the day before asking for alms to give to the poor.  Our Lady came across other women who had given alms to a boy of Jesus’ description.  She went to the hospital to be told that a boy similar to her description had been coming to the hospital giving alms to the poor and speaking words of consolation to the afflicted.  It then occurred to Our Lady that as Jesus was not at this moment in the hospital he would probably be at the temple, so she made her way there.  St Joseph, who had been making his own search for Jesus, happened to meet Our Lady as she was on her way to the temple, so they went together.  St Joseph had worked so hard in trying to find Jesus that he had put himself in danger of death by his privations.  He had not slept for three days and would not have eaten if it were not for Our Lady begging him to take some sustenance.  On the day in question, the learned Rabbis were discussing the coming of the Messiah when Jesus came to listen and to question them.  During their discourse Our Lady and St Joseph came into the temple.  Then were spoken the words as recorded in the New Testament: ‘Son, why hast thou done so to us?  Behold, thy Father and I have sought thee sorrowing.’  And Jesus’ reply: ‘Why is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’  Thus they returned to Nazareth where Jesus was subject to his parents.  Our Lady explains this occurrence by saying that Jesus absented himself in order that, seeking him in sorrow and tears, she might find him in joy and with abundant fruits for her soul.


The Death of St Joseph: For eight years St Joseph had been ailing.  Our Lady realised that his death was approaching and asked Jesus to ensure that his death might be peaceful and that he might be rewarded for his love and care of the Holy Family.  Jesus assured his mother that all that she asked would be granted.  For nine nights prior to his death, St Joseph had the continuous company of either Our Lady or Jesus.  The day before he died he was wrapped in an ecstasy and was inflamed with divine love.  Just before he died he asked Our Lady to give him her blessing but she requested Jesus to do this on her behalf.  Jesus gave him his blessing and said, ‘My father, rest in peace and in the grace of my eternal father and mine; and to the prophets and the saints, who await thee in Limbo, bring the joyful news of the approach of their redemption’.  At these words of Jesus, and reclining in his arms, St Joseph expired.  He was 66 and a few days when he died.


Jesus Commences His Ministry: Our Lady knew that her son was to commence his work towards redemption and by prayer prepared herself for his leaving Nazareth.  Jesus was 29 and 30 days old when he was baptised by St John.  After he was baptised, angels brought news of it to Our Lady.  Jesus then made his way into the desert to commence his fast.  This fast continued for 40 days, during which time Jesus prayed to his Father.  Our Lady locked the doors of her dwelling, retired to her room, and made a similar fast.  Angels kept her informed of all that her son did. So she saw the devil tempt her son and also saw his victory, with the devil vanquished.  After the fast and the temptation, Jesus made his way back to the Jordan.  It was through the word of St John, ‘This is he of whom I said: After me there cometh a man who is preferred before me ...’ that Jesus’ first two disciples decided to follow Jesus.  Other disciples also followed.  At all times Our Lady’s angelic assistants kept her informed.  Eventually Jesus brought his disciples to Nazareth and there they met his mother and saw the great reverence which Jesus had for his mother and they also saw her great humility.


Our Lady Follows Jesus on His Travels: Our Lady was absent from Jesus only on a few occasions, such as when he went by himself to Mount Tabor.  During all the journeys, Our Lady went on foot and was at times very fatigued.  Sometimes she suffered such weakness that Jesus was constrained to relieve her miraculously.  Other pious women commenced to follow Jesus.  Some of these Jesus had cured.  Our Lady ministered to them showing them special attention.  Jesus gathered his apostles around him and they were favoured by having the reverence and love of the Holy Mother.  Our Lady gave special attention to St Peter and St John.  The first because he was to be the head of the church on earth and the second because he was to take the place of the Lord after his passion.


Our Lady soon perceived that Judas was full of treachery and she spent much time ministering to him and trying to correct his wrong ways.  But for all she tried the beam in his eye became larger while he complained of the splints in the eyes of others.  Our Lady never stopped trying to correct Judas by ministering to him.


The Transfiguration: Two and a half years had passed since Jesus had commenced his ministry and the time was drawing near when he would redeem the human race.  Jesus wanted some disciples to see him bodily transfigured in glory before they saw that same body disfigured on the cross.  At the transfiguration on Mount Tabor were St Peter, St James and his bother St John.  They saw Moses and Elias discoursing with Jesus and also heard the voice of God, the Father, saying ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him’.  Mary of Agreda was given to understand that at the same time that Holy Angels were commissioned to fetch the souls of Moses and Elias, they also carried Our Lady to the mountain so that she too could see her son transfigured.


After the transfiguration, Our Lady was brought back to her house in Nazareth and Jesus came to visit her to take his final leave of his parental province and set out for Jerusalem.  There, on the following pasch, he was to enter on his passion.  Having spent a few days in Nazareth, Jesus, his mother and apostles along with some holy women departed, travelling through Galilee and Samaria before entering Judea and Jerusalem.  Our Saviour continued to perform miracles, among them being the raising of Lazarus.  As this miracle took place near Jerusalem the report of it was soon spread throughout the city.  The priests and pharisees were irritated by this miracle and held a council in which they resolved upon the death of Jesus.


The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: At dawn on the eve of the passion and death of Our Saviour, Jesus called his beloved mother and she hastened to him and prostrated herself at his feet.  He raised her up from the ground and spoke to her in words of greatest tenderness and love.  He told her that the hour when he should enter upon his passion had now arrived and asked her consent and co-operation for him to fulfil the will of his Father.  The sorrowing mother and her son held a loving discourse in which she gave her consent but asked that she might be allowed to suffer the pain of the passion.  During their discourse Our Lady heralded the coming sacrament of the Eucharist, saying that she had foreknowledge of this sacrament by which her son would remain in the church under the species of bread and wine.  After this holy discourse, Jesus left his mother and, with his apostles, entered Jerusalem in the manner described in the Gospels.


The Last Supper: Christ had partaken of the prescribed supper with his apostles and disciples ‘reclining on the floor around a table, which was elevated from it little more than a distance of six or seven fingers’.  After the washing of the feet he ordered another higher table to be prepared.  By this arrangement he wished to put an end to one order and start a new order.  The table was covered with a rich cloth and upon it was placed a plate or salver and a large cup.  The Lord seated himself at the table and then ordered some unleavened bread to be placed on the table and some wine to be brought.  He then spoke to his disciples and apostles words of most endearing love which consumed their souls.  Thereupon Jesus took the bread, raised his eyes toward heaven with such an expression of sublime majesty that he inspired all who were there, and the angels and his virgin mother, with new and deepest reverence.  (Mary of Agreda does not suggest that Our Lady was present at the Last Supper but that she was allowed to miraculously witness the events from her retreat).  Jesus then pronounced the words of consecration over the bread, changing its substance into the substance of his true body.  As an answer to the words of consecration was heard the voice of the eternal Father, saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I delight, and shall take my delight to the end of the world.’  The blessed body and blood of our Lord were taken by the angel Gabriel to Our Lady who received with great love and tenderness.


The Agony in the Garden and How Our Lady Joined Therein.  As Jesus left the place of the Last Supper Our Lady also left her retreat and they met.  At this sorrowful meeting a sword pierced Our Lady’s heart inflicting a pain beyond all human thought.  Our Lady received a blessing from her son and also received a special favour of being able to see all that passed in connection with her divine son.  She then retired to the place of the cenacle where 1,000 angels formed her guard in forms visible to her, together with some of the pious women of her company.


Jesus, followed by his 12 apostles, made his way in the direction of the Mount of Olives.  Judas, who had made up his mind to betray Jesus, realised that Jesus was going to spend the night in prayers as was his custom.  He considered this to be an opportune time to deliver Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees.  Having made this decision he lagged behind the others and unnoticed lost them from view and departed in haste.  Lucifer had never been sure that Jesus was the Messiah but was watching all the events and perceived what Judas was about to do.  Realising that the death of Jesus could be the promised redemption and hoping to stop it he appeared to Judas in a live form and tried to persuade Judas that perhaps it was not a good idea to betray Jesus.  But Judas continued on his way in order to fulfil his mission of betrayal.  Jesus made his way to Mount Olivet and into the Garden of Gethsemane where the gospel story of his agony was fulfilled.  Our Lady was able to share this agony with him from her retreat in the cenacle.


Eventually the time came for Judas to approach Jesus and offer his feigned kiss of peace.  Our Lady witnessed this with great sorrow knowing that a short time earlier Judas had been among the first to partake of the body and blood of her son.  She made a prayer of immense charity asking that Judas might be granted graces to save himself from ruin.  When the servants of the high priest bound Jesus with ropes and chains Our Lady felt the pains as if she herself was fettered.  She felt the blows and torments which were inflicted on her son.


Jesus Brought Before Annas and Caiphas: Judas had told the soldiers that Jesus was a sorcerer and could easily escape.  They were therefore very thorough and took all precautions in binding him.  As well as ropes they also used a chain which wound round his waist and his neck and with the two ends of the chain manacled his hands.  The chain had been brought from the house of Annas where it had served to raise the portcullis of the dungeon.  Two ropes were used.  One wound around Jesus’ throat and then around his body with the two ends used by the soldiers in order to pull him forwards. The other rope was used to tie his arms and them around his waist with the two ends held by soldiers who used them for jerking him from behind.  The Gospel story of Jesus’ religious trial before Annas and Caiphas and Peter’s denial is exactly followed in Mary of Agreda’s writings.  Our Lady wept bitterly at Peter’s third denial but then perceived that the Lord would not refuse him the necessary help for eventually rising from the fall.  Jesus was accused of blasphemy for which the punishment was death.  The soldiers increased their torture by striking him, kicking him, pulling his hair and spitting on him.  Others slapped or struck him in the neck which was a treatment reserved among Jews for only the most abject and vile criminals.


It was now past midnight and so that Jesus could not escape during the night they kept him bound by the chains and ropes and locked him in a subterranean dungeon.  Scarcely any light penetrated into this prison.  It was filled with uncleanliness and stench.  It had not been cleaned for many years.  No one thought it worth cleaning as it was used to house the very worst of criminals.


Jesus Before Pilate: At dawn, Jesus was brought from the dungeon and was once again questioned by Caiphas.  The priests and scribes were anxious to show a semblance on justice before the people.  Their questioning led them to the decision that Jesus was worthy of the death sentence and should be sent to Pontius Pilate to have this confirmed.  This was to be a political trial.  The sun had already risen when this took place.  Our Lady who saw it all from afar now decided to leave her retreat and follow her divine son to the house of Pilate and to his death on the cross.  As she, and the holy women who accompanied her, made their way through the streets they met Jesus being dragged to the house of Pontius Pilate.  Their eyes met but they did not speak.  During Jesus’ trial by Pontius Pilate, Our Lady and her retinue were miraculously but invisibly allowed into the house of Pilate to witness all that took place.  When Pilate learnt that Jesus was a Galilean he sent him to Herod who was the governor of Galilee.  Herod was the son of the Herod who had tried to kill Jesus at the time of the slaughter of the holy innocents.  Pilate realised that Jesus was innocent and had only been brought before him due to the envy of the priests.  He was therefore hoping that Herod would let Jesus go free.  Jesus’ trial before Herod follows the Gospel story with Herod hoping to see some trick performed by Jesus, who he took to be an enchanter and conjurer.  When Jesus made no reply and performed no tricks Herod mocked and ridiculed him and sent him back to Pilate.  Pilate continued to try and find a way of releasing Jesus but all of his efforts came to nothing and eventually Pilate washed his hands of the death of Jesus.


The Scourging of Jesus: Lucifer saw all that was happening and became more and more concerned that Jesus was to be put to death.  Nevertheless, he saw his opportunity of causing Jesus to suffer as much pain as possible and put into Pilate’s mind that if Jesus was scourged then the priests and people might relent in asking for his death.  For the scourging the soldiers removed the chains and ropes but were so rough in doing this that they widened the wounds which his bonds had made on his arms and wrists.  They then made him remove the seamless tunic which was the one which Our Lady had made for him in Egypt when he first began to walk.  Six torturers tied him to a column and then, two at a time, commenced the scourging.  Their scourging was of such intensity that a large portion of shoulder bones were left exposed.  They also beat him in the face and on the feet and on the hands, thus not leaving unwounded a single spot in which they could exert their fury.  The number of blows inflicted on Jesus was 5,115.  They also spat on him and shouted insults at him.


The Crowning With Thorns: After the scourging they took Jesus to the pretorium where, with great cruelty, they mocked him as a counterfeit king and placed on his head a ‘crown’ woven out of thorns.  Some of the thorns pierced his skull, others his ears, and others his eyes.  Hence one of the greatest tortures suffered by Jesus was the crown of thorns.  He was given a cane to hold so as to resemble a sceptre. Then the soldiers, in the presence of the priests and Pharisees, gathered around him and heaped upon him their derision and mockery.  Some snatched the cane from his hand and struck him on his crowned head driving the thorns even deeper into his flesh.


Jesus is Condemned to Death: When Pilate saw the terrible cruelty which his torturers had inflicted on Jesus he felt sure that the sight would move the crowd to compassion and shame in their hearts.  But the priests and Pharisees encouraged the crowd to demand that Jesus be crucified.  So Pilate handed him over to the Jews.


The Way of the Cross: The sentence of death having been published in a loud voice, the executioners loaded the heavy cross onto Jesus’ tender and wounded shoulders.  In order that he might carry it they loosened the bonds holding his hands, but not the others, since they wished to drag him along by the loose ends of the ropes which bound his body.  In order to torment him more they dew two long loops of ropes around his throat.  The cross was 15 feet long, of thick and heavy timbers.  The herald began to proclaim the sentence and the whole confused and turbulent multitude of the people, the executioners and soldiers, with great noise, uproar and disorder, began to move from the house of Pilate to Mount Calvary.  None of these happenings were hidden from Our Lady.  The events she could not see with her eyes she was allowed to perceive by miraculous means.  Lucifer and his throng were troubled by the happenings to Jesus.  They were allowed to feel great misgivings at the coming death of Jesus even though they didn’t fully understand it.  They therefore decided to leave Jesus to his end and retire to their caverns in hell.  But Our Lady perceiving their desire to flee was granted power over them and made them stay to watch Jesus live out his life which would bring torment to Lucifer and all his followers.  Therefore, according to a way of speaking, Lucifer and his devils were also made to walk the way of Calvary like criminals condemned to a terrible death and seized by the dismay and consternation of an inevitable punishment.


The executioners, bereft of any human compassions, dragged Jesus along with incredible cruelty.  On account of being pulled in different directions by the ropes, the weight of the cross caused him to sway and often to fall to the ground.  The hard knocks he received when falling on the rough stones caused great wounds to open up, especially on his knees.  The heavy cross also inflicted a wound on his shoulders.  The unsteadiness caused the cross to knock against his head, thus the thorns were driven even deeper into the wounded parts.  Our Lady followed her son through the streets, but the surging crowds hindered her from getting near to Jesus.  She prayed that she might be allowed to meet her son on his journey to Calvary.  Her prayer was answered and her holy angels speedily led her through some side streets so that she came face to face with her son.  They did not speak but looked in sweet recognition of each other.  Our Lady prayed that they executioners might find some way of lightening the load of the cross and her prayer was answered when Simon of Cyrene was made to help Jesus.


The Crucifixion: It was the sixth hour which corresponds to our noon and the executioners, intending to crucify Jesus naked, removed his seamless tunic and garments.  In order to remove the tunic they pulled it over his head and in so doing tore off the crown of thorns.  Thus were opened anew all the wounds of his head, ears, eyes and face.  With heartless cruelty they again forced the crown down upon his head opening up wounds upon wounds.  The cross was lying on the ground and the executioners were making the necessary preparations for crucifying him and the two thieves.  To make it easier to nail Jesus to the cross they wanted to make preparatory holes which would accept the nails as they were driven through Jesus’ hands and feet.  In order to find the position of these holes they commanded Jesus to stretch himself out on the cross.  The executioners then, following their human instinct of cruelty, marked the places for the holes, not according to the size of his body, but larger, having in mind a new torture for their victim.  This inhuman intent was known to Our Lady and was one of the greatest causes of affliction to her during the whole passion.  She anticipated the torments to be endured by her beloved son when his limbs should be wrenched out of their sockets in being nailed to the cross.  As the executioners bored the holes Jesus stood awaiting to be nailed to the cross.  His mother approached and took one of his hands and kissed it with great reverence.  The executioners allowed this as they thought that the sight of his mother would cause him greater affliction.  Presently one of the executioners seized the hand of Jesus and placed it upon the auger hole while another hammered a large rough nail through the palm.  The veins and sinews were torn and the bones of the hand were forced apart.  When they stretched out the other hand they found, as expected, that it did not reach the auger hole.  In order to overcome the difficulty they took the chain, with which the Saviour had been bound in the garden, and looping one end through a ring around his wrist, they pulled the hand over the hole and fastened it with another nail.  They then seized his feet, and placing them one above the other, they tied the same chain around both and stretched them with barbarous ferocity down to the third hole. Then they drove through both feet a large nail into the cross.  They inflicted further barbarities on Jesus as they raised the cross.  Some of the soldiers put the sharp heads of their lances to his body and caused fearful lacerations under his armpits.  Then they crucified the two thieves one either side of Jesus, thereby they wanted to indicate that the one in the most conspicuous place was the greatest malefactor.  Our Lady was allowed to feel all the sufferings of her son.  Such was her abandonment and sharing in all his sufferings that she would have died with him except that she was spared that fate.  Lucifer and his followers were made to watch the crucifixion, realising that what they were seeing was the great mystery of the salvation of man and the ruin of themselves.  When Jesus spoke the words ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’ Lucifer knew that this was the Messiah, the Son of God and that God had permitted his son to offer himself as a sacrifice for the redemption of man.  When Jesus spoke the words ‘Woman, behold your son’ the demons knew that this was the woman who was to crush their head.  All other writings of Mary of Agreda concerning the crucifixion are as the Gospel writings regarding Jesus’ last hours on the cross.


The Resurrection: After the crucifixion, Our Lady retired to the cenacle.  In the meantime the divine soul of Jesus remained in Limbo from 3:30 pm on Friday afternoon until 3:00 am on the Sunday morning following.  During this hour he returned to the sepulchre as the victorious prince of the angels and saints.  In the sepulchre were many angels as its guard, venerating the sacred body.  The angels had, at the request of Our Lady, gathered up all the relics of the sacred blood and particles of flesh which had been scattered about at the scourging on the way of the cross and at the crucifixion.  Before the divine soul of Jesus returned to his battered body it was shown to the patriarchs, prophets and saints who confessed him as the incarnate word.  Then, in the presence of all those saints, through the ministry of those angels, were united to the sacred body all the relics, which they had gathered.  In the same moment the holy soul reunited with the body giving it immortal life and glory.  Jesus left the sepulchre by penetrating the rocks miraculously without removing or displacing them just as he had issued forth from the womb of his most blessed mother.  The sacred wounds which had disfigured his body, now shone forth from his hands and feet and side so radiant and brilliant that they added a most entrancing beauty and charm.  In all this glory and heavenly adornment the Saviour arose from the grave.  Our Lady participated in these mysteries from her retreat in the cenacle.  Christ’s first appearance was to Our Lady in her retreat where they spent several hours together lost in the wonder of their immense love for each other.


The Ascension of Christ: A few days before the ascension the Father and Holy Ghost came to the cenacle and along with Jesus appeared to Our Lady who knelt in profound humility and reverence.  She was called to join the Trinity and sit with them at which great admiration was caused among the saints that a mere creature should be exalted to such dignity.  The Father then spoke to blessed Mary saying, ‘My daughter, to thee do I entrust the church founded by my only begotten, the new law of grace he established in the world, and the people which he redeemed: to thee I consign them all’.  Jesus told his mother that it was time for him to return to his Father and charged her to take care of his church.  On that same day there gathered in the cenacle the 11 apostles, pious women and others to the number of 120.  Jesus appeared to them telling them of his return to his father and recommending them to his mother who he left as their protectress, consoler and advocate and telling them to hear her and obey her in all things.  Then those in the cenacle followed Jesus as he led them through the streets of Jerusalem and out of the city on the road to Bethany which was half a league (about a mile) from Jerusalem.  When they reached the highest point on the Mount of Olives Our Lady prostrated herself at the feet of Jesus.  All present imitated her and Jesus gave them his last blessing.  Having taken leave of this holy gathering, Jesus joined his hands and, by his own power, began to raise himself from the earth and into the aerial regions.  On this occasion Our Lady was also raised up with her son, and remained three days in the celestial heavens before returning to the cenacle.  While she was in heaven she was given a place on the right hand of her son, a place which she will occupy for all ages.


The Coronation


Descent of the Holy Ghost: In the company of the Queen of Heaven and encouraged by her, the 12 apostles and the rest of the disciples and faithful waited for the fulfilment of the promise of the Saviour that he would send them the Holy Ghost, the consoler, who would instruct them and administer unto them all that they had heard in the teaching of their Lord.  On Pentecost morning the Blessed Virgin Mary exhorted the apostles, the disciples and the pious women, numbering about 120, to pray more fervently and renew their hopes, since the hour was at hand in which they were to be visited by the Holy Spirit.  At the third hour (9 am), when all of them were gathered around their heavenly mistress and engaged in fervent prayer, the air resounded with a tremendous thunder and the blowing of a violent wind mixed with the brightness of fire or lightning, all centring upon the house of the cenacle.  The house was enveloped in light and the divine fire was poured out over all of that holy gathering.  Over the head of each of the 120 appeared a tongue of that same fire, in which the Holy Ghost had come, filling each one with divine influences.  Following this mysterious event the apostles went into the city and preached openly as described in the Gospels.


Our Lady followed her son’s command by instructing the faithful and advising the apostles whilst always living a life of service and great humility.  From the earliest days Mass was celebrated and Our Lady would receive the body and blood of her son with great devotion and love.  Due to the persecution of Herod it was decided that, for safety, Our Lady should move to Ephasus.  St John made the necessary arrangements and on 5 January of the 40 Our Lady left the cenacle and commenced her journey.  During all her life she never rested from prayer and from curing the sick and performing miraculous cures.  The same happened on this sea journey to Ephasus.  When she arrived in Ephasus she was offered the homes of many of the faithful but she accepted to stay in the home of some poor women who lived together free from intercourse with men.  During all her time in Ephasus Our Lady was able to keep in touch with all that was happening in the church.  She was able to know instantly when one of the apostles was in danger and if necessary her angels would carry her to the place where they were suffering and dying so that she could be with them when they left this earth and went to their heavenly reward.  The apostles couldn’t decide whether Christians should be circumcised and in order to discuss this they decided to hold a council (this was the first council of the church).  St Peter wrote to Our Lady asking her to return from Ephasus to be present at the council.  By this time Herod was dead which made it safer for her return.  Our Lady acting with complete obedience, submissiveness and humility made immediate arrangements for her return to Jerusalem.  This sea journey was made most dangerous by ‘the dragons of hell who stirred up the sea by a tempest such as had not been seen before ...’.  The ship was lashed and battered to splinters at each shock.  During some of the onsets of this furious hurricane the ship was held in the air by angels in order to save it.  In the midst of this confusion and distress the most holy Mary preserved her tranquillity.  She was moved to compassion for all voyagers at sea.  A large share of suffering fell to the evangelist St John on account of his deep solicitude for his true mother and mistress of the world.  Although the voyage from Ephesus to Palestine usually lasted only about six days, this one lasted 15, of which 14 were tempestuous.  The council started with Mass after which they commenced their deliberations and with Our Lady’s help reached a decision which was accepted by all the church.


Our Lady Celebrates her Immaculate Conception: On the 8th December each year Our Lady celebrated her immaculate conception with a jubilee and with gratitude beyond all human words.  She imagined herself altogether incapable of ever acknowledging it with sufficient gratitude.  She commenced her exercises on the evening before and spent the whole night in admirable devotions, shedding tears of joy, humiliating herself, prostrating herself, and singing praised of the Lord.  After she had thus spent the night Christ descended from heaven and angels raised her to his royal throne in heaven where the celebration of the feast was continued with new glory.


The Archangel Gabriel Brings Notice of Our Lady’s Death: Our Lady reached the age of 67 without ever having ceased in her inestimable love for God the Father, her Son, the Holy Spirit and the world.  All of this had continued to grow in each moment of her life.  The gifts, benefits and favours of the Lord had made her entirely God-like and spiritual.  The bounds of the human body were irksome to her but the overwhelming attraction of the divinity to unite itself with her had attained the summit of power in her.  The Almighty resolved to delight and console her by giving her definite notice of the term still remaining of her life and revealing the day and the hour of the longed for end of her earthly life.  For this purpose the Archangel Gabriel, along with other celestial hierarchies, descended to the cenacle in Jerusalem and entered the oratory of the great lady.  There they found her prostrate on the ground praying for sinners.  Hearing the sound of their music she arose to her knees in order to hear the message.  Then Gabriel saluted her with a Ave Maria and told her that the hour and day was approaching when her mortal life would end.  She was told that exactly three years from that day she would be taken up and received into everlasting joy.  Our Lady answered in the same words as at the Annunciation: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done according to thy word’.


Our Lady resolved to take leave of the holy places before her departure into heaven.  With the consent of St John she left the house with him and with her guard of angels.  Our Lady visited the many places she recalled the sorrowful memories of what her son had suffered.  On Calvary she remained a longer time, asking her divine son the full effects of his redeeming death.


The Glorious Death of the Virgin Mary: Three days before the day of Our Lady’s death, the apostles and disciples gathered in Jerusalem in the cenacle.  The first to arrive was St Peter who was transported from Rome by the hands of an angel.  Next came St Paul and then the other apostles and disciples.  Others, apart from St Peter, had been transported by angels.  Our Lady’s physical appearance was the same as when she was 33, she had never aged as people normally do.  The unchangeableness was the privilege of the most Blessed Mary alone.  On the day of her transition to heaven, St Peter, on behalf of all the gathering, spoke words of such love and tenderness that everyone wept.  Our Lady responded with great humility and was eventually unable to continue because of her own tears.  The angels, who had been her guardians all her life began to sing in celestial harmony.  At this Our Lady reclined back on her couch.  Her tunic was folded about her sacred body, her hands were joined and her eyes fixed on her divine son.  The angels intoned the canticle ‘Arise, haste, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come the winter has passed’ etc and Our Lady pronounced the words of her son upon the cross: ‘Into thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit’.  Then she closed her eyes and expired.  She did not die of any disease.  She died of love.  Her soul was carried to the throne at the right hand of her son, meanwhile her body shone with a bright light and gave off a wonderful fragrance.  Her death took place at 3:00 pm on Friday 13 August.  At the time of her death she was 26 days short of her 70th birthday.  She had survived the death of her son by 21 years, 4 months and 19 days.  Many wonders happened at the moment of her death.  There was an eclipse of the sun and many sick people who had come to witness her death were cured.  At the moment of her death a man in Jerusalem and two women who lived near the cenacle died in states of grievous sin.  Our Lady interceded for them and they were restored to life and so mended heir conduct that they afterwards died in grace and were saved.


Burial and Assumption of Our Lady: The apostles held a conference concerning the burial of Our Lady.  They selected a new sepulchre which had been prepared mysteriously by the providence of her son.  In order to carry out the anointing of the body, as was the custom, they asked two holy women, who had assisted Our Lady during her life, to carry out this task.  The two entered the room where Our Lady’s body lay but the radiance coming from the body was so bright that it made it physically impossible to approach.  The two women left the room and told the apostles what had happened.  They came to the conclusion, not without divine inspiration, that this sacred ark of the covenant was not to be touched or handled in any way.  St Peter and St John entered the room and heard the voice of angels singing; ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee’.  Others responded: ‘A virgin before childbirth, in childbirth and after childbirth’.  The two apostles were lost in admiration and sank down to their knees beseeching the Lord to make known his wishes.  They heard a voice saying: ‘Let not the sacred body be either uncovered or touched’.  Having thus been informed of the will of God they brought a bier and, the radiance having diminished, they approached the couch and with their own hands reverently took hold of the tunic at the two ends.  Thus without changing its posture, they raised the virginal treasure and placed it on the bier in the same position as it had occupied on the couch.  They could easily do this as they felt no more weight than that of the tunic.  The body of Our Lady lay on the bier for three whole days in which time the lighted candles which surrounded her were not consumed or wasted in any shape or manner.  The power of God inspired all the inhabitants of Jerusalem to be present at the burial.  Thus when the apostles took upon their shoulders the sacred body, to carry it to the sepulchre, the whole of the population came to watch.  Many miraculous cures occurred and many conversions were wrought among both Jews and gentiles.  All the people were seized with astonishment at the fragrance diffused about and the sweet music.  When the procession came to the Holy Sepulchre in the valley of Josaphat, the same two apostles placed the bier into the sepulchre and covered it with a linen cloth, the hands of the angels performing more of these last rites than the hands of the apostles.  Then a large stone was used to close the tomb as was the custom.  A beautiful fragrance diffused about the sepulchre and sweet music was heard.  The apostles returned to the cenacle but decided that they should keep watch over the tomb as long as they could hear the celestial music.  Some apostles therefore returned immediately to the sepulchre and a constant watch was kept with St Peter and St John being especially devoted to maintaining the watch.  On the third day after the most pure soul of Mary had taken possession of its glory, never to leave it, the Lord manifested to the saints his divine will that his holy mother should return to earth, resuscitate her sacred body and unite herself with it so that she might be body and soul in heaven seated at the right hand of her son.  When the time for this wonder arrived Christ our Saviour himself descended from heaven bringing with him, at his right hand, the soul of his blessed mother and accompanied by many legions of angels, the patriarchs and the prophets.  At the command of the Lord the purest soul of Our Lady entered the body, reanimated it and raised it up, giving it a new life of immortality and glory.  Endowed with these gifts the most Blessed Mary issued from the tomb in body and soul, without raising the stone cover and without disturbing the position of the tunic and mantle which had enveloped her body.  Then from the sepulchre was started a most solemn procession, moving with celestial music through the regions of the air and towards heaven.  This happened in the hour immediately after midnight, in which also the Lord had risen from the grave.  The apostles who were, at that time, keeping their watch at the sepulchre, witnessed this great wonder.  Amid this glory the most Blessed Mary arrived body and soul at the throne of the most blessed Trinity and the three divine persons received her on it with an embrace eternally undissolvable.



The Coronation of the Mother of God: After placing the most Blessed Mary on this exalted throne the Lord declared to the courtiers of heaven all the privileges she should enjoy in virtue of her participation in his majesty.  The Eternal Father, speaking to his angels and saints, said: ‘Our daughter Mary was chosen according to our pleasure from amongst all creatures, the first one to delight us, and who never fell from the title and position of a true daughter, such as we had given her in our divine mind; she has a claim on our dominion, which we shall recognise by crowning her as the legitimate and peerless lady and sovereign’.  The Incarnate Word said: ‘To my true and natural mother belong all the creatures which were created and redeemed by me; and all things over which I am king, she too shall be the legitimate and supreme queen’.  The Holy Ghost said: ‘Since she is called my beloved and chosen spouse, she deserves to be crowned as queen for all eternity’.  Having thus spoken, the three divine persons placed upon the head of the most Blessed Mary a crown of such new splendour and value, that the like has been seen neither before nor after by any mere creature.  At the same time a voice sounded from the throne saying: ‘My beloved, chosen among creatures, our kingdom is thine; thou shalt be the lady and the sovereign of the seraphim, of all the ministering spirits, the angels and of the entire universe of creatures ... Thou hast humiliated thyself in thy own estimation to the lowest place; receive now the supreme dignity deserved by thee ... Thou shalt be the empress and mistress of the militant church.  Its protectress, its advocate, its mother and teacher.  Grace shall be diffused in thy lips for obtaining all that thou wishest and ordainest in heaven and on earth, and everywhere shall angels and men obey thee; because whatever is ours shall be thine, just as thou hast always been ours; and thou shalt reign with us forever’.


220 The Mass




The following is an attempt to follow the progress of The Mass from the time of Christ to the present time.  Most of the information has come from a booklet ‘The Mass’ by Father Lucian Deiss, C.S.Sp. a French professor of theology.  Father Deiss does not totally agree with all the changes and gives his arguments against some of the alterations.  Some of the small details are from my own memory and are from previous readings regarding the history of The Mass.  I have also included some personal comments but these are clearly marked [MHB] so that they will not be attributed to Father Deiss!


On the first Sunday of Advent, 30 November 1969, the official edition of the new Lectionary was introduced at Mass.  The oldest Lectionary of the Roman Catholic Church, containing Epistles and Gospels, dates from the seventh century.  Thus the new Lectionary replaces a book which had served the community for twelve centuries.


But how had this new Lectionary been devised?  Where had the information come from?  How can we tell that the liturgy isn’t something new, ‘change for the sake of change’?  The purpose of this report is to answer these questions.


Two thousand years have clothed this celebration with a cloak of many splendours.  All those years have also accumulated layers of dust and introduced practices which, through continual use, have assumed the mask of principles.  If the apostles were to attend one of our Masses today, they would have difficulty recognising the Paschal meal that they celebrated with the Lord in the Upper Room.  But in the same way, if Moses had attended the Last Supper of Jesus, would he likewise have had difficulty recognising the Pasch that he used to celebrate?  That is the law: everything that is living - and the liturgical celebration is alive to the highest degree - is in constant evolution.


Certain elements in a cathedral - such as the pillars that support the structure - are essential, one could say constitutive; they cannot be taken away without the entire edifice collapsing.  Other parts - such as the statues, for example - are accessories, sometimes simply decorations: they can be moved, replaced, taken away, or even placed in a museum of memories without infringing on the solidity of the edifice.  In the cathedral of the Eucharistic celebration, Vatican II restored and disentangled the constitutive elements - the pillars - of the celebration.  The structure of the celebration now appears simpler, more luminous, more beautiful.  Vatican II also removed the dust from the accessory parts - the statutes - by restoring some and by placing others in the museum of memories.  It also unmasked certain practices which had inserted themselves in the liturgy as laws and dominated the celebration.


NB: Father Deiss’ text uses several rarely used words, eg, Anamnesis, Epiclesis.  Rather than attempt to translate these words I have copied the relevant words in the Glossary at the end of this report.



General Structure of The Mass


Throughout the ages, people have been able to underline sometimes the sacrificial aspect (The Mass is the memorial of the sacrifice of the cross), other times the Eucharist aspect (The Mass is the thanksgiving of the Christian community), still other times the real Presence (the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread and wine), and sometimes even the ceremonial splendour (in imitation of the royal courts, The Mass is the celebration of the heavenly King).  Each of these aspects possesses an element of truth; they correspond to the theological concerns of the various ages.  But if one could abstract from the fluctuations of history, what would one say when referring only to Scripture?


When Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist, he said: ‘This is the blood of the New Covenant.’  (Luke 22:20).  Therefore, Jesus refers explicitly to the Old Covenant, the one that Moses proclaimed on Sinai when he said: ‘This is the blood of the Covenant that Yahweh has made with you.’ (Exodus 24:8)


Therefore the Mass of the Christian Community is the single act of worship and is the celebration of the New Covenant of the Last Supper.


The Holy Water Font


Whilst no change has taken place it is interesting to know how the act of crossing ourselves when entering church came into being.  This commenced, possibly in the early church, when workers would come into Church straight from the fields.  Their hands would be dirty and so water was set aside for them to be able to wash themselves.  Our present Holy Water Fonts are a direct result of that washing.  It follows that we should only be using the font on the way into church and not when leaving! [MHB].


Introductory Rites

(Father Deiss refers mostly to High Mass [MHB]).


By singing at Mass we find ourselves following tradition.  They were singing songs of the Hallel (Psalms 113 to 118) which concluded the Paschal Meal.  (Our Orthodox Jewish brothers and sisters still sing these psalms when celebrating the Passover, [MHB]).


In Rome, the Entrance Song itself seems to go back to the middle of the sixth century.


Prior to that the Entrance Antiphon was read as mentioned in the following details from Saint Augustine of a miraculous healing in 426 AD.


The beginning of Easter Mass in 426 AD at Hippo, at the time of Saint Augustine.


Paul and Palladia, brother and sister, were miraculously cured right before the Easter Mass on Sunday morning.  Augustine relates:


On all sides, the church was filled with cries of joy and thanksgiving.   People ran to the place where I was sitting, already ready to come forward.  Each one hurried after the other, the last one telling me as new what the first had already told me.  Quite joyous, I gave thanks to God in myself when the young man himself arrived, well surrounded; he threw himself at my knees and arose to receive my kiss.


We came forward toward the people.  The church was full; it resounded with cries of joy: Thanks be to God!  No one stays quiet; from the right, from the left, rose up cries!


I greeted the people.  The acclamation started again with redoubled intensity.


Finally silence was established and the passage from the Holy Scriptures was read which dealt with the feast.


Who celebrates the Mass?


Formerly, one would answer: the priest.  Today we answer: the community with its priest, each one celebrating at his or her own level.  Second question: Who presides over the celebration?  Formerly, one would answer: the priest.  Today we answer: Christ.


The Penitential Preparation


The origin of the Kyrie is lost in the mist that covers the ancient liturgy.  It is thought that the three Kyrie, Christe, and Kyrie were fixed in the eighth century.  Originally, the invocations were addressed to Christ.  Then they were given a Trinitarian orientation: the first Kyrie was supposed to be addressed to the Father, the Christie naturally to Christ, and the last Kyrie to the Holy Spirit.  The liturgical reform gave back to the Kyrie its Christological dimension.


Prayer of the Kyrie

at the evening service of the Church of

the Resurrection, in Jerusalem circa 381/382


When the people finish saying the Psalms and the antiphons according to custom, the Bishop rises and stands before the grill, that is, in front of the grotto.  One of the deacons commemorates persons, as is the custom.  At each name, children who are standing there, in great number, constantly respond ‘Kyrie eleison’ which we say: ‘Lord have mercy’, and their voices are innumerable.


The community recognises that it has sinned a great deal ‘in thought, in word, through actions and through omission’.  It insists: ‘Yes, I have sinned exceedingly’.  The priest then declares forgiveness on the part of God: ‘May Almighty God have mercy on us, may he forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life’.


One then thinks that everything is settled and forgiven.


·                    Not at all.  We ask for mercy again in the Kyrie.


·                    One enters then onto joy of the Gloria but a new penitential cloud arises when we sing ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world have mercy on us’.


·                    One takes advantage of the washing of hands to beseech again: ‘Wash my faults away, purify me of my sin’.


·                    In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray as Jesus asked us: ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’.


·                    In the prayer before Communion we insist once again: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, may your body and blood deliver me from my sins’, and further: ‘May this communion bring me neither judgement nor condemnation’.


·                    This prayer is directly linked to the one of the Lamb of God which, once again, takes away the sin of the world.


Enough is enough!


(Father Deiss is obviously not happy at the repeated requests for forgiveness.  It is as if we don’t believe that God has heard our original prayer or that He hasn’t answered it.  It is true to say that our most difficult forgiveness is to forgive ourselves.  But the repeated appeals in the Mass only tend to exaggerate our lack of faith in God’s immediate and everlasting forgiveness. [MHB])


How then can we celebrate the penitential rite so that it does not become a tearful and moralising introspection of guilt?  We should transform it into an acclamation of the mercy of God.


In fact, the heart of the celebration of forgiveness is not the penitential preparation but the celebration of the Eucharist itself.


Greek ‘Kyrie’ or ‘Lord, Have Mercy’


At the end of the (Vatican II) Council, the wave of living language unfurled on the shores of the liturgy with such violence and such spontaneity that it swept away almost all the texts in a dead language.  It only spared a few islets like the Hebrew Amen, Alleluia, Hosanna.


(Father Deiss is saddened by the loss of the Kyrie [MHB]).


The Kyrie represents symbolically the presence of the Church of the East in the Roman Liturgy: it is the only Greek prayer that the people know.


Glory to God in the Highest


The Eastern Liturgy calls this ‘The Great Doxology’, as opposed to the little doxology (Glory to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit).


According to Saint Athanasius, 373, the Gloria originally appeared in the praise of morning prayer.  The beginning takes up the hymn of the angels at the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  That is why bishops integrated it into the Christmas Mass towards the sixth century.  And since priests always like to imitate bishops, they integrated it into their own Masses.  This was done in the eighth century.


The Gloria is a ‘sacred song’ and should never be ‘recited’ any more than anyone should recite the song ‘Happy Birthday to you’.  (As I said in the preface, Father Deiss’ comments relate especially to the Sung Mass.  Nevertheless this last comment shows how far away we have strayed from Father Deiss’ suggestions. [MHB]).


Necessary Beauty of Vestments


There is a danger of vestments which instead of having that first beauty which is to be an attire for prayer, disguise the priest in an operetta and the children of the sanctuary into mini princes.  Patiently we must elude the temptations of aestheticism and put beauty back into the service of prayer.


The Prayer or Collect


(Father Deiss criticises the translations from the Latin, some of which have left a lot to be desired.  Much of this translation was done in haste [MHB]).


‘Amen’ is the transcription of a Hebrew word whose root evokes that which is solid, stable, true and faithful.  As an adverb ‘Amen’ means either ‘it is so’ or ‘May it be so’.  As an adjective ‘Amen’ is the personal name of Jesus.  John writes in his Book of Revelation: ‘Thus speaks the Amen, the faithful and true witness’ (Revelation 3:14).


The Celebration of the Word


Saint Jerome, 419 AD, affirmed: ‘I think that the Gospel is the body of Christ and that the Holy Scriptures are his doctrine.  When the Lord speaks about eating his flesh and drinking his blood certainly this can mean the mystery of the Eucharist.  However, his true body and blood are also the Word of the Scripture and its doctrine’.


The Alleluia


‘Alleluia’ is the transcription of the Hebrew ‘Halelu-Yah’, which means ‘Praise Yah’ which means ‘Yahweh’, which means Jehovah which is the Hebrew name used by Christians to indicate God.


The Gospel Book


From the sixth century, Christian veneration surrounded with honour the book which contained the Gospels.


The Exposition of the Gospel Book on the Altar


Cyril of Alexandria, 444AD, reports that at the time of the Council of Ephasus in 431 AD ‘the holy synod, assembled at the Church dedicated to Mary, instituted Christ in some way as a member and head of the Council.  In fact, the venerable Gospel was placed on a throne’.  Vatican II had splendidly restored this rite of enthronement.  (This is something of a mystery as I can’t recall anything like this taking place.  And I include recent Masses at my old Benedictine Monastery school where the liturgy is revered. [MHB]).


Until the ninth and tenth centuries, only the Gospel Book and the Eucharist enjoyed the privilege of being placed on the altar, the symbol of Christ.  It would be good to go back to the ancient tradition and remove from the altar the objects that do not strictly have any purpose there, such as the cruets of water and wine, with the bowl for washing hands and the towel ... .  When one is invited to dinner, one does not wash one’s hands at the family table.  Why, then, do some priests wash their hands at ‘the Lord’s table’?  In the same way, one does not place towels on the table.  Why, then, should the hand towel lie on the altar?  Not does one place one’s hat on the table.  Why do some Bishops - may God forgive them - place their skull caps on it?  I wish to heaven these remarks were unnecessary!  (He doesn’t seem to mind who he has a go at, does he? [MHB]).


The Proclamation of the Gospel


In the eighth century, all the clergy venerated the Gospel Book by kissing it.  In some communities (Coptic and Ethiopian), the entire community kisses the book as it does the cross of Christ on Good Friday.


Homily.  The Word of God


The Greek ‘homilia’ means reunion, company or familiar conversation.  The homily shares in the very mystery of Jesus.  He appeared like an ordinary man, but he was at the same time the Son of God.  The homily appears like familiar conversation, but it is at the same time the Word of God.


The Profession of Faith


The Creed was inserted into the Mass slowly.  In Rome, the Creed was introduced into the Mass at the beginning of the eleventh century.  When the Emperor Henry came to Rome in 1014, he put pressure on Pope Benedict VIII to adopt, in the Papal city, the custom of the Creed which was in use in the imperial court.


The Prayer of the Faithful


This prayer is a direct legacy of the Jewish tradition which liked to add prayers of request to its benedictions.


In Rome, the Prayer of the Faithful disappeared from the Mass towards the sixth century.  That is the same time that the Kyrie appeared at the beginning of Mass.

By restoring the Prayer of the Faithful, Vatican II put an end to fourteen centuries of liturgical nonchalance.


First Litanic Prayer

(Prayer of the Faithful)

in the Post-Apostolic Tradition

Dating from Clement of Rome, 95AD


We pray you, Master,

be our help and protection.


Save the afflicted among us,

have mercy on the lowly.


Raise up the fallen,

show yourself to those in need.


Heal the sick

and bring back those who have strayed.


Fill the hungry,

give freedom to our prisoners.


Raise the weak,

console the fainthearted.


(Let us pray:)

Let all peoples acknowledge

that you alone are God,

and Jesus Christ is your child,

that we are your people,

the sheep to whom you give pasture.



In the celebration of the Word, the Community presents its face to God and allows the features of the divine message to be drawn there, as in a mirror.  In the Prayer of the Faithful, it presents to God this face marked by the Word.  In the time of Isaiah, when King Hezekiah received a letter from Sennecherb telling him that the Assyrians were going to burn Jerusalem and put the inhabitants to the sword, he went up to the Temple, unfolded the letter before Yahweh and said: ‘Yahweh, open your eyes and see!’ (1 Kings 19:16).  In the Prayer of the Faithful the community presents its face by the Word and likewise says to God: ‘Lord open your eyes and see!’


The Bringing of the Bread


In the first description of the Mass, 150 AD, Justin notes that after the Prayers and the Kiss of Peace, ‘one brought bread and a cup of wine to the one who presided over the assembly of the faithful’.  This custom was dear to Christian piety.  The people recognised in the practice the exercise of their royal priesthood.  Hippolytus, 235 AD, notes that catechumens bring what is necessary for the Eucharist of the baptismal Mass because they have become worthy of it.  Augustine, 335 AD, relates that his mother, Monica, ‘did not let a day go by without bringing her offering to the altar’.


At the Last Supper, Jesus had used unleavened bread, according to the Passover ritual.  The Christian community which celebrated the Lord’s Supper not once a year - like the feast of the Passover - but every Sunday and even during the week, quite naturally used homemade bread.  The round hosts that we know appeared towards the twelfth century.  The use of these wafers stopped the baking of the Eucharistic bread by the faithful.


‘Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation’


This prayer is in fact inspired by the Jewish blessing that the father of the family says over the bread at the beginning of the meal.  Therefore it would have been recited by Jesus at the Last Supper.


Jewish Blessings


The Kiddush

for the Sabbath and Feast Days


The word ‘kiddush’ means ‘sanctification’ and it is the name of the blessing pronounced at the beginning of each Sabbath and feast day, at the moment when the first stars appear and the Sabbath lamp has been lit.  It separates profane time from time which is more specially consecrated to God.


The prayer comprises a blessing over the wine, a blessing over the bread.  These blessings are said at the table by the father of the family, with his family and guests around him.


                        Blessing for the Wine


            Blessed are you, Lord our God

            King of the Universe,

            you who created the fruit of the vine.


                        Blessing for the Feast


            Blessed are you, Lord our God,

            King of the universe.

            You have sanctified us by your commandments,

            you have given us as an inheritance the Sabbath

            of your holiness out of love and good will,

            as a memorial of the works of your creation.

            This day is the first of your holy convocations.

            It is the memorial of the exodus from Egypt.

            You have chosen us among all the peoples.

            You have sanctified us.

            You have given us an inheritance the Sabbath of

            your holiness out of your love and good will.

            Blessed are you, O Lord, who sanctifies the



                        Blessing for the Bread


            Blessed are you, Lord our God,

            King of the universe,

            you who have brought bread forth from the earth.


The Bringing of the Wine


At the Last Supper, Jesus used red wine.  Tradition kept this practice until the sixteenth century.  At that time, a linen napkin called the purificator was used to clean the chalice.  White wine was preferred because it stains less than red wine.


The Eastern liturgies have transformed the transfer of the gifts to the altar into a procession of solemn majesty.  This procession of the oblations - which probably goes back to the seventh century - is thought to symbolise the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem where he was going to suffer and rise again.


The Mixing of Water and Wine


The diluting of wine was a rather general practice in antiquity, both in Greek and in the Palestinian milieu. Sometimes it was even necessity when the wine was heavy and thick.  For the wine of Saron, which was particularly generous, one advised mixing one third wine to two thirds water.


The gesture of adding a little water to the wine does not add anything to the beauty of the celebration.  To give meaning, it has been enriched with different symbolisms.  The oldest symbolism which is found throughout the ages in different variations is proposed by Cyprian of Carthage, 258 AD: ‘If someone offers us wine, the blood of Christ is without us.  If someone offers only water, its is the people who are without Christ’.


The Other Offerings: A Fraternal Sharing


Communion with Christ is lived in communion with all our brothers and sisters.  The breaking of the bread of heaven includes the breaking of the bread of earth with all our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and the needy.  Paul recalls this with vehemence when he reproaches the Corinthians for claiming to share the ‘Lord’s Supper’ without accepting to share their own meal with the needy.  What is this ‘Church of God’ where one is hungry while another is drunk and where one humiliates those who have nothing? (1 Corinthians 11:20-22).


The Christian community is an heir to the Jewish tradition which practised the service of charity each day by distributing ‘the bowl of the poor’ for the needy passing through, and on the eve of the Sabbath by distributing ‘the bread of the poor’ for the needy of the land.  From the eleventh century, money progressively replaced the gifts of nature.  The collection is a legacy of this practice.


The Eucharistic Prayer


How can we sum up the meaning of the Preparation of the bread and the wine?


The law requires: ‘No one will appear before me empty handed ... .  You shall bring to the house of the Lord you God the best of the first fruits of your land’ (Exodus 23:15-19).


The First Description of the Mass

Circa 150


On the day named after the sun (that is, Sunday) all who live in city or countryside assemble.


The memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read for as long as the time allows.


When the lector has finished, the presider addresses us and exhorts us to imitate the splendid things we have heard.


Then we all stand and pray ... .


Then the bread and a cup containing water and wine mixed with water are brought to the one who presides over the assembly.


He takes them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and then makes a long ‘eucharist’ (thanksgiving) for having been judged worthy of these good things.


When he is finished, all the people present give their assent with an ‘Amen!’ (‘Amen’ in Hebrew means ‘So be it’).


When the presider has finished the Eucharist and all the people have signified their assent, those whom we call ‘deacons’ distribute to each one present the consecrated bread, wine and water; and they also carry them to those who are absent.

This food we call ‘Eucharist’.


The Christian prayer which is the closest to the Eucharistic Prayer is the Prayer of the Didache.  The most that can be affirmed is that it was indeed a Eucharistic Prayer of the Judeo-Christian community.  In spite of its great age - nearly twenty centuries of existence - this prayer keeps the fascinating beauty of its youth.  Not a word has a wrinkle!  Not a phrase has aged!


Eucharistic Prayer of the Didache


With regard to the Eucharist, give thanks in this way:

First, for the cup: ‘We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David, your servant, which you have revealed to us through Jesus, your Child.  Glory to you forever.’


Then for the bread broken: ‘We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which you have revealed to us through Jesus, your Child.  Glory to you forever.’


Just as the bread broken,

            was first scattered on the hills,

            then was gathered and became one,

            so let your Church be gathered

            from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom!

            For the power and the glory are yours forever!


            Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist

            except those who have been baptised in the name of the Lord.

            For it is of this that the Lord was speaking when he said:

            ‘Do not give what is holy to dogs.’


            When your hunger has been satisfied, give thanks in this way:

            ‘We thank you, holy Father,

            for your holy name

            which you have made to dwell in our hearts,

            and for the knowledge, faith, and immortality

            which you have revealed to us through Jesus, your Child.

            Glory to you for ever!’


            All-powerful Master, you have created the universe to the praise of

            your name;

            you have given food and drink to the children of humanity for their



           but to us you graciously have bestowed a spiritual

            food and drink for eternal life, through Jesus, your Child.

            Above all, we thank you because you are almighty.

            Glory to you for ever!



            Lord, remember your Church

            and deliver it from evil;

            make it perfect in your love.


Gather together this sanctified Church from the four winds into your kingdom which you have prepared for it. 

            For power and glory are yours for ever!



            May the Lord come and this world pass away!



            Hosanna to the house of David!

            If any are holy, let them come!

            If any are not, let them repent.






The oldest Eucharistic Prayer is the one of Hippolytus of Rome, circa 215.  It represents a structure of solid and incomparable simplicity.


First Eucharistic Prayer

Hippolytus of Rome, circa 215


Acclamation: Let the deacons present the oblation to the Bishop.  Laying hands upon it with all the presbytery, let him say the thanksgiving:


The Lord be with you!  Let them respond: And with your spirit!  Let us lift up our hearts!  They are turned to the Lord.  Let us give thanks to the Lord!  It is right and just!


Thanksgiving: We give you thanks, O God, through your beloved Child, Jesus Christ, whom you sent to us in the last days as Saviour, Redeemer, and Messenger of your will.  He is your inseparable Word through whom you created everything and in whom you placed your kindness.


You sent him from heaven into the womb of a virgin.  He was consecrated and became incarnate; he manifested himself as your Son, born of the Spirit and the Virgin.


He fulfilled your will, and, to acquire for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands in suffering to deliver from suffering those who believe in you.


Institution Narrative: Before giving himself up to voluntary suffering in order to destroy death, the break the chains of the devil, tread hell under his feet, to pour out his light upon the just, to establish the Covenant and manifest his Resurrection, he took bread; he gave thanks and said: ‘Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you.’  The same way for the cup, he said: ‘This is my blood which is poured out for you.  When you do this, do (it) in memory of me.’


Anamnesis: Remembering, therefore, your death and your Resurrection, we offer you bread and wine, we give you thanks for having judged us worthy to stand before you and serve you.


Epiclesis: And we ask you to send your Holy Spirit on the offering of your holy Church, to bring together in unity all those who receive you.  May they be filled with the Holy Spirit who strengthens their faith in the truth.  May we be able thus to praise and glorify you through your Child, Jesus Christ.


Doxology: Through him, glory to you and honour to the Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit, in your holy Church, now and for ever and ever!  Amen.


The Four Eucharistic Prayers


In the fourth and fifth centuries, the oral tradition of the Eucharistic Prayer was fixed in written formulas.


Eucharistic Prayer I: Eucharistic Prayer I is based on the old Roman Canon.  It dates from the fourth century, at the time when Greek was definitely abandoned in Rome for Latin.  Its oldest vestigaes are read in the treatise ‘De Sacramentis’ that Saint Ambrose drafted around 378 AD.  It appears fixed in a definitive way around the seventh century.  From the eleventh and twelfth centuries, it became the only Canon of the entire Church of the West.  It reigned in an absolute manner until November 30, 1969 (the date the Missal came into use), therefore for about fifteen centuries, it was even forbidden to translate it.


Eucharistic Prayer II: This Eucharistic Prayer is an adaption of the oldest Eucharistic Prayer, the one of Hippolytus of Rome.  It has been enriched with the Sanctus (that it did not possess) as well as with an invocation to the Holy Spirit before the consecration.  After almost fifteen centuries of oblivion, this old prayer reappeared in the Roman liturgy, adorned with incomparable youth.

Eucharistic Prayer III: Eucharistic Prayer III is a recasting of a Eucharistic Prayer that had been worked out by the Consilium on the Liturgy as an alternate prayer of the Canon.  This is without doubt the most elaborate on the theological level.


Eucharistic Prayer IV: Eucharistic Prayer IV draws its inspiration from the Eastern Church, especially the one of Saint Basil, 330 AD.


The Full Extent of the Eucharistic Prayer


Dialogue of Introduction.  The oldest witness of this dialogue is read in the Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus.


Saint Cyprian, in his treatise on prayer, which dates from the years 251-252 AD, adds this: ‘When we rise for the orison, beloved brothers, we must watch and apply ourselves with all our hearts to prayer.  Let all carnal and worldly thoughts be cast aside, let the soul think of nothing other than praying.  And it is really for that reason that the priest, before the orison, prepares the spirit of brothers by saying the preface: ‘Let us lift up our hearts!’  The people respond: ‘We turn them to the Lord.’  We are exhorted in this way to think of nothing than the Lord.’


Thanksgiving or Preface.  Formerly, each Mass could have its Preface (the Leonine Sacramentary counts 269 of them).  Today, the reform has set out again on the path of true tradition.  The site of the creation of new Prefaces should remain open.  For much creativity and patience are needed to give birth to a single masterpiece.


Sanctus. Acclamation of the Universe.  The Sanctus is presented as a cento of biblical texts:


            Holy, holy, holy Lord

            God of power and might (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)

            Heaven and earth are full of your glory (Isaiah 6:3)

            Hosanna in the highest (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:10)


            Blessed is he who comes

            in the name of the Lord (Psalms 118:9; Mark 11; Luke 19:38)

            Hosanna in the highest (Matthew 21:9; Mark 11:10)


The first two acclamations are borrowed from the account of the vision which will inaugurate the ministry of Isaiah around the year 740 BC.  The prophet is in the Temple.  The heavens open before him and God appears to him in glory and Isaiah hears the song of the Seraphim.


            Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almight!

            The earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3)


(‘Hosanna’ comes from the Hebrew ‘Hosiahna’ and literally means: ‘Give salvation’ (Psalm 188:25).  ‘In the highest’ is a Hebrew expression.  It means ‘Hosanna to God who lives in the highest of heavens’).


The Sanctus in the Eucharist Prayer

As mentioned earlier the Eucharistic Prayer of Hippolytus did not have the Sanctus.  How then did it enter into the Eucharistic Prayer?  No doubt this happened through a sort of osmosis or imitation of a Jewish prayer.  The ‘Yoster’, a benediction that accompanies the recitation of the ‘Shema Israel’, is actually made up of blessings of a ‘Sanctus’ and of prayers of intercession.  That is the oldest structure of our Eucharistic Prayer:



You are blessed, Lord our God, King of the universe, you who form the light and create the darkness, who shed the light of your mercy upon the earth and those who dwell on it, out of goodness, unceasingly renew every day the works of your creation ...



May your name be glorified for eternity, our King, who create the angels ... .  They bless, they magnify, they adore, they proclaim:

                        Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Sabaoth!

                        The earth is full of his glory ...

                        Blessed be the glory of the Lord!



            Illumine Zion with a new light!

            Blessed be the glory of the Lord.


The Moment of Consecration


Popular belief has sometimes exaggerated the quasi-magical and instantaneous power of the words called consecratory.  It used to be affirmed that when the priest said ‘Hoc’ (this): there was nothing.  ‘Est’ (is): there was nothing.  ‘Enim’ (indeed): there was nothing.  ‘Corpus’ (the body): there was nothing.  ‘Meum’ (of mine): there was everything, there was the body of Christ.


In popular language we even say: ‘hocus pocus’ (abbreviation of ‘Hoc Est Corpus’) to signify a conjuring trick.


Actually, the question of the precise moment of the consecration, quite like the discussion of the consecratory value of the epiclesis or of the narration of the Institution, is a bad question.  It arose at the turn of the thirteenth/fourteenth century in the course of the controversies between the East and the West.  And a badly posed problem cannot receive a correct solution.  In reality, the Eucharistic Prayer forms a unity of praise, blessing, thanksgiving and request.  It is the entirety of this prayer which is consecratory.


Who Consecrates?


The epiclesis reveals exactly what the priest does: he says the prayer through which the celebrating community asks the Father to send his Holy Spirit over the bread and wine so that they may become the body and blood of Jesus.  Eucharistic Prayer III says explicitly:


           Father, we bring you these gifts.

            We ask you to make them holy

            by the power of your Spirit,

            that they may become the body and blood

            of your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Therefore, it is the Father who consecrates through the Spirit.  The priest merely says the prayer, in the name of the community.


The Elevation


At the beginning of the thirteenth century began the practice of elevating the host after the consecration, and at the end of the thirteenth century, one elevated the chalice.  Popular belief attached great importance to this elevation at precisely a time when people received Eucharistic communion less and less.  It was thought that whoever looked at the host during the elevation was preserved on that day from sudden death, and his house and barn and were sheltered from fire.




One can be astonished at the presence of new prayers of intercession after the epiclesis of communion: have we not interceded enough at the time of the Prayer of the Faithful?  Actually, the Eucharistic Prayer follows a bipartite structure of the old Jewish blessing: Thanksgiving and request.  It could be affirmed that the Eucharistic Prayer is nothing but a Jewish prayer at the centre of which one has intercalated the account of the Institution, with the epilcesis and the anamnesis.


Communion in Praise with the Saints in Heaven

Anaphora of Saint Basil, circa 360


It is a commandment of your only Son, Lord, that we remember the saints.  Therefore deign also to remember those who pleased you from the beginning:


- the holy fathers, patriarchs, apostles, prophets, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors and all the just who kept the faith of Christ until the end.


- especially be mindful of our holy, glorious immaculate, most blessed Lady, Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary;


- of your holy and glorious prophet, John the Baptist, forerunner and martyr;


- of Saint Stephen, first deacon and first martyr;

- of our holy father Saint Mark, apostle and evangelist;


          - of our holy father Basil, the wonder-worker;


- of Saint N. whose memory we celebrate today, and of all your choir of saints.


Through their prayers and intercession, have mercy on us and save us for the sake of your name which is invoked upon us.




‘To the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit’.  Describing the Mass around the year 150, Justin relates:’When the prayer is ended, bread and wine, and water are brought up.  The one who presides then prays and gives thanks accordingly to his ability and all the people respond with the acclamation, ‘Amen!’


The ‘Our Father’


In the Eastern Churches the ‘Our Father’ was recited by the entire community as it is today.  In Rome, on the contrary, in the time of Saint Gregory, 604, it was considered a presidential prayer.  Therefore, the priest recited it alone.  Undoubtedly it was Spain that had the most original custom.  The priest sang the ‘Our Father’ alone, and the assembly ratified each request through the acclamation of its Amen.


Fortunately, the Missal has restored what is the ‘prayer of children’ par excellence to the entire Christian community.


The Doxology of the ‘Our Father’


The Our Father ends with the doxology:


            For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours

            now and forever.


It was inserted into Matthew’s text no doubt around the third century, perhaps at Antioch.  It is used by the majority of the Churches of the East as well as by the Protestants and the Anglicans.  By integrating it into the Roman Mass, the new Missal joins the tradition of the other Christian Churches.


According to the rubrics, the doxology that ends the Eucharistic Prayer (‘Through him, with him, in him ...’) is reserved for the priest alone.  Here and there, a community, caught up in the fervour of its participation joins in spontaneously, especially if this doxology is recited or sung by a group of concelebrating priests.  Is it necessary to hold it against them for singing the glory of God?


The Rite of Peace

Here one thinks quite naturally of Christ: ‘If you present your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering at the altar, and go first to reconcile yourself with your brother’.


The sign of peace can be exchanged whenever it is judged opportune.  (I have always thought that it would be better taking place straight after the Confiteor or Penitential Prayer.  We have made Peace with God so let us share it with each other.  I once attended a Convent Mass where this was done. [MHB])


The Rite of Breaking of the Bread


Formerly, this rite took a long time since one had to break the consecrated bread for all the assembly.  Beginning in the thirteenth century, the rite lost some of its significance, the hosts having being prepared and cut in advance.


The Rite of Commingling


The Missal does not give any explanation for this rite.  We no longer see the necessity for it and we are not sure of its significance.  Nevertheless, it has been kept through faithfulness to tradition.  Diverse explanations have been offered.


It is supposed that originally it was a matter of ‘fermentum’: a piece of the Eucharistic bread from the Papal Mass was carried to the priests of the churches of Rome who, because of the service that they fulfilled for their faithful, could not attend the Papal Mass.


We can also think of the consecrated bread - called sancta - that was kept for the communion of the dying.  When those breads became hard, they were replaced.  In order to consume them more easily, they were softened by placing them in consecrated wine.


The Singing of the Agnus Dei


The title ‘Lamb of God’ comes no doubt from the fourth song of the Servant of Yahweh. (Isaiah 53:6-11)


In principle, the invocation ‘Lamb of God’ is used three times under the litanic form.  The Missal adds: ‘it can be repeated as many times as necessary in order to accompany the breaking of the bread’.  This last disposition is somewhat theoretic.  In practice, small hosts are generally used for the assembly and a single host for the priest.  Because of that, the rite of breaking lasts only a moment: it is ordinarily finished before one has the time to sing the first invocation of the Lamb of God.


Communion, ‘The Body of Christ!’, ‘Amen!’


In antiquity, the most usual formula for the distribution of Communion was: ‘The Body of Christ’.  The communicant responded: ‘Amen!’  In this way he made a true profession of faith.  Saint Augustine explains:


If you are the body of Christ and its members, it is the sacrament of what you are which is placed on the Lord’s table: it is the sacrament of what you are which you receive.  It is to what you are that you respond ‘Amen’.  This response is your signature.  You hear: ‘Body of Christ’.  You respond ‘Amen!’.  Be a member of the Body of Christ so that your ‘Amen!’ may be true.


Communion in the Hand


The reception of the host on the lips was established in the ninth century.  Previously, the general rule was to receive the host in the hand.  Cyril of Jerusalem, 387, explains to the neophytes of Jerusalem:


When you come forward, do not draw near with your hands wide open or with your fingers spread apart; instead, with your left hand make a throne for the right hand, which will receive the King.  Receive the Body of Christ in the hollow of your hand and give the response

‘Amen’ ... .  Draw near also to the cup of his Blood.  Do not stretch out your hands, but bow in adoration and respect, and say: ‘Amen’ ... .  And while your lips are still wet, touch them with your fingers and sanctify your eyes, your forehead and your senses.  Then, while awaiting for the prayer, give thanks to God who judged you worthy of such great mysteries.


The custom of receiving Communion while kneeling was established progressively from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries.  The table of Communion (altar rails) dates from the eighteenth century.


Communion from the Chalice


Communion from the chalice was the general rule until the twelfth century.  The Missal explains well: ‘Holy Communion has a more complete form as a sign when it is received under both kinds’.


It is possible that for diverse reasons - either hygienic or psychological - people may not want to drink directly from the cup.  In that case they can use a straw to drink from the cup; this practice is attested after the eighth century.  One can also receive Communion by ‘intinction’: the consecrated bread is dipped into the chalice; this custom is attested in the seventh century.  (I came across this method of receiving Communion at a church in Daventry.  It seemed a very sensible and practical method of receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. [MHB])


Frequency of Communion


It has been noted that ‘until the fourth century, communion of the faithful was not only the rule at each Mass, but it was more frequent than the celebration of the Mass, which was limited in general to Sunday’.  Actually, the faithful carried the Eucharist home.  Hippolytus of Rome advised them to commune every day before taking any other food.  The conservation of the Eucharistic bread could pose problems.  Hippolytus recommended: ‘Let each one take care that no unbeliever, or mouse, or other animal taste the Eucharist and that no piece of the Eucharist fall on the ground or get lost.  It is really the body of the Lord that the faithful eat, and it must not be scorned.’


From the fourth century forward, we note a rapid decline in the frequency of communion.  From the tenth century forward, sacramental penitence was required before a communion.  Saint Caesar d’Arles, 542, asked married couples who had had relations not to set foot in church for 30 days!  In the eleventh century the Church imposed communion three times a year: at Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.  At the Council of Lateran in 1215, it imposed it once a year.


The Council of Trent encouraged communion.  Pope Pius X reestablished it effectively.  Today, due to the fact that the prayers are all in a living language, it is assumed that the faithful receive communion at each Mass.


Post Communion


It is highly desirable that the priest not pollute the time of silence after communion by ‘purifying’ the paten and chalice at that moment.  This purification has nothing to do with a celebration.  No more that one would clean the kitchen or wash the dishes in front of the guests, one should not proceed with the purification while the assembly is still present.  Therefore, it is with much good sense that the Missal recommends doing the purification ‘after the Mass, populo dimisso, when the people have left’.


Final Blessing


Before sending his disciples into the world to bear witness to his resurrection before all nations, Jesus Christ, ‘lifting up his hands, blessed them.  And while he was blessing them, he was taken up into heaven’ (Luke 24:50-51).


In his description of the liturgy in use in Jerusalem (between 381 and 384), the pilgrim Egerius reports that when the liturgical service was ended, the faithful approached the bishop and he blessed them before retiring.


The Dismissal of the Assembly


In the East, the formula of dismissal is: ‘Go in peace’ (Antioch and Egypt), or: ‘Let us go in the peace’ (Byzantium) and, a little more religiously: ‘Let us go in the peace of Christ’ (Eastern Syria).  The people respond: ‘In the name of the Lord’.  That was also the formula used in the Church of Milan.


In Rome, they used a formula of juridic character: ‘Ite missa est’, which means simply: ‘Go, this is the dismissal’.  Fortunately, the French Missal was inspired by the formula of Eastern Syria: ‘Go in the peace of Christ’.  The English Missal does the same.  It unites the East with Rome by proposing further: ‘The Mass is ended.  Go in peace’.  Finally, it adds a third, very beautiful formula: ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!’




In a World History book written by Rodney Castleden I came across an unusual piece of information: ‘500 AD incense is introduced in Christian Church services to cover up the smell of unwashed worshippers!’  True or false?  I don’t know. [MHB]




It remains that no reform is eternal.  Blessed the community which has joy as the principle rubric of its liturgy!  Which, when it celebrates the Word, encounters the face of the risen Christ on each page of the Bible!  Which, when it shares the bread and wine of the Eucharist, shares at the same time the love between brothers and sisters!  Which, to preside over its celebration, has a priest not to dominate, but to serve!


The Mass is the heart of the Christian community.  The beauty of each Mass is the beauty of Christ in our life.




Agape Greek, love.  Signifies the meal of the first Christians, meant 

                      to symbolise charity and Christian unity.


Ambo From Greek anabainein, ‘to go up’.  The place, usually

                     elevated from where the Word of God is proclaimed.


Anamnesis      From Greek meaning ‘to remember’.  Prayer after the

                     consecration where we remember the death and the

                     Resurrection of Jesus.


Anaphora        From the Greek meaning ‘an offering’.  In Eastern liturgies,

                     this word indicated Eucharistic Prayer.


Cento           Poem made up from different authors.


Didache          Greek meaning ‘teaching’.  Refers to the oldest Christian

                     ‘manual’. It possibly dates back to the Apostolic period,

                     60 AD.


Epiclesis         From Greek ‘klesis’ - invocation and ‘epi’ - over.  Prayer

                     which involves the sending of the Holy Spirit on the bread

                     and wine.


            Orison           A prayer.