Saturday, September 8, 2012

Devotion for today: The feast of the birth of Blessed Virgin Mary


Mary's Canticle: The Magnificat

The Magnificat has occupied an important place in the Liturgy of the Church since around the fourth century. The canticle is taken from the Gospel of Luke (1:46-55) where the events of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth are recorded. Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist at the time, greeted Mary with the well known phrase "Blessed art thou amongst women, blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus". Mary responded with the canticle. Today the Magnificat is used during Vespers every evening.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God our Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Devotion for today: Canticle of Zechariah

Today we look at the Canticle of Zechariah, prayed every day in the Liturgy of the hours during Morning Prayer.


Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
He has come to His people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
Born of the house of His servant David.
Through His holy prophets He promised of old
That He would save us from our enemies,
From the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
And to remember His holy Covenant.
This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
To set us free from the hands of our enemies,
Free to worship Him without fear,
Holy and righteous in His sight
All the days of our life.
You, my child shall be called
The prophet of the Most High,
For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our Lord
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
And the shadow of death,
And to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Zechariah learned his lesson in trusting God the hard way; he lost his power of speech because he did not believe the angel when he told him that Elizabeth would bear a son in her old age. We see here from this canticle that Zechariah is clearly a new man, a man who truly believes with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength. The funny thing is that Zechariah was a priest, so he probably knew the scriptures inside and out, and it wasn't that he didn't have faith, it was just that he didn't believe with his whole heart. He was probably like many people and just going through the motions of life, and then when something miraculous appears before him, his heart is too hardened to even be moved by God's great gift.
…I pray that we each learn a lesson from Zechariah and instead of having a closed heart to the Lord, we can open ourselves and to receive Jesus into our hearts and into our entire lives.
May the Holy Spirit fill each of us so that we too might glorify God and spread praise of Him throughout this world just as Zechariah did.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Devotion for today: Canticle of Simon (Luke 2:29-32)

Devotion for today: Canticle of Simon (Luke 2:29-32)
Today we begin our meditation on the New Testament Canticles. The Canticle of Simeon is recited during Compline in the Liturgy of the Hours, the night prayers.
Canticle of Simeon
Christ is the light of the nations and the glory of Israel
Lord, now let you servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now,
and will be forever. Amen.


"Now, Master, You can dismiss Your servant in peace." —Luke 2:29
Priests and religious have been led by the Spirit and the Church to commit themselves to pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily. Simeon's canticle (see Lk 2:29-32) is always prayed as part of the Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. As a priest for almost thirty years, I have prayed Simeon's canticle over 10,000 consecutive nights.
Of the 10,000 times I have prayed this prayer, one time stands out. After receiving a call that my father was close to death, I prayed: "Now, Master, You can dismiss Your servant in peace; You have fulfilled Your word. For my eyes have witnessed Your saving Deed displayed for all the peoples to see: a revealing Light to the Gentiles, the Glory of Your people Israel" (Lk 2:29-32). I prayed that my father would die in peace, for he had seen God's salvation and light. Before the night was over, my father died.
The Lord used this special time when I prayed Simeon's canticle to help me appreciate how privileged I am to pray this prayer daily. One night I will pray this prayer for the last time on earth. It will be the time for me to die in peace. I pray that the many times I pray this prayer will result in my seeing Jesus as my Salvation, Light, and Glory (Lk 2:30, 32).
You don't have to be a priest or religious to pray Simeon's canticle nightly. Isn't it wonderful to be ready to die at any time? That is the assumption of this prayer. Ask the Lord whether He would give you the privilege of praying Simeon's canticle nightly. Then pray accordingly.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Devotion for today: The humble find joy in God: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Today brings us to the end of our Old Testament Canticles study.

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Hannah’s Song of Thanksgiving

Then Hannah prayed and said,
“My heart exults in the Lord;
My horn is exalted in the Lord,
My mouth]speaks boldly against my enemies,
Because I rejoice in Your salvation.
 “There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
“Boast no more so very proudly,
Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth;
For the Lord is a God of knowledge,
And with Him actions are weighed.
 “The bows of the mighty are shattered,
But the feeble gird on strength.
 “Those who were full hire themselves out for bread,
But those who were hungry cease to hunger.
Even the barren gives birth to seven,
But she who has many children languishes.
“The Lord kills and makes alive;
He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
 “The Lord makes poor and rich;
He brings low, He also exalts.
“He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
And He set the world on them.
“He keeps the feet of His godly ones,
But the wicked ones are silenced in darkness;
For not by might shall a man prevail.
 “Those who contend with the Lord will be shattered;
Against them He will thunder in the heavens,
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His king,
And will exalt the horn of His anointed.”

The humble hope in God, rejoice in him
The canticle of Anna [Hannah], the mother of Samuel

1. The voice of a woman leads us today in the prayer of praise to the Lord of Life. In fact, in the story of the First Book of Samuel, it is Anna who sings the hymn we have just proclaimed, after offering her child, the little Samuel to the Lord. He was to be a prophet in Israel and his action was to mark the transition of the Hebrew people to a new form of government, monarchy, in which the unfortunate King Saul and the glorious King David would play the lead. Anna had a history of suffering in her past, for, as the story says, the Lord "had closed her womb" (I Sam 1,5)…. The hymn of thanksgiving that sprang from the lips of the mother was to be taken up and expressed anew by another Mother, Mary, who while remaining a virgin conceived by the power of the Spirit of God. In fact, in the Magnificat of the Mother of Jesus we can perceive an echo of Anna's canticle which for this reason is known as "the Magnificat of the Old Testament"…. This is a profession of faith spoken by both mothers before the Lord of history, who arrays himself to defend the least, the poor and the suffering, the offended and humiliated…. At this point hope does not only concern the life of the child who is born, but also the life God can bring back after death. Hence an almost "paschal" horizon of resurrection opens. Isaiah was to sing: "Your dead shall live, their bodies shall rise. O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and on the land of the shades you will let it fall" (Is 26,19).




Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Devotion for today: Canticle of a dying man and joy in his restoration: Isaiah 38:10-14, 17-20

We are just about to finish the study of Old Testament Canticles. Today’s canticle reminds us that “It is not the nether world that gives you thanks…the living, the living give you thanks”.

Isaiah 38:10-14, 17-20
I said, “In the prime of my life
must I go through the gates of death
and be robbed of the rest of my years?”
 I said, “I will not again see the Lord himself
in the land of the living;
no longer will I look on my fellow man,
or be with those who now dwell in this world.
Like a shepherd’s tent my house
has been pulled down and taken from me.
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life,
and he has cut me off from the loom;
day and night you made an end of me.
I waited patiently till dawn,
but like a lion he broke all my bones;
day and night you made an end of me.
 I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”

Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.
 For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.
 The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
parents tell their children
about your faithfulness.

The Lord will save me,
and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
in the temple of the Lord.

 JOHN PAUL II GENERAL AUDIENCE Wednesday 27 February 2002
In the various canticles that it combines with the Psalms, the Liturgy of the Hours offers us a hymn of thanksgiving with the title: "The Canticle of Hezekiah, King of Judah, after he had been sick and recovered from his sickness"…. today we have heard and used for our prayer two strophes of the Canticle that describe the two typical movements of the prayer of thanksgiving: first, one evokes the nightmare of suffering from which the Lord has freed his faithful one, and second, one joyfully sings in thanksgiving for the recovery of life and salvation….  As I said earlier, he [Hezekiah] first looks to the past. According to the ancient conception of Israel, death introduced one into a subterranean existence, in Hebrew Sheol, where light was put out, life faded away and became almost ghostlike, time came to a halt, hope was extinguished, and above all there was no longer any possibility of calling upon God and meeting him in worship.  This is why Hezekiah recalled first of all the words full of bitterness that he spoke when his life was sliding towards the frontier of death: "I shall not see the Lord in the land of the living" (v. 11). The Psalmist also prayed this way on the day of his sickness: "No one among the dead remembers you, O Lord. Who sings your praises in Sheol?" (Ps 6,6). Instead, freed from the danger of death, Hezekiah could confirm forcefully and joyfully: "The living, the living, give you thanks as I do this day" (Is 38,19)….  in the day of sickness and suffering, it is right to raise one's lament to God, as Hezekiah teaches us; using poetic images, he describes his weeping as the chirping of a swallow and the moaning of a dove (cf. Is 38,124). And, even if he doesn't hesitate to admit that he feels that God is an adversary, almost like a lion that breaks all his bones (cf. v. 13), he does not cease to invoke him: "O Lord, I am in straits; be my surety!" (v. 14).  The Lord is not indifferent to the tears of the one who suffers, and he responds, consoles and saves, although not always in ways that coincide with what we expect. It is what Hezekiah confesses at the end, encouraging all to hope, to pray, to have confidence, with the certainty that God will not abandon his creatures: "The Lord is our savior; we shall sing to stringed instruments in the house of the Lord all the days of our life" (v. 20)…. Thus, St Bernard reads the prayer of the king as representing the prayerful song of the Christian should have the same constancy and serenity in the darkness of the night and of trial, and in the light of day and of joy.



Monday, September 3, 2012

Devotion for today: Isaiah 2:2-5: The Mountain of the Lord’s dwelling towers above every mountain

Today’s canticle is a “song of Messianic hope”
Isaiah 2:2-5

In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it
Many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and set terms for many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
House of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!


They Shall Beat Their Swords Into Plowshares

 Pope John Paul II The Holy Father's Catechesis at the General Audience on September 4, 2002, in Rome

1. The daily liturgy of Lauds, in addition to the Psalms, always offers a canticle from the Old Testament. Indeed, it is well known that besides the Psalter, the true prayer book of Israel and later of the Church, another sort of "Psalter" exists, found among the various historical, prophetic and sapiential pages of the Bible. It also consists in hymns, supplications, praises and invocations, often of great beauty and spiritual intensity.

In our spiritual pilgrimage through the prayers of the Liturgy of Lauds, we have already seen many of these songs that are scattered through the pages of the Bible. We will now examine one that is really admirable, the work of Isaiah, one of Israel's greatest prophets, who lived in eighth century before Christ. He was the witness of the difficult times lived by the Kingdom of Judah, but also sang of messianic hope in deeply poetic language.

2. This is the case with the Canticle we have just heard, which is placed very near the beginning of the Book of Isaiah, in the first verses of chapter two. It is introduced by a later editorial note which says: "The Vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem" (Is 2,1). The hymn is conceived as a prophetic vision describing a goal towards which the history of Israel moves in hope. It is not by accident that the first words: "In the last days" (v. 2), that is, in the fullness of time. It is therefore an invitation not to be fixed on the present that is so wretched, but to sense beneath the surface of daily events the mysterious presence of divine action leading history towards a very different horizon of light and peace. This Messianic "vision" will be taken up again in chapter 60 of the same Book in a broader perspective, a sign of the rethinking of the prophet's essential and incisive words, those of the Canticle we have just heard. The Prophet Micah (cf. 4,1-3) will take up the same hymn, although his ending (cf. 4,4-5) differs from that of the oracle of Isaiah (cf. Is 2,5).

3. At the heart of Isaiah's "vision" rises Mount Zion, which speaking figuratively will rise above all the other mountains, since it is God's dwelling place and so the place of contact with heaven (cf. I Kgs 8,22-53). From here according to Isaiah's saying in 60, 1-6, a light will emanate that will rend and disperse the darkness and toward it will move processions of nations from every corner of the earth. The power of attraction of Zion is based on two realities that emanate from the Holy Mountain of Jerusalem: the Law and the Word of the Lord. In truth, they constitute a single reality which is the source of life, light and peace, an expression of the mystery of the Lord and of his will. When the nations reach the summit of Zion where the temple of God rises, then the miracle will take place which humanity has always awaited and for which it longs. The peoples will drop their weapons which will then be collected and made into tools for peaceful work: swords will be beaten into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks. Thus will dawn a horizon of peace, of shalĂ´m in Hebrew (cf. Is 60,17), a word particularly cherished by Messianic theology. At last the curtain falls forever on war and hatred.

4. Isaiah's saying ends with an appeal, in harmony with the spirituality of the hymns of pilgrimage to Jerusalem: "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord" (Is 2,5). Israel must not be a mere a spectator of this radical historical transformation; she cannot dissociate herself from the invitation that rang out in the opening, on the peoples' lips: "Come, let us climb the mountain of the Lord" (v. 3). We Christians are also challenged by this Canticle of Isaiah. In commenting on it, the Fathers of the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries (Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Theodoret of Cyr, Cyril of Alexandria) saw it fulfilled with the coming of Christ. Consequently they identified the Church with the "mountain of the house of the Lord ... established as the highest of the mountains", from which came the Word of the Lord and to which the pagan peoples streamed, in the new era of peace inaugurated by the Gospel.

5. Already the martyr St Justin, in The First Apology, written about the year 153, announced that the verse of the Canticle which says: "the word of the Lord [would go forth] from Jerusalem" (cf. v. 3) had come to pass. He wrote "For twelve illiterate men, unskilled in the art of speaking, went out from Jerusalem into the world, and by the power of God they announced to the men of every nation that they were sent by Christ to teach everyone the word of God; and we, who once killed one another, [now] not only do not wage war against our enemies, but, in order to avoid lying or deceiving our examiners, we even meet death cheerfully, confessing Christ". (Prima Apologia, 39,3: Gli apologeti greci, Rome 1986, p. 118. The First Apology, chapter 39, pp. 75-76, CUA Press).


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Devotion for today: Daniel 3:56-88: Let all creatures praise the Lord

Sunday’s canticle is especially meaningful if you read the preceding verses regarding the time Daniel spent in the fiery furnace!

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, you heavens;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heavens;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, sun and moon;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, stars of heaven;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all rain and dew;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all you winds;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, fire and heat;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, nights and days;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, light and darkness;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, ice and cold;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, frosts and snows;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Let the earth bless the Lord;

let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, you springs;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Bless the Lord, all people on earth;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, and his mercy endures forever.

All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures forever.