The Immaculate Conception, the Messiah, and the Golden Gate

Note: Here in the Driftless Area where I’m writing this, it’s still the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

In medieval art, the Immaculate Conception is depicted by Mary’s parents, Sts. Joachim and Anne, meeting and embracing at Jerusalem’s Golden Gate. According to an apocryphal work called the Protoevangelium of James, Joachim and Anne had been barren, but an angel visited Anne to announce the birth of a child. She then met Joachim at the Golden Gate as he left the Temple after offering a sacrifice. The Golden Gate is the eastern gate of the Temple Mount, and tradition said that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem through this gate. The legend and the image link the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Golden Gate; she is the true “Gate of Heaven” through which the Messiah enters the world. Here’s a painting of the scene by Giotto:

The Golden Gate, known in Jewish sources as the Gate of Mercy, is pretty interesting in its own right. Continue reading

Happy Martinmas!

Happy Martinmas! Today is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. St. Martin was a Roman soldier who saw a beggar by the roadside. Drawing his sword, he cut his cloak in two and gave half to the beggar. That night, Christ appeared to him wearing the other half of his cloak; the beggar was Christ. St. Martin later became a monk, a hermit, and the bishop of Tours, France.

His feast day, Nov. 11, was traditionally celebrated as something close to the American Thanksgiving, with goose in place of turkey. During the Third Republic, he became the de facto patron of France. In 1918, during World War I, many French Catholics regarded it as a divine sign when the Germans agreed to an armistice on the feast day of St. Martin, veteran and French patron. Continue reading

Commemorating the Resurrection on Christmas

(This is the first of two posts about the Solemnity of Christmas. While I had intended to post these on Christmas Day, at least I am doing so within the Octave.)

If you pay attention to the liturgy, then you might be aware that we honor a string of martyrs immediately after Christmas: St. Stephen the Protomartyr on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 30. The joy of Christmas is tied to the witness of the martyrs; the Incarnation of Our Lord calls forth this witness on our part. That is the Providence of celebrating these martyrs within the Octave of Christmas.

In this post, I’ll focus on a martyr of the Christmas Octave who is often overlooked: St. Anastasia. I’ll also explore the significance of her name, which means “Resurrection.” Continue reading

The Story of Jacob and Esau as a Type of Our Relationship with Christ

This is a bit of a ramshackle post, which I apologize for. Recently, I have been meditating on the story of the Patriarch Jacob in the Book of Genesis. In particular, I have been struck by the scene of Jacob and Esau’s reconciliation in Gen. 33. The build-up appears in Gen. 32.

I see in this story an account of our life in Christ. In fact, I hold that there is much in this passage that supports Catholic soteriology (teaching on how salvation works), specifically in those areas where it differs from Protestant soteriology. I don’t know that I shall ever have time to write out my thoughts with the proper detail, so I here present what notes I have managed to jot down. Here goes: Continue reading

The Intercession of the Saints in the Healing of the Paralytic

“And again He entered into Capharnaum after some days. And it was heard that He was in the house, and many came together, so that there was no room; no, not even at the door; and He spoke to them the word. And they came to Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four. And when they could not offer him unto Him for the multitude, they uncovered the roof where He was; and opening it, they let down the bed wherein the man sick of the palsy lay. And when Jesus had seen their faith, He saith to the sick of the palsy: Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Gospel of St. Mark 2:1-5

I heard Fr. John Riccardo read this passage on Relevant Radio yesterday. It struck me that the miraculous healing of the paralytic vindicates the Catholic teaching on the intercession of the saints:

1.) Our Lord did not come to the paralytic, and the paralytic did not come to Our Lord alone. Instead, four men–apparently strong men–carried the paralytic, made their way through the crowd, lifted the paralytic up to the roof of the building, opened the roof, and lowered the paralytic down into the room. The paralytic’s helpers had to do a lot of work before Our Lord did His work. Continue reading

St. Joseph Speaks the Word Incarnate

Many devotional writings about St. Joseph stress his silence. No word of his is recorded in Sacred Scripture. We know the Blessed Virgin’s response to the Archangel St. Gabriel, and we know her Magnificat. But we don’t know what St. Joseph said when the angel reassured him that he should not put away the Blessed Virgin, or when the angel told him to flee into Egypt, or return to Nazareth.

We do know that St. Joseph spoke the Holy Name of Jesus, because it was his task as Our Lord’s legal father to name Him on the day of the Circumcision. St. Joseph said “Jesus,” and this Name (revealed to him and to the Blessed Virgin beforehand) became the Name which is over every other name.  Continue reading

Feast of St. Peter ad Vincula

Today’s feast day (prior to 1960, anyway) commemorates the consecration of the Basilica of St. Peter ad Vincula (“at the Chains”). That’s the basilica in Rome that houses a major relic of St. Peter. It’s a single chain formed from two separate chains, one that bound St. Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem and one that bound him when he was imprisoned in Rome. When the two chains were brought together in the 400s, they miraculously fused together.*

Here are some photos that I took at the basilica in 2007. First, the miraculous chain. The reliquary is located in the confessio (crypt shrine) below the basilica’s high altar.
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Continue reading

Honoring St. Martha on Her Sister’s Octave

For me as a Norwegian-American, July 29 is first and foremost the feast of St. Olaf, patron saint of Norway.* When I opened my Baronius Press Missal, however, I wasn’t sure which saint would be listed today; in the Roman Calendar, the patron saint of remote Norway doesn’t rank particularly high. I was intrigued when I saw that today is the feast day of St. Martha. I immediately flipped back to July 22 and saw what I expected—the feast day of St. Mary Magdalen. Per a tradition in the Latin Church going back at least to Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Mary Magdalen is the same person as St. Mary of Bethany, sister of St. Martha. So St. Martha’s feast day falls on the octave of her sister’s feast.

*See my post here: https://driftlesscatholic.wordpress.com/2017/07/29/blog-pseudonym-saint-day-st-olaf-martyr-patron-and-eternal-king-of-norway/

Blog Pseudonym Saint Day: St. Olaf, Martyr and Eternal King of Norway

271The photo above shows the altar of St. Olaf in Rome. He is shown with his battle axe, triumphantly crushing under foot the dragon of paganism (or maybe, in the artist’s mind, Lutheran heresy?). My blog pseudonym is the Latin form of “Olaf from Wisconsin.” My family is from Wisconsin (though I wasn’t born or raised here), and I’m one-eighth Norwegian. When I was a child, my late father (who was insanely proud of his one-quarter Norwegianity—may he rest in peace) used to call me “Ole,” which is short for Olaf.

St. Olaf was the King of Norway who spearheaded the conversion of that country to the Roman Catholic Faith. For his efforts at converting the pagan Vikings, St. Olaf was martyred during the Battle of Stiklestad on July 29, 1030, which is why today is his feast day. St. Olaf is honored as the “eternal king” (Rex Perpetuus) of Norway. Unfortunately, Norway was annexed by Denmark during the Protestant Revolt, and the Danes imposed Lutheranism on the country.

When I was studying under Fr. Reginald Foster in Rome ten years ago, I visited many of the so-called National Churches in the city. These are the churches that each nation claims as “its church” in Rome. I figured that Norway, despite its official Lutheranism, must have at least a chapel somewhere. Catholics—good ones, anyway—are always trying to reclaim the lost sheep among the nations. One day by accident, I stumbled upon the Norwegian national chapel in the Basilica of San Carlo al Corso* (which is the National Church of the Lombards). That’s where I took the photo above. The Latin inscriptions on the edge of the painting read in part, “Norvegia Catholica; S. Olaus Martyr, Norvegiae Rex et Patronus.” Translated, that’s, “Catholic Norway; St. Olaf, Martyr, King and Patron of Norway.” Continue reading

St. James, Our Lady, and America

I’m a day late in posting this, but yesterday (July 25) was the feast day of St. James the Greater. Along with St. John the Evangelist (St. James’ brother) and St. Peter, St. James was one of Our Lord’s inner circle, being present at the Transfiguration and during Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden. Here are some one-off notes in appreciation of St. James:

St. James’ Iconography: Apostle, Pilgrim, Moor-Killer, and Martyr

Over at the New Liturgical Movement, David Clayton has posted an article about St. James’ iconography.* One of the commenters, Thom Ryng, notes that St. James appears in art in three different ways: as Apostle, as pilgrim, and as the Moor-Killer (Santiago Matamoros).**

I’ve seen the apostle, pilgrim, and Moor-Killer (or martyr?) identities combined in iconography. Once upon a time, I used to attend Mass at St. James Parish in Trumansburg, New York. The canopy/reredos at St. James shows a bishop’s crosier and sword laid across each other. The crosier obviously shows that St. James was an Apostle, and hence a bishop. The sword likely refers to his martyrdom by beheading, but also possibly to his status as Santiago Matamoros, the scourge of the Moors during Spain’s Reconquista. I believe the canopy also shows the pilgrim’s scallop shell, which points to Santiago de Compostela and the Way of St. James. Continue reading