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St. Augustine’s City of God on the sacrifice of the Mass

Today’s guest post is by Brandon Rappuhn, a Logos copywriter.

Verbum makes it easy to compare texts and perform theological and ecclesiological studies across the history of the Church. Since today is the Feast of St. Augustine, let’s take a journey through the history of our faith by way of his writings. In this journey, I’m curious to see how the “sacrifice of praise” from our Mass is echoed throughout Augustinian ideas. Let’s stick with his City of God or we could easily be here all day.

Book XVII of the City of God presents Augustine’s take on Jewish history as a prefiguration of Christianity. Augustine analyzes two orders of Old Testament priesthood (Melchisedech vs. Aaron) and draws the conclusion that Melchisedech’s priesthood was a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ in his own sacrifice (by extension, also the sacrifice of the Mass). He goes further, exploring the priesthood of all believers, and how this priesthood offers up a sacrifice of praise:

Therefore, this short and simple and soul-saving expression of faith, ‘Put me, I beseech thee, to somewhat of thy priestly office, that I may eat a morsel of bread,’ is itself the ‘piece of silver,’ [read: praise] because it is brief and is the word of the Lord Himself dwelling in the believer’s heart. Earlier in the text He had said that He had given the house of Aaron food from the Old Testament victims: ‘I gave to thy father’s house for food of all the fiery sacrifices of the children of Israel’—that is, of the Jewish sacrifices. Accordingly, at this point, He said: ‘That I may eat a morsel of bread,’ for this is the sacrifice of Christians in the New Testament.

In the previous paragraphs, Augustine mentions that the order of Aaron has dissolved away and the order of Melchisedech has been perfected and translated into Christ’s priesthood, culminating in the consecration of himself as the Eucharist. In fact, his whole argument is to the fulfillment of the prophecy in 1 Kings 2:27-36 of the ending of the priesthood of Aaron while yet retaining a priesthood of an eternal order.

The Prophet’s concluding clause, ‘that I may eat a morsel of bread,’ (1 Kings 2:27-36) succinctly depicts the very species of the sacrifice in question, the same of which the Priest Himself said: ‘The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’ (John 6:51) It is this sacrifice and no other. Let the reader understand, then, the sacrifice according to the order of Melchisedech, not any sacrifice according to the order of Aaron.

Let’s be clear: the “morsel of bread” is indeed a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, but the sentiment, “Put me, I beseech thee, to … thy priestly office, that I may eat…” is the foreshadowing of our sacrifice of praise, our desire to commune with God and to join with him in his Paschal sacrifice. Did Augustine come up with this idea on his own? I wouldn’t think so. Origen echoed this sentiment barely a few centuries before Augustine.

Hear what Peter says about the faithful: You are ‘an elect race, royal, priestly, a holy nation, a chosen people.’ Therefore, you have a priesthood because you are ‘a priestly nation,’ and for this reason ‘you ought to offer an offering of praise to God,’ an offering of prayers, an offering of mercy, an offering of purity, an offering of justice, an offering of holiness. (Homilies on Leviticus 1-16, Hom. 9.1.3)

And well over a thousand years later, Vatican II brings it full-circle:

[The people] should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all. (Sancrosanctum Concilium 48, emphasis mine)

This is why, in the Mass, sometimes referred to as the “sacrifice of praise,” the priest prays in the Eucharistic prayers, “Remember, Lord, your servants, N. and N., and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them…”

For a short time, you can get a library of St. Augustine’s writings on sale with coupon code AUGUSTINE14. This offer ends September 1, so don’t miss out!

Faith and Hope

Last week, we learned with sorrow of the passing of Pope Francis’ relatives, including his nephew’s wife and two very young children, in a car accident in Argentina. A Vatican Radio message relayed the Pope’s wish that “all those who share in his grief join with him in prayer.”

Death, especially when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly, can challenge our faith. In times of grief, we always have recourse to our faith in God and our fellowship with one another. The Order of Christian Funerals provides a helpful reminder of our hope in life to come:

Trusting in God, We have prayed together for our beloved deceased, there is sadness in parting, but we take comfort in the hope that one day we shall see them  again and enjoy their friendship. the mercy of God will gather us together again in the joy of his kingdom. Therefore let us console one another in the faith of Jesus Christ. — USCCB. Order of Christian Funerals. “Final Commendation B.” Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing Corporation, 1998. 104.

This week, let us join with the worldwide church in offering our prayers for the consolation of the bereaved and to remind us all of the hope of eternal life that our faith gives us.

Celebrate St. Augustine!

It would be hard to imagine a more influential figure in Western Civilization than St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.). Both towering intellect and sympathetic convert, Augustine’s thought and compelling life story have shaped Christianity through the centuries. In celebration of his feast day August 28th, we bring you an excerpt from his Memoirs, Book 8, Chapter 12. Verbum’s Fathers of the Church collection features 15 volumes of Augustine’s writings! Here, Augustine recalls the moment in which he turns to God through a mysterious constellation of events:

Baptism-Of-St.-Augustine,-1702 (1)

Baptism of St. Augustine by Louis de Boulougne (1702)

Now, when profound consideration had pulled out from the hidden depth and heaped together the whole of my wretchedness before the gaze of my heart, a mighty storm arose, bringing a mighty rain of tears. And, in order to shed the whole of it, with its accompanying groans, I stood up…I threw myself down under a fig tree, unconscious of my actions, and loosed the reins on my tears. They burst forth in rivers from my eyes, an acceptable sacrifice unto Thee. Not, indeed, in these words, but with this meaning, I said many things to Thee: ‘And Thou, O Lord, how long?96 How long, O Lord, wilt Thou be angry unto the end? Remember not our former iniquities.’ For I still felt that I was held by them and I uttered these wretched words: ‘How much longer, how much longer? “Tomorrow” and “tomorrow”? Why not right now? Why not the end of my shame at this very hour?’

I kept saying these things and weeping with the bitterest sorrow of my heart. And, behold, I heard from a nearby house the voice of someone—whether boy or girl I know not—chanting, as it were, and repeating over and over: ‘Take it, read it! Take it, read it!’ And immediately, with a transformed countenance, I started to think with greatest concentration whether it was the usual thing for children to chant words such as this in any kind of game, and it did not occcur to me that I had ever heard anything like it. Having stemmed the flow of my tears, I got up, taking it to mean that nothing else was divinely commanded me than that I should open a book and read the first passage that I should find. For I had heard about Anthony that he had been admonished from a reading of the Gospel on which he had come by chance, as if what was being read was said for him: ‘Go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, and by such a revelation he was at once converted to Thee.

And so I went hurriedly back …to the place where I had placed there the copy of the Apostle, when I had got up from the place. Snatching it up, I opened it and read in silence the first passage on which my eyes fell: ‘Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts.’ No further did I desire to read, nor was there need. Indeed, immediately with the termination of this sentence, all the darknesses of doubt were dispersed, as if by a light of peace flooding into my heart.

 

Introducing Verbum’s New Director, Deacon Kevin Bagley, D. Min.

Today’s guest post is by Deacon Kevin Bagley, Director of Verbum.

About a month ago, I was blessed to become the new Director of Verbum. Dr. Andrew Jones, my predecessor, is to be commended for building the Verbum brand and product. Andrew has taken on a new role in his professional career and we wish him much success and happiness.

Kevin Bagley headshot.JPG.opt279x419o0,0s279x419As director, it is my responsibility to ensure that our products operate as they should, and that we provide the best materials for your use on our platform. My goal is to bring more of the faithful, and inquirers, to Verbum, and generally make sure things are moving forward as they should.

A bit about me: I am a Roman Catholic Deacon, ordained in 2001. I earned the Doctor of Ministry degree from The Catholic University of America.  I have served as pastoral administrator for a suburban 1,400 family parish with an elementary school. My work experience includes private sector jobs, including retail, as well as government employment. And now I am here because I believe I am where God wants me to be.

Verbum has great folks working very hard to ensure the highest quality Catholic resources are available for you. They are researching, writing, formatting, indexing, tagging and, well, keeping very busy.  Our goal at Verbum is to build the Kingdom of God by providing you with the tools you need to accomplish your goals.

You know the power of Verbum. You are using it to prepare catechetical material for classes, collect thoughts to prepare a homily, do extensive research for an academic endeavor, or just browse through the resources for additional information.

I thank you for trusting us with your important work!  Questions, comments, or concerns are welcome at  kevin.bagley@verbum.com

Pax,

Deacon Kevin

 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the Historians

To commemorate the feast day of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, enjoy this excerpt from Dr. Adriaan Bredero’s masterful study, Bernard of Clairvaux: Between Cult and History.  Bredero’s personal story is fascinating: he began his career-long study of St. Bernard of Clairvaux as a college student, while hiding from the Nazis in 1944 Amsterdam.  Here, Bredero re-evaluates many of the primary and secondary sources about St. Bernard, allowing a carefully considered historical portrait of the saint to emerge. Importantly, Bredero’s erudition raises enduring questions about the use of scholarly sources in history and hagiography.

bernard-of-clairvaux-between-cult-and-historyBernard and the Historians

Through the centuries many historians have paid attention to St. Bernard, all with their own motives and from their own perspectives. As a result, this medieval abbot inevitably was characterized incidentally and evaluated by some in an almost inimitable way. More than once we find an emotional appreciation or disapproval of his actions. Thus developed—even outside of the hagiographic tradition—a number of historically questionable portraits of his person, which persisted for a shorter or longer period. Alexander Lenoire in 1814 provided a remarkable example of this phenomenon. This lodge member argued that Bernard’s unblemished life and compassion resulted from his intimate knowledge of the deepest secrets of freemasonry, which enabled him to draft the Rule of the Templars.

Obviously not all more or less cursory portraits of Bernard were as flattering as that of Lenoire. At times we find extremely negative judgments, based on just a few isolated passages from Bernard’s writings or from the vita prima. To these a commentary or interpretation would be added, with no attention to the context within which these passages were written or, rather, dictated.

It has been established that the frequent presupposition that Bernard was anti-intellectual is based on a remark with an ironic undertone made by Bernard around 1125 in a letter to Henry Murdach about Henry’s armchair learning. The fact that the addressee was completely addicted to his learning, and that this remark of Bernard’s was clearly relativized by William of Saint-Thierry in the A-redaction of the vita prima, is totally ignored. In redaction B this relativizing remark was eliminated. This suggests that this hagiographer intended to confirm this anti-intellectual image of Bernard; the more so, since none of the versions of this vita, which incorporated some passages from redaction A, pay any attention to William’s comments. They seem to be utterly unaware of its existence.

[...]

A passage at the beginning of his treatise De consideratione, where Bernard deals with the meaning and the usefulness of “considering,” shows how ill-conceived it is to accuse him of anti-intellectualism. This is what he has to say:

First of all, “considering” purifies the source from which it springs, i.e., the spirit. It also regulates our emotions, gives direction to our actions, corrects deviations, builds our character, bestows honor and order to our lives; to put it in one word: it provides knowledge of divine and human things. It clarifies what is confused, unifies what is disjointed, collects what is dispersed, grasps what is hidden, searches for truth, and discovers what is treacherous and disguised. It foresees and organizes what must be done, checks what has been done, so that nothing remains in the spirit that has not been improved of needs no further improvement. In times of prosperity it foresees misfortune, and it hardly feels the latter when it has arrived. This last ability is called strength, the first one prudence.

There are other dubious portrayals of Bernard by historians, based on biased or incorrect interpretations of particular passages from his writings. Two of these have become rather widespread. The first of these, to which we already referred in the Introduction, concerns Bernard’s observations in his Apology with regard to the luxuriance of the abbey church that was being constructed in Cluny.

Read more by getting Bernard of Clairvaux: Between Cult and History today!

Catholic Scholarship On Sale Now!

Although Jesuit priest and scholar Cornelius à Lapide died in 1637, his impressive erudition and passion for Scripture are still greatly admired today. The 8-volume Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide is just one of the commentaries featured on the Verbum Monthly Sale during the month of August.

359px-Cornelius_a_Lapide_(1597-1637)The following excerpt is from Cornelius à Lapide’s  discussion of the Gospel of Matthew.  The author is obviously steeped in scripture and also conversant with the writings of the Church fathers, but he chooses a moment from Matthew that every believer will recognize. As Lapide mentions, the moment of conversion, of answering the call of Christ, is one that spans the centuries.

Lastly, St. Matthew is pre-eminent amongst the Evangelists in the following respects:[…] Because St. Matthew, who was perfectly conversant with business affairs, for he was over the tribute, was converted to Christ, not by seeing His miracles, not by hearing His preaching, says St. Chrysostom, but by a single word, “Follow Me,” obeying this with the utmost promptitude, he was straightway changed into another man, even into an Apostle, so that he left all things, and followed Christ.

616px-Caravaggio's_The_Calling_of_St_Matthew

The Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio

I may add, that after this he never left Christ, but was a beholder and a witness of His miracles, an imitator of His life, a companion of His journeys and labors a partaker of His cares and griefs, and thus was conversant with Him during the whole period of His earthly ministry. Matthew means in Hebrew, given, as Origen and Isidore say—or a gift, as Pagninus thinks—from matthan, a gift. Anastasius of Antioch gives a different interpretation, Matthew, he says, means the “command of the Most High.” St. Gregory makes the following remarks about him: “Iron is taken out of the earth. Was not Matthew found in the earth, when he was immersed in worldly business, and served the customs’ board? But when he was taken out of the earth, he possessed the strength of iron. For by his tongue, and by the dispensation of the Gospel committed to him, the Lord, as by a most sharp sword, transfixed the hearts of unbelievers.” Clement of Alexandria says of this Evangelist, that he was not wont to eat flesh, but to live on seeds, berries, and herbs. […] The last thing I will mention is, that St. Matthew made himself known to St. Bridget, when she was praying at his tomb in the city of Malphi, and said to her, “When I was writing my Gospel, so intense was the heat of the Divine flame which abode with me, that even if I had wished to keep silence, I could not, because of that burning heat.”

Discover the riches of Lapide’s vast scholarship with a monthly special from Verbum until the end of August!

The Assumption of Mary and Pauline Theology

This post is by guest Brandon Ruphohn, Marketing Copywriter at Logos.

catholic-mariology-collectionIt’s the Feast of the Assumption! On this special day, we’re excited to announce our newest collection: the Catholic Mariology Collection (13 vols.), containing some of our most recently-shipped volumes on Mary and the subject of Mariology within a Catholic context.

But why is the Assumption of Mary important for Catholics?

The Marian doctrines don’t appear in the Nicene or Apostles’ Creeds, so our faith is not quite as dependent upon them as, for example, Jesus’ resurrection or the apostolicity of the Church. However, Marian doctrines are by no means optional or frivolous: they help us understand Christ and our relationship with him.

Mary plays a unique role in our understanding of Christ. Being his mother, she must have known him intimately, personally, and spiritually. As a loving and dedicated Jewish woman, Mary raised Jesus in obedience to God and to the Torah (Luke 2:21-24, 39-41), and was rewarded with a holy and devout son. Luke recounts that she “kept all these things in her heart” (2:51). Mary was what Christians today aspire to be: to be among those who truly know Jesus intimately, personally, spiritually.

Paul, on the other hand, knew Jesus as a flash of light (Acts 9:3, Galatians 1:12). After his dramatic conversion experience, in which he was knocked off his horse and temporarily blinded, Paul probably spent several years in the desert of Arabia (Galatians 1:17-18), where he wrestled the implications of his encounter with the living person of Jesus. He had to re-evaluate Jewish theology, the Torah, and the Prophets, all of which he had loved so dearly and so legalistically. His experience with Jesus—though brief—was enough for him to dedicate the rest of his life in love of Christ.

Hans_Speckaert_-_Conversion_of_St_Paul_on_the_Road_to_Damascus_-_WGA21655

Conversion of St Paul on the Road to Damascus by Hans Speckaert

Regarding the Feast of the Assumption, it would appear that both Mary and Paul have the same hope to share with us. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains the significance of the Assumption:

Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us, on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste. 

(Sacramentum Caritatis 33)

The Assumption by Titian

Pope Benedict also illuminates today’s New Testament reading in his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist. The source and summit of our Catholic lives, the Eucharist provides a foretaste to the sanctified life ahead of us—that which Mary had already achieved through Christ’s merits. Paul refers to this life in today’s reading from 1 Corinthians:“In Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:22–23).

Barely four chapters earlier in the same letter, Paul reveals that it was Christ who taught him the institution of the Eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:23). He reminds us that the Eucharist is a serious matter for the church, that “whoever eat the bread or drinks the cup unworthily will have to answer for the body and the blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:27). Here, we are reminded to examine ourselves, for “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes” and so, we look forward to his coming again!

For just as Mary’s Assumption raises our eyes towards heaven, so too do we look to heaven to catch of glimpse of Jesus coming back down (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Until then, we proclaim Christ’s crucifixion. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul resolved to know Christ crucified. To know Christ as Mary did during her 30 years with him—tragically culminating at the foot of the cross—or as Paul did through his conversion experience, is to know Jesus through his Paschal sacrifice.

The Eucharist is where we find a Christ we can know intimately, personally, and spiritually. As St. St. Louis de Montfort (included in the new Catholic Mariology Collection) recommends to us, “When Mass is over, make a short thanksgiving.… Then leave the church, as if you were going down from Calvary.” Both Mary and Paul direct us to Christ upon the Cross as a means of knowing who Christ truly is.

 

Author Interview, Part 2: Dr. Mary Healy and Dr. Peter Williamson

This post is a continuation of the interview with authors Dr. Mary Healy and Dr. Peter Williamson.  Verbum users enjoy special savings on their 7-volume Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture through the month of August!

6. What impact have you seen with your seminary students using this commentary? What effect has it had on homiletics?

MH: Some of the most enthusiastic comments we have received are from seminarians, some of whom had previously only used commentaries designed for scholars that left them rather perplexed or uninspired to preach on particular Scripture passages. Our commentaries have helped them see the richness and spiritual depth of passages they had not paid attention to before.

7. What impact have you seen on lay ministries?

PSW: We’ve especially seen Bible Studies and Bible Study leaders make great use of the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. Our series website, www.CatholicScriptureCommentary.com, provides additional resources including Questions for Reflection and Discussion. Many Bible studies use these questions, sometimes adding others of their own.

Q. How has the series been received outside of the Catholic arena? What channels of dialogue being opened up from the quality scholarship of the commentaries?

PSW: I have been very encouraged at the response of Protestant and Orthodox Christians to the series. It helps them to see how much common ground we have in common; that in turn builds trust which enables fruitful conversation regarding the points on which we differ. I was delighted to learn that my niece, who attends Moody Bible Institute, found the series in their library and had some of her professors recommend it as a good Catholic commentary.

8. What is next from the series?

PSW: My volume on Revelation will be published in November or December. Then in January or February our volume on the Gospel of John will be published; it is authored by Fr. Francis Martin and Dr. William Wright.

In 2015 we will publish Dr. Mary Healy’s volume on Hebrews and a volume that covers both James (Kelly Anderson) and 1-3 John (Daniel Keating).

After that we’re looking forward to Romans by Scott Hahn, Galatians by Cardinal Albert Vanhoye and myself, Luke by Fr. Pablo Gadenz and Tim Gray, and 1-2 Thessalonians by Nathan Eubank.

Author Interview: Dr. Mary Healy and Dr. Peter Williamson

Verbum interveiwed two authors of Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. See what they have to say about this stellar commentary, on sale this month.

1. What sparked your desire to produce this series?

Williamson, Peter 9579PSW: Both Mary and I have experienced great grace in our lives through reading and studying Scripture. The benefit we received was due in part to gifted teachers who opened up the word of God to us. We noticed that many Catholics needed the kind of help we ourselves were blessed to receive.

There seemed to be a gap in the Catholic biblical resources available. On the one hand, there were study Bibles and simple introductory books on Scripture. On the other hand, there were academic works that tended not to focus on Christian faith and life, but on scholarly questions. So we set out to write and edit commentaries of theological depth whose aim is to help Catholics deepen their faith, hope, and love.

2. What questions in modern Scripture scholarship are you hoping to answer through this series?

PSW: Actually, we’re not trying to answer scholars’ questions, but the questions of ordinary Catholics and of the clergy and lay leaders who teach and preach to them. Our goal is to gather the best insights of Scripture scholarship and make it accessible. We ensure that our authors write in ordinary language that does not require translation for preaching and teaching.

3. What aims/goals do you wish to obtain through these commentaries?

photo_29MH: We hope Catholics will fall in love with the word of God and learn to read it the way the Church has traditionally read it: as a diverse library and yet a single word that speaks of Christ. We also hope to help overcome the enormous gap that has divided theology from biblical studies in recent years, by interpreting each biblical book in light of the whole canon of Scripture and the tradition of the Church.

4. What benefits have you derived in your own scholarship from the feedback obtained from the series?

MH: The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Part of the reason is that each of our volumes goes through an extremely rigorous editorial process in which it is reviewed and edited eight to ten times by different sets of eyes. I have benefited enormously by the insightful and sometimes critical comments of my fellow editors and other reviewers. They have caused me to read the text more carefully and to ensure that there are no gaps in my explanations.

5. How are these commentaries accentuated by the tools and functionality of Verbum?

PSW: Our commentaries include many biblical references to support or illustrate what is being said, as well as footnotes to church documents. They also include cross references to the Catechism and Lectionary of Sundays and Special Seasons. Verbum makes checking out cross references so easy!

 

Get the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture on sale today!

 

Verbum Monthly Sales

Have you heard about our monthly sale? Every month we’ll be featuring special pricing on popular Catholic titles. Keep checking back to make sure you don’t miss a deal, and follow the blog to hear more about the books, read excerpts and more. This month, we’ll be featuring interviews with popular authors. Stay tuned for savings.

Be sure to bookmark this page, so you can easily access your monthly savings!

 

 

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