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The Mystery of the Eucharist

Today’s guest post is by Robert Klesko, Verbum’s Catholic Educational Resources Product Manager

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you …” (Ex. 16:4)

“…and the bread that I give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:52)

These two passages thrust us from Moses forward to Christ, revealing God’s great care for his people. Yet as plain as the words of Scripture are, we continue to ask like the Israelites “What is it?” (Ex. 16:15) and to proclaim “This is a hard teaching” (Jn. 6:61). The Eucharist is “a hard teaching,” and this is why the Catholic faith has written eloquently and often on the theology of the Eucharist. This theology is compiled in Fr. James T. O’Connor’s The Hidden Manna: A Theology of the Eucharist, available on sale this month from Verbum.

The Hidden Manna takes you on a journey through the Church’s development of the doctrine of the Eucharist from apostolic times through Vatican II and the pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II. The journey, in many respects, mirrors the journey of the people of Israel. Israel, when encountering the manna, asks “what is it?” (Ex. 16:15) and the Church echoes the same question before the great mystery of the Blessed Sacrament. For truly, who can conceive of God raining down bread from heaven, and who can conceive that that same God would take on our human flesh and give us that same flesh as Eucharistic food? The word “mystery” appears again and again in O’Connor’s exposition of the theology of the Eucharist, and rightly so.

When we grapple with a mystery, we are prone to grumble—and this is another way in which the journey to understanding the Eucharistic mystery is like the journey of Israel. O’Connor states:

Israel’s grumbling never ceased.  “Now these things occurred as types to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (1 Cor. 10:6). It was then all a type of the Passover of the new Lamb, who has freed us from sin and misery, fed us with a more miraculous Food and Drink, and endured our grumbling.

“We never see anything but this manna! We detest this miserable food!” Even the miraculous wearied them, and they grumbled against it. Type that it was, it is sobering to reflect that we can say the same of the Eucharist: we are sick of it; it bores us; it does not satisfy. And we turn to other foods.

O’Connor captures an aspect of Christian life that Pope Francis has often spoken of, joylessness even in the face of such a great gift. Like Israel, many modern Catholics grumble and become disenchanted with the gift of the Eucharist.

Perhaps you have someone in your own life who has fallen away from the faith because the Eucharist, the central act of worship of the Christian people, has become ordinary. When reading of the Church’s understanding of the doctrine of the Eucharist, “ordinary” is a word that is never used. Perhaps all we need to draw the fallen away back to Eucharistic fellowship is to expose them to the beauty, mystery, and truth of the theology of the Eucharist. O’Connor quotes the great author, poet, and Catholic, J.R.R. Tolkien on his journey from spiritual darkness to the intense light and truth of the Eucharist:

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth, and more than that: death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste (or foretaste) of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, that every man’s heart desires. (Letters, 53-55).

The journey from darkness to light, falsehood to truth, which so permeates all of Tolkien’s writings, is a direct result of his profound love of the Blessed Sacrament. The Hidden Manna draws on the theology and experience of Christendom’s greatest champions and provides pages of deep insight and inspiration.

The Hidden Manna would make an excellent addition to any Verbum library, but perhaps it would be best given as a gift, like the Eucharist itself. Whether you take advantage of this sale to deepen your own understanding of the Eucharist or give it as a gift to a friend in need of being brought back to the table of the Lord, The Hidden Manna is a tremendous asset to the Church. The secret of The Hidden Manna is the paradox that Christ is never really hidden, he is there waiting for us in every tabernacle, at every Mass—there waiting for us to partake of this truly wonderful gift!

Steve Ray’s Summer Picks

Today’s guest post is by Steve Ray, popular speaker and author of St. John’s Gospel, Upon This Rock, Crossing the Tiber, and host of the popular TV series, The Footprints of God.

When Verbum asked me what books I would recommend for summer reading, it was easy to come up with some great titles.

I use Verbum every day, and there are certain books I use over and over again. The books are all interconnected, so while you could sit and read any of the books I picked (they’re all that good!), I use them more like reference works.

Home pageFor example, from the Verbum homepage, I like to start every day by simply clicking on today’s Gospel. Verbum springs into action. It opens an entire screen of windows—like having dozens of books all open to the exact right page. I have the Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide prioritized as a favorite, so it shows up automatically, and I can easily use parallel resources to switch to the Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, and the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. With just these three commentaries, I’ve uncovered spectacular insights about the Gospel (and Verbum has plenty more).

parallel resources

At any point in this process, I can run a Verbum Topic Guide or Passage Guide, and I’m presented with default collections of links to the Catechism, Church Documents, and the writings of the Church Fathers. The last category is often primarily populated by the Early Church Fathers Collection available in most of the Verbum Libraries. However, I’ve found the addition of the CUA Fathers of the Church Series invaluable in my study of any passage. I couldn’t even capture all the results I got just from today’s Gospel reading! Such easy access to our rich Tradition!

passage Guide

anchor yaleFinally, the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary is my go-to source for definitions. See more on why Bible dictionaries are awesome in this video. The Anchor Yale Dictionary has extensive definitions for over 6,000 entries. And it gets pulled right into the Bible Facts frame and opens on a double click of almost any word. With definitions this extensive, even clicking on words I already understand yields new discoveries.

The rest of my recommendations are just great titles that everyone should read or be familiar with.

For a marvelous Catholic Bible Study program that anyone can start in their parish or community, I’ve always recommended Catholic Scripture Study International. It is the best program you will find anywhere!! And it’s even better in Verbum. All the Bible links are connected directly to Scripture and the verse memorization works right in the software.

I used Verbum to write all my books, including Crossing the Tiber, Upon This Rock, and St. John’s Gospel. They take on a whole new dimension within the Verbum software.

See my complete list of recommendations here.

 

 

Addendum (by Alex Renn):

Steve asked me to address a question from a user on his blog: “What does your entire screen look like after you click on the daily reading?” Here’s the basic answer plus some additional considerations:

Steve’s layout will look something like this:

steve ray screenshot

1) The Lectionary layout does not actually change as far as panels are concerned. Setting priorities will change what appears in each panel. This post, though old, is a great tutorial on setting priorities. You will be able to customize the order of the Bibles that appear in the top middle pane, and the commentary that populates the bottom middle. This is where he mentioned the Great Commentary of Cornelius à Lapide appearing in his post above.

2) It looks like some of the screenshot panels were pulled out of context to reveal more information (that may be why they look different from what you’re seeing.)

3) The topic guide was accessed by right clicking the Gospel in the Lectionary, making sure “Bible” is selected on the right, and Clicking “Passage Guide” on the left. Scroll down to see the Church Fathers section (pictured above).

open passage guide

4) Lastly, the dictionary was also prioritized as shown in number 1, so that double-clicking will open the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary if possible. If you double click a word that isn’t an entry, it will open a different dictionary instead.

Hope that helps!

A New Heart

The feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated this year on June 27th, but here is a reflection on the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris. Learn more about the devotion to the Sacred Heart from its founder, St. Mary Margaret Alacoque, and some of its first commentators, in our Sacred Heart Collection. 

I had the chance to visit Paris two years ago with my family.  I had been a student in France years before, and had always loved the Sacred Heart Basilica.

When I go this time, it’s the week before Palm Sunday. Wandering around the immense church, I light huge candles, and buy books from the bookstore. There are three windows to Joan of Arc in an alcove: “She listens to her voices,” the inscription says.

The stained glass windows still strike me, as they had when I was a student in Paris years ago. Although the Basilica is newer, as churches in France go, the stained glass is in the older, medieval style. Colored pieces of glass make up a larger image, like a collage. The color scheme is different than many other churches I have seen. The windows in the cathedral in Rouens, for example, are made up of blue tones, cool and mysterious. In Sacre Coeur, however, the background pieces are predominantly red. The sun shining through the windows suffuses the Basilica with warmth. Like blood.

BasiliqueduSacre-Coeur2

Then I see two glassed-in rooms for the sacrament of reconciliation. Fascinated, I watch a man who appears to be an African walk in, sit down on the chair, and start talking to a priest in white vestments. The man is gesticulating wildly. I don’t know if the glass cubicles are ad hoc, an extra sacramental opportunity for Holy Week, but this format elevates face-to-face reconciliation to a new level. Anyone walking by can observe the confessional. It seems unbelievably exposed. But something seizes me; I wait in line and advance to the peculiarly public reconciliation opportunity.

Confession is a French experience, with emphasis on precision, exactitude, and logic. I start making my confession in French and the priest holds up his hand for me to stop. He asks me questions, to locate me on his Gallic mind map:

“What country are you from? What do you do? Why are you here? Are you a student?”

I tell him I was a student in France years ago.

“What do you study?”

I tell him I’m a teacher.

Instead of reeling off a list of deeds and misdeeds, I just tell the priest one thing, an incredibly wounding and painful experience that has left me limping along. I tell him I am tired, discouraged, and impatient with my young son. I tell him that I don’t like the person I see myself turning into.

He considers this, thoughtfully templing his fingers, and says, “You must pray to God that he will give you a new heart.”

“Make an act of contrition,” he continues; then pauses, looking at me: “In your own language.”

Of course: so it would be correct. And in the imperative, “You must.” How many times had I heard that? All aspects of life in France, from buying a metro ticket to choosing a career, are governed by the imperative tense: “It is necessary.”

The penance chafed at me. At the time, I didn’t think much of the heart as a concept or reality. It seemed to me that hearts were untrustworthy. My heart was dead, and better off that way, I thought. I would have said that’s the last thing I needed, that I needed something better, some real help.

But part of reconciliation is letting go of what I think I need and accepting that in order for the Holy Spirit to work, I need to perform the penance asked of me by the priest who has heard my confession. It was a few quiet moments in the pew saying my prayer before I left the church, but from the vantage point of two years, I can see that my heart has been healed and restored in ways that I never expected.

Now, I see that the Holy Spirit flows under the stones of Montmartre like the blood that flows silently, steadily throughout my body, back and forth, and through the church, drawing me and other believers all over the world together, flushing us out of our corners and our eddies of isolation. It is active outside of time, like the heart of Joan of Arc that they say still beats at the bottom of the Seine River in Rouens. It flows through time, to where Ignatius and Peter Xavier are praying for guidance about their new religious order on the hillside where the Basilica now stands. The Spirit is the blood of the church, sustaining it, transforming and healing our wounds, bringing us back to the source. Most of all, the Spirit circulates to perform the work of God, who says:

So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

 (Isaiah 55:11)

 

Enrich and Deepen Your Faith with Scott Hahn’s 2-Volume Set!

This guest post was written by James Battle, Catholic Marketing Specialist here at Verbum

As a Catholic convert, two Verbum books have especially encouraged and accelerated my faith. I own hard copies of both of them:  one I read cover-to-cover, but the other was far denser, and I never finished it. Buying a book I do not finish is not unusual for me. I know, like many other bibliophiles, that there are many books bought in the heat of the moment, and sit on the shelf unfinished, waiting for the proper mood or motivation. What is unusual, though, is that both books were written by the same author: Scott Hahn.

The Lamb’s Supper  is a book I picked up early in my conversion process, shortly after I began attending Mass. I was consistently struck by the way the liturgy is packed full of scriptural references and symbolism from the book of Revelations. It was truly eye-opening! The Lamb’s Supper very quickly made the initially confusing Mass sensible, especially since I was an outsider who had a particular fascination with St. John’s prophetic and strange symbolism. It was easy to read, and served as a guidebook that tied scripture to the liturgy. I enjoyed Dr. Hahn’s writing so much that I eventually picked up Hail, Holy Queen—although I was warned that it was not bedside table reading.

That advice turned out to be quite accurate. Hail, Holy Queen was not merely peppered with scriptural references—there were often many in each paragraph—but also, there were many references to Catholic tradition: the Church Fathers, Vatican II documents, papal encyclicals, and the Catechism. These were all much newer to me at the time, and so the book sat.

After picking up the 2-volume Scott Hahn collection in Verbum, however, The Lamb’s Supper turned from a scriptural guide into a base camp for scaling the mountain of Catholic tradition regarding marriage, the Communion of Saints, apostolic succession, and much more.

It was Hail, Holy Queen that I found most profoundly transformative, however. Since all of the footnotes and references to Church documents and tradition are just a click away in Verbum, I ditched my hard copy and read the digital version. Using my Verbum library, I followed Dr. Hahn’s line of thought much more easily than with the printed book, because I could read up on source material instantly and was able to fully understand what the author was communicating. In short: I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That is, until I was able to dive in with just a few clicks.

Even if you have favorite books in paper form—get the Verbum edition! You will love reading your favorite passages in a new light with the source material right at hand. If you have books in print that you’ve never finished—get the Verbum edition! Regardless of what motivated you to purchase the book in the first place, Verbum will make all the information contained with the text easier to access and understand. Also, you can always join the Verbum group on Faithlife, and find like-minded friends who will be glad to read along and explore the Faith with you.

This 2-volume set from Scott Hahn is discounted through the end of July. Take advantage of the opportunity to enrich and deepen your faith today!

 

Cyril of Alexandria—Saint & Scrapper

Today’s guest post is by Robert Klesko, Verbum’s Catholic Educational Resources Product Manager

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me – Psalm 69:9

The above quote from the Psalmist seems especially appropriate to the life and ministry of St. Cyril, Pope of Alexandria (c. 376-444). He was zealous. Zealous for the authentic Christian faith. But zeal without a bridle can lead to failures. Cyril certainly made mistakes in regard to his dealings with the city’s Jewish population and Orestes, the Roman Governor in Alexandria. He was prone to be hotheaded and unflinching in what he viewed to be unjust persecution against his flock from rival religious and political authority. However, Cyril is not honored as a saint and doctor of the Church for his political savvy. In fact, I believe it was precisely these early failures which caused him to refocus his ministry on the Christological questions of his time.

Cyril of course is known for his dispute with Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople. This dispute produced some of the most prodigious theology of the Patristic Age. His theology is available from Verbum as part of our special monthly sale. Our six-volume set of the Works of St. Cyril of Alexandria will introduce you to the zealous champion of the orthodox faith. Included in this collection are the Five Tomes against Nestorius, which set the groundwork for the Council of Ephesus (431AD) and Chalcedon (451AD). In Tome II, Cyril makes the following affirmation of the dual nature of the human and divine in Jesus:

Yet how is it not obvious to all that the Only-Begotten being God by Nature has been made man, not by connection simply […] considered as external or accidental, but by true union, ineffable and passing understanding. And thus He is conceived of as One and Only, and everything said befits Him and all will be said of One Person.

This statement, and others like it, heavily influenced the Church’s doctrine of hypostasis, the understanding that Christ is one person with two natures, human and divine. The “hypostatic union” articulated by St. Cyril would become one of the key doctrines of Christological and Trinitarian theology.

Beyond his Christological writings, this six-volume set will introduce you to St. Cyril as a Biblical scholar. Included are his two-volume commentary on the Gospel of St. Luke and the companion two-volume commentary on the Gospel of John. Composed of sermons delivered by St. Cyril on themes in the Gospels, these commentaries offer a rich exposition of the Alexandrian school of theology. Anyone interested in Patristics or Biblical theology would benefit greatly by making these resources part of their Verbum library.

Verbum’s sale on the Works of St. Cyril of Alexandria is for a limited time, so don’t let this opportunity pass by. Studying Cyril’s theology will give you a clear understanding of the development of the Church’s doctrine on the divinity and humanity of Christ. What a great opportunity to look at Christ through the eyes of one who was among the first to grapple with the classic theological question, “What do you think of the Christ?” (Mt. 22:42). Let the study of St. Cyril’s work ignite the zeal for Christ in your own life. Order today and take advantage of the savings!

Take 26% off Verbum’s 13‑volume Homilies Bundle

Verbum’s power extends beyond pure Bible study: some of its most useful features have to do with researching and preparing homilies. And, with features like the Catholic Topical Index, homily prep has never been easier.

Verbum’s new Homilies Bundle gives you insight from some of today’s leading homiletics experts. You can browse hundreds of homilies on a variety of liturgical events, from Sunday and daily Masses to feast days, weddings, and more.

Of course, all these homilies are linked and fully searchable, so you can study your homily side by side with relevant Bible verses, Catechism references, and Church documents.

Plus, with Verbum’s lectionary layout, you can open up a homily right next to the Lectionary, Roman Missal, and Bible for extra inspiration.

Homily preparation can be time-consuming. Verbum speeds it up—as you study, you’ll find references to works you may not have even considered looking up, all thanks to the way that Verbum organizes your library and links it together.

Want to learn more about Verbum and homiletics? See how Verbum can help you by watching this quick video.

Take 26% off the Homilies Bundle today!

Lift Up Your Hearts

Take 28% off Lift Up Your Hearts on Pre-Publication

Right now, you can pre-order the Lift Up Your Hearts collection for 28% off!

The liturgy “is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives . . . the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true church” (Sancrosanctum Concilium 2). Verbum now brings you the Lift Up Your Hearts collection, a three-volume bundle of homiletic and liturgical helps for every Sunday and feast day during each year of the lectionary cycle. These volumes are linked and easily searchable, preparing you to give homilies that will inspire your parishioners all week long.

Lift Up Your Hearts isn’t just for priests and deacons, though it is ideal for this sort of work. It’s also great for parishioners looking for a deeper experience of the Sunday readings, or for liturgical ministers seeking insight into their participation in the Mass. Aptly named, Lift Up Your Hearts presents an engaging and deep exploration of the Word of God expressed living and true in the Mass and the public prayers of the Church.

Pre-order early to save 28% while this collection is on Pre-Publication. Regularly $45.95, these three volumes can be yours for $32.95. Pre-order yours today!

Or, better yet, check out the Homilies Bundle, which offers even bigger savings.

Take 24% off the CUA Studies in Early Christianity!

For just a little while, you can pre-order the Catholic University of America Studies in Early Christianity collection for 24% off!

The collection delves into the history of language, literature, social context, and patristic thought to bring you a rich overview of the ancient Church and its development over time.

These seven volumes give you brilliant original translations of key ancient texts, as well as dozens of critical essays on important historical documents like the Book of Steps, Liber Graduum,and more.

Discover the context and influence of Syriac texts in Christian thought. Examine how Christianity was spread by writers, readers, and translators in the second through seventh centuries. Analyze how the early Church Fathers dealt with ethical dilemmas, and apply their methods to twenty-first-century problems.

What makes this collection special is its brilliant historical scholarship. If you’re serious about exploring Church history, this collection is one you won’t want to pass up.

Deepen your understanding of history, language, patristics, and more. Pre-order the Catholic University of America Studies in Early Christianity collection for 24% off!

Hear Scott Hahn Talk About Verbum and Education

Listen to this talk Scott Hahn gave at the 2014 NCEA conference about the role Verbum is playing in Catholic education!

Verbum and Preaching, Part 5: Preaching is Eucharistic

In this fifth installment of Verbum and PreachingJason briefly talks about the importance of the Eucharistic element and end of preaching:

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