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Next to the Holy Mass, the Divine Office (or Breviary) is the most important prayer offered to God.  It is offered by the Church and in the name of the Church, conferring multifold graces and blessings on those who recite it worthily, attentively and devoutly.  Normally the domain of priests and religious, the Church has continued to recommend her official prayer to the faithful.  However, until now, the complexity of the rubrics and a lack of suitable translations has deterred many.


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Link to our Features Page to see what a difference our online edition of the traditional Roman Breviary can make in your life.


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Link to the Office for the Feast of St. Pius X, our secondary patron.  You can browse through the various Hours of the Office and get a feel for what to expect.


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  St. John the Divine

December 27, 2015

The Things of God

Just two days after Christmas we celebrate the feast of Christ’s most beloved Apostle St. John.  He is known to us not only as an Apostle, but also as the Evangelist who wrote the last of the four Gospels.  How fitting therefore that the Last Gospel at Mass should be the beginning of the Gospel he wrote.  The words of the Last Gospel take us to the heights of heaven, where we soar, as though on the wings of an eagle, in the sublime presence of the Word of God, who was in the beginning with God, who was that God.  And how fitting too then, that the symbol of the Evangelist St. John is an eagle.  St. John was not only an Apostle and an Evangelist—he was also a Prophet.  He is the only Prophet whose message exclusively concerns the things that are still to come.  The Book of the Apocalypse was written by St. John, and in that book we find the mystical roadmap that directs us through the future of this world.

In the Apocalypse, there are warnings there, to be sure, of seven seals being broken and catastrophes befalling mankind at the end of time.  Of four horsemen who will bring war and famine and pestilence and death.  But ultimately the Book of Apocalypse is a story of hope, and a description of what is to take place, when heaven and earth shall pass away but the Word of God shall not pass away.  The Word of God whom we met at the beginning of St. John’s writings, who was in fact “in the beginning with God,” we see again in the Apocalypse in the last words of St. John’s writings and indeed in the very last pages of our Bible.  Because the Word of God who was in the beginning with God will also be in the end with God.  He was God and he is God and he always will be God.  “As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.”  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

This sublime and eternal message that pervades the writings of St. John has earned him the title of St. John the Divine.  We don’t hear that title mentioned very often in the Catholic Church these days, but as you know, there is a cathedral in New York City dedicated to St. John under this title of Divine.  He is called Divine not because he is God, obviously.  He has earned this title by his comprehension of the divine nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the things of God, and his ability to convey that understanding in his writings.

To know God is to love him.  St. John had a profound knowledge of God, and because of that great knowledge he had great love. His love for Our Lord gave him the courage to stand with Our Lady at the foot of the Cross, the only Apostle who did not flee.  And as he loved God, so too did Our Lord love this Apostle—he was Our Lord’s favorite Apostle.  While Christ gave St. Peter the keys of the kingdom, the whole Church to look after, he gave to St. John his Blessed Mother.  “Mother, behold thy son.  Son, behold thy Mother.”  The Fathers of the Church all agree that it was St. John who received the greater gift.

He is the only one of the Apostles who did not die a martyr.  Our vestments today are white, and not red for the blood of the martyrs.  But he was certainly prepared to die for Christ.  After Our Lady was assumed into heaven, St. John ended up in Rome where he was soon captured and sentenced to death by the emperor.  He was ordered to be placed in a huge cauldron of boiling oil.  However, the oil had no effect on him, and when he came out he was healthier than before he was put in.  We celebrate this on May 6 with a second feastday in his honour called St. John Before the Latin Gate.

Another miracle in the life of St. John occurred when he was given a glass of poisoned wine to drink.  Like the boiling oil the poison had no effect on him.  This is why on today’s feast of St. John we have the ceremony after Mass for the blessing of wine. 

This blessing is an example of the different way we Catholics see the things of this world as opposed to some of our protestant friends.  The more puritanical among them have a tendency to see the world as evil.  They refuse to see any beauty in it, believing that all material things are tools of the devil to distract us from the spiritual.  It’s what made the puritans such unpleasant people, bitter and intolerant, and who saw any sign of joy or happiness as unseemly and improper.  There has always existed this unfortunate tendency in human nature:  the old Albigensian heresy that St. Dominic fought so hard against, the Puritans in England who rebelled against what they perceived to be the Romish decadence of that land, the Jansenists in France whom the Church condemned for their narrow-minded bigotry.  Today we see the same tendency rising up again amongst traditional Catholics who, for example, see immodesty where none was intended, and who will express unease and even outright criticism at any enjoyment whatsoever of the good things of this world—we even know of a priest who claimed that riding a roller coaster is a mortal sin!

Catholics are not like this.  Our world view is not seen through a prism of hatred, envy, obsession, bigotry and just plain misery.  We view the world as God’s creation, beautiful in every aspect.  We view the things in the world in the same way, put there by God as gifts to man, gifts to use (or abuse…) according to man’s free will.  No material object is evil in itself.  Only man has the free will to use that object in an evil way, a way for which it was never intended, thereby turning it into a tool of evil.  A pen can be used in this way, to destroy someone’s reputation.  A computer or a television can be used to watch things that we shouldn’t be looking at.  But it is not the pen or the computer or the TV set that is evil.  The people who abuse them certainly may be, but not the things themselves.  Many liberals look at guns as evil things.  Of course, they are not.  Good people, law enforcement officers or our military, for example, use guns to protect us.  To anyone with a brain it is obvious that guns are not the problem.  The problem is man himself, and only man has that unfortunate ability, thanks to Original Sin, of turning something good into a tool for evil.

To get back to the subject of wine, we have exactly the same situation.  All good things come from above and are gifts of God, and the fruit of the vine is no exception.  If wine were so evil, why else would Our Lord choose to appear under the species of bread and wine at the Mass?  But of course, wine has been so often abused, like guns, that there’s a large number of people out there, modern-day puritans, who view it with suspicion.  Here in the United States, these descendants of the puritans even managed to have wine and all alcohol prohibited less than a hundred years ago, with an amendment in the constitution to enforce the Prohibition.  This is not the way to look at wine.  It is a gift of God like any other.  You may use it properly as God intended it to be used.  Or you may abuse it.  It is your choice.  You have free will, and it is not the job of government to take that free will away from you by prohibiting things that are not in themselves evil.  That goes for wine, for guns, for drones, for oversized Slurpees even! Today we ask God’s blessing on the wine we drink, and at the same time ask his pardon for our faults in the past, and for his guidance in the good and wise use of wine, and alcohol in general, in the future.  We are not puritans, and neither is God—in the great psalm of creation, Psalm 103, we read that “the earth is filled with the fruit of thy works.  He bringeth forth grass for the cattle, and green herb for the service of men, that he may bring food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man.”

Today then, commend yourselves to the protection of St. John the Divine, to him who, more than any other person except the Blessed Mother, saw Our Lord as he truly is.  Ask his guidance that he may show you the things of the world as they truly are, that knowing this, and using them for their true purpose, you may soar like an eagle, above them, to the things of God.

 Sermons from the Chaplain