Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the feast of St. John of Damascus, Priest and Doctor of the Church, celebrated in the new calendar on December 4. Below is the day's Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

"Grant, we pray, O Lord, that we may be helped by the prayers of the Priest Saint John Damascene, so that the true faith, which he excelled in teaching, may always be our light and our strength. Through our Lord, etc. Amen." 

St. John of Damascus lived from the middle of the seventh century through the middle of the eight century, a critical time in Church history which saw the rising tide of Muslim invasion of Christian lands, and the mushrooming of the heresy of iconoclasm (literally, the "breaking of icons"). This heresy equated the veneration of images of Christ and the Saints with idolatry, and consequently, incited many to destroy such images and ban them from liturgical and devotional use. The Seventh Ecumenical Council, which met under the Byzantine Empress Irene at Nicaea in 787 A.D. (also known as Nicaea II), flatly condemned the heresy of iconoclasm. Its teaching is indebted to the writings of St. John of Damascus, among others, which is why he is one of the Doctors of the Church.

St. John's teaching centers on the Incarnation, and consequently, man's ability to see and worship the face of God in Christ. In our Collect, we ask that this very teaching may be our light and our strength. We are asking, firstly, that our minds may be enlightened with the true faith in regard to the mystery of the Incarnation, namely, that Christ is true God and true man, for this is central to our salvation. Secondly, we pray that this consoling truth of God's love in Christ may fortify us for living the life of grace.

Consider paragraphs 515 and 476-477 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explain these truths of the Incarnation:  

515 "...His humanity appeared as 'sacrament,' that is, the sign and instrument, of His divinity and of the salvation He brings: what was visible in His earthly life leads to the invisible mystery of His divine sonship and redemptive mission." 476 "Since the Word became flesh in assuming a true humanity, Christ's body was finite. Therefore the human face of Jesus can be portrayed; at the seventh ecumenical council (Nicaea II in 787) the Church recognized its representation in holy images to be legitimate." 477 "At the same time the Church has always acknowledged that in the Body of Jesus 'we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see.' The individual characteristics of Christ's Body express the Divine Person of God's Son. He has made the features of His human body His own, to the point that they can be venerated when portrayed in a holy image, for the believer 'who venerates the icon is venerating in it the Person of the one depicted.'"

When we adore the Divine Baby in the manger-crib in just a few weeks, we will profess that Christ is fully God and fully man, and that these two natures are inseparable in His One Divine Person. To kiss the flesh of Christ is to adore Him as our God, and to thank Him for His unfathomable love for us. Venite adoremus Dominum! 

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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