Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for January 14, 2007

Now that we have returned to the season of Ordinary Time, I would like to return to our study of the Fathers of the Church. We could move directly to a very lengthy study of one of the greatest theologians in the history of the Church, St. Augustine. Before we embark on this challenging course, however, I would like to examine a very beautiful and profound document known as the “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” or the Didache.

The Didache is an ancient document, dating from between 50 – 160 A.D., containing a description of the life of the early Church and an exhortation to holiness. It had been lost for centuries, until it was rediscovered in 1883. The Didache is divided into three parts: the first sets forth the teaching on the “two ways”, the second explains the Sacraments of the early Church, and the third addresses the Church’s ministers.

“There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you” (Didache, 1). The way of life is therefore the way of the Gospel, following Christ. It continues: “And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born” (ibid., 2).

All of these practices had become commonplace in the Roman Empire, and yet the Christians clearly understood the difference not only in their beliefs, but also in the way of life to which Christ had called them. A great many parallels exist in our culture today, and just as the early Christians, we are called to witness to the “way of life” set forth in the Gospel.

The way of death stands opposed to all of the teachings of Christ; it is a way that leads to destruction. How do we respond? “See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able” (ibid., 6).

The next section describes the practice of the Sacraments in the early Church. “And concerning baptism, baptize this way: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water” (ibid., 7). It speaks of the Eucharist: “But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, unless they have been baptized into the name of the Lord” (ibid.). It also contains a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to be said after receiving the Eucharist. Here is a sample:

“We thank You, holy Father, for Your holy name which You caused to dwell within our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. You, Master almighty, created all things for Your name’s sake; You gave food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to You; but to us You freely gave spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Your Servant” (ibid., 10).

The Didache concludes with a section on discerning between true and false teachers (or prophets), and how they ought to be treated: “Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not” (ibid., 11).

The conclusion stands almost as a warning: “Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time” (ibid., 16).

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Urgent Need for Blood

Our parish, St. John Neumann, in Canton, MI, is hosting a Blood Drive on Sunday, January 21. According to the recent request from the Michigan Red Cross, blood is beyond a critical need, and I would ask all of you to please come and donate, and to pass along this news.

St. John Neumann is located at the Northwest corner of Warren and Sheldon Roads, in Canton, Michigan.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for January 7, 2007

The Christmas season lasts until the Baptism of the Lord, which will be celebrated tomorrow this year. Ordinarily, this Feast is on a Sunday, but because the Solemnity of Epiphany is celebrated on this Sunday, the feast is transferred. Ordinary time begins on Tuesday, but we don’t want to miss out on the meaning and significance of today’s feast. Next Sunday, we’ll return to our exploration of the Fathers of the Church with the great St. Augustine.

Dom Guéranger speaks of the Epiphany in glowing terms: “The Epiphany is indeed a great Feast, and the joy caused us by the Birth of our Jesus must be renewed on it, for as though it were a second Christmas Day, it shows us our Incarnate God in a new light” (Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, vol. 3, p. 108). The new light of Epiphany is that of the revelation of the Divinity of Christ to all the nations: “It leaves us all the sweetness of the dear Babe of Bethlehem, who hath appeared to us already in love; but to this it adds its own grand manifestation of the divinity of our Jesus” (ibid.).

The relationship with Christmas is made clear, since “at Christmas it was a few Shepherds that were invited by the Angels to go and recognize the Word made Flesh; but now, at the Epiphany, the voice of God himself calls the whole world to adore this Jesus, and hear him” (ibid.).

The feast of Epiphany celebrates three great mysteries of our Faith, “manifestations” of Jesus’ glory: “[first,] the mystery of the Magi coming from the East, under the guidance of a star, and adoring the Infant of Bethlehem as the divine King; [second,] the mystery of the Baptism of Chris, who, whilst standing in the waters of the Jordan, was proclaimed by the Eternal Father as Son of God; and thirdly, the mystery of the divine power of this same Jesus, when he changed the water into wine at the marriage-feast of Cana” (ibid.).

Yet even as we contemplate these three great mysteries, our hearts and minds are ever led to Calvary and to the Cross; the mystery of God-made-man is always a mystery of Sacrifice. Just as the rough wood of the manger – not even a fit crib for a baby, let alone for God! – points to the Throne of the Cross, from which Christ reigns in sacrifice, so to do the gifts of the Magi direct us to Sacrifice. The gold is for a great king, but the incense which calls to mind the prayers of the saints only serves to prepare us for the burial spices of myrrh, in anticipation of our Lord’s death.

The waters of Baptism signify burial as well; St. Paul asks “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). And even the great miracle of the water made into wine at Cana foreshadows another transformation: the wine of the Last Supper into the Precious Blood of our Savior. That Blood is poured out upon the Cross, so that each of us may have a share in the divine life.

The mystery of the Epiphany, then, must be lived out in our hearts and our homes. When we see the Kings adore the infant God, or when we see Christ emerge from the waters of the Jordan, or when we see the water-made-wine, we become aware of the eternal and transcendent God and of His passionate love for each of us. This Love is not just an idea or a feeling; it is a Person, Who comes to us physically in the Eucharist as often as we come to Him.

I pray that this Epiphany may be a new “manifestation” of God, particularly in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, for each of us this year. Then, as we return to our homes and families, places of work and recreation, we would in turn manifest Christ’s love to all whom we meet. This is the goal of the traditional house-blessing that many families celebrate on this day. By marking our doors in chalk with 2 0 + C + M + B + 0 7 and recalling not only the Kings (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), but also the Latin prayer, “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” (May Christ bless this house), may we find that blessing every day of this New Year, and always.

May God bless you always!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Faith Seeking Understanding for December 31, 2006

The Octave of Christmas is perhaps the most joyful time of the Church year. An “octave,” as the name implies, means simply “eight.” In the Church calendar, an octave is the week following a major feast day concluding with another feast on the “eighth day,” almost as an echo of the great celebration. Throughout the Middle Ages, Octaves were celebrated for many different feast; in the current calendar, the Church celebrates two octaves: Christmas and Easter.

Unlike the Octave of Easter, however, the Christmas Octave includes several other feast days: St. Stephen (Dec. 26th), St. John the Evangelist (Dec. 27th), the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28th), and St. Thomas à Becket (Dec. 29th). The Sunday within the Octave is the Feast of the Holy Family. Even with all these feasts, however, we aren’t distracted from the primary celebration of the Birth of Christ, since the Saints draw their holiness from the Incarnation and in turn direct us back to contemplate our Lord as well.

The Octave-Day of Christmas is the Feast of Mary, Mother of God. This year, it falls immediately after the Feast of the Holy Family, allowing us to contemplate these mysteries in their fullness. For many centuries, this feast was called the Feast of the Lord’s Circumcision, since in St. Luke’s gospel we read: “And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (2:21). Mary and Joseph were faithful to the Covenant that God had made with his Chosen People; circumcision was the sign of that covenant.

Concerning his birth and following circumcision, St. Bernard of Clairvaux says, “He was born of a woman, but by whose fruitfulness the fruit thus came forth, so that the flower of virginity was not crushed; he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, but these wrappings were honored by the praises of angels; he was hidden in the manger, but was revealed by a shining star from heaven. Just so, his circumcision proves the truth of his humanity; and his name, which is above every name, shows the glory of his majesty. Circumcised as a true son of Abraham; he was named Jesus as the true Son of God” (Sermo I in circumcisione Domini, n. 2).

The current feast, however, calls to mind the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Incarnation; she is in fact theotokos, the “God-Bearer,” as the Council of Ephesus declared in 431 A.D. Not simply a passive onlooker, the Blessed Virgin Mary truly cooperated in a unique and singular manner in the story of our salvation. Just as every human mother does not simply give birth to her children, so too, our Blessed Mother exercised her role in salvation history throughout her life. Mary is at the beginning of our Lord’s life, and at the end: “She gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger” (Lk. 2:7) and then “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister….” (Jn. 19:25). Her entire life was a fulfillment of the promise she made to the angel at the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38).

In between the Crib and the Cross, we find a mostly silent, contemplative Mary, who occasionally speaks (“They have no wine,” for example, at the wedding in Cana), but mostly ponders in her heart the greatness of her Son, and gently points him out to the entire world. Mary’s work continues today – may we be reminded of her importance in our lives, and renew our devotion to her maternal heart, always drawing us closer to Jesus.

Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity for all the Christmas cards and gifts I have received; please be assured of my gratitude and prayers. I pray that all of you will have a blessed and holy New Year, and that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, we may each grow in holiness every day of 2007, drawing closer to the Heart of her Divine Son. May God bless you all!