Three Persons, One Nature

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Octave of Pentecost is one of my favorite times of the liturgical year. During the past week, the Church has been relishing the Gift of the Divine Holy Spirit. The Church has been reflecting on the marvel and power of this Gift, Who is our Consoler and Strength. Here in Half Moon Bay, we even have the beautiful Portuguese Holy Ghost Festival to celebrate His descent upon Mary, the Apostles, the disciples, and the whole Church. How blessed we are!

The Gift of the Holy Spirit makes us immediately aware of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. St. Paul writes: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”

The Gift of the Holy Spirit makes us one with God the Son in His Sacred Humanity, through which we have access in one Spirit to the Father! Thus, the Octave of Pentecost gives way seamlessly today to Trinity Sunday. Filled with the Spirit, aware of our Trinitarian life – to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit – we contemplate today in mystery the Three in One and One in Three. We confess the one true God, Who is three Divine Persons, not in the unity of a single subject but in a trinity of one substance. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. The only distinction among them is relation of origin. The Divine Persons have the same Divine Nature: they know with the one Divine Intellect, they love with the one Divine Will. They are not 1/3 of God, but all Three are entirely divine: They are each all that there is of God.

The Son is everything that the Father is, except that He is not the Father. The Holy Spirit is everything that the Father and the Son are, except that He is not the Father or the Son. Their relations among Themselves are all that distinguish them. Each Divine Person is in fact a Subsistent Relation. The Divine Persons are their Relations to Each Other!

In this sublime contemplation today, one beautiful truth emerges: God is Love. Trinity Sunday marks a new movement in the liturgical calendar. Until now, we have entered the mystery of Christ. Today, we enter the mystery of the Church’s life. She emerges entirely out of Divine Trinitarian Love, to Which she brings us by the power of her Divine Spouse.

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Pentecost

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confirmation by promising it: “If I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send Him to you.” The Sending of the Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost
is the Confirmation of the Apostles and disciples. They are filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit and empowered to
preach and to witness to Jesus even in the midst of great danger. They are made soldiers of Jesus Christ!

As we open our hearts today to receive this new Outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we can never forget that those who have
received the Sacrament of Confirmation have likewise been clothed with Power from on high. We also have received
the Spirit, Who empowers us to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth, even in the face of persecution and suffering.
With this fullness of the Holy Spirit, we have received a new sacramental character, a new sharing in the priesthood of
Jesus, which gives us the power publicly to profess the faith so as to defend the faith and to bring others to Jesus.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit is not just an event of the past. This same boldness is ours in Confirmation. We are
clothed with the same Power for the same mission, according to our state in life. We are sent to preach the Gospel and
to witness to Jesus. Jesus expects us to be fruitful in the Spirit. He desires with great zeal to set the world on fire with
His Love. St. Peter converted 3,000 people on the day of his Confirmation. How many have I converted in the years
since mine?

The mystery of Pentecost is the revelation of Divine Love. The Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts and we are
made one with Jesus Christ. We are now an extension of Him. Just as Jesus’s soul was entirely under the sway of the
Spirit, we now give our souls to this same Power from on high. The Holy Spirit is the Uncreated Soul of the Church, the
Mystical Body of Christ. Jesus is alive! He sends us! Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Veni per Mariam! Veni in Ecclesiam!

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Ora et Labora – Pray and Work

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today’s Gospel in the traditional Roman Liturgy begins to turn our minds and hearts to the culminating events of the Easter season, especially the Lord’s Ascension into the glory of Heaven. His risen body is due a glorious worship far beyond what we could provide for Him on Earth. He will soon receive that external glory – fitting for the internal glory of the Risen Lord – on Ascension Thursday.

Our Lord promises that after we no longer see Him on Earth, we will then see Him again in Heaven. In this movement of the Easter season then, our hearts are drawn ever upwards, as we are exhorted by St. Peter in the Epistle to put away the desires of the flesh and to set our hearts on spiritual and heavenly pleasures.

Today is also traditionally the celebration of the Easter solemnity of St. Joseph, transferred from Wednesday. St. Joseph teaches us how to live well in this life with our hearts set on the life of future glory in Heaven. This is the secret of happiness that he teaches us, especially in our work. As he worked long hours in his carpentry, St. Joseph never lost his contemplative gaze upon Almighty God and upon His marvelous works in Jesus and Mary. He never left the presence of God in order to give his heart to creatures.

We have a tendency in our fallen nature to become very absorbed in our work in view of the goods of this life. In this absorption, bitter experience teaches us, we lose our peace of soul and become as scattered as the many different created goods we are pursuing. St. Joseph teaches us that we are to bring the wisdom of God even into our professional lives, that we are to work in light of the truth and that there is need of only One Thing. This means maintaining our constant prayer, even at work, and it means putting work and its demands in their proper place in our lives. God always comes first.

When our hearts are set on the things of this world, we are miserable. When our hearts are set on the things of Heaven, we are magnanimous and joyful and free. This is a liberating Easter lesson taught to us by St. Joseph the Worker.

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

As If Newborn Babes

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today is the Octave of Easter, also called “Quasimodo Sunday” and “Dominica in albis depositis.” It is the Sunday of the “white robes laid aside” for the neophytes, who today in the ancient Church joined the assembly without wearing their baptismal garments. In our times this Octave Day of Easter is called “Divine Mercy Sunday,” so named by St. John Paul II after he instituted the plenary indulgence for this day associated with the Divine Mercy revelations to St. Faustina. As is the case with Corpus Christi or the Sacred Heart, the Divine Mercy is a local devotion that has now become a universal liturgical feast in the Roman Church. We rejoice at the beauty of the organic development of the Sacred Liturgy!

In our gospel today, Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins. It was this gospel that prompted St. John Paul to make today the Sunday of Divine Mercy. He wanted especially to highlight the Mercy of God exercised through the mediation of the hierarchical and institutional Church. On this glorious Easter day, we marvel at the magnificent gift of Divine Mercy given in the Holy Church in the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance. In these two sacraments, the Church continues to exercise the Power of the Keys given to St. Peter and all the Apostles by the Risen Lord Jesus.

Immediately before communicating the power of the keys to the Apostles, Our Lord breathed on them and greeted them, “Peace be with you.” In this breathing and greeting, He teaches us the refreshing tranquility of His Divine Mercy. In baptism and confession Jesus breathes on us His Holy Spirit and grants us peace with God, with the Church and with ourselves. If we desire refreshment and peace, we need only to bring our wounded souls before Our Lord’s compassionate Tribunal of Mercy.

The gift of peace of soul is especially given in the devout reception of the Sacrament of Penance because there is often great heartache involved in the commission of sins after baptism. When someone makes a good confession, with deep contrition and true and firm purpose of amendment, doing his penance with great love, he receives that peaceful breath of Jesus deep in his soul. He feels re-created and made new because He has been restored to life and wholeness. He is set free from the slavery of the devil and sin, which he renounced in his baptism and to which he had returned by mortal sin. He is in the Heart of Jesus, the only true Oasis of Peace.

Let us pray for a generous and fruitful ministry in the confessional for all priests so that the gift of Jesus’s Breath of Peace may be received unto salvation by all Christians.

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Christ Paschal Victory, Rejoice!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What did the night of Easter witness? God had died. God’s dead body was in the tomb and His separated soul was freeing the just from the Limbo of the Fathers in Hell. But early on Easter Sunday morning, during the still of that holy night – this morning! – God rose from the dead! This is the great mystery of which the night alone was witness. How blessed the Easter night, which was alone worthy to see the Victory of Life over Death!

Jesus is Risen! Alleluia! The Church thrills with joy at the Victory of her Savior. On the third day after His true death, Our Lord, by His own divine power, reunited His soul and body. The life that He assumed in His Resurrection is new life, the life of glory. He will never die again. His Resurrection is permanent because the glory of His beatified soul overflows now into His Sacred Body. Thus, He now has a glorified Body!

Jesus’s glorified Body still bears the scars of His wounds. He has chosen to leave them there. He could have healed them. St. Thomas Aquinas, whose patron saint doubted and then loved those wounds so much, tells us that the scars of Christ’s Passion shine forth in His glorified Body with a certain beauty and radiance. Before His appearance was marred and grotesque; now He is comely with glory! His wounds are now trophies of Victory! He has conquered sin and death forever!

Jesus’s Resurrection is our justification. His Glory is our new life. In baptism, we have died and risen with Him. We no longer are captives to sin, no longer slaves of the devil in Adam. Now we are set free by the healing wounds of Jesus, which shine forth so beautifully on His Risen Body! We have risen with Jesus! This is our new Life! This is the fullness of the mystery of the Sacred Night. This is the Eighth Day of Creation, the Sacred Day of Eternity, which will witness the resurrection of all those justified by faith in Christ! This is the Day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in It!

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Holy Week

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today the Church enters the most solemn week of her liturgical year. During Holy Week we accompany Jesus Christ in His Passion and Death, which finally bear fruit in His most sacred Resurrection. We are not mere bystanders at these events, but they enter into our souls to the extent that we open ourselves to them.

The Sacred Liturgy is our teacher in the spirituality of Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, we welcome with joy into our hearts Jesus Christ our King, so that we might be filled with the hope of entering one day into the New and Heavenly Jerusalem, following where our Head has gone before us.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, the Church traditionally sings the Passion according to Mark and Luke, respectively. These more contemplative days of our Week allow us to meditate deeply on the theological richness of the Passion narrative. We especially see how much Our Savior loves us, that He freely hands Himself over, in all humility, to such immense suffering for our salvation. On Holy Thursday, the Church interrupts her sacred gloom to celebrate with more festivity three wonderful mysteries: the holy priesthood of Jesus Christ, the most august Sacrament of the Altar and the commandment of charity by which we are to live every moment of our lives. On this day, we rejoice at the harmonious unity of these mysteries: the priesthood gives us the Eucharist and the Eucharist gives us the grace to live divine love. We can hear again the words of St. John Chrysostom, that we must clothe Christ in silk on the altar, but that we must also clothe Him in wool in the poor.

On Good Friday, we die with Jesus Christ. We worship His most sacred Cross, which has become for us the tree of true life. We genuflect before the sacred wood that bore Our Savior. Ave Crux, Spes Unica! Hail, O Cross, our Only Hope! The dead body of God is in Mary’s arms, while His separated soul is freeing the just from the Limbo of the Fathers in the descent into Hell. On Holy Saturday, we have nowhere to go but to our Sorrowful Mother. She alone keeps the faith in the Resurrection on this dark day. We continue our sacred fast and we keep her company in our empty church, praying as much of the Holy Rosary as we can. We are with the Magdalene by the tomb, weeping. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!”

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Entering the Passiontide

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today the Church enters into Passiontide, the solemn final two weeks of the Lenten fast. During this time the Church keeps in her mind the Passion and Death of her Divine Spouse. She mourns for Him and suffers with Him and dies with Him so that she may rise with Him.

There are many liturgical changes accompanying these final two weeks in the tradition of the Roman Liturgy. The Church sings the Preface of the Holy Cross rather than that of Lent; she omits Psalm 42 at the beginning of Holy Mass, as in a Mass for the Dead; and, also as in a Mass for the Dead, she omits the “Glory be” during Holy Mass, as a kind of double-fasting from any hint of joyful praise in the Liturgy. Instead, and most notably, she veils her images, especially of the Holy Cross of the Savior.

The Veiling of Images during Passiontide takes its inspiration from the Gospel of Passion Sunday, in which we sing that Our Lord miraculously hid Himself from the Jews so that they would not kill Him. We also can connect the Veiling to the prophecy of Isaiah about the extent of the suffering endured by the Lord in His Passion: “Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals.” In His Passion our Jesus hid His Beautiful Face from us. His Face was so covered with blood, spittle and disfigurement that we hardly recognized Him, and so we veil His Sacred Image during Passiontide.

Passion Sunday often occurs near the two great feast days of St. Joseph and the Annunciation. The virtue of obedience to God’s Will is the common thread connecting these three liturgies. Jesus, Mary and Joseph all teach us that, if we wish to be fruitful in divine love, we must become obedient even unto death, death on the Cross. St. Joseph obeyed God even when he did not understand the how or why and kept the Holy Family safe and secure. Our Blessed Mother obeyed God and so became the Vessel through which the Salvation entered the world. Jesus Christ obeyed His Father and received a Name above every Name, meriting His own exaltation and our salvation. If we wish to die with Him this Passiontide, our joyful task is to obey God in all aspects of our lives. Only in that way will we find salvation.

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Laetare Sunday – Looking to Easter

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Thursday the Church celebrated the mid-way point of Lent. Traditionally, the mid-Lent Thursday is kept with some festivity and the tables of monasteries feature more abundant and better-tasting food. This festivity is a kind of anticipation of Easter joy and an encouragement to us to keep going strong with our Lenten fasting. In order not to tempt the faithful to break the Lenten fast, this mid-Lent festivity was transferred in ancient times to the following Sunday, which we keep today. This is the origin of Laetare Sunday, which we mark by using rose vestments, the pipe organ and flowers at the altar.

It is very merciful of our Mother, the Church, to allow us to celebrate this foretaste of Easter today. She has it in her heart to encourage us to finish strong this holy season, especially as we embark on its more somber days in Passiontide. The joy of Easter stands before us, urging us on as we join Our Lord in His Passion and Death by our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We are taught today the value of this Heavenly encouragement. We are given a pattern for how we should seek consolation in our lives: the future glory of the Resurrection is our present joy, enlivening our suffering and dying with Christ. The Station for today in Rome is the church of the “Holy Cross in Jerusalem,” adorned with Jerusalem treasures by St. Helen. In the Liturgy today, the Church longs for Jerusalem as she is in the midst of her Seventy Years of Babylonian Exile. This is a continuation of the theme of Septuagesima, but now the Promised Land is in sight and our hearts and steps are quickened by hope. This hope is the true consolation of our hearts. All other consolations are false and illusory. Even the human consolations that are not sinful in themselves are not sufficient for allowing us to order our lives to the Resurrection. We need to find our happiness in Jesus alone if we are to experience a sustainable existence in His Life.

This consolation is ours especially in the use of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. The Sacrament of Penance corresponds beautifully to the fragrance of the Golden Rose, which marks the ancient celebration of this day in the Church of Rome. Sin is putrid. It rots our souls. It is a leprosy. Confession restores us to health and integrity. It makes our souls fragrant with holiness. By Penance our souls are made beautiful like the Pope’s ceremonial rose. In receiving Jesus in the Eucharist today we are filled with a greater consolation than the multitudes who were fed by Him from the five loaves and two fish. In our Communion today we anticipate Easter and Heaven. Let us find our consolation in its only true Source!

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Second Sunday of Lent: Jesus’ Transfiguration

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Why does the Church place before us the Lord’s Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent? St. Thomas Aquinas: “Now in order that anyone go straight along a road, he must have some knowledge of the end: thus an archer will not shoot the arrow straight unless he first see the target…Above all is this necessary when hard and rough is the road, heavy the going, but delightful the end.”

We are on the hard, rough road of Lent – of the Cross – and we are headed towards the delightful end of Easter – of the Resurrection. We need this encouragement from Jesus to keep our eye on the prize of glorious resurrection in order that we may faithfully suffer and die with Him.

The Transfiguration is a preview of the Resurrection for the disciples and for us. During Lent, our Lord is asking us to go out into the desert with Him. He is asking us to suffer with Him and eventually to die with Him. By giving us this preview of His glory and ours today, He wishes to reassure us that suffering and death are not the final word of our story with Him. He wishes to encourage our hearts with the truth of the future glory of Heaven to which we are called. And so today He shows us His Resurrection.

We ought to think often of Heaven as specifically and intensely as possible. This is the primary reason that the saints instruct us to do daily meditation. We are to keep our minds and hearts in Heaven so that we will desire Heaven and endure whatever sufferings are required of us in order to gain Heaven.

In Heaven, we will experience the Beatific Vision: we will see God in His essence with the eyes of our soul. This intellectual Vision of God is our complete and perfect happiness. It is an all-engrossing activity that quiets our will completely, the infinite realization of contemplation and friendship. Whatever joy we have in this life, whatever bits of happiness we managed to experience as we journey here, are only the slightest hints of the joy and happiness that will be ours in the Beatific Vision. This Beatific Vision, by which our soul will be filled with God, will overflow into our bodies when we receive them again in the resurrection on the Last Day. Thus, we will live for all eternity – forever – with glorified souls and glorified bodies, like Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. We will have bodies that shine with the clarity of glory that our Lord revealed in the Transfiguration. All we have to do is love Him so as to suffer with Him and die with Him.

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali

Invocabit Sunday: Temptation – What is it and how do we resist it?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today is “Invocabit Sunday,” the solemn beginning of the Holy Season of Quadragesima, “Forty Days”, which we call “Lent”. This Sunday ranks with Passion and Palm Sundays, such that in the Roman Church no feast day ever takes its place. As we begin Holy Lent the Church places before our hearts the dramatic events of the Temptation of Our Lord. Here we learn the meaning of our holy season and its essential character as profound union with Christ; we go to the desert to fast with Jesus during Lent because we want to be wherever He is.

We are in Love with Him and so we go wherever He goes. Our Love makes us willing to suffer and to die with Him so that we may rise with Him at Easter. It was Jesus’s Forty Days of fasting in the desert that caused the Roman Church to add the last four days of Quinquagesima week to her solemn fast (six weeks of six fast days in Quadragesima, plus Ash Wednesday and the other three days). Quadregisma itself serves as a tithe of our whole year as we give God ten percent of our days in holy fasting.

Jesus’s temptations are very real and at the same time entirely external to Him. There is nothing in Him that tempts Him or leads Him to sin. The only temptation to which He can be subject is that which comes from outside, from the devil. The devil does not know that Jesus is God. If he knew, he would not dare to tempt Him. Jesus suffers His temptations after fasting for 40 days like Moses and Elijah and feeling fully the weakness of our frail humanity. He seems to be inviting the devil into the desert for combat, challenging His opponent by revealing His weakness, only to overcome the tempter not with the power of His Divinity but with the humility of His humanity.

The three temptations suffered by Our Lord correspond to the three fundamental ways that we all are tempted. All sins, St. John teaches us, can be reduced to either the lust of the flesh, or the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. Our Lord conquers the lust of the flesh by refusing to turn the stones into bread, even though He was very hungry. Such a miracle would have been disordered since the needs of the body ought to be fulfilled by ordinary means when they are available. He conquers the lust of the eyes (greed) by refusing to worship the devil in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. He conquers the pride of life by refusing to make a spectacle of His divine power, thus glorifying Himself, by throwing Himself off the parapet of the temple and being saved by angels.

St. Thomas teaches us that Our Lord allowed Himself to be tempted in order to be the cause of our own conquering of temptation. In other words, because the Head of the Church and the Source of all grace has conquered every temptation, we, His members, share in that victory and can conquer in our own lives all the temptations that come our way. Jesus is the True Cause of our overcoming of temptation. Additionally, Jesus’s temptation teaches us that we are never holy enough to be past temptation. This is a sober lesson never to trust ourselves. He also gave us the example of how to conquer temptation: prayer and fasting, combined with profound humility and deep knowledge of the Scripture. Our Lord doesn’t entertain the temptations but combats them and destroys them immediately by humbly quoting the inspired Word of God.

Perhaps the most tender dimension of Our Lord’s temptation is brought out especially in the letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews: because He has been tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin, Our Lord is our compassionate and merciful High Priest Whom we can approach with confidence. His temptation makes us feel close to Him and allows us to cling to Him in love. This is ultimately the fundamental movement of Lent. We humble ourselves by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, so that we can achieve total union with our Merciful Savior.

Pray for me,
Father Joseph Previtali