2nd Reading Philippians 1:4-6,8-11
Every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped to spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes; and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you. My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.
Testament of St Francis (1226)
4And the Lord gave me such faith in churches that I would pray with simplicity in this way and say: 5“We adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, in all Your churches throughout the whole world and we bless You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.”
6Afterwards the Lord gave me, and gives me still, such faith in priests who live according to the rite of the holy Roman Church because of their orders that, were they to persecute me, I would still want to have recourse to them. 7And if I had as much wisdom as Solomon and found priests of this world impoverished, I would not preach in their parishes against their will. 8And I desire to respect, love and honour them and all others as my lords. 9And I do not want to consider any sin in them because I discern the Son of God in them and they are my lords.
10And I act in this way because, in this world, I see nothing materially of the most high Son of God except His most holy Body and Blood which they receive and they alone administer to others. 11I want to have these most holy mysteries honoured and venerated above all things and I want to reserve them in precious places. 12Wherever I find our Lord’s most holy name and written words in unbecoming places, I want to gather them up. And I beg that they be gathered up and placed in a becoming place. 13And we must honour all theologians and those who minister the most holy divine words, and respect them as those who minister to us spirit and life.
Canons of a Council indicate what are the burning issues at stake. Of the 70 canon of IV Lateran Council (1215) the first 22 are very revealing:
1-4: Concerning faith and heresy
5-9: Concerning order and discipline (mainly of bishops and priests)
10-13: Concerning Ecclesiastical discipline (mainly of bishops, religious and priests)
14-18: Concerning clerical morality (sexual immorality, drunkenness, attending bawdy shows)
19-22: Concerning religious cult (eg. churches must not be used as storehouses, cleanness of chalices, safe keeping the Eucharist in worthy place)
First Admonition of St Francis:
The Lord Jesus says to his disciples: I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me. If you knew me, you would also know my Father; and from now on, you do know him and have seen him. Philip says to him: Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough for us. Jesus says to him: Have I been with you for so long a time and you have not known me? Philip, whoever sees me sees my Father as well. Jn 14:6-9
The Father dwells in inaccessible light, 1 Tm 6:16 and God is spirit, Jn 4:24 and no one has ever seen God. Jn 1:18 Therefore He cannot be seen except in the Spirit because it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh has nothing to offer. Jn 6:63 But because He is equal to the Father, the Son is not seen by anyone other than the Father or other than the Holy Spirit.
All those who saw the Lord Jesus according to the humanity, therefore, and did not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that He is the true Son of God were condemned. Now in the same way, all those who see the sacrament sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. [This] is affirmed by the Most High Himself Who says: This is my Body and the Blood of my new covenant [which will be shed for many]; Mk 14:22 and Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. Mk 14:24 It is the Spirit of the Lord, Jn 6:55 therefore, That lives in Its faithful, That receives the Body and Blood of the Lord. All others who do not share in this same Spirit and presume to receive Him eat and drink judgment on themselves. 1 Cor 11:29
Therefore: children, how long will you be hard of heart? Ps 4:3 Why do you not know the truth and believe in the Son of God? Jn 9:35 Behold, each day He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne Phil 2:8 into the Virgin’s womb; Wis 18:15 each day He Himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father Jn 1:18upon the altar in the hands of a priest.
As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us now in sacred bread. And as they saw only His flesh by an insight of their flesh, yet believed that He was God as they contemplated Him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: Behold I am with you until the end of the age.
The Second Life of St Francis by Thomas of Celano (CLI)
He used to observe the Nativity of the Child Jesus with an immense eagerness above all other solemnities, affirming it was the Feast of Feasts, when God was made a little child and hung on human breasts. He would kiss the images of the baby’s limbs thinking of hunger, and the melting compassion of his heart toward the child also made him stammer sweet words as babies do. This name was to him like honey and honeycomb in his mouth.
When there was discussion about not eating meat, because it was on Friday, he replied to Brother Morico: “You sin, brother, when you call ‘Friday’ the day when unto us a Child is born. Is 9:6 I want even the walls to eat meat on that day, and if they cannot, at least on the outside they be rubbed with grease!”
He wanted the poor and hungry to be filled by the rich, and oxen and asses to be spoiled with extra feed and hay. “If ever I speak with the Emperor,” he would say, “I will beg him to issue a general decree that all who can should throw wheat and grain along the roads, so that on the day of such a great solemnity the birds may have an abundance, especially our sisters the larks.”
Let everyone be struck with fear,
let the whole world tremble,
and let the heavens exult
when Christ, the Son of the living God,
is present on the altar in the hands of a priest!
O wonderful loftiness and stupendous dignity!
O sublime humility!
O humble sublimity!
The Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that for our salvation
He hides Himself
under an ordinary piece of bread!
Brothers, look at the humility of God,
and pour out your hearts before Him! Ps 62:9 [Vulgate, Ps 61:9]
that you may be exalted by Him! 1 Pt 5:6 Jas 4:10
Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves,
that He Who gives Himself totally to you
may receive you totally!
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me
and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.