To our Holy Father, Pope Francis, the Father of the Poor
WE find ourselves in the situation of the “ poor of Yahweh” who, in the last times of the Old Covenant, gave forth their heartrending complaint by the Psalms, in order to appeal for the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour promised from the beginning (Gn 3:15) Who would be brought forth by a Virgin (Is 7:14).
When the time came, He was born of the Virgin Mary, inaugurating the last times by the New and Eternal Covenant, and this inspired prayer has never ceased rising to Heaven to appeal for the return of this Son born of a Woman, the Word of God become flesh in order to give us this flesh as a food for eternal life.
“BLESSED ARE THE POOR”
At the end of our Community retreat which, in this autumn of 2014, consisted in listening to our Father, Georges de Nantes, explaining the Psalms to us, we became fond of these “ poor of Israel.” We wanted to imitate them because we understood that they prepared the Gospel, that begins with Jesus’ first words: “ Beati pauperes spiritu.”
In saying this, Jesus was not speaking in the abstract; He was not formulating an “ideology of poverty,” as Pope Francis reprovingly calls it, but He was designating a social group that is very distinct from the group of ‘notabilities’ in Israel. These “ poor in spirit ” were the humble, the humiliated, those who, during the centuries of persecution from within and from without, had maintained all the treasures of the Word of God contained in the Bible with faith, hope and enthusiasm. Such were the authors of the Psalms who were followed generation after generation by those who recited them, magnificently preparing the people of Israel for the coming of Jesus and the proclaiming of the Gospel.
They called themselves the ‘anâwîm (the plural of ‘anaw). Before the Exile, the word designated the ‘indigent,’ the “underprivileged,” as Fr. Robert used to say. He was the master of our Father, Georges de Nantes, in the field of exegetics, who endeavoured to approach things by the study of words and their semantics.
After the Exile, this word is encountered once in Zephaniah (3:12) in the sense of a humbling, a moral and spiritual smallness. What is pleasing to God is the indigent, but in a moral sense rather than in an economic or social one: the humble. The words ‘anâw and ‘ani then assume a spiritual meaning coloured with a religious submission to the will of God.
Fr. Robert observed that after the Exile, these two words were employed abundantly by the psalmists, but always in a spiritual sense. He concluded from this that the social context had changed. Before the Exile, it was always social inequalities that stirred up the indignation of the prophets. After the Exile, the rich still oppressed the poor, but the inequality, or rather the injustice, the violence was shifted from the economic to the religious sphere It became a “tension,” of which Jeremiah, a contemporary of the Exile, was the emblematic witness: “When we read Jeremiah, Fr. Robert used to say, we find the historical type of the ‘poor man’ in it.”
THE PROPHET JEREMIAH.
Jeremiah was oppressed by society for a religious reason, because he clashed with a people that were rebelling against the voice of God Whose faithful spokesman he was as a staunch Yahwist. His worship of God, of His Word, of the Torah was truly sincere and intransigent and, for this reason, he was the object of scorn. He was oppressed and so distressed that he came to curse the day of his birth. No prophet before him had been torn to pieces as he had. Jeremiah called down divine vengeance on his enemies, heaped curses on them and was surprised by the happiness of the godless. In his distress, he complained about his isolation, he inveighed against himself, he accused God of having deceived him, expressing a sorrow never experienced before but which would afflict the psalmists after the return from the Exile and its deceptions.
“O Yahweh, how numerous are my enemies, numerous are they who rise up against me, numerous are they who tell my soul about Elohim: ‘There is no salvation in Him!’” (Ps 3:2-3)
Nevertheless, the divine Word delighted him (Jr 15, 16,) his trust in God remained fully intact.
“ Heal me, Lord, that I may be healed; save me, that I may be saved, for it is You Whom I praise.” (17:14).
He affirmed his fidelity: “ Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, whose hope is Yahweh.” (17:7)
This would be the precise language of the Psalms.
After the return from the Exile, in the fourth century B.C., the faithful Yahwists were faced with schismatic, Samaritan false brothers, and idolatrous, pagan invaders who invoked “ God” under the common name of “ Elohim.” It was a dramatic situation that prefigured the mob of Sadducees, scribes and Pharisees surrounding and confronting Jesus three hundred years later in Jerusalem:
“But You, O Yahweh, You are a shield around me, my glory, and He who exalts my Head.” (Ps 3:4)
The whole of Sacred History passes before us in a single sentence, according to the anthological method dear to the Psalmists:
“ A shield:” Yahweh promised it to Abraham. “ Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”(Gn. 15:1)
“ My glory”: the Hebrews contemplated God’s Glory on Moses’ face when he descended from Mount Sinai (Ex 34:29.)
“My Head:” After the return from the Exile, there was no longer a King in Jerusalem. That is why the psalmist devoted his poem “to David, when he fled from Absalom his son,”five hundred years earlier, an event that momentarily deprived Jerusalem of her King. He yearns for the return of the King, the son of David, as the people of Jerusalem who had remained faithful to David yearned for his return in times past when he was on the run. His prayer would be answered when Yahweh-God descended to earth in order to take over as the head of His people, in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, Christ the King.
“He who exalts my Head:” Jesus will in fact fulfil to the letter these words when He is “ exalted ”on the Cross in order to draw everything to Himself. This is just as Isaiah had foretold concerning the Servant of Yahweh: “ Behold, My servant shall be intelligent, He shall rise, shall grow great, and shall be prodigiously exalted.” (Is. 52:13)
THE SUFFERING SERVANT.
In Psalm 4, which we sing at Compline on Sundays and feast days: Cum invocarem…, this Messiah complains about the insults heaped by men of no account on this divine “ glory” with which He is invested: “O children of men, how long will My glory be outraged? How long will you love vain words? How long will you seek a lie?” (Ps 4:3).
In fact, certain poems of this Deutero-Isaiah whom Fr. de Nantes called ‘the Unknown of the Exile,’ reveal a mysterious figure of the Messiah as the quintessential “poor man.” The “Servant of Yahweh,” as Fr. Robert used to say, became the transcendent archetype of the poor man. The Messiah would not be a glorious King: He would be poor, overwhelmed by the burden; He would die in the annihilation of an expiatory sacrifice offered to redeem the sins of His people.
The Prophet Isaiah had promised “ a great light” brought by the Messiah “ to the people who walked in the darkness” (Is 9:1). Centuries had passed in expectation of this King-Messiah and, far from losing hope, the inspired author demanded:
“Lift up the light of Your Face upon us, O Yahweh!” (Ps 4:7)
This light will bring more joy than what the same prophecy of Isaiah promised (Is 9:2).
“You have put more joy in my heart than at the moment when their grain and must abound.” (Ps 4:8)
What is the source of a joy greater than that of the harvest? “In mutual peace I lie down and sleep, for You, O Yahweh, have made me dwell apart in safety.” (Ps 4:9)
Who then is this man who finds his joy in his humiliated condition? Is he the psalmist himself or the Messiah to come Whose figure he is? Is he like Elijah the Tishbite, who presaged Christ’s death and resurrection? (1 K 19:3-5: cf. Ps 3:6)
This, in any event, was the condition of the Chosen People at the time of the writing of this psalm. Since their return from the Exile, they had been set “ apart” (Nb 23:9), in “ safety” (Dt 33:28), in a poor and devastated territory.
Today, this psalm is the last words of our days because Jesus immolated Himself in a “righteous sacrifice,” (Ps 4:6) without opening His mouth, without a complaint. He assumed the chastisement that gives this “ mutual peace” with God and with our neighbour back to us. (Ps 4:9).
The last evening will be followed by “ one Morning” (Ps 5:4), on which the Risen Jesus will illuminate us in turn with the glory of the Face of His Father, in which He dwells “ apart in safety,” while our enemies will lose ground. For the moment, God does not seem to see them, but it would suffice for Him to turn His eyes towards them to make them falter, collapse, and disappear:
“You destroy those who speak lies. Yahweh abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men. Even as through the abundance of Your rich mercy I enter Your house, I prostrate myself towards the Hekal, Your ‘Holy,’ filled with fear of You” (Ps 5:7-8)
The “ Hekal” was the second room of the Temple, also called the “ Holy”, which was beyond the “ Vestibule” and before the “ Holy of Holies” where the “ Arc of the Covenant” reposed and where the “real” presence of Yahweh resided.
Thus, while “ascending” to the Temple, the poor of Yahweh did their “noviciate for Heaven,” which the awaited Messiah would one day open to them.
NEITHER SCHISM NOR HERESY
This Temple, however, had to be reconstructed after the return from the Exile! Encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the ‘sons of the captivity’ had to confront the ‘wicked’: high-ranking pagan officials, Samaritains, corrupt judges and ‘false friends,’ outwardly rallied to Yahwism, but without fear of God or respect for the Law. They were godless, liars and murderous, “bloodthirsty and deceitful men” whom “Yahweh abhors.” (Ps 5:5-7)
We can easily imagine this anarchical society in which the wicked join forces against the good. It suffices to think of certain suburbs, for example to the north or east of Paris, in which gangs of hooligans lay down the law with the complicity of the police, teachers, the Communist Party and the trade unions. The decent people there live in fear of everything because they risk losing their belongings and even their lives! The display windows of shopkeepers are burgled, children on their way to school are in danger; if they complain, they provoke reprisals. This oppressive society was that of the psalmists exposed to a continual war not only material but spiritual:
“For their threshing floor has not been constructed by His mouth: in their midst are things of horror. Their threshing floor is a gaping sepulchre. They make their speech sound sweet.” (Ps 5:10)
The “ threshing floor” is the place where “ Gad went to David and told him: ‘Go up and build an altar to Yahweh on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’” (2 S 24:18) The sacrifice offered by David on this “ threshing floor”, prepared the construction of the Temple that Solomon undertook later on.
In this instance, it refers to a temple that the impious Samaritans built to rival that of Solomon, on Mount Garizim in 328 B.C. This schismatic “ temple” was called a “ threshing floor”, by the Psalmist, who refused to call it a “ temple”, just as we refuse to call a Protestant place of worship a “ church”.
The “ gaping sepulchre” refers to Korah’s rebellion, at the time of the Exodus, against which Yahweh acted ruthlessly: “ the ground beneath them split open, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their families, all of Korah’s men and all their possessions. They went down alive to Sheol with all belonging to them; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the community.” (Nb 16:31-33)
This impressive chastisement should serve as a lesson for the schismatic Samaritans. This is what awaits them! Consequently, whoever takes shelter in Yahweh is deaf to the counsel of fainthearted friends who incite him to break with the Temple of Jerusalem, to commit schism.
“I take shelter in Yahweh; how say you to my soul : ‘Flee your Mountain, bird!’” (Ps 11:1)
The word “ bird” designates the community of faithful Jews whom Yahweh had brought back from Babylon, thus carrying out Hosea’s prophecy: “ Like a bird, they shall come trembling from Egypt, and like a dove from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says Yahweh.”(Ho 11:11) The “ Mountain”is that of Jerusalem, Sion, the holy Mountain of Yahweh, on which the Messiah, Son of God, was anointed (Ps 2:6-7), on which the Temple also is built.
The fight of the faithful Yahwists will remain for centuries the ‘figure’ of the future fight of the Messiah and His Mother against Satan and his henchmen. That is why daily the Church finds the prayer that supports her in her fight against heresy and schism in the Psalms: “ I take shelter in Yahweh.”
The Psalms make mention of the Mother of the Messiah, but never of a man who is His father:
“I am poor and oppressed. Preserve my life, for I am loyal; save (hôša ‘) Your servant who trusts in You […]. O God, the arrogant have risen against me; a ruthless band has sought my life; to You they pay no heed. But You, Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, most loving and true. Turn to me, have pity on me; give Your strength to Your servant; save this Child of Your Handmaid.” (Ps 86:1-2 and 14-16)
The last verb of this passage already announces the name of the “ son:” hôšî ‘âh from the verb yaša ‘, from which derives the name of Jesus: Yehošû ‘a, “ Yahweh saves.” (Mt. 2:21) He will be the Son of the Virgin promised by the prophet Isaiah: “ The Virgin shall be with Child, and bear a Son, and shall name Him Emmanuel.” (Is 7:14; Mt 1:22-23.) This prophecy can be dated from 734 B.C.
Thirty years later, the prophet Micah referred to this oracle in the text that would lead the Magi to Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth:
“ But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah the least of the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me One Who is to rule over Israel; His origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore Yahweh will abandon them, until the time when She Who is to give birth has borne” (Mi 5:1-2)
The Psalms reflect these times of ‘abandonment’ that formed a well-disposed people, the poor of Yahweh, to receive Jesus and Mary, the object of its imploring expectation:
“Have pity on me, Yahweh, see the state of humiliation in which those who hate me hold me! Make me rise above the gates of death.” (Ps 9:14)
Verse 14 explains the enigmatic title of the Psalm: “To the choirmaster, on death, to the Son, a psalm to David.” (Ps 9:1). This psalm dedicated “ to the Son,” well and truly envisages the “ death” of the “ Son,” Himself, Son of God (Ps 2:7,) son of David, yet at the same time it is an unquestionable evocation of His resurrection in virtue of the promise that the Unknown of the Exile made to Yahweh’s Servant (Is 53:10-11).
“... That I may make known all Your praises at the gates of the daughter of Sion, that I rejoice in Your Salvation” (Ps 9:15)
“ In Your Salvation”, literally: “ in Your Jesus.” The blessed name of “ Jesus” is written here in black and white. That being the case, “ the daughter of Sion” is Mary! And Jesus will be the cause of Her rejoicing, as She will sing it on the day of Her Magnificat: “My soul glorifies the Lord, and My spirit rejoices in God My Saviour,” literally, “ in God My Jesus.”
WHERE IS CHRIST’S CHURCH?
Is the Church the Pope, the hierarchy or the laity? Or might it not be that invisible gathering of truly Christian faithful souls known to God alone? The People of God, who, before Christ, were a race, a nation centred on its Temple in Jerusalem, with clearly defined frontiers, might they not today be the “City of the Saints”, the last stronghold of those who, in the universal apostasy, still believe all that was revealed by Jesus Christ and taught until yesterday by the Catholic Church? When the Modernists, encamped in Rome, grant Catholic citizenship to all those who believe in man and in democracy rather than in Jesus our Saviour and Mary the universal Mediatrix, should we not shake the dust from our sandals and break off? In order to save the correct idea and living tradition of Catholicism, should we not imitate those Jews who, one hundred years before Jesus Christ, abandoned a corrupt Jerusalem and withdrew to desolate solitude around the shores of the Dead Sea, awaiting God’s judgement? They practised endless purification and celebrated a Eucharistic meal of bread and wine. Their authority was Scripture alone and they lived in peace.
Yet when Christ came on earth, He knew them not. They, surprised and doubtless vexed, did not leave their retreat to go and see and hear Him. They would not mingle with the poor people in the towns and villages of Galilee for fear of being sullied by the sinners there, publicans, prostitutes and even pagans.
– I –
As for Jesus, when he passed, doing good, He ignored those famous Essenes of the austere monastery of Qumran. For thirty years, He lived a despised life at Nazareth. Each year, they went up to the Temple for the prescribed purification rites and sacrifices. On one occasion, engraved in the memory and the Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He stayed behind in the Temple and was lost from them. Every Sabbath, He attended the miserable synagogue of His inglorious village. When He left to preach His Gospel of salvation, the field He received from His Father for a painful sowing and an uncertain harvest was the people of Israel alone. Although He occasionally overstepped their narrow confines, it was the people of Israel whom He honoured with His continuous preaching, whom He filled with the miracles of His mercy, whom He first called to salvation and for whom He died first of all. He taught them penance, conversion, faith and love. And if they despised His words, He made them fear extreme punishments: the destruction of Jerusalem yet again but this time without remedy, the occupation of their country and the dispersal of its inhabitants. He taught them the whole truth like a master. Like the Master He was. He argued with their intellectuals, convicting them before the people of lying, pride and hypocrisy. He had therefore to stand as an athlete of the faith of Abraham and of Moses against the learned and the powerful, against the priests and the princes of His nation. And it was the Sanhedrin, the highest court of justice in His country, that condemned Him to crucifixion at the instigation of and under pressure from the high priest Caiphas and Annas.
It was to this same people that the Apostles first addressed themselves. It was from the Christian nucleus formed in their midst that Saint Peter and Saint Paul and the others left to evangelise the Gentiles. Still to this day, although separated from this people by the great gulf of deicide, the Church never ceases to call them to repentance, conversion, faith and love as Jesus did before.
– II –
Where is the Church today? Where is the people of God of the New and Eternal Covenant? It is a strange question to ask because the answer is so obvious. The Church is where the pilgrims flock to the tombs of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul to venerate their relics and to receive the blessing of John Paul II gloriously reigning. The Church is all over the world, wherever there are bishops, the successors of the Apostles. The Church is in every little Nazareth of the world wherever there is a priest, or even sometimes where there is no longer a priest but just a Church with its baptismal font, a confessional, an altar and, in the sacristy, Christendom’s registers of Catholic baptisms, confirmations, marriages and funerals. The Church is where there is a bell tower surmounted by its cross dominating the world around it.
I do not say that if Jesus returned it is to these people whom He would go, that is for these people that He would work miracles and give Himself mystically to eat and drink, for in all truth He is among these people, living and glorious, as really as He is in Heaven. He preaches, He sacrifices Himself daily, He delivers Himself up to His persecutors, He makes His glory to shine and He gives Himself to those who love Him. It is His flock and the sheep of His fold – all of them.
When one of His disciples asked Him to command fire to come down from heaven to consume the rebellious, He replied: “ You know not of what spirit you are,” and He did nothing. He Who lived practically all His life among a mediocre, if not thoroughly bad, people, without leaving them but pardoning them, the Same has promised to stay among us, His people, the People of God, whatever we do to Him, until the end of the world. He will not fail to keep His promises.
Should I continue with the comparison? If He returned, He would address Himself preferably to the humble and to the little of this world. He would come up against the Pharisees and the Sadducees, for their kind still exist. He would offend the liberal, ’bien-pensant’ elite, the ambitious intellectuals, the worldly priests and the moneyed people. He would unmask them and finally condemn them. If He returned, preaching that His Kingdom was at hand, would He be an Athlete of the Faith against the novelties of the theologians and against the relaxed morality of the Jesuit journalists? No doubt He would. Would He finally confront a Council and a Pope as He confronted the Sanhedrin and the high priests of Jerusalem? In principle, no. Apart from some extraordinary disorder, no, because the Pope and the bishops, even though they are not strictly speaking other Christs, are nevertheless His vicars, His ordained and consecrated ministers. They are assisted by His Holy Spirit, sustained by His strength and on all solemn occasions clothed with His infallibility. This Sanhedrin and this high priest, therefore, in their solemn sittings and when judging of revealed doctrine in His Name, could not be against Him, nor could He set Himself against them. He would assuredly speak once again, as He has spoken down the centuries, through the mouth of Peter and of the Apostles gathered around him.
If, however, there were to arise between His ministers and Him some dreadful, apocalyptic contestation, as that between Paul and Peter, or like the Grand Inquisitor confronted with Jesus, would Christ thereby be divided? Would there be a Church of Peter and a Church of Paul, one of Apollos and still another of Barnabas? Certainly not. Jesus would fight a second time as He fought once before as an athlete and witness of the truth, in words, but deadly words, among the people of God, in the precinct of the Temple, in front of everyone. In so doing, however, He did not question the authority of the high priest or that of the Great Council. He mysteriously awaited the outcome of this atrocious division from the sentence they would pass on Him leading to His own death as an expiatory victim. And He awaited the overturning of this wall of hatred through the grace of His Heavenly Father and the power of His Resurrection.
– III –
What, after all, is the People of God we hear so much about today, of whom some speak favourably and others unfavourably, without clearly designating them, observing them realistically or properly defining them? There is no doubt and no denying that they are firstly and concretely those seven to eight hundred million human beings who have been baptised, who have received some rudiments, and often much more, of the essential of Catholic doctrine and who have embraced it with faith and who are reputed to be the faithful of this holy Roman Church, known to the whole world as a visible, hierarchical Church of Apostolic origin, distinct from all other religions, allegedly Christian sects or communities and from paganism...
What about our dissensions then?
They do not affect these faithful human masses; they do not disturb these still waters of Catholic belief. Our dissensions are not a challenge to this spiritual race, to this new earth, this heavenly Jerusalem come down from God’s right hand, to this sacred hierarchy and this divine liturgy. They are quarrels among priests and discussions between intellectuals, which doubtless question the foundations of the entire edifice. The Church suffers, groans and trembles in all its living stones, but it is God’s indestructible, impregnable holy Temple, “ and you are the Temple of God,” Saint Paul tells us. However ill-treated it be, it will last until the end of time. There will be no other, and he who detaches himself from it in order to construct his own chapel, building church against Church and altar against Altar, is lost.
Jesus proclaimed the truth in the presence of the Sanhedrin, before the face of Caiphas. If we knew the Scriptures better, we would know that He did not surprise them with any new faith, but He convicted them of perfidy. He found them in flagrant contradiction with their own religion and with the law of Moses which they, the Masters in Israel, supreme judges and high priests, prided themselves on being the guardians. Thus, rejected by them, Jesus showed Himself to be a son of His people, a child of the promise, Whose constancy preserved Him in the divine Covenant. He saved His soul in His patience and with Him the true Israel, who followed Him in His unswerving truth, whilst His judges cut themselves off and condemned themselves to everlasting ruin, thinking that they were cutting Him off, condemning and losing Him for ever!
Today, the people of God are those who ask their parish priest for baptism and for the other sacraments. The people of God are those who go to Church for Mass on Sundays and hear the parish priest’s sermon. And no doubt they suffer from the many errors and scandalous inventions that they find so shocking and incomprehensible. Some put up with and accept everything from these new Pharisees and Sadducees, that proud caste of conciliar reformers, without dreaming or daring to make a stand against their extravagant despotism. Others discuss, contest and refuse to accept these novelties that have supplanted our ancient and holy traditions. It causes a stir and dissension, but all wait for the authorities to restore order.
When we loudly accuse these same authorities of partiality and treachery, of contradicting their own oaths and of abusing their authority, as Jesus accused the high priest – and a guard struck Him on the Face, perhaps in good faith, scandalised that anyone should speak in such a tone to the high priest (Jn 18:22) –, and when Saint Paul, also struck on the mouth by the high priest’s assessors, prevailed against him not knowing who he was (Ac 23:2-5).... the faithful do not understand, or not all; at any rate they do not entirely understand this trial in all its aspects. They know, however, that it will be resolved through Jesus Christ’s infallible presence and aid to His Church, through the assistance of His Holy Spirit to His pastors, and the power of God among His people.
These Catholic crowds, these faithful masses, are scandalised at our attacks against the Pope and against Rome. When we come away from the Holy Office, disqualified and dismissed, having been treated as liars, scorned and mocked, this great crowd of pilgrims who have come to these holy places to pay homage to Christ in His Vicar on earth, regard us with contempt and for two pins they would also strike us on the mouth... And yet they are our brothers and we are sons of the same holy People, of the one Church of Christ.
– IV –
So, may I never be separated from it I And may my behaviour be such that if anyone should claim to exclude me from it, he would thereby be cutting himself off, revealing his own perfidy. Apart from such a case of extreme injustice, however, one can and must tolerate so many things when one has the security and the joy of remaining in the Lord’s House.
If a member of the Catholic faithful writes to tell me that he is very angry about my criticisms of the Pope and of the Council and thinks that he ought to break with me as a result, let him know that I shall not break with him because of it and that I am always ready to receive him at the Eucharistic table as my brother. If a parish priest should shut the door of his church in my face and forbid me to celebrate Mass there because I am suspended a divinis, let him know that I continue to regard him as true priest and legitimate pastor of that parish with the right to admit or refuse whomever he judges. If a bishop should consider it his duty to excommunicate me, which thank God has not happened yet, if he should hound me and denounce me through the press as an enemy of the Pope and of God, I shall still not judge him and shall continue to believe that the Church subsists in him as in all the others.
Finally, if the Pope tells me that I have to submit to them and to him, I shall reply without lying that I wish to do so and that I am subject to their divine authority and to their sacred Magisterium as Jesus was to Caiphas and to the Sanhedrin, the legitimate authorities of Jerusalem in those times. Undaunted, I shall await their infallible sentence or their unjust condemnation through abuse of their authority, as coming from the leaders of my people.
Further, if someone should strike me on the face for lacking in the respect due to them, I shall turn the other cheek, because I may already or perhaps I shall then have spoken badly. “ For it is written: you must not speak evil of the prince of your people” (Ac 23:5). I believe that I have never done so, wishing only to plead to him against himself, to request that he exercise his own sovereign authority in the matter of his human, fallible erring ways, but I may be wrong. I therefore accept that I should be struck for that if he gives the order or if an indignant gesture should slip from the hand of one of his assessors.
Nevertheless, following the example of Christ and of all the Saints, and of all the mystical rank and file who have ever lived through times of darkness and through times of scandal, schism and abuse of authority, of heresy and corruption in head and members, I prefer and I wish – it is my deliberated determination – to remain occupying the last place in the Lord’s House. And even if I should be thrown out, I shall stand shivering and disgraced on its doorstep rather than be lost in some synagogue of Satan of my own invention or yours.
(Georges de Nantes, editorial of CCR no. 164, February 1984)
MAGNIFICAT ANIMA MEA DOMINUM
Thus were the “ poor of Israel” during the latter days of the Old Covenant, thus we are, “I should say, dare to say, for sixty and a hundred years, Fr. de Nantes wrote in 1986. Our grandparents forced by Leo XIII to rally the anticlerical and Protestant Masonic Republic. Our parents forced to espouse the Christian theo-democrat chimeras of Pius XI or else suffer de facto excommunication for twelve years, and long after by repute. We ourselves forced to endure the ‘regime d’abattoir [slaughterhouse regime]’ (Fr. Panici) of the supposed Liberation and already its accompanying ecclesiastical subversion and clerical suspicion, then suddenly to see the burden made worse and the yoke made intolerable by a conciliar and papal ‘Reform of the Church’ tearing us ever more daily between an absurd, degrading obedience due to our superiors, and the luminous faith, the exhilarating hope, the love given to Jesus Christ.
“For us, we had a clear conscience, our reasons a hundred times verified, our readings of Holy Scripture and of the Fathers, and the example of all the Saints. Everything repeated to us that we were in the right. The lying speeches, the unjust and illegal sanctions which the bishops and then the Holy See took turns perpetrating to prevent us from breathing and to push us to despair – what am I saying? – to persuade us to break our religious vows and to leave the Church, were clear signs all along our path, become a way of the Cross, of an iniquitous persecution.
“Be that as it may, we had to live in the Church’s communion, in the clerical confraternity, in subjection or filial submission to our bishops and to our Holy Father the Pope. Therefore, even though we were certainly among the good defenders of the Faith, the loyal servants of the Church, and, despite our faults, the true disciples of Jesus Christ, the beloved of God, we stayed, through politeness, through discretion, through natural courtesy, in the presence of these notorious and scandalous heretics, of these arrogant apostates, of these ruling princes of the Church, of incredible harshness as a rule, like Bolshevik commissars lording it over everyone, forced to behave like deferential slaves, ignorant and stupid of course, humbly attentive to the words and thoughts of their Highnesses.
“Such were the ’poor of Israel’ during the latter days of the Old Covenant. They were objects of constant contempt on the part of the Sadducees and Pharisees. It is they who, in their troubles, composed and tirelessly murmured the many psalms of quiet grievance, of appeals to God, of ever purer and ever more intimate trust, hope and love, becoming holier and stronger as the oppression of the wicked crushed them ever more heavily. It is from this restricted circle of banished and despised people that the gentle, humble, Immaculate Virgin Mary was born. From this compost treated as the dungheap of Israel, there blossomed this rose. And from this community of the banished there arose one day the Magnificat like the song of the turtledove announcing Springtime to the world.
“On that day the shackles of a shameful slavery was broken for ever. God’s beloved knew that they were no longer required to endure the snubs of the great and the perpetual shame of their misfortune and of their poverty. The screen of all those powers, which until then had held them enslaved, no longer bothered them. Authority remained with those who were its depositaries, and no revolution, no insubordination was seen. It is just that through and beyond these rich and powerful ones, the good God, their Father in Heaven, began to appear to their eyes, annulling the constraint, manifesting His truth, His justice, His fidelity and His love. It was a foretaste of liberation; it was the harbinger of a new Covenant, where God would always be with His beloved, restoring peace to their bruised souls, even though the yoke of the rich and the powerful would not cease to oppress then.” (CRC no. 195, December 1986, p. 27-28)
On the day of the Annunciation, hope was transformed into possession, water was changed into wine, the promise was fulfilled, the Word was made Flesh. Not only does its intimate tone, the psychology of She Who sang this psalm, namely the Heart of the Virgin Mary, evoke the psychology of the poor of Israel singing the psalms of pilgrimage with humility and elation, in joy and hope also but the enthusiasm, the exaltation of Mary reminds us of the great alleluatic psalms.
“My soul glorifies the Lord, and My spirit rejoices in God My Saviour.”
Mary is simply fulfilling the oracle of the prophet Habakkuk: “ Yet I will rejoice in Yahweh and exult in God my Saviour.” (Ha 3:18)
“For He has regarded His little Handmaiden”…
In His condescendence that the psalmist celebrates: “ Yahweh raises the needy from the dust, lifts the poor from the dunghill, seats them with princes, the princes of the people, gives the childless wife a home, the joyful mother of children.” (Ps 113:7-9) This was the case for Anna, Samuel’s mother (1 S 2:3-8).
“Behold, from now on will all ages call Me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for Me, and holy is His Name.”
Psalm 72 announced this of the Messiah: “ May the tribes of the earth be blessed in Him and may all the nations call Him blessed!” (Ps 72:17)
The transfer of the promised blessings from Him to Her shows that from the beginning (Gn 3:15) the Virgin Mary is but one with Her Son! For all the “ great things”(niphla ’ôt) accomplished by God in Sacred History culminate in the one miracle that He ‘worked for Her’ in Her virginal womb.
“ Holy is His Name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear Him.”
The Psalmist said that He is: “ holy and awesome.” We sing it in Sunday vespers: “ Sanctum et terribile Nomen ejus.” (Ps 111:9) The Virgin Mary drops “ awesome” and only retains the holiness, understanding that Her Son would be a Messiah of gentleness and not of terror. Holy and awesome? No! Holy and Merciful.
Mercy is omnipresent in the psalms. Psalm 103 is the most intimate expression of this mystery of grace and mercy that flows from the Heart of God like pure water that the Virgin changed into wine by giving Him flesh.
“He has shown might with His arm, dispersed the proud of heart.”
The Psalmist had announced it: “ Mighty Your arm, strong Your hand, Your right hand is ever exalted. Justice and judgement are the foundation of Your throne; love and loyalty march before You.” (Ps 89:14-15)
“He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent empty away.”
This is the key to the enigma of the parables of Psalm 107 with its evangelical resonance: “ Whoever is wise will take note of these things, will ponder the merciful deeds of Yahweh ” (Ps 107:43)
Mary understood them because She had read them in the psalms.
Jesus came, conceived in Her womb: “ The blind receive their sight and the lame walk.” He calmed the storm on Judgement day. (Ps 107:23-30)
On Judgement day, who will be those blessed by the Father? Those who, like Jesus, will have turned their attention to the poor, the hungry and prisoners, in order to feed them and to exalt the lowly.
In Her Magnificat, the Virgin Mary conceived the entire programme of the Gospel, by transfiguring the announcement that She read in the Psalms:
“He has helped Israel His servant, remembering His mercy, according to His promise to our Fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
OUR LADY OF FATIMA.
“ Yahweh has sworn an oath that will never be retracted: ‘You are a priest forever, of the order of Melchizedek’.”
Melchizedek is this “ king of Salem,” “ a priest of God Most High,” who made a brief and mysterious apparition in the history of the patriarchs, after the campaign of Abraham against the four kings. (Gn 14:18-20)
This person “ brought out bread and wine,” (Gn 14:18) as a prophetic figure of the Body and Precious Blood that must be eaten and drunk in order to attain eternal life. He returned in the person of the Angel of Portugal who gave this Body and Precious Blood in communion to Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta:
“ Eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Make reparation for their crimes and console your God.”
It was at the Cabeço, in the autumn of 1916. Less than ten years later, on December 10, 1925, the Queen of Heaven appeared to Lucy and, beside Her, borne by a luminous cloud, the Child Jesus. The Most Blessed Virgin placed Her hand on Lucy’s shoulder, and as She did so, She showed her a Heart encircled by thorns that She was holding in Her other hand.
At the same time, the Child Jesus said to her:
“ Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with the thorns with which ungrateful men pierce It at every moment, without anyone making an act of reparation to remove them. ”
Then the Most Blessed Virgin said to her:
“ Behold, My daughter, My Heart surrounded by thorns with which ungrateful men pierce Me at every moment by their blasphemies and their ingratitude. You at least try to console Me and say that all those who on the first Saturday of five consecutive months go to confession, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary and keep Me company for fifteen minutes whilst meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, in a spirit of reparation, I promise to assist at the hour of their death with all the graces necessary for the salvation of their souls. ”
Brother Bruno of Jesus-Mary.
I KEEP MY EYES FIXED ON YOUR HANDS
“ Ad te levavi oculos meos, qui habitas in cælis.” (Ps 122:1)
O my God, my Father, I raise my eyes towards You Who dwells in Heaven, to You do I raise my eyes. I implore You to end this trial and I wait in hope for the coming of a new day. Outside, a wet snow is falling in the night. This evening all is cold and saddened to tears. When, oh when, will the sun return and the blue sky appear above the rooftops? Our trials seem long when they weigh too heavily on us. Everything seems to melt and turn into mud. I had not thought that the skies could fall on our heads in this way. Numb with cold and lost, I beg of You that this misery cease, and I implore of You, our Father, the long-awaited dawn of the Church’s salvation. My eyes are fixed like the eyes of servants on the hands of their masters; my eyes are like the eyes of the serving girl on the hands of her mistress. They watch for the least gesture, sign, or command whence mercy will again spring forth.
Each morning I scan the news for evidence of the birth of new times. Each morning, however, the news is worse, and I lie down in the evening along with my grief. Unable to sleep, the vision of Zechariah comes back to haunt me. Lo, the horsemen rush forth, they gallop through the world right unto the four sources of the winds, looking for any birth or stirring that could be the prelude to the coming reign of God. As yet nothing moves; the whole world remains at rest and tranquil in its iniquity. Heaven remains deaf, the world flounders in apostasy, and the humble faithful are moved to despair by this false peace. “O God of Hosts, how long will You have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which You have inflicted Your anger for the past seventy years?” (Zc 1:12)
I keep my eyes fixed on Your hands, O Lord most powerful and merciful. But take pity on us and shorten the time of our trial, for everything is collapsing and being swept away by the torrent of rivers in flood; the earth is inundated and houses are engulfed. You had promised that never more would there be a universal flood! Even so, my father suffered on behalf of Your honour and my grandfather earned himself naught but tears and opprobrium for his fidelity. It is the combat of our forefathers that we continue without glory. This trial has become for us an ancestral tradition, one which we bear with a hope that is constantly pushed back till tomorrow. For how many generations is Your Name to be rejected by the peoples and Your Truth to be sullied by Your priests? We are, under the New Testament, like the poor of Yahweh in the Old who waited for centuries for the blessed fruit of the virginal womb and died without ever having seen it, passing the torch of their unassuaged hopes on to the rising generation. They experienced the Babylonian whip, they fell under the arrows of the Parthians and the Medes, and they believed themselves to have been delivered by the cavalry of Cyrus. The Persian yoke, however, weighed heavy until the time of Alexander, who broke it only to replace it with the Greek yoke, which was worse. Alexander’s march certainly prepared the way for Him Who was to come. The poor of Israel, however, knew nothing but wretchedness and fearful dangers jeopardising their faith. Then came the Romans, followed by Herod. Devout families, now reduced to a few small islands of fidelity, kept the meagre flame of their ancient hope burning in the privacy of their homes. They still had their eyes raised up to You, O Father, their eyes fixed on Your age-old hands, Your long, slender, powerful Hands, during centuries of sleep and inertia, until at last they were raised, directing orders to the entire earth and to Heaven for the Event of Salvation.
My great-grandfather believed in the restoration of Christendom and did not allow himself to be carried away by despair. His son did not believe in the false peace of the modern world and the prosperity of the ungodly. He died on Christmas night 1914, leaving my father as his heritage the certainty of Your reign, reinforced by so many sorrowful meditations and strengthened through one defeat after another. It was from my father that I learned to persevere in the service of apparently lost causes. I imitated that faith of his which had kept his eyes fixed – indeed immovably riveted – on Your hands and his ears attentive to Your immense, Your unbearable silence. Like him, I know that something will come of our daily struggles, something originating from You!
These divine hands that I adore, will one day start to move and the world will tremble. One hand, that of Your all-powerful Wisdom, will shatter the pride of the evil angels and of men. Through the cracks and splits of this world will stream forth Your light. The other hand, that of Your Mercy, will raise up legions of angels to come to the aid of Your Church and of the Kingdom of Mary, whilst inflaming the saints of the new times with an incredible charity, teaching them miracles and virtues capable of converting the world! Yes, I know that Your hands will stir for me. They will give me my orders and the zeal to accomplish them. Sacred History will recommence such as our mothers formerly related it to us with wonder in a series of sumptuous images. The future will thus be more beautiful than the past… Yet for too long our fathers will have waited for this human happiness, for too many years will I have followed them in preserving the humble attitude of a servant bent over his task, his eyes attentive to the orders of his master to demand a reversal of fortunes and the inheritance of the rich. I am exhausted now and belong to too noble a race ever to take any delight in the intoxication of revenge and in worldly celebrations. The illusions of our youth flourished and then faded. Should order ever be restored at Rome, Rheims and Paris, I will remain at my work, my eyes fixed like those of a servant on the hands of his Lord, through love.
(Fr. Georges de Nantes, Mystical Page no. 18, December 1969)