The Incarnation: Creator of Time is Born in Time–St. Leo the Great

St. Leo the Great

Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church


St. Leo the Great, The Early Church Father, Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

This excerpt from a Leter by St. Leo the Great (Ep. 31, 2-3: PL 54, 791-793) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for December 17.  Saint Leo emphasizes the meaning of the genealogies of Jesus given us in Luke and Matthew’s gospels–that Jesus was truly one of us, possessing a complete human nature.  He did not merely appear in human form, as in the biblical types and scriptural symbols of the Old Testament.  The mystery of our reconciliation with God recorded iin the Bible could not have occurred unless he had stooped to assume our lowly nature even while fully possessing the divine nature of his heavenly father.


To speak of our Lord, the son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as true and perfect man is of no value to us if we do not believe that he is descended from the line of ancestors set out in the Gospel.
Matthew’s gospel begins by setting out the genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham, and then traces his human descent by bringing his ancestral line down to his mother’s husband, Joseph. On the other hand, Luke traces his parentage backward step by step to the actual father of mankind, to show that both the first and the last Adam share the same nature.
No doubt the Son of God in his omnipotence could have taught and sanctified men by appearing to them in a semblance of human form as he did to the patriarchs and prophets, when for instance he engaged in a wrestling contest or entered into conversation with them, or when he accepted their hospitality and even ate the food they set before him. But these appearances were only types, signs that mysteriously foretold the coming of one who would take a true human nature from the stock of the patriarchs who had gone before him. No mere figure, then, fulfilled the mystery of our reconciliation with God, ordained from all eternity. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon the Virgin nor had the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that within her spotless womb Wisdom might build itself a house and the Word become flesh. The divine nature and the nature of a servant were to be united in one person so that the Creator of time might be born in time, and he through whom all things were made might be brought forth in their midst.
For unless the new man, by being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, had taken on himself the nature of our first parents, unless he had stooped to be one in substance with his mother while sharing the Father’s substance and, being alone free from sin, united our nature to his, the whole human race would still be held captive under the dominion of Satan. The Conqueror’s victory would have profited us nothing if the battle had been fought outside our human condition. But through this wonderful blending the mystery of new birth shone upon us, so that through the same Spirit by whom Christ was conceived and brought forth we too might be born again in a spiritual birth; and in consequence the evangelist declares the faithful to have been born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

The Great “O” Antiphons of Advent

In the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer, also know as Vespers, always includes the great prayer of Mary known as the Magnificat. Each day, the Magnificat is preceded by a short verse or “antiphon” that links the prayer to the feast of the day or the season of the year. In the last seven days of Advent (December 17-24), the antiphons before the Magnificat are very special. Each begins with the exclamation “O” and ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes increasingly urgent. These moving “O Antiphons” were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together texts from the Old Testament which looked forward to the coming of our salvation. They form a rich, interlocking mosaic of scriptural images. The great “O Antiphons” became very popular in the Middle Ages whenit became traditional to ring the great bells of the church each evening as they were being sung. A particularly fascinating feature of the O Antiphons is that the first letter of each  invocation, when read backwards, forms an acrostic in Latin: the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel in reverse form the Latin words: ERO CRAS. These can be understood as the words of Christ, responding to his people’s plea, saying ”Tomorrow I will be there.” Saying the O Antiphons as a family, whether during grace at meals, in front of the manger scene, or in front of the Christmas tree, is a wonderful Advent devotion. To make this devotion even more fruitful, read and meditate together on the Scripture texts on which the antiphons are based.

December 17th: “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.”


Is Waterboarding Torture? A Catholic Moral Analysis

Is Waterboarding Torture? A Catholic Moral Analysis

by Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC


This week, the world is abuzz with the Senate report on “enhanced interrogation techniques.” As Catholics, we believe in the dignity of the human person. Torture is intrinsically evil, and thus, forbidden. The question arises when we ask whether these techniques constitute torture from a Catholic moral perspective.

The Catechism (2297) defines torture as use of “physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred.” Before going on, I think I need to clarify what “violence” means in this context as its meaning is a little different from our everyday use of it – in vernacular English, “moral violence” is an oxymoron. In his Modern Catholic Dictionary, Fr John Hardin defines violence as: “Physical or psychological force used to compel one to act against one’s choice, or against an inclination to choose in a certain way.” Violence is not about how much damage was done to the person but how forcibly or coercively changed their will was due to the actions of another. For example, showing a criminal a video that appears to be his wife being dismembered is torture even if the video is all special effects – this is moral violence.

Is Waterboarding Torture? A Catholic Moral Analysis

There is a lot of debate in the secular press over the effectiveness of such methods versus gentler methods. We, however, know there are moral absolutes. No matter how effective waterboarding or other methods were in getting confessions, if they are torture we can never consent.

Now, let’s examine the various methods used. First, since these people were guilty or highly suspected of committing serious offenses, the government had the right and duty to imprison them and this is not torture. This includes keeping them in prison and restricting their diet (so long as they provided them with sufficient calories to survive on). However, confining a prisoner to an exceptionally small space for an extended period could exert excessive coercion and constitute torture (from what I read, it seems likely but not certain that the CIA’s use of confinement was torture).

The next issue is sleep deprivation by keeping them in bright rooms for extended periods of time. Police have the right to use a certain amount of moral violence so long as it does not overwhelm or coerce the free will of the victim. For instance, most police interrogation rooms are lighted in a way that makes it uncomfortable for those they’re interrogating; police can throw you in a holding cell on suspicion of a crime without actually charging you for 24 hours – I think we can all agree that such means are not torture. Now, there is not a clear line where this becomes torture and the CIA kept someone up for 48 straight hours, which is probably torture, but I hesitate to give a definitive judgement.

Is Waterboarding Torture? A Catholic Moral Analysis

Waterboarding is clearly torture. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted 75 seconds to hold the “world record.” Any unwilled suffering that changes the will of a criminal mastermind like him in 75 seconds is obviously violence in the moral sense. The fact that it makes your body think it’s drowning may also make it violence in the physical sense. However, even if it is simply moral violence, making someone believe they are seconds from dying is sufficient moral violence to constitute torture. Remember that torture is about how coercive the person’s will is and not how much damage it does to their body. From what I understand, waterboarding makes you feel like drowning, but you’re not really drowning; thus I would consider it moral violence and not physical violence. It is obviously force used to compel him to reveal information against his own choice.

There is also the issue of rectal feeding and hydration. I have to admit I don’t understand this enough to make a serious judgement. I don’t think I need to point out beating people to get confessions is torture.

Although it is clear that the CIA waterboarded 3 criminals, I think it is important to note that in comparison with those countries the US is fighting, the USA is still morally superior. Torturing three criminals is repugnant, but committing genocide against innocent people (as ISIS has done) is many times more horrendous.

Note: Between writing the first draft and this final draft, I spoke with a priest who is heading to Rome to teach Moral Theology and he also had trouble clearly defining where legitimate coercion ends and torture begins.

EDIT: several people have asked me why I have the last paragraph comparing the USA to it’s enemies. 1. I want to remain outside politics and I think this helps avoid my writing being interpreted as taking sides in a political debate.  2. Despite doing some evil stuff, when you compare the rap sheet of the USA and it’s current enemies (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Syria, etc.), the USA clearly has less evil (I don’t think a complete analysis is needed).

When do the Twelve Days of Christmas really start???

When Do the Twelve Days of Christmas Start?

Here’s a Hint: It’s Not in Advent

A partridge in a pear tree. (Stockbyte/Getty Images) -

Perhaps it’s been going on my entire life, but I first noticed the phenomenon a few years ago. Starting on December 13 or 14, depending on how mathematically/calendrically challenged the particular blogger or business is, the countdown to Christmas begins: “On the First Day of Christmas [we put this on sale | I recapped the top stories of January | etc.].”

Except, of course, that December 13 is the Feast of Saint Lucy and December 14 is the Feast of Saint John of the Cross, and neither day is the “First Day of Christmas,” because they both fall in Advent.

The First Day of Christmas is . . . Christmas Day. Why is this so hard for people to grasp? No one thinks that the First Day of Easter is Ash Wednesday or Palm Sunday or Good Friday. Everyone knows that Easter starts on . . . Easter Sunday.

So why do so many people have such a hard time understanding that the Twelve Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day and run through the eve of Epiphany? Is it any wonder that we’re all ready to take down the Christmas tree on Christmas Day, what with all the partridges, pear trees, golden rings, lords a-leaping, and maids a-milking which we’ve had foisted on us starting on December 13 or 14?

Here’s a novel concept: Let’s keep Christ in Christmas, and Advent in Advent. Let’s celebrate all 12 days of Christmas—at their proper time. Let’s light the Advent wreath now, pray our Saint Andrew Christmas Novena, spend some time with the Prophet Isaiah in our Advent Scripture readings, and genuinely prepare the way for the Lord to come into our souls.

And then, when Christmas comes, we can party like there’s no tomorrow. Except there will be one. And another. And yet another.

For twelve whole days.

Now that sounds like a Christmas to remember.

P.S. Next time you see some blog or website refer to the 12 days before Christmas as the Twelve Days of Christmas, leave a comment and include a link to this post. We can win the War on Advent (and through it, the War on Christmas) through some well-planned guerrilla action, one blog at a time.

P.P.S. Best wishes for a blessed Advent—and, when the time comes, a very merry Christmas.

A little bit about racism

There’s a lot of talk around these days about racism.  I am not, and will never, going to say that racism doesn’t exist.  If anything, it exists now, more than ever.

But, regarding what’s going on in St. Louis and New York, I don’t see racism in these two incidents.  What there is, is a failure of people to recognize the authority of the police.  I am convinced that the police would have acted the same, had the suspect been other than African-American.

Aside from that, whether I’m right or wrong, does any of this give the nation the right to burn everything in sight, disrupt freeway traffic, loot, throw rocks, or any other act?  A peaceful protest is not what’s been going on, though it’s been characterized that way.  It’s been disruptive, violent, and criminal. I think law enforcement should ignore any outcry until order is restored.

Lots of changes going on…

Good stuff, though.  Over the weekend my office changed locations by about four blocks. That’s good.  I get a little better walk to and from my bus every day, well, every day I have to commute. Because the other great thing going on is that I only have to commute twice a week, most of the time.  Because of some lifestyle changes, such as my searching for ways to walk, my wife takes me to the bus in the morning, but I walk 1.5 miles home every evening that I commute.  So I save on parking, about $750 a year, and I save on commute costs, another $700 a year.  My office is a bit further away from the bus station now,  So instead of a mile round trip, I get 1.6 miles.  Looking for other ways to work walking into my day, because I will not walk just for the sake of walking-I must have a destination and a reason to go, I walk to daily Mass 2 days a week, weather permitting, for a round trip of 3.1 miles.  My weekly trekking, for a normal week, will now be about 11 miles a week.  And when weather gets better, I’ve taken to walking to Mass on my lunch hours in the city, another 1.6 miles, to make it almost 15 miles a week.

I need this to stay healthy.  I’ve lost 30 lbs just by incorporating these relatively short walks into my routine.  However, I have a couple of large kidney stones inside me that keep me from doing the longer distances, because I used to trek through the city for an hour at lunch, but cannot do it now.

So another change coming up…I spoke above about my kidney stones.  I’ve been having some treatments to try to break them into small sizes so they’ll pass, but now there’s a traffic jam inside me, and the urologist is going to go in with a laser to try to break them up further.  Just the thought of passing an instrument upstream, so to speak, makes me glad for anesthesia, but I’ve been through 5 treatments, now, and not even half done.  So this wiil be my last non-invasive treatment.  We’ve decided to go through percutaneous removal of the stone I’ve nicknamed Maui (because it has a small part and a large part).  This we will try to do in February.  Please keep me in your prayers.

On another note, As of October, I’m a great-grandfather.  My oldest granddaughter did things right (by getting married first, then pregnant) (though she did it behind the scenes and not in a church), and has a child.  He’s beautiful, I must say.

Some may be wondering what I’m planning on doing with ministry.  Honestly, I don’t know yet.  I’m still seeking.  I know my parish priest needs help with some things, and I’m going to help where I can.  I’m exploring third orders.  I was talking with a priest at dinner last night and he told me I was wise not to try to get around the requirements, cuz one of the things they’re looking at is obedience.  And I know a case of someone who was placed in a diaconate discernment program by a Cardinal, and as soon as the Cardinal was called to Rome, vacating his diocese, they pulled the plug on the person.  Politics in the Church is ugly, and I don’t really want to be involved in all that.  I just want to teach the faith to those who need strength.

Anyway, Happy Advent, everyone.  Happy Feast Day.

A little sad, but still thankful

First, I want to thank God for all my blessings, and for all my challenges.  I’m thankful for my job, my family, my Church, and my faith.

I found out yesterday that I am no longer eligible to discern for the diaconate, due to age.  It makes me sad, because ever since I became Catholic, about 10 years ago, I’ve felt called to ordination.  I was Catholic 7 years ago when they announced a deacon formation program, and asked, and was told I would have to wait for the next class.  Fine and well, they offered a program, essentially for pre-deacon formation, which I spent lots of time and effort on to be ready.  Usually, when one class ends, another begins, and that was not the case, this time.  They waited two years, and it aged me out.

Now, I will need to find another way to serve.  Oh, I will.  Rest assured.  God wants this from me, he’s just not making it easy. I never suspected that he would.


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