The following excerpts come from meditations of the great spiritual writer, Blessed Columba Marmion, from his classic book ‘Christ the Life of the Soul‘:
“We lost everything at once by a single fault of Adam, but in baptism God does not give us back at once all the integrity of the Divine gift. In order that it may be a source of merit because of the effort it calls forth, He leaves us in concupiscence, the source of sin, which tends to diminish or destroy the Divine life. Therefore our whole existence ought to be the realisation of what baptism inaugurates…Grace is the principle of life in us, but it is a germ we must cultivate; it is that kingdom of God within us that Our Lord Himself compares to a grain of mustard seed which becomes a great tree. So it is with the Divine life in us…
Let us often renew the virtue of this sacrament of adoption and initiation by renewing the promises made in baptism, so that Christ, born in our souls in faith upon that day, may grow more and more in us. That is a very useful practice of piety…stir up in yourselves the grace received at baptism, by renewing the promises then made. For example, when after Communion, while Our Lord is really present in our hearts, we renew with faith and love our dispositions of repentance, of renunciation of Satan, sin and the world, so as to attach ourselves only to Christ and His Church, then the grace of baptism springs up from the depth of our souls, where the character of baptism remains indelibly engraved. And this grace produces, through the virtue of Christ, Who dwells in us with His Spirit, as it were a new death to sin, a new inflowing of Divine life, a new intensity of union with Jesus Christ.”
The following homily is by Father George W. Rutler:
“Painting landscapes in the classical academies was done indoors, to “improve upon nature” the way formal gardens arrange flowers according to geometry. In the nineteenth century, the painters of the Barbizon and Hudson River schools began to paint outdoors (“en plein air”), trying to show nature as it is. The invention of portable easels and oil paint in tubes like toothpaste made it easier to move out from the studio. A painting by John Singer Sargent showing Monet at his easel in the woods of Giverny is a splendid picture within a picture, emphasizing the care taken to get the diffused light just right, so that nature looks really natural.
We would have no art, and no urge to paint—whether as cavemen painting antelope or Frans Hals painting men drinking beer—were it not for the fact that humans are in the image of God who made the whole universe his canvas. He chose the Holy Land as the scenery for history’s greatest event.
Israel is only about the size of New Jersey, and yet its topography moves from the snow-capped Mount Hermon down to the lowest spot on our planet: the Dead Sea. In between, at the trickle of a river between the two, John saw the Lord approaching and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The baptism of Christ, which was an illustration of how the human race will be cleansed of corrupting pride, and which is celebrated after the Feast of the Epiphany on the liturgical calendar, anticipates the baptism the Church offers: not a poetic symbol, but an actual change in the soul so that it becomes what the art of God wants it to be.
Baptism is not an option. It is the “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). Positive proof of this effect is the holiness of saints, and the majesty of Christ himself. Negative proof is the viciousness of evil when it is allowed to act freely. Picture the carnage in Istanbul on the Feast of the Mother of God, when scores of people were killed and wounded by a man dressed as Santa Claus.
At the Council of Nicaea, three centuries before the rise of Islam with its denial of Christ as the Lamb of God, Saint Nicholas challenged Arius for having similarly rejected the truth. And denial of the truth has deadly consequences. “The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ—he is the liar, he is Antichrist; and he is denying the Father as well as the Son, because no one who has the Father can deny the Son, and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well” (1 John 2:22-23). All this was painted by God on the canvas of history.”