Tuesday, December 27, 2005


When we celebrate Christmas we are commemorating the three nativities of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the reason for the three Masses celebrated on this day. The first is the eternal begetting of God the Son from all eternity within the mystery of the Blessed Trinity by the Father, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You.” This first nativity was before the seven days of Creation, when everything was darkness. This is why the first mass is at midnight to recall the darkness that prevailed during that first eternal birth of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

The second nativity, or birth, of the Second Person of the Trinity is commemorated on Christmas day when He became man, born of the Virgin Mary, in Bethlehem. For the world, the darkness was beginning to be dispelled. This is why the second mass is celebrated at dawn when the dawn is beginning to dispel the darkness.

The third nativity of Christ is when He is born in our souls, through His in-dwelling, when man, through grace, becomes enlightened. Thus the third Mass is celebrated during the day when the sun is bright. For man is truly enlightened when He has Christ in his soul.

The first nativity reminds us of the Spirit of poverty, the Spirit that tells us that all the things God created is His, to be used for His glory and not for man’s enjoyment. Even man was to use himself for the glory of God. This represents the six days of creation. If Adam, being the head of creation, had observed the spirit of poverty and used all of creation for the glory of God, then he would have entered into the Sabbath, God’s rest… i.e. eternal happiness. But Adam messed up everything. And the consequence: the whole of mankind could not enter God’s rest.

The second nativity reminds us of the Spirit of chastity. That Spirit reminds us to give up all physical comforts, pleasure and conveniences. And Christ in the manger is a clear example of this. It is a continuous reminder that true happiness can only be found in God and that we are on earth to seek God. All the rest will come with that find. True rest can only be found in God.

The third nativity reminds us of the Spirit of obedience. It is only when we can say, “Not my will but Your will be done,” can Christ be born in our souls. The apostolic commission at the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel reiterates this, reminding us of the role of the Church and the men of the Church : “… teach all My commands and how to observe them.”

Christmas reminds us of one lesson. Christ was born to die. For us the message is clear. We are born to die to oneself. And to die to oneself means reaching a point in our lives when we no longer do our own will but the will of the Father in heaven. This is to lose one’s life in order to find it. If we have learned the lessons of the first nativity, if we have learned the lesson of the second nativity, our reward is the third nativity, when Christ is born in our souls….indeed our eternal Christmas. This is truly a Merry Christmas. (Painting is "Adoration of the Child," Ales Gallery, Hluboka Castle, Czech Republic.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


It is difficult to define original sin because there is nothing like it in the world. But it is better to describe it than defining it.

1. Adam and Eve and their initial state of innocence.
When God created Adam and Eve He knew they would fall into sin. But in spite of that He created them in a state of original innocence, pleasing to Him, but with a free will, capable of disobedience. He had to create them in original innocence prelude to the fall so we can notice the fall. After that initial state of innocence, they were tested to see whether they were deserving of permanent residency in Paradise or to be expelled. Unfortunately the latter was the case.

2. God gives each one of us the same initial state of innocence.
God, in His wisdom and goodness has given each man the same privilege after the fall: that every being that is born is conceived with original innocence, pleasing to God but with a free will capable of disobedience. This state lasts for a very short period in a child’s life. And this brief time is that which Christ refers to when He said to be like little children. In their innocence these children have infused knowledge, “for it is to such that the kingdom of God is revealed.”

That brief moment is described by the Fathers in a manner that one would think they were describing saints. And indeed, during that brief moment, children are saints…. But not confirmed in grace, as saints are.

3. What is original sin.
Original sin is a state in which souls will eventually lose their original innocence. Mary, in her Immaculate Conception, was conceived without original sin and so she did not inherit the prospect of losing that original innocence. But everyone else can easily lose it. And when that original innocence will be lost depends greatly on how a child is brought up by the Church and / or by its parents.

4. The function of Baptism vs. Original sin
The curse of Original Sin is that tendency to choose evil so that eventually the child will lose his original innocence and begin to be influenced by his concupiscence. When he succumbs to the concupiscence, then he sins.

Baptism is supposed to give the child grace in order to help him keep that original innocence longer, thus giving the parents ample time to help preserve that original innocence. The tendency to sin will definitely be there. But the Church and the parents can help to lessen or nullify its deadly effects through proper Christian upbringing or education.

5. The role of Church and parents.
How can parents maintain that original innocence in their children? Through a disciplined life. St. Thomas of Aquinas mentioned “to do good,” in accordance to the commands of Christ as described in the Apostolic Commission. Or to be perfectly good. Of course, this will take some time. As the original innocence of a child disappears, the child cannot be good immediately. So the Christian training of the child must begin as soon as possible with this goal….of preserving his original innocence that could disappear sooner than later. Evidently some parents were able to do this as in the case of the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux. St. Thomas of Aquinas preserved his original innocence because of his stay in a Benedictine monastery (Monasteries were supposed to preserve that original innocence that is why infants used to be received as in the case of Sts. Maurus and Placid.)

6. Remaining a child vs becoming a child again.
So a child, though unbaptized, is born holy. (Perhaps this is the reason why the Pope has finally declared that unbaptized babies who die go straight to Heaven.) Original sin is the fact that he will, eventually, lose this holiness. Christian upbringing and monasticism were meant to help preserve original innocence for as long as possible, so that the child would never be a slave of concupiscence. This is what probably happened to St. Thomas of Aquinas and St. Therese of Lisieux, that is why they seem to have never sinned. But for most of us, we share in the lot of the sea of humanity. Though we have a recourse when we lose this original innocence: REPENTANCE. We can be a child once more, yes, we can be born again!

7. Modern environment hastens the removal of innocence.
For babies, especially baptized ones, we can do so much for the sanctification of their souls. It is the neglect of the work of sanctifying souls that has brought the whole church, with its leaders and people, to its present sad state. It is so easy to make saints out of children. They were born saints. All we have to do is to preserve or maintain that holiness in them. With secularism, modernism, relativism, hedonism all around us, we have hastened the loss of our children’s original innocence or holiness….what a waste!!

Thursday, December 15, 2005


To understand the Old Testament, one has to get the truths and interconnect them into a unified whole. To understand the New Testament, one has to get the truths and interconnect them into a unified whole; and also interconnect them with the Old Testament, since the New is built on the Old. To understand the writings of the Fathers of the Church, the same thing must be done. In the Sacrifice of the Mass, there are three readings, one from the Old Testament; and two from the New Testament: one from the epistles or letters, and another from the Gospel. The priest is encouraged to interconnect these three into a unified whole which would be the message of the Mass.

I would, again, as in past issues, liken these truths into a jigsaw puzzle where each tile fits in snuggly with the others forming a coherent whole. But I noticed a piece of the puzzle that did not fit. Trying to fit in this certain piece of tile, I found that there was no way I could fit it into the whole. That piece was the common notion that babies who died unbaptized did not go to Heaven; that, instead, they went to Limbo. This notion, to me, seemed to contradict much of the teachings given by Christ, Himself.

The only way I thought this small piece could fit in was to have this doctrine clarified. Without knowing how to explain it, nor wanting to seem contradicting even those great saints like St. Augustine who stated that babies could not go to Heaven because of the absence of grace, and St.Thomas Aquinas who confirmed this, I thought that babies who die unbaptized, did go straight to Heaven. But how could I explain such seeming contradiction to those great minds such as St. Augustine and St. Thomas? The only way I thought this could be resolved was to have this doctrine redefined.

Then news came out that Pope Benedict, indeed, had trimmed the small part and fitted it into the whole picture….Unbaptized babies, when they die, go straight to Heaven. The Pope has clarified it! The debate between the old concept and the new declaration now goes on.

Were the Fathers wrong? No. Their theological principle was right. No one goes into Heaven without grace. Do deceased unbaptized babies have grace or not? The argument before is that they do not have grace because of original sin. But to be in a state of innocence, is this not a kind of grace, natural though it may be? And what is original sin? It isn’t mortal sin. If so, then they would be damned. But original sin is not a “sin.” It is that tendency to choose evil, or commit sin, which all men have inherited from, and after the fall of, our first parents. All babies are born saints, but are condemned to the fact that when they grow up, they would lose this childlike innocence, or in-born sanctity, if their parents do not train them well in the Christian life.

This God-given sanctity bestowed on children can easily be lost as Adam and Eve lost their pristine state in Paradise. Adam and Eve were supposed to have been preserved in it by their obedience. Parents, unfortunately, are unable to help their children preserve that in-born innocence through ignorance or mere carelessness and neglect.

The dictatorship of relativism is the fastest way to destroy that initial innocence. So when children lose this, they have to “be born again” and become children once more to enter the Kingdom of Heaven through repentance.

The Fathers of the Church did not bother about resolving this issue on unbaptized children because it was a case that was completely in the hands of God: i.e. if an unbaptized baby dies, there was nothing anyone could do for the soul, like in abortion. God decides regardless of what theological opinion man has. Except that we, in this age do wonder what happens. Perhaps we need to wonder, so that those who kill babies would perceive the great punishment due if they will not repent for killing holy innocents.

Christ gave us children to be the models to be imitated in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When He did so, He points to that brief moment of initial innocence in the child’s life. When He said “Unless you become like children…” He was not referring to baptized children; but merely to children. When He said: “Whatever you do to the least of these little ones, you do to Me…” He shows solidarity with them at that brief moment of their untainted life.

Considering that God desires the salvation of all men, why would He create a soul, if it will only be immediately condemned to hell, if indeed unbaptized babies did go to Hell? If He desires all sinners “to be converted and live,” why would He want a non- sinner to have no occasion to be converted and live? If we are advised by the Lord “to be as little children” in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, why should unbaptized children not enter Heaven? How could He set them up as examples to be imitated in their humility if in the end they could not go to Heaven if they had died unbaptized? “To such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven;” who are we to condemn them to Limbo? None of the statements of the Lord referring to children ever showed hints that they were destined to Limbo. The whole of Scriptures bids us to become like children and shows us how to be like them.

Like Adam and Eve in Paradise, all men have the same chance of being for a moment in Paradise, when we were in that state of innocence when we were pleasing to God. If we had died before we lost this innocence, we would have gone straight to Heaven, baptized or not. But being children of Eve, we, too, must undergo our own tests which come when we have reached the age of reason. Here is where Christian parents could do a lot by way of Christian upbringing if they would protect their children from the onslaught of original sin. This is what it means to have inherited the original sin of our first parents : that, with the exemption of Mary, and perhaps Joseph and John the Baptist, all men are consigned to sin, meaning, we will all fall short of the grace of God as we reach the age of reason.

Thanks to our Holy Father, he has made the picture clear! (Painting is "The Massacre of the Innocents " from the second half of the 17th century from a private collection.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


1. St. Ambrose noted that the Blessed Virgin's marriage to St. Joseph was for the protection of her virginity. Mary's virginity was concealed from Satan to keep him ignorant of the coming of the Messiah. Of course, God's plan can never be thwarted but it was a greater show of power defeating the devil in his own game. Satan was waiting for the Messiah to be born of a married woman. He had no way of finding out that the woman was a virgin until it was too late. This is clearly a case where marriage was a protector of virginity.

2. Besides, as St. Joseph feared, what would people say if they found out that Mary, a virgin, was with child and living with Him? It was a case of immediate death by stoning. Mary's marriage to Joseph helped conceal her virginity.

3. Let's define marriage and virginity. Marriage is commonly defined as a contract between two persons to live as husband and wife. And virginity is commonly known as the state of not being married. But let's go spiritual.

A truly Christian Marriage is one when two persons make vows to "be one heart and soul, from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. in sickness and in health, till death do us part..." for what purpose? Primarily for their sanctification, and then sanctification of the children that God would give them. This is why the sacrament is called Holy Matrimony.

4.Whereas a truly Christian Marriage should work towards the sanctification of the husband and wife, or the perfection of Charity, or their salvation, Virginity, or commonly called the state of Single Blessedness, on the other hand should also have as its goal the perfection of Charity, without the help of the sacrament of Matrimony. Spiritual Virginity, then, being Sanctity, Perfect Charity, or Holiness "without which no one can see God" is the goal of both. Both married and celibate (or virgins) ought therefore to be spiritual virgins if they are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

5. And example of one who was both married and a Virgin (celibate) at the same time is the B.V.M., though she never behaved like a married woman. An example of one who is both Spiritual virgin and a physical virgin is St. Therese of Lisieux and other saints like her. An Example of one who is both married and a spiritual virgin would be Zelie Martin, the mother of St. Therese, and other saintly mothers like her.

After the parents, as we have said above, the role of matrimony is to protect the children that God gives the parents. Children, as they come from God and truly brought up in the faith are little virgins or "Holy innocents." What parents would like to lose the innocence of their children? Though, sadly, in these modern age, is it rare to find such parents who would do all they can to ensure the eternal safety of their children. To get them out of the house as soon as possible is the accepted norm. Nowadays, children lose their spiritual virginity, or both, at a very early age.

6. St. Gregory of Nyssa states that the immediate goal of marriage is to rear Virgins. In common theological parlance we can way, parents marry to populate Heaven. And so the crown of a successful Christian marriage is to have reared children for Heaven. St. Gregory, writing to his daughter who had become a nun, encouraged her to be what he and his wife could not be: a virgin, so that they may have a crown for their marriage - a holy soul, yes, a Spiritual virgin. A Wise (or Spiritual) virgin is the crown of a Christian marriage.

7. However, if it happens that, inspite of the parents' efforts, they lose their "virgins" then they must be ready and willing to give them to marriage, a holy marriage, for "it is better for them to marry than to burn."

8. The Spiritual virginity of the parents is the inspirer and protector of their children's desire for the same. Note how the parents of St. Therese helped encourage and preserve the desires of their children to be virgins. They all became nuns. Their parents encouraged them to love God above all things.

9. In the early Christian times, like in the times of St. Gregory, Christian children were aware of the goal of marriage. So, on their own, they aimed at the life of virginity, so that they may become the crown of their parents' marriage. It is their greatest way of showing gratitude to their parents. A success story is that of St. Therese of Lisieux.

10. In Mary we find these two kinds of virginity well exemplified. Lets look at her example. She is a mother, Mother of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. But she encourages her children, the members of the Mystical Body to be virgins, at least Spiritual virgins. In the process, some marry though remaining Spiritual virgins; while others, strive to attain Spiritual Virginity while remaining in the celibate or virginal state. Both make up the Mystical Body of Christ. If and when they become part of the Mystical Body, they make up the Virgin Bride of Christ. This is the community of those who have attained Spiritual virginity. And Mary has been the protector of such a community: the mother of the Church encouraging her children towards Virginity.

11. Here we have Mary playing the dual roles of Mother and protector of Virginity: the model for all Christian mothers who have forgotten that their role consist in protecting the virginity (or at least the Spiritual virginity) of their sons and daughters.