The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Litany of Loreto - Queen ...

Monday, March 07, 2011
The title 'queen' occurs more often in the Book of Esther than in any other text of the Bible. Some of its uses refer to Vashti, who refused to attend on the King when he summoned her and so lost her crown. But most of them refer to Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman who catches the eye of the King and becomes Queen in place of Vashti. We are told that Esther found favour in the eyes of all who saw her (2:15). When she was brought before the King she found grace and favour in his sight such that he loved her more than all the women (2:17). Read more

Litany of Loreto - Help of Christians

Sunday, March 06, 2011
Here we have a title that does not contain doctrine that needs unpacking, or symbolism that needs uncovering, or biblical allusions that need exegesis! We are simply being told that Mary, by her prayers, helps Christians here and now. The straightforwardness, even directness of the title, implies or suggests to me a practicality about Mary and the impact of her intercession. I think this sits well with the woman who noticed that a couple was embarrassed by running out of wine at their wedding feast and asked her son to help (John 2: 1-12). This is first recorded request Mary made of Jesus and in a way is an intercession, and thus an anticipation of her ongoing prayer for all of us. It also suggests that we can be direct in addressing Mary and confident that she grasps the reality of daily life, its needs, and the problems it throws up. Daily concerns are not too trivial to be taken to Mary in prayer. Read more

Litany of Loreto - Comforter of the Afflicted

Saturday, March 05, 2011
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Litany of Loreto - Refuge of Sinners

Thursday, March 03, 2011
Mary stands by her Son not only in the moments of joy, but also in his sorrow and suffering. Likewise, she is not only there for us as the ‘Cause of our Joy’ – the object of our celebration and veneration – but also as a source of compassion when times are hard. In particular, she stands for us as an example in moments of temptation, showing us by her sinless life that we too, strengthened like her by God’s grace (which we received in our Baptism), can avoid sin if we will only trust him and, like Mary, say ‘yes’ to him: for, as the angel said, ‘with God nothing is impossible’ (Luke 1:37). In such moments, though, she helps us not only by giving an example, but also by her prayer: when it all feels too much, by turning to her we can be assured of her support (and that of all the Church) in a battle which is not ours to be fought alone – rather, it is our share in the battle which has already been fought and won by her Son.  Read more

Litany of Loreto - Health of the Sick

Wednesday, March 02, 2011
St. Simon Stock call Mary "the medicine of sinners" but is it all a bit too much to call Mary "Health of the Sick"? Is this just an example of the overeager 'Marian worship' that the Catholic Church is often accused of? This doubt in the validity of the title brings St. Bonaventure's first Marian maxim to mind: One should carefully beware of decreasing, even in the slightest, the honor that is due to Mary. Rather than being an example of medieval-Marian-mania, this title has its roots in the early Church. St. Ephrem, writing in the fourth century, calls Mary "health itself ... Robust health for those who have recourse in her". Read more

Litany of Loreto - Morning Star

Tuesday, March 01, 2011
From ancient times we have looked in wonder upon the stars and other ‘heavenly bodies’, and used them, fruitfully, to guide us. In a world of growth and decay, the heavens seem to be enduring and unchanging, celestial constants suspended above an ever-changing world. Against the dark sky of night they shine bright and hold their steady, unchanging course. It is little wonder then, that in our awe and fascination for such things, and in our knowledge of their usefulness in safely guiding us, that we would employ their titles analogously to highlight the enduring qualities of Our Lady and Our Blessed Lord.

The Morning Star has always been a sign of the coming day. With it we know that the shades of night are soon to vanish; as such it is the herald of the coming day when we will once again feel the warmth of the sun and be able to see our way more clearly. Our Lady, as the Morning Star, goes ahead of Christ to announce the coming of His Light. Her loving purpose is to prepare the way for Our Lord and reflect His glory: “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev 22:16). In reflecting the glory of the Lord, the title Morning Star, is truly apposite for this ‘star’ is not really a star at all, but the planet Venus. As such, it shines not of itself but reflects he brightness of the sun, just as Mary reflects the brightness and glory of Our Lord.

Our Lady then, as the Morning Star, precedes the Son whose radiance she reflects and by her presence she announces His coming. It is thus fitting to reflect upon just how Mary reflects this glory so that we can try to emulate her as a pattern of holiness. We should always be mindful of her presence in showing us the way to the Lord and let ourselves be so guided by her to Him. Ad Iesum per Mariam.
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Litany of Loreto - Gate of Heaven

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The history of the covenant between God and man begins in the very first book of the Bible. After the flood, Noah is the first to receive a guarantee that the Lord will not exterminate his creation forever. But this is only the beginning of what God has in mind. He constitutes a new covenant, where Abraham is chosen to be the father of “many nations”. God proves his intentions by giving Sarah a son, even though she is past child-bearing. This son, Isaac, becomes the father of Jacob. In his younger years, Jacob has a dream where he sees a ladder reaching from earth to the skies, and he hears God’s voice telling him: Read more

Litany of Loreto – Ark of the Covenant

Monday, February 21, 2011
'The holy Virgin is in truth an ark, wrought with gold both within and without, that has received the whole treasury of the sanctuary.'

These words from St. Gregory Thaumaturgus in the third century reflect an understanding of Our Lady that goes right back to the beginning of Christianity. In Luke's Gospel, there are clear parallels between Our Lady and the ark of the covenant. In the hill country of Judea, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of her cousin Mary, the babe leapt in her womb. Elizabeth exclaimed 'why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?' and Mary remained with Elizabeth for three months before returning home (Luke 1). Compare this with the account of King David and the ark (2 Samuel 6). When he manages to retrieve the ark after its capture by the Philistines, he leaps and dances before it. He says “how can the ark of the Lord come to me?” and he takes the ark to Abu Ghosh, a village in the hill country of Judea and the ark remains there for three months. Read more

Litany of Loreto - House of Gold

Saturday, February 19, 2011
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Litany of Loreto - Tower of Ivory

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Strangely, in its modern usage the term 'ivory tower' has come to designate the esoteric and impractical ponderings of scholars who have disconnected themselves from the demands and needs of the wider world. It implies bloodless, heartless intellectual pursuits that are sterile and cold. Yet the roots of this expression are in perhaps the most passion soaked book in the Bible, the Song of Songs. In chapter seven of this wedding song the Groom is exultant, rejoicing in the beauty of his Bride. We read:

Your neck is like an ivory tower, your eyes are pools in Hesbon, by the gate of Bathrabbin, your nose is like a tower of Lebanon overlooking Damascus (Song of Songs 7:4).

The traditional allegorical reading of this book has seen the Groom as a figure of Christ. The analogy of marriage is used consistently throughout the Bible in an attempt to shed light on God's relationship with his people. Hosea, for example, is ordered to marry a prostitute as an allegory for God's relationship with Israel. The same idea appears in Ezekiel 16:8, God pledges himself to Israel when he sees that she is old enough to be loved. The author of the Book of Revelation sees the Bride of Christ - the heavenly Jerusalem - in a vision (Revelation 21:9). Paul says the love of husband for wife is like the love of Christ for the Church (Ephesians 5:25), even going so far as to call the Church the Body of Christ with the obvious allusion to the second chapter of Genesis, 'the husband cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh' (Genesis 2:24).

If the Groom in the Song of Songs has been understood to be Christ, then the Bride is the Church. Yet Mary has long been considered a symbol of the Church, so it is only natural that Christians would think of Our Lady when the Groom heaps praises upon his bride. Mary, conceiving as she did by the Holy Spirit, is at once a child, mother, and spouse of God. She remained a virgin because she belonged to God in a peculiarly intense way, unlike that of any other woman. Mary is honoured as a 'tower of ivory' precisely because she was set apart in this manner, precisely because of her unique relationshop with her Son, precisely because she showed the depth of love that only one who is without sin is able to offer. Read more
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