“On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.” -John 20:2-8.
The Jewish origin of Saint Stephen is universally acknowledged; he is known and loved everywhere as the first follower of Christ to give to his martyred God love for love, blood for blood. It is not certain whether he was among the seventy-two disciples of Jesus; some believe he was of the Greek tongue and not a native of Palestine.
He studied with Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas under the famous Doctor of the Law, Gamaliel, who, being a member of the Sanhedrin, attempted to stop the persecution of the Apostles. (Acts of the Apostles 5:34-40)
What is certain, however, is that he distinguished himself among his brethren as an admirable Christian, replete with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
To his great beauty and angelic chastity were joined humility, patience, gentleness and charity, so perfect that they drew from all the faithful great admiration and esteem for him.
He was head of the seven disciples whom the Apostles named as deacons, to execute the works of charity which their mandate to preach did not permit them to carry out.
Stephen manifested all the qualities one could wish for in a minister of charity and of the Gospel. He knew Scripture to perfection and was steeped in its divine spirit; he was endowed with invincible force because he feared nothing in the service of God.
Everywhere in Jerusalem, he was proving Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah, and working great prodigies to confirm the truths he taught.
Some believe he was the cousin of Saul, later Saint Paul; in any case, the latter, still a fire-breathing Pharisee, took offense at his boldness and presided at the scene of his martyrdom by stoning.
The fervent deacon, insensible to his own fate, defended Christ before the Jerusalem tribunal with a perfection which enraged the proud authorities of Jerusalem, unwilling to recognize a humble carpenter of Nazareth for their Saviour.
He boldly upbraided the chief priests with their hard-hearted resistance to the Holy Spirit.
And when he accused them of putting to death, just as their forebears had treated the prophets who foretold Him, the long-awaited Just One announced by Moses, they stoned him without further delay. (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 7)
Saint Stephen died, beholding his Lord standing at the right hand of God. He imitated Him in death; crying out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!
He concluded on his knees, Lord, do not impute to them this sin! And then he fell asleep, the narrative says.
His mortal remains were left outdoors to be devoured by beasts, but were protected by God; and Gamaliel, the Doctor of the Law, took the body of the martyr to his own country home, a few leagues from the city, where he buried him.
His tomb was discovered miraculously in the fifth century, by the intervention of Gamaliel himself in a priest’s dream.
The greater part of his relics are still conserved in the Basilica of Saint Lawrence and Saint Stephen in Rome.
His death was the signal for a great persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem, spurred on by Saul, who had approved his death.
But Saint John Chrysostom remarks that because Stephen prayed, we have Saint Paul, whose conversion miraculously came about soon afterwards.
(SOURCE: The New Testament: Acts of the Apostles; Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 14)
“Jesus said to His disciples: “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”” -Matthew 10:17-22.
Noel! Noel! This was the cry of our fathers when the Faith prevailed, ardent and lively in the bosom of families, institutions, and all of society.
That cry has grown very weak in our day, for the naivete of simple faith has tended to disappear.
Nevertheless, of all the Christian feasts, Christmas is perhaps the most beloved and the most popular.
God used the most apparently indifferent events to reach His ends. Mary lived in Nazareth, and the prophets predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
But an edict of Caesar Augustus ordered all the inhabitants of Judea to go at a certain time to enroll in their native city. Bethlehem was the birthplace of Joseph, so that is where the holy spouses went; and that is where, in conformity to the predictions of the prophets, Jesus was to come into the world.
What a birth for a God! Joseph looked for an inn, but there was none for such poor people; rejected and scorned, they were obliged to seek refuge in an isolated stable.
And that is where, in the middle of the night, Mary miraculously gave birth to Jesus; that is where the most meek Saviour received the first adorations, where He received the first kisses and caresses, where He shed His first tears! Mary took the Infant in Her arms, covered Him with poor swaddling clothes and laid Him softly in a cold manger.
O first moments which Mary and Joseph spent at the feet of Jesus, how precious you were for them, how full of charm!
We will taste a little of this joy and these charms on going to our church to pay a visit to the manger scene that represents such a great mystery.
Earthly joys are deceitful, but the joy of God’s service are lasting and true.
Jesus was born, and behold, the heavens rang out in hymns of joy as the Angels sang the canticle of triumph, Glory to God in the highest! and the canticle of peace,
Peace on earth to men of good will! Jesus was born, and at once the poor shepherds, informed by the Angels, came to adore the Redeemer of Israel in that little Infant.
Jesus was born, and soon the princes of the East, led by a Star, laid their homages at His feet.
Let us hail Christmas, the dawn of peace and salvation.
(SOURCE: Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l’année, Mame: Tours, 1950)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'”
From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace,because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” -John 1:1-18.
Saint Charbel Makhlouf, the modest monk of Lebanon whose perfectly conserved mortal remains exude a miraculous sanguinolent liquid, has become known to many in the past half century, because of the extraordinary miracles which have drawn thousands to visit his tomb.
Youssef Makhlouf was born in 1828 in Bika’Kafra, the highest village of Lebanon, near the grove of the still-conserved famous cedars of Lebanon.
The youngest of five children, he became a little shepherd. Their pious mother lived almost as a religious in her family home. She would pray with outstretched arms, telling her family to allow no one to see her at those moments.
The children’s father also possessed the genuine piety which recommends a Christian to his brethren, but the little Youssef never knew him, for he died when the youngest son was only two years old. An uncle took upon himself the support of the family, which was thereby maintained intact.
The child was profoundly affected by the example of two other maternal uncles, who were monks of the Maronite Lebanese Order, living in a hermitage only three miles away, and whom he often visited, at first with his mother, later on his own.
They would say to him: All here below is nothing, the world is vanity, life is short. The true beauty is God, near Him there is true happiness. Wisdom is to not find oneself with empty hands at the supreme hour.
By the time he was sixteen, he had completed his basic schooling under an oak in the village churchyard, where he was taught by the priest with the other village boys.
The Christian spirit of the entire village was remarkable; the men regarded it as a great privilege to ring the church bells for Sunday Mass. Youssef during his days on the hillside with his little flock, often retired to a grotto to pray, for solitude was his joy, and prayer the breath of his soul.
He was serving Mass every morning, and in that function he discovered the true purpose of his existence: to be, like his Saviour, a victim to be offered, with Christ, to His Father.
At the age of twenty-three he left home silently one morning, and made his way to a monastery a day’s journey away. Only one thing mattered to him — to obey the voice of the One who summons: Come, follow Me.
When his uncle and tutor, Tanios, tried to persuade him to return, he could not succeed; and his mother, who had accompanied her brother, taking his hand in hers, and shaking it energetically, said to him: Well then, if you should not become a good religious, return with me to the house!
He received the habit one week after entering the monastery, and chose the name of Charbel, a martyr of the Antioch church in the year 107.
There followed two years of a severe novitiate, completed in the monastery of Annaya, which on its mountaintop seemed to breathe the stars, then the young monk was sent to prepare for the priesthood farther away, at Saint Cyprian of Kfifan, where he was ordained six years later at the age of 31.
He returned to Annaya afterwards, where for sixteen years he was in every way a model of perfection, until in 1875, at forty-seven years of age, he retired to its nearby hermitage, where he would remain until his death.
He was offering Mass a week before Christmas, when paralysis struck him as he elevated the host.
His sorrowing companion, during a week’s time, heard him repeating as long as he had voice, the prayers of his uncompleted Mass: O Father of truth, behold Your Son, victim to please You; condescend to approve [this offering], because for me He endured death, to give me life…
Saint Charbel died quietly on the 24th of December, attended by three monks.
The events of his life are not often extraordinary save by their heroic virtue, which indeed exceeds description. He endured the extreme cold of his hermitage each winter, without ever adding additional garments to his ordinary very simple ones; this alone sufficed to astonish all who knew of it.
The monks who trembled with cold during the night when they kept vigil at his coffin before his funeral, said: See how we find ourselves unable to endure for a single night, the rude cold of this chapel! How could this priest live here for twenty-three years, on his knees, like a statue before the altar, every night from midnight until eleven in the morning, when he rose to say his Mass? Blessed is he, for he undoubtedly receives at present his reward with God! We can nonetheless relate with the biographer whom we cite here, that one day he completely cured a dangerously violent insane man, whom several others had difficulty to make enter the monastery, but who went to its chapel when the Saint commanded him to do so; and there, when Saint Charbel placed a Gospel on his head and prayed, he became calm and silent, remaining thereafter entirely cured.
On another occasion, while the monks were outdoors working to harvest their grapes, a huge venomous serpent emerged from beneath a bush, in a threatening attitude.
Saint Charbel told the others who had already armed themselves not to touch it, and commanded it to depart, which it did in peace.
After his death a great many miracles occurred.
Sick and infirm people of all kinds have been healed: deaf, dumb, blind, paralytic, those with cancer, mental illness, etc.
They are also of every religion and every country.
God worked these wonders either when people touched the body of His servant of were anointed with the oily liquid that sweated miraculously from his precious remains, or when they touched cloths either impregnated with this liquid or which had belonged to him.
The divine power that strengthens and heals does not limit itself to the needs of the body.
It especially cures wounds of the soul in every form — sin, indifference, unbelief, error. Indeed, it is the healing of souls that occurs most often amid the cures that take place at Annaya.
Since the death of Saint Charbel, thousands of cases of miraculous healings have been recorded.
Saint Charbel was one of those souls which, in a life of silence, mortification, deprivation and total gift of self, was able to detach itself from everything except the adorable Face of the Lord.
Nothing mattered more for him than the redemption and salvation of souls, for whom he wanted to give his life in union with Christ on the cross.
He applied these words of Saint Paul in their totality: I fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the Passion of Christ for His body, which is the Church. (Colossians 1:24)
(SOURCE: Charbel Makhlouf, by P. Daher (Éditions Spes: Paris, 1953); One of the greatest Saints of Our Time, Saint Charbel Makhlouf (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1998); Magnificat magazine (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1998), Vol. XXXIII, No. 1, January 1998.)
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” -Luke 2:1-14.