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Saint Damasus Ɪ and the Flaming Furnace of Truth


“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” ~ Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

In today’s 1st Reading from the Book of Sirach (48:1-4, 9-11), we pause to reflect upon the prophet Elijah, who we’re told “appeared like a fire,” whose words were as a “flaming furnace.” Jesus too will speak of Elijah in today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:9a, 10-13), a perfect lead-in to the 3rd Sunday of Advent when we will read of another harbinger and herald of Christ, John the Baptist (Luke 3:10-18), he whom our Lord would call “The New Elijah.”

The church chooses to highlight these renowned evangelical figures during the Advent Season because they are the true forerunners of the Messiah. Our Savior’s message would echo theirs; repent and in turn be transformed by God’s grace. Be awake and alert at all times, for God the Father could call you home at any time. His Son could return before you finish reading this Reflection, Our vocation in the meantime is to walk in Elijah and John’s footsteps, to be disciples to the nations, certainly to those in our midst.

The penitential aspect of Advent is critical in preparing us for the birth and subsequent second coming of Jesus. In their unbridled zeal for the salvific message of the Gospel, neither Elijah or John the Baptist pull any punches. When we are rebuked for our sinfulness, it hurts. It burns like the proverbial flaming furnace of culpability, remorse and regret, in some misguided cases denial or rationalization. The process of purification and purgation, this refinement, is critical to our faith formation. Much like the cross, it cannot be avoided. Better to take on this task while here on earth then to spend eternity in the fires of hell, where our hearts will have been hardened to the effects of purification yet forced to endure its effects.

Today the Catholic Church commemorates her 37th Pope, Saint Damasus Ɪ. This was a man who made decisions that shaped the future of Western Catholicism and the universal Church while remaining astoundingly resolute in his battle against the fourth-century Arian Heresy, which sought to deny Jesus’ divinity. During his pontificate, Latin replaced Greek as the official liturgical language of the Roman Church. He authorized Saint Jerome to revise the Latin translation of the Bible into what became the widely-used “Vulgate” edition. As Pope, Damasus Ɪ also authorized the decrees of the Second Ecumenical Council, which would expand the Nicene Creed's profession of faith in the Holy Spirit and added portions on the Church, baptism, and the resurrection of the dead.

Within his very soul burnt a fire for the truth, the fullness and richness of all things ethereal. A truth that can only be found in the Catholic Faith. His pontificate was undeniably messy at times. Internal political struggles, doctrinal heresies, thorny relations with his fellow bishops and those of the Eastern Church all contributed to the overall disharmony. Yet during a troubled and pivotal period of Church history, Pope Damasus Ɪ was an intrepid defender of the faith who reminds us that Jesus never promised us an easy or uncomplicated journey home to His Father’s House. But through the flaming, fiery furnace of purification, through perseverance and faith, the final victory shall be ours.

Saint Damasus Ɪ, pray for us.

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The great Saint Pope Damasus I

The great Saint Pope Damasus I

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