11 December – Memorial for St. Damasus I, Pope
Damasus (306-384) was raised in a pious family. His father was a priest in Rome, and Damasus served for a time as deacon in his father’s church, St. Laurence. He was ordained a priest and became assistant to Pope Liberius. He was elected the 37th pope in a disputed election in which a minority chose the anti-pope Ursinus. The two reigned simultaneously in Rome which eventually led to violence between their supporters and Damasus’ false accusation of a crime.
His pontificate suffered from the rise of Arianism, and from several schisms including break-away groups in Antioch, Constantinople, Sardinia, and Rome. However, it was during his reign that Christianity was declared the religion of the Roman state. He enforced the 370 edict of Emperor Valentinian controlling gifts to prelates, and opposed Arianism and Apollinarianism. He supported the 374 council of Rome which decreed the valid books of the Bible, and the Grand Council of Constantinople in 381 which condemned Arianism.
He was the patron of his secretary, St. Jerome, and commissioned him to make the translation of scripture now known as the Vulgate. Damasus restored catacombs, shrines, and the tombs of martyrs, and wrote poetry and metrical inscriptions about and dedicated to martyrs. They state that he would like to be buried in the catacombs with the early martyrs, but that the presence of one of his lowly status would profane such an august place. Ten of his letters, personal and pontifical, have survived.
– Patron Saint Index
‘Console my people, console them’
says your God.
‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem
and call to her
that her time of service is ended,
that her sin is atoned for,
that she has received from the hand of the Lord
double punishment for all her crimes.’
A voice cries, ‘Prepare in the wilderness
a way for the Lord.
Make a straight highway for our God
across the desert.
Let every valley be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low.
Let every cliff become a plain,
and the ridges a valley;
then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
and all mankind shall see it;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
A voice commands, ‘Cry!’
and I answered, ‘What shall I cry?’”
– ‘All flesh is grass
and its beauty like the wild flower’s.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on them.
(The grass is without doubt the people.)
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God remains for ever.’
Go up on a high mountain,
joyful messenger to Zion.
Shout with a loud voice,
joyful messenger to Jerusalem.
Shout without fear,
say to the towns of Judah,
‘Here is your God.’
Here is the Lord coming with power,
his arm subduing all things to him.
The prize of his victory is with him,
his trophies all go before him.
He is like a shepherd feeding his flock,
gathering lambs in his arms,
holding them against his breast
and leading to their rest the mother ewes.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.’
“It is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”
What is it we are searching for? What is it that we truly desire? We study, work, argue, fight, politic all because we desire to — survive? So that we may lead a comfortable life? Are we then ever comfortable?
Especially as we prepare for the coming of Christ this Christmas, what is it we are preparing for? Are we even searching? What are we searching for? Where are we searching?
As in the Gospel today, God desires for us to be with Him. He searches for us but He also respects us, waiting for us to open the door of our hearts, of our lives to Him. As with the parables of The Lost Coin, The Prodigal Son, The Lost Sheep, it’s not about if we are lost, but whether we desire to return, to allow ourselves to be found. Or do we continuously run further away because we can’t face ourselves for all that we’ve done? As with the parables, God rejoices when we return but, more than that, deep down within ourselves, we know that is what we have always been searching for.
To me, I believe, it is love. To know that we matter, to know that there is someone out there who cares for us, not because of what we have, not because of what we can do but because he/she simply just wants to. It is also those people who are easiest to take for granted, our parents, teachers, our loved ones, our God. They are always there for us, but always hurting the most while waiting for us to return.
In chasing after so many of our desires, we lose ourselves, our values, our dignity, our integrity, our true and initial desire. Let us slow down, to recollect what is it we actually want, what is it we actually need, who we actually are.
Let us search for our true selves, let us be open, to allow Christ into our lives this Christmas. Let us be found.
(Today’s Oxygen by Benjamin Mao)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that we may not be distracted in our search for our true desire, the purpose of our lives. We also pray that we may encounter you in a very special way this Christmas. Help us to return to you.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for always being present. For your love and mercy. For desiring our return. Thank you for accepting us for who we are.