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Posts Tagged ‘Liturgy’

Theological Explanation of the Mass

In 07 Observations on 2014/06/27 at 12:00 AM

Dear Catechists and Friends,

Instead of a summary, a whole transcript of  Fr. Barron’s theological explanation of the Mass .

I do want to interject though, since yesterday was Corpus Christi and Fr. Barron touched upon the Eucharistic Miracle of 1263 that led to the Feast of Corpus Christi, that our Good Lord goes to an extreme to help our unbelief without trampling on our freewill.   For centuries there have been Eucharistic Miracles, generally occurring to dispel doubts of the true presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in Transubstantiation during the Consecration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I’ve personally seen 2 of these miracles up-close.

• Belgium, Bois-Seigneur-Isaac  In 1405 a particle of a large consecrated Host is left in a folded corporal. It clung to it and began to bleed. After 4 days, the bleeding stops after staining almost all the corporal.  I saw the corporal in a small church in a town south of Brussels.  http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/mir/english_pdf/Boisseigneurisaac.pdf

• Lanciano, Italy.  This Eucharistic Miracle is probably the best known in the Church. In the 8th century A.D., in the little church of St. Legonthian, a Basilican monk was having doubts about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. During Mass, after the two-fold consecration, the Host was changed into live Flesh, and the Wine was changed into live Blood. As I was standing in front of the almost 1300 year old  Host-Flesh and the coagulated Blood of our Lord, I marbled at His Love for us and realized I no longer need to see such miracles because I have found Him fully alive in my soul and my unbelief no longer persists.  This youtube has more information about the miracle at Lanciano: http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=lanciano+eucharistic+miracle&view=detail&mid=B7DB793F81E11FA63AF2B7DB793F81E11FA63AF2&first=1&FORM=NVPFVR

Lesson 7 – The Liturgy and the Eucharistic Communion with the Lord.

Fr. Barron starts by pointing out that we do the Liturgy for its own sake, because it is good and beautiful.  In the act of giving right praise to God in the Liturgy, we achieve inner harmony and peace.  God’s good order is preserved in the midst of a sinful world. The Mass is our participation and anticipation of the heavenly Liturgy where the right praise is given to God by the saints and angels.

The Mass begins with the way in which the people who participate gather.  They come from all walks of life, education, economic stratus, moral excellence, and both genders.  We humans are interested in people status but for Christ there is no difference between Greek or Jew, slave or free, man or woman, He doesn’t put labels on anyone.  All are members of his Mystical Body.  In Church the rich and the poor, the great dame and the servant, the educated and the uneducated kneel side by side in the Liturgy.  When the Catholic historian Christopher Dawson converted to Catholicism from his native Anglicanism, his mother was not happy.  She said that it wasn’t the doctrine that bothered her but the fact that his son will now be worshiping with the help.

By the simple of gesture of starting the Liturgy in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we already announce we belong to the Triune God.   Modern secularism is predicated on the assumption that we essentially belong to no one, that we are self determined and self directing, pursuers of happiness according to our own likes.   But Paul told Christians long ago in Romans 14:8.  If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.  In contradistinction to modernity, biblical people say your life is not about you.  This is a fundamental truth which does not change .  We all belong to our Creator whether we believe or not.

THE LITURGY – Everything about the Liturgy (Mass) has theological meaning.

INITIAL RITE; Sign of the Cross, Greeting, Penitential Rite

Sign of the Cross. The Liturgy signals this from the beginning with the Sign of the Cross:  The Cross speaks of the great act by which the Father sent the Son into god-forsakenness in order to gather us through the Holy Spirit into the Divine Life:  The story of our salvation in one sentence.  Because the Son went all the way down, He was able in principle to bring even the most recalcitrant sinner back into fellowship with God, thus when we invoke the Cross at the beginning of the Liturgy, we signify that we are praying in God and not merely to God.

Greeting. After the sign of the Cross the priest greets the people in Christ’s name (not his own).  The priest operates in the person of Christ therefore his expression, movements, and words are expressive not of his own perspectives and convictions but of Christ’s. Which is why the people respond And With Your Spirit because they are addressing not the individual man but in Jesus in whose person the priest is operating.

Penitential Rite: After the greeting the priest asks those in attendance to call to mind his/her sins. This is of extraordinary importance. The relevant distinction among us is not between sinners and non-sinner, but between those sinners who know it and those who don’t as we are all sinners.   The great heroes of our faith (the saints) are those who ordered their lives to God and therefore they are keenly aware of how far they fall short of the ideal. John of the Cross compared the soul to a pane of glass.  As long as the glass is away from the light, its imperfections don’t appear but if you turn it towards the light, all the smudges and marks become visible.  This explains the paradox of the saints saying “I’m the worst of sinners.”  They have directed their lives toward the light of God therefore they are more and not less aware of their sin.  As the Liturgy begins and we are bathed in the light of the Trinitarian God, we mimic the saints admitting that we are sinners.   By doing so we offer correctness to a pervasive cultural tendency toward exculpation.  I’m ok and you are ok we tell ourselves.  But to subscribe to such naïve sentiment is ipso facto, to prove that one is facing away from the clarifying light of God.  We call to mind our sins in preparation for the Kyrie Prayer…Lord have Mercy!  There is no room for the self aggrandizing and self deception.  We know we are incapable of saving ourselves, that we are beggars before the Lord.  Compelled by the Liturgy into this correct and finally liberating attitude we hear the voice of the priest asking God to have mercy on us and forgive us our sins.  God wants to forgive but it is of upmost importance that we recognize that we have something in us that needs forgiving.

The Gloria: After the Kyrie comes the most magnificent prayer in our liturgical tradition: The Gloria.
The whole of Catholic theology is in it.  The first prayer (Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth peace to people of good will), is a kind of formula for a happy life.  When we give God the supreme glory above all else, then our lives become harmoniously ordered around that central love.  Peace breaks out among us when God (and not pleasure, money, or power,) is given Glory in the highest.  The word worship comes from the old English worth ship designating what we hold dear.   Aristotle said that a friendship will endure only in the measure that the two friends fall in love not as much with each other but together with a transcendent third. In the Gloria we expressed our shared love for God’s glory.

LITURGY OF THE WORD – TELLING OF THE STORIES.  The next major move in the Liturgy is the proclamation of the Word of God: Usually a selection from the Old Testament, from one of Paul’s epistles and the Gospel.  We do this for us to draw into the strange world of the bible   Remembering that the priest is in the person of Christ, he proclaims the Gospel of Christ and delivers a homily which does not include the priests private convictions about politics, culture or religion or anything else, but speaks the mind of Christ and only the mind of Christ. The preacher surrenders to the divine voice and conforms himself to the attitude of Christ.  After the homily comes the recitation of the Creed, usually using the Creed from the Council of Nicaea in 325 which expresses that Jesus shares fully in the divinity of the Father and defeats the heresy of Arius of that time which questioned the divinity of Jesus.  The Church protected by the Holy Spirit will never succumb to a heresy. This particular heresy would have rendered Christianity invalid since its foundation rests on the divinity of Christ thus ensuring our salvation.  Instead, for almost 1700 years this declaration of the Divinity of our Lord, the Creed, is recited at every Sunday Mass across the world.  Those who faithfully profess the Creed are standing resolutely athwart all forms of idolatry, ancient and cotemporary, material or emotional.  After the Creed we offer prayers for the living and the dead expressing the interdependence of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body. We pray for one another precisely because we are implicated in one another connected by the deepest bond in Christ.  One member of the body cannot coherently say to another, ‘Your concern is not mine.’ for we are not a club but an organism.

THE OFFERING.  Commences the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

In most cultures, an encounter with a person usually involves two moves: First conversation and second a meal.  The Mass is an encounter with Christ.   In the Liturgy of the Word we listen as He speaks to us in the Scripture and in the Psalms and responses we speak back to Him, we converse.  Then in the Liturgy of the Eucharist we sit down to eat at a meal that He himself prepares for us.  A fundamental biblical principle is that in a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice.  This is true because sin has twisted us out of shape and therefore intimacy with God will involve a twisting back into shape, a painful re-alignment, a sacrifice.  God doesn’t need the sacrifice; in fact God doesn’t need anything at all.  The point is that we need sacrifice in order to reorder us and thereby restore communion with God.  What is given back to God, sacrificed to Him, breaks against the rock of the divine self-sufficiency and returns for the benefit of the one who has made the offering.  Sacrifice produces communion.  This is the distinctive logic that undergirds the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Eucharist bread wine and water are brought to the altar so that the priest can offer them to God.  To say bread and wine implies wheat and vine which implies earth, soil, water, wind and sunshine which lead us to solar system and the cosmos itself.  These small gifts symbolically represent the entirety of Creation.  Taking this gifts in hand, the priest speaks the Berakah prayer, “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation…we offer you this bread and wine”..  The bread and wine offered to a God who doesn’t need them will return to us immeasurably elevated as the Body and Blood of Jesus.  After the Berakah, the priest moves into the climatic prayer of the Mass,  the Eucharistic prayer in the course of which Christ becomes really, truly and substantially present.  First the priest involves the participation of the heavenly community: “And so with the angels and the saints…..we acclaim”… this is not pious decoration, this links the Mass on Earth to the eternal Liturgy in Heaven and we join in the praise of the angels and the saints.  Therefore as the gathered people sing: “Holy, Holy Holy Lord God of Hosts….” They are like the angels and saints giving glory to God in the highest and hence actually realizing the unity that God desires for them.   The prayer commences with a word of gratitude to the Trinitarian God for the sheer grace of His creation and redemption. “You are indeed holy, o Lord and all you have created rightly gives you praise…….” He then beckons the Father to send down the Holy Spirit for the sanctification and transformation of the bread and wine.  “Therefore Lord we humbly implore you by the same spirit graciously make holy these gifts….” He then continues with what is termed the “institution narrative” which is an abbreviated form of the Gospel account of what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper.  He recalls how Jesus took bread and gave thanks and then he moves from 3rd person description to direct quotation, speaking the very words of Jesus “take this all of you and eat it for this is my body which will be given up for you”. The priest does the same in regard to the cup of wine, recounting how Jesus gave thanks and passed the chalice to his disciple and then moving to first person quotation, he says, ‘this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins…”  The faith of the Church is that by the power of these words, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus becomes really, truly and substantially present to His people under the appearance of the Eucharistic elements.

EXCURSUS ON THE REAL PRESENCE

In the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus Himself taught, after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and the walking on the sea, he went to Capernaum.  The people followed Him and He told them “don’t go after food that perishes; go after the food that will last into eternal life.  I myself I’m the living bread from heaven. My flesh is food for the life of the world.”  It is hard to imagine anything that is more theologically problematic and disgusting for 1st century Jew that those words since it was prohibited in their law to eat animal with its flesh and blood. When they protested Jesus had every opportunity to render his language more spiritual or metaphorical perhaps say “Well, I means something symbolic”. But instead he said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you”. And the words in Greek are interesting.  He used the word “trogein” not Phagein, the way humans usually eat, trogein is the way an animal would eat, like gnawing.  In other words, when they object to the physical realism of it, he intensifies it.  Many of the disciples went away, that teaching was too much for them to bear and He turned to His own inner circle, the Twelve, and He says,” Are you going to leave me too.”  It’s as though this teaching of the “real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist” is a standing or falling point.

It is Peter who speaks up “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life. ” Peter confesses the truth of the Real Presence.  In Orvieto, year 1263, a priest named Peter of Prague, stopped in the little Italian town of Bosena to celebrate Mass. He had been entertaining doubts about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Just after the words of consecration, blood began to run from the Hosts onto his hands then down unto the corporal on the altar.  Confused he went directly to Orvieto where Pope Urban IV was visiting.  He confessed his unbelief and the Pope sent a delegation immediately back to Bolsena. They returned with the corporal stained with the blood.  So impressed was the Pope that he declared a new feast for the Church called Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ and he turned to a Dominican Friar who also happened to be in Orvieto in his entourage and he asked him to composed the office for the feast with a  series of prayers and hymns.  This was Thomas Aquinas and he responded with the most poetic and beautiful hymns which we still sing to this day.  Tantum Ergo and O Salutaris. So identified was Thomas Aquinas with the Eucharistic mystery that he couldn’t get through the Liturgy without copies tears.  He never felt he did justice to the Eucharist and after writing at treatise about the Eucharist, he put his work at the foot of the cross filing he failed the Lord.  He heard Jesus speaking to him for the cross saying in Latin “You’ve written well of Me, Thomas.  What would you have as a reward?” Aquinas responded “I will have nothing except You”.

In that treatise, Thomas explained the transubstantiation where the substance of something chances but not its appearance.  Most of the times, appearance and reality match, but not always.  You look up into the sky on a clear winter’s night and you see the stars but in fact those starts are not longer there because the light takes so long to reach us.  Appearance and reality are different.  It seems like the sun moves across the sky but in reality the earth moves around the sun.  Appearance and reality differ.  The church states in the case of the Eucharist that what appears to be ordinary bread and wine in fact has changed at the deepest level of its reality.  How can that be?  Consider the power of words.  Words not only describe reality, but under the right circumstances can change reality.  If I go to someone and say you are under arrest, those words have no power and it would be taken as a joke, but if a properly deputized officer of the laws said to you, you are under arrest, whether you are guilty or innocent, you are in fact under arrest. Those words changed reality. In a baseball game, a fan can yell to a player you are out, but it has no impact.  However, if the umpire tell a player you are out, whether he is or not, the words of the umpire have changed reality.  Those are our puny words, now consider God’s word.  In the bible, God creates through the power of his Word.  Let there be light, and there was light, Let the earth come forth and it came forth.  God’s Word does not just describe, it affects what it says.

Who is Jesus?  Not one figure among many, not one in a long line of prophets.  Jesus is the very “logos” the very Word of God made flesh.  The same Word by which God made creation becomes personally present in Jesus and therefore, what Jesus says IS. Lazarus, come out, and he came out.  Little girl get up, and the dead girl gets up.  The night before he died he takes bread and He said, “This is my body which will be given up for you.”  He took the cup. He said, “This is the cup of my blood.” Jesus’ Word is the divine word, it does not simple describes but rather, affects, creates, changes reality in the most radical sense.  When the priest pronounces the word of consecration, he is not using his own words.  He is using the divine word of Christ which can affect reality and change reality most profoundly.

At the very beginning of her career, Flannery O’Connor who would develop into the greatest Catholic fiction writer of the 20th century sat down at dinner with Mary McCarthy and a group of other New York intellectuals.  Flannery was so overwhelmed that she barely spoke.  Mary feeling sorry for her, made a few remarks about the Eucharist knowing that O’Connor was Catholic.  She said of the Eucharist “It’s a very powerful symbol.”  O’Connor looked up and in a shaky voice said, “Well, if it’s only a symbol, I say to hell with it.”  Fr. Barron couldn’t imagine a better summary of the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence.

Communion and sending.

At the close of the Eucharistic Prayer, the Jesus who is really present under the forms of bread and wine is offered as a living sacrifice to the Father.  Lifting up the elements the priest prays, “Through him and with him and in him…. “ At this time the Catholic priest is in the true holy of holies and what he does is analogous to what the High Priest did in the temple on the Day of Atonement.  In the ancient time, the priest enters the Holy of Holies and there he would sacrifice an animal to Yahweh on behalf of the people.  He would sprinkle some of the blood around the interior of the sanctuary and the rest he would bring out in bowls and sprinkle on the people sealing thereby a kind of blood bond between God and the nation.

The Catholic priest at the climax of the Mass offers to the Father not the blood of bulls and goats but the blood of Christ beyond all price.  Since the Father has no need of anything, that sacrifice redounds completely to our benefit.  If our troubles began with a bad meal, by seizing the forbidden fruit, our redemption is affected through a properly constituted meal, God feeding His people with His own Body and Blood.  After the congregation has communed and given thanks, they are blessed and sent.  The priest says “Go forth, the Mass has ended.” It is said that after the words of consecration, these are the most sacred words of the entire Mass. Now that the people have gathered as one family, heard the Word of God, professed their faith, prayed for one another, offered sacrifice to the Father, and received the Body and Blood of Jesus they are at least in principle more properly formed, and hence ready to go out and effect the transformation of the world. Fulton Sheen reflected that after the Magi’s visit to Jesus they went back a different route, and Bishop Sheen concluded, of course they did, no one encounters Christ and goes back the same way he came!

The Liturgy is the privileged communion with the Lord.  It is the source and summit of the Christian life and therefore, those who participate in it never leave unchanged, never go back the same way they came.

Notes on Fr.  Baron by Aida Tamayo

The Mystical Body of Christ and the Church

In 07 Observations on 2014/05/02 at 12:00 AM

Aida Tamayo’s notes on Fr. Barron’s series

The Mystical body of Christ and the Church.  What do you think is the primary reason for the Church existence?  Is it to feed the poor? Is it to provide social programs?   To educate the masses?  To tend to the sick?  NO, none of those is the primary function of the Church.  Don’t get me wrong, the Church is the oldest functioning institution in the history of the Western World and has been a major source of social services from the beginning providing education and medical care; inspiration for Western art, culture and philosophy; and influential player in politics and religion and we in the Church are called to service. But that is not the primary reason for its existence.  The Primary Reason of the Church is to make us saints so we can spend eternity with God.  Through the Church, God gathers the people to Himself. Everything else flows from it but is not its reason for existing.

The Church is not a human institution, but a sacrament of Jesus, so it shares in the very being, life and energy of Christ.  This may shock many Mass goers.  Our celebration of Mass is not just what we perceive with our senses.  Each Mass joins the liturgy which the angels and the saints continually celebrate in heaven.  In His presence, the communion of saints and the angels unceasingly praise and adore God and those destined for heaven will be expressing this love in the heavenly liturgy, a sort of joyful perpetual adoration in His presence. The Mass allows us to join in this adoration because the earthly Mass has the power to plug us into that heavenly liturgy and all of heaven (angels, the Communion of Saints, Mary the Mother of God and of course, the Holy Trinity) is present at our Mass. Think of Jesus words.  Remain in me, live in me, eat my body and drink my blood. What did He say to Paul on the road to Damascus… Saul why are you persecuting me?  He didn’t say my followers or my Church.  He meant His mystical body.

We are joined to Christ across the ages in some mystical way, the Church is meant to gather all of creation around Christ. The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, and when we receive Him, we become more integrated into His mystical body, giving us a heightened sense of justice. By filling ourselves with the life of Christ and doing His Will, we will become saints and an active part of the Mystical Body.  All the baptized are connected to each other like cells in a body, so if someone is persecuted that affects all of us, it is our problem.  It is a tragedy that most people don’t realize this truth.

EKKLESIA – God established the Church in response to men’s sin. The Church mission is to restore us to that friendship with God.  Sin results in disillusion and division, totally opposed to God and the ever-loving God response to sin was a gathering of the people. He starts by calling Abraham and the people of Israel and he formed them to be a people distinct, unique, peculiarly His own.  He gave them laws, rituals, covenants, liturgies, a form of life meant to be pleasing to God. Not for the glorification of Israel but so that Israel could be the magnet by which the whole world would be gathered eventually unto God.  Jesus was the culmination of Israel and the supreme and divine magnet.  This gathering of people is what we call the Church. He told Peter, you are the Rock upon which I will build my ekklesia (Greek for church).

The 4 basic Marks: One Holy Catholic Apostolic

In the Catechism paragraph 811, it says that the Church of Christ is professed in the Creed: “…… to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes His Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is He who calls her to realize each of these qualities.

THE CHURCH IS ONE – because God is one.  I believe in one God.  By this we are called to reject all other “deities”  (political leaders, cultural idols, ideologies, etc.) …there is only one God.  The Church is the vehicle by which the one God draws all people to unity with Himself.  Jesus, the Word and mind of God is all that is true and beautiful and He draws all things to Himself over time.  The Pantheon in Rome provides an example of this process.  It is the most beautiful space created by paganism and is now the Catholic Church of Mary of the Martyrs.  The Church holds on to its truth but is able to transform and assimilative that which is good, true and beautiful into its own unity, its unchangeable truth.  That was Jesus prayer to God the Father, that we may all become one [in Truth] as He and His Father are One.

THE CHURCH IS HOLY – Because God is Holy and the Church is His mystical body. The Church’s primary purpose is to make saints, to make people holy.  Everything about it is meant for that end. One hears always about the inquisition, persecution of Galileo, the crusades, corruption, too much money, and recently abuse of children by some priests.  Given this why do we call the Church Holy?  That the Church is holy doesn’t deny the sinfulness of its members.  Sadly, our fallen nature affects us.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:   844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:   Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasoning, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. 845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church.

The Church itself is holy and a bearer of grace.  Its grace in the sacraments comes not from the moral excellence of the ministers, but from God.  The grace of God is that which makes the Church holy.

THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC – Catholic comes from the Greek word kata holos meaning according to the whole: Universal.  The Church is universal because it is the means by which God wants to gather the whole world to itself. The Church is the new Israel and a magnet to all the nations.  One of the greatest gathering places in the world is St. Peter’s square.  It can hold up to 300,000 people.  And Bernini’s columns are meant to look like arms reaching out to gather in the whole world.  The Word got out to all nations and all nations come here, which is a realization of what was said 2000 years ago.

CHURCH IS APOSTOLIC – because it is rooted on the apostles; The 12 men chosen by Jesus.  They stayed with Jesus, were formed and shaped by His Mind, the mind of God.  The main altar of the great basilica of St. John Lateran, holds the reliquaries with the head of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  The form and structure of the Church itself are depiction of the 12 Apostles.  Bishops today can legitimately claim that they are successors of the Apostles.  The leadership of the Church today is Apostolic in structure.  Hierarchy comes from two Greek words; hieros(priest)  and arche (rule or principle). It is not a power play, it is a church grounded in this Apostolic faith.  Apostles meant to send and so the Church has that great missionary purpose. The Church is not a democratic polity or a philosophical debating society but a body grounded in revelation.  Its integrity rests in its founder and the on-going guidance by the Holy Spirit.  This same Spirit protects the Church from error in matters of faith and morals through the infallibility of the Pope, the successor of the Apostle Peter.  Infallibly does not mean the Pope interferes with the life of the Church it means that he is the living voice of authority to protect the Truth of God which guides its life.  The keys given to Peter as the first Pope are meant to unlock the secret to life, the secret to the great mystery of all things.   If the keys were flexible, it would lose its whole reason for being.  The keys handed to Peter will take us to the truth of God so we can be gathered in Him.

The Church Becomes Fully Visible in the Liturgy

In 06 Scripture & Theology on 2013/02/28 at 11:11 AM

 The time dedicated to liturgical prayer in the life of Christians, especially during Mass, was the central theme of Benedict XVI’s catechesis.

Prayer, the Pope explained, “is the living relationship of the children of God with their immeasurably good Father, with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit. Therefore the life of prayer consists in dwelling habitually in the presence of God and knowing Him. … Such communion of life with the One Triune God is possible through Baptism, by which we are united to Christ, … because only in Christ can we dialogue with God the Father as children”.

For Christians prayer means “constantly gazing at Christ in ways that are ever new”, said the Holy Father. “Yet we must not forget that we discover Christ and know Him as a living Person in the Church. She is ‘His Body’. … The unbreakable bond between Christ and the Church, through the unifying power of love, does not annul ‘you’ and ‘me’ but exalts them to their most intense unity. … Praying means raising oneself to the heights of God, by means of a necessary and gradual transformation of our being”.

By participating in the liturgy “we make the language of mother Church our own, we learn to speak in her and for her. Of course this comes about gradually, little by little. I must progressively immerse myself into the words of the Church with my prayers, life and suffering, with my joy and my thoughts. This is a journey which transforms us”, the Pope said.

The question of “how to pray” is answered by following the Our Father, the prayer which Jesus taught us. “We see that its first two words are ‘Father’ and ‘our’, and the response then becomes clear: I learn to pray and I nourish my prayer by addressing myself to God as Father, and by praying with others, with the Church, accepting the gift of her words, which little by little become familiar and rich in meaning. The dialogue God establishes with each one of us in prayer, and we with Him, always includes a ‘with’. We cannot pray to God individualistically. In liturgical prayer, especially the Eucharist, … in all prayer, we speak not only as single individuals, but enter into that ‘us’ which is the prayerful Church”.

The liturgy, then, “is not some form of ‘self-expression’ of a community. … It means entering into that great living community in which God Himself nourishes us. The liturgy implies universality”, and it “is important for all Christians to feel that they are truly part of this universal ‘us’, which is the foundation and refuge for the ‘me’, in the Body of Christ which is the Church”.

To do this we must accept the logic of the incarnation of God, Who “came close to us, making Himself present in history and in human nature. … This presence continues in the Church, His Body. The liturgy, then, is not the recollection of past events but the living presence of Christ’s Paschal Mystery which transcends and unites time and space”.

“It is not the individual priest or member of the faithful, or the group, which celebrates the liturgy. Rather, the liturgy is primarily the action of God through the Church with all her history, her rich tradition and her creativity. This universality and fundamental openness, which is specific to all the liturgy, is one of the reasons for which it cannot be invented or modified by a single community or by experts, but must remain faithful to the forms of the universal Church”.

The Church becomes fully visible in the liturgy, the Holy Father concluded, “the act by which we believe that God enters our lives and we can encounter Him. The act in which … He comes to us and we are illuminated by Him”.

VIS 121003

“Holy, Holy, Holy” by Fr. Brandon Jones

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/12/16 at 9:50 AM

“Holy, Holy, Holy”

Fr. Brandon H. Jones

“In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.One cried out to the other: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

This vision of the prophet Isaiah is a glimpse of the heavenly liturgy, a window into the supernatural realities that occurred in the temple worship of the old covenant and even now continue in the Christian liturgy whenever the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered.

We know that before the death of Pope St. Clement in 96 AD, Christians were singing this hymn in the liturgy. In fact, if one looks at the Latin text, “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth,” we see that it transliterates a word from Hebrew, “Sabaoth,” which translates as “armies” or “hosts.” The same treatment is given to the word “Amen,” a Hebrew word, which essentially means, “so be it.” If one compares the Latin liturgical text to the Vulgate of St. Jerome from around 382 AD, we find that he translated this passage “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus exercituum,” or “Lord of armies.” The point is that the Latin liturgical text that the Church prays in the Roman Missal is older even than the Vulgate Bible of St. Jerome!

The 1973 English Translation, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,” has now been replaced with “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts.” “Hosts” are spiritual armies, myriads upon myriads of angels who protect us and adore the Lord truly present on the altar. Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI wrote, “In the celebration of Holy Mass, we insert ourselves into this liturgy that always goes before us. All our singing is a singing and praying with the great liturgy that spans the whole of creation.” (Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 152).

Added to this text from Isaiah are words spoken on the occasion of our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, found in Matthew 21 and Mark 11: “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” “Hosanna” means something like: “Come to our aid,” or “bring salvation.” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” comes from Psalm 118, which “originally formed part of Israel’s pilgrim liturgy used for greeting pilgrims as they entered the city or the Temple.” (Pope Benedict XVI,  Jesus of Nazareth, Part Two, 7).

The Holy Father explains that, “The Benedictus also entered the liturgy at a very early stage. For the infant Church, “Palm Sunday” was not a thing of the past. Just as the Lord entered the Holy City that day on a donkey, so too the Church saw him coming again and again in the humble form of bread and wine. The Church greets the Lord in the Holy Eucharist as the one who is coming now, the one who has entered into her midst. At the same time, she greets him as the one who continues to come, the one who leads us toward his coming, As pilgrims, we go up to him; as a pilgrim he comes to us and takes us up with him in his “ascent” to the Cross and Resurrection, to the definitive Jerusalem that is already growing in the midst of this world in the communion that unites us with his body.” (Ibid., 10-11).

In the Sanctus we once again see how a small alteration in the wording of the revised Missal brings us closer to the way Christians were praying almost 2000 years ago.

Rubrics by Fr. Brandon Jones

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/11/25 at 9:11 AM

“Rubrics” are directions given by the Church to the celebrant and the assembly for the proper celebration of the Liturgy. The word “rubric” derives from the Latin word, “ruber,” or “red” because in any liturgical book the rubrics are printed in red, while the actual liturgical texts are printed in black. Hence the wise maxim that, in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, we are to “say the black and do the red.”

One of the most often ignored rubrics occurs during the Creed:

All bow during these two lines:

by the power of the Holy Spirit

he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Why are we to bow at this point in the Creed? The answers comes into clearer focus when we look at the new English translation:

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and became man.

The Lord Jesus was not simply born but incarnatus est, he “was incarnate” of the Virgin Mary. Nowadays many people understand what it means when speaking of “reincarnation,” but how many of those people could speak of the Incarnation?

The beautiful Prologue of St. John’s Gospel proclaims: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory…” (John 1:14). “Incarnate” means taking on flesh: “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 463). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that the Word became flesh in order to save us by reconciling us with God, so that thus we might know God’s love, to be our model of holiness, and to make us partakers of the divine nature. (Cf. CCC 457-460). Indeed, “The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man.” (CCC 464).

Each time we sing or recite the Creed we call to mind the event in which, to quote Father Robert Barron, “the Word of God — the mind by which the whole universe came to be — did not remain sequestered in heaven but rather entered into this ordinary world of bodies, this grubby arena of history, this compromised and tear-stained human condition of ours.” Such love, such mercy on God’s part deserves our gratitude, indeed, our adoration expressed bodily. This is why the General Instruction of the Roman Missal directs that “At the words…and by the Holy Spirit…all make a profound bow; but on the Solemnities of the Annunciation and of the Nativity of the Lord, all genuflect.” (GIRM, 137). “No one, whether shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a new-born child.” (CCC 563).

I’m Father Brandon Jones and this has been a Missal Moment.