Saturday, December 1, 2012

Devotion for today: Prepare ye the way of the Lord

Memory Awakens Hope

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

“Advent is concerned with that very connection
between memory and hope which is so necessary to
 man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most
profound and emotional memory within us, namely,
 the memory of the God who became a child. This is a
 healing memory; it brings hope. The purpose of the
 Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great
history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory
so that it can discern the star of hope.”

(Seek That Which is Above, 1986)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Devotion for today: we begin with the sign

Having looked at the Mass as a whole, we now begin to look at each part. We start this great prayer as we do all prayers, with the sign of the cross.

Scriptures for meditation: Ezekiel 9:3-4
 Then the glory of the God of Israel went up from the cherub on which it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed in linen at whose loins was the writing case. The Lord said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: 2157: The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.

 Edward Sri explains: While signing ourselves, we call on God’s name, saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy spirit.” In scripture, to call on the name of the Lord denotes worship and is often associated with prayer and sacrifice. It is an ancient practice found among the earliest followers of the Lord. Adam’s son Seth and his descendants are described as calling on the name of the Lord when he is erecting altars to God and consecrating the land promised to him (Gen 12:8, see 21-33). His son Isaac calls on the Lord’s name when he builds an altar at Beersheba (Gn 26-25). In Scripture, a name is not merely a conventional way of referring to a particular person. A name mysteriously represents the essence of a person and carries the power of that person. Therefore, to call upon God’s name is to invoke his presence and his power. This is why the ancient Israelites frequently called upon the name of the Lord, not only to praise him (Ps 148:13) and thank him (Ps 80:18, 105:1), but also to seek his help in their lives (Ps 54:1; 124:8)… This sheds much light on the Sign of the Cross at Mass. At the start of the liturgy, we invite God into our lives in a powerful way. We solemnly call on his name, invoking his divine presence and power. It is as if we are consecrating the next hour or so of our lives to the Lord and saying that everything we do in the Mass, we do in his name. All that we do – our thoughts, desires, prayers, and actions – we do not do on our own, but “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Moreover, like the Israelites of old who invoked the divine name as they worshiped the Lord, we reverently call on God’s name, asking for his help as we prepare to enter into the sacred mysteries of the Mass. (A Biblical Walk through the Mass, Ascension Press, 2010)
 Not my thoughts today, but that of Roman Guardini:
When we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large unhurried sign, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us, our thoughts, our attitudes, our body and soul, every part of us at once, how it consecrates and sanctifies us…Make a large cross, taking time, thinking about what you do. Let it take in your whole being – body, soul, mind, will, thoughts, feelings, your doing and your not doing – and by signing it with the cross strengthen and consecrate the whole in the strength of Christ in the name of the triune God. (Roman Guardini, Sacred Signs, Pio Decimo Press, 1954)
Prayer: Protect me, Lord, as I mark myself with the sign of the Cross. Know me as your faithful follower, a seeker of your will. Seal me with the sign of your power and might, and let me be a visible sign to the world of your love and grace. I ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord. Amen (Sandy Bertini)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Devotion for today: One Mass, two parts, one history

Scripture for meditation: Mark 13:1-2
 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” “Do you see all these great buildings?” replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: 1408: The Eucharistic celebration always includes: the proclamation of the Word of God; thanksgiving to God the Father for all his benefits, above all the gift of his Son; the consecration of bread and wine; and participation in the liturgical banquet by receiving the Lord’s body and blood. These elements constitute one single act of worship.

Pope Benedict XVI tells us: We have to bear in mind that Jewish worship had two elements. One was the sacrificial worship in the Temple, where in accordance with what the law prescribed, the various sacrifices were offered. Side by side with this Temple worship, which took place, and could only take place, in Jerusalem, a second element was steadily developing: the synagogue, which could be set up anywhere. Here the service of the word was celebrated, the Holy Scriptures were read, the Psalms were sung, people joined in praising God, hearing the Word of God interpreted, and making petitions to God. After the Resurrection of Jesus, his followers ceased to take part in the sacrificial cult in the Temple. They could no longer do so, for the curtain in the Temple was torn, that is, the Temple was empty. It was no longer that stone building that was the Temple, but the Lord, who had opened himself to the Father as a living Temple and had opened a way for the Father, from himself, into humanity. In place of the Temple there is the Eucharist, since Christ is the true Paschal Lamb; everything that ever took place in the Temple has been fulfilled in him,
But while, for this reason, the disciples no longer shared in the bloody sacrifices of the Temple but celebrated the new Paschal Lamb in their stead, they continued to take part in the synagogue worship just as before. The Bible of Israel was, after all, the Bible of Jesus Christ. They knew that the whole of the Holy Scriptures, law and prophets, was talking about him; they therefore tried to read this holy book of their fathers, together with Israel, as referring to Jesus and thus to open Israel’s heart to Jesus. They continued to sing the Psalms with Israel, so as thus to sing them with Jesus, and from within the New Covenant, to open up a way to understanding them from the standpoint of Christ. Yet at the same time we can follow, in the texts of the New Testament, that tragic path which was to lead eventually to the breakdown of what remained of unity with Israel.
Christians were unable to persuade Israel to read the Bible as the word of Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ. The synagogue rapidly closed itself against such an interpretation of Holy Scripture, and toward the end of the first century the break was complete. It was no longer possible to understand Scripture in company with Jesus within the synagogue. Thus Israel and the Church stood separate, side by side. The Church had become an independent entity. Since she could now no longer share in Israel’s service of the word, she had to perform her own. This meant necessarily that the two halves of the Liturgy, hitherto separate, came together: the service of the Word became united with the Eucharistic worship; and now that this had taken on the shape of fully developed Christian worship, and the Church was now fully the Church, the whole thing was relocated to Sunday morning, the time of the Resurrection; the logic of the Resurrection had worked itself out. The basic Christian form of worship, as we keep it up to the present day in the Church’s Eucharist, was thereby completed. (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God is Near Us, The Eucharist, The Heart of Life; Ignatius Press,2001)

My thoughts:  I never knew this, did you? So now we know how our liturgy was put together, and how far back it dates, and why it has readings and prayers and sacrifice. We know people must be gathered for the prayers and sacrifice as our Jewish family did since the time of Moses, and we know that Jesus did not come to replace the Old Testament, but to fulfill it. As you enter Mass, allow the richness of its heritage to overwhelm you. You are part of the tradition of the Old Testament, and part of its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Awesome!

Prayer: Praise and Thanksgiving
 We praise you dear God for creating us in all our diversity. For the gift of our many cultures, languages, diverse expressions of belief, customs, traditions, and ethnicities we thank you! We thank you for the many church traditions which have kept our communities strong and active even in places where they are a minority. Teach us to celebrate our different identities and traditions, so as to forge bonds of friendship and fellowship leading us to greater unity. (Taken from the international version of the text
of the Week of Prayer 2013.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Devotion for today: Let us sing!

In our study of the Sacred Liturgy, we come now to the Opening Hymn and a general discussion on the history of music at Mass.

Scripture for meditation: Colossians 3:16
 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Ephesians 5:19: …speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: 1157: Song and music fulfill their function as signs in a manner all the more significant when they are “more closely connected…with the liturgical action, according to three principal criteria: beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration." In this way they participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.

Bishop Olmsted provides us with a short history of liturgical music:
The Second Vatican Council proclaimed that “the musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 112). This led the Council fathers to decree that “the treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care” (ibid. 114).

Sacred Music in Judaism before Christ
The dual task of preserving and fostering sacred music remains a crucial one for the Church today. But to understand what the Council is asking of us, we must not only know what sacred music is in general but also how the Church has carried out this endeavor in history. The Church inherited the psalms of the Old Testament as her basic prayer and hymn book for worship. With these sacred texts she also adopted the mode of singing that had been established during the development of the psalms: a way of articulated singing with a strong reference to a text, with or without instrumental accompaniment, which German historian Martin Hengel has called “sprechgesang” — “sung- speech”. This choice in Israel’s history signaled a concrete decision for a specific way of singing, which was a rejection of the frenzied and intoxicating music of the neighboring and threatening pagan cults. This way of singing the psalms, traditionally viewed as established by King David (cf. II Sam 6:5), disrupted only by the Babylonian exile, remained in use at the coming of Christ. Sung with respect to and during sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem, the early Jewish Christians assumed this tradition into the sacrifice of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Sacred Music in the Early Church
After Pentecost, the first centuries of the Church’s life were marked by the encounter of what was a Jewish-Semitic reality with the Greek-Roman world. A dramatic struggle ensued between, on one hand, openness to new cultural forms and, on the other, what was irrevocably part of Christian faith. For the first time, the Church had to preserve her sacred music, and then foster it. Although early Greek-style songs quickly became part of the Church’s life (e.g., the prologue of John and the Philippians hymn, 2:5-11), this new music was so tightly linked to dangerous gnostic beliefs that the Church decided to prohibit its use. This temporary pruning of the Church’s sacred music to the traditional form of the psalms led to previously unimaginable creativity: Gregorian chant — for the first millennium — and then, gradually, polyphony and hymns arose. In preserving the forms that embodied her true identity, the Church made it possible for wonderful growth to be fostered, such that centuries after that original restriction, the Second Vatican Council boldly proclaimed that her treasury of sacred music is of more value than any other of her artistic contributions.

Preserving, Fostering through the Centuries
In this remarkable process in which the Church navigated her encounter with Greek culture and then other cultures, we see the same basic pattern that Vatican II decreed for sacred music: she first preserves, then she fosters. The early Church had to first preserve the basic form of Christian faith that constituted her very identity — an identity that was inseparable from specific cultural (i.e., Jewish) artistic forms (i.e., the music of the psalms). Thus she was able to foster new forms of sacred music that, organically and gradually springing from older forms, authentically expressed Christian faith in new cultural forms…

The Task for Today
…The authentic renewal of sacred music is not a question of merely copying the past, but even less is it one of ignoring it. Rather, it is one of preserving the past and fostering new forms grown organically from it. This is a truly great and essential task, entrusted in a particular way to pastors and sacred artists. Preserving the old forms, fostering new growth: this is how a gardener cares for a plant, how Christ tends our souls, how the Church’s sacred music — carefully preserved — is able to surprise us and more importantly glorify God with new and delightful growth.

My thoughts: The early Church kept its tradition of singing the Psalms which it carried over from its Jewish roots. Slowly, as the Church received all people into its ranks, it opened its doors to new forms of music, until we find the music at our Mass: a combination of sung prayers and hymns. To open the Mass, we sing! We pray in a different form, uniting our voices to those around us as our forefathers did. We praise God from our hearts in a way only music can inspire. We must always see the importance in our singing, for as St. Augustine tells us: Singing is praying twice. Let us not be afraid to open our hearts and let our emotions run into our prayer as we sing the glory and praise of the Lord. It is His sacrifice that we are attending, and His memorial that we carry on. “Sing to the mountains, sing to the seas, lift your voices, raise your hearts!” (words taken from the hymn by Bob Duford).



Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Devotion for today: Gather the people

Scripture for meditation: Galatians 3:26-28
 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is] neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: 1348: All gather together. Christians come together in one place for the Eucharistic assembly. At its head is Christ himself, the principal agent of the Eucharist. He is high priest of the New Covenant; it is he himself who presides invisibly over every Eucharistic celebration. It is in representing him that the bishop or priest acting in the person of Christ the head (in persona Christi capitis) presides over the assembly, speaks after the readings, receives the offerings, and says the Eucharistic Prayer. All have their own active parts to play in the celebration, each in his own way: readers, those who bring up the offerings, those who give communion and the whole people whose "Amen" manifests their participation.

Fr. Robert Barron tells us: In a certain sense, the Mass commences with a gathering of the people. They come from all walks of life, from different social and educational backgrounds, from a variety of economic strata, with differing levels of moral excellence, and from both genders – and they all form the community gathered around the altar of Christ. In this diversity, they form an eschatological icon of God’s holy people. The fallen world is marked by division, separation, stratification; we sinners are intensely interested in questions of priority and exclusivity: Who is in and who is out…. When Dorothy Day was considering her conversion to Catholicism, she would attend Sunday Mass. Though the Liturgy was in a language she didn't know, and though its central action was surrounded by much baroque decoration, she was deeply impressed by the fact that both the rich and the poor, both the educated and the uneducated, both the housekeeper and the grande dame attended, kneeling side by side. The Catholic historian, Christopher Dawson, upon telling his mother that he was converting to the Catholic faith from his native Anglicanism was met with this response, “It’s not so much the doctrines that concern me; it’s that now you’ll be worshipping with the help!” (Catholicism, Image Books, 2011)

My thoughts: As you enter your pew and begin to prepare for the Mass to begin, take a look around you. See the scriptures come alive right before your very eyes. What did Jesus do when he gave the Sermon on the Mount? He gathered the people. What did Jesus say when the apostles tried to keep the children, the poor, the sick, the sinners away from him? “Let them come unto me.” What did Jesus do on the night he was betrayed? He gathered his apostles around him. There is room at the Mass for everyone, even the greatest sinner. Our Liturgy begins with all of us coming together, just as in the Old Testament, when Moses, and Joshua, and Elijah the prophet, and all the OT greats, would gather the people before giving a word from God. We have gathered to share our faith, our belief, and our desire to hear the word of God and live it, to receive the bread of life and go forth renewed and refreshed. The assembly in which you are sitting is holy, chosen by God. Pray for everyone gathered around you, and remember that the word “Mass” means “sending forth” to spread the good news of the gospel. We are not a private faith. Through the Mass, we share in each other’s lives.

Prayer for the Church
Heavenly Father, look upon our community of faith which is the Church of your Son Jesus Christ.
Help us to witness to his love by loving all our fellow creatures without exception.
Under the leadership of the Holy Father and the Bishops, keep us faithful to Christ's mission of calling all men and women to your service so that there may be "one fold and one shepherd." We ask this through Christ, our Lord.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Devotion for today: The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: The Mass of all ages

Today, in our Year of Faith study series, we will begin a detailed look at the Mass, the ultimate Catholic expression of love and sacrifice.

Scripture for meditation: Luke 24:30-35
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: 1345 As early as the second century we have the witness of St. Justin Martyr for the basic lines of the order of the Eucharistic celebration. They have stayed the same until our own day for all the great liturgical families. St. Justin wrote to the pagan emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) around the year 155, explaining what Christians did:

On the day we call the day of the sun, all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place.
The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits.
When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things.
Then we all rise together and offer prayers* for ourselves . . . and for all others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our life and actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation.
When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss.
Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren.
He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks (in Greek: eucharistian) that we have been judged worthy of these gifts.
When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying: 'Amen.'
When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the "eucharisted" bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent. (St. Justin, Apol. 1,65-67)

1346 The liturgy of the Eucharist unfolds according to a fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day. It displays two great parts that form a fundamental unity:
- the gathering, the liturgy of the Word, with readings, homily and general intercessions;
- the liturgy of the Eucharist, with the presentation of the bread and wine, the consecratory thanksgiving, and communion.
The liturgy of the Word and liturgy of the Eucharist together form "one single act of worship"; the Eucharistic table set for us is the table both of the Word of God and of the Body of the Lord.
1347 Is this not the same movement as the Paschal meal of the risen Jesus with his disciples? Walking with them he explained the Scriptures to them; sitting with them at table "he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them."

My thoughts: Many of us today sleep-walk through the Mass. We go out of habit or out of fear of mortal sin. Most of us, on some level, go to give thanks to God as well. Most of us, however, have no idea of the profound wonder that surrounds us from the moment the Mass begins, until the final exhortation to “Go in peace.” Through our study of the Mass, I hope we all develop a new and amazing sense of awe at what takes place every time we participate at Mass. We learn today that the very form we follow is the one followed for ages. We are doing what Christ did at the Last Supper and on the road to Emmaus. Let us open our eyes and hearts and be filled with wonder at what we are about to learn. I suggest trying to attend at least one extra Mass a week during our study to fill your mind and soul with the mysteries that are about to unfold. It is a study worth taking the time to learn.

By Saint Thomas Aquinas
ALMIGHTY and ever-lasting God, I approach the sacrament of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I come sick to the doctor of life, unclean to the fountain of mercy, blind to the radiance of eternal light, and poor and needy to the Lord of heaven and earth. Therefore, I implore Thee in Thy great generosity, to heal my sickness, to wash away my defilement, enlighten my blindness, to enrich my poverty, and to clothe my nakedness, so that I may receive the bread of angels, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords with reverence and humility, with contrition and devotion, with purity and faith, and with such purpose and determination that will be expedient to the salvation of my soul. Grant me, I beseech Thee, that I may not only receive the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, but also the reality and power of the Sacrament. O most kind God, grant that I may receive the Body of Thine only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, and so received that I may be worthy to be incorporated into His mystical body, and numbered among His members. O most loving Father, grant me Thy beloved Son, which I now receive under the veil of a sacrament, that I may one day behold Him face to face in glory, Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever. Amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Devotion for today: Christ is King!

Preface for the Mass for Christ the King of the Universe

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For you anointed your Only Begotten Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
with the oil of gladness as eternal Priest and King of all creation,
so that, by offering himself on the altar of the Cross
as a spotless sacrifice to bring us peace,
he might accomplish the mysteries of human redemption, and,
making all created things subject to his rule,
he might present to the immensity of your majesty,
an eternal and universal kingdom,
a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace,
a kingdom of justice, love and peace.

And so, with the Angels and Archangels, with thrones and Dominions,
and with all the hosts and Powers of heaven,
we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of hosts,
heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
Hosanna in the highest.