Category Archives: Liturgy

Protestant Objections to Ash Wednesday

AshWednesday

-by Fred Noltie, author “The Accidental Catholic

“Some Protestants suggest that Jesus’s words in Matthew 6:17 are an unconditional prohibition of the use of ashes in association with fasting (and presumably that their use at the beginning of Lent is therefore unwarranted):

But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face. (Matthew 6:17)

For them it seems pretty clear that any use of ashes in association with fasting contradicts what Jesus says here and therefore constitutes disobedience to Him. This conclusion is unwarranted.

The quotation is taken from the Sermon on the Mount. Elsewhere in the same sermon the Lord Jesus says this:

So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. [Matthew 5:16]

Jesus says that one of the proper effects of our good works is to serve as a witness to others, so that they will come to glorify God as we do ourselves. This being the case it is likewise clear that to hide one’s good works at all times and in every case amounts to a direct contradiction of what He says here. We may reasonably conclude that our good works are good not just for our own souls but also for the souls of others.

The next thought to consider is whether fasting qualifies as a “good work.” I believe that this goes without saying. It is unquestionably a good work when done for the right reason: namely, as a sign of our penitence before God. I ask, then, whether there is any reason to suppose that fasting is a good work that we should let other men see? In light of Matthew 5:16 is it reasonable for others to see our penitence? Yes. There is good reason to suppose that fasting should at least sometimes be seen by others. Why? Because it is a sign of penitence, and it is absurd to suppose that men would always and only be harmed by seeing our penitence. Indeed, the fact of our repentance could very reasonably be understood by others as a reason that they too should be sorry before God for their own sins.

So fasting is a good work, and it is perfectly reasonable to hold that others may benefit from seeing us fast, and thereby come to glorify our Father who is in heaven (as Matthew 5:16 says). But fasting is something that isn’t immediately obvious. We can’t look at a man and thereby know that he is fasting. Hence the value of the sign of ashes, which are a visible sign of the inward realities of penitence and fasting. Contrary to being an evil thing, an external sign of penitence is a good thing precisely because it shows to other men that we are penitent—something that is a good work, and which therefore (in keeping with the Lord’s command in Matthew 5:16) we ought (at least sometimes) to let men see so that they too may glorify God with us.

What shall we say, then, about Matthew 6:17? Does this view of penitence as something that should at least occasionally be seen contradict what the Lord says there? No it does not. To see this we need only look at its context:

“Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when you do an alms-deed, sound not a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does. That your alms may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But you when you shall pray, enter into your chamber, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret, and your father who sees in secret will repay you. … And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face; that you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father who is in secret: and your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.”                      –[Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18; emphasis added]

In context the Lord’s point is clear: when we do good, and when we give alms, and when we pray, and when we fast, our goal must not be to gain the approval of men, and we must not be hypocritical: that is, our good deeds, alms, prayers, and fasting must be genuine. In this light there is no conflict at all between the Lord’s prior command (in Matthew 5:16) to let men see our good works and these commands. We do good not for the sake of the praise of others and not as hypocrites but out of love for God, and in the hope that if men do see them, they will be moved to glorify God with us. So the point with regard to fasting (in Matthew 6:17) is not that ashes are simply out of bounds, but that we must be truly penitent.

The alternatives are ridiculous. It is absurd to think that public prayer is always hypocritical. It is absurd to think that hypocrisy is always present if a man makes known his penitence by means of ashes. Furthermore the Lord at least tacitly commends the use of ashes as a sign of penitence when He said this:

Woe to you, Corozain, woe to you, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [Matthew 11:21]

Jesus says here that sackcloth and ashes are signs of the genuine repentance that would have been found in Tyre and Sidon. Consequently it is clear that He considered the use of ashes as a sign of genuine penitence to be a good thing and not evil. So the use of ashes by Catholics on Ash Wednesday is not a violation of what the Lord says in Matthew 6:17 unless a particular Catholic or other is hypocritical in receiving them. If he is not genuinely penitent, or if he receives the ashes merely for the sake of being seen to receive them, then he would indeed be violating what the Lord has said.”

Love,
Matthew

Carry the fire…

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“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” 2 Tim 1:6


-by Br Michael Mary Weibley, OP

“‘You have to carry the fire.”

“I don’t know how to.”

“Yes you do.”

“Is it real? The fire?”

“Yes it is.”

“Where is it? I don’t know where it is.”

“Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it.”

This conversation between a father and son in Cormac McCarthy’s (Pulitzer Prize winning) novel The Road reveals an essential truth about perseverance and survival: there has to be something within us that moves us onward, something beyond sheer willpower and effort. This conversation comes near the end of the story where the father and son have crossed an ash-covered post-apocalyptic world, in search of shelter, food, and security from the perils of darkened nature all around them, both of man and earth. The father’s dying words are meant to encourage his son who must continue down the road on his own, carrying only the fire.

Ash Wednesday issues in a rather darkened sentiment to the Lenten season. No other liturgical season focuses on penitential practices and the journey motif as much as Lent does. Drawing us back to the Israelites’ forty-year journey through the desert toward the Promised Land, Lent brings us down the road of our own journey to our own Promised Land. Cast into the world of ash, we are to travel our own road, facing the perils of our own selves—sin, ignorance, weakness—searching in hope and looking down the road for the Resurrection of the Lord.

Like the son in the story, we don’t always see the fire and what it does for us. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize how God is working in us and guiding our lives. Often times it is only when the wind kicks up and the ash is thrown in our face do we recognize whether we are carrying the fire or not. When suffering occurs in our lives, we are able to test whether we can move onward or whether we will stall languidly in the road. Suffering makes us stop in the road and forces us to look ahead. “Where is my God amidst this ashen world?” This is the question Ash Wednesday asks us.

God does not send us down any road without His grace. No matter whatever road He chooses for us, and no matter the turns we take, as long as we remain with Him we trust that His grace is with us. The fire is with us. Covered in ash, we set out during Lent to find God again, to turn toward Him more fully, and to open ourselves more perfectly to His work in our lives. None of this is accomplished by our own efforts, but He gives us the fire to carry it out along the way.

Looking down the road can be dark. We don’t always see the end or even the next step in front of us. That is why God gives us the fire to carry. When we hold it up we can see the road illumined in a new way. We can see Christ suffering. We can see His Passion. We can see His Cross. We can see all these things, and we can look through them and see at the end of the ash-covered road, the Resurrection of the Lord.”

Love,
Matthew

Feb 4 – St Catharine de Ricci, OSD(OP) & Lent approacheth…

Sr Mary of the Compassion, OP

Given the brutality we have witnessed of late on the news, I turned off the sound so Mara wouldn’t hear.  Her reading is not to a discomforting level yet for her parents.  I can’t help but feel human suffering is more palpable now, than perhaps I have felt before?  We NEED to pray!  I NEED to pray!  It gets me through the day.  It really does.  Lord, keep us ever mindful of Your Passion.  Ever Mindful.

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– by Br Irenaeus Dunleavy, OP

Today the Dominican Order celebrates the feast of St. Catherine de Ricci. She’s known for her mysticism and her devotion, as found in her Canticum de Passione Domini. The studentate has translated and recorded the chant for you.

Watch the video above, sung by the student brothers in Ireland, of the canticle of the Passion of Our Lord. It was revealed to Catherine immediately after her first great ecstasy of the Passion. Our Lady desired Catherine to spread it as a form of prayer and contemplation for the salvation of souls. Below is the text from the canticle which is traditionally chanted by Dominicans on Good Friday.

My friends and loved ones
draw near to me and stand aloof

I am shut up and I cannot come forth
mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction

and my sweat became
like drops of blood falling down on the ground

For dogs have compassed me
the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me

I gave my back to the smiters
and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair

I hid not my face from shame
and from those who spit on me

I am feeble and sore broken
I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart

The soldiers platted a crown of thorns
and put it on my head

They pierced my hands and my feet
I may tell all my bones

They gave me poison to eat
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink

All they that see me laugh me to scorn
they shoot out the lip, they shake the head

They look and stare upon me
they part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture

into your hands I command my spirit
redeem me, Lord, God of truth.

Remember your servant, O Lord.
when you come into your kingdom

Jesus cried with a loud voice
yielded up the ghost

The Mercy of the Lord
I will sing for ever

Surely he hath borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows

He was wounded for our transgressions
he was bruised for our iniquities

All we like sheep gave gone astray
we have turned every one to his own way

And the Lord hath laid on him
the iniquities of us all

Awake, why do you sleep, O Lord?
arise, and do not cast us off for ever

Awake, why do you sleep, O Lord?
arise, and do not cast us off for ever

Behold, God is my Savior
I will trust, and not be afraid

We ask you, come to help your servants
whom you have redeemed by your perilous blood.

V. Have mercy on us, O benign Jesus. R. Who in Thy clemency didst suffer for us.

Look down, we beseech Thee, O Lord, on this Thy family for which Our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to be delivered into the hands of the wicked, and suffer the torments of the Cross. Amen.

The Canticum de Passione Domini consists of two-line verses from Scripture, both from the Old and New Testaments, which a solo cantor chants in Gregorian mode II (2) while kneeling before the crucifix. The solemn, sorrowful melody pulses like the heavy breathing of the dying Christ, and the silence between verses hangs with the gravity of Calvary. The span of time that passes between the verses communicates the reality that God inspired the words of David, always knowing that Christ’s crucifixion would fulfill them. As God was granting the Israelites their kingdom and building the temple, He was also announcing that He, the true King and Temple, would be torn down.

Yet, Christians know that what was torn down was rebuilt in three days. Friday is perfected by Sunday. Those who die with Christ also rise with Him. From the moment of Baptism we are taken up into the Body of Christ. We begin to live like St. Paul who says, “And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20).

Christ’s presence within St. Paul was so profound that Paul bear[s] the marks of the Lord Jesus in [his] body (Gal 6:17). He is possibly the first saint of the Church to bear the stigmata. Another popular account of the stigmata is that of the Dominican St. Catherine of Siena, but less known are the wounds of her religious sister St. Catherine de Ricci.

There’s an interesting relationship between the two Dominican saints. They share the same name, the same mystical visions, and the same wounds. Look for a painting of St. Catherine de Ricci and try to distinguish her from St. Catherine of Siena. They almost seem to be the same person. This is because both women had a devotion to Christ crucified. Just as Christ was joined to the cross with His wounds, so too these saintly women were joined to Jesus by His wounds. It was de Ricci’s love and union with Christ Crucified that led her to compose the devotion we shared above.

The divine favors that both Catherines received announce the presence of Christ, suffering in His Body the Church. While you or I will likely never encounter such miracles, the reality of Christ’s presence within His faithful people should not be overlooked. It should be seen through the eyes of faith. The baptized are taken up into Christ and adjured to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. By this, the sufferings of this world are no longer meaningless. God has taken on our sufferings and transformed them into the bridge that connects man to God.

Those who mocked Christ on the Cross, beckoning Him to come down, were ignorant of what was being accomplished – His life was not being taken, but He was laying it down for His friends. What kept Jesus on the Cross was not the nails, but His love. No one else possesses the power to choose his or her own afflictions; we are passive in suffering. Yet, the baptized can join St. Catherine’s example. She meditated on the Passion of Our Lord not because it was something that happened in the past, but it was an event that pervaded time, up to her present and up to our present. Christ continues to suffer in His members. Those in the Church, who unite their sufferings to His wounds, are brought up into something greater than themselves.

Pope Benedict explains,

This liberation of our “I”… means finding oneself within the vastness of God and being drawn into a life. . . . [By the Resurrection] we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. . . . This is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian.

St. Paul’s own words, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me,” were taken up again by St. Catherine of Siena and St. Catherine de Ricci, marking their own lives. Their similarity of life, their union in the wounds of Christ, bear great witness to the living reality of Jesus in His mystical Body, the Church. They also beckon us all to look to the Passion in prayer. Then, seeing what Christ did two thousand years ago, we can see what Jesus continues to do within us.

Love,
Matthew

Te Deum

The Te Deum (also known as Ambrosian Hymn or A Song of the Church) is an early Christian hymn of praise. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, Te Deum laudamus, rendered as “Thee, O God, we praise”.

The hymn remains in regular use in the Catholic Church in the Office of Readings found in the Lilturgy of the Hours, and in thanksgiving to God for a special blessing such as the election of a pope, the consecration of a bishop, the canonization of a saint, a religious profession, the publication of a treaty of peace, a royal coronation, etc. It is sung either after Mass or the Divine Office or as a separate religious ceremony. The hymn also remains in use in the Anglican Communion and some Lutheran Churches in similar settings.

In the traditional Office, the Te Deum is sung at the end of Matins on all days when the Gloria is said at Mass; those days are all Sundays outside Advent, Septuagesima, Lent, and Passiontide; on all feasts (except the Triduum) and on all ferias during Eastertide. Before the 1962 reforms, neither the Gloria nor the Te Deum were said on the feast of the Holy Innocents, unless it fell on Sunday, as they were martyred before the death of Christ and therefore could not immediately attain the beatific vision.  A plenary indulgence is granted, under the usual conditions, to those who recite it in public on New Year’s Eve.

In the Liturgy of the Hours of Pope Paul VI, the Te Deum is sung at the end of the Office of Readings on all Sundays except those of Lent, on all solemnities, on the octaves of Easter and Christmas, and on all feasts. It is also used together with the standard canticles in Morning Prayer as prescribed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, in Matins for Lutherans, and is retained by many other churches of the Reformed tradition.

It is traditional for Catholic martyrs to sing the Te Deum before execution, or saints-to-be to sing it after some great tragedy, misfortune, or great joy.  

  • St Marguerite d’Youville instructed her sisters to kneel in the snow and ashes after the hospital they built in Quebec burned to ashes, to begin again.    
  • Franciscan Missionaries of Mary intoned it before being hacked to death in the Boxer Rebellion.
  • St Marie-Victoire Therese Couderc reported in one her visions the poor souls of Purgatory came to her in her vision and sang the Te Deum.
  • St Edmund Campion, SJ & his companions sang the Te Deum in court upon hearing the verdict of their condemnation.
  • As part of their punishment, St Paul Miki, SJ, & companions were forced to march 600 miles to their execution while singing the Te Deum.

That is what Catholic martyrs do prior to imminent death, they SING!!!!  THEY SING AS THEY WILL FOR ALL ETERNITY!!!!

BrHumbertKilanowski
-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (prior to joining the Order, Br Humbert earned a doctorate in mathematics from Ohio State University.)

“For centuries, the Church has had the custom of singing a hymn of thanks and praise, the Te Deum, at major events. In addition to being part of the Liturgy of the Hours for Sundays and feast days, including every day this week during the Octave of Christmas, this hymn is sung at papal installations and episcopal consecrations; we sang it here at the House of Studies this year upon the election of our new prior. According to legend, the great hymnographer St. Ambrose composed it when he baptized his most famous convert, St. Augustine. But while some liturgical books call it the Hymnus Sanctorum Ambrosii et Augustini (the Hymn of Saints Ambrose and Augustine), it was most likely written by another fourth-century bishop, Nicetas of Remisiana.

In this hymn, we on earth join in the praise of God by all the ranks of heaven: “To you all angels, all the powers of heaven, Cherubim and Seraphim sing in endless praise;” and we recall the life and events of Jesus Christ, the divine Son, who “overcame the sting of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” Even those unfamiliar with the original Latin hymn or its literal English translation may recognize a poetic translation, such as “God, We Praise You” or “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.”

Moreover, the Church grants a plenary indulgence for praying the Te Deum in public, and some places have taken up this custom. My home parish, for example, features the hymn after an hour of Eucharistic adoration and before a Mass at midnight. What better way could there be to make the transition from one year to the next than to spend time in prayer, thanking God for the gifts and blessings of the past year and starting a new one free from the punishment of sin, with the hope that the newborn Savior provides?

Truly, it is fitting therefore that the year turns over during Christmas time, as the Te Deum proclaims: “When you became man to set us free, you did not spurn the Virgin’s womb.” This “marvelous exchange” (admirabile commercium)—as the Church’s liturgy prays this evening, in which God the Son took on our human nature to the fullest, even having a human birth from His virgin mother Mary, in order that we may share in His divinity—is definitely a cause for celebration and praise. As we review and reflect on the many gifts that God has given each of us this past year, let us also ponder the greatest gift—the birth of the Son that makes friendship with God possible—and give God thanks and praise, asking Him, as the hymn concludes, to “bring us with Your saints to glory everlasting.”

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus Apostolorum chorus,
Te Prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
Te Martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum
sancta confitetur Ecclesia,
Patrem immensae maiestatis:
Venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium;
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu Rex gloriae, Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti Virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni:
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.

[added later, mainly from Psalm verses:]
Salvum fac populum tuum,
Domine, et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos, et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te,
Et laudamus Nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua,
Domine, super nos, quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi:
non confundar in aeternum.

We praise Thee, O God ,
we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship Thee,
the Father everlasting.
To Thee all Angels cry aloud,
the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To Thee Cherubim and Seraphim,
continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of Hosts;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty,
of Thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles, praise Thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets, praise Thee.
The noble army of Martyrs, praise Thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world,
doth acknowledge Thee;
The Father, of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true, and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son, of the Father.
When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man,
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.
When Thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
Thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come, to be our Judge.
We therefore pray Thee, help Thy servants,
whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with Thy Saints, in glory everlasting.

[added later, mainly from Psalm verses:]
O Lord, save Thy people,
and bless Thine heritage.
Govern them, and lift them up for ever.
Day by day, we magnify Thee;
And we worship Thy Name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let Thy mercy lighten upon us,
as our trust is in Thee.
O Lord, in Thee have I trusted,
let me never be confounded.”

So, I don’t know about vous, but I am not totally convinced we have made great progress with the more contemporary Glory & Praise hymnals since Messrs Haydn, Bach, Pergolesi, Charpentier, & Mozart, no?  🙂

glory&praise

But, you know, Catholic Sunday Mass, whatevs cheapest/easiest.  Which parishioner is willing to belt anything/something/”all are welcome/kumbaya, Tammy Wynette cover band, and I personally LOVE Tammy Wynette, just maybe NOT for Mass?” for free?    It’ll do, as if anything wouldn’t.  Sometimes silence is just more solemn/reverent.  🙂

Love & worthy songs of Praise!,
Matthew

Dec 24 – Protestant Existential Angst with Christmas

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-Santa Calvin, by the author

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-by Br Bonaventure Chapman, OP (prior to joining the Order, Br Bonaventure received an M.Th. in Applied Theology from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, where he studied for the Anglican priesthood.)

“Tomorrow is the day that every child (young and old!) has been waiting for: Christmas. We keep vigil on this Eve of the Nativity and anxiously await the celebration of Christ’s first coming in humility, with anticipation for his second coming in glory. Who would deny such a celebration to the Church? Surprisingly, some bearing the name Christian!

When in 1519 Huldrych Zwingli took to his pulpit in the newly Reformed city of Zurich, he did not follow the custom of preaching from the lectionary but began with Matthew’s Gospel and preached through the whole book, in what became known as lectio continua.

Holy days and feasts were ignored in this Scripture-centered form of worship. The most famous Reformer, John Calvin, largely followed Zwingli’s tradition: the city of Geneva had stopped celebrating holy days outside of Sunday. Even Christmas was not to be commemorated in any special way. On Christmas Day 1550, Calvin welcomed a larger than usual church crowd with the following:

“Now I see here today more people than I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas Day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel.”

The Puritans in England under Oliver Cromwell would go even further: in 1647 the English Parliament officially abolished celebrating Christmas. The Puritans of New England largely followed suit. In Massachusetts a fine was even imposed on those caught celebrating in secret!

Why this Christmas animus? The Westminster Confession of Faith offers a Protestant principle cited for such a suppression:

“The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture. (WCF XI.1)”

Christmas Day, December 25th, is not in the Scriptures; therefore, it is not to be celebrated – the simplicity of sola scriptura strikes again!

Happily the majority of modern Protestant churches do not follow their fathers in faith, even if the denial of Christmas liturgy does follow this Protestant principle quite naturally and straightforwardly. Yet, as with many Protestant beliefs, sometimes simplicity is simply too simple for reality. (Ed. It is generally known, the intelligentsia of Europe did not defect during the Reformation.)

Take, for instance, the Protestant detestation of any notion of mediation between God and man in the sacraments of the Church. The Protestant claim of immediacy between God and man sounds simpler, but what of this mortal flesh and physical world we find ourselves surrounded by: all a dream, a vision, an unreality? What of the Incarnation of Jesus, the taking on of this supposedly unseemly medium of creatureliness? It strikes me, at least, that the Catholic teaching on mediation in sacraments, among other things, is exactly and simply right. We are creatures of space and matter. If we are to be met at all, it will be in this space and this matter.

But we are not only creatures of space; we are also creatures of time. St. Augustine, in his famous discourse on time in his Confessions, admits as much: “I confess to you, Lord, that I still do not know what time is, and I further confess to you, Lord, that as I say this I know myself to be conditioned by time” (XI.xxv.32). And this conditioning by time is part of the fabric of the cosmos. As Joseph Ratzinger says in The Spirit of the Liturgy: “Time is a cosmic reality. The orbiting of the sun by the earth… gives existence the rhythm that we call time.” This means, Ratzinger continues, that “man lives with the stars. The course of the sun and the moon leave its mark on his life.”

While the rhythms of time make up creatureliness in general, they especially mark man. We are creatures enveloped by time. We remember the past, perceive the present, and anticipate the future in ways that other animals, let alone plants and stars, can only be represented as doing in fictional and fabulous tales.

For just this reason God seeks to meet us in temporal fashion as the Church celebrates the rhythms of salvation history in time. Seasonal cycles bring about ecclesial and personal remembrances and anticipations of God’s mighty deeds. We, lowly creatures of time, are being educated into God’s time of salvation in preparation for the eternal now of heaven. Worship is about the changing seasons and the developing of God’s story in time and beyond it. As Ratzinger reminds us: “The liturgy is the means by which earthly time is inserted into the time of Jesus Christ and into its present.”

Thus the Church rightly celebrates the Seasons and Holy Days of the Church calendar, and our anticipation on Christmas Eve as children, waiting for the decorated dawn of morning, is taken up in the liturgy in our anticipation of the second coming of Christ. We, creatures of time, need particular Holy Days and Seasons just as we, creatures of space, need particular sacraments and signs. And thankfully God has given us the gift of liturgical time with its special celebrations – especially Christmas, that liturgical day of remembering when God took on human flesh and dwelt amongst us.

This post started off polemically, but on a day such as this, the Eve of our Savior’s birth, perhaps it is fitting to end on a more irenic note with some words from one of John Calvin’s Christmas Sermons (yes – he did occasionally preach them!):

“Let us note well, then, that the peace which the angels of Paradise preach here carried with it this joy, which the first angel had mentioned, saying ‘I announce to you a great joy,’ that is, the salvation you will have in Jesus Christ. He is called our Peace, and this title declares that we would be entirely alienated from God unless he received us by means of his only Son. Consequently we also have something to boast of when God accepts us as his children, when he gives us freedom to claim him openly as our Father, to come freely to him, and to have our refuge in him.”

Love & Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Dec 17-23: The Great O Antiphons – O Radix Jesse

Harley 1892 f. 31v Tree of Jesse

-Harley 1892 f. 31v Tree of Jesse 

athanasius murphy
-by Br Athanasius Murphy, OP

“O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, Who stands as the sign for the peoples,
at Whom kings will shut their mouths,
Whom the nations will entreat:
Come now to free us, and do not delay!

The O Antiphons we sing in Advent give many names to Christ: Wisdom, Lord, Key, Dayspring, King, Emmanuel. One name on the humbler side of titles is Root.

Roots are the hidden plant-parts that keep the rest of the organism aloft. They’re the source of life that make growth and nourishment possible. Christ, by his Incarnation, is no different. Fashioned in the womb and born of Mary, Christ makes us grow from the same shoot that sprung from Jesse. Christ, as God and through his humanity, keeps the Church alive. Here are a few things to remember this Advent about Christ’s human life, and how he’s the root and foundation of our lives.

His obedience. To be obedient means that there’s a good and loving Boss in charge Who’s calling the shots, and you’re okay with that. The Eternal Son of God shares everything equally with the Father, but by His becoming man He also became obedient to the Father. Christ gave His whole life to the Father, becoming obedient even to death on a cross. This is why the Father says throughout the gospels, “This is my Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Mk 1:11, Lk 3:22 Mt 17:5). We may have to learn obedience the hard way, but Christ gives us prodigal sons the grace and example to be newly adopted sons that share the Father’s embrace.

His humility. A humble man recognizes what is above him, and what is below him; what raises him up and what brings him down. Christ humbled himself in taking on our humanity to redeem it. We are made humble when we recognize the sin we’ve chosen below us, and are raised up to God by his mercy when we ask for his help. We learn from Christ because He is meek and humble of heart, and He wants us to take on that same light and easy yoke. The Savior of the universe kneels before his disciples to wash their feet. Pray for humility. You may not wash anybody’s feet this Advent, but you may find the clarity and courage to say sorry for that thing you did months ago to your friend, even if he isn’t expecting an apology. Who knows? You may even find yourself wanting to go back to confession before Christmas.

His prayer. When Christ as man prayed He spoke not to a distant God, but to the Father from Whom He as the Son proceeds eternally and loves infinitely. Christ prayed in the depths of His soul about His life and for us. His prayer, like His life, was always directed toward the Father. He begged the Father on our behalf to forgive our sins and keep us away from our misgivings, temptations, annoyances, and anything else that keeps us from the Father’s love. Jesus wants us to pray like He does, and we learn to pray well when we learn to be beggars for God’s grace. Jesus tells us “whatever you ask in My name I will do it” (Jn 14). Take Him up on His word, and pray in the name of Jesus that the person in your life who really needs divine help will get it in the best way God knows how.

His patience. To have real patience is a rare thing. It’s not only enduring serious trials but doing so because your eyes are fixed on a further goal that makes the present pains worth bearing. The greatest goal we can hope for while on earth is heaven. Christ’s gaze in His earthly life never left heaven, not because He lacked or needed it, but because He wants us to have by grace the sonship that He has by nature. Christ became man to live a fully human life, but also to die a fully human death, and this took patience. He had patience with sinners, pharisees and puppet kings, and Roman soldiers trained in torture. He did this for us, with His eyes fixed on the Father, so that we could one day behold the Father face to face ourselves.

At the seat of all these virtues is Christ’s love. Jesus loves more than any human heart can ever love, and it’s this love that brought the Son to take on our humanity in the first place. We call Christ the root because He’s the source of any good and any grace we can have. We’re grafted onto the same tree of Jesse that tears us away from death.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”

“There is a flower sprung of a tree,
The root thereof is called Jesse,
A flower of price;
There is none such in paradise.

This flower is fair and fresh of hue;
It fades never, but ever is new;
The blessed branch where this flower grew
Was Mary mild who bore Jesu,
A flower of grace!
Against all sorrow it is solace.

The seed thereof was of God’s sending,
Which God himself sowed with his hand;
In Bethlehem, in that holy land,
Within her bower he there her found.
This blessed flower
Sprang never but in Mary’s bower.

When Gabriel this maiden met,
With “Ave, Maria,” he her gret [greeted]
Between them two this flower was set,
And was kept, no man should wit, [know]
Til on a day
In Bethlehem, it began to spread and spray.

When that flower began to spread,
And his blossom to bud,
Rich and poor of every seed, [i.e. kind]
They marvelled how this flower might spread,
Until kings three
That blessed flower came to see.

Angels there came out of their tower
To look upon this fresh flower,
How fair He was in His color,
And how sweet in His savor,
And to behold
How such a flower might spring amid the cold.

Of lily, of rose on ryse, [branch]
Of primrose, and of fleur-de-lys,
Of all the flowers at my devyse [I can think of],
That flower of Jesse yet bears the prize,
As the best remedy
To ease our sorrows in every part.

I pray you, flowers of this country,
Wherever ye go, wherever ye be,
Hold up the flower of good Jesse,
Above your freshness and your beauty,
As fairest of all,
Which ever was and ever shall be.

-John Audelay’s beautiful fifteenth-century carol ‘There is a floure’.

Love,
Matthew

Doctrine Saves?….Doctrine Saves!

christian doctrine

Basic Christian Doctrine is the study of the revealed word of God. It is Christian Theology regarding the nature of truth, God, Jesus, salvation, damnation, the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, resurrection, and more.

“holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict,” (Titus 1:9).

brdominicmaryverner-160x160
-by Br Dominic Mary Verner, OP

“It’s a bold claim. “Doctrine”—the word doesn’t exactly conjure images of heavenly harbors or paradisal sands. It hits the ears about as pleasantly as “doctor exam,” “doctoral dissertation,” or “indoctrination.” If the word had a smell, it would probably be the smell of old-book must—the smell of dead letters on acidic paper playing host to acrid fungal spores (I’d rather not think of its taste). Doctrine divides. The letter kills. How can we say that doctrine saves?

To see the goodness of Christian doctrine, how sweet its sound, it first helps to recall what it was like to be aged about three. Yes, you, dear reader, like me, were once three. And at the time, we had the rather obnoxious habit of asking all who would listen, “Why?” It was the most sensible question for us to ask at the time, because we knew, as if by instinct, that the world had a lot of explaining to do.

This is in part because, truth be told, neither you nor I chose to exist—not at that time, not in that place, not to those parents, not as this type of creature, not in this strange world with its storied history. No one asked us. Then, subito! There we were, thrust into history, tuned into season three of The Human Drama without a clue as to what happened in seasons one or two. What are we doing here? What are we to do? How did it begin? How does it end?

Perhaps our despair of these questions is the reason “doctrine” sounds so dismal. Perhaps we never got satisfying answers. Perhaps the answers seemed too abstract, too impersonal, too frightful or demanding. Perhaps we heard the telling of so many fragmented and conflicting stories that we gave up on ever putting the pieces together. Whatever the reason, somewhere along the line, we grew out of our questions. Doctrine lost its existential spice, its invigorating aroma, its sweet saving sound.

There is hope, of course, to recapture the flavor. Advent is a time when the Author of doctrine sets us up to be awestruck again. In times past, the God who placed us dazed and confused in season three of the cosmos spoke to us through the prophets, but in these later days, he sent us His Son. The Word became flesh, doctrine incarnate:

“In these later days, he spoke to us through a Son, Whom He made heir of all things and through Whom He created the universe, Who is the refulgence of His glory, the very imprint of His being, and Who sustains all things by His mighty word.” (Heb 1:1-2)

By the voice that creates, we learn our origin. By the Word that sustains, we know our way. By the Son that radiates glory, we achieve our destiny. Divine love that creates, redeems, and saves; a glorious company forged in filial obedience, self-denial, and hope; an inspired Church commissioned to pass on the flame of God’s teaching—not exactly acrid book must, that!

Sacred doctrine saves because it is the last speech of the first Son, the living legacy of the God-man born in a manger, destined to conquer death by a death born of love: “I AM the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26).

His doctrine has the power to change everything—to give hope to the hopeless, to give sight to the blind—and the power, praise God, to save even a wretch like me.” (Ed…& me, too!) 🙂

She's a Christian

Love,
Matthew

Sin, Tears, Forgiveness, Conversion

mary washing jesus feet

When was the last time you heard a worthy, edifying homily on sin in a Catholic Church?  Really.  Seriously.  I don’t think I’ve ever.  I did hear, from a Jesuit homilist, once, the Catholic Church does believe in Hell.  That was once in forty-nine years.  The paucity of these mentions stand out simply for their paucity, not for any fascination with the subject on my part.

Or, when the prophets of old are thundering condemnation, why is it always the smallest lector, with the softest/tinest voice, who can neither see nor be seen over the ambo, does the reading?  Part of the New Evangelization should definitely be the training of lectors to read for appropriate dramatic effect given the text, imho.  Politics over proclamation?  🙁  (I’m not much of a liturgist.  I’m very Roman in this regard, plain and simple, with as little affectation as possible.  Thank you, Charlemagne.  I am also fond of plain, white, stripped New England Congregationalist churches.)

Given the prevalence of sin, its universal and universally disastrous effects in our lives and the world, and it being the reason for the Incarnation, you would think you would, logically, hear more of it on Sundays?  I understand the hesitance to address difficult topics, however, our fears are insufficient reason not to proclaim the truth.

I find it difficult to comprehend the glory of my redemption if I first do not contemplate the depths of the depraved state to which I have fallen, (see Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.  Holla! to all my SJs!) and rise from, in the glory of my own Resurrection, thanks to His mercy and salvific effect.

-by Rev Donald J Goergen, OP, PhD, STM

“The reality of sin and the forgiveness of sin, we can never let go of either side of the coin in that regard. So let us first ask is sin real? And what does it mean? Often we have defined it as offending God, or an offense against God, but can God be offended? It is an offense against love, against covenant love, against the covenant that God has made with us and that we have made with God. Many texts from the New Testament exemplify the human struggle with falling short of what God has created us to be.

A classic text is Romans chapter 7:15-20, in which Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions for I do not do what I want but I do the very thing I hate. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, is what I do.” In other words, Paul is very much aware here of the un-freedom within which he lives, that he is not free. He’s not able to will what he really wants to will.

And then also there is that text from the Gospel of John to which Pope St John Paul II referred and on which he commented extensively in his own encyclical on the Holy Spirit. That text from the Gospel of John 16:8, “…and when He comes. That is –The Advocate, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, when He comes, He will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  What does it mean to convince the world concerning sin in that text from the 16th chapter of the Gospel of John?

There is in John, in Paul, and elsewhere, of course, in the Scriptures, this awareness that yes we can offend God. That God is love and we might find our lives not aligned with God. I’d referred earlier on another occasion, to Rudolf Steiner in one of his works, again, not an Orthodox Christian, or Catholic thinker, but nevertheless one in touch in many ways with spiritual aspects of our lives, he said, “Nevertheless, whether we are aware of them are not, we must realize that forces hostile to life exist.”

This is part of the struggle in our modern world, the tendency, in a way, to disbelieve in the devil or in demonic forces or the demonic. Cardinal Newman in his Apologia Pro Vita Sua about his own life gave a great text on one occasion in which he speaks about considering the world and its length and breadth its various histories and then the ways in which we don’t live up to what God expects of us and what we expect.

It’s like looking in the mirror and not seeing our own face. And so it is for him the awareness in some ways that the world is out of joint. Yes, sin is real. Sometimes you may use other words to talk about the reality of the struggle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.  Robert Johnson, the Jungian psychologist, again speaks more about the shadow, the un-chosen side of our lives that cause us trouble or he might speak about the disowned, the need to reconnect with the shadow, the dark side of ourselves.

Whatever language we use, there is in our lives, the reality of sin as well as the reality of the forgiveness of sin. For Christians, for Catholics, this has often has been discussed in the context of the capital sins, just as we might speak about the virtues.  St John Cassian and in the East, spoke of eight principal vices following a classification of Evagrius before him. In the West, Gregory the Great reduced this list to seven what we think of as the seven capital sins. If we mention the eight, they were gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, despondency or sadness, achadia or spiritual wariness or sloth, vainglory and pride.  These are mentioned in the fifth conference of St John Cassian as well, as in the Institute.

So there is this reality of the garbage, to use that image again, that lies there within each of us that comes to the surface of which we need to be more aware as we live contemplatively. All of this is a part of who we are.  In some ways, I suppose, it’s acknowledging a fraud, that each of us in some ways attempts to present ourselves publicly as being other than we are. And that we need to come to grips with our own sinfulness and that this is the question then of awakening, of conversion, of repentance.

Conversion, am I open to conversion? I suppose if I’m honest, I’d have to say much of the time no, I’m not. Conversion requires a radical reorientation of one’s life. A restructuring of one’s self, it’s asks us the question, is God enough for us? Is God enough? And as much as we might want to say yes, most often, probably, we in fact, through our behavior, at least, are saying no. Conversion is a continuing process. It’s not just a once and for all kind of thing.

There may be that powerful conversion experience, in other words, it may be dramatic, but it can also be gradual, and most often conversion is both.  Those events, experiences, in which we are turned around, but then that continuing conversion whereby we have to live out of that new awareness, consciousness, or experience and we can talk about conversion of heart, as well as of mind, or of affective conversion, intellectual conversion, moral conversion, and spiritual conversion.  As it settles in, it takes place, transforms at varied levels of our being, conversion of will, conversion of mind.

John Paul II again in that encyclical on the Holy Spirit wrote conversion requires convincing of sin, and of course this goes back to that text also from the Gospel of John, but conversion requires convincing us of sin. That’s the tough step, convincing, especially the modern person of the reality of sin. Conversion requires convincing of sin, he writes, and he goes on, “It includes the interior judgment of the conscience and this being a proof of the action of the Spirit of Truth in our inmost being, becoming at the same time a new beginning of the bestowal of grace and love.”  “Receive the Holy Spirit…” he writes, in this convincing concerning sin; we discover a double gift, the gift of the truth of conscience, and the gift of the certainty of redemption.

Conscience, reality of sin, redemption, forgiveness of sin, and he continues in order to convince/convict us of the forgiveness of sin, of the reality of grace, of the awareness of God as mercy, of the fact of redemption. In other words, emphasizing its twofold dimension to conversion. Convincing concerning sin, and convincing concerning its forgiveness, hence the conversion of the human heart, clearly Pope John Paul II here has a very good grasp of this reality.

And how we can have an emphasis on one without the other? We can so emphasize the reality of sin that we neglect and forget the reality of grace, mercy, forgiveness, or we can so talk about the forgiveness of sin that we in a way just take the reality of sin for granted as not to be taken seriously. But the two needs to come together less our own contemplative in Christian lives become distorted.

Sri Aurobindo, a mystic of modern India, perhaps in one way the greatest mystical philosopher of modern India, died in 1950, not a Christian, in a great book called the Synthesis of Yoga, speaks about conversion in his own way.   And just to take a couple expressions from his own thinking, he says, “The acceptance of a new spiritual orientation and illumination, a turning or conversion seized on by the will and the heart’s aspiration, this is the momentous act which contains, as in a seed, all that is to come.” In other words, we cannot over emphasize the importance of this conversion, awakening, illumination; it’s an aspiration that contains as a seed everything that’s to come. And he writes a truly spiritual conversion does not consist in the change of one’s mental beliefs, but in the acceptance of a new spirit, a spiritual force, life in the spirit, a decisive turning we could say from business-as-usual.

And, therefore, there is, for him, in this process of conversion, first an aspiration, a yearning for the Divine.  Again, Augustine:  “Our hearts are restless…”, a yearning for the Divine, an aspiration from the mind as well as the heart. It’s not yet conversion, but aspiration.  Then the second is following the aspiration, the desire, the yearning comes in a twofold conversion and consecration. Consecration means making sacred and offering of one’s actions and interior movements to the Divine, consecrating one’s life to the divine.

A conversion is a more spontaneous movement of the consciousness, but then the consecration as the deliberate process that grounds it, the conversion may be sudden but the consecration takes time. The consecration makes the conversion last so the process begins with that reality of aspiration followed by then the twofold conversion and consecration. The consecration being required for the persistence striving steadily, effort, perseverance, and of course for us this is all the result of grace.

But we can also think of consecration as a religious consecration: the consecrated life, the Act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart, St Louis de Montfort’s total consecration to Jesus through Mary;  varied forms of, but consecration is essential if conversion is going to be carried through. This then entails the awakening of one’s innermost self, something is awakened within us. One wakes up and this culminates in the gradual transformation of who we are, our whole being:  the physical, the affective, the mental, the spiritual, it’s a turning of our whole self towards God.  The transformation of consciousness from egoic or false consciousness to a more pure consciousness, purity of heart, conversion the different stages or facets of conversion, all of it of course, grounded in the moral life.

We referred in our last conference to the moral virtues. We didn’t speak at any length about them. But in every religious tradition there’s this emphasis on the moral dimension. In Buddhism they speak about the five precepts, to refrain from killing or physical violence.  To refrain from taking that which is not offered or from stealing, to refrain from misuse of our sexual power or energy, to refrain from lying or harsh or idle speech, to refrain from taking intoxicants that clouds the mind. These are clearly a moral foundation for the Buddhist way of life.

Likewise for us, the moral foundation can be put in different ways but the Ten Commandments is foundational. I recall an example someone once had given that there are those today who want to practice meditation or live a life of contemplation, but are not so preoccupied with a basic moral living, with basic morality, and the analogy was used, it’s like someone’s wanting to row a boat while leaving it tied to the dock.  If we do not have a solid moral foundation on which to build its like remaining tied to the dock and the boat isn’t going to go anywhere.

In other words, the contemplative life builds on the moral life and in fact they cannot be separated, they are all part of a whole.   Spiritual theology is not something totally separate from moral theology, moral theology from doctrinal theology, it’s as a whole.  But for this conversion to take hold of us, for this awakening to happen, for this consecration to take place that enables us to persevere, requires repentance, repentance. In the Gospel of Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel!”

Again, Catholic teaching gives us an unfolding of stages of repentance, or aspects from sorrow for sin, contrition, you could say, to a firm purpose of amendment. That purpose, almost like a consecration, to doing penance, finally, to confession, frequent confession. More frequent than perhaps many of us might feel drawn towards.

St John Chrysostom spoke about five paths of repentance.  He said “Would you like me to list the paths of repentance? They are numerous and quite varied. In other words, different forms or ways of repentance all lead to Heaven. A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins that then is one very good path. Another, and no less valuable is to put out of our minds the harm done us by our enemies in order to master our anger and to forgive others, then our own sins against the Lord will be for a given.  Do you want to know a third path? It consists of prayer that is fervent. It comes from the heart. If you want a fourth path, I will mention almsgiving, whose power is great and far-reaching. If forever a man lives a modest, humble life, that no less than the other things I’ve mention, takes sin away, too. Thus I’ve shown you five paths of repentance, 1) condemnation of your sins, 2) forgiveness of your neighbors sins, 3) prayer, 4) almsgiving, 5) humility; repentance, the foundation.”

The reality of sin, the forgiveness of sin, sorrow for our own sin, firm purpose of amendment, doing penance, confession, consecration, and perseverance; but many of our spiritual ancestors spoke about two conversions, that of water and that of tears, and the gift of tears. That of water, of course, involving baptism, and in that sense also baptism of the adult.  St John Cassian was the first to have given us a classification of tears in his ninth conference, and he spoke about five sorts of tears.

The relationship between compunction or sorrow for sin and fiery prayer, the ecstatic contemporary prayer, is something of which he spoke, and he spoke about the remembrance of our sins, producing tears, followed by ineffable joy. That again, I mention earlier, the joy of repentance, tears followed by joy, as one enters into this new way of life. For Cassian, tears was most common form of spiritual experience encompassing both sorrow and joy and the experience of grace.

Pope St Gregory the Great, in the West, is known as the Great Doctor of Compunction, or the Western Doctor of Tears. He outlined four kinds of compunction or tears. In the East, Simeon the New Theologian was known as the Theologian of Tears. St Catherine of Siena, OP, later spoke about five kinds of tears. Four kinds, and then about those who desire to weep and are unable to do so, is a very special kind. A kind of spiritual tear where there is no physical tear. She speaks about God, responding that there is a weeping of fire that is a longing for God so intense that she writes, “Such a soul would like to dissolve her very life in weeping, but these souls cannot shed physical tears. They rather shed tears of fire, the source being a heart full of fire, or an ardent longing for God.” She also writes, “This is how the Holy Spirit weeps.  The Holy Spirit weeps in the person of every one of my servants, Christ says, who offers me the fragrance of holy desire and humble prayer.”

So she speaks about these as spiritual tears or tears of the heart or the inner the weeping of the Holy Spirit. If you wish, go to her Dialogue, chapters 88 to 97, to read more where she talks about five kinds of tears, but really the first four being more common and then this is kind is weeping of fire. This spiritual tear where we do not physically weep, but indeed our hearts are manifesting its both sorrow and joy before the Lord. We think here even of the prophet Ezekiel, when he speaks about our hearts of stone in the hearts of flesh. And says, “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you and I will take out of your flesh, the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

So here we are getting to the basics, the basis, and the foundation of the contemplative life. That we can look to the heights of, we can desire to infused, we want to open ourselves. But again, it’s almost as if that’s what that “dark night” was all about, needing to let go of our way of controlling our spiritual journey and to come back to simply compunction. Sorrow for sin, contrition, repentance, conversion, to not know myself as sinner will be to never know God as mercy.

If we yearn to know God and if knowing God is to know God as mercy, then we must come to grips with the reality of who I am as sinner. Always keeping in mind what Pope St John Paul II said, “The two sides, the reality of sin and the reality of its forgiveness, never one without the other.”

This time as a closing prayer I would like to take some verses from Psalm 51, the Miserere, a great Psalm acknowledging who we are as sinners. Let us pray, “Have mercy on me God in your goodness in your abundance of compassion, blot out my offense, wash away all my guilt, from sin, cleanse me. For I know my offense, my sin is always before me. Against you alone have I sinned, cleanse me with hyssop that I may be pure, wash me, wash me, Lord. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Mass in the Diocese of Madison: all are not welcome

jesus_friend_of_sinners

PLEASE READ:
http://www.madisoncatholicherald.org/bishopscolumns/2596-the-beauty-of-our-worship-in-the-liturgy.html

All Are Welcome!
-by Marty Haugen

Let us build a house
where love can dwell
And all can safely live,

A place where
saints and children tell
How hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;

Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

HERESY!!!!! HERESY!!!!! CALL THE INQUISITION!!!!!

And the richness of it all is the chancery, at least publicly, is befuddled why the diocese is in such poor financial shape and the cathedral cannot be rebuilt going on ten years, the land of which downtown will revert to the donating family, by original covenant, if the now vacant land, unused for liturgical purposes, cannot pay the assessed taxes?  Shocking.  Apparently time is not aiding comprehension?

Love,
Matthew

“They lengthen their tassles and widen their phylacteries.” –Mt 23:5

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-THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST, KING OF KINGS, JUDGE OF JUDGES & LORD OF LORDS, at the moment of our Redemption, resplendent, enrobed beautifully in His nakedness and humility for the most precious sacrifice as both priest and victim.  Lord, may ALL your servants follow your most profound example and likeness and depth of humility.

We do have, here in the Diocese of Madison, a resurgence of fiddle backs, maniples, crossed stoles.  Kids, ask your grandparents.

I am perturbed since it seems an implicit rejection of Vatican II.  While the GIRM says nothing regarding these throwbacks, the message is quite clear here, along with the liturgical innovations of 2011, to the People of God.

Back to the days when priests were priests, the People of God trembled in fear, or should have, and nary a question was asked.  Let’s hope those days are long dead and gone to ashes, for the sake of the Church, in praise of her Lord.

http://ncronline.org/news/art-media/whats-message-runway-baroque-fashions

Jan 26 2013

-by Fr Thomas O’Meara, OP [Dominican Fr. Thomas O’Meara is the Warren Professor of Theology Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.]

“When I was a boy, more than 50 years ago, ecclesiastical clothes were impressive. They were unusual and colorful, antique and sacral: they were distinctively Roman Catholic. The colored watered silk, the jeweled gloves, the red slippers (buskins) pointed to an individual caught up in a church office. This transcendent figure, a representative of the divine, appeared among the ordinary suits and dresses of working-class Catholics at rare moments. Nonetheless, even as a teenager singing in a college choir at the archbishop’s liturgies. I had already noticed that sometimes rituals focused more on the clothes than on religious words and sacrament. Removing gloves and putting on glasses, keeping a skullcap in place or adjusting a pallium could appear more important than the elevation of the chalice.

Time passes, and today ecclesiastical clothes are less intelligible and point less clearly to something beyond their colors and gilt. They raise questions of gender and class, of culture and sacramentality.

There are three kinds of clothes male Catholics wear for public ecclesiastical and liturgical events. There are vestments for the liturgy of the Eucharist and other sacraments and for devotions. Among them are chasuble and stole, alb and cincture, miter and cope. Second, there are the habits of religious orders and congregations. Third, there are special garments for those in the episcopal order and for those in levels below (monsignors) or above (cardinals). Vestments at the Eucharist and other liturgies appear at their best when they are simple, aesthetically pleasing and inspiring to the people viewing them. Members of religious orders, particularly monks and friars, tend to wear their habits at liturgy and at other times inside their religious houses.

Here is a ninth-century description of the liturgical clothes used by the bishop of Rome, clothes related in their style to garments worn by Romans two centuries earlier. Walahfrid Strabo, who died in 849, wrote: “Priestly vestments have become progressively what they are today: ornaments. In earlier times priests celebrated Mass dressed like everyone else.”

Often special church garments do not come from the patristic or medieval period (which did not encourage distinctive clothes). They come from the Baroque period from 1580 to 1720, when liturgy as theater arranged rituals to channel graces. After 1620, in the world of Pope Urban VIII, ecclesiastical garments began to assume the importance they have today in spotlighting ecclesiastical officeholders. Who may wear what, in which color, and at which church services? The years from 1830 to 1960 witnessed additional, quite artificial elaborations of church attire. Today vestments that reflect the simplicity of the patristic or early medieval style also appear contemporary, while those that appear antiquarian and flamboyant are the product of the Baroque.

Critics of religious clothes

Jesus is a critic of religion. He warns against human display and the use of religious objects to disdain others. He condemns using religion to further being noticed or set apart from most people. “The scribes and the Pharisees … do all their deeds to be seen by people; they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues … The greatest among you–must be your slave” (Matthew 23:5-6, 12).

Few dimensions of human life aroused Jesus’ anger, but religious leaders seeking attention and power through clothes were called “white-washed tombs that look handsome on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead” (Matthew 23:27).

In the years just before the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Dominican Fr. Yves Congar wrote a critique of the church’s display of power and privilege. He had researched the origins of church vestments and insignia in the Roman Empire and in feudalism, concluding that those clothes no longer have any clear meaning for people. He concluded that vestments can have value, although their religious presence must resonate with the people they address.

One contemporary critique of ecclesiastical clothes was Federico Fellini’s 1972 movie “Roma.” Ecclesiastical fashions are exhibited on a runway where models display chasubles and miters for an audience of nuns and clerics and a presiding cardinal, a pale, sexless creature with crimson robes and ill-suited sunglasses who falls asleep. The style show ends with new designs using electric lights on chasubles.

Vatican II spoke of “a noble simplicity” for ecclesiastical clothes. In the years just after Vatican II, Pope Paul VI sold papal tiaras and issued instructions to set aside unusual clothes like flamboyant cloaks, colored stockings, special buckles and sashes with tassels.

Clothes today

Among a few small groups in the church, religious clothes are returning. They may be returning not as religious signs but as distractions from faith and ministry. Sashes and birettas, chains and large crosses, amices and maniples, special gloves and shoes have reappeared. Restorationist and reactionary groups tend to have striking clothes just as dictatorships have uniforms.

These groups show a preference for special kinds of clerical collars, tall miters, elaborate trains, a metal cross hung around the neck. Programs on EWTN are the runway for Baroque fashions, some authentic, some from the 19th century, most imitations. Great attention is given to gold vestments and gold vessels, odd new habits and distortions of past religious objects. Monastic habits with tunic and hood were originally the ordinary clothes of laborers. As centuries passed, they became unusual when ordinary clothes changed. Still, the habits of the medieval monks and friars were simple, and no sashes and capes or medals are added. The habits of many congregations of men founded after 1830 were colorful and attention-getting, elaborating on the medieval or Baroque but without any connection to the modern world.

At graduations at Catholic universities, students, faculty and administrators wear their academic robes, while parents and families wear suits and dresses. A bishop in a silk cape with ribbons and a skullcap looks out of place. Once, at a fundraising event in a large hotel, a bishop wore what he called his “full dress uniform, which attracts lots of compliments on my wardrobe.” The main speaker of the night remarked: “If I were dying and someone with a red bow and gown drew near, I would be scared stiff.”

The media pays attention to the current pope’s red-pink shoes, fur-lined hat of the eighth century, elaborately embroidered stole from the 18th century. Recent images on television of bishops and popes in white and red cassocks, Renaissance hats and jeweled gloves no longer seem religious and sacramental but antiquarian and self-centered. The pope, during a visit to the White House garden in white cassock and no visible pants, looked out of place; distinctive and different, yes, but not spiritual. American Catholics are, for the first time, reacting to televised gatherings of bishops and cardinals where there is concern over wearing properly colored skirts and sashes.

Clothes and ministry

New religious groups in the United States, along with some young members of older orders seem eager to wear a religious habit in public, not just on the grounds around a school but at airports or on the subway. What does a monastic habit or a cassock in public say to Americans at the beginning of the 21st century? It is not at all evident that the general public knows who this strangely dressed person is or even connects the clothes to religion. The symbolism is not clear and a message is not evident. The person does stand out, but as a kind of public oddity. Eccentric clothes instill separation. While some argue that odd clothes attract people, the fact is that more often than not they repel. Normal people are not attracted by the antique or bizarre costume, and ordinary Christians are not drawn to those whose special costume implies that others are inferior. Sometimes wearing clothes seems to be a substitute for real ministry.

It is not clear how men wearing dresses and capes proclaim God’s transcendence or the Gospel’s love. A man’s identity is something complex; the search for it lasts a lifetime. A celibate cleric gives up things that form male identity, like being a husband and a father. One cannot overlook possible links between unusual clothes and celibacy. Does the celibate male have a neutral or third sexuality that can put on unusual clothes? Are special clothes a protection of celibacy? Or are they a neutralization of maleness? Why would a man want to wear a long dress or a cape in public? Are spiritual reasons the true motivation?

Cultural meaning

Clothes are useful as they keep us warm or cool and cover our nakedness. They can make men and women attractive to others. Human beings and societies have come up with a variety of clothes to which they give particular meanings, using a few clothes as symbols–the toga, the high hat, the veil, the robe. What do ecclesiastical clothes say today? This question touches not only the wearer’s identity but the community’s faith. There is no absolute answer, no answer apart from people in their time and culture. Tradition and history are not an answer, for there is always a time when this ecclesiastical garment was unknown and there will be a time when it will be seen only in a museum.

Time brings and then buries styles. A medieval person probably understood episcopal regalia fairly well because aspects of his or her life depended upon its rare appearance, and it was seen in a milieu of many insignia. The elaborate arrangement of artificial clothes in the Catholic church is from the past four centuries. Today, unusual clothes appear on television as something connected to entertainment. What thoughts are conjured up when a cardinal or archbishop appears at a baseball game in a cape and gown? What does the cape and sash say personally and socially? Does it recall the New Testament or the liturgy of the Christian community?

There are no intrinsically religious clothes. Religious clothes are meant to point to some truth of faith or suggest a sacramental presence. The public person of each minister in the church should relate to the humble Jesus and to sacramentality in this church’s life. In the Christian community all clothing–this includes liturgical clothing–expresses the church’s life animated by the Spirit. Capes and cloaks in a Baroque style are neither prophetic nor countercultural. If regal or antiquarian distinction was once a value for church leaders, if pretension to being ecclesiastically or even metaphysically better was presumed, since Vatican II more and more people ignore such displays. Time never stands still. What seemed powerful in the past is today merely curious. Many Catholics are reaching a point where antiquated clothes are not inspiring and sacramental but exist outside human life.

Both the church’s expression of the reign of God and the culture to which it speaks are historical. Change touches everything. At any time, something new is being born and something static and alien is dying. History flows through the relationships between faith and grace and people, and those are always being determined anew in the concrete. The Holy Spirit strives, against sin, unreality and selfishness, to animate the church. In the last analysis, clothes are just clothes.

Henry David Thoreau said it well: “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Perhaps some lesson remains in the words of Psalm 132: “I will vest the priests in holiness, and the faithful will shout for joy.”

Love,
Matthew