Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Recovering Reverence for the Lord

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
Liturgically in the last fifty years we have also reflected and reinforced a casual and overly familiar relationship with God. People used to dress up for church, keep a reverent silence prior to Mass, and be more serious about the state of their soul before approaching Holy Communion. Today, much of this is gone. Today many people dress casually at Mass, barely reflect on their worthiness to receive Communion, and seem more focused on the human dimension of the liturgy. Beginning in the 1960s the emphasis was on the Mass as a meal and so it should look and be like one. Thus, altars were turned around and made to look like tables (frankly not nearly as nice as my mother’s dining room table), and sacrificial language was lost. It also seemed a rather casual meal at that. The chalices were gone, replaced by pottery and ceramic vessels; the hosts got bigger and more “pita-like.”

Much of this was based on a mistaken notion that the Mass is a representation or reenactment of the Last Supper—it is not. It is the making present of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Even at the Last Supper, Christ pointed beyond it, to the cross and resurrection. And even if the Last Supper is recalled, we ought to remember that the Passover meal (the context for the Last Supper) was no casual affair. Only the best was used; formality and ancient customs prevailed for this night that was different from every other night. (Read more.)
And Monsignor Pope also writes of the call to integrity in worship:
 Our worship can lack integrity. That which is supposed to glorify God and bring forth in us a holy obedience can become lip service. God seeks hearts that are humble, docile, loving, and repentant. We cannot satisfy Him just by singing a few hymns, saying some prayers, or attending Mass. These things, good though they are, are meant to bring about a conversion in us that makes us more loving of both God and neighbor, less violent, more just, more merciful, more generous, and more holy. Our worship should effect change in us such that we cease doing evil, learn to do good, strive for justice, address injustice, and defend and help the poor, the unborn, the elderly, the dying, and the helpless.

An additional problem with our worship today is that God has become almost an afterthought. Much of our liturgy is self-centered, self-congratulatory, and anthropocentric (rather than theocentric). We are “the aware, gathered community celebrating itself.” While the Mass should focus on God and summon us to humility and joy before Him, too often it seems more an exercise in self-congratulation. We are very narcissistic, even in a communal setting. God cannot be pleased with all of this. Even if our worship is rightly ordered, we are not going to buy Him off that easily. God wants an obedient heart more than sacrifice. Sacrifice without obedience is a sham.

We need God to restore our integrity and give us a new heart. We are “dis-integrated,” in the sense that pieces of our life that should be together (e.g., worship and obedience, liturgy and healing) are not. Too often our worship does just the opposite of what it should. Instead of drawing us more deeply into the love and obedience of God, it becomes the very occasion of keeping Him at a distance and seeking to placate Him with superficial gestures. This makes our worship a lie and an insult to Him. God doesn’t mince words in the passage above when He says how displeased He is. We need God to give us a new heart, one that loves Him as well as the people and things that He loves. Only then will our worship will truly reflect the heart that God seeks: a loving, humble, and generous one. (Read more.)

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Brief Reflection on Mortal Sin

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
It says that in mortal sin we set our will upon something we know to be incompatible with our ultimate end. Although our first thought may not be that we are rejecting God, we set our will on something incompatible with God. In so doing, we are preferring something or someone to God.

This poisons our heart if we do not repent because we feed a desire in our heart for what is not God and we starve our heart from Him and what He offers. Soon enough we prefer the darkness to the light. We prefer the trinkets of this world to God and come to regard Him as a thief who comes to take what we want and keeps us from doing what we want to do. God becomes our enemy.

If we die in this state, the warmth of God and Heaven seem overwhelming, wrathful, and like a consuming fire. We cannot endure and so we turn away finally and permanently to a place that we strangely prefer, but which is hellacious because it is not that for which we were made. It lacks the one thing necessary: God. (Read more.)

Friday, July 20, 2018

On Carmel's Height

From Vultus Christi:
We are compelled to ponder today what can only be called a core text of the liturgical and spiritual tradition of Carmel. I refer, of course, to the lesson from the Third Book of Kings. This is a text — no, more than a text, a living word — that has, over the centuries, captured the heart of those called to live on Carmel’s heights.
Elias went up to the top of Carmel, and casting himself down upon the earth put his face between his knees, And he said to his servant: Go up, and look towards the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said: There is nothing. And again he said to him: Return seven times. And at the seventh time, behold, a little cloud arose out of the sea like a man’s foot. And he said: Go up and say to Achab: Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rain prevent thee. And while he turned himself this way and that way, behold the heavens grew dark, with clouds, and wind, and there fell a great rain. (3 Kings 18:42–45)
Its context is important.  First of all, a terrible drought has come over the land; God withholds his life–giving rain. Over the land ruled by Achab, a weak king, influenced by his wife’s devotion to the great sky–god, Baal, the heavens are closed. Elias determines that this state of affairs must be resolved. The true God, the God of Israel must be glorified in the sight of all. «And Elias coming to all the people, said: How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word» (3 Kings 18:21).
Elias summons the prophets of Baal, favourites of the wicked Queen Jezebel, to a public showdown on Mount Carmel. A holocaust is prepared. By the sign of fire from heaven the true God will make Himself known. The prophets of Baal were the first to begin the dreadful rite. The heavens were not moved by their frantic entreaties; Baal was distant and deaf to their cries, even though they cut themselves with swords and lances, joining blood to their futile ravings. (Read more.)

Friday, July 6, 2018

In the Cleft of the Rock

It is the First Friday of the month, when we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The open side of Jesus Crucified has long inspired the great mystics. To quote:
Look at this remarkable painting of Jesus Crucified. The focus of the composition is the wound in His Sacred Side. An angel holding a chalice is hovering just beneath it to receive the outpouring of His Blood. There are also angels stationed beneath His wounded hands. A fourth angel stricken with astonishment and grief looks on. (Read more.)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Let Us Test and Examine Our Ways

On receiving the Eucharist. Fr. Mark says:
Both Orthodox and Eastern Catholic rites have, for centuries, practiced a form of Holy Communion by intinction? Latin Rite Catholics have something to learn from this centuries-old experience.

Have our Bishops given thought to the grave scandal given to the Orthodox Churches by the current Roman Catholic practices of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, often in casual street attire, distributing the Most Precious Blood directly from the the chalice without so much as a cloth held beneath the chin of the communicant?
Why are Protestants not offended by the same practice? Why are they indifferent to it? The answer is, I think, obvious. Has Holy Communion under both forms been used as a justification for the multiplication of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion? In the choice of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, why are the principles and the order for selection of fit persons indicated in Immensae Caritatis (29 January 1973) not followed? Alas, there are even parishes where an open appeal for volunteers is made from the pulpit! With regard to the first, we read that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion may be employed:
a. whenever no priest, deacon, or acolyte is available;
Why are acolytes (now, effectively equivalent to subdeacons in the reformed Latin Rite) not employed?
Why have Ordinaries not instituted a course of preparation for acolytes, similar to that in place for deacons?
Why are men preparing for the permanent diaconate, who have already been instituted as acolytes, not preferred to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion?
b. whenever the same ministers are impeded from administering communion because of another pastoral ministry, ill-health, or old age;
Should not the Ordinary be consulted before determining that such is, in fact, the case?
c. whenever the number of faithful wishing to receive communion is so great that the celebration of Mass or the giving of communion outside Mass would take too long.
This is frightfully vague and subject to misinterpretation.
What is too great a number of faithful? 20? 50? 100? 300? 500?
Who decides this?
What is "too long"? Who decides this?
Further, we read in the same Instruction Immensae Caritatis:
IV. The fit person referred to in nos. I and II will be designated according to the order of this listing (which may be changed at the prudent discretion of the local Ordinary): reader, major seminarian, man religious, woman religious, catechist, one of the faithful--a man or a woman.
There is an order here.
Why, in practice, do instituted readers (lectors) fall below the radar screen?
Are not deacon candidates (at least those in the final years of formation) "major seminarians"? (Read entire post.)

(Image via Dr. Taylor Marshall.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

St. Gregory of Nyssa’s Amazing Explanation for the Eucharist

From Catholic Exchange:
Gregory begins by reframing this as a question of how: How can the bread and wine be Christ? Gregory of Nyssa responds by saying that the bread is a kind of prototypical food, just as wine was, in the ancient world, a fundamental source of fluids for all men. And, because of this characteristic bread and wine are a type of the human body. As he puts it:
Some animals feed on roots which they dig up. Of others grass is the food, of others different kinds of flesh, but for man above all things bread; and, in order to continue and preserve the moisture of his body, drink, not simply water, but water frequently sweetened with wine, to join forces with our internal heat. He, therefore, who thinks of these things, thinks by implication of the particular bulk of our body. For those things by being within me became my blood and flesh, the corresponding nutriment by its power of adaptation being changed into the form of my body (Great Catechism, 37).
Actually, all Gregory has done here is address how the Eucharistic bread and wine can represent the body and blood of Christ. This is a helpful answer in so far as it is a necessary step towards understanding how the bread and wine could be God Incarnate. Now he turns to this second question:
[W]hen He came in a body such as ours did not innovate on man’s physical constitution so as to make it other than it was, but secured continuance for His own body by the customary and proper means, and controlled its subsistence by meat and drink (Great Catechism, 37).
Put simply, the Eucharist can be the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ because that’s similar to what happened on a daily basis during Christ’s life on earth: all the food and drink He consumed became part of His Sacred body, just as food and drink does for us. To build on Gregory’s point, this process is intensified in the Eucharist, in which bread and wine are not only transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but also into His soul and divinity. Gregory concludes,
For that Body was once, by implication, bread, but has been consecrated by the inhabitation of the Word that tabernacled in the flesh. Therefore, from the same cause as that by which the bread that was transformed in that Body was changed to a Divine potency, a similar result takes place now. For as in that case, too, the grace of the Word used to make holy the Body, the substance of which came of the bread, and in a manner was itself bread, so also in this case the bread (Great Catechism, 37).
In effect, Gregory is saying that Christ is transforming the Eucharist into Himself in much the same way that He absorbed food and drink into His body during His earthly life. (Read more.)

Eucharistic Adoration can save the Church. From The Catholic Herald:
There has been in recent times a discernible increase in those drawn to Eucharistic adoration in parishes and communities, and particularly among young people. Adoration stands as an antidote to the noise and busyness of our world.

As we hear from the account of Elijah at Horeb, the Lord was not in the mighty wind, fire or earthquakes but in “the gentle breeze” (1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-16). After encountering that “gentle breeze”, Elijah covered his face with his cloak and stood at the entrance of the cave. “The gentle breeze” might be the Lord calling us from the Blessed Sacrament, and the cloak the call to humble and prostrate ourselves in Adoration. (Read more.)

The Holy Prophet Elias

Monday, July 2, 2018

Time to Decide – A Reflection on a Question from Elijah

The Holy Prophet Elias calling down fire from Heaven in the contest with the prophets of Baal
From Monsignor Charles Pope:
At Mass for Wednesday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time, we read a crucial question from Elijah. It came at a time of widespread apostasy among the Jewish people. Elijah summoned a multitude to Mt. Carmel in the far north of Israel:

Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him (1 Kings 18:21).

The Baals were the gods of the Canaanites. It had become expedient and popular to worship them because the ruling political leaders, the apostate King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, had set forth the worship of the Baals by erecting altars and sacred columns. All who wished their life to go well and to have access to the levers of prosperity were surely “encouraged” to comply. Jezebel funded hundreds of prophets of Baal and the goddess Asherah. She had many of the prophets of Israel killed and forced others into hiding. Through a policy of favoritism and fear, the true faith was suppressed, and false ideologies were promoted.

At this critical moment, Elijah asked his question. In effect he told them that they needed to decide whether to serve the Lord God out of courageous fidelity or the Baals out of cowardly fear. We, too, must decide. In our times, the true faith has been undermined in the hearts of many by plausible liars, cultural war, and political correctness. Those who strive to hold to the true faith are called hateful, bigoted, and intolerant. A legal framework is growing that seeks to force compliance to the moral revolution and abandonment of the biblical worldview. Social pressures are at work as well, seeking to compel compliance through political correctness, through suppression of speech and ideas, and through the influence of music, cinema, and art.

The same question must be asked of us: How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him at any cost. If Baal is your god, follow him! If you prefer what is popular, politically correct, and safe, go for it; but understand that if you do so, your decision is increasingly for Baal, not the Lord. In a culture that insists you celebrate fornication, homosexual acts, transgenderism, abortion, euthanasia, and all sorts of intemperance, realize that your decision to comply amounts to a choice for Baal.

Some claim that they are not really making a fundamental choice against God and for the modern Baals. Rather, they prefer to think that they are being “tolerant,” that they are pleasant moderates seeking to “build bridges” and keep the faith “mainstream.” (Read more.)
Elias ascends in the fiery chariot
Ascension of Elias


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