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quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Both the way and the door

Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a pasch, that is, a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

- St. Bonaventure (source: here)

Monday, July 12, 2010

A thought on the calendar of the Church

The school calendar must have a successful influence on our lives. I say this because, outside of trips and vacations, church attendance on Sunday mornings in the Summer ought not be much different than it is during the Fall, Winter or Spring. Yet, except for the faithful, it is. There may be some other reasons why there is lower attendance in the Summer but it appears that the ideas of the School Year and the Summer Vacation are engrained in our psyches from early on. We miss a Sunday or two in the Summer and it becomes easy to slack off and extend our time away from Church. Then, before we know it, Summer is gone and in our minds we come to accept that Summer Vacation from school also means vacation from the Church. We all need a break now and then, don't we?

Don't be fooled, priests and pastors do not mind a slower pace from time to time either. Still, what is it that we miss by allowing a scholastic calendar to run our lives? Although, not necessarily intentionally or consciously, are we saying that going to Church is simply learning the Faith just like going to School is learning Reading and Writing? Then Summer means nothing other than a rest for the mind?

We know the Church also has a calendar and it is year round. This is because of our belief in the eternal nature of God. Although He is outside of and beyond time He never rests from being Who He is. So He calls Himself, "I Am." Since God is eternal we believe that all time is under His merciful providence and the Church calendar reflects that. Jesus Christ's own birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is described as happening in the "fulness of time" and His death on the cross under Pontius Pilate is significant to us in terms of "eternal life." The calendar of the Church has many divisions but primarily has two parts. One half, the festival half, focuses on our Lord. The second half, the non-festival half, focuses on the life of His Church. We believe that this second half, which includes the Summer months, is not just about Christ's Church. This time is Christ Himself living in and for His Church as He does throughout the year in Word and Sacrament. Throughout the year we sin and need to heed His call for repentance. Throughout the year He gives to us His mercy and forgiveness.

If you have fallen into the habit of skipping Church during the Summer months (or at any time of the year) think about what you are missing. What valuable Scripture lessons are you and your family not hearing? What blessing are you not benefitting from in not receiving the Holy Eucharist? What spiritual benefit is there in resting from the Lord and His gifts?

At the Mass for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost the Church prays, "O God, whose providence faileth not in its designs, we humbly entreat Thee: put from us all that might be harmful and give us all that will be profitable. Through our Lord . . ." And in the words of the Gradual, "Come, children, hearken to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Come ye to Him and be enlightened; and your faces shall not be confounded." (Ps. 34)

The Lord does not rest from His work of blessing us. He gives us His rest and it is available throughout the year on the given day of rest. His mercy is not limited to the school year. His mercies are new every morning and this is reflected in the calendar of the Church. May this Summer be a safe and enjoyable time for you and your family and a good time to reflect on the never ending calendar that revolves around the life of God and His people in the Church. Sundays in the Summer are just as valuable to us as they are at other times of the year. They teach and discipline us in things eternal.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Seven Brothers, Two Sisters

Seven brothers, sons of St. Felicity, were martyred on the same day before their mother's eyes (A.D. 150).

Two sisters, Rufina and Secunda, became martyrs (A.D. 257)

Adjutórium nostrum in nómine Dómini.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Volksreligion

The following is an outdoor Mass in Austria (the video is in German). Note that the Mass has an "American" friendly feel to it. Note too that the Kyrie is replaced with "We are the World" (M. Jackson).



I do not speak German. My simple response is: "Folk religion" (an online translator calls it "Volksreligion.") It is like the Voters' Assembly voting on doctrine.

[Translation found here.]

A Cross-Christian Dilemma

The Rise of Cross-less Catholicism
FATHER JAMES V. SCHALL, S.J.

In the Australian on May 22, Tess Livingston covered the new translation of the Missal. This good work needed early explanation. George Cardinal Pell, who was instrumental in the English translation, remarked: "The previous translators seemed a bit embarrassed to refer to angels, sacrifice and perpetual virginity. They went softly on sin and redemption."

Though they must be put in a larger context, "going softly on sin and redemption" is equivalent to proposing another religion, with such un-pleasantries eliminated. We have become too frail to bear the truth of our tradition, of what it teaches, of what our real problems are.

Cardinal Pell's remarks recalled an e-mail from a man I do not know. He teaches in a Catholic high school and was assigned a summer school course. He chose to offer one on C. S. Lewis and Tolkien – surely worthy topics – and sent in a prospectus to the program director. The response was that his outline included too many "negative" things, like "good vs. evil, vice and virtue, honor and shame." The students would not react well to such harsh concepts.

I was "terrified," as I told the man, that students could not face the most basic of Christian truths at a Catholic school. But it is true that what are called the "negative" elements in Christianity are seldom heard in our schools or universities anymore.

Redemption, it seems, has nothing to do with one's personal sins or deeds. The students are "upset" by core doctrines, or at least teachers think they are. "Don't upset the students" becomes censorship. No doubt ways of presenting such doctrines can be excessive, but I suspect that is a rare problem today.

Faith is thus transformed into a social movement. That is where we deal with the "negative" things: We work against bad causes to make the world "better" through judicious selection of movements that "do good." We do not need to attend to ourselves. We do not like to know that our thoughts and deeds have anything to do with something that transcends the going political correctness in the local culture.

Diversity teaches that whatever anyone does is all right. Multiculturalism teaches that if such is the way they do it in Baluchistan, it must be great everywhere. The only "sin" is that of prejudice. Prejudice means that you acknowledge a truth, but you have no problems with anything anyone does. Our moral world has just about accepted every classical vice as a virtue. We fear that we will be against something because it is "evil."

In a recent visit to Turin, Pope Benedict XVI remarked: "Towards the end of the 19th century, Nietzsche wrote: 'God is dead! And we have killed him.'" Far from disagreeing with this view, Benedict adds: "This famous saying is clearly taken almost literally from the Christian tradition. We often repeat it in the Way of the Cross, perhaps without being fully aware of what we are saying." Nietzsche is orthodox!

Christ Himself was not so scandalized. He knew we needed doctrine, grace, habit, purpose of amendment, penance, and forgiveness. If we eliminate these things, we invent a religion of perfectionism, not Catholicism.

And how is it that we have "killed God?" Surely, it is through our sins and other "negative" things. Thus, if we do not even want to talk about these things, as Tolkien and Lewis do, we will have no conception of what Catholicism is about. We will deny that things we do need attention. Many schools, Catholic ones included, live in an environment in which the early practice of virtue is almost impossible. A friend of mine who homeschools her son recently told me that she was grateful to be almost through the "middle school" period, as that was the worst arena morally in most school systems.

But how does one deal with the Lord of the Rings or Narnia if sin, redemption, and their relation to glory cannot be brought up for fear that someone will be upset? G. K. Chesterton spoke of this aberration in his time. Literature is taught to prepare the child and adult precisely for the things that will, in fact, happen. We see what we ought to do by seeing how lives work themselves out when we do not do as we ought.

Catholicism is not a religion that provides a formula for not sinning. It says, "If you do sin, repent, and go on." Nietzsche himself, I think, was scandalized by Christians who continued to sin. Christ Himself was not so scandalized. He knew we needed doctrine, grace, habit, purpose of amendment, penance, and forgiveness. If we eliminate these things, we invent a religion of perfectionism, not Catholicism.

We tell our young that everything is fine, especially themselves. Just do what others do. Do not judge. Do not distinguish. If something is wrong, it is not your fault. It's the system. You are ok. Don't worry. Be happy.

Source: CERC

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

God is wonderful in His Saints

It is interesting what catches the eye when you are trained by society to de-emphasize, forget or reject something . . .

The beginning of the Psalm quoted in the Offertory for St. Cyril and St. Methodius, Bishops, Martyrs, did just that for me. Here from the Douay-Rheims the phrase is "God is wonderful in His saints."

At this point the red flags are going up. Let us address these points. The Douay-Rheims is a Catholic Bible. True. One does not find this wording in any of the accepted English translations from the traditional KJV to the recent ESV (Protestant). In these translations reference is made to "holy places." So, it is a matter of how the translation is rendered. Also true. What credence is there in including this phrase in a biblical translation?

In the Septuagint we find: Θαυμαστος ο θεος εν τοις αγιοις αυτου This is echoed in the Vulgate: mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis. One ought also consult the Hebrew text. The older LXX and Vulgate renderings suffice for now in leading toward the purpose of this post, which is the greater meaning.

The greater meaning that seems to be being de-emphasized, forgotten and rejected in society and which caught my eye here is that of "holiness." Not that we are reminded almost daily of weaknesses in the Church by outsiders. Rather "holiness" now seems to be something that makes even "insiders" nervous. (Preach sin or entertain me ("lighten up"). I can relate to that.) So this is it in a nutshell. Holiness is something that is addressed over and over in divine revelation. We echo the theme "Holy, Holy, Holy" in the divine liturgy. Yet emphasizing such a theme appears foreign to us. Not only does society move us away from such thinking (hence, the word "secular") but we in the Church seem to be more comfortable moving away from this thinking too. This may explain too our drifting away from "reverence."

If there is such a thing as "Saints," and I believe there is, it is that, as the psalmist says, "God is wonderful in" them. As we see in Word and Sacraments the Lord blesses both things and people. Although sinners, do we not share in His holiness? "God is wonderful in His Saints: the God of Israel is He who will give power and strength to His people. Blessed be God."

Sunday, July 04, 2010

He is satisfied in giving this food to us . . .

Homily for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost
Exodus 20:1-17; Romans 6:3-11; St. Mark 8:1-9

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

On a weekend like this one with large crowds and much food we might contrast what it was like in this morning’s Gospel reading where Jesus was teaching a large crowd and the people had been with him three days. This time however there was no food to eat. Through His teaching Jesus had been providing the people with what they needed, the Word of God. This is why they stayed listening to Him for such a long time. They trusted Him, even to the point of fasting, rather than leave and get food. Neither does Jesus hesitate in teaching them. He is the Teacher and He has words for them that are, as the Apostle Peter said, words of eternal life. There is a good relationship here. The people gladly hear Jesus’ teaching and Jesus teaches what God has sent Him to teach. Jesus is satisfied that the people have received His teaching for He now thinks to send them away. He does not send them away to send them away. Here Jesus has compassion on the crowd. He knows that not all might make it home if He sends them away without something to eat so He checks with His disciples to see what food there is available.

We are reminded here of the words of the psalmist in the Introit, “The Lord is the strength of His people.” Not only does the Lord give us His Word, His teaching to sustain us for the life of our souls, He feeds us with the food that sustains us in this life. Without food we are not able to gladly hear and learn God’s Word. Without God’s Word we are left hungry, lacking righteousness, never reaching the kingdom of God. Without the Lord’s strength we are left to die in our sin and we would never make it home. Jesus’ teaching and that of the Apostles and even to this day in the Church is that of repentance into the forgiveness of sins. God turns His anger away from our sin and shows His compassion, so turning us away from our sin and toward Christ crucified, whose death on the cross is our judgment and God’s ultimate sacrifice of compassion. Jesus’ teaching is given flesh in His compassion for the hungry multitude and in His giving His life for the life of the world. In faith we say Jesus is “for us.” In His compassion He leads us to love Him and our neighbor. Jesus is the incarnation of God’s mercy that does not end with His death on the cross. After His Resurrection and before He left them Jesus sent His Apostles, the “sent ones,” to continue on with the same work that He was sent to do. This work is that of preaching the Gospel, of baptizing, of absolving and of feeding the baptized believers, members of the one holy catholic and apostolic church with His food, the Holy Supper. But these are not simply tasks that the Lord gives the Church. They are means by which He satisfies His people so that they may be united with Him and with one another in the forgiveness of sins and be sent to their homes and daily lives satisfied and living in the one true faith, that is life with God in Christ. This is why the Apostle Paul writes to the church at Corinth, to those who believe and were baptized, saying, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor. 1:30) The Apostle argues that it is Christ Jesus who fully satisfies, even to salvation.

This salvation is best received in the Church at the altar where baptized believers receive the Lord Himself. We come to Him weak and weary from hunger and thirst, seeking His mercy and forgiveness. He satisfies our hunger and thirst for righteousness as we proclaim His death until He comes again. As Jesus “gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples” to set the blessed food before the multitude so He blesses the bread and wine, that are His very Body and Blood. This blessed food is food that satisfies for it is the Lord Himself. He is satisfied in giving this food to us and satisfied enough to send us away from each Mass in His peace. He fosters what is good and guards what is fostered in us. That is why we do not find it hard to come back to Him daily saying, “Return, O Lord, a little and be entreated in favour of Thy servants.”

Today our country celebrates independence. We who are set aside by God in His love to be His own in Baptism also celebrate the hard-won freedom to worship, hearing His holy Word and receiving His blessed Sacraments. This is food from the One who frees us from sin. This food at the altar is that which helps us to see beyond God’s gifts of country and government which we enjoy now to the eternal life we have with Him through Jesus Christ our Lord. “The Lord is the strength of His people.” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

St. Irenaeus - the import of the tradition



"As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth."

- St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Bishop, Martyr (d. c. A.D. 202) from Adversus Haereses, Bk 1, Ch 10

Friday, July 02, 2010

On holidays and loyalties

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In the United States of America this weekend draws focus on independence from Great Britain which legally took place on July 2, 1776. The adoption of the Declaration of Independence two days later on the 4th of July, 1776, set the precedent for the country's consequent annual commemoration and celebration of this date. This year the 4th of July falls on Sunday, the week-day set aside for regular worship by many Christians.

One of the ongoing questions Christians and people of all religions face is that of patriotism or national loyalty (which varies from country to country). Pastors often face people, even faithful members, who place loyalty to country over loyalty to God. Others simply equate these loyalties. In America, the 4th of July falling on a Sunday naturally highlights one aspect of independence, that of religious liberty. While the Declaration of Independence does not address this question directly as does the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration does speak of "Nature's God" and "certain unalienable Rights . . . among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Without pursuing this in much depth one might list "religious liberty," or the freedom to worship in public, among the "unalienable Rights" given to man by God, which are related to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Most Americans, being practically minded, will give little thought this weekend to such abstract questions. They will simply enjoy their freedom by enjoying time with family and friends at cookouts (including cooking brats, depending on what part of the country one lives in), baseball games, and other advantages of leisure. We are certainly free to take advantage of and enjoy these freedoms, for that is one of the privileges of our hard-fought and gained liberty. (Some Americans might not even notice this year that the 4th of July falls on a Sunday or what the 4th of July even means. What matters is that the grills will be lit.)

As Christians we need not get defensive about attending church on Sunday mornings, especially on the 4th of July. This is one of our freedoms. Having Christian or religious faith apart from loyalty to one's country does not equate with lack of patriotic loyalty. Neither is it necessary for churches to become centers of patriotic celebration on this upcoming Sunday morning. There is already plenty of celebration to go around the whole weekend. Some churches will bind themselves on Sunday mornings to patriotic themes. While there is freedom to do just that it need not be encouraged nor does this necessarily equate with faithfulness or loyalty to the faith that we confess, for example, in the Creed.

When Sunday falls on such an important national holiday as it does this year, our religious freedom is celebrated best in attending worship as we would on any other Sunday. The one hour or so focused on God and His gifts, including the freedom Christ has won for us on the cross, will not lessen our loyalty to the country, even when and where the focus is not on patriotic themes. Nor is such worship reason to focus on one's loyalty to God as compared with that of others. This is never the focus of worship and such loyalty is not about us either. Worship is about God's loyalty to us. Worship of God on this 4th of July serves as a witness and a great demonstration of the liberty we have received and enjoy in this country. This worship primarily serves as a vivid reminder and celebration of our citizenship which is in heaven, and our freedom as members of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church on earth.