Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

All Souls

I heard a voice from heaven saying to me,
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.
Last Judgment RWeyden.jpg
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins, that through our devout prayers they may obtain the pardon which they have always desired.

Saint Joseph [the carpenter] prayed: In my life, O Lord, is at an end; if the moment has come for me to go forth from this world, send unto me Michael the Prince of thine Angels. May he remain beside me that my poor soul may go out of this suffering body in peace, without pain or fear.
(from an Arabian History of Saint Joseph, before the 4th century)

Ember Days at the start of Autumn

Lost
but not forgotten in Catholic practice are the observances for Autumn Ember
Days
, the “Four Seasons.” Other ember days are prayed in
December (3rd week of Advent), Lent (after the 1st Sunday of Lent) and after
Pentecost but in its octave. The autumn ember days are observed on the
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday following the Triumph of the Holy Cross
, September 14. This year
the ember days are September 16, 18, & 19. Tradition has also called this
period of prayer, procession, fasting and partial abstinence the Michaelmas
Ember Days

given the proximity to the liturgical memorial of Saint Michael the Archangel
on September 29th.

Farmer's Market.jpg

The occasion for Ember Days are the seasons of the year.
As you would think, each season we give ought to give thanks to God for graces
received and the fruits of the harvest. Ember days are rich in theology and
culture going back a very long time in the Catholic Church, one can argue to
the very early Church where the first fruits were given to the Lord. One might also recall the Jewish customs of prayer and
fasting and purification in the autumn. Those with a strong liturgical bent will recall that before the “reform” of the
missal following the Second Vatican Council the Church had a richer and deeper
understanding of the nature of ember days: each day had their own Mass,
Scripture readings from both Testaments, processions and prayers. Today, ember days are all but forgotten save for a small number of people who bother to read ritual books and liturgical theology and who think these things have import for the contemporary life of the Church.

As we delve
more deeply into our Catholic faith and the various liturgical observances of
thanksgiving, conversion and supplication, we might consider spending time
during these ember days in gratitude to God for what He’s given for our earthly
sustenance asking Him for the grace of conversion. Additionally, I am reminded
with these ember gestures of the recent emphasis on the environment and ecology viz. the faith that Pope Benedict said last week: “
Today
more than ever people must be helped to see in creation something more than a
simple source of wealth or exploitation in man’s hands. The truth is that when
God, through creation, gave man the keys to the earth, he wanted him to use
this great gift responsibly and respectfully, making it fruitful. The human
being discovers the intrinsic value of nature if he learns to see it for what
it really is, the expression of a plan of love and truth that speaks to us of
the Creator and of his love for humanity, which will find its fulfillment in
Christ, at the end of time. In this context it is important to reiterate the
close relationship between protection of the environment and respect for the
ethical requirements of human nature, because when human ecology is respected
within society, environmental ecology also benefits.”

Living
the ember days more fully would allow for a renewed interest in praising God
for creation, the concern of humanity’s proper use of creation and our keen stewardship of nature for future generations.

Cf. “Order of Blessing on the Occasion of Thanksgiving for the Harvest” (Book of Blessings, nos 1007-1023) or in the 3rd volume of Fr Weller’s Roman Ritual. Two prayers from the Maronite book of blessings read:

May God bless + this fruit, those who bring it, present it, and share in it. May the mercy of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, come down upon those who labored to produce this fruit and those who were in any way associated with them. Praised be to God, now and for ever. Amen.

And

O Lord, your right hand blessed the few loaves of bread in the desert, and through the hands of the prophet Elijah you blessed the jar of wheat and the jug of oil in the house of the widow. May your blessing now come down, through my right hand bless + this house (granary or this wheat or grain) and all the food that it kept here. As you blessed the homes and the reserves of the just of old –Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, and David–shower your abundant blessings upon the yield of your worshipers. We praise you, now and for ever. Amen. 

O Lord, save your people and bless + your inheritance. Feed them, and carry them for ever.

The cross is no failure

Cross with Carthusian monk JdeBeaumetz.jpgIn one respect the cross does have a terrible aspect
that we ought not to remove. To see that the purest of men, who was more than a
man, was executed in such a grisly way can make us frightened of ourselves. But
we also need to be frightened of ourselves and out of our self-complacency.


Here,
I think, Luther was right when he said that man must first be frightened of
himself so that he can then find the right way. However, the cross doesn’t stop
at being a horror; it is not merely a horror, because the one who looks down at
us from the cross
is not a failure, a desperate man, not one of the horrible
victims of humanity
.

For this crucified man says something different from
Spartacus and his failed adherents, because, after all, what looks down at us
from the cross is a goodness
that enables a new beginning in the midst of
life’s horror. The goodness of God himself looks on us, God who surrenders
himself into our hands, delivers himself to us, and bears the whole horror of
history with us.

Looked at more deeply this sign, which forces us to look at
the dangerousness of man and all his heinous deeds, at the same time makes us
look upon God, who is stronger, stronger in his weakness, and upon the fact
that we are loved by God.

It is in this sense a sign of forgiveness that also
brings hope
into the abysses of history. God is crucified and says to us that
this God who is apparently so weak is the God who incomprehensibly forgives us
and who in his seeming absence is stronger.

Benedictus
Pope Benedict XVI

Exaltation of the Holy Cross


Cross, San Francesco, Arezzo.jpg

God the Father has exalted

Jesus Christ, the Lord of all,

Who has emptied self of glory,

Took our human nature’s thrall;

In obedience, He was humbled

Taking even cross and death;

Now creation shouts in wonder

“Christ is Lord” with ev’ry breath!

As the Cross is boldly
lifted

And the faithful now embrace

What was once a thing so shameful,

Now the hope of all our race,

Let us, marked with Cross, and
baptized,

Shout this news throughout the earth:

Through the Cross, our God has conquered!

Through it, come to His new birth!

87.87. D, no tune
suggested

James Michael Thompson, (c) 2009, World Library Publications

St Stanislaus Church (New Haven, CT) receives St. Gregory Society

JRingly preachin Sept 13 09.jpg

This afternoon the first Mass celebrated by priests associated with the Saint Gregory Society was offered at Saint Stanislaus Church, New Haven, CT. Having attended Mass at the Church since the mid-1970s I am elated that this has transpired, as I mentioned earlier on this blog. The beauty of the architecture coupled with the beauty of the sacred Liturgy is a wonderful convergence.

What a happy day for the SGS and for Saint Stanislaus!

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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