Category Archives: Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments

Confession of sins is Good News

pope confessesThe Pope gave a teaching on the sacrament of Confession. He has three points. Remember the Pope has a central emphasis for his ministry: MERCY. Today, begins a concerted effort on the part of the Bishop of Rome to encourage ALL priests to assist the faithful in this ministry of love and to embrace this gift given by the Lord. I think Pope Francis is quite clear, don’t you?

“24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative of Pope Francis to make room for the reception of Confession. Here is a video clip of the pope doing what he’s been teaching.

The Pope taught:

In the period of Lent, the Church, in the name of God, renews the call to conversion. It is the call to change one’s life. Conversion is not a matter of a moment or a year, is a commitment that lasts a lifetime. Who among us can be assumed not to be a sinner? No one. The Apostle John writes: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so as to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).” This is what happens in our celebration and throughout this day of penance. The Word of God we have heard introduces us to two essential elements of the Christian life.

The first: put on the new man. The new man, “created according to God(Eph 4:24),” is born in Baptism, where one receives the very life of God, which makes us His sons and incorporates us into Christ and his Church. This new life allows one to look at reality with different eyes, without being distracted by things that do not matter and cannot last long. For this we are called to abandon sinful behaviour and fix our gaze on that, which is essential. “Man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. (Gaudium et Spes, 35)” Behold the difference between the life deformed by sin and the life illumined by grace. From the heart of the man renewed according to God come good behaviors: always to speak with truth and avoid any lie; to steal not, but rather to share what you have with others; especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, resentment and revenge, but to be gentle, magnanimous and ready to forgive; not to fall into backbiting that ruins people’s good name, but to look more rather on each person’s positive side.

Confession LonghiThe second factor [is]: Remain in my love. The love of Jesus Christ lasts forever, will never end because it is the very life of God. This love conquers sin and gives strength to get up and start anew, because with pardon the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. Our Father never tires of loving and His eyes did not grow heavy in looking at the way home, to see if his Son who left and was lost will return. And this Father does not tire of loving even His other son, who, though he remains ever in the house with Him, nevertheless does not take part in His mercy, His compassion. God is not only the source of love, but in Jesus Christ calls us to imitate his own way of loving: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. (Jn 13:34)” To the extent that Christians live this love, they become credible disciples of Christ in the world. Love cannot stand to remain locked up in itself. By its very nature [Love] is open, it spreads and is fruitful, [it] always generates new love.

Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will make yourselves missionaries to the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative in which many dioceses all over the world are participating. To everyone you meet, you will communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and regaining full friendship with Him. The one who experiences the mercy of God, is driven to be the creator of mercy among the poor and the least. In these “littlest brothers and sisters” Jesus waits for us (cf. Mt 25:40). Let us go to meet them! And we will celebrate Easter in the joy of God!

Deprecatory Blessing Against Pests

There are times we need help from God to get rid of mice and rats, locusts, worms, rats, etc. A deprecatory prayer expresses to God –the Creator of all things– our negative or disapproval of one His guests. The prayer speaks for itself.

The priest vests in surplice and purple stole, and coming to the field or place infested with these creatures, says:

Antiphon: Arise, Lord, help us; and deliver us for your kindness’ sake.

Psalm 43.1: O God, our ears have heard, our fathers have declared to us.

All: Glory be to the Father.
Priest: As it was in the beginning.

All say the Antiphon: Arise, Lord, help us; and deliver us for your kindness’ sake.

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: Lord, heed my prayer.

All: And let my cry be heard by you.
P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

We entreat you, Lord, be pleased to hear our prayers; and even though we rightly deserve, on account of our sins, this plague of mice (or locusts, worms, etc.), yet mercifully deliver us for your kindness’ sake. Let this plague be expelled by your power, and our land and fields be left fertile, so that all it produces redound to your glory and serve our necessities; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

Let us pray.

Almighty everlasting God, the donor of all good things, and the most merciful pardoner of our sins; before whom all creatures bow down in adoration, those in heaven, on earth, and below the earth; preserve us sinners by your might, that whatever we undertake with trust in your protection may meet with success by your grace. And now as we utter a curse on these noxious pests, may they be cursed by you; as we seek to destroy them, may they be destroyed by you; as we seek to exterminate them, may they be exterminated by you; so that delivered from this plague by your goodness, we may freely offer thanks to your majesty; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

The Exorcism

I cast out you noxious vermin, by God the Father almighty, by Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, and by the Holy Spirit. May you speedily be banished from our land and fields, lingering here no longer, but passing on to places where you can do no harm. In the name of the almighty God and the entire heavenly court, as well as in the name of the holy Church of God, we pronounce a curse on you, that wherever you go you may be cursed, decreasing from day to day until you are obliterated. Let no remnant of you remain anywhere, except what might be necessary for the welfare and use of mankind. Be pleased to grant our request, you who are coming to judge both the living and the dead and the world by fire.

All: Amen.

The places infested are sprinkled with holy water.

Light pointing to Christ in the Liturgy, in life

candlesDo you ever think about our use of light in the Church? Does the use of light in the Liturgy ever cross your mind other than what you have experienced at annual the Easter Vigil? Even those churches with dedication candles rarely, if ever, get used. So, it seems fair to say that we don’t think of lighting the Church as remotely significant to the liturgical act, not at least since Thomas Edison. The use of electricity has minimized the sensual experience of light and darkness as part of the litugical-theological drama in the Latin Church, and in the Eastern Churches where it was more developed over the centuries. But the Easterns have burned through tradition.

I have tried  to get priests and altar servers to be more attentive to the use of light and shadow in the time prior to and following the Mass but efforts have been rather difficult. More often we think of convenience, that is utility, as having a higher value than biblical typology. Think of the various points found in the Pentateuch, the prophets and the gospel of John. I happen to think that we need a recovery of biblical typology influencing liturgical ritual in concrete ways. Benedict XVI taught us this fact, too. Surely you might concede that Divine Revelation and development of biblical imagery in the Liturgy of Christ the Light has much to teach us —the lex orandi, lex credendi— thus having an educative side to our Catholic worship and imagination. The worship of God educates us as well as give proper glory and honor to God.

Catholic liturgy over the years has taught us that the burning candle is a form of sacrifice, a gift consuming itself just like the fire consuming the animal sacrifice; it also serves as a reminder of the prayerful intentions of the faithful. Churches have vigil lights at shrines imploring intercession. Even more poignant is the Paschal Candle because of its symbolism of the risen Christ Jesus. Some will recall that the wax made by honey bees is said to represent the flesh of Jesus; the wick and the wax working together is understood as a symbol of the hypostatic union of the Lord’s humanity and divinity; the flame recalls the Lord’s divinity. The biblical readings and prayers prayed at the Easter Vigil will remind the faithful of God’s presence among the Israelites in a pillar of flame. And no Catholic Church with the Eucharistic Presence is left without a vigil light continuously lit indicating the presence of Jesus Christ.

Imagine what our worship of the Triune God would be like if we were slightly more attentive to revelation and biblical premise! Certainly, our Christian anthropology would be keener. Little known is the Syriac liturgical tradition of which the Maronite Church belongs, has the unique ritual in the Liturgy of Lighting the Church. Yet, the lighting ritual has not really been seen in the USA too much until recently when Maronite Bishop Gregory Mansour asked the priests of the Eparchy of St Maron to shed some good light with both the candle lighting and the preparation of the gifts using the ritual the of “Lighting of the Church.”

Chorchishop Seely Beggiani, a liturgical theologian and recently the former rector of the Maronite Seminary in Washington, wrote about Light in the ritual of the Maronites.

Light is taken for granted by most people in the twentieth century. Our modern science has demystified the sun, the cycle of the seasons and the solar year. The invention of electricity has given ordinary human creatures power over light and darkness. Earlier generations were in awe of the sun and light. When day came to a close and pitch darkness covered the earth, they prayed that the sun would rise again and that warmth and life would again deliver them from the seemingly endless cold and a dying earth. Our ancestors had a deep awareness of their total dependence on light.

However, modern science can also make us aware of the absolute necessity of light in our lives. Photosynthesis is critical to any life at all on earth. If humans were deprived absolutely of light for even a short time, they would go mad and ultimately die. It is no accident that according to Albert Einstein the speed of light is the absolute for our universe.

Our faith tradition teaches us that primordial light was the first creation of God and thus the very stuff of the universe. God is portrayed as the “Father of Lights” and Christ is the Light of the World. The Bible often teaches us that we ultimately choose to live our lives either according to the Way of Light or the Way of Darkness; and that light leads to life while darkness leads to death. The true nature of Christ was revealed as uncreated light at the transfiguration, and it was the light of Christ at his death that destroyed the darkness of Sheol (the region of the dead.) Our immortal destiny is presented as the eighth day of creation where the sun will never set, where we are called to view the shining face of Christ.

It is for all these reasons that the lighting of the Church in preparation for the divine liturgy has such a great significance. In participating in this act we are proclaiming our readiness to be children of the light and to allow our deeds to be judged in the open light of day. The lighting of the candles announces the presence of Christ, the light of the world, whom we welcome among us. In the fully lighted church which represents the universe in miniature, we give thanks for the light and warmth of God’s creation.”

Christ the reconciler

cross detail3When you attend and pray Holy Mass today you’ll likely notice that Catholics are moving toward Ash Wednesday, March 5. As you know, Ash Wednesday marks the opening of the penitential season, a time of preparation for the annual remembering and living more intensely our faith (anamnesis in technical terms) of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: His life, death, resurrection and Ascension.

Today, the Catholic Church has various liturgical observances for the Sunday celebration of Mass. The Ordinary Form of the Mass celebrates the 6th Sunday of the Year, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass marks today as Septuagesima Sunday (that is, 70 days before Easter). Our Eastern Catholic sisters and brothers have various ways to mark the preparation for Easter.

Lent has developed over the centuries from the earliest times of Christianity and what is now spoken of as the ashes of penitence and the period of time were given to the Church in the 6th and 7th centuries. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass, for example, maintains three Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday called Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima, that is respectively, the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth days before Easter Sunday. The Ordinary Form of the Mass has dropped these preparatory Sundays thus isolating the tradition of preparing for Lent seen in the older form of the Mass and what is lived by the Eastern Churches. Nevertheless, these numbers help us to use the Scriptures in an Old Testament typological way. The Old Testament informs, prepares and opens us up to the work of the Messiah. Hence we say that the number seventy recalls for us the seventy years of the Jewish people living in exile in Babylon. Upon hearing this we ask, how do we live in exile from the fullness of communion with God? What is pondered in the sacred Liturgy is pondered in our personal life. The First Sunday of Lent, Quadragesima, is the beginning of the Lenten fast of forty days.

Since most Catholics will hear the gospel Matthew (5:17–37) for the 6th Sunday through the Year, here is a reflection taken from Saint John Chrysostom:

“Christ gave his life for you, and do you hold a grudge against your fellow servant? How then can you approach the table of peace? Your Master did not refuse to undergo every kind of suffering for you, and will you not even forgo your anger? Why is this, when love is the root, the wellspring and the mother of every blessing? ‘He has offered me an outrageous insult’, you say, ‘he has wronged me times without number, he has endangered my life’. Well, what is that? He has not yet crucified you as the Jewish elders crucified the Lord. If you refuse to forgive your neighbor’s offense your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins either. What does your conscience say when you repeat the words: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name’, and the rest? Christ went so far as to offer his blood for the salvation of those who shed it. What could you do that would equal that? If you refuse to forgive your enemy you harm not him but yourself…The reason the Son of God came into the world was to reconcile the human race with the Father. As Paul says: ’Now he has reconciled all things to himself, destroying enmity in himself by the cross’. Consequently, as well as coming himself to make peace he also calls us blessed if we do the same, and shares his title with us. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, he says, ‘for they shall be called children of God’. So as far as a human being can, you must do what Christ the Son of God did, and become a promoter of peace both for yourself and for your neighbor. Christ calls the peacemaker a child of God. The only good deed he mentions as essential at the time of sacrifice is reconciliation with one’s brother or sister. This shows that of all the virtues the most important his love.”

Bearing the weight of Christian life: the liturgical’s calendar interruptions

Yesterday afternoon I was listening to a Catholic theologian giving what I thought was a fine presentation on a theology of work. He, like many Catholics, made an error that I am particularly sensitive to when it comes to Catholic Liturgy. The professor spoke of Ordinary Time in the clichéd way we often think of this period and thus distorts what we live liturgically. Ordinary Time is not distinguished by common, normal or nothing special. The Church understand the meaning of Ordinary Time as being a period of liturgical time that takes us through the ordered unfolding of the life of the Messiah in the kerygma, and orderliness of our sacramentality in word and season. Therefore, we say with liturgical precision that there is no Ordinary Time in Catholic Liturgy. There is a distinct connection of having Christmas near the shortest day of the year and Easter in the springtime. Hence, it is more accurate to say, Sundays through the Year. But that does not hold currency these days in the Church. Catholics live their life of faith different from those the evangelical Christian communities but we honor a liturgical time with those who are Orthodox and Anglican Christians.

Time has come, I believe , to come some resolution in favor of a more authentic exposition of faith in our liturgical living: Father Richard G. Cipolla, a friend and former colleague, penned this homily that was reposted on Rorate Coeli blog, “Epiphany and the Unordinariness of Liturgical Time.” 

Father Cipolla’s thinking is challenging and desirous of advancing a renewal of Catholic liturgical praxis for theological reasons and not idealogical ones. The liturgical calendar is not unimportant. Quite the opposite: as the author indicates, the calendar serves the sacred Liturgy in that it helps to bear the weight of what has been given to us by the Lord and the saints. Hence, our living of liturgical  time forms and informs our Christian life and how we live in the world in which find ourselves and how live with others. Do we have the shoulders to carry the lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi tradition well into the 21st century?

Father Cipolla is a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport who came into full communion with the Catholic Church with his wife and two children; he retired from years of teaching but he a curate at St Mary’s Church, Norwalk, CT.

EpiphanyOne chapter of Dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy is named “The Sanctification of Time”.  This chapter shows how the Liturgical Calendar of the Church sanctifies time.  The Liturgical Calendar does not provide merely an overlay of secular time.  The Calendar is part of the recognition of the radically irruptive event of the Incarnation that changes time and space and reality forever.  Of course this includes the celebrations of the feasts of the Saints, those specific celebrations of the making real of the grace of God in the lives of those who open themselves up in a total way to this grace, above all in the Blessed Virgin Mary.  But the foundation of the Liturgical Calendar is the cycles that celebrate the Mysteries of the Birth, Life, Death,  Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Christmas cycle, which we are celebrating at this time, gives ultimate meaning to the secular, physical time when the days are becoming longer, a bit more light each day.  In the Christmas cycle we celebrate the coming into the world of the Light that shines in the darkness.  We celebrate the making flesh of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the birth of her child whose name is Jesus—he who comes to save. The climax of this cycle has always been the Epiphany, a feast older than Christmas, a feast that celebrates the fact that the event and the person of the Incarnation embraces not only time and space but embraces all the peoples of the world.  And the feast of the Epiphany proclaims in its three-fold way the answer to the seminal question asked in the Gospels: who is this man Jesus?  He is the one who is worshipped as God. He is the one who is the Son of God in whom his Father is well pleased.  He is the one who changes water into wine, for he is the Lord of creation itself.

One of the saddest and most deleterious effects of the changes in the structure and content of the Liturgical Calendar in the post-Conciliar reform is the lack of understanding of the sanctification of time by the feasts and fasts of the Church.  The introduction, at least in English, of the term, “ordinary time”, contradicts the fact that after the Incarnation there is no “ordinary” time. There is only the extraordinary time that has been brought into being by the insertion of the dagger of the Incarnation into ordinary time.  Now we know that the term “ordinary time” is a poor translation of the Latin term for “in course”.  But even this does not take away from the fact of the impoverishment of the Liturgical Calendar that has been effected by taking away the Sundays after the Epiphany and the Sundays after Pentecost.  The traditional way of naming these Sundays understood that these two feasts, Epiphany and Pentecost, are the climaxes of the Christmas and Easter seasons, the seasons that celebrate the event and meaning of, respectively, the Birth, and the Death and Resurrection of Christ, and therefore these feasts become the touchstone, the source of reality of the Sundays of the Church Year.

One of the marks of the Novus Ordo form and its calendar that is striking evidence of its incapacity to bear the weight of the Catholic Tradition is its source in a committee.  Something organic has nothing to do with a liturgical commission or consilium or committee.  As soon as one thinks that the Liturgy can be treated as a mere text to be updated, the possibility of worship is severely lessened.  That is what the Protestant reformers thought.  They rewrote their Mass texts to suit their ideology.  And, for the most part, liturgical worship died in those churches.  And where it did survive, as in Anglicanism, it did so thanks to both an innate conservatism and finally to a revival in the 19th century of a more Catholic understanding of the Eucharist.

The whole question of what happened and how it happened with respect to the Novus Ordo rite vis a vis the imposition of a particular ideology based on the scholarship du jour,  and the personal predilections of those in charge of the post-Conciliar reforms,  is a conversation that has not been allowed to happen by those “in charge” of such things in Rome.  There is no doubt that such a conversation will be had and must be had, for the good of the Church.  But that will come inevitably in time.

But surely, the question of the Liturgical Calendar and the mistakes made in its Novus Ordo formulation can be discussed now.  The imposition of a pre-conceived “orderliness” that demands that the Christmas season end with the feast of the Epiphany and with no time for the Octave to reflect on this seminal feast must be revisited.  This is compounded when the feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on a Sunday.  The irony here is that one of the battle cries of the reform of the Calendar was the restoration of the primacy of Sunday in the Liturgical Year.  Surely we can now see the foolishness of the possibility of celebrating the Epiphany as early as on January 2, four full days before the actual feast that is celebrated in those parts of the Western Church still on January 6 and celebrated on that day by our Orthodox brethren throughout the world with the solemnity it deserves.  It is foolish as well to celebrate this feast after January 6, as if it is irrelevant to the sanctification of time when any feast is celebrated, for the guiding principle in this reform is the convenience of the people: it is more convenient for the people to celebrate the Epiphany on Sunday rather than the interruption of having to go to Mass on a weekday.  But it is precisely the interruption that is the point.  The irruption of the Incarnation demands such an interruption, demands such an “inconvenience”, for it is a reminder of the sanctification of time itself to those of us who forget that time and space and the world and our lives and our future have been radically changed by the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

It may be too much to hope that a real conversation about the Liturgical Calendar of the Novus Ordo form will take place soon. But surely we can hope that our Bishops will soon see the deleterious effect of moving the Epiphany and other major feasts of our Lord to Sunday and will put an end to this practice.  For this, let us pray.

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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