Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: December 2008 Archives

Te Deum

| | Comments (0)

angels.jpgThe tradition of the Church is to continuously give thanks to God. Our prayer of thanks is an expression that we did not make ourselves, that God the Father created us, sustains and leads us according to His divine plan. Plain and simple: we give thanks for gifts received period.


In Rome, the Pope serves as a model in celebrating a vesperal service with the rite of benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. At that service the Te Deum is sung, a 4th century hymn combining doctrine, Scripture and poetry; an English version follows. Here in the USA, as in other countries, there is a custom to have a day of thanks. Catholics mark the year's end with a day of thanks in prayer for all that has happened in the past year. In many churches and homes Catholics will give God glory and thanks.



O God, we praise Thee, and acknowledge Thee to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships Thee.
All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to Thee:
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!

Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.

Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges Thee:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Thy adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

O Christ, Thou art the King of glory!
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When Thou tookest it upon Thyself to deliver man,
Thou didst not disdain the Virgin's womb.
Having overcome the sting of death,

Thou opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.

Thou sitest at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou willst come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg Thee to help Thy servants whom

Thou hast redeemed with Thy Precious Blood.
Let them be numbered with Thy Saints in everlasting glory.

Maesta detail4.jpgV.  Save Thy people, O Lord,

      and bless Thy inheritance!
R.  Govern them, and raise them up forever.

V.  Every day we thank Thee.
R.  And we praise Thy Name forever,

     yes, forever and ever.

V.  O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
R.  Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.

V.  Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,

      for we have hoped in Thee.
R.  O Lord, in Thee I have put my trust;

      let me never be put to shame.

Nativity of the Savior

| | Comments (0)

This sermon is one of the most, if not THE most, recommended texts for this feast. The theology is crisp and eternal. Therefore it is used in the East and the West alike.


Homily by Pope Saint Leo the Great (Sermon 21)

St Leo the Great3.jpg 

Our Savior, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity.


No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all.


Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life.


For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered.


And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin.


Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, "no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth." Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered.


Nativity Duccio.jpgA royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body. And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result, she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honor that she is soon to be the Mother of God. For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin.


Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who "in the beginning was with God," through whom "all things were made" and "without" whom "was nothing made," with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate.


Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.


Virgin of the Annunciation Angelico.jpgRightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin's purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honor. Such then beloved was the nativity which became the Power of God and the Wisdom of God even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead.


For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example. Therefore the exulting angel's song when the Lord was born is this, "Glory to God in the Highest," and their message, "peace on earth to men of good will." For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world: and over that indescribable work of the Divine love how ought the humbleness of men to rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?


Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit, Who "for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us," has had pity on us: and "when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ," that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production.


Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh.


Christian, acknowledge thy dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct.


Remember the Head and the Body of which thou art a member.


Recollect that thou wert rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God's light and kingdom.


By the mystery of Baptism thou weft made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from thee by base acts, and subject thyself once more to the devil's thraldom: because thy purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge thee in truth Who ransomed thee in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Karaganda, Dominus Est.jpgKazakhstan, published a book, Dominus Est, dealing with the history, theology and pastoral practice of receiving Holy Communion. The book is reviewed by Dr. Alcuin Reid.

No doubt many of us receive Holy Communion without considering what the gesture of receiving means at the level of symbol, that is, at the level of deepest reality. We are given "a pledge of future glory," says the prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas, so what does it mean to mean receive this pledge in the hand? Theologically, does it mean anything to receive the Lord in the hand versus on the tongue? Do we take a gift or do we receive a gift? I wonder if the hand is the most appropriate "tool" to receive the Eucharistic Lord. If we truly believe one's reception of the Lord in Communion is an act of reception not an act of taking, then is receiving the Lord in the hand and picking Him up with our fingers the most appropriate act of worship? The question needs to be answered in terms of how Communion is received so that we know at the deepest places in the heart, that we are receiving the Lord Himself. How does our reception of Communion exhibit the deepest reverence for the Blessed Sacrament?


The liturgy establishment -and those who pretend to know the liturgical life of the Church--have argued that receiving Communion in the hand is rooted in the practice of apostolic times. The author argues that scholars, as well as bishops and priests, have misread the early church documents about the practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand and therefore what we know today bears no resemblance to how our Christians received Holy Communion in apostolic period. The point, therefore, is that our scholars and priests have used an archeologistic argument to force the issue of receiving Communion in hand by saying that people didn't receive communion on the tongue in the earlier periods of Church history.


Christ as priest at Mass.jpgThis is not only a matter for the laity. The ordained need to reflect on how they receive the Eucharistic Lord, too. There is ample evidence that what the priests do today is also theologically suspect. In the earlier centuries of the Church no one, not even the pope and bishops, self-communicated Communion. Even though prayer the great Eucharistic prayer he would never presume to take Communion; It was administered to the pope, bishops and priests by the deacon. But I digress.






The book retails for $8.00, with 50% off for five or more copies to the same address ($2 each for shipping/handling). Send to: Newman House Press, 601 Buhler Court, Pine Beach, NJ 08741. Or visit:


In today's general audience (December 17) the Pope mentioned the Christmas novena to the faithful a practice we ought to engage in. The hope of Christmas fulfills our human desires for union with God. Consider what Benedict XVI said:


Today we commence the Christmas Novena of Advent by contemplating the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem. Christmas speaks to everyone; it celebrates the gift of life - often fragile or endangered - and the fulfilment of our deepest hopes for a world renewed. The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God's coming among us as man. The Word became flesh to offer humanity the salvation which can only be received as a gracious gift from God. The same Word by whom the universe was made, the Word which gives all creation its ultimate meaning, has come to dwell among us: he now speaks to us, he reveals the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and he guides us to the Love which is our fulfilment. In the Christ Child, God humbly knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks us freely to accept his love, his truth, his life. As Christmas approaches, let us rekindle our hope in God's promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world.



In 2002, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued a set of principles and guidelines to help our pious activities flourish. The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy tries to harmonize personal and ecclesial piety with the liturgical worship of the Church. At this time of the year the Directory says:


103. The Christmas novena began as a means of communicating the riches of the Liturgy to the faithful who were unable easily to grasp it. It has played a very effective role and can continue to play such a role. At the same time, in current conditions where the faithful have easier access to the Liturgy, it would seem desirable that Vespers from the 17-23 of December should be more solemn by adopting the use of the "major antiphons", and by inviting the faithful to participate at the celebration. Such a celebration, held either before or after which the popular devotions to which the faithful are particularly attached, would be an ideal "Christmas Novena", in full conformity with the Liturgy and mindful of the needs of the faithful. Some elements, such as the homily, the use of incense, and the intercessions, could also be expanded within the celebration of Vespers.


Below is one of many versions of a Christmas Novena prayer. This particular prayer names Saint Andrew in its title but doesn't ask him to intercede for us before God. The faithful, in some places, begin on the feast of Saint Andrew, November 30th, and pray the prayer 15x in a given day, everyday, till Christmas.


Saint Andrew Christmas Novena


Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.


psalms.jpgThe Revised Grail Psalter


The life of a Benedictine monk hinges upon the motto ora et labora, which is Latin for "pray and work". Specifically, St. Benedict intended his followers to be deeply rooted in the psalms, drawing upon their richness in writing his holy Rule and expounding at length upon how they should be prayed. For nearly 1,500 years now, Benedictines have carried on the tradition of their founder, and the Order is well known for its dedication to the liturgy. It should come as no surprise, then, that when the U.S. Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy wanted a new translation of the psalms for use in the liturgy, they approached Conception Abbey's own Abbot Gregory Polan to undertake a revision of the 1963 Grail Psalter.


What are the Grail Psalms?


In the years leading up to Vatican II, when the liturgy was still in Latin but moving toward Joseph Gelineau.jpggreater lay participation, the psalm responses of the Mass were permitted to be sung in the vernacular. A French Jesuit by the name of Joseph Gelineau prepared a French translation of the psalms which was very rhythmic and worked well with a particular set of psalm tones. In response to his work, a community of lay women formed a secular institute called The Grail (of England) and undertook an English translation of Fr. Gelineau's work. They employed scholars and musicians to work on the project and they began to release the fruits of their work in a series of books, each containing a few psalms, throughout the 1950s. The full version with all 150 psalms was released in 1963.


Just like the French Gelineau psalm tones, the 1963 Grail Psalter proved to be very well-suited for choral recitation, singing and chanting. It was soon incorporated into the Liturgy of the Hours.  While the lectionary in the United States used the psalms of the New American Bible and the Revised Standard Version, the 1963 Grail Psalms were also permitted for use as the Responsorial Psalm at Mass.  GIA Publications of Chicago featured these Responsorial Psalms in their Worship III Hymnal.


Why was a new translation needed?


The 1963 Grail Psalms made a wonderful transition from Latin into English because they were so easily understood, they had a clear poetic rhythm and they could be recited and sung with ease. All of these things were important objectives when the Ladies of the Grail set about their work. And while the 1963 Grail Psalter was very successful in this regard, there are places where the adherence to a set rhythm necessitated a paraphrase of the original Hebrew as opposed to a more authentic translation, taking into consideration the sometimes irregular rhythm of the Hebrew Psalms. Since Vatican II, however, we have seen a move to preserve sacred texts' fidelity to their original sources.


Secondly, since the 1950s when most of these psalms were composed, "Much has happened in the area of biblical scholarship to enable us to understand better both the structure of Hebrew poetry and some of the more problematic texts," Abbot Gregory said. He continued, "This scholarship will make a more accurate translation possible."


Additionally, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments' 2001 document Liturgiam Authenticam insists that a consistent translation be used in all the texts of the liturgy, which is currently not the case as far as the psalms are concerned. The Revised Grail Psalter will be the official translation used in the Lectionary, the Liturgy of the Hours, the texts for all books of the Sacraments, etc.


Conception Abbey.jpgWhy Conception?


Obviously, a project of this scope is quite the undertaking. But why were monks of Conception chosen to bring this work to fruition? As mentioned above, the mere fact that Conception Abbey is a Benedictine monastery is already a tally mark under the "pros" column. However, it is the combination of the scholarly pursuits of Abbot Gregory Polan that made the initial request from the U.S. Bishop's Committee on the Liturgy in June of 1998 the first and obvious choice.

Abbot Gregory would tell anyone (and he told the Bishop's Committee) that he is first and foremost an abbot. Next on the list, though, you'll find "Scripture Scholar" and "Musician". After working on a translation of a section of the book of Isaiah in the Revised New American Bible, the staff at the Bishops' Conference--knowing also his musical background--rightly assessed that his combination of abilities especially suited him to the task of revising the Grail Psalter which, like the 1963 Grail Psalter, needed to be suitable for choral recitation, singing and chanting. When Abbot Gregory agreed then, mentioning that he was first an abbot though, the bishops were happy to communicate that they just wanted it done right.


So, Abbot Gregory began the project, enlisting the help of other monks of Conception Abbot Gregory Polan.jpgAbbey, and after four years an initial draft was completed. This draft was then brought before a November meeting of the Bishop's Committee on Divine Worship where it was approved to undergo the rigorous process to deem it an acceptable translation. And acceptable it was as the USCCB approved its widespread use in a 203-5 vote at their meeting of November 11, 2008. It is now awaiting approval from the Vatican.


What does this mean for the Church?


For the Faithful who attend any liturgy in English, the Revised Grail Psalter means consistency in what they'll hear across the board. For musicians and those who use the psalms for choral recitation or chanting, it means a translation which is well suited to these uses without sacrificing the integrity of the translation. All in all, the consistency and fidelity to the ancient texts of the psalms means that the Revised Grail Psalter will help promote a more effective, unified catechesis.


For Conception Abbey, the Revised Grail Psalter is another way that they, in their 135 years since their founding, have been able to respond to the needs of the Church.


Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus



The copyright for The Revised Grail Psalms is held jointly by Conception Abbey and The Grail (England).  GIA Publications serves as the international literary agent for this new version of The Grail Psalms.


Copies of the Revised Grail Psalter will not be released until the recognitio is received from Rome. For more information you may contact:


Jarrod Thome
Director of Communications
Conception Abbey

Advent Presence

| | Comments (0)

As we are at the midway point in the liturgical season of Advent (in the roman rite) it is helpful to remember what we doing and why we are doing it. Pope Benedict is helpful in recalling the essence of the season.


"Advent" does not mean "expectation," as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means "presence" or, more accurately, "arrival," i. e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also for the God being worshiped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.

Advent Taize.jpg "Advent," then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God's presence in the world has already begun, that he is present though in a hidden manner; second, that his presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form.


His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom he wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love he wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.


That night is "today" whenever the "Word" becomes "flesh" or genuine human reality. The Christ child comes in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.


Pope Benedict XVI

2 angels.jpgRejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice; let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.


Gaudete Sunday is called such because of the first word in Latin of the antiphon that begins, Gaudete...Rejoice.... The full antiphon is noted above. It orients our prayer and Mass today! The presence of the Lord is acknowledged to be here, right now, in our midst. Catholics are a people full of joy today and everyday of our existence. The Presence of the Lord is always in our midst: in the Eucharist, sacred Scripture, in our hearts and in our community. Pope Benedict offers us a perspective on an aspect of this joy:


The root of man's joy is the harmony he enjoys with himself. He lives in this affirmation. And only one who can accept himself can also accept the you, can accept the world. The reason why an individual cannot accept the you, cannot come to terms with him, is that he does not like his own I [the I is the whole self, one's entire body, soul and mind] and, for that reason, cannot accept a you. Something strange happens here. We have seen that the inability to accept one's I leads to the inability to accept a you. But how does one go about affirming, assenting to, one's I?


The answer may perhaps be unexpected: We cannot do so by our own efforts alone.

Advent tree.jpgOf ourselves, we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our I becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become accept to another I. We can love ourselves only if we first been loved by someone else. The life a mother gives to her child is not just physical life; she gives total life when takes the child's tears and turns them into smiles. It is only when life has been accepted and is perceived as accepted that it becomes also acceptable. Man is that strange creature that needs not just physical birth but also appreciation if he is to subsist... If an individual is to accept himself, someone must say to him: "It is good that you exist" -must say it, not with words, but with that act of the entire being that we call love.


For it is the way of love to will the other's existence and, at the same time, to bring that existence forth again. The key to the I lies with the you; the way to the you leads through the I.


(Benedictus, 2006)

Today in Rome, the Holy Father appointed Spanish Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, Antonio Cañizares Llovera.jpg63, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. He replaces Cardinal Francis Arinze.


Cardinal Cañizares Llovera was born in Valencia, ordained a priest in 1970 and has served as bishop in Avila, Granada and Toledo. As Archbishop of Toledo he was Primate of Spain, a diocese in that country that goes back to the 4th century. In 2006 Pope Benedict created him a cardinal and assigned him the Church of San Pancrazio.


The cardinal holds an earned doctorate in theology, specializing in catechesis from the Pontifical University of Salamanca. He's spent time in the classroom, in administration and was an editor and author. For 7 years Cañizares Llovera was the head of the Spanish bishops' office of doctrine. He serves the Holy See as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.


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]



Humanities Blog Directory

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments category from December 2008.

Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: November 2008 is the previous archive.

Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: January 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.