Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: November 2008 Archives

The Father of English Hymnody died 260 years ago today. I suppose if you write about 750 hymns you should be called a "father of something".... There's hardly a week that goes by that Isaac Watts' music isn't used. Watts, a well-educated man though he was prevented from studying at Oxford because of theological views.  He was considered a Isaac Watts.jpgnonconformist, known as Congregationalist in the USA. Yale University holds the papers of Watts.


Watt's originality is that he revolutionizes music written for sacred worship by using the philosophy known through the 16th century Protestant Reformers, namely that of John Calvin. The Reformers made a significant departure from the Roman Church's use of psalmody for the entrance, gospel and communion antiphons at Mass and the Divine Office.  The ancient usage was jettisoned; the connection with Old Testament types rejected when the Psalms were rejected. The replacement music added extra-Biblical poetry and Christian experience for content, verse forms and metrical translations replaced chant, and congregational singing was employed figuring that the truth revealed in Scripture and doctrine about salvation in Jesus Christ would be more fully apprehended if the liturgical music was in the vernacular and "user friendly" hymns.


On another note, Isaac Watts' poem "Against Idleness And Mischief" found in Divine Songs for Children, a poem that uses the bee as a model of hard work and later parodied in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


How doth the little busy bee

Improve each shining hour,

And gather honey all the day

From every opening flower!


How skillfully she builds her cell! Bee.jpg

How neat she spreads the wax!

And labours hard to store it well

With the sweet food she makes.


In works of labour or of skill,

I would be busy too;

For Satan finds some mischief still

For idle hands to do.


In books, or work, or healthful play,

Let my first years be passed,

That I may give for every day

Some good account at last.

Christ the King

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Christ the King.jpgThe Feast of Christ the King is of recent origin, but what it celebrates is as old as the Christian Faith itself. For the word Christ is, in fact, just the Greek translation of the word Messiah: the Anointed One, the King. Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified son of a carpenter, is so intrinsically King that the title "king" has actually become his name. by calling ourselves Christians, we label ourselves as followers of the King, as people who recognize him as their King. But we can understand properly what the kingship of Jesus Christ means only if we trace its origin in the Old Testament, where we immediately discover a surprising fact. It is obvious that God did not intend Israel to have a kingdom. The kingdom was, in fact, a result of Israel's rebellion against God and against his prophets, a defection from the original will of God. The law was to be Israel's king, and, through the law, God himself.... But Israel was jealous of the neighboring peoples with their powerful kings.... Surprisingly, God yield to Israel's obstinacy and so devised a new kind of kingship for them. The son of David, the King, is Jesus; in him God entered humanity and espoused it to himself. If we look closely, we shall discover that this is, in fact, the usual form of the divine activity in relation to mankind. God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even of turning his wrong ways into right ways.


We can see that, for instance, in the case of Adam, whose fault became a happy fault, and we see it again in all the twisted ways of history. This, then, is God's kingship--a love that is impregnable and an inventiveness that finds man by ways that are always new. For us, consequently, God's kingship means that we must have an unshakeable confidence. For this is still true and is applicable to every single life: no one has reason to fear or to capitulate. God can always be found. We, too, should make this the pattern of our lives: to write no one off; to try to reach them again and again with the inventiveness of an open heart. Our most important task Is not to have our own way but to be always ready to follow the path that leads to God and to one another. The Feast of Christ the King is not, therefore, the feast of those who are under a yoke but of those who are grateful to find themselves in the hands of him who writes straight on crooked lines.

 (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, pp. 377-8)

Advent in the Maronite Church

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Do you know if Advent's begun? It has if you are a Maronite Catholic. The typical 4 week Advent season for many Catholics is not the norm for all Catholics.


qoorbono.jpgSeason of the Glorious Birth of the Lord

(Season of soboorey, or "Happy Announcements")


Visitation1.jpgThe pre-Christmas Cycle has six Sundays, which all focus on the unfolding revelation of the Birth of the Messiah. This is done in the context of the immediate family of Jesus, centering on Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1, 2; Luke 1, 2). This is certainly in line with the Antiochene emphasis on the humanity of Jesus and its appreciation of the historical aspect of Scripture. The greatest Announcement, of course, is that of the angels on Christmas.


There are one or two Sundays after Christmas (depending upon the day of the week that Christmas occurs), one of which is always celebrated: the Finding in the Temple. On 1 January the liturgical commemoration is Feast of the Circumcision (Naming) of the Child Jesus, with a second commemoration of the common Eastern observance of Saint Basil.


The Sundays of this Season are:


Announcement to Zechariah

Announcement to the Virgin Mary

Visitation to Elizabeth

Birth of John the Baptizer

Revelation to Joseph

Genealogy Sunday

The Finding in the Temple


In celebrating the Finding in the Temple (Sunday after Christmas) the Maronite Church uses the 3rd Infancy Narrative of Luke (chapter 2) to parallel closely the Gospel development of Jesus' own growth. He is seen in the Temple, recognizing his true "Father" (his divine Origin) and preparing himself for his Baptism and public life. In addition, Joseph disappears from all the Gospel narratives: Joseph's earthly fathering is done, and Jesus will now proclaim the heavenly Father. The Twelve Days of Christmas take us to the Feast of the Epiphany (Theophany).


Season of Epiphany (in Syriac this feast is called Denho)


Jesus lover of humanity.jpgTaking the Baptism of Jesus (6 January) as the model, the Maronite Church celebrates our new life of Baptism and Chrismation in this Season. In Syriac it is called denho. For some Syriac Churches, this season is the traditional time of reception of catechumens into the Church. But for all Syriac Christians, denho is a time to reflect on our baptism. During the first three days of the Sixth Week of Epiphany (Monday-Wednesday) the Maronite Church observes "Nineveh Days." These three days are penitential and serve to anticipate the Season of Great Lent. In one form or another, these days are observed by all the Syriac Churches, East and West.


(Thanks to R. Dom Bartholomew Leon, OSB, Saint Rafka Mission, Greenville, SC)

Benedictine All Souls

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It is a treasured monastic tradition to pray for the dead, to visit the cemetery and to recall triumph of death.jpglives of those who have gone ahead of us to receive the Lord's mercy. Some groups of monks have the custom of praying an entire Psalter for their deceased confreres, concluding each psalm with the verse, "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them." Generally the Mass and private devotions are all that mark the day in many monasteries.


The Mass offered today is offered for all the departed monks, nuns, sisters and oblates who persevered in their consecration under Saint Benedict's guidance. After death, the monks, nuns, sisters and oblates buried in the monastery's cemetery are not abandoned, not forgotten by their monastic family who remain on earth. The Mass, psalmody, and other prayers, like the rosary or particular litanies to effect in God's plan their purification and obtain the beatific vision.


O God, giver of pardon and lover of humankind, we beseech your mercy that through the intercession of blessed Mary ever-virgin, and of all the Benedictine saints, our brothers and sisters, relatives and benefactors who have passed out of this life, may be admitted into the fellowship of everlasting bliss.

Veterans Day

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Today we remember those who served the country in the armed forces.


Veterans Day.jpgO God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord.


O God, we thank you for raising up men and women to serve and defend our country in times of war and peace. We thank you for bringing each one home to their families, friends and neighbors, as we mourn those who gave their lives for our freedom. We ask your special blessing on all those in current service at home and abroad, that you keep them safe from all harm; kindle in them a lively faith in your mercy, and shield them from all temptation, that they may return to us unsullied by the aggressions of men; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign over all the nations under heaven. Amen.

How Lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

(Psalm 84)


Lateran.jpgToday is a most unusual feast of the Church, the Dedication of the Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, a day when a church is born and dedicated for sacred rites. But the celebration is more than architecture; it is about the birth of men and women into eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of He established for this purpose. The proper name of the Pope's cathedral -not Saint Peter's--is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior, Saint John Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist at the Lateran. The honor the Church bestows on us today is remembrance of the cathedral on the day it was consecrated. It ought to be noted that the Church in Rome also liturgically remembers the basilica on the feast of the Transfiguration (August 6). The Lateran Basilica is "omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput...the Mother and head of all the Churches of the City and the World."


The basilica was built by Constantine and dedicated by Pope Sixtus III in the 4th century. Lateran baptistery.jpgOne of the best things about the Lateran is the baptistery, though it is a beautiful church in general, but I love the 8-sided baptistery. There one reads:


Here is born a people of noble race, destined for Heaven, whom the Spirit brings forth in the waters he has made fruitful. Mother Church conceives her offspring by the breath of God, and bears them virginally in this water. Hope for the Kingdom of Heaven, you who are reborn in this font. Eternal life does not await those who are only born once. This is the spring of life that waters the whole world, Taking its origin from the Wounds of Christ. Sinner, to be purified, go down into the holy water. It receives the unregenerate and brings him forth a new man. If you wish to be made innocent, be cleansed in this pool, whether you are weighed down by original sin or your own. There is no barrier between those who are reborn and made one by the one font, the one Spirit, and the one faith. Let neither the number nor the kind of their sins terrify anyone; Once reborn in this water, they will be holy.


And so we say with the words of Scripture: zeal for your house consumes me.

Angel Gabriel Angelico.jpgIt is easy to think that uniformity is more valuable than diversity in unity. Through the centuries the Church in Rome allowed for different liturgical calendars to flourish which sort of exists down until today. AND this is the beauty of being Catholic. Lest we forget, the Church Universal allows for a variety of liturgical observances in local churches and religious orders in addition to the ones designated for the "person in the pew" by the Supreme Pontiff in the Roman Missal. Life does not need to be so restricted to think one way is better or more exclusive than the another. For example, consider the various observances of All Saints and All Souls noted below (if I am missing a group let me know). Benedictines and Dominicans celebrate All Saints and All Souls on November 1 & 2 respectively and days dedicated to the saints and souls of their religious families.


The Observance of All Saints and Blesseds in Various Orders


November 5, Society of Jesus


November 7, Order of Preachers


November 13, Augustinians, Benedictines, Cistercians, Order of Prémontré


November 14, Order of Carmelites Discalced & Order of Carmelites


November 29, Franciscan Family



The Commemoration of All Souls in Various Orders


November 3, Society of Jesus


November 8, Order of Preachers


November 13, Carthusians


November 14, Benedictines, Cistercians


November 15, Order of Carmelites Discalced & Order of Carmelites


November 25, Franciscan Family



REQUIEM aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Amen.

And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection, (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead,) And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins. (2 Maccabees 12:43-46)


Cemetery2.jpgOn All Souls Day I joined the community of monks here at Saint Mary's Abbey for the annual and traditional prayers at the cemetery. There the gathered monks read aloud more than 100 names of the deceased confreres buried in the two cemeteries (here and in East Orange, NJ) since the founding of the abbey in 1857. After each set of names was read aloud we sang the Kyrie. At the conclusion we sang the traditional hymn at the burial of a monk in the American Cassinese Congregation, the "Ultima" (see below). It was a terse but moving experience especially since this was a time in which many of the monks remembered their friends who have gone before them marked with the sign of faith.


Do you desire eternal life?

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Dear brothers and sisters!

Yesterday, on All Saints' Day, we dwelt upon "the heavenly city, Jerusalem, our mother" (Preface of All Saints). And today, our souls turn again to these last things as we commemorate all the faithful departed, those "who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and sleep in peace." It's very important for us Christians to live our relationship with the dead in the truth of faith, and to look at death and the afterlife in the death.jpglight of Revelation. Already the Apostle Paul, writing to the first communities, exhorted the faithful to "not be downhearted, like the others who have no hope." "If in fact" he wrote, "we believe that Jesus died and rose, so also God, by means of Jesus, will gather up with him all those who have died" (1 Thes 4:13-14). It's necessary even today to spread the message of the reality of death and eternal life -- a reality particularly subject to superstitious and syncretic beliefs, for the Christian truth cannot risk itself to be mixed up with mythologies of various sorts.

In my encyclical on Christian hope, I myself investigated the mystery of eternal life. I asked: even for the men and women of today, the Christian faith is a hope that can transform and sustain their lives? Even more radically: the men and women of our time likewise desire eternal life? Or maybe their earthly existence has become their only horizon? In reality, as St Augustine already observed, everyone wants the "blessed life," that happiness. We don't know what it is or what it's like, but we feel ourselves attracted toward it. This is a universal hope, shared by people of all times and places. The expression "eternal life" gives a name to this insuppressible expectation: not a progression without end, but the immersion of oneself in the ocean of infinite love, where time, the beginning and end exist no more. A fullness of life and of joy: it's this for which we hope and await from our being with Christ.

Let us today renew our hope in eternal life, one really drawn in the death and resurrection of Christ. "I am risen and now I am always with you," the Lord tells us, and my hand sustains you. Wherever you might fall, you will fall in my hands and I will be present even at the gate of death. Where none can accompany you any longer and where you can bring nothing, there I await you to transform for you darkness into light. Christian hope is never something merely individual, it's always a hope for others. Our lives are deeply linked, one to another, and the good and bad each one does always impacts the rest. So the prayer of a pilgrim soul in the world can help another soul that continues purifying itself after death. And for this, today the church invites us to pray for our beloved dead and to spend time at their tombs in the cemeteries. Mary, star of hope, make stronger and more authentic our faith in eternal life and sustain our prayer of suffrage for our departed brothers.


Benedictus XVI PP


Dies Irae

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Day of wrath, day that
Crucifixion ANDREA DA FIRENZE.jpgwill dissolve the world into burning coals,
as David bore witness with the Sibyl.


How great a tremor is to be,
when the judge is to come
briskly shattering every (grave).


A trumpet sounding an astonishing sound
through the tombs of the region
drives all (men) before the throne.


Death will be stunned and (so) will Nature,
when arises (man) the creature
responding to the One judging.


The written book will be brought forth,
in which the whole (record of evidence) is contained
whence the world is to be judged.


Therefore when the Judge shall sit,
whatever lay hidden will appear;
nothing unavenged will remain.


O Thou, God of Majesty,
Trinity Ballen.jpgnourishing brilliance of the Trinity,
join us with the Blessed.


What am I the wretch then to say?
what patron I to beseech?
when scarcely the just (man) be secure.


King of tremendous Majesty,
who saves those-to-be-saved free,
save me, Fount of piety.


Remember, faithful Jesus,
because I am the cause of your journey:
do not lose me on that day.


Thou has sat down as one wearied seeking me,
Thou has redeemed (me) having suffered the Cross:
so much labor let it not be lost.


Just judge of the avenging-punishment,
work the gift of the remission (of sins)
before the Day of the Reckoning.


I groan, as the accused:
my face grows red from (my) fault:
spare (this) supplicant, O God.


O Thou, God of Majesty,
nourishing brilliance of the Trinity,
join us with the Blessed.


Thou who forgave Mary [the sinful woman],
and favorably heard the (good) thief,
hast also given me hope.


My prayers are not worthy,
but do Thou, Good (God), deal kindly
lest I burn in perennial fire.


Among the sheep offer (me) a place
and from the goats sequester me,
placing (me) at (Thy) right hand.


After the accursed have been silenced,
given up to the bitter flames,
call me with the blest.


Kneeling and bowed down I pray,
burial.jpgMy heart contrite as ashes:
Do Thou {, my End,} care for my end.


That sorrowful day,
on which will arise from the burning coals
Man accused to be judged:
therefore, O God, do Thou spare him.


Faithful Lord Jesus,
grant them rest. Amen.


O Thou, God of Majesty,
nourishing brilliance of the Trinity,
join us with the Blessed. Amen.

All Souls

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The Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed -All Souls--follows the Solemnity of All Saints. The Church's remembrance of our deceased friends and loved dates back to Saint Isidore of Seville's Rule for Monks but it wasn't until the monks of the Abbey of Cluny under the leadership of Abbot Odilio, who in 998 ordered all the Cluniac houses to observe a day in which the dead were prayerfully remembered. By the 13th century the custom was extended to the entire Church in the West; the Churches in the East have a similar day depending on what ecclesiastical community we are talking about. The custom of singing the Dies Irae set the tone and theology of this observance; today one rarely hears the Dies Irae sung in parishes because it is considered a "downer" and thus completely neglecting what the hymn says; it seems, however, to be making a come-back (even the 1928 BCP included the Dies Irae post World War I) as an apt expression of grief rooted not in civil secularity but in theology reminding faithful that we neither make not sustain ourselves. This feast like all other liturgical feasts points to God and to his love and mercy more than to us and our to condition.


Last Judgment.jpg 

An excerpt of an oration of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus


"What is man that you should be mindful of him, mere mortal  that you should care for him?" What is  this new mystery confronting me? I am both small and great, both lowly and exalted, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly. I am to be buried with Christ and rise again with him, to become a co-heir with him, a son of God, and indeed God himself.


This is what the great mystery means for us; this is why God became man and became poor for our sake: it was to raise up our flesh, to recover the divine image in us, to re-create mankind, so that all of might become one in Christ  who perfectly became in us everything that he is himself. So we are no longer to be "male and female, barbarian and Scythian, slave and free" -distinctions deriving from the flesh--but to bear within ourselves only the seal of God, by whom and for which we were created. We are to be so formed and molded by him that we are recognized as belonging to his one family.


If only we could be now what we hope to be, by the great kindness of our generous God! He asks so little and gives so much in this life and in the next, to those who love him sincerely. In a spirit of hope and out of love for God, let us then "bear and endure all things" and give thanks for everything that befalls us, since even reason can often recognize these things as weapons to win salvation. Meanwhile let us commend to God our own souls and the souls of those who, being more ready for it, have reached the place of rest before us although they walked the same road as we do now.


Lord and creator of all, and especially of your human creatures, you are the God and Father and rule of your children; you are the Lord of life and death; you are the guardian and benefactor of our souls. You fashion and transform all things in their due season through your creative Word, as you know to be best in your deep wisdom and providence. Receive this day those who have gone ahead of us in our journey from this life.


(Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 7, 23-24; PG 35, cols 786-7; ET by ICEL)


V. From the gate of hell.

R. Deliver their souls, O Lord.


V. May they rest in peace.

R. Amen.


V. O Lord, hear my prayer.

R. And let my cry come unto Thee.


V. The Lord be with you.

R. And with your spirit.


Let us pray.


O God, 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 pardon which they have always desired. Who lives and reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.


V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

R. And let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.

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]



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About this Archive

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

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

Sacred Liturgy & Sacraments: December 2008 is the next archive.

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