So here w on the feast of the Annunciation. Pay attention now, there are only 9 months till Christmas! Today we celebrate the beginning of the incarnation, that moment when, Mary having accepted God’s plan her, conceives Jesus in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Eve said no to God but Mary said yes.
Mother Mary is more than a Christmas ornament or a sentimental side bar in salvation. She is integral to God’s plan. She is the New Eve, the Woman prophesied in Gen 3:15 when God cursed Satan and said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head while you strike at his heal.” Where Eve said no, Mary said yes. We got into trouble through a man (Adam), a woman (Eve) and a tree. But God beats Satan at his own game and rescues us by a Man (Jesus) a Woman (Mary) and the tree of the cross. No wonder Mary is at the foot of the Cross with Jesus, without her the picture would be incomplete. The Latin Fathers of the Church used a word play to illustrate all of this. Eve’s name is Latin is Eva. Well, what is Eva backwards? AVE! The first word Gabriel said to Mary: Ave gratia plena (Hail, full of grace). Mary, by God’s grace reverses Eve’s sinful choice. She is the new Eve, but a different kind or Eve. Praise the Lord.
The following are not really videos, they are audio recordings with Scott Hahn if you wish to listen to more on this topic
Every now and then some one will come past my door and request parish services of some sort. Maybe it’s to plan a wedding, a baptism or a funeral, maybe its for money! And then I look at them and I say, “Who are you?” since I don’t recognize them. “Oh well Father, you don’t know me but my Grandmother goes here, this is our family Church.” “Oh, I see, but where do yougo to Church?” I usually ask. 😉 The response is usually something like, “Well you Know how it is Father, I don’t get to Church too often….But my mother goes here.”
Well, I got news for you, your Mama’s faith isn’t going to save you. You gotta have your own faith. You have to know Jesus for yourself. There are just some things you can’t borrow. Don’t get me wrong, you depended on your mother and ultimately the Church to announce the True Faith to you. But at some point you have to be able to claim the True Faith as your own. Your mother can’t go to Church for you and she can’t believe in your place.
Remember the story of the wise and foolish virgins? (Matt 25:1-13) They were waiting for the groom (in those days you waited for the groom, now days we wait for the bride) to show up for a wedding. Five were wise and brought extra oil for their lamps, but five were foolish and did not not. But the groom delayed his coming and so the foolish ones said to the wise, give us some of your oil. But the wise ones said to the foolish that they could not do this for there was not enough oil for all ten. You see there are just some things you can’t borrow and some things you can’t loan. You can’t loan your readiness to meet God to someone else. You may know what happened. The foolish bridesmaids went off to buy more oil and missed the groom’s arrival and they were not able to enter the wedding feast. In those days when a wedding feast began the doors were locked and no one could enter. Bottom line: You have got to know Jesus for yourself. You can’t borrow your mother’s relationship or readiness. You have to have your own. No one can go to Church for you. You can’t pay to have someone offer your prayers. You can’t borrow someone else’s holiness.
There is an Old Gospel hymn that says, “Yes I know Jesus for myself.” It’s not enough to quote the pastor, its not enough to say what your Mother said. You have to know him yourself. Do you know Him? I didn’t say, “Do you know abouthim.” This is more than intellectual knowing, this is the deep, biblical, experiential knowing. Do you know the Lord Jesus? Have you experienced that he has ministered to you in the Sacraments? Have you heard his voice resounding from the pulpit and in others you meet? Do you know him? Don’t be satisfied that your mother or grandmother knew him. You are called to know him for your very self.
Here are a couple of renditions of the old Gospel classic I mentioned. The first is from the St. James Mass Choir. But then, lo and behold, the second version is sung by a choir from a Polish Girls School! See the original and then enjoy a very different version as the song leaps the Atlantic Ocean and lands in Eastern Europe. What a wonderful world! Crossing oceans and cultures the message remains the same: Yes I know Jesus for myself.
Reason# 24 – Martyrs have died to give us the faith. Every Sunday at Mass we recite the Creed: I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty…. I often think of the blood of Martyrs as I pray the Creed. They died for the faith that I can so easily take for granted. Others, though not suffering death lost property and jobs, or were imprisoned and disowned. For many of us in modern day America the idea of suffering death or extreme punishment for the faith seems remote. At worse, we are verbally scorned for our faith or laughed at; maybe a raised eyebrow or a smirk. We may suffer more in days ahead but for now, we have it easy compared to others. And consider this too, martyrdom is not something from the remote past. Many suffer intensely and are killed for the faith in many parts of the world even today. See how precious the faith was and is to them! They willingly suffered for it.
So here is an important reason to come home. The faith that we celebrate each Sunday is so precious that multitudes of martyrs down through the ages were willing to suffer extreme punishment, torture and death for it. Rolling out of bed on Sunday mornings may seem an inconvenience, living the faith may have its demands, but these things do not compare to what Jesus and the martyrs experienced to hand on the faith to us. When I roll out of bed early on Sunday morning to unlock the Church I may grumble at having to end my sleep. But others suffered far worse for me so that I could celebrate Mass and know that Jesus is Lord. When someone told them to be silent and not speak of Jesus they spoke anyway and suffered on account of it. My faith has come at great price and I think of that each Sunday, especially as I so easily say the Creed, a creed written in the Blood of Jesus and the Martyrs of every age. Come home to the faith of Jesus and the Martyrs.
Be careful of the following video. It is graphic in its depictions of the suffering of the early Christians in the Colosseum. But if you are able to look upon it, it is a powerful and moving depiction of the horrors they faced as they were thrown to the lions while hard hearted on-lookers were “entertained” by their sufferings. If this video is too much perhaps the second video will be more palatable.
Reason # 23 – The Dress Rehearsal– A few years ago I acted in a play. I spent many weeks learning my lines and many hours rehearsing sections of the play with the other actors. Then came the dress rehearsal when it all came together. The purpose of the dress rehearsal is for the actors to experience the final product. The dress rehearsal is as close to the actual play as possible. There is no goofing off, no retakes, this is as close to opening night as possible.
In a way, this is what the Mass is. Mass is like getting ready for heaven. But “How is this so?” you might ask. Well, start with the biblical descriptions of heaven. There are many, but the most consistent image of heaven in the scriptures is that of a liturgy or Mass. In the Book of Revelation (cf 4,5,8, 21) for example the heavenly experience is described in terms that many Catholics should find very familiar. There are candles, incense, hymns of praise, elders (priests) in long white robes (albs), there is first a focus on a scroll (or book) in which are contained all the answers, then the focus shifts to the Lamb on a throne like altar. There are saints and angels all around and songs such as Holy, Holy, and Worthy is the Lamb being sung by the multitude. Does all this sound familiar? If you go to Mass it does! So, in an important way the Mass gets us ready for what we will do in heaven. I always have concerns when some one tells me they find Mass boring because heaven is like a Mass. Granted, not all our Masses are as well celebrated as they could be. But in the end we ought to find joy and peace in the Liturgy, the Mass, since by so doing we start to get used to heaven. Over the years I have started to like Mass more and more. And I am glad, because it means I am starting to like what heaven is, a glorious liturgy of prayer, praise, and communal celebration around the wonderful throne of God.
There is another way that the Mass is like a dress rehearsal. Heaven, you see, is not just some made up place of our design. It is the fullness of the Kingdom of God. Here too we need to learn our lines and get adjusted and the Mass helps us to do this. Over the years as you attend Mass you are`instructed in the Word of God and thus in the values of the Kingdom of God. At Mass we learn our lines and parts. We learn things such as forgiveness, mercy, love for the truth, chastity, generosity, love for the poor, love for life from conception to natural death, love for God more than for the things of the world, and so forth. All this helps us to get adjusted to the kingdom. And if you like these things you’ll like heaven, if you do not like them you will not want to enter heaven. Here too I have grown used to the Kingdom through my faithful attendance at Mass. Over the years I have come to understand more what the Kingdom of God is really about and I have learned to love these kingdom values. You see, if I don’t know my lines and don’t attend the dress rehearsal to get used to the play when it opens, I won’t be ready. The Mass gets us used to what heaven is really like and to its values; the REAL heaven, not some made up heaven that doesn’t really exist.
So, here’s a good reason to come home – the dress rehearsal. You gotta get used to the REAL heaven. It takes time to embrace the kingdom of heaven when all we know is the world and its ways. Come! Join the dress rehearsal for heaven, learn its songs, its praise, its values come to learn of and know God. Then when the curtain of this life falls you’ll be ready for opening night: the great feast of heaven. But be careful, if the dress rehearsal is missed, there are often casting changes! You gotta be ready, you gotta come to the dress rehearsal to make the final cut and be ready for opening night.
Here is a video which descibes details of heaven as described in the Book of the Revelation and how they relate to our Mass
Some who attended Mass today heard the Cycle A Gospel of the Man Born Blind – John 9. Here is an interesting computer generated video of that Gospel. The animation is a bit robotic at times, but it is an interesting use of technology and Internet to proclaim the Gospel.
In The Gospel in today’s Mass (Cycle B) is one of the most familiar texts of the New Testament. Many can quote it from memory: For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that all who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God sent not his Son in the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16). But it is interesting that most quote only the first part of the passage. But the second half contains a warning and announcement of the essence of our judgement. Jesus says, “Here is judgement, the light has come into the world but some have preferred the darkness….they hate the light and do not come near it.
It is a very profound teaching about the nature of our last judgement. And here is the teaching: In the end, our judgement is not so much about God’s decision as about ours. God wants to save us. But do we want to be saved? You might say, “Everyone wants to go to heaven!” But heaven is not just a place of our design, heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its perfection. The truth be told, there are many who do not love God’s kingdom! The Kingdom of God is about justice, mercy, love of enemies, chastity, mercy, truth, love of the poor, and so forth. There are things in this description that many hate! Many today hate chastity and calls for sexual purity. Many do not love the poor and stridently disagree with many fundamental and truthful teachings of the scriptures and the Church. But this is what the kingdom of heaven is! Yes, everyone wants to go to heaven, but it is a heaven of their own making, not necessarily the real heaven. Jesus says in the gospel today that some people hate the light. This is evident today. Hence this Gospel says two things. First, God wants to save us and invites us to His kingdom. Secondly, not everyone wants to live in God’s kingdom. The judgement in question is not God’s decision, but ours
If you’d like to listen to it my homily for today is here in mp3 format: Lighten Up!
In this homily we explore the following:
The desire that God has to save us.
But what do we desire? Jesus says some prefer darkness and hate the Light? What does he mean?
Our final judgement is ultimately God’s acceptance of our choice to love or hate the light.
But how is it that some end up hating the light? In effect they go to sleep, enter a moral night-time and come to hate the light like a grouchy sleeper who doesn’t want to wake up and who curses the morning light that bids them to get up.
Well then, walk in the light. Don’t go into moral darkness and sleep such that you grow so accustomed to the dark that you come to hate the light.
Someone said to me, “Hey Msgr Pope, you’re talking a lot about vocations to priesthood and religious life. What about marriage?” Hence this article!
In many ways the Bible is like a wedding album or the story of a marriage. It begins with the story of the creation of Adam and Eve and ends with the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. In between is a beautiful but dramatic story. It is a story of love to be sure, but also a story of a painful loss of love caused by sin and the journey back to find and renew this love again in Christ Jesus.
God is the Author of Marriage – The Book of Genesis speaks to us not only of our creation but also of our very nature. In the first place, we are made for love because we are created in the image and likeness of God who is love. A second and very important truth taught to us in the scriptural account of our creation is that man and woman were made for one another. God himself declares, It is not good for the man to be alone(Gn 2:18). So God created Eve from the very flesh, the very human nature of Adam. When Adam beheld Eve he was delighted and declared, Here at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh(Gn 2:23). God also teaches in the Genesis account that this in this creative act of His is the origin and understanding of Marriage, For this reason a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.(Gn 2:24).
In Chapter One of Genesis we are also given another important teaching about marriage. Adam and Eve are instructed by God, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it (Gn 1:28). Thus the love of Adam and Eve was to reflect the love of God which is fruitful and life giving. Their love was to bear fruit in their children.
Here then is God’s plan for marriage: a man and a woman in a unity of life and fruitful love so profound that they may be said to be one flesh. Adam sees Eve as his equal, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. He is delighted to behold her and acknowledge that it is not good that he should ever be without her and that he is completed and helped by her. Although the scriptural account does not record Eve’s reflections we may presume they were the same. Alone is was not possible for them to be fruitful and multiply. Alone and apart they could only find death, together as one they would experience gifts of life and the family.
The wondrous communion of Adam and Eve intended by God and described in the book of Genesis was seriously disturbed by the consequences that flowed from the Original Sin committed by them. Sin and evil inflicted great harm on the original joy and communion between Adam and Eve. The Catechism describes quite well these sad realities, This experience [of the evil flowing from Original Sin] makes itself felt in the relationships between man and woman. Their union has always been threatened by discord, a spirit of domination, infidelity, jealousy, and conflicts that can escalate into hatred and separation. This disorder can manifest itself more or less acutely, and can be more or less overcome according to the circumstances of cultures, eras, and individuals, but it does seem to have a universal character. According to faith the disorder we notice so painfully does not stem from the nature of man and woman, nor from the nature of their relations, but from sin. As a break with God, the first sin had for its first consequence the rupture of the original communion between man and woman. Their relations were distorted by mutual recriminations; their mutual attraction, the Creator’s own gift, changed into a relationship of domination and lust; and the beautiful vocation of man and woman to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth was burdened by the pain of childbirth and the toil of work. (Catechism 1606-1607).
Still a noble grace. – Yet despite the distortion caused by sin God continued to point to marriage’s lofty status by presenting it as one of the primary images of his covenant relationship to his people. God was the faithful spouse of his bride, Israel. Through the prophets he reminded his bride that she was espoused to him. Sin was infidelity but God’s love was everlasting and, though he chastise Israel, he would never forsake her. God even used romantic imagery. Consider this example from the Prophet Hosea: “Therefore, behold, I will allure Israel, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her…And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, ‘My husband’…and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD. (Hosea 2:14-20) And so it was that God never cast aside the lofty ideals of marriage. He continued to proclaim them to his people.
Established by Christ as a Sacrament – It is in this context that Jesus proclaimed an absolute return to God’s plan. In the Gospels Jesus proclaims his intention to return to God’s original plan for marriage. Divorce had entered the scene through sin. Jesus came to destroy the ancient power of sin and cancels its effects. He is able to empower couples through his healing grace to live to original vision of marriage given by God. This too is clearly taught in the Catechism: In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning. Permission given by Moses to divorce one’s wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts.(Mt. 19:8) The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it “what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”(Mt 19:6) This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus…himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ.(Mt. 19:11) (Catechism 1614-1615).
The three most basic qualities of Christian Marriage are that it is: permanent, faithful and fruitful. The graces of the Sacrament all serve to create and preserve these realities.
Permanence and faithfulness: Since God himself is the author of every valid marriage there arises a bond between the couple that can never be broken…. It can seem difficult, even impossible, to bind oneself for life to another human being. This makes it all the more important to proclaim the Good News that God loves us with a definitive and irrevocable love, that married couples share in this love, that it supports and sustains them, and that by their own faithfulness they can be witnesses to God’s faithful love. (Catechism 1649) Marriage helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving (Catechism 1609)
Fruitfulness: Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves. God’s love is fruitful and marital love is to be a reflection of that love. When God established marriage he instructed the first spouses as to its nature, Be fruitful and multiply(Gn 1:28). So by its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of children. God grants to parents an awesome dignity when He entrusts the care of immortal souls to them. This of itself helps us to glimpse the high calling of the marital life and helps us understand how crucial and necessary the Sacrament of Matrimony is for the Church and for the world.
Here are a couple of Videos by Fr. Richard Neuhaus, who recently passed away. He speaks on the courage to decide and also the essentials to sustain a marriage.Pray for his happy repose as you view these videos
Last week you dealt with a question concerning the “traditional” Latin Mass and by way of contrast the Latin Mass as celebrated in the ordinary form of the new mass. My concern is how to properly participate in this form of the mass in order please God and gain the spiritual benefits of the mass. For instance there are long silent passages in the traditional low mass. Should I purchase a missal in order to best join with the celebrant or are their other ways in which I can participate? Please clarify. Thank you.
There is in fact a very different sense of participation when the Older (Extraordinary) Form of the Latin Mass is celebrated. As you note the Mass is celebrated in such a way that there are long passages that the priest whispers in Latin. Even if one might be able to learn and follow the Latin prayers such a remoteness is startling to many who have not known liturgy to be celebrated in this manner. I will explain in a moment how one can participate in such a situation but at first it might be good to explain why there is such a pronounced silence at Latin Masses.
Historically the whispered Eucharistic prayer (or Canon) developed in monastic settings where it was not uncommon for more than one liturgy to be celebrated at the same time at various side altars. In those days priests did not concelebrate masses as they do frequently today. Each priest had to celebrate his own mass. In monasteries where numerous priest might be in residence, numerous liturgies might be celebrated at similar times. In order not to interrupt each other, the priests conducted these liturgies with a server quietly. This practice continued into modern times (see the picture above right). Over time this monastic silence came to be regarded as a sacred silence. The whispering of the prayers was considered a sign of the sacredness of the words which “should not” be loudly proclaimed. (There are other more complicated theological trends that swept the liturgy too complicated to go into here that also influenced the move to a more silent liturgy) At any rate, the practice of a sacred silence came to be the norm eventually even in parish churches. Hence the hushed tones were not an attempt to ignore the faithful who attended or make their participation difficult but it was associated with a holy silence. People knelt, praying as the priest prayed prayed on their behalf. In the past century as literacy increased among the lay faithful it became more common to provide them with books that contained the texts of the liturgy and those who could read were encouraged to follow along closely. Through the 1940s and 50s these books (called “missals”) became quite common among the laity. By the 1950s there were also some experiments with allowing the priest to have a microphone or to raise the level of his voice so the faithful could follow more easily. These “dialogue Masses” were more popular in some place than others. Sacred silence was still valued by many and adjusting to a different experience was not always embraced with the same fervor, it varied from place to place.
Today, with the return in some places to the celebration of the Old Latin Mass (called offically the “Extraordinary Form”) this sacred silence is once again in evidence. For those who are not used to it, it seems puzzling. But hopefully some of this history helps us understand it. Once again we are faced with the dilemma of how loudly the priest should pray the Canon (Eucharistic Prayer) at such Masses. There are different opinions but a fairly wide consensus that the prayer should be generally said in a very subdued voice.
How then does one follow the Mass? The recommended approach is to purchase a missal and read along as the priest prays. Everything he says may not be heard but it is not hard to keep up by applying the visual cues such as where he is standing, when he genuflects, when bells are rung and so forth. In the sung form of the mass the cues are more obvious since many parts of the Mass such as the preface and the Our Father are sung. Many of the missals also provide pictures that help you to match the action of the priest with the text that is being prayed. Here are a couple of of examples of missals you can buy that help you to follow the Latin Mass:Roman Catholic Missal 1962and1962 Roman Missal
I was reminded by friend of a 2007 PBS special about the Latin Mass in which I was interviewed. You can learn more of the Old Latin Mass in this 5 minute video filmed here in the Archdiocese of Washington at Old St. Mary’s. One correction: At the beginning of the video someone has included a text that says the old Latin Mass and the new Mass are different rites. The Pope in 2007 chose to emphasize that this is NOT the case. Rather they are two different forms of the same Roman Rite. Enjoy this video featuring yours truly.