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.
Reason # 22 You were made to praise God! Sometimes the Scriptures just say it plain. Ephesians 1:12-13 says In Christ Jesus we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory. Notice that the text says we exist for the praise of God’s glory. You and I were made to praise the Lord. The old catechechism says that God made us to know him, love him, and serve him in the life, and to be happy with him forever.
It is simple but profound. You and I were made for these fundamental reasons. We were not made for all the reasons that the world says such as: to be popular, rich, famous, sexy, powerful. Most who have tried these things feel unsatisfied and in the end if we live for this we eventually die…end of story! But the truth is we were made for God and exist for the praise of his glory. Our peace and contentment are wrapped up in God and God alone.
One thing I’ve noticed in my life is that it is just plain refreshing to praise God. It resonates within my very being to sing a stirring hymn of praise or meditate upon a refelective song. There is just no doubt in my mind, I was made to praise to the Lord because when I do there is a wondrous sense of fulfillment within me.
Here then is another reason to come home to God’s house: we were made to praise God. And I promise you, whatever your personality, when you praise the Lord, you will find joy and serene peace because this is why we were made. Below are a few songs of praise in different styles: contemporary, traditional Latin, and Gospel. Pick a video and spend a few moments praising God. But remember, it is best done in Church every Sunday. We’ve saved you a pew.
TRADITIONAL LATIN – Exsultate Justi in Domino – Translation: Exsult you just in the Lord. Praise befits the upright! Give praise to the Lord on the harp and with ten stringed lyre sing to him. Sing to him a new song, sing well to him with strong voice! For the word of the Lord is upright and all his works are faithful! The Lord loves mercy and justice and of his mercy the earth is full.
Looking for some good Catholic reading for Lent or Easter? Sr. Julia of the Daughters of St. Paul suggests some possibilities for your bookshelf. One of the books she reviews is Fr. Robert Barron’s The Strangest Way. I agree with her, it is a marvelous book. Also reviewed are Balthasar’s Heart of the World and Hansen’s The Gospels for Prayer. The books she suggests in this video are primarily spiritual reading (rather than history or theology per se). Note also, this video is edited from a longer one and some of the cuts are abrupt but you’ll get the basic point 🙂 By the way, I tried to link the books above to the Daughters of St Paul Bookstore but, strangely, they do not seem to appear when you place them in the search engine. Thus, the links to Amazon!
Reason # 21 – The Command. Not uncommonly today I hear some people say that they do not go to Church because they “don’t get anything out of it.” We can address the substance of this complaint in a moment but first it must be said that we don’t go to Church merely to get something out of it. We go because we are commanded by God to do so. The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.” The Book of Leviticus spells the commandment out for us further: “For six days work may be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly.” (Lev 23:3). Let’s be clear, God is not merely suggesting or requesting that we keep holy the Sabbath, he is commanding it. We are to avoid unnecessary work and to keep “sacred assembly,” Sacred assembly means, getting to Church. The notion that we should simply go because we get something out of it is rather an ego-centric approach and misses the more simple reason of obedience. We ought to go simply because God commands it.
Now we may wonder as to why God commands it. It remains true that God does not command things of us merely for arbitrary reasons. The most obvious answers as to why he commands it would seem to be these:
He has many graces to bestow on us at Mass
He knows we need community and fellowship in order to be spiritually healthy
We need to be instructed in his Holy Word
We need to be fed on his Body and Blood
Alone, we do not have all the gifts we need, but together and with Christ we have all the gifts we need.
We need the blessings and minsitry of the priest who acts in the person of Christ.
Now as to the point that some raise that they don’t get anything out of Mass there are many possible answers. I would first say that it is a call and reminder to the clergy and to parishes that the Mass and all liturgical celebrations should be well planned, beautifully celebrated, and reverently prayed. The Mass, well celebrated, should never be boring. Every priest or deacon who preaches should be prepared, enthusiastic and prophetic. The choirs, lectors, ushers and others should all be prepared and enthusiastic about what they do. Every priest should celebrate Mass with piety and devotion. So, in the first place I think that we who are tasked with planning and celebrating the Sacred Liturgy should take to heart the complaint that some (not a few) make when they claim to get little out of it.
However, it also remains true that in order to get something out of Mass, everyone has to come prepared and with plans to participate. The Mass is not spectator sport. We are all to pray and take part in the Sacred liturgy. We ought to grow in our understanding of the Mass over the years and be as attentive as possible. In the end, if we receive Jesus in Holy Communion can we really say we “got nothing out of Mass?” So here is a call to faith as well.
But let’s end where we started. We go to Mass in the first place because we are commanded by God to do so. Hence, even if the choir is off for the summer or my favorite priest is away on vacation, or the new pastor isn’t to my liking etc, we go anyway. We go because we love God and want to obey him. We don’t just go to get entertained. We go to worship God. And God is worthy of our praise, worthy of our obedience. Here’s a reason to come home: He’s worthy of our praise and our obedience.