Through the Liturgy the Lord Reorders our Lives. A Reflection on the Road to Emmaus

The very familiar passage about Jesus’ encounter with the disciples on the road to Emmaus is rich with many themes and teachings. I have commented elsewhere that the whole passage is, essentially in the structure of a Mass. You can read that reflection here: Mass on the Move

In this reflection it is worth considering how, in the context of what is essentially a liturgy, Jesus reorders and orients two disciples who have, in effect, lost their way. Through this liturgical encounter, Jesus gets these disciples moving in the right direction again.

As such, we are taught that the Liturgy, especially the Mass, has a way of reordering our disordered lives and restoring our lost orientation. Let’s consider the problem for these two disciples (who are us) and also the solution employed by the Lord.

The ProblemSimply put, these disciples are walking in the wrong direction. They are headed away from Jerusalem, away from the resurrection, away from the gathered Church, away from the good news.

The text says that these disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus (Lk 24:13). One of them is named Cleopas. The other is unnamed, but if you are willing to accept it, the other disciple might as well be you. The journey would take about three hours at a steady walking pace (no 45 minute Mass here). We are told they have heard rumors that Jesus had been raised, but they discount the testimony of the women, and and head off into discouragement with their backs to the good news.

Yes, simply stated, they are heading away from the light of Christ and His resurrection glory, away from hope, and deeper and deeper into the darkness with each step they take. Sure enough, the text describes them as “downcast.” Jesus will later describe them as slow to believe, even foolish.

The Solution – It is to these disoriented, discouraged and disordered disciples that Jesus comes. Rather than simply appear to them and order them back to Jerusalem, Jesus engages them in an encounter that is both liturgical and sacramental, an encounter that will restore to them a proper orientation, a proper order.

Mass – He gathers with them and inquires of their struggle, a kind of penitential rite. Having heard their struggle he reminds them of God’s word and both applies and interprets for them, a kind of Liturgy of the Word. They then intercede with him in the prayerful petition “stay with us, for the day grows dark and is nearly over,” a kind of prayer of the faithful. What follows can be described as nothing other than the Liturgy of the Eucharist. For the Lord takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them. And suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognize him in the Breaking of the Bread. Now having their gaze turned toward the Lord, their lives are changed, reordered,  and, in a kind of Ite Missa est they rush out to tell others what and who they have seen and heard.

So,  note that their course is now reversed and they are heading full speed back to Jerusalem, back to the resurrection, to the Church gathered, back to hope, back to the good news and back the to the light. These disciples whose minds were disordered and whose hearts were disoriented, have now been reoriented, and their disordered and darkened minds have come to see and understand. Yes, despair has given way to hope, and joy has replaced downcast dispositions.

The Lord has accomplished this for them through what is best described as a Liturgy, as a Mass.

And what then of us? Can we who are faithful and attentive to the Mass and other Liturgies and Sacraments of the Church not also say that through them the Lord has ordered, reoriented and redirected our lives? I am surely a witness, and pray you are too, that through the Liturgy and Sacraments the Lord has given me a new mind and heart. He has reordered my disordered life, given me an increasingly proper focus and direction.  His word has corrected error and lit up my darkened and disordered mind. His Sacraments have redirected my wayward heart, oriented me to the light, and back to the heavenly Jerusalem. This work must continue. Through the Liturgy the Lord must order our lives rightly and correct the course of our wayward hearts.

At the heart of this reordering is that in the Liturgy we are turned toward God, we look outside ourselves and upward toward God. To turn toward God is to be properly oriented, and this orientation orders our lives rightly.

Yes, all this through the Liturgy, just like at Emmaus, still more so now.

A Christmas Cookie Recipe in the Style of the Revised Translation

Please accept a light-hearted post on Christmas Monday wherein we ponder a Christmas Cookie Recipe in the fine and polished style of the Revised Translation of the Mass.

Please also understand, as most of you know, I am a big fan of the new translation we are using. I like it! But this little recipe that came my way was too much fun not to share.

I do not know the source of this recipe (it’s kicking around the Internet) and some of you will have seen it (how do you like my use of the future perfect tense)? But here it is;  I have reworked it just a bit myself. Please remember this is light-hearted. Smile and enjoy, it’s delicious and sometimes subtle.

Christmas Cookie Recipe
(Revised Translation)

Serves: You and many.

Having procured one chalice butter, 2/3 chalice sugar, cream these ingredients, that by their commingling, you may begin to make the dough.

In a similar way, the butter is having been made commingled,  with the sugar, beat in one egg.

Gather these dry ingredients to yourself, which you have received, so that, having combined them, you may add them to the dough which you have already begun to make: 2 1/2 chalices sifted all-purpose flour. 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Make the precious dough with your venerable hands.

Into the refrigerator graciously place the dough, so that it, having been chilled for the duration of 3 or 4 hours, before the rolling and the the cutting of the cookies.

When, in the fullness of time, you are a ready to bake these spotless cookies, these delicious cookies, these Christmas cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Rolling out the dough and taking up the cookie cutter or stencil of your own choosing, fashion the cookies into forms that are pleasing.

Sprinkle colorful adornments of the cookies like the dewfall.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies have jut begun to attain to the brownness that is graciously granted them by the oven’s heat.

May these cookies be found acceptable in your sight, and be borne to a place of refreshment at your table whereon they may be served with milk, hot chocolate, or with your spirits.

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to all. And may our revised and improved translation be accepted with good humor and gratitude, inspiring our everyday thoughts and discourse.

Here’s a good video if you have time on how the revised translation links more closely to Scripture.

Traditional Latin Mass in Dance Time? Sure!

Every now and then I hear the Old Latin Mass described as a somber affair. Many think only dirges are sung and that everything is quite subdued. Granted a low Mass can be rather quiet as the Priest whispers much of the Mass.

But a sung Mass in the Old Latin Rite (Extraordinary Form) can be quite elaborate, especially if the Choir sings in polyphony (harmony). Some of the greatest music in history was composed during the Renaissance in a form known as “Renaissance Polyphony.” It is a kind of harmonic singing that features four or more independent melodies sung simultaneously in rich harmony. Much of this Church music was written in a kind of Dance Time, such that you can almost dance to it! While I am celebrating a Traditional Mass and this sort of music is sung, I sometimes tap my toe even though the rubrics don’t call for it. And while the Gregorian Chant is sung there unfolds a kind of mystical contemplation. No, Traditional Latin Masses are not somber, they are, especially in their sung form, joyful and even exuberant.

Enjoy a few videos that demonstrate this joyful and rhythmic singing.

Photo Credit: From the Website of St. John Cantius, Chicago, Ill.

This first Video is of setting by William Byrd. The text is Haec Dies quam fecit Dominus Exultemus et laetemur in ea, Alleluia! (This is the Day which the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it, Alleluia!). Enjoy, it’s rich harmony, jovial tone and dance-like rhythm

This second video of the Angus Dei (try not to tap your toe). The song was recorded at the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales in St. Louis – one of the most beautiful churches in the Country. The text is Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem (Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us…grant us peace). Enjoy another beautiful sample of Renaissance Polyphony in toe tap (dance) time.

Compare and Contrast: Super Bowl and the Mass, Football and Faith

I write to you in the midst of a semi-“religious” event: the Super Bowl. People have donned their sacred attire and are shouting praises. The game really lit up toward the end of the second half and again in the last quarter. I enjoy football, but see it a lot less since I am a priest and tend to be busy on Sundays! Yet, I remain quite fascinated at how passionate and dedicated many Americans are to the game and their team. Would that more Catholics had the same dedication to the Mass and the Church that true football fans have for the game. (Fan is short for fanatic). Would too that all priests and religious had the same sacrificial dedication that foot ball players have.

Consider for a moment the players. They spend years coming up through a system of high school, college and professional levels. Priest and religious do as well. Football players give their all to the game. Their whole life is centered on it. Exhausting, year-long practices, weight lifting and punishing games. They risk injury, and suffer many pains, all for the game. Do priests and religious show the same dedication and are they willing to make the same kind of sacrifices for Jesus? Will they risk injury and attack? I pray we will and do, but I wonder. True, we are not paid multi-millions, but we don’t do it for the money. Are we as dedicated and sacrificial?

And what of the faithful? So many Catholics are dedicated to the game. They even come to Church wearing the jersey of their team and someone else’s name on their back! Let’s compare and contrast some of the aspects of football and see if the same kind of thrill and dedication are exhibited to the Lord, the Mass and the Church.

Disclaimer – I write a lot of this “tongue in cheek.” I am not brooding over this, just observing. I am also using a technique known as hyperbole. Hyperbole uses exaggeration to make a point. For example the phrase, “There must have been a million people there” is an exaggeration that is not literally true but does convey the truth that a lot of people were present. Please take these comparisons in the light-hearted manner they are intended.

That said, the point remains a serious one: that we often exhibit unusual priorities when it comes to worldly vs. spiritual matters. We do well to humorously look at ourselves in order to ask God for a greater passion for what matters most. Football is about a bag full of air going up and down a field. Faith is about our eternal destiny.

Consider the following Super Bowl behaviors and contrast them to Mass and the faith:

  • Super Bowl – Many fans prepare for weeks for the game. They follow playoffs, review stats, listen to commentaries and predictions. They are “up on the game.” At bare minimum they know who is playing, and usually a great deal more. They often plan parties and invite others to join them. They discuss with fellow fans their wishes and the likely outcome of the game. They often boast of their team and loudly proclaim their intent to watch the game and see their team win! They anticipate the game and joyfully look forward to it.
  • Mass – Little preparation is evident by most who go to Mass. Generally they do not review the readings or spiritually prepare by frequent confession. Fasting is gone from the Catholic landscape. In fact ¾ of Catholics don’t go to Mass at all. Many who do, don’t joyfully anticipate it. Many even dread going and try to fit it in at the most convenient time and hope for the shortest Mass. This is true even of the great feasts like Christmas and Easter, Holy Week etc. Most Catholics do not speak to others of going to Mass or invite them to join them.
  • Super Bowl – Many wear special clothes for the occasion, even at general football games. Many wear jerseys, hats with insignia and other “sacred” apparel. Some even paint their faces and bodies.
  • Mass – Sacred apparel for Mass is all but gone. Little special attire or care is given to display one’s faith through clothing or other marks of faith. Sunday clothes were once special. Women wore hats and veils, men wore suits and ties and would never dream of wearing a hat into Church. But that is gone. Come as you are seems the only rule.
  • Super Bowl – People who go to games often spend hundreds of dollars for game tickets. Those who are fortunate enough to go to the actual Super Bowl spend many thousands, gladly. Those who stay home often spend a lot of time and money on parties.
  • Mass – Most Catholics give on average 5-7 Dollars per week in the collection plate. Many are resentful when the priest speaks of money.
  • Super Bowl – Most fans arrive early for the game. They do so eagerly. Many, at regular games, have tailgate parties. At home, fans joyfully anticipate the kick off and spend time in preparatory rites such as parties, beer etc. Even ordinary games find the fans watching pre-game shows and gathering well before the kick-off.
  • Mass – Many Catholics time their arrival for just before the Mass. Many, as high as 50%, arrive late. The thought of arriving early to pray or greet fellow worshippers is generally not something that is planned for.
  • Super Bowl – People LOVE the game. They are enthusiastic, they shout, cheer, are focused and interested in each play. They are passionate, alive and celebratory. They also care a great deal, exhibiting joy at good plays, sorrow at bad ones. They are alive, exhilarated, expressive and passionately care about what is happening on the field.
  • Mass – Many look bored at Mass. In many ways the expressions remind more of a funeral than of a resurrected Lord. Rather than joyful faces, it looks like everyone just sucked a lemon: bored believers, distracted disciples, frozen chosen. One finds exceptions in Black Parishes, charismatic Masses, and some Latino parishes. But overall little joy or even interest is evident. It is true many would not think of loud cheers etc as proper for Church, but even a little joy and displayed interest would be a vast improvement.
  • Super Bowl – Many sing team songs. Here in Washington we sing: Hail to the Redskins, Hail victory! Braves on the warpath! Fight for ole DC!
  • Mass – Most Catholics don’t sing.
  • Super Bowl – Even a normal football game goes four hours including the pre and post-game show. Towards the end of a half the game is intentionally slowed down since incomplete passes stop the clock etc. Fans gladly accept this time frame and are even happy and excited when the game goes into overtime.
  • Mass – Frustration and even anger are evident in many of the faithful  if Mass begins to extend past 45 minutes. People even begin to walk out. Many leave after communion even if the Mass is on time.
  • Super Bowl – Fans understand and accept the place of rules and expect them to be followed. Often they angry when they are broken or when penalties are missed. They respect the role of the referee and line judges and, even if they are unhappy they accept the finality of their judgments. They seem to understand that a recognized and final authority is necessary for the existence of the game.
  • Mass – Some Catholics resent rules and routinely break them or support those who do. They also resent Church authorities who might “throw a penalty flag” or assess a penalty or any sort. Often do not respect Bishops or the authority of the Church. Many refuse to accept that recognized and final authority is necessary for the existence of the Church. Many Catholics resent pointed sermons at Mass where the priest speaks clearly on moral topics. Praise God, many Catholics are faithful and respect Church authority, sadly though others do not.
  • Super Bowl – Many who go to any football game endure rather uncomfortable conditions for the privilege. Hard seats, freezing cold, pouring rain. Often the game is hard to see and the sound system is full of echoes. Still the stadium is full and few fans complain.
  • Mass – Many complain readily at any inconvenience or discomfort. It’s too hot, too cold, the Mass times aren’t perfectly to my liking. Why aren’t the pews cushioned (hard to keep clean that’s why). Why wasn’t the walk to my usual door shoveled of snow? When will the sound system be better, why do they ask me to move to the front in an empty Church? Etc.

OK, enough. Remember I use hyperbole here and intend this in a light-hearted manner. We people are funny, and what we get excited about is often humorous. Truth is, people love their football. And this one point is serious: would that we who believe were as passionate as football fans. We need to work at this at two levels.

Clergy and Church leaders need to work very hard to ensure that the liturgy of the Church is all it should be. Quality, sacred music, good preaching, devout and pious celebration are essential. Perfunctory, hurried liturgy with little attention to detail does not inspire.

The faithful too must realize more essentially what the Mass really is and ask God to anoint them with a powerful and pious awareness of the presence and ministry of Jesus Christ. They must ask for a joy and a zeal that will be manifest on their faces, in their deeds, in their dedication.

Enjoy this video by Fr. Barron who also uses a sports analogy.

The Hidden Mass in Today’s Gospel and the Perfect Thanksgiving – A Meditation on the Gospel for the 28th Sunday of the Year

One of the great human inadequacies is rendering proper and adequate thanks to God. Perhaps the biggest problem is that we don’t even know 90% of what he does for us. It is hid from our eyes. A further problem is that we tend, in our fallen condition, to be wired to magnify our distresses and problems and minimize or discount the enormous blessings of each moment. God sustains every fiber of our being and every atom of creation, his hidden blessings  are countless. But we get angry if our iPod is malfunctioning or if one or two out of the trillion blessings he gives is withdrawn.

But in the end an old gospel song says it well:

 I’ve got so much to thank God for; So many wonderful blessings  and so many open doors. A brand new mercy along with each new day. That’s why I praise You and for this I give You praise. For waking me up this morning , For starting me on my way, For letting me see the sunshine, of a brand new day. That’s why I praise You and for this I give You praise. So many times You´ve met my needs, So many times You rescued me. That’s why I praise You.

For every mountain You brought me over  For every trial you’ve seen me through.  For every blessing, For this I give You praise

Fundamental Question – So here is the question at the heart of today’s Gospel. It is best asked in the Book of Psalms: What return shall I make to the Lord for all the good he has done for me? The same psalm goes on to answer the question in this way: The cup of salvation I will take up and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:12)

The Mass is signified – Yes indeed, how can I possibly thank the Lord for all the good he has done for me? Notice that the psalm points to the Eucharist in saying, The cup of salvation I will take up….”  As you know the word “Eucharist” is a Greek  word which means, “thanksgiving.” We cannot thank God the Father adequately, but Jesus can. And in every Mass we join our meager thanksgiving to his perfect thanksgiving. Jesus takes up the cup of salvation and shows it to us at every Mass through the priest. This is the perfect and superabundant thanks that only Jesus can offer the Father. And he joins us to his perfect sacrifice of thanks in every Mass. This is how we give thanks in a way commensurate with the manifold blessings we have received.

Hidden Mass! – Now the Gospel makes this point, that the Mass is the perfect offering of thanks to the Father, in a remarkable and almost hidden way. But for Catholics it is right there for us to see if we have eyes to see it. For the Gospel today contains all the essential elements of Holy Mass. In so doing, this Gospel about giving thanks reminds us once again that it is the Mass which is the perfect thanksgiving, the perfect  “Eucharist.” Let’s look and see how it is a Mass:

  1. Gathering – Notice first that there is a gathering. Ten lepers (us) have gathered and Jesus comes near as he passes on his way. We do this in every Mass, we gather and the Lord draws near. Indeed, in the person of the priest, who is the sacrament, the sign of his presence, Jesus walks the aisle of our Church just like he walked those ancient roads.
  2. Kyrie – Next they cry out for mercy just like we do at every Mass: Lord have mercy! Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
  3. Liturgy of the Word – Next Jesus quotes Scripture and then applies it to their life  just like he does for us at every Mass. In saying, “Go show yourselves to the priests”  Jesus is referencing Leviticus 14 which gives detailed instructions on how the priests of old were to diagnose leprosy and also its having been cured. Jesus quotes this scripture and applies it to their life. This is what we do at every Mass wherein God’s Word is proclaimed and then the Lord Jesus, speaking through the priest or deacon, applies the text(s) to our life.
  4. Liturgy of the Eucharist – Next, the text says that one of them: fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. This is what we do during the Eucharistic prayer, we kneel and thank Jesus, and also, with Jesus,  give thanks to the Father. As we have noted, the word “Eucharist”  comes from Greek and means “to give thanks.” Here is the perfect thanks rendered to the Father. To those who say they can stay home and give adequate thanks to God, there should only be the rebuke that they are prideful. Only Jesus can give perfect thanks to the Father. And we can only give adequate thanks to Jesus by following his command to “do this in memory of me.” We have to be at Mass.
  5. Ite Missa est – Finally, Jesus sends him on his way, saying  Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.  We too are sent forth by Jesus at the end of every Mass when He speaks through the priest or deacon: “The Mass is ended, God in peace.”

So, there it is. In this Gospel that very clearly instructs us to give thanks to God is the very structure of the Mass. If you want to give proper thanks to God and you made it to Mass this morning, you’re in the right place. Only here is perfect and proper thanks given to God.

It was all prefigured in the psalm long ago:  What return shall I make to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?  The cup of salvation I will take up and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:12).  It is the very cup of salvation, the chalice containing Christ’s blood that is held up at every Mass. It is the perfect sacrifice of thanks. It is the prescribed sacrifice of praise. It is the proper sacrifice of praise.

This video is of the Song I quoted above:

The Biblical and Heavenly Roots of the Sacred Liturgy

Catholics are often unaware just how Biblical the Sacred Liturgy is. The design of our traditional churches, the use of candles, incense, golden vessels, the postures of standing and kneeling, the altar, the singing of hymns, priests wearing albs and so forth are all depicted in the Scriptures. Some of these details were features of the ancient Jewish Temple, but most all of these are reiterated in the Book of Revelation which describes the liturgy of heaven.

The liturgy here on earth is modeled after the liturgy in heaven and that is why it is so serious to tamper with it. The Book of  Revelation describes the heavenly liturgy and focuses on a scroll or book  which contains the meaning of life and the answers to all we seek. It also focuses the Lamb of God, standing but with the marks of slaughter upon it. Does this not sound familiar? It is the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

We do well to be aware of the Biblical roots of the Sacred Liturgy not only for our own edification but also as an answer to Protestant Christians who have largely set aside these rituals and, some of whom, criticize our use of them. Many people consider our rituals empty and vain, “smells and bells.” Some consider austere liturgical environments devoid of much ritual to be “purer,” and closer to the worship in “spirit and in truth” that Jesus spoke of in John 4.

To such criticisms we must insist that these rituals, properly understood, are mystical and deeply biblical. Further, they are elements of the heavenly liturgy since almost all of them are mentioned as aspects of the worship or liturgy that takes place in heaven. In this light it is a serious mistake to set them aside or have a dismissive attitude toward them.

With that in mind we ought to consider the Biblical references to the most common elements of Catholic and Orthodox liturgies. I place an ocassional note in Red where it seems appropriate.

 Candles  –

  • Rev 1:12-13 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,  and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man. In traditional catholic parishes there are six candles on the high altar and a seventh candle is brought out when the bishop is present.
  • Rev 4:6 Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne.

Altar –

  • Rev 9:13 The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God.
  • Rev 8:3 Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne.

Chair –

  • Rev 4:1 and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald….
  • Daniel 7:9  As I looked,  thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat;… In the sacred liturgy the Chair of the priest is prominent. But, as he takes his seat we are invited not to see Father Jones, but rather the Lord himself presiding in our midst.

Priests (elders) in Albs:

  • Rev 4:4 the elders sat, dressed in white garments…..

Bishop’s Miter, priest biretta –

  • Rev 4:4, 10 With golden crowns on their heads……they cast down their crowns before the throne…. In the Liturgy the Bishop may only wear his miter at prescribed times. But when he goes to the altar he must cast aside his miter. The priest who wears the biretta in the Old Mass is instructed to tip his biretta at the mention of the the Holy Name and to lay it aside entirely when he goes to the altar.  

Focus on a scroll (Book) The Liturgy of the Word

  • Rev 5: 1 And I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I wept much that no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” In the ancient world books, as we know them now, had not been invented. Texts were written on long scrolls and rolled up.

Incense, Intercessory prayer

  • Rev 8:3 another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God…..
  • Rev 5:7 and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;

Hymns  –

  • Rev 5:8 – And they sang a new hymn: Worthy are you O Lord to receive the scroll and break open its seals. For you were slain and with your blood  you purchase for God men of every race and tongue, and those of every nation.
  • Rev 14:1 Then I looked, and lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads… and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been redeemed from the earth.
  • Rev 15:3 And they (the multitude no one could count) sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and wonderful are thy deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, O King of the ages!  Who shall not fear and glorify thy name, O Lord? For thou alone art holy. All nations shall come and worship thee,  for thy judgments have been revealed.”

Holy Holy Holy

  • Rev 4:8 and day and night they never cease to sing, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,

Prostration (Kneeling)

  • Rev 4:10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne.
  • Rev 5:14 and the elders fell down and worshiped  In today’s setting there is seldom room for everyone to lie, prostrate and  flat on the ground. Hence, kneeling developed as a practical solution to the lack of space but amounts to the same demenor of humble adoration.

Lamb of God

  • Rev 5:6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain,

Acclamations –

  • Rev 5:11  Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

Amen!

  • Rev 5:14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!”.

Silence

  • Rev 8:1 When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. (and you thought your priest paused too long after communion?)

Mary

  • Rev 12:1 And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.

Happy are those called to his “supper”

  • Revelation 19: 6Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty thunderpeals, crying,  “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;… And the angel said£ to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Golden Vessels, vestments  –

  • Rev 1:12 – And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
  • Rev 1:13 – and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest
  • Rev 5:8 – the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense
  • Rev 8:3 – Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, at the golden altar before the throne.
  • Rev 15:16 – The angels were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests.
  • Rev 15:17  seven golden bowls

Stained Glass –

  • Rev 21:10 [The heavenly city] had a great, high wall, with twelve gates,… The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every jewel; the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. (The image of stained glass in our Church walls is hinted at here).

Here is but a partial list, drawn only from the Book of Revelation. I invite you to add to it.  You might also read The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn, and The Mass: A Biblical Prayer,by Fr. Peter Stravinskas.

More on”Spiritual Cross Training”

Getting into Spiritual Shape

About two months ago, I did a blog entry on “spiritual cross training.” I made an analogy between my goal of training for a 5K and training for spiritual fulfillment. I also mentioned that the friend I was training with rarely went to church and when I invited him to a Mass, he went once and commented that it did nothing for him. At that time, I told him, “Neither of us had run a yard in 10 years. What if we tried to run 3 miles in 24 minutes, failed miserably and then concluded ‘running does nothing for me?’” Really, if I haven’t run in years, how can I expect to be able to benefit from the sport in the first workout? Can I run around my neighborhood for five minutes and get on a scale and lament – “I haven’t lost any weight yet!”? I analogized that, “the practice of our faith is a spiritual workout. If you only go to church on Easter and Christmas, how could you possibly expect to be in good spiritual shape? If you don’t make prayer a habit, how can you expect to benefit from the exercise?”

3.1 miles in 36 minutes

Well, yesterday was the race for which we had been training and I am proud of this rather unflattering picture of me approaching the finish line. I am proud because four months ago, I was really out of shape. I was proud that my friend and I stuck to our training. But, I was most proud because one week prior, I had strained my back severely (I am not the twenty-something-blogger named Laura!). My physician said I would be in pain but running wouldn’t exasperate the injury. I was determined to do this race. My friend knew I was in pain as the race started but keep encouraging me to run through the pain.

So that his affliction may glorify God – John 9:1-41

We finished the race – I trailed him by a few minutes and we felt euphoric having finished with respectable times. Since the race was on a Saturday I asked him, “So, what are you doing tomorrow?” hoping the word “church” was somewhere in his answer. Glory to God, he said he was going to Mass adding, “You did not let a lower back strain get in your way, I shouldn’t let a boring homily get in mine.”

Staying motivated

Training for and running in a road race is not always fun. But the reward of crossing the finish line eclipses all of the pain and setbacks. The true reward comes in overcoming all of the obstacles that get in the way, including a lower back strain. Frankly, attending Mass regularly can have its setbacks as well, such as a boring homily or two. But, if you can see past the occasional disappointment, the reward that awaits, namely the worship of God in the form of the Eucharist, certainly eclipses all pain, suffering and sin.

Staying committed

We are now committed enough to running that we have already entered in a race scheduled for September. Next time, our goal is not to simply finish but to improve our time. Let’s pray that my friend finds that same commitment to God‘s command to keep holy the Sabbath. Also pray that he and others who have fallen away from the Church not only attend Mass regularly but that they integrate Christian spirituality into their entire lives, despite an occasional disappointment.

Liturgy at the End of an Era

Author’s note: I am away this week preaching a retreat for priests in Connecticut. I may post some new material this week but I also thought in my absence to re post some of my older articles that some newer readers may have missed. Here is one I posted back in Sept 2009:

I received my First Holy Communion in 1968 on my knees at the altar rail in our parish church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help  in a suburb North of Chicago called Glenview. I received from a very elderly pastor, Fr. Dussman, whose hands shook from Parkinson’s. It was an awesome and fearsome event. I was more nervous since Father’s hands shook and receiving communion from him could be a challenge, especially for the first time.

I remember well how seriously we took Church in those days. We had special Church clothes (always a coat and tie), special Sunday shoes and approaching the altar rail was something quite wonderful but very formal: hands folded before the chest, fingers straight, right thumb crossed over left. Kneeling and waiting for the priest and altar boy to pass by was a time of anticipation, a kind of distracted prayer, alert and ready, don’t make the priest wait! Suddenly a altar boy slid a Paten under your chin. Head back, tongue out (not too far!) just over the lower lip! The priest spoke in an ancient language (Latin). Only years later did I learn exactly what he said. I am sure the Sisters taught me but I couldn’t remember(I was only 7 going on 8): Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam (May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ guard your soul unto life eternal). And suddenly there he was, Jesus in Holy Communion. Pretty awesome, very special, beyond my comprehension but no doubt this was holy, this was serious and sacred.

But little did I know I was at the end of an era. Within a year strange things began to occur that I did not understand, things that did not comport with my training. I remember my mother telling me that we were going to a special youth mass. I had heard of a school mass, but not a youth Mass. We got there early and I noticed something that confused me. “Mom!” I whispered, (you always whispered in Church in those days), “What are those drums doing there? Right in front of the Mary Altar, behind the rail too, were electric guitars, a drum set and chairs. Then out came these guys I had never seen before, a couple of them were wearing jeans too (a major no-no in the old days). After Church my mother asked me if I liked it. I said no and she was surprised. “But Mom, I don’t know those songs and they were so loud.” I was confused. The sisters said we should dress well, be very quiet in Church so others could pray and only talk or sing when it was time to do that. It all seemed “a violation of my training.” But an era had ended. Something was taking its place. Little by little the familiar gave way to the new. The transition was at times startling, at times exciting.

I do not write this post to “bash” the liturgical changes. Just to document an experience. I have become quite accustomed to the “new” Mass. I am also privileged to say the Traditional Latin Mass. I guess I am blessed to enjoy the best of both worlds. I am proud of the glory of the new Mass as it is celebrated in my parish. We have a wonderful gospel choir which also does classical very well. There is great joy at every Mass. I am also  so happy to be able to celebrate ancient Latin Mass that reminds me of the joy of my youth (qui laetificat juventutem meam).  I merely document here, I leave the judgements to you my faithful readers.

The following video depicts a Mass in the year 1969. It is from an Elvis movie entitled “Change of Habit.”  What an amazing little video for me! It’s just as I remember it as the changes set it. Notice the still strong presence of traditions: people all dressed up for Church, nuns in traditional habits, the priest at the high altar facing east. But notice too the guitars and “informality”  of the musicians. The music is up front not back in the choir loft. And many struggle to understand the new lay of the land. It was 1969. It was the end of an era.