Sunday, December 21, 2014

O Antiphon: Light From Light


Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness; for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, As they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, And the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames.
Isaiah 8:23b-9:4

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Jesus said to them, "The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of the light....Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me. I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me."

John 12:35-36; 44b-50

Return again to the creation story. What was the first thing formed from nothing by the Word? Light. But Who was this Light? St. John gives the answer (and expounds on it further in his first letter):
What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (1:3b-5)
Yet, once it thought it had succeeded with Adam and Eve, the darkness tried and tried again to overcome the Light during salvation history. But just as the echo of the Word still remained, so did a glimmer of Light. Noah saw it in the rainbow. Moses, who already viewed the burning bush, was privileged to see more than a glimmer on Mt. Siani. The Magi followed a star.

All of these pale when the Word spoke plainly:
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12b)
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Fr. Z's reflection can be found here.
Fr. Kirby's reflection can be found here.

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Click here to listen to the chant.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

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O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

O Antiphon: The Keys Of The Kingdom


Thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts: Up, go to that official, Shebna, master of the palace,
Who has hewn for himself a sepulcher on a height and carved his tomb in the rock: "What are you doing here, and what people have you here, that here you have hewn for yourself a tomb?"
The LORD shall hurl you down headlong, mortal man! He shall grip you firmly
And roll you up and toss you like a ball into an open land To perish there, you and the chariots you glory in, you disgrace to your master's house!
I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family;
On him shall hang all the glory of his family: descendants and offspring, all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs.
On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the LORD has spoken.
Isaiah 22:15-2
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When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Matthew 16:13-19

How powerful is the Word. From nothing, creation sprang forth when He was uttered. He speaks and the Law is given. Any oration from Him is full of wisdom and truth.

Perhaps, as is suggested in the verse from Isaiah above, the ability to bind and loose is the most powerful message He delivers. To bind a not so heavy yoke upon us, unlike the Pharisees he chastises in His ministry. To loosen us from the bondage of sin. To bind us together as brothers and sisters in Him. To loosen us from the fear which keeps us from loving each other. To bind our sufferings with His. To loosen the grip of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

But the most powerful thing this Word says is to the gates of Heaven, "Open. I closed you when Adam and Eve did not listen to Me. Because I now have taken on the nature of the crown of My creation and have redeemed them with My life, because I obeyed My Father, I make it possible for them to enter the Kingdom if they heed My voice. My church, My bride, has been entrusted with My words, My teachings, My sacramental grace to make heeding My voice an easy yoke. Those who heed My church heed My voice, and I will raise them up on the last day."
"The King of Glory comes, the nation rejoices.
Open the gates before Him, lift up your voices."

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Fr. Z's reflection can be found here.
Fr. Kirby's reflection can be found here.

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Click here to listen to the chant.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

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O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 3

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Third Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.

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The Introductory Rites, Part I 
The preparation that we began before Mass continues as we gather as the Church. The Introductory Rites help us to discover a unity that is already ours, but still waiting to be realized by our participation. The Entrance Procession, Veneration of the Altar, the Greeting, the Penitential Rite, the Kyrie, the Gloria, and the Collect - all serve to prepare us for celebration. They help to establish a sense of unity, so that we might hear the Word of God and celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist joyfully. 
One of the signs of that unity is our common bodily posture – when Mass begins we all stand. Standing from the beginning of the Entrance Song through the Collect signifies our sense of preparation for the whole liturgy. But standing is not the only symbolic gesture we experience at the beginning of Mass. There is movement as well, starting with the Entrance Procession. The procession serves more than a functional purpose of getting the priest and other ministers to their proper place in the sanctuary. It serves a symbolic purpose as well, for it reminds us that we are the People of God, a pilgrim people, on a journey to the Kingdom, with this Mass being an important part of that journey. 
Because this journey is a joyful one, we add our voices to the Entrance Song, even though we may protest that we cannot sing. The Entrance Song is more than just “walking music;” it opens the celebration and introduces us to the themes of the liturgy. It reminds us that liturgy is a common action – a communal act of prayer, not a private act – that calls us to move beyond the limits of our own world and enter something larger.   
A further sign of our preparedness occurs when the priest and other ministers reach the altar. Now we witness a sign that unites us not only to each other, but to our ancient past – the Veneration of the Altar. Arriving at the table of the Lord, the priest and deacon venerate the altar with a reverent kiss, for it is on this table that ordinary bread and wine will become the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, the altar represents Christ, who is the priest, the victim, and the sacrifice.  
The symbolism of being one people of God continues as we join with the priest in making the sign of the cross. This symbolic gesture, dating from at least the second century, signifies the presence of the Lord and is a traditional prelude to prayer. Romano Guardini, a priest and author wrote: “It is the holiest of all signs. When we cross ourselves, let it be with a real sign of the cross. Instead of a small cramped gesture that gives no notion of its meaning, let us make a large, unhurried sign, from forehead to breast, from shoulder to shoulder, consciously feeling how it includes the whole of us at once.” 
The greeting by the celebrant, “The Lord be with you,” which follows the sign of the cross, is not intended as a friendly “good morning.” Rather it is more like a wish that those assembled will experience the presence and power of the Lord in the community they have formed. Our response, “And With Your Spirit,” is more than a simple expression of good will; it is a reminder that our celebrant has received the Spirit of God in ordination and is, therefore, a special “servant of Christ” (1 Cor 4:1). The greeting announces that the Lord is here in this place. It indicates that what we do here is different from our day-to-day activity. It affirms that we have gathered in the name of Christ to offer praise and thanksgiving as his body. The Greeting and our response express “the mystery of the Church gathered together.”
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My only quibble is with the adding of "our voices to the Entrance Song, even though we may protest that we cannot sing." The implication is that the congregation must be involved in order for there to be "full, conscious, active participation". Again, the "interior" vs. "exterior" argument that is at the heart of what this phrase truly means peaks from its hiding spot. Believe me, you can find on the internet both sides quite easily, and quite vociferously I may add.

On the whole, there is good information presented.

NB:  As the newspaper has titles for these reflections (even if the Liturgical Commission did or did not), I thought it best to include them.  I have updated the previous two post to reflect this change.

Friday, December 19, 2014

O Antiphon: From Jesse's Tree


But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1-10

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The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.
After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.
Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:1-17


The genealogy of Jesus found in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew (1-17), the Gospel proclamation for the Mass of Christmas Eve, established Him as a descendant of the royal bloodline of David. It also connects Him to our father in faith, Abraham. Through the trials he endured, the father of many nations faithfully obeyed (heard) the Word.

How appropriate the Word would once again be proclaimed through his lineage. Some 42 generations later, a man who was in that line would have to do the same thing as Abraham. Like his ancestor and his betrothed, Joseph was visited by an angel. The heavenly being brings a similar message which Gabriel announced to Mary. Again, the words were only secondary. Again, the Word is more than an echo.

Like "father of faith," like "son." Two righteous men, the same act of faith. Both obeyed a timeless Word.

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Fr. Z's reflection can be found here.
Fr. Kirby's reflection can be found here.

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Click here to listen to the chant.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

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O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

O Antiphon: The Law Giver


Now will I rise up, says the LORD, now will I be exalted, now be lifted up.
You conceive dry grass, bring forth stubble; my spirit shall consume you like fire.
The peoples shall be as in a limekiln, like brushwood cut down for burning in the fire.
Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my might.
On Zion sinners are in dread, trembling grips the impious: "Who of us can live with the consuming fire? who of us can live with the everlasting flames?"
He who practices virtue and speaks honestly, who spurns what is gained by oppression, Brushing his hands free of contact with a bribe, stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed, closing his eyes lest he look on evil--
He shall dwell on the heights, his stronghold shall be the rocky fastness, his food and drink in steady supply.
Your eyes will see a king in his splendor, they will look upon a vast land.
Your mind will dwell on the terror: "Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed? Where is he who counted the towers?"
To the people of alien tongue you will look no more, the people of obscure speech, stammering in a language not understood.
Look to Zion, the city of our festivals; let your eyes see Jerusalem as a quiet abode, a tent not to be struck, Whose pegs will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes severed.
Indeed the LORD will be there with us, majestic; yes, the LORD our judge, the LORD our lawgiver, the LORD our king, he it is who will save us.
Isaiah 33:10-22

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Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:17-20



The first "O Antiphon" speaks of wisdom and how it created order from the chaos. It was the first time the Word was heard clearly and obediently. Even though Adam and Eve disobeyed (did not hear), God would not abandon the crowning glory of His creation to death. There were always glimmers of hope in early salvation history when the Word was more than an echo, for example, when Noah and Abraham obeyed the commands given them by God.

It was, however, time for the Word to become, in a sense, visible.

Enter Moses.

God was once again speaking His Word, this time through a mouthpiece which only knew how to stutter. The strange and awesome sight of the burning bush, where and when the Word revealed His name for the first time, was just the opening dialog. The ten plagues was a not so subtle way of getting everyone's attention. The parting of the Red Sea was just an exclamation point.

Now, fast forward to Mount Sinai.

The Word was about to become, in a sense, visible.

Recall the scene from the Book of Exodus. God came as a dense cloud. This holy mountain shook from the conversation between God and Moses. The Chosen People were commanded to worthily prepare themselves. Then, on the third day, when God finished speaking to Moses, He then spoke to the Israelites through Moses.

God gave them the Decalogue.

The Word became, in a sense, visible.

Despite it being "ten words" on stone tablets, it is still the undivided Word.

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Fr. Z's reflection can be found here.
Fr. Kirby's reflection can be found here.

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Click here to listen to the chant.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

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O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

O Antiphon: The Coming Of Wisdom


"The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world.

"When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command;
Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day,
Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.

"So now, O children, listen to me; instruction and wisdom do not reject!
Happy the man who obeys me, and happy those who keep my ways,
Happy the man watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts;
For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD;
But he who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death."
Proverbs 8:22-36

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At that time Jesus said in reply, "I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Matthew 11:25-30


Looking at the beginning of this antiphon, I am drawn to the opening of the Gospel of St. John, which is proclaimed at the Mass of Christmas Day:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
It is tied together with the creation story found in the first chapter of Genesis. Each day is climaxed by the phrase "Then God said." Each time, the Father, on the breath of the Spirit uttered the Word, His Son, Jesus Christ. "And so it happened." No matter what was created, it came about through the Trinity. The whole of creation from "one end to another" is ordered mightily and sweetly--it is "very good."

Then entered sin.

Then entered the need for salvation.

Throughout salvation history, the Word was uttered repeatedly, from Abraham to Moses to David to the prophets to John the Baptist. Some did heed the Word again, much like Elijah hearing the faint whispering sound (1 Kings 19:11-12). But these utterings were only echoes of Genesis. One knows how faint an echo becomes after the first repetition, no matter how loud the original sound.

So became the need for re-creation. The Word was then uttered "to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary." Note that when she accepted ("Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word"), she was not heeding the words of Gabriel. She heard the Word as clearly as the first fruits of creation.

Et Verbum caro factum est. Et habitavit in nobis.

There would be no more echoes.

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Fr. Z's reflection can be found here.
Fr. Kirby's reflection can be found here.

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Click here to listen to the chant.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae!

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O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

"Veni, Veni" Once More

It has become an annual tradition in this infinitesimal corner of the universe. Like the longing the Israelites had as the time for the Savior to arrive drew closer, the yearning for Christmas grows with each passing day on the Advent calendar. And, like Mary, we can count along with her until the days of our confinement will be complete.

I present for the tenth time (and, yes, this is an accurate accounting, unlike the one title I used in a similar post) a series of meditations on the "O" Antiphons, specially designed verses sung/recited before the recitation of the Magnificat at Vespers/Evening Prayer for the next seven days. Each one recalls a title the redeemer of the Chosen People would have. And while people are familiar with the vernacular hymn (whose verses are typically sung in reverse order of how they appear in the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours), the antiphons themselves provide a much richer vein of material to mine.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf and Fr. Mark Kirby, OSB again will provide their insights into the meanings of these phrases while I will add my tidbits of thought as well. Recordings of the antiphons are available as well. Arguably my most popular posts, I hope they still provide you with worthy words of contemplation.

"Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel."

Come; see them later.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 2

This continues the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the Second Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.

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Preparation for Mass
There is an old saying that goes: “We receive what we give.” To receive something good, we have to give, whether it is acquiring an education, doing well in a job, or even learning to play golf. 
This applies with equal force when it comes to the Mass – we receive what we give. Sometimes we may hear people complain, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” Such a statement begs the question: “How much did you give?” And I don’t mean the collection plate. Rather: How much did you give in preparing for Mass? Did we hurry in at the last minute, just as the processional was starting, with our hearts and minds still caught up in the worries and concerns we woke up with? Or did we take time to prepare for Mass?  How much did we give in order to receive? 
Most of us can recall a time in our lives when we might have spent hours preparing for a big date. Why? Because we knew that to receive the attention, the love, and affection of another person, we had to give of ourselves; and that by doing so, we would receive. At Mass we meet someone in sacramental form whose attractiveness goes beyond all other experience: This is Christ the Lord. But to receive such a blessing, we must give of ourselves in order to receive. Just like the big date, we must prepare. 
Our preparation should begin long before the start of Mass: ideally, during the days leading up to Sunday Mass. We might begin by reading the Scriptures for that Sunday, followed by a rosary. Fasting for at least one hour before attending Mass is also a helpful preparation. Above all, we should strive to be at peace with one another, for as Jesus said, “If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mt. 5:23)   
We can prepare for Mass by forgiving and being reconciled with others. The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation can work wonders in bringing peace to an otherwise troubled conscience. 
Sometimes our preparation for Mass can be jeopardized by arriving late, hurrying to find a place to park, and then searching for an inconspicuous place to sit … certainly never the front pew! Church tradition can help us to slow down and to enter with a worshiping attitude. Pause at the entrance of the church and dip your fingers in the holy water, reflecting for a brief moment on the significance of what you are doing. Perhaps before Mass begins stop to light a votive candle and offer a short prayer. Enter the church slowly and reverently, pausing to genuflect before the Blessed Sacrament or to make a profound bow before the altar. If possible, kneel for a few minutes to offer prayers or to reflect on a special intention for that Mass. 
The sacrifice of the Mass is the most important event that happens every Sunday. But to receive it well, we must be willing to give. And the more we give, the more we will receive.
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How fitting that during the season of Advent, a season of preparation, this gentle exhortation to ready yourself for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass well in advance of when you enter the vestibule is given, that those final few minutes before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word is a time to ready yourself to be in the presence of the Lord. Much more could be said about the need for Confession, the "atmosphere" in the church before hand (chatty, homey meeting space or sacred building, dependent on the architecture and the attitude of the laity and clergy), or even the "why" and "how" of what we do (e.g.--the dipping of fingers in a holy water font and the making of the Sign of the Cross). While you can't force people to be reverent, you can encourage that behavior.

And that is the point of this reflection.

UPDATE:  12/19/2014. Addition of the title and editorial format.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 1

This is the first in the series of reflections about the liturgy as requested by the Most Rev. John C. Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, for the education of the people of the diocese. This was read at the Masses celebrating the First Sunday of Advent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.

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Introduction
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Mass the way we do? Why do we have a procession at the start of Mass? Why do we make the sign of the cross? Why do we sometimes kneel, while at other times we stand? Why are we encouraged to join in the singing? Questions such as these are often on the minds of every Catholic who comes to Mass. We look for answers to questions such as these to help us not only to become better-informed Catholics but, more importantly, to help us enter more fully into our Eucharistic celebration. As the Second Vatican Council emphasized, “Full, conscious, active participation by all the people” is the “aim to be considered before all else.” 
At the request of Bishop Wester, each parish in the diocese has been asked to present a series of short talks on the structure of the Mass. These Four-Minute Reflections, following the Prayer after Communion, will hopefully help us, as the assembly, come to a better understanding of the Mass, and enable us to participate more fully, consciously and actively. They will not be sermons, but carefully prepared talks that over time will cover the key aspects of the Mass. Imagine a “class about the Mass” without ever leaving the comfort of your pew! 
The purpose of these reflections will not be to overwhelm us with a lot of detail, but rather to increase our awareness of how various parts of the Mass work together to heighten a sense of unity as we are drawn into the sacred mystery and then sent forth to carry on Christ’s mission in the world. We will see how the introductory rites – the procession, the singing and prayers – prepare us to listen attentively to the word of God so that we may enter more joyfully and gratefully into the Liturgy of the Eucharist and Communion. Then, renewed by word and sacrament, we will better appreciate the significance of the prayers, blessings and dismissal that come at the conclusion of Mass. 
You can do a lot of things in four minutes: drive four miles, write an email, heat up your dinner, or listen to a song. We believe that these Four-Minute Reflections will provide a better understanding of the symbols, gestures, and rites that are sometimes not understood or taken for granted at Mass thus enabling us to share more deeply in the mystery of this great sacrament. Over the course of the liturgical year, we will strive to shed some light on practices that are ever ancient and yet, ever new. We invite you to listen attentively to what is being presented. And remember: Each reflection will only take four minutes.
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In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, following the Prayer after Communion and before the Final Blessing and Dismissal is an optional section where announcements are made; this is where these talks will be inserted. For the sake of consistency throughout the diocese, it is the best place for it. It is not meant to take time away from the homily; before Mass interferes with the congregation's preparation and after Mass people are looking to leave.

I am hoping the underlying current of this is to give examples regarding what is the most contentious phrase found in Sacrosanctum Concilium--"full, conscious, and active participation". Is is about doing or is it about being, doing flowing from it? It seems to be hinting at the second part of the last sentence.

The serial continues.

UPDATE:  12/19/2014. Addition of the title and editorial format.