Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Decade Of "Words"

In 2006, as a parallel to the meditations on the "O" Antiphons, I wrote a series of meditations on the "Seven Last Words", the sentences Jesus spoke as He hung on the cross during His passion. Unlike my Advent offerings, save for the addition of art work (and a change in title for the last one), my Holy Week offerings have not been edited from their original form. Like those thoughts before Christmas, however, I once again re-post them as we prepare for Easter.

I am sure others have written on them with much more theological insight and depth. I am also sure others have written on them with much more elegance and eloquence. I know they have been the inspiration for musical works; in fact Franz Joseph Haydn composed a piece on this subject near the beginning of his career and re-worked it near the end. I can only hope what you read can be the inspiration for your contemplation of His "hour".

Be at Calvary later today and throughout the week.

Listen with your ears and heart.

Love speaks volumes in only seven "words".

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 11

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 Fifth Sunday of Lent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


The Eucharistic Prayer, Part III

We have explored some of the key elements of the Eucharistic Prayer, closing our last reflection with affirmation of our belief that the whole Risen Christ is present and active in the celebration. Today’s presentation will complete our discussion of the Eucharistic Prayer, looking at some additional aspects of it. 
Earlier in the liturgy, we proclaimed the “Mystery of Faith” in the Memorial Acclamation. We are now reminded in the Anamnesis, which is a prayer of remembrance whereby the Church calls to mind the Lord’s passion, resurrection and ascension into heaven that the Church is acting in memory of the Lord and obeying his specific command to “Do this in memory of me.” In this prayer, the assembly affirms its devotion to that command in its gathering to celebrate, remember and proclaim Christ’s Paschal Mystery. 
Earlier, when the gifts were presented, the priest asked the Lord to accept these gifts of bread and wine. Now that the consecration of the gifts has taken place, the Body and Blood of Christ are what we offer to God. The Church and the assembly offer the Spotless Victim to the Father. However, the Church also intends that the faithful actively offer not only Christ, but also offer ourselves, our lives, our efforts to become more like Christ, and our efforts as a community of believers to serve each other as Christ once served. In doing so, we surrender ourselves, through Christ, to more complete union with the Father and with each other. 
We recall presenting intercessions to God earlier in the Mass during the Prayer of the Faithful.
Similarly, petitions are also embedded within the Eucharistic Prayer. These petitions make it clear that we celebrate the Mass in communion with the entire Church in heaven and on earth, and that the offering is for the Church and all its members, living and deceased.   
The Intercessions are usually divided into three parts: for living Christians, for the dead, and in relation to the saints in heaven.   
For the living, our prayers include those whom the Holy Spirit has set as shepherds over the Church – the pope and our bishop. We pray for the entire Church spread across the globe and for ourselves as a local community of believers. We also pray for those who have died in the peace of Christ, so that on the basis of the communion among all of us as believers, our petitions for spiritual help may bring comforting hope for the faithful departed. Finally, we invoke the assistance of all those who are now in heaven. We also ask God for some share in their fellowship and express our desire to share with them the heavenly inheritance.  
All the Eucharistic Prayers end with a doxology, which is a song of praise to God. It is concise, familiar and Trinitarian: “Through him (that is, Christ), and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” 
The final response is simple, yet deep – the Great Amen – which is both an assent and a conclusion. Our offering, which is Christ’s offering on the cross, calls for a resounding, unanimous and enthusiastic, “Amen.” St. Augustine said, “Amen is the people’s signature.” Indeed, the “Amen” is the people’s ascent as they respond affirmatively to the Eucharistic Prayer prayed by the priest on their behalf. The Great Amen is typically sung, and possibly repeated a number of times, in a joyous manner to emphasize our agreement to all that the Eucharistic Prayer says and does. Recognizing the beauty and power of this celebration, let us put our spiritual signature on these holy proceedings with our hearty, “Amen.” 
 I liked how the Liturgical Commission brought into focus the parallelisms in the Anamnesis to the other parts of the Mass. This is something I have never noticed before. Perhaps my "full, conscious, active participation" needs to be more conscious in order to be more full.

I had earlier written these reflections were originally planned to end in March. With the break during the entire month of February, those plans have changed. Obviously there is more to come.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 10

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 Fourth Sunday of Lent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


The Eucharistic Prayer, Part II

Our earlier talk (the first of three discussing the overall Eucharistic Prayer) brought us to the invocation of the Holy Spirit to sanctify or make holy the gifts on the altar, so that they may become the Body and Blood of the Lord.   
This second part dovetails with the first. Just as the Eucharistic Prayer is part of a continuous action extending from the preparation of the gifts to Holy Communion, so are the words of institution part of the Eucharistic Prayer. They are an account of key events at the Last Supper, including the words used by Jesus to institute this rite, commanding that it be done perpetually by the Church in his memory, not just merely recalling it but re-presenting it.   
The whole Eucharistic Prayer relates to the consecration, but the words of institution in particular are seen as actually bringing about the change in the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. We should listen intently with our ears, our minds and our hearts as these sacred actions unfold, noting the gestures of the priest at this time and the deliberation with which he speaks and acts. At this point, the priest is addressing himself primarily to God the Father. He is not doing something solely for the people to see and hear, but even more so that the Father may see and hear this sacred action. Thus, the holy Sacrifice of Himself, which Christ instituted during the Last Supper, is affected and re-presented to the Father. The priest is acting in the person of Christ. Jesus is the victim and the priest. 
The priest retells what Jesus said and did at the Last Supper, not just in words, but also in gestures – lifting the bread, raising his eyes to heaven, bowing over the gifts. The priest says the words of Christ over the bread, which the people have presented for this celebration, the very words he said to the apostles at the Last Supper “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.”  Without speaking, he presents or shows the host to the people for all to see and adore, then genuflects in adoration. This action may occur in silence or bells may be briefly rung.   
The prayer and gestures are then repeated with the wine. The words are familiar, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in memory of me.”   
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Body and Blood of Christ are now on the altar, but still under the appearance of bread and wine. This change in substance is referred to by the Church as “transubstantiation.” The elements still taste like bread and wine, but Faith tells us that Christ is truly present. We are invited to worthily receive the body and blood of Christ for our spiritual nourishment and to deepen our union with God. 
The priest then draws us directly into the action as he sings the “Mystery of Faith” referring to the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death, resurrection and presence among his people, inviting our acclamation. With a sense of the profound nature of what has unfolded on our behalf, the priest’s invitation hopefully summons a heartfelt response sung by the entire assembly. We sing one of three responses addressed to Christ, for example: “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again,” thereby affirming our belief that the whole mystery of the Risen Christ is present and active in the celebration.


I have a question, part of the "ad orientem" vs. "versus populum" argument about the priest's position at the altar. The main point of "versus populum" is so the congregation can see what the priest is doing at the altar. But, since the words of institution are what cause transubstantiation to happen (an aural event), why does the congregation need to "see" that (cf. John 20:29)? Additionally, is not the "presenting or showing" of the Sacred Species supposed to be an elevation above the priest's head? Nit picking, I know; but that part of "versus populum" seems to take the mystery out of the Mystery.

But as for what was said about the summit of "the source and summit" of our worship, what more needs to be said?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Let's Talk Liturgy: Part 9

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 Lent and printed in the Intermountain Catholic the following Friday.


The Eucharistic Prayer, Part I

The Mass is overflowing with spiritual power in many elements and the Eucharistic Prayer along with Communion is the center and summit of the entire celebration. There are four principal Eucharistic Prayers and what happens during these prayers is truly spectacular. It is the pre-eminent liturgical prayer of the Church. It is a single liturgical act, consisting of several parts woven together as a beautifully crafted masterpiece. In each part, we are called to fully attentive listening, responding, singing and praying; encountering the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as active participants in these proceedings. As we contemplate what is really happening at Mass, the wisdom of the Church’s insistence on our participation at Mass every weekend becomes more and more clear. 
Today’s reflection is the first of three on the structure, elements and actions of this spiritual powerhouse, the Eucharistic Prayer. We will explore the first few parts – the Preface, the Sanctus and the Epiclesis. 
The Eucharistic Prayer begins with a familiar three-part dialog between the priest and the congregation, where he draws us into this next phase of the celebration. The priest begins by, saying “The Lord be with you.” We respond, “And with your spirit.” Then, lifting his hands, he says “Lift up your hearts,” to which we reply, “We lift them up to the Lord.” With hands extended widely, he asks us to express our praise and gratitude by, saying, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And we respond, “It is right and just.” In this dialogue we are made conscious of our close union with the presiding priest, who speaks in the name of all.
The priest then begins the Preface, which means “proclamation.” The Preface proclaims the wonderful actions of God, both throughout history and in our lives, and offers thanks to God for all these blessings. The Preface is a variable prayer, with over 80 choices for different feast days, liturgical seasons, votive Masses and special occasions.

The Preface concludes with the Sanctus in which the whole assembly joins the song of the angels in giving praise to God in heaven. The text is inspired by the vision in the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah. There he recounts seeing the Lord seated on a lofty throne, with Seraphim, each with six wings, stationed above and crying to one another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with his glory.” At every Mass, we connect with the ongoing heavenly liturgy, joining in this magnificent thundering of praise for God. The verse “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” is the acclamation used by the people to greet Christ at his solemn entrance into Jerusalem. The dialogue with the people and the “Holy, Holy” should ordinarily be sung.

The celebration advances to the Epiclesis, which is the calling down of the Holy Spirit. It is a petition asking that the Father send the Holy Spirit to “make holy” or “sanctify” the gifts on the altar so that they may become the Body and Blood of the Lord. To sanctify is a role properly attributed to the Holy Spirit, who completes and brings to fullness the work of the Father and the Son. As the priest makes this petition, we see him extend his hands over the gifts of bread and wine in the ancient gesture signifying the giving of the Holy Spirit so that the gifts are sanctified.


Why such a long break between reflections, you may wonder. The entire month of February was devoted to promotion of the annual Diocesan Development Drive, during which time these reflections were not read. You have to enjoy the irony of it, though. If you look back at Parts 7 and 8, we had just started meditations on the Liturgy of the Eucharist. And even during its presentation of what happens in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, just at the proper moment, the Church has to take up a collection for its material operation.

You just can't make up this stuff.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

March 2015 Morning Offering Prayer Intentions

Here are the intentions for this month when reciting the Morning Offering:
Universal Intention - Scientists. That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person. 
Evangelization Intention - Contribution of Women. That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.
Reflections for these intentions are found here.