The readings today center on mindfulness, awareness of where we stand in God's plan. The mountain of Sinai carries a message of the majesty and distance of God, while Jesus' presence as host of the banquet speaks of intimacy and mystery. September's shadow calls us all to mindfulness as we prepare to return to life outside of summer. The Christian life holds these two places of knowledge of God in careful balance. Even in the accounts of the Passion we see the table of the upper room in balance with the Mount of Olives.READ MORE
The wonderful diversity of life and worship among Roman Catholics of East and West is an example of God writing straight with crooked lines. The steady hand of the villainous Emperor Diocletian drew a line across Europe and Africa that split the empire in two, and for the most part determined how Christians would worship two thousand years later.READ MORE
There's a different pace to a summer Sunday, especially on those days when we dream of air conditioning and wave any available paper to stir the air. Yet we persist in gathering, even with so many breaks from the usual routines. We distance ourselves not only from routines, but from schedules and familiar well-worn paths. These are playful days and contemplative days. We see long-lost friends and visit almost-forgotten places.READ MORE
We had sixteen hundred years’ experience with one Eucharistic Prayer in our repertoire and the liturgical reforms of the Council of Trent shaped the way we worshiped for four hundred years. In the last years of the Tridentine Mass, the early 1960s, we tended to see children as miniature adults. Fully rooted in the Sunday assembly by the decision of Pope Saint Pius X to push Communion back to the age of seven or so from the standard age of twelve to fourteen years during the early 1900s, children were still more tolerated than acknowledged. The Mass was in Latin, and by the 1960s the people had begun to regain their voices in the “dialogue Mass,” so the focus was on training little children to recite or sing in Latin.READ MORE
Eucharistic Prayer IV is, like Eucharistic Prayer III, a fresh composition from the 1960s, based on a prayer from the tradition of the ancient church of Alexandria. It has an interesting structural feature. The new prayers all nod toward the East with the epiclesis, or calling down of the Spirit, over the gifts. In this prayer the Spirit is asked to come down again, after the consecration, to make holy the communicants who “partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.” This beautiful phrase is well worth meditating on. What is the goal of your reception of Holy Communion today?
The preface for this Eucharistic Prayer is firmly attached to the prayer and the directives for using the prayer anchor it to Ordinary Time. It is not intended to be an option if the Mass has a proper preface of its own, like a funeral, a Lenten weekday, or a great feast. It is not often used these days, in part because of these limitations. At first, it was suggested that this prayer was better suited to small groups of people who were well educated in scripture. This was kind of an odd stipulation, especially since its images are so beautiful and worthy of attention.
The fact that many monastic churches do not have a prominent tabernacle shapes the patterns of liturgical prayer. Monastic communities often protect the ancient value of “receiving from the same sacrifice,” meaning that the communicants are assured that what they eat and drink in the Holy Mysteries actually comes from the same celebration. It surprises many to learn that the Church does not foresee, nor does it provide for, Communion of the faithful from the reserved Sacrament. Liturgical laws have long defended your right to receive from the same sacrifice, the same Mass, that you attend.READ MORE
The Second Vatican Council decreed that the devotional life of the Church should be examined and reformed with an eye towards expressing Easter faith. This encouragement for creativity has deep roots in our tradition, and some attempts at reform show great promise. One of the great treasures in our devotional repertoire is a familiar feature of Lent: the Way of the Cross. The faithful walk a path recalling the events of Christ's passion, a contemplative experience increasingly enriched these days by scripture and song. There are fourteen stations in the usual configuration, although in recent years, a fifteenth station of the Empty Tomb has been added. Why stop there? Why not develop a similar journey structured on the theme of the appearances of the Risen Lord?READ MORE
We return to our reflections on the rites of marriage with a brief consideration of reforms from the Council of Trent. When the Protestant Reformation took hold, the fairly recent achievements of the Church in regard to the sacrament of marriage were reviewed with a critical, reforming eye. In general, Protestants returned to an earlier view that marriage was a civil matter, although some said that the civil society had to be in harmony with Christian teaching.READ MORE
Fifty years or so ago, it was popular to teach that every Sunday is a “Little Easter.” Today, after several decades of intense liturgical reform, it is more proper to think of today as a “Big Sunday.” On every Sunday of the year, the Church is obliged to assemble, keeping the day holy. In most places, we hardly attain the goal of gathering all who are in Christ by baptism. Look around today and see what a Big Sunday looks like!READ MORE
What day is today? Ask most folks strolling home from church today and they will reply “Palm Sunday.” Not too long ago, today was known as the “Second Sunday of the Passion,” and in 1970 it was renamed “Passion Sunday.” This made some sense, since the procession recalling Christ’s entry into Jerusalem is usually only celebrated once in a parish on this day, but the Passion is proclaimed solemnly at every liturgy.READ MORE