Sep 14, 2014

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Today is the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Tradition tells us that, around the year 320 AD, St. Helen of Constantinople found the True Cross, the cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ died. The Empress and her son, Emperor Constantine, had a church built on the site of the discovery, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. They named the church the basilica of the Resurrection, which was consecrated on the 14th of September. The relics of the True Cross were kept in the basilica. In the beginning of the seventh century, the Persians sacked Jerusalem and they took the sacred relics of the Holy Cross. They were recovered soon after by the Emperor Heraclitus, around 630 AD. Tradition says that the Emperor, sumptuously clothed in the insignia of his rank as emperor, wanted to carry the Cross to its original place on Calvary. But the weight of the cross became more and more unbearable. Other traditions say that an unseen force stopped the Emperor from continuing. Zacariah, the Bishop of Jerusalem, advised the Emperor that, if he wished to carry the Holy Cross, he should take off all the rich clothes and dress so as to imitate the poverty and humilty of Jesus. When Emperor Heraclitus had dressed in poor clothes and barefoot, he was able to carry the Cross the rest of the way to the top of Golgotha.

In the book of Numbers, we heard how the people had complained against God and Moses. And for that reason, seraph serpents were biting the people and many were dying. When they began to repent, the Lord told Moses: "Make a seraph serpent and mount it on a pole, and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live." The seraph serpents symbolize the sins of the people. Sin bites the soul and causes it to die. The Lord desires to save the sinner. But, as St. Augustine says, "The One who made you without your consent, will not save you without your consent." To look upon our sins and confess that they are sins is to permit the Lord to heal us and save us from our sins. The seraph serpent was also a symbol of how the Lord would save his people on the Holy Cross.

Jesus made the imagery clear when he told Nicodemus: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. . . For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." Jesus also said in the Gospel according to St. John, chapter 12, verse 32: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself." Jesus has redeemed us by means of the Holy Cross, as St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians: "found in human appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross."

A cross was an instrument of punishment for criminals. It was a death designed to be painful and humiliating. Jesus, however, was innocent. He suffered our death, which we have merited by our sins. When I look upon the Cross, I am able to see many things. I see the wounds which my sins have caused. His pierced feet - because I have not walked in the path of righteousness. His pierced hands - because I have extended my hands to grasp what is not correct. His Sacred Head crowned with thorns - because of my pride and my sinful thoughts. His pierced side - from which even the last drop of his Sacred Blood poured out upon the ground because he allowed his heart to be opened so that he might substitute his love for my lack of love. These wounds which I have caused to my Savior are at the same time evidence of my shame and the source of my hope. What sort of Savior do I have? One who is willing to suffer all my just punishments in order to save me from my sins. Are you able to see the love which was crucified there upon the Holy Cross? Countless Saints and mystics had a devotion to the Holy Cross, and the instruments of his death precisely because Love Himself proved the depths of his love for us. Love was crucified for our sake. Like the people in the desert, the only remedy is then to look upon our sins by gazing at the Sinless One who became sin to save us from eternal death. For the sake of his love for us, we venerate even the cruel instrument of his death. In the midst of seeing our sins we must look deeper than merely to remind ourselves of our sins. Christians glory in the Holy Cross, not so as to beat themselves continuously with their own faults but so that they may discover the depth of our Savior's love.

In the words of St. Alphonsus Maria de Ligouri: "I kiss devoutly the Cross on which Thou didst die for me. I, on account of my sins, deserved to die a miserable death, but Thy death is my hope. Ah, by the merits of Thy most holy death, grant me the grace to die embracing Thy feet and consumed by Thy love. Into Thy hands I commend my soul. I love Thee, O Jesus my love!, more than myself, and I repent with my whole heart of ever having offended Thee. Do not permit me to be separated from Thee again. Grant that I may love Thee always and then do with me whatever pleases Thee.


Aug 31, 2014

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Prophet Jeremiah was sent by God with a message that no one wanted to hear and which Jeremiah did not want to say. When the Lord first chose Jeremiah, he was reluctant. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Be not afraid … for I am with you to deliver you.” Jeremiah stood in the court of the Lord’s house and prophesied destruction for Jerusalem. A priest, upon hearing it, beat Jeremiah and imprisoned him. The next morning, the priest released him and Jeremiah prophesied again. This time his prophecy of destruction was against the priest. This is why Jeremiah complains that he can’t keep in the words that the Lord has sent him to say. He cannot contain his prophetic mission. Yet, he struggles with his emotions of fear and discouragement. At the same time, Jeremiah is open to the Lord’s movements. There is a mystery involved in choosing what the Lord has chosen without being deprived of interior freedom. So although Jeremiah complains to the Lord, he nevertheless accomplishes his mission and even praises the Lord while he is complaining to him!

Jesus, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, has just been revealed by Peter’s confession to be the Messiah. Then Jesus immediately declares to his disciples the essential elements of his mission: to suffer, be killed and rise on the third day. The extent of their shock is evident in Peter’s response: “God forbid, Lord!” Jesus is quick to correct Peter’s attitude, precisely because the Son understands what the Father’s will is and why it is important. Jesus chooses what his Father has chosen. He is not forced by some external decree or some unbreakable power such that he is not free. He has chosen this in perfect freedom. But he still experiences real human emotion in regard to his death. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the Father whether the chalice might pass him. St. Luke adds that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground (Lk 22:44).” But Jesus also prays, “nevertheless not my will but yours be done (Lk 22:42).” There is no imperfection in his will. He is just as committed to his mission as we heard in today’s Gospel. Just before he goes to the Garden, he will have already made an irrevocable liturgical offering of his body and blood to be given over for the remission of sins. He is not withdrawing his offer in Gethsemane, but acknowledging his emotions and even beginning his suffering for our sake.

What about us? Jesus tells us that we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, follow after him and even lose our lives. It is an easy thing to follow God’s will when it pleases us, when everything is glorious, attractive and all that we do ends in triumphant success. But Jesus says we must take up our crosses. He will tell Peter after the resurrection, “When you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go (Jn 21:18). Here is the paradox: Jeremiah’s words will later be recognized as the inspired words of a prophet. His words will remind us that God has called us to fulfill his will. And we learn that God’s plan for us is greater than we can possibly imagine, especially when things are difficult. Peter’s death becomes his glory. Jesus’ death saves us from slavery and sin and even conquers death itself. In losing our lives we will save them. Crosses are not merely heavy burdens which can be set down whenever we wish. They are not simply unpleasant but rather irrelevant. Crosses are instruments for the purpose of crucifixion. Death. Unless we are willing to be crucified we will not be glorified. Unless we die to ourselves we will suffer the eternal death.

The very thought of our crucifixion, of dying to ourselves, is fraught with fear and desperation. So, St. Paul “urges” us “by the mercies of God to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice” so that we “may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Rom 12:1-2).” It is a really hard thing to do. That is why we prayed that God would place in our hearts the love of his name and nurture in us what is good by deepening our sense of reverence. Having these emotions, whether of uncertainty, fear or discouragement, does not make us unfaithful, but without the grace of God we will be unable to move forward in doing his will. The reality is that we understand all too well how difficult it is to remain faithful to our call to holiness. We know that we are weak and prone to stumble and fall. We stumble often through sin. And our sin makes us stumble all the more. Our sin makes our hearts become selfish. A heart that is self-focused, turned in on itself, will miss the call to holiness that God places in it. We will lose the ability to join the Psalmist in pining and thirsting for God. We become parched, lifeless and arid – but we no longer know it. Like the priest in the Book of Jeremiah, we no longer recognize the truth when we hear it. Even worse, we rationalize and ignore it. We carry on with life, even our religious practice, but we are no longer able to discern God’s will. Our reverence fades and the love of his name dries up in our hearts.

There is a remedy. When Jesus told us to take up our crosses and follow him, he also knew how frail we would be. He knew how often we would stumble and fall to the ground. The question is, are we ready to give up the whole world and hand our life over to him? What good is our spiritual worship if we refuse to let go of our sins? How quickly he will raise us up if only we let him! Jesus is waiting for you. He is waiting for you to choose him above everything else. He is thirsting and pining for you. Will you deny yourself and confess your sins to him?

Should you wish to confess your sins, we have regular confessions here on Saturdays at 3:00pm. I am always available, however, at any other time. You may also inquire at the office for an appointment and you don’t need to tell anyone why you wish to see me. I’m happy as well to meet at any time, even after parish office hours. Now I will leave you with this thought from St. Peter of Joseph Betancur, better known in Guatemala as Santo Hermano Pedro: “Only one soul do you have and if you lose it, what then will you do?”

Aug 17, 2014

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Our Gospel today when it is read often sounds rather harsh. Who is this Jesus in the Gospel who ignores the Canaanite woman and compares her to dogs? It is difficult to reconcile this image with the loving Jesus we see elsewhere in the Gospel. But context and a more careful reading of the passage resolves these issues.

Our Gospel today comes from Matthew 15:21-28. Earlier in the same chapter Jesus has an encounter with the Scribes and Pharisees who came from Jerusalem. They complain to him that his disciples did not follow the tradition of washing their hands before they ate in accordance with the custom of the oral traditions. Jesus replies by showing them that they transgress the Law of God through following a certain interpretation of the oral tradition. He says to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” Their hearts were neither in accord with the Law nor open to receiving the Gospel of Jesus.

Afterward, Jesus instructs his disciples about true defilement of the heart. “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” The next verse of the Gospel according to St. Matthew begins the section we heard today.

A Canaanite woman cries out to him for mercy, calling him Lord and Son of David. Jesus, who so often reacts with compassion in the Gospel, remains silent and, so it would seem, ignores her. His disciples come to him to beg Jesus to send her away. Perhaps when she received no response from Jesus, she started crying out to them for help. Notice, though, that they don't ask Jesus to help her, they ask him to get rid of her! And Jesus says to them, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Let's read that again with an emphasis on “I.” I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Might that emphasized “I” imply something about the disciples? I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but you will be sent out into the whole world. The disciples had heard Jesus quote Isaiah the prophet in the encounter with the Scribes and Pharisees, after which Jesus gave them a teaching about cleanness of heart. But what about our first reading today which is also from Isaiah: “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants … their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” And so a Medieval Gloss on the text reads: “He did not answer so that the disciples might ask for her.” Jesus is expanding his teaching on the heart and what is at the heart of true religion.

The woman clearly grasped something of the sort happening either in the exchanges or in the tone, because although Jesus has not spoken to her yet, “she came and did Jesus homage, saying Lord, help me.” Now, at last, Jesus speaks to her, “It is not fair to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Isn't our first reaction to think, “How rude!” Now the term “dogs” is in the original text κυνάρια, which is a diminutive of dog. So it can be understood to mean little dog or even puppy. And if we read the text with a gentle tone rather than as a rebuke, it softens it to the point where it can even suggest a tone that, while testing the woman, almost encourages her to continue. And just so the woman continues: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” She does not contradict his use of the word. She continues to address him as Lord. She even says the children are the masters. She humbles herself and continues to beg for mercy from him. “Then Jesus answered her, 'O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.' And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.”

Now we are in a better position to appreciate the depths of this Gospel passage. We can begin to see the Jesus of compassion that we know so well. Why did Jesus draw out this experience? Certainly, it was important enough that the Apostles remembered it and the Holy Spirit inspired St. Matthew and St. Mark to include it. Jesus knew the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees in his previous encounter. He knew the hearts of his disciples, and he knew the heart of the woman. He also knew, beforehand, that he would eventually grant to the woman her request. He teaches the disciples that his mercy is for everyone without exception. He elicits faith from the woman and teaches her to come to him in adoration and and to persevere with trust in his ability to free her daughter from her slavery to evil. Through the woman, he teaches his disciples and us to do the same. A Medieval Gloss concludes: “And if the Lord delays the salvation of a soul at the first tears of the supplicating Church, we ought not to despair, or to cease from our prayers, but rather continue them earnestly.” He may, like he did with the Canaanite woman, first elicit faith from us and teach us to humble ourselves in order to open our hearts to the gift of his mercy. He teaches us in this Gospel that we shall obtain His Heart if we cry out to him with persistence. The difficulty isn't in the generosity of the Divine Giver but in the receptivity of the one asking.

The compassion, mercy and love of the Sacred Heart of our Savior cannot resist the misery and supplications of the sinners who worship him, and throwing themselves on his mercy, beg him for help and release from the sins and evil that hold them captive. The sinner, who in humble adoration of his Sacred Heart, begs to be healed never fails to capture his loving Heart. A little book called The Way of Divine Love, which records the visitations of Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez of the Society of the Sacred Heart, contains these passages:

“My Heart takes great comfort in forgiving. I have no greater desire, no greater joy, than when I can pardon a soul.”

“I will make known that the measure of My Love and Mercy for fallen souls is limitless. I want to forgive them. It rests Me to forgive. I am ever there, waiting, with boundless love till souls come to Me. Let them come, and not be discouraged. Let them fearlessly throw themselves into My arms!”

“I am Love and desire only love. O, if souls only realized how I wait for them in mercy. I am the Love of all loves, and it is My joy to forgive.”

Our Savior waits with longing to give us his mercy. Like the Canaanite woman we should never cease to beg him for it, since in faith we shall obtain what his Love already wishes to grant us.

Aug 15, 2014

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I don't know how to be simple about today's feast. It is a feast so profound and so moving that I must say too much rather than too little. Most of what follows is excerpted from a beautiful book written by Hugo Rahner, called Our Lady and the Church. If it's depths pass us by the first time, at least it is an introduction to the deeper mystery of Our Lady. What is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary about? Is it merely a remembrance of some past event, however glorious, that happened to Mary? Why do we celebrate it? In the first place, it is about this glorious event that happened to Mary, the Mother of God. But liturgically and theologically it is more than just that. Liturgically, you will hear in the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer these words: “For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church's coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people...” Today? On this very calendar day? Yes! The prayers of the Church invite us to enter into the mysteries that we celebrate as if they were before our eyes, so that, we can draw from the contemplation of these mysteries the manifold graces that sustain and nurture our faith. They are not merely past events but the wonderful works of the Lord which sanctify us by contemplating them and dispose us to draw fruit from the Sacrament which we receive from the altar.

We heard in our Gospel the story of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. When Mary greets Elizabeth, Elizabeth says that John leaped in her womb and “Whom am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?.” And Mary remained with her about three months. What is being set before our eyes of faith for us to contemplate? Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant. When David first thought to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, David exclaimed, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” In David's time the old ark of the covenant remained for three months in the house of Obededom before David brought it to Jerusalem, leaping before it with joy. The old Ark contained in it three things: the staff of Aaron the High Priest, mana from the Exodus, and the Ten Commandments or the Decalogue – the Ten Words. The New Ark, Mary, contains in her womb the True and Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, who is the True Bread come down from heaven, who is the Word of God made flesh. In every way the latter is superior to the former. And this helps us to understand our first reading from the Book of Revelation.

St. John the Evangelist says he saw a vision: “God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen in the temple.” Is he speaking about he old ark of the covenant? No. He continues in the next chapter to describe the ark of the covenant which he saw: “ A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.” The ark, the great sign, is Mary. But it is also the Church. Our Lady is the woman who in herself includes all the mysteries of the Church. This is the reality that explains the tensions of the text, for this mystery of the glory of Mary's body is the beginning of the glory of the Church. The woman is clothed with the sun in her heavenly glory. This refers to Mary as well as to the Church-to-be when it comes into perfection. And yet the woman is in the pains of childbirth. This refers to Mary at the foot of the Cross, for we are baptized into the Death of Christ, and so she becomes our Mother in that place, a title confirmed by the words of our Savior to the beloved disciple: “Behold your Mother.” And it refers to the Church, for by the entrance into her baptismal font, as if into her womb, we are born into new life. The woman has already entered into heaven. This refers to the assumption of Mary's body and to the Church Triumphant, the saints in heaven. And yet the woman is still on the painful journey here fleeing into the desert. This refers to Mary in her motherly concern for her children, for a mother's heart is always with her children wherever they may be and it refers to the Church Militant, to us, still on the pilgrimage of faith. Mary is at once the gracious Queen and the sorrowful Mother. St. Pius X teaches in his encyclical Ad diem illum: “Everyone knows that the great woman of Revelation represents the Virgin Mary, who without blemish gave birth to our Head. But the Apostle continues: 'Being with child, she cried travailing in birth and was in pain to be delivered.' John therefore saw the holy Mother of God, who indeed already possessed eternal beatitude, nevertheless in pain at a mysterious birth. What birth was this? It was indeed our own birth, for we are still in exile and in a state of being born for the perfect love of God and for everlasting happiness. And the woman's pain also symbolizes the Virgin's love, because of which she labors with unceasing prayer from her place in heaven, to fill up the number of the elect.” Just as Christ is the New Adam and Head of his Mystical Body, the Church, so Mary is the New Eve and the most illustrious member of his Mystical Body. She signifies the whole Church in a mysterious way. The blending of images of Mary and Holy Church in this one great sign is understood by countless mystics and the Church Fathers when they comment upon these passages.

St. Ephrem the Syrian writes these lines about the great mystery of Mary: “Mary is saying to Jesus: 'Shall I call Thee my son? Or my brother, my spouse or my Lord? For Thou hast given birth to Thy mother: rebirth through water. But truly I am Thy sister: from the seed of David like Thee. And truly I am Thy mother, for I conceived Thee in my womb. Thy bride I am, for Thou has paid the price with Thy death, Thy daughter in rebirth through Thy baptism. The son of the Most High came and rested with me, and I became His mother. Born of me, He in turn has given me rebirth, for He has clothed His mother with a new garment: He has absorbed His own flesh into Himself, and her He has clothed with the sunshine of Himself.” Can we not say the same thing with her? Is Jesus my Savior, my Lord and God? Yes. As a son of Adam he is also my brother according to our shared humanity. As the New Adam, I can also call him my father for I am reborn in Him. Is he not also my spouse, the beloved of my soul?

Psalm 131:8 of the Septuagint and Vulgate versions says: “Arise, O Lord, into thy resting place: thou and the ark, which thou hast sanctified.” St. Thomas Aquinas interprets this verse of our Lady's Assumption. And the Greek Byzantine Liturgy sings on this Feast: “Come hither, all who love this festival, come let us dance and sing, come let us weave to the Church a garland of song: for today the ark of God's presence has come to rest!” Russian Orthodox theology preserves this insight: “High in heavenly glory stands the Virgin Mother of the human race: she has sanctified the whole world of nature, and in her and through her all things shall be gloriously transformed.” And an ancient Armenian hymn for the Feast of the Assumption says, “Today the choirs of fiery spirits look upon our own nature, made of clay, and tremble.”

The mystery we celebrate today is the mystery of Christ redemptive love and the power and glory of His Cross and Resurrection made perfect in the Blessed Virgin Mary. And it is also our own mystery being brought to perfection in us. It is a sign of sure hope and comfort, a sealing of the promise given to us in Christ. His Paschal Mystery is not just a wonder to our eyes as only a deed that shows the glory of God. It is not just an undertaking done for us, but there is also something done to us, to our nature. The Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven is a mysterious sign that God can communicate to us, to our nature, His very own life, holiness and glory - not only in the joining of our nature to his divinity in the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity but even to us mere creatures. So we celebrate the Solemnity of the event that took place so long ago and we celebrate the sign of God's intention for us to partake in his eternal blessedness body and soul.

Aug 11, 2014

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Why does Jesus go into the desert and up a mountain to pray alone? The reading about Elijah helps to give us an answer. Elijah had just finished proving that Baal was a false God. Then he had their false religion destroyed along with the false priests and false prophets. The Queen at the time, Jezabel, threatened to kill Elijah. So Elijah, fearing for his life, escaped to the desert. In the desert God sends an Angel to feed him with bread for 40 days and 40 nights. The Angel leads Elijah to the mountain of God. On the mountain Elijah witnesses a fierce wind, an earthquake and fire. God is not in any of these things. Then there was a tiny whispering sound, the whisper of gentle air. And there when Elijah was alone, God revealed himself in the quiet whisper of wind.

In our Gospel last Sunday, Jesus heard about the murder of John the Baptist and withdrew to a deserted place by himself. The crowds followed him and he was moved with compassion when he saw them. He healed the sick and then fed them with bread. When he had taken care of these things, he sent his disciples away and also dismissed the crowds. Afterwards, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.

Elijah went out into the desert because he was frightened. Jesus goes out into the desert, too. He might have been frightened or sad at the death of his cousin. Or tired from preaching and healing. Or disappointed at being rejected by his own town. He knows that he needs solitude and prayer. God sends an angel to feed Elijah with bread. Jesus is the one who feeds the crowd. An angel leads Elijah to the mountain. Jesus needs no one else to know where he needs to go. Elijah has to be instructed by experience where God may be found. Jesus already knows.

Jesus is true God and true man. As God, he has no need to pray, but as man, he has every need to pray. Did Jesus pray with his disciples? Of course! Did he pray with the crowd? Absolutely! So why does Jesus go into the desert and up a mountain, alone, to pray? The heart needs prayer, both the public and communal type, as well as the private and intimate experience. God made us to take delight in praising him and our hearts remain restless until they rest in him. We need quiet and solitude to answer this need of our hearts. This can be a difficult thing for us to grasp. We are bad at being alone and really bad at being quiet. We fill our lives with the frenzy of almost constant sounds and entertainment: television, movies, radio, internet. We are almost constantly doing, doing, doing. When do we rest from all this? When we drop exhausted into our nightly sleep. I think that we fear being alone. I think we are afraid of being bored. We take our solitude and fill it with the things that numb our loneliness and boredom: Facebook, video games, and other less savory things. Yet have we ever been more lonely? Have these things ever been the source of a rich and meaningful life? None of these things can actually answer to our basic human needs. They accentuate and perpetuate our problems. At the very least, they do not resolve them.

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives: work, raising children, rushing around, even in the doing of good deeds, prayer becomes an afterthought, and then a memory, and soon no thought at all. If we do not have the habit of withdrawing to a deserted place and remaining in silence alone then it can be incredibly difficult to start. I suggest just a few minutes at first: 5, 10, or 15. Little by little we can begin to detach ourselves from the things which are not God and which, very often, do not lead to God. These superficial things occupy space in our minds, hearts and souls - a space that was intended to be filled with God and God alone.

At first, we can experience a discomfort with quiet and solitude. We may be distracted by all the things we are trying to put aside. Many things will rise up in our thoughts: memories, lists of tasks, temptations and emotions like anger or resentment. Often emotions or needs will rise which tell us we have been looking past or ignoring the more important aspects of our hearts. If we have the habit of numbing ourselves with many things, then the experience of solitude and quiet can even be painful at first. But we will soon discover the deepest need of the human heart and the only answer that adequately responds to it. When we are alone with God, we are not really alone (though it may feel that way). Only God can satisfy our deepest longings. Whatever our experience may be, at the root of all our longings, we will discover that God is never boring, nor are we. The most exciting thing about being human is our relationship with the God who loves us. And Jesus shows us how this relationship is fostered: by being alone with him, not necessarily doing any particular thing or even saying any particular thing, but just being in his presence and resting. His presence in our hearts calms the turbulent waters and gives us peace.

Aug 3, 2014

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The prophet Isaiah is drawing on the imagery of how The Lord fed his people during the exodus from Egypt. The Lord gave them bread from heaven having all sweetness within it. Every day the Israelites gathered the manna, but just enough for a day. He fed them without price. And he offers more than just bread for the stomach. He offers us eternal bread that satisfies the soul. "I will renew with you the everlasting covenant." If we listen to the prophet Isaiah again, we can hear the Lord pleading and begging with us: "Come! Come! Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life!"

We work so hard and become anxious for all sorts of things that do not last and do not satisfy. The Lord wants to give us for free something that satisfies and lasts forever! "Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?," says the Lord. God is longing to satisfy us with what satisfies forever!

When Jesus sees the crowd, "his heart was moved with pity for them." "Moved with pity." The Greek uses much stronger and richer language. It means to be moved in the innermost depths of the heart. Jesus is disturbed in his soul with his desire to heal and feed his people.

Today, Jesus sees you. He longs and desires to heal and feed you from his altar. Are you hungry? Come! "Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body," says the Lord. Are you thirsty? Come! "Take this, all of you, and drink for it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant," says the Lord.

Come! Eat! Drink! And be satisfied!

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Then he planted a garden in Eden, towards the East, where he placed the man he had formed. And God gave to the man this commandment: "From any tree of the garden you may eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, because on the day which you will have eaten of it, you shall surely die." But there was a serpent who was very clever. And one day he said to the woman, "Did God really forbid you to eat from any of the trees of the garden?" Remember - God only forbid them to eat from one tree. Do you see that the serpent has already lied? The woman responded to the serpent, "No. We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden, but not of the fruit of the tree which is in the center. God forbid us to eat of it and told us that we may not touch it, because we will die." What? God did not say those words. He never said "Don't touch" but rather "Don't eat." Already the first lie of the devil has confused the truth. And the woman has not told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Now she is ready for the next lie. The serpent said to the woman, "It is not true that you will die. On the contrary, God knows very well that if you eat of the fruit of the tree, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, for you will know good and evil." And the rest is history.

What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom? In Latin the words for wisdom and taste or flavor are related. Wisdom is to know the flavor of God, which is better than merely to know good and bad things. "Taste and see how good The Lord is, " says the Psalmist. And St. Augustine says, "Late have I loved thee, O Beauty ever ancient ever new, late have I loved thee! . . . Thou exhaled perfume and I drew in a breath, and now I am panting and gasping for thee; I tasted thee, and now I am left hungering and thirsting for thee. . ." We need to experience the good savor of God in our hearts.

After the lies of the serpent, the Sacred Scriptures note that the fruit of that tree appeared appetizing, and beautiful to behold and excellent for acquiring wisdom. But it is not possible to take or steal wisdom by the violence of our wills or by disobedience. Wisdom is a gift from God. If, like Solomon, we ask God to grant us this gift, he gives it freely and willingly.

Then we will not see only the appearances, but rather we will know the reality. The world and the devil judge by the appearances of things. They believe themselves to be gods. "What, really, is marriage? What is life

Jul 20, 2014

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Lectionary today is a commentary on God's mercy and forgiveness. The Book of Wisdom describes  how God could apply his justice in a strict manner in order to show us his might. Yet, the Book of Wisdom notes, God actually applies his might by judging with clemency and governing us with leniency. And so he teaches us that the just must also be kind. Therefore, God has given us hope that he will grant us the grace of repentance for our sins. Likewise, the Psalmist tells us that The Lord is good and forgiving. Other versions describe the same as The Lord being sweet and pleasant, mild and gentle, especially with respect to pentitents. The Psalmist says, "You, O Lord, are a God of compassion and steadfast love, patient, abundant in mercy and true." Our Lord expresses the same reality in his three parables of the Wheat, the Mustard Seed, and the Yeast.

The Holy Fathers of the Church understand in the parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast, signs of Jesus Christ put to death and risen in glory. Jesus is the mustard seed, which having been thought little of, after being buried, rises into a tree so large that all the birds of the air, that is souls, rest in his branches (Sts. Gregory the Great and Hilary). The Cross which was the instrument of his death becomes a glorious tree of life which gives rest to the whole world. Jesus is the yeast, who being put to death, was hidden in the tomb of the earth. But, afterwards, by his resurrection, brings to fulfillment everthing in the holy scriptures. St. Augustine compares Jesus to the yeast in this way: He is the love which, being hidden in the measure of the human heart, causes the whole person to flourish and come to perfection.

In the parable of the Wheat, it is clear that Jesus is the sower of good seed. The enemy, the Devil, sows bad seed. St. Jerome says that when a field is first sprouting, it is difficult to tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat. Not until they are maturing and begin to bring forth fruit can they be identified. What at first appears as weeds may by repentance and spiritual progress become wheat. God shows his mercy, patience and gentleness so that none of the wheat might accidentally perish. But in the end, whether it is the end of the world or the end of our lives only, there will no longer be room for repentance. We have this life only to accept the good seed of The Lord into our hearts.

All three parables explain what the kingdom of heaven is like. Jesus plants himself in our hearts by grace. His love, which he proved upon the Cross, the same which he shares with us in this Holy Mass, is capable of turning weeds into wheat. He takes our imperfections and weaknesses, and, yes, even sins, and turns them into perfect love.

The enemy, who was a murderer and a liar from the beginning, sows the seed of death by convincing us to take for ourselves the fruit of the tree. But we were not created to grasp life for ourselves by the violence of our own wills. We were created to be receivers and givers not takers and hoarders. And after the enemay has convinced us to sin, he continues to lie. Not only do we not ger what his lies promised to us, but afterwards he turns this lie against us. He tells us that we are his, that there is no mercy for us, no forgiveness for us, no love for us. He tells us that we are weeds and that we are his children. But that, too, is a lie.

Jesus plants the Cross of Truth, the Tree of Life, right in the midst of human history. The Truth of the Cross is this: He loved us even while we were sinners. The most horrific crime, the greatest evil ever accomplished in the history of mankind was the crucifixion of the only Son of God. And, yet, God is able to take the horror and replace it with Beauty, the evil and exchange it for the most perfect act of love the world has ever known. Jesus did this so that he could send to us his Spirit of Truth in order that he might convince the world of his love.

In a few moments we will prepare the altar and I will pray the Prayer over the Offerings. Listen closely and you will hear this line: "O God, who in the one perfect sacrifice brought to completion varied offerings of the law..." You see the truth of the Sacrifice of the Cross reaches back into history and brings to perfection all the imperfections of former sacrifices offered to God. A little later in the Eucharistic prayer I will extend my hands over the gifts and call upon them the power of the Holy Spirit. And God will once again make present the one perfect sacrifice which has overcome and torn asunder all the lies of the enemy. Here, in this moment, we will join all of our sorrows, joys, anxieties, hopes, our love to this one perfect sacrifice of Jesus. And Jesus will make them perfect. He has the power to reach into the darkest depths of our hearts, where we keep hidden the secrets that we wish no one else to discover, which we ourselves may not dare to look at, and he exchanges our imperfections and sinfulness with the perfection of his own love.

The enemy whispers his lies to us in the darkness, because they are not true. Jesus proclaims the truth in the light of the resurrection: You are loved. You are forgiven. You are becoming whear. You are his.

Jul 15, 2014

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year A

One of my favorite images from the Gospels is when Jesus teaches the people from the sea shore. In the Gospels, Jesus is constantly getting into a boat and going back and forth across the Sea of Galilee.  This time, the crowds were so large, he gets into a boat and preaches to them from the boat.  Teaching this way allows the crowd to see him as well as allowing his voice to carry across the waters, something like a natural microphone. But there is also scriptural imagery at work here if we know our scriptures. Principally, I'm thinking about the imagery of water. The particular reference I have in mind here is Psalm 29:3, 10: "3 The voice of The Lord is upon the waters, the God of Majesty has thundered, The Lord is upon many waters...10 The Lord makes the flood to dwell, and The Lord shall sit [there] as King forever." And here in the Gospel is The Lord, the King, sitting upon the waters of Galilee and teaching his people. His voice carrries across the waters and plants the word of truth into the hearts of those who will listen. He is in some sense recreating them from within.

The imagery of water is often connected to the creative activity of God. It appears in the very first two verses: Genesis 1:1-2. "1 In the beginning God created heaven and earth. 2 And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters." In the days of Noah, God caused a great flood. It was a re-creating of sorts, a renewing and purificiation of the world by water. And in the Gospel, God is speaking again across the waters and re-creating hearts anew.

What is it that makes the spritual life possible? Foremost, it is the Sower of the seed - Jesus. He plants the word of life in our hearts. But it is also necessary that we be disposed to receive his word. If our spiritual life has become hardened by sin, his word will not take root in our souls and will be snatched away by the evil one. If we do not allow the word to be nurtured by prayer, meditation, assisting at Holy Mass, the full practice of our Catholic faith, its growth will be superficial. It may look to the whole world like a healthy plant but it is already doomed. But what if the seed is truly planted in good soil? It still needs attention and care. If a garden is left untended, the precious plants die and only weeds will remain. A garden is generally tended in much the same way that the soil was prepared. Prayer, study of scripture, the full practice of the faith, the Holy Mass, Sacramental Confession, etc. 

God is like a Cosmological Gardener. The very first garden was the Garden of Eden. Human beings were created to tend the garden including one another. That is one way to understand being made in the image and likeness of God. If he is The Gardener, we are also meant to be gardeners. This likeness to him is obscured by the sin of Adam and Eve, which cause them to be expelled from the garden. And it has effects not just on the would-be gardeners but also on all of creation which human beings were meant to tend. So St. Paul says that "creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God ... in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God." All of creation, St. Paul says, is groaning as if in labor pains until the day of our glorification. And we, too, groan as we wait for adoption. God does not will merely to restore humanity to a former state but even to lift us up to something far greater: participation in the sonship of his Only Son by adoption. This adoption is not a legal fiction. It is not merely like something only declared on paper, but it is in fact and reality. It reaches down into the very core of what it means to be human. It takes root in our souls and grows and blossoms and bears eternal fruit.

"The seed is the word of God, but the sower is Christ; everyone who finds him, will remain forever (Semen est verbum Dei, sator autem Christus; omnis qui invenit eum, manebit in aeternum)." The fruit is to become a son in the Only Son of God. God, if we let him, will actually put us in the place of his Son, to reign in his kingdom forever. Just as he put his Son in our place upon the Cross. And even there, there was water - flowing from his pierced side: cleansing, purifying, and re-creating the world anew.

Water from the side of Christ, wash us!

A New Beginning

After a long time of silence while I was studying in seminary, I've decided to start posting here and there again. I will return to some of my musings on the liturgy as well as posting some of my reflections and homilies. I was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, June 28th, 2014. I thought about doing these sorts of things through my Facebook account but I think the venue is a little better here. So here we go!

May 18, 2011

Rituale Romanum

It's been a while since I've posted here but I've been doing some research at seminary that I thought might be beneficial to others with regard to the Rituale Romanum.

The Motu Proprio Summorum Ponticum extended the use of the adminstration of some of the sacraments in the forma extraordinaria:

Art. 9.1: The pastor, having attentively examined all aspects, may also grant permission to use the earlier ritual for the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Marriage, Penance, and the Anointing of the Sick, if the good of souls would seem to require it.

Art. 9.1: Parochus item, omnibus bene perpensis, licentiam concedere potest utendi rituali antiquiore in administrandis sacramentis Baptismatis, Matrimonii, Poenitentiae et Unctionis Infirmorum, bono animarum id suadente.

The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae clarifies the use of the older liturgical books:

24. The liturgical books of the forma extraordinaria are to be used as they are. All those who wish to celebrate the forma extraordinaria of the Roman Rite must know the pertinent rubrics and are obliged to follow them correctly.

24. Libri liturgici formae extraordinariae adhibeantur ut prostant. Omnes qui secundum extraordinariam formam Ritus Romani celebrare exoptant, tenentur rubricas relativas scire easque in celebrationibus recte exsequi.

28. Furthermore, by virtue of its character of special law, within its own area, the Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum" derogates from those provisions of law, connected with the Sacred Rites, promulgated from 1962 onwards and incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in effect in 1962.

28. Praeterea, cum sane de lege speciali agitur, quoad materiam propriam, Litterae Apostolicae Summorum Pontificum derogant omnibus legibus liturgicis, sacrorum rituum propriis, exinde ab anno 1962 promulgatis, et cum rubricis librorum liturgicum anni 1962 non congruentibus.

35. The use of the Pontificale Romanum, the Rituale Romanum, as well as the Caeremoniale Episcoporum in effect in 1962, is permitted, in keeping with n. 28 of this Instruction and always respecting n. 31 of the same Instruction.

35. Salvo quod sub n. 31 huius Instructionis praescriptum est, ad mentem n. 28 ipsius Instructionis licet Pontificale Romanum, Rituale Romanum et Caeremoniale Episcoporum anno 1962 vigentia adhibere.

Seems straightforward no? Well . . . musca in unguentum est. (There is a fly in the ointment).

Here's my problem. The available options for the Rituale Romanum in reprints are the 1945 Rituale Romanum from Preserving Christian Publications and the 3 Volume Weller edition of the Rituale Romanum also available at Preserving Christian Publications. Neither of these are entirely in accord with the liturgical rubrics in effect in 1962. For example, the Weller edition does not expunge the abjurations of cult in the baptism of adults nor does it indicate where the vernacular is permitted in the administration of the sacrament of Baptism and for that matter I am unsure that the english given there is in accord with the english given recognitio in 1959. In addition to use the 1945 Rituale Romanum would require a process of updating by searching through the AAS or EL and even then how can I be sure I've gotten them all? The last latin typical edition of the Rituale Romanum was in 1952 but there are a number of changes that came afterwards right up to 1962. Of course, most of the changes are fairly simple but there are some major changes that are not so simple. The best that can be done right now is to lay one's hands on a used copy of the Collectio Rituum (1961, Practical Handbook of Rites Blessings and Prayers, The North Central Publishing Company: St. Paul Minnesota) or the Parish Ritual and/or Sacristy Manual from Benzinger Brothers approved by Card. Spellman also circa 1961. I'm lucky enough to have the former but that doesn't even solve all the problems. Hopefully at some point an interested publisher will reprint a fully compliant Rituale Romanum and usefully a Collectio Rituum for use in the United States.

I've done some preliminary research into this lacuna, back to 1950 so far, trying to find the corrections, additions, etc. so that someone with an older Rituale Romanum / Collectio Rituum could mark the changes and appropriately use the Rituale. Here's what I've come up with so far:

AAS 42 [1950], 795: Urbis et Orbis: Ingenti populi, October 31, 1950
Following the definition of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, in the Litany of Loreto after the line Regina sine labe originale concepta, is inserted the line Regina in caelum assumpta.

AAS 46 [1954], 68: Variationes in rubricis missalis et ritualis romani, June 3, 1953
A change in the rubrics to Title V Chapter I, nos. 3 and 4, in the Praenotanda de hoc Sanctissimo Sacramento, and Chapter IV, no. 4, as well as Chapter V, nos. 1, 2 and 3. The change was made following the Apostolic Constitution Christus Dominus of Pope Pius XII changing the law of fasting before Holy Communion to one hour.

AAS 47 [1955], 414: Benedictionis maris, April 27, 1955
Inserted a blessing of the sea.

AAS 48 [1956], 844: Benedictionis lapicidinarum et marmorariae officinae, October 31, 1956
Inserted blessings for stone and marble quarries.

AAS 49 [1957], 1043: Benedictionis stationis radiophonicae, October 24, 1957
Inserted a blessing for radio stations.

S.C.R. N.D. 37/1959: Dioecesium Americae Septentrionalis, October 11, 1959
Permitted the use of the vernacular in the administration of the sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony and Extreme Unctio saving the exorcisms, blessings and formulas. Permitted the use of english enitrely in Matrimony outside of the Mass. Permitted the addition of english prayers after the funeral rites were completes where determined by the Ordinary.

AAS 52 [1960], 412: Litaniae Pretiosissimi Sanguinis D.N.I.C., February 24, 1960
Added the Litany of the Most Precious Blood

EL, 1960, 74, 133: (Ephemerides liturgicae) S. C. R. Prot. H. 10/959, November 27, 1959
Abolished abjuration of pagan, Jewish, Muslim and other sects from Title II, Chapter 4, no. 10 of the rite for baptism of adults.

AAS 52 [1960], 987: Laudibus in blasphemiarum reparationem, October 12, 1960
Added the invocation Benedictus Sanguis eius Pretiosissimus to the Divine Praises.

AAS 54 [1962], 310-338: Ordo Baptismi adultorum, April 16, 1962
Reordered the rite of baptism for the allowance of a seven step "catechumenate." If the rites were given all at once the previous ritual is followed. With the permission of the Ordinary however it may be broken up as described in the above document over seven steps.

Some of these are rather minor changes but others are significant. Further, the permission for the use of the vernacular in 1959 excludes the blessings found in Title IX De benedictionibus. Also remember that Summorum Pontificum derogates from any of the permissions and recognitions granted to vernacular in 1963/4.

Sep 23, 2006

The Roman Canon: Origin and Development IV

Meal Berakoth 1

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, King of the universe, who givest us this fruit of the vine. 2

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth. 3

L.: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R.: Blessed be he whose generosity has given us food and whose kindness has given us life. 4

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, King of the universe, who feedest the world with goodness, with grace and mercy, who givest food to all flesh for thou nourishest and sustainest all beings and providest food for all thy creatures. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who givest food to all.

We thank thee, JHWH, our God, for a desirable, good and ample land which thou was pleased to give to our fathers, and for thy covenant which thou hast marked in our flesh, and for the Torah which thou hast given us, and for life, grace, mercy and food which thou hast lent us in every season. And for all this, JHWH, our God, we thank thee and bless thy name. Blessed be thy name upon us continually and for ever. Blessed be thou, JHWH, for the land and for the food.

Have mercy, JHWH, our God, upon thy people Israel, upon thy city Jerusalem, upon Zion, the abiding place of thy glory, upon the kingdom of the house of David thine annointed, and upon the great and holy house that was called by thy name. Feed us, nourish us, sustain us, provide for us, relieve us speedily from our anxieties, and let us not stand in need of the gifts of mortals, for their gifts are small and their reproach is great, for we have trusted in thy holy, great and fearful name. And may Elijah and the Messiah, the son of David come in our life-time, and let the kingdom of the house of David return to its place, and reign thou over us, thou alone, and save us for thy name’s sake, and bring us up in it and gladden us in it and comfort us in Zion thy city. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who rebuildest Jerusalem. 5

[SPECIAL FORM: Our God, and the God of our fathers, may the remembrance of ourselves and of our fathers and the remembrance of Jerusalem, thy city, and the remembrance of the Messiah, the son of David, thy servant, and the remembrance of thy people, the whole house of Israel, arise and come, come to pass, be seen and accepted and heard, be remembered and be mentioned before thee for deliverance, for good, for grace, for lovingkindness and for mercy on this such and such a day. Remember us, JHWH, our God, on it for good and visit us on it for blessing and save us on it unto life by a word of salvation and mercy, and spare, favour and show us mercy, for thou art a gracious and merciful God and King.] 6

1 “Neither the Mishnah nor the Tefillah give us a complete test, which is not to be found before the Seder Amram Gaon. But they multiply allusions to the content of the formulas from the earliest times, which act as a guarantee for us of the substantial conformity between the text still in use today and the ancient practice.”(Bouyer 82)

2 “The obligatory prelude of the meal was the ritual hand-washing with which the Jews also began their day. Then, in a ceremonial meal, each person upon arriving drank a first cup of wine, repeating for himself this” text. “This is the first cup mentioned by St. Luke in his account of the Last Supper”. (Bouyer 79)

3 “[The] meal did not officially begin until the father of the family or the presiding member of the community had broken the bread which was given to the participants, with this blessing.” “It was looked upon as a general blessing for the whole meal that was to follow, and no one who arrived later was allowed to partake.” “The courses and cups of wine then followed, and each person in turn pronounced a series of blessings. The Passover meal was distinguished simply by special foods, bitter herbs and the lamb, which were used together with the special corresponding prayers and the dialogued recitation of the haggadah, i.e. a kind of traditional homily on the origin and the ever fresh sense of the feast.” Bouyer thinks that the haggadah becomes central to the placement of the Instituion Narrative within the berakoth. (Bouyer 80, 157)

4 “In every case, however, the essentail ritual act came at the end of the meal.” On holy days celebrated on the eve a lamp was lit, which is the origin of the ancient Christian use of the lucernarium and has survived into our own day in the blessing of the paschal candle. Then incense was blessed and burned. Then a second general hand-washing takes place. The servant would bring an ewer to the master of the house or the one who presided, though when a servant was not available then the youngest at the table would do so. This is the origin of John the Beloved Disciple bringing the ewer to Jesus. Jesus then turns to Peter who is considered the most worthy after himself and washed not only his hands but his feet. “It is after these preliminaries that the presider, with the cup of wine mixed with water before him, solemnly invited those assisting to join in with his act of thanksgiving.” (Bouyer 80-81)

5 Bouyer 82-83.

6 The Seder Amram Gaon prescribes certain variations of the third berakah either for Sabbath or a high holy day. What is most remarkable about this text is the extensive use of the Hebrew word zikkaron (remembrance). This gives a context to the command of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me”. The term also recalls the Temple sacrifices when we see the connection to the Abodah prayer. The idea of memorial is also prevalent there and this prayer arises from those that originally consecrated the Temple sacrifices. (Bouyer 84-85)

Sep 19, 2006

The Roman Canon: Origin and Development III

The Tefillah of the Shemoneh Esreh 1

JHWH, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare your praise!

Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob, the great, mighty and revered God, the most high God, who bestowest lovingkindness, possessest all things and remeberest the pious deeds of the fathers, and wilt bring a redeemer to their children’s children for thy name’s sake, in love, King, Helper, Saviour and Shield. Blessed be thou, JHWH, the Shield of Abraham.

Thou art mighty forever, JHWH, thou quickenest the dead, thou art mighty to save, and thou causest the dew to fall (who causest the wind to blow and the rain to fall), who sustainest the living with lovingkindness, quickenest the dead with great mercy, supportest the falling, healest the sick, loosest them that are bound and keepest faith to them that sleep in the dust. Who is like unto thee, Lord of mighty acts, and who resembleth thee, King, who killest and quickenest and causest salvation to spring forth. And faithful art thou to quicken the dead, Blessed be thou, JHWH, who quickenest the dead.

Keter 2:
Unto thee shall the multitudes above with all the gatherings below give a crown, all with one accord shall thrice repeat the holy praise unto thee, according to what is said through the prophet: and one cried unto another and said: Holy, holy, holy is JHWH of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory. Then with noise of great rushing, mighty and strong, they make their voices heard, and upraising themselves towards them, they say: blessed, blessed be the glory of JHWH from his place.

From thy place shine forth, our King, and reign over us, for we wait upon thee. When wilt thou reign? Reign in Zion speedily, even in our days and in our lives do thou dwell (there). Mayest thou be magnified and sanctified in the midst of Jerusalem thy city throughout all generations and to all eternity. And let our eyes behold they kingdom, according to the word that was spoken in the songs of thy might by David, thy righteous annointed: JHWH shall reign for ever, thy God, Zion, unto all generations. Hallelujah.

Qedushat ha-Shem:
From generation to generation give homage to God for he alone is high and holy, and thy praise, our God, shall not depart from our mouth for ever, for a great and holy king art thou. Blessed be thou JHWH, thou holy God.

Thou favorest man with knowledge and teachest a human being understanding. Favour us with knowledge, understanding and discernment from thee. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who graciously bestowest knowledge.

Cause us to return, our Father, unto thy Torah, and draw us near, our King, unto thy service, and bring us back in perfect repentance before thee. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who delightest in repentance.

Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed, for thou art good and forgiving. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who art gracious and dost adundantly forgive.

Look upon our affliction and plead our cause, and redeem us speedily for thy Name’s sake; for thou art a mighty Redeemer. Blessed be thou, JHWH, the Redeemer of Israel.

Heal us, JHWH, and we shall be healed; save us and we shall be saved, and grant a perfect healing to all our wounds; for thou, God, art a merciful Physician. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who healest the sick of thy people Israel.

Birkat ha-shanim:
Bless this year unto us, JHWH, our God for (our) welfare (and give dew and rain for blessing upon the face of the earth, and wind on the land, and satisfy the whole world by the goodness and fill our hands from thy blessings and from the riches of the gifts of they hands, and watch and rescue this year from all evil and from all destruction and from all calamity, and make it a hope, and let the end of it be peace. Spare us, and have mercy upon us and upon all the produce of it, and upon all the fruits of it, and bless it like (good) years with blessing of dew, and life, and plenty, and peace). Blessed be thou, JHWH, who blessest the years.

Qibbus galuyoth:
Sound the great horn for our freedom, and lift up the ensign, to gather our exiles, and proclaim liberty to gather us from the four quarters of the earth to our land. blessed be thou, JHWH, who gatherest the dispersed of thy people Israel.

Birkat mishpat:
Restore our judges as at the first, and our counselors as at the beginning, and reign thou alone over us, JHWH, in grace and mercy and righteousness and judgment. Blessed be thou, JHWH, the King who lovest righteousness and judgment.

And for the slanderers let there be no hope, and let all the wicked perish in a moment and let all our enemies be speedily cut off, and the dominion of arrogance do thou speedily uproot and crush and humble in our days. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who breakest the wicked and humblest the arrogant.] 3

Birkat saddiqim:
Towards the righteous and the pious and the true proselytes may thy mercies be stirred, JHWH, our God, and grant a good reward unto all who faithfully trust in thy name and set our portion with them, so that we may never be put to shame. Blessed be thou, JHWH, the stay and trust of the righteous.

Birkat Yerushalem 4:
To Jerusalem, thy city, return in mercy, and dwell in it as thou hast spoken; and rebuild it as an everlasting building in our days. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who rebuildest Jerusalem.

Birkat David:
Speedily cause the offspring of David to flourish, and let his horn be exalted by thy salvation, because we wait for thy salvation all the day. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who causest the horn of salvation to flourish.

Hear our voice, JHWH, have mercy upon us and accept our prayer in mercy and favour; for thou art a God who hearkenest unto our prayers and supplications: from thy presence, our Kind, turn us not empty away, for thou hearkenest to the prayer of every mouth. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who hearkenest unto prayer.

Abodah 5:
Accept, JHWH, our God, thy people Israel and their prayer and restore the service to the Holy of Holies of thy house and receive speedily in love and favour the fire-offerings of Israel and their prayer, and may the service of thy people Israel ever be acceptable unto thee, and let our eyes behold thy return to Zion in mercy. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who restorest thy Presence to Zion.

We give thanks unto thee, our God and the God of our fathers; thou art the Rock of our lives, the Shield of our salvation through every generation. We will give thanks unto thee and declare thy praise for our lives which are committed unto thy hand, and for our souls which are in thy charge. Thou art all-good for thy mercies fail not, thou art merciful for thy lovingkindnesses never cease, we have ever hoped in thee. And bring us not to shame, JHWH, our God, abandon us not and hide not thy face from us, and for all thy name be blessed and exalted, our King, for ever and ever. Everything that liveth should thank thee, Selah, and praise thy name, All-good, in truth. Blessed be thou, JHWH, whose name is all-good, and unto whom it is becoming to give thanks.

Birkat kohanim:
Grant peace, welfare, blessing, loving kindness and mercy unto us and unto all Israel, thy people, and bless us, our Father, even all of us together, with the light of thy countenance; for by the light of thy countenance thou hast given us, JHWH, our God, the Torah of life, love and grace, and righteousness and mercy, and may it be good in thy sight to bless thy people Israel in mercy in all times. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who blessest thy people Israel with peace.

1 After the Shemah and the following prayer, which was not transcribed in the last article, the Tefillah of the 18 blessings (Shemoneh Esreh) is recited. The form reproduced here is the Babylonian one from the Seder Amram Gaon. Scholars disagree with whether the Babylonian or Jerusalem recension more closely corresponds to that of the time of Jesus. This dispute is not so important since it is admitted that there were no two Jewish communities of his time that used exactly the same words. Bouyer 70.

2 The Keter is not counted among the eighteen blessings but is counted as a continuation of the Geburoth. There are eighteen total blessings: Aboth, Geburoth, Qedushat ha-Shem, Binah, Teshubah, Selishah, Geullah, Refnah, Birkat ha-shanim, Qibbus galuyoth, Birkat mishpat, Birkat saddiqim, Birkat Yerushalem, Birkat David, Tefillah, Abodah, Hodah, and Birkat kohanim.

3 “It is after [the Birkat mishpat] and prior to [Birkat saddiqim] that the [Birkatha-minim] was introduced as a later addition which brought the number of traditional ‘blessings’ from eighteen up to nineteen. It is the famous prayer against the apostates and slanderers of the people of Israel. These minim are certainly the Christians, especially the Jewish Christians, and all those among the Jewish people who were in league with them or thought to be.”(Bouyer 76)

4 “The Birkat Yerushalem which follows [the Birkat saddiqim] is obviously, since the year 70 of our era, aimed at the rebuilding of Jerusalem which Titus has destroyed. But, as Abrahams points out, the original formulas must have focused not on the rebuilding but on the building of Jerusalem and on her perpetual possession of the divine presence.”(Bouyer, 76)

5 “It is called Abodah, “service” and it is generally admitted that it proceeds directly from the prayer that was recited in the temple of Jerusalem for the daily offering of the holocaust. Later it was revised so that it could be applied to the restoration of the sacrifices interrupted by Titus.”(Bouyer 78)

The Roman Canon: Origin and Development II

Berakoth of the Qedushah 1:
L 2: Bless ye JHWH, who is to be blessed.

R.: Blessed be JHWH, who is to be blessed, for ever and ever.

L: Blessed be thou, JHWH, our God, king of the universe, who formest light and createst darkness, who makes peace and createst all things: Who in mercy givest light to the earth and to them that dwell thereon and in his goodness renewest the creation every day continually. How manifold are they works, JHWH. In wisdom hast thou made them all, the earth is full of thy possesions. King who alone wast exalted from aforetime, praised, glorified and exalted from days of old. Everlasting God, in thine abundant mercies have mercy upon us, Lord of our strength, Rock of our stronghold, Shield of our salvation, thou stronghold of ours. The blessed God, great in knowledge, prepared and formed the rays of the sun: it was a boon he produced as a glory to his name. He set the luminaries round about his strength. The chiefs of his hosts are holy beings, they exalt the Almighty, continually declare the glory of God and his holiness. Be thou blessed, JHWH, our God, in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Be thou blessed, our Rock, our King and our Redeemer, Creator of holy beings, praised be thy name forever, our King, Creator of ministering spirits, and all his ministering spirits stand in the height of the universe, and with awe proclaim aloud in unison the words of the living God and everlasting King. All of them are beloved, all of them are pure, all of them are mighty, all of them in dread do the will of their master, all of them open their mouths in holiness and purity and praise and glorify and sanctify the name of the great King, the mighty and dreaded One, holy is He. They all take upon themselves the yoke of the kingdom in heaven, one from the other, and give leave one to another to hallow their Creator: in tranquil joy of spirit, with pure speech and with holy melody they all respond in unison in fear, and say with awe ...

R: Holy, holy, holy is JHWH of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.

L: And the Ophanim and the holy Chayoth with a noise of great rushing, upraising themselves towards them praise and say:

R: Blessed be the glory of JHWH from his place.

L: To the blessed God they offer pleasant melodies, to the King, the living and ever-enduring God they utter hymns and make their praises heard, for he alone performeth mighty deeds and maketh new things, the Lord of battles, he soweth righteousness, causeth salvation to spring forth, createth remedies, is revered in praises, the Lord of wonders who in his goodness reneweth the creation every day continually, as it is said: (Give thanks) to him that maketh great lights for his grace endureth forever. Blessed be thou, JHWH, Creator of the luminaries.

L: With abounding love hast thou loved us, JHWH, our God, with great and exceeding pity thou hast pitied us, our Father, our King, for the sake of our fathers who trusted in thee, and whom thou didst teach the statutes of life, be gracious also unto us. Our Father, merciful Father, have mercy upon us, and put into our hearts to understand, and to discern, and to hear, and to learn, and to do all the words of instruction in thy Torah in love. And enlighten our eyes in they commandments, and let our hearts cleave to they fear, and unite our hearts to love thy name, soon in love exalt our horn and be thou our king and save us for the sake of thy name, for we have trusted in thee, that we be put not to shame, and we trust in thy name that we be not abashed nor stumble for ever and ever because thou, O God, art our Father, our God, and let not thy mercy abandon us for ever and ever. Let peace come over us from the four corners of the earth and cause us soon to go upright to our land, for thou hast chosen us from all peoples and tongues and hast brought us near unto thy great name in love. Blessed be thou, JHWH, who hast chosen thy people Israel in love.

Shemah 3:
R.:(Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God is the Lord alone; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your thought, and him only shall you serve.)

1 Preceding this is the Qaddish prayer which was the original conclusion of the targum. Bouyer quotes only its first part commenting that this is evidentlly the direct source of the first part of the Lord’s prayer, “Magnified and sanctified be his great name, Amen. In the world which he has created according to his will. And may he establish his kingdom during your life and during your days and during the life of all the house of Israel, even speedily and at a near time. Amen.” Bouyer, Louis. Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer. Trans. Charles Quinn. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. 61-64.

2 Sheliach sibbur – the member of the community designated for saying the prayer in the name of all. Today , and since the 6th century, it is always the hazan, mentioned in the Gospels, the “minister” who is the ancestor to the Christian deacon. (Bouyer, 61) N.B. I have used L to stand for the Sheliach sibbur (leader) and R for the community response.

3 Bouyer does not dwell on the Shemah because it disappeared in Christian services, i.e. his concern is not so much with regards to the Jewish prayers but rather in the origin of the Eucharistic prayer that develops from it. Nevertheless, I thought it good to include it here at this juncture if only to show where in the sequence it appears. (Bouyer, 69)

Sep 14, 2006

The Roman Canon: Origin and Development I

Some time ago I began studying the Roman Rite with a view to understanding the process which had resulted in the reform of the liturgical books. Primarily, I was concerned over certain accusations leveled against the reform of the liturgical books especially the Roman Missal. As my study has progressed I have been able to evaluate various critiques and found these critiques to have varying degrees of authenticity or reliability. It happens upon occasion that certain works, upon providing facts of evidence and scholarly analysis; convince me to change my opinion of this or that question. Indeed, this has happened several times to me over the course of the study and perhaps it may happen yet again in the future. Lamentably, given that I have published my thoughts and findings for public review, it means that I must from time to time return to read and perhaps revise what I have written previously. I find that I have come upon one of those moments.

For those perhaps who have not studied the history of the Roman Rite, I will give a summary of sorts of the books and authors that have influenced my opinions in these matters. I have remained interested in the subject of liturgy and continue to read with the purpose not so much for knowledge of the liturgy as an end but rather as a means towards understanding and therefore entering more deeply into the liturgical rites. I remain in quiet awe of the scholarship and mental acumen of these liturgical giants without whose works I would know and understand precious little.

My understanding of the development and origin of the Roman Rite is due in main to four authors: Nicholas Gihr 1, Adrian Fortescue 2, Gerhard Rauschen 3 and Fernand Cabrol 4. These were the first works I read on the liturgy and so I think made the most impression upon me. These authors quoted, referenced and even critiqued the arguments of other liturgical luminaries such as: Franz Xaver von Funk, Edmund Bishop, Pierre Battifol, F.E. Brightman, Louis Duchesne, Anton Baumstark, F. Probst, Paul Drews, Rudolf Buchwald, etc. The general theory of development which I had accepted was due in large part to Fortescue’s treatment of the subject together with the synthesis and analysis of Rauschen. Fortescue in his seminal work, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, gives a brief synthesis of important liturgical scholars works on the history of liturgical development. He generally follows Drews in his opinions, not without some critique of his own, however. These views can be found in several articles which Fortescue wrote for the Catholic Encyclopedia 5.

As liturgical documents began to be collected, published and studied the work of comparative liturgy took on a renewed fervor. Exciting new texts and critical editions with scholarly analysis were published. The question of the development of rites came to the forefront because of it. The uniqueness of the Roman liturgy both as a whole and particularly in regards to the Roman Canon caused liturgists to begin asking about the origins of such uniqueness. Early work suggested that the primitive liturgy would likely follow that of the West Syrian liturgies (Antiochian). The foundation for this thesis is eminently reasonable speculation on the basis that the first liturgies would have come from Jerusalem and then into Syria, specifically Antioch. It is well known that Peter established the episcopal see in Antioch before ultimately journeying on to Rome. Thus it was reasonable that the apostolic liturgical rites in Rome and Antioch should be in substantial accord not only as to content but also as to structure or form.

To this end the liturgies found in the Apostolic Traditions and the Apostolic Constitutions were speculated to be reflective of early Christian liturgy. The first of these documents, as I am now convinced by Bouyer, was authored by a Roman of “adoption” who originally came from somewhere in Syria. As Bouyer convincingly argues, the very structure of the liturgy betrays any pretense to being primitive. Rather, it seems that the author holds that the Syrian traditions are the apostolic ones and for that reason has difficulty with the Roman liturgy of his time. Thus liturgists who thought to find the primitive rite of Rome in the Apostolic Traditions were greatly mistaken but no less so than those who thought to identify it with the liturgy found in the Apostolic Constitutions.

At one time, the liturgy found in Book VIII was attributed to Clement of Rome. For this reason the liturgy was often called the Clementine liturgy and will often today be referred to as the Pseudo-Clementine liturgy. It is this text which Drews uses as the basic model for the primitive liturgy. This assumption inherently meant that there was a radical alteration at some unknown juncture to the Roman Canon. Many, if not most, liturgists have more or less followed Drews in his reconstruction of the primitive Roman Canon. Even those who think his reconstruction theories have certain flaws in one point or another generally concede the same conclusion, i.e. that the Roman Canon had been drastically altered at some point. What made such speculation possible is twofold: the paucity of documents which witness to the primitive Roman form and the error of seeking knowledge of the primitive anaphora in unreliable documents. Very famous treatments of the liturgy and the anaphora all reflect this lamentable error from the beginning of the liturgical movement up to the eve of the reform and even into our own times. This principle and unfounded error can be found in Fortescue 6, Rauschen 7, Cagin 8, Gassner 9, Jungmann 10, and Vagaggini 11 among others.

N.B. This is the first installment of a several part series.

1 Rev Dr. Nicholas Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: Dogmatically, Liturgically and Ascetically Explained, 6th edition, B. Herder Book Co, 1924.

2 Rev. Dr. Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, Loreto Publications, 2003: original printing 1912.

3 Rauschen, Gerhard, Ph.D., S.T.D., Eucharist and Penance: In the First Six Centuries of the Church, B Herder, St. Louis, 1913.

4 Rt. Rev. Dom Fernand Cabrol, The Mass of the Western Rites, 1934.

5 Liturgy; Canon of the Mass; et al.

6 The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy

7 Eucharist and Penance: The First Six Centuries of the Church

8 Dom Paul Cagin, L’Eucharistia, Canon primitif de la Messe, Paris, 1912.

9 Rev. Dr. Jerome Gassner, O.S.B., The Canon of the Mass: Its History, Theology, and Art, B Herder, St. Louis, 1949.

10 Rev. Dr. Joseph A Jungmann, S.J., The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origins and Development, Benzinger Brothers, New York, 1959.

11 Dom Cipriano Vagaggini, The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform, Alba House, Great Britain, 1966 (trans. 1967).

Sep 3, 2006

Louis Bouyer: Eucharist

Louis Bouyer, Eucharist: Theology and Spirituality of the Eucharistic Prayer. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968. xii + 484p. $22. ISBN10 0-268-00498-6.

Fr. Louis Bouyer of the French Oratory wrote this work in 1966, which was then re-edited in 1968. This latter date coincided with the introduction circa 1967 of three new Eucharistic Prayers to the Roman Rite. Since then, others have been added to the Roman Missal and one would give much to read Fr. Bouyer’s (1913-2004) critique and analysis of their form. In any case, the work here presented is a must read for any liturgical student. One of the most perturbing problems of the liturgical reform, the addition of the new Eucharistic Prayers, is here given its reason for existing. More than that, for these reasons are given in a few short paragraphs at the end of the book, the thoughts and genesis behind the desire for touching in anyway the core of the liturgical rite is explained.

The origins of the liturgical rites have long been a rather perplexing problem with various solutions being given. A synthesis of these solutions to the problem of the origin of the rites can be found in Fr. Adrian Fortescue, The Mass. Bouyer’s work specifies only the anaphora, or Eucharistic prayer, for critique and analysis in an attempt to uncover both the primitive form of the Eucharist and the primitive spirituality. In so doing, he gives vary many examples from Christian liturgical history, both East and West, which alone is worth the price of the book. His thesis rests on the tracing of Christian liturgical development back to its earliest times and even further into its Judaic foundations, especially with regards to the sacred meal prayers, or berakoth. He fully gives an explanation of these berakoth along with examples that can hardly be found elsewhere. Through the use of comparative liturgy, Bouyer finds in these berakoth the primitive form of the Eucharistic prayer. Of course, it makes perfect sense that the Last Supper was celebrated according to Jewish liturgical rites, or at least according to Jewish liturgical forms. This does not equate to reducing the Eucharistic prayer to a Jewish berakoth, however. It is within this structure that Christ gives new meaning and radically therefore alters, or rather fulfills, the ancient Jewish berakoth forever. We shall return to this point later.

The generally accepted theories of the Eucharistic prayer by liturgists seek to find the primitive Eucharist in sources such as the Apostolic Tradition, the Pseudo-Clementine Liturgy of Book VIII of the Apostolic Constitutions, and in the Divine Liturgy of St. James. This in turn meant that the Roman Canon had suffered some radical altering of its form for it was supposed that it had its primitive state in one of the liturgies just mentioned. Bouyer completely debunks this theory and proves even more surely that the Roman Canon retains the ancient form of the primitive Eucharist than any of these three supposedly primitive rites. It remains true that some restructuring of the Roman Canon happened but that is purely development and not the radical restructuring that some liturgists had supposed. Bouyer goes a long way towards giving credence to the development theories espoused by Gerhard Rauschen. Rauschen had argued against the theories of a radical alteration of the Roman Canon according to the Epiclesis argument. He had also affirmed the probability that what restructuring took place was due to influence from Alexandria rather than Ravenna. All this seems to be proven by Bouyer’s thesis. I am completely convinced on at least this count.

Unfortunately, the work also has a touch of the fever that has run through liturgists of this century that somehow the liturgy had become corrupted by accretions throughout the Middle Ages or the Dark Ages as these are more wont to call them. He also seems to be somewhat affected by an archeologism of sorts with regards to his insistence that the Eucharistic prayer is ideally situated within the context and language of a sacrificial meal (something that Benedict XVI, as a Cardinal, was highly critical of). He also seems to enjoy using the word Eucharist in its etymological sense of thanksgiving rather than in reserving it in reference to the Blessed Sacrament. I suppose that is hardly something to quibble over though it something that I found to be an annoyance. Nevertheless, this work is essential in understanding how the old offertory prayers came to be replaced by Jewish meal prayers and how the first three additions of Eucharistic prayers came to find a place in the Roman Missal along side the venerable and ancient Roman Canon. The fourth Eucharistic prayer in particular bears the marks of Bouyer’s genius and authorship. He is quite enamored of the Anaphora of St. Basil. He also identifies the third Eucharistic prayer as built upon the Gallican-Mozarabic traditions. I recommend this book highly both for the quality of scholarship in the analysis, as well as for the wealth of liturgical data found within, but not without cautioning that it be read with a critical eye.

Aug 12, 2006

The Necessary Authors

I'm quite sure that I am an incessant junkie for all things liturgical and I sincerely doubt that my abiding passion for such will ever abate. Nothing has ever fascinated me more than the study of Catholic liturgy in all of the various forms it has taken both throughout the history of the Roman Rite and in each of the other equally majestic Eastern Rites. I've been particularly blessed by having at my disposal works long out of print from that era in which the Liturgical Movement first began. I've also had at my fingertips various copies of the Ordinaries of various liturgical rites. Now many of these things are becoming reprinted or being made available via the Internet, and so much the better. I think it extremely worthwhile to have at our hands the works of Fr. Fortesque, Dom Cabrol, Fr. Parsch, Dom Gueranger, and the other masters of the original liturgical movement for the knowledge of the liturgical rites was thorough and breathtaking. I also find myself much indebited to recent scholarship which is equally rich in precious data and commentary as well as being so very relevant to the liturgical debate, and I dare say crisis of our own time. With that in mind the following list, though being by no means exhaustive, are works which I consider to be indispensable for those interested in liturgy today whether they be the uninitiated or those who are unable to spend the time or resources in a do-it-yourself study and for those who in fact have done or intend to do such study. One word of caution however: purchase these at your own risk as you may find yourself hopelessly enthralled by both the subject and the authors!

Aug 7, 2006

Liturgical Resources At

I recently was introduced to an excellent site: The Internet Archive, by way of the blog in illo tempore (biretta tip to Mike). I found the following goodies available there:

There's quite a bit of other vintage liturgical and Catholic treasures to be had so poke around a little - you'll be pleasantly surprised, I know that I was.

Aug 1, 2006

O bone Iesu, fac ut sacerdos fiam secundum Cor tuum.

O good Jesus, grant that I may become a priest after Thine own Heart.
I wish to share my joy with all who read this blog or perhaps will have only just happened upon it by accident, and also to implore you for your prayers on my behalf, that I have been recently accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Phoenix by His Excellency, Bishop Thomas Olmstead. I will be attending the Pontificium Collegium Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio beginning the end of this month. I desire to thank all those, some of whom are readers of this blog, who encouraged me in my process of discerment up to this point either through their words to me, example of Christian virtues, and through prayers for vocations in general or for mine in particular.

Jul 20, 2006

Praying In Latin

My first real contact with the Latin language coincided with the death of my grandfather in 2003. My grandmother gave me a veritable library of books which included several on the liturgy most of which have been quoted on this site. A little over a year later I attended the first Classical Roman Rite Mass in my diocese that had been offered in communion with the Bishop in 35 years. Between the time of my grandfathers death and my first experience of the Classical Rite I had learned to pray the Rosary in Latin. I learned from a variety of sources beginning with the Our Father which I learned to chant from Pope John Paul II's album Abba Pater. This was also my first experience of Gregorian Chant. I will have to admit to mispronouncing several words of the Our Father and Hail Mary for some months before finding audio files to practice with. Even then I found that some pronounced words differently than I had heard them. Eventually I was instructed in Latin by a parishoner of the Mater Misericordiae Latin Mass community. Over time I acquired a Lewis and Short Latin Dictionary, a Wheelock's Latin course book, and several other teach-yourself courses. Attending the Latin Mass and listening to Gregorian Chant CD's really helped me along. While I am certainly not fluent in Latin, it has become my preferred language for prayer. I find that praying in Latin has had several benefits. First and foremost, it helps me to collect myself and become orientated towards God. Secondly when I first began praying in Latin it helped me to learn the prayers again and to become more familiar with the meaning of the words that I had so often rattled off in English. Thirdly, the natural rythmn of the Latin once become familiar is an anchor that leads me to contemplation and recalls me to my task when my focus shifts. The same but twice over for Gregorian Chant which effortlessly places me in the presence of God even when the schola is chanting an Offertory with which I am by no means familiar. Last night, I was reading Directorium Asceticum; or Guide to the Spiritual Life by Fr. John Baptist Scaramelli, S.J. and I came across this passage:

Volume I, Chapter VI: Three Sorts of Attention Suitable in Prayer.

"260. St. Thomas says that the attention which we have in our vocal prayers is threefold.1 The first kind is that which we pay to the words, as in the recitation of the Divine Office, during which we are bound to read the words carefully, and to pronounce them distinctly, so as to avoid making mistakes in the exact pronunciation of the prescribed words. But that this attention may be of real advantage, the person must have begun by placing himself in God's presence with the purpose to pray by the recital of this particular form of prayer. The second kind of attention is that paid to the meaning of the words uttered, as when those reciting the Psalms, the Our Father, Hail Mary, or other like prayers, all of which abound with devout affections, reflect meanwhile on the sense of what they say, and unite to the verbal recitation the devout feelings of their hearts. If the person making use of such prayer, instead of going always forward - as is done when reciting the Canonical Hours - prefer to stop at every verse and make devout reflections, nourishing his mind with the various meanings which occur; then the prayer will be something more than merely vocal; it will be mingled with Mental Prayer, and may be styled (to use the expression of St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises) the "Second Method" of prayer. The third kind of attention is that given not to the words merely, nor to their import only, but to God Himself, to Whom all prayer is addressed directly or indirectly, as when, in prayer, we keep ourselves recollected in the presence of God, and adore, love, and thank Him, or entreat Him in our hearts to grant us the graces of which He sees us to stand in need. The first sort of attention [to the words] suffices; the second [to the import] is good, and may be very profitable; the third is best, and may become most advantageous to such as earnestly apply it. And we may here observe, that St. Thomas calls this last-mentioned application of the mind most necessary, especially to such as by their ignorance of the Latin language are unable to enter into the sense of the Psalms, the Pater Noster, or other prayers approved by Holy Church;2 for thus, while with their tongues they recite words which they understand not, instead of allowing their thoughts to wander in every direction, they can and should fix their minds on God, and occupy themselves with devout and profitable affections.

261. There is a well-known instance of this in the Chronicles of the Cistercian Choir. St. Bernard, while at choir one night with his monks, had the following vision: He beheld, by the side of each of the religious, an Angel with pen and paper in hand,taking down every psalm, verse, and word that was recited. There was this difference, nevertheless, that some Angels wrote in letters of gold, others of silver; others again used ink, others dipped their pens in water; while some stood holding their pens in their hands, without taking down anything. While the Saint was beholding this spectacle with the eyes of his body, God Almighty opened those of his mind, and, by a ray of heavenly light, caused him to seize the true meaning of this vision. He now understood that the letters of gold signified fervour of spirit, the inward charity that animated the prayers of some; those of silver denoted devotion, sincere in itself, but joined with a less degree of fervour. The letters in ink indicated the scrupulous exactness wherewith some recited the words of the psalms, but with very little devotional feeling. The prayers written with water indicated the negligence of such as, overcome with drowsiness, indolence, or idle thoughts, did not give careful attention to what they were reciting with their tongue. The Angels who wrote nothing represented the indolence and malice of those who were asleep or voluntarily distracted. We may gather from this legend that our Guardian Angels will write down our vocal prayers in divers characters, according to the measure of the attention, fervour, and devotion with which we pronounce the words.

262. But the reader may wish to know who takes note of the prayers which the Angels do not register, and whether they are wholly forgotten, and left both unrewarded and unpunished. I may direct them for an answer to another vision, from which it appears that such prayers are written by the demons in dark characters, indicative of the severe punishement in store.3 A holy Priest, after having celebrated Mass for the people, beheld standing by the altar, a demon, who, with pen and large skin of parchment in hand, was busily writing. The servant of God, without feeling any fear, commanded him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to show what he was so carefully noting down. The fiend replied, 'I am taking note of all the sins committed by the people while assisting at Mass.' Upon this the Priest, with a courage befitting his calling, snatched the long scroll from the enemy's hands, and read out before all the people the list of the faults each one had committed that morning at Mass. On hearing themselves publicly convicted of all the acts of immodesty and irreverence of which they had been guilty in Church, in time of prayer and during the Holy Sacrifice, they conceived a great sorrow, and hastened to confess with sincere contrition. When the Confessions were concluded, all trace of the infernal handwriting had vanished from the parchment; a sure token of the pardon God had granted. We shall then do well, when we begin to say our beads, the Office, or other pious prayers, to figure to ourselves our Guardian Angel standing on one side ready to note down our prayer in the Book of Life, if it be worthy of reward; and on the other side, the devil ready to mark it in the Book of Death, if it deserve punishment. And that we may gain merit and not incur chastisements from our prayers, I will say with St. Cyprian: 'When we are at prayer, dearly beloved, let us be watchful and apply ourselves with all the earnestness of our hearts. Far from us, at that time, be every worldly and carnal thought. The mind should then be intent upon nothing save upon the matter of our prayer alone.'4 The same holy martyr proceeds to inculcate such attention by the words of the Priest, who, at the Preface of the Mass, says to the people, 'Lift up your hearts:' to which all used to reply, 'We have them lifted up to the Lord.' Whereby we are reminded that in time of prayer, our thoughts must be wholly fixed on God alone.5

263. It must be borne in mind, however, that what has hitherto been said applies only to wilful distractions either purposely sought for the sake of amusement, or admitted with advertence; whether these proceed from the inconstancy of our fancy, or from the suggestions of the enemy of all good. Distractions such as these are alone sinful, St. Thomas teaches, and alone deprive our prayer of all fruit.6 But in no sense do I allude to those involuntary wanderings which may happen to any pious person qutie against his will, when, in placing himself transported elsewhere by importunate imaginings; provided these be driven away directly, and the sense of God's presence be renewed. Such distractions, as we learn from the same holy Doctor, though they return a hundred times, are by no means incompatible with true prayer.7 Nay, he further adds, for the encouragement of certain timorous consciences, that even persons raised to the highest pitch of contemplation, are, at times, borne down by human frailty to thoughts of earth, by the involuntary wanderings of the mind.8 Those, then, who are in earnest about their spiritual progress, must in time of vocal prayer keep strict guard over their minds and hearts, and they must take heed not deliberately to admit any thought foreign to prayer. When they do this, they need be under no alarm that their petitions will be advantageous to themselves and very pleasing to God."

1 Dicendum, quod triplex est attentio, quae orationi vocali potest adhiberi: una quidem, qua attenditur ad verba, ne aliquis in eist erret. Secunda, qua attenditur ad sensum verborum. Tertia qua attenditur ad finem orationis, scilicet ad Deum, et ad rem pro qua oratur. 2,2 quaest. 83, art. 3. in corp.

2 Quae quidem est maxime necessaria:et hanc etiam possunt habere idiotae. Ibid.

3 Joan.Junior. In lib. Scala Coeli.

4 Quando stamus ad orationem, fratres dilectissimi, vigilare, et incumbere ad preces toto corde debemus. Cogitatio omnis saecularis, et carnalis abscedat, nec quidquam tunc animus quam id solum cogitet, quod precatur. De. Oration. Dom., Serm. 6.

5 Ideo et sacerdos ante orationem, praefatione praemissa, parat fratrum mentes, dicendo: Surusm corda; ut dum respondet plebs: Habemus ad Dominum, admoneantur, nihil aliud se, quam Dominum cogitare debere. Ibid.

6 Si quis ex proposito in oratione mente vagatur, hoc peccatum est, et impedit orationis fructum. Art. Suprac. ad. 3.

7 Dicendum, quod in spiritu, et in veritate orat, qui ex instinctu spiritus ad orandum accedit; etiamsi ex aliqua infirmitate mens postmodum evagetur, Eod. art., ad I.

8 Mens humana, propter infirmatem naturae, diu stare in alto no potest. Pondere enim infirmitatis humanae deprimitur anima ad inferiora. Ed ideo contingit, quod cum mens orantis ascendit in Deum per contemplationem, subito evagatur ex quadam infirmitate. Eod. art., ad. 2.