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Beauty Unveiled

I thought of everyone who participated in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite today.  I wish I could have been with you but could only make a spiritual communion.  I am hoping to get more pictures and discuss the liturgy.  Until then, Shawn Tribe at the New Liturgical Movement provided some stills of the liturgy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Solemn Pontifical Mass from the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC

by Shawn Tribe

As many of our readers will already be familiar, EWTN is providing live coverage of the Solemn Pontifical Mass being celebrated by Bishop Edward Slattery in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C.

The Mass is being offered in celebration of the anniversary of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

Here are some stills from that to give you a sense of the occasion…

To see some great pictures just hop over to his site.  I also encourage you to read more and subscribe to his site.  Fantastic information posted every week.

Looking for the Signs of Liturgical Beauty

A number of those who read this blog (thanks!) will be attending the Pontifical Mass being celebrated tomorrow at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.  While I am a little jealous because I will be sitting in class all day, I wanted to throw out a few tips and items to assist newcomers understand the internal logic and external expression of the extraordinary rite.

There so much that could be pointed out during this liturgy but searching out gestures and prayers you have never heard before would only distract form the beauty and magnificence of this rite.  So, the following are just a few elements to remember and take note of during the liturgy.

I Spy…Heaven on Earth

The liturgy is meant to be catechetical.  Here are a few lessons not to miss:

  1. Incensation of the Altar (Mass celebrated by Antonio Cardinal Canizares)

    This particular Latin Mass includes at least one bishop.  The rubrics call for the Bishop(s), Priest(s), Deacons, Sub-deacons and servers to be standing at different levels.  This is meant to demonstrate the differences in authority and “who’s who” during the liturgy.

  2. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Bishop was considered a priest with administrative authority.  With that said, the Trinity is highlighted through out the liturgy.  This is first seen by the presence of the priest, deacon and sub-deacon – representative of the Most Holy Trinity itself.
  3. The vocal and physical portions are expressed through the common use of gestures in groups of three to illustrate the presence and adoration of the Blessed Trinity. The thrice-repetition of phrases such as  Domine, non sum dignus – Lord, I am not worthy; the ringing of the bells and swinging of the Thurible also reveal the Trinitarian nature of the liturgy.
  4. An additional example of how the common gestures of the people reflect a theological meditation are those gestures that repeat five times.  All prayers and actions that repeat five times are meant to draw us to contemplate the five precious wounds of the Christ.
  5. The Priest s and people face east during the liturgy.  It is not to be understood as the priest having his back to the people but that all are facing and journeying to the Father together.
  6. “During the Canon, the priest consecrates bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This summit of the Mass is recited silently by the priest, as God descends upon the earth in silence. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) calls this “silence with content.”[1] This silence should not be viewed as “shutting the faithful out of the liturgy.” On the contrary, prayer needs silence, which demonstrates respect for Christ. Popes such as St. Pius X have encouraged the faithful to actively take part by “Praying the Mass” with priest, which is accomplished through the use of a hand missal.”[2]

Heavenly Structures

Among other differences between the Novus Ordo and the extraordinary form is the structure.  The Web site Sacra Missae has provided the following which lays out the liturgical structure:

“The first part of the Mass is a kind of introductory service, made up of chants, prayers and lessons (i.e. readings from Holy Scripture) — namely, the Introit, the Kyrie, the Collect, the Epistle or Lesson, and the Gospel. On certain days the Gloria and the Nicene Creed are added.

This first part of the Mass is called the Mass of the Catechumens, while the remaining part is called the Mass of the Faithful. These names have their origin in the discipline of the early Church. In the first ages of Christianity, persons desiring to become Christians were obliged to undergo a course of instructions preparatory to baptism. They were called “catechumens,” a Greek word meaning “one whose is being instructed.” Catechumens, not yet fully initiated in the teachings and practices of Christianity, were customarily dismissed before the Offertory.

Likewise public sinners who had not yet been absolved were ordered to leave the church before the Offertory. The Sacrifice of the Mass was considered too holy for the presence of notorious sinners; likewise, it was thought to be too mysterious for catechumens. Only those who were baptized, — “the Faithful” — could take part in the actual Eucharistic Sacrifice. The Church, during the course of centuries, modified her discipline in this regard, and all are now permitted to remain.

The Mass is one continuous action, reproducing in a mysterious way the Life, Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. The structure of the Mass is as follows:

§ The Preparation – beginning with the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Introit, Kyrie and Gloria.

§ The Instruction — including the Collect, the Epistle, Gradual, Alleluia, (or Tract, and on certain feasts the Sequence), the Gospel (usually followed by a sermon), and the Credo.

§ The Offertory — which includes the Offertory antiphon, the offering of bread, the pouring of water and wine into the chalice, the offering of the chalice, the washing of the hands, the prayer to the Blessed Trinity, the “Orate fratres” and the Secret.

§ The Consecration — including the Preface and the Canon of the Mass, embracing the prayer “Te igitur,” the Memento of the living, the Communicantes and the other two prayers before the Consecration and Elevation, the three prayers after the Consecration, the Commemoration for the Dead, the “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” and the Minor Elevation.

§ The Communion — including the Pater Noster, the Libera, the Agnus Dei, the three prayers before the Communion, the “Domine non sum dignus,” and the Communion of the Priest and the Faithful.

§ The Thanksgiving–which includes the Communion antiphon, the Post- communion prayer, the “Ite missa est,” and the Last Gospel.”

Appearing before the King of Kings

The Trinity with Mary and John the Baptist - detail from The Triumph of the Christian Faith fresco by Raphael - Stanzo della segnatura - Vatican

The last detail I would like to offer is a note on dress code.  While nothing has changed with the advent of the Novus Ordo liturgy, a consequence of the more relaxed and familiar liturgy is a tenancy to dress casually.  What I find amazing is that we would never appear in court, a wedding or even before the President dressed as if we were going to the movies or in a casual sort of way – and yet we are appearing before the Omnipotent Triune God during a wedding feast replete with covenantal legal rites and vocabulary . The late John Paul II’s Theology of the Body re-emphasized that how we dress, speak and act IS an expression of who we are.  We offer a spiritual report card and “x-ray vision” into how we perceive ourselves, others and events we attend.  I believe the Scriptural mandate directs us to honor the Lord our God with all our “heart, mind and strength” (Lk 10:27)  and to “present your [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to the Lord…” (Rm. 12:1).

The extraordinary form of the liturgy encourages the appropriate attire because of its focus on mystery, reverence, and solemnity.  That being said, there will be many who have never attended before and unfortunately, do not know any better.  So, I have also offered Sacra Missa recommendation below:

“Whenever Catholics attend Mass, whether it is in the Roman Rite, in the Byzantine Rite, the Chaldean Rite, or any other approved Rite of the Church, everyone should dress modestly and in a manner that is suitable to the occasion. One should avoid coming to Mass dressed in attire that is physically revealing, vain or especially casual.

It is always most edifying to note that gentlemen wear a coat and tie to Holy Mass. Going back to the tradition of the early Church, many women, in imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, choose to wear the chapel veil (i.e. mantilla), as a way of expressing their modesty and femininity.”[While the mantilla was abrogated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law it is proper to follow the rubrics of the extraordinary form.]

Let me know about your experience and about any misconceptions that you may have had.  Inquiring minds want to know…oh, remember me while I sit in class.


[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Spirit of the Liturgy, (Ignatius Press). For excerpt, see http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2006/ratzinger_sotlmusic_jun06.asp.

[2] Catholic Latin Mass http://www.catholiclatinmass.org/traditional-latin-mass.html Captured April 23, 2010.

Creation and Worship through Covenant

Yesterday’s post entitled, The Final Word was Jesus…he needed no other one, spoke to the truth that the whole universe was created with Christ in mind.  The covenant preceded creation in order to, in a certain sense, be the soul and form of creation, thus design a cosmic temple where the Son of God could dwell.

The Israelite understood that the Solomonic temple was a microcosm of creation. Even Solomon’s consecration mimicked the Lord’s pattern of creating the world (1 Kings 5-9).  Creation thus being the temple in macro-form would also need a sanctuary and High Priest.  This original sanctuary we call the Garden of Eden – and the High Priest, none other than Adam.  Even later in the temple era(s), we see remnants of the Garden of Eden in the vessels and vestments such as the menorah. The menorah is a stylized version of the Tree of Life – the most important feature in the garden as Scripture describes in Exodus 25:31-40. Why create in such a way?  The Holy Father answer in this way:

Creation is oriented to the Sabbath, which is the sign of the covenant between God and humankind…As a first step, we can draw this conclusion: Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented to worship.  It fulfills its purpose and assumes its significance when it is lived, ever new, with a view to worship. Creation exists for the sake of worship.  As St. Benedict said in his Rule: Opus Dei nihil praepnatur--“Nothing must be put before the service of God.” This is not an expression of an otherworldly piety but a clear and sober translation of the creation account and of the message that it bears for our lives. The true center, the power that moves and shapes from within the rhythm of the stars and of our lives , is worship…The universe exists for worship and for the glorification of God.

Everything in creation is made for worship…whether we believe it or not.  All things that detract from that worship is considered a perversion or skew of the covenants original purpose.  How is this worship to be accomplished?  By liturgy.  Stick around and see how that liturgy plays out in Scripture, history and our lives.

In the Garden Again: Death=Victory

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

On Easter morning, we again find ourselves in a garden (Mt 28:8 and Mk 16:8).  The enemy believes that he has won. But Aslan’s words in C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrate a truth that the accuser of the brethren had not considered,

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”[1]

As we have been discussing, a covenant includes mediation of a single individual for the entire people – by a High Priest. All the former covenant curses the Christ absorbed for His bride.  Why? In order for the curses to be lifted, and the human race to continue, either God or all of Israel had to die.  Our Lord’s humanity, taken on by a divine person qualified to settle a divine debt.  It was always in His deliberate plan of attack – the enemy had no idea.  More importantly, he had no idea that our Lord would resurrect.  The Warrior’s game plan was to yield Himself completely, totally, and without reserve.  It is at this point that the Warrior became the Bridegroom.  That is what the Bridegroom does for His Bride.  He offers himself in a complete exchange of persons.  What our Lord experiences eternally in the Blessed Trinity He now brings to earth for us to participate in.

The Anastasis

Scriptures says that early on the morning of the first day of the week (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:1-2, Lk 24:1, and Jn 20:1) an earthquake took place (Mt 28:2-4) and rolled the stone away (Mt 28:4, Mk 16:4, Lk 24:2, and Jn 20:1).  The gospels recount that the ones who came into the garden to anoint the Lord were women.  Had Adam defended Eve, he too would have found his bride coming to anoint his body.  Many Rabbi’s even suspect that the Tree of Life, which was in the Garden of Eden, could have brought the First Adam back to life.  The Garden of Eden was also the primordial seed of all creation.  It was there the God gave all creation to Adam in order for him to adovah (work) and shamar (protect).  The Father also turned the garden into a temple by making it holy on that seventh day of creation. After a short slumber induced by God on day six, Adam awakens to find His bride before him in a temple (also known as a Church) on the Sabbath.

It is no wonder that the Christ finds more than one Eve in the garden this morning.  On Good Friday, the Church was birthed.  His bride was no longer one person but the Church in as a whole.  This is symbolically shown by the three women in the garden.  And how do we know it was love at first sight?  The women immediately run to the disciples to tell them that they have seen the Lord (Mt 28:8, Mk 24:9). They run to tell the disciples.  LOVE NEVER CONCEALS ITSELF!  Someone in love cannot help but share the love that they received through their words, actions and yes, their very person.  What is the message?  The Bridegroom is awake!

More importantly, two of the Gospels say that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9 and Jn 20:14-17) who ran to tell Peter and John (Jn 20:2).  Our Lord desires a spotless bride and Good Friday is proven effective in the person of Mary Magdalene.

Scripture then says Peter and John ran to the tomb. (Jn 20:3-4) John arrived first, knelt down, saw the linens, and believed.  He did not enter though. He waited for Peter. (Jn 20:4-8)  So it is with all true mystics of the Church.  They may arrive first at understanding what our Lord is saying or doing but wait for Peter and the Church to investigate and believe.

What did Peter and John see that made His resurrection so believable – besides that He foretold it?  The following are a few thoughts from Peter and John’s view.

The Sepulcher

The sepulcher was a newly carved tomb (Jn 19:31). Archeologists tell us that the Jews had some interesting beliefs about the dead and where they buried their dead.  In the Jewish burial ritual, the body is placed on a carved out rock table in the center of the cave.  Along the edges of the cave, boxes would be carved out where the bones of their ancestors were place.  The Jews would come back to view the body on four separate occasions over an eighteen month period.  The quicker the body decayed the more sin the individual committed in their lifetime.

So, what does it say that not only did Jesus’ body not decay but instead resurrected?  It confirms the belief from the earliest Christian times that Jesus not only did not sin but He did not possess Original Sin.  Not sinning would only mean His body would not decay. Resurrecting on the other hand, that would mean the chains of Original Sin that bound us to death did not bind Him at all.   Additionally, Jesus was laid in a tomb with no bones of His forefathers.  Scripture gives no indication that they planned to move His bones like Joseph (Gn 49:29-32) or David (1 Kings 2:10), to be put to rest with His forefathers.  This detail provides a two-fold meaning.  The first is that He had no ancestors.  It is true that Mary is His mother who determines His Jewish heritage but He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He is the Alpha and Omega the Beginning and the End (Rv 1:8) – the divine nature of the second person of the Blessed Trinity has no ancestors.  He always is.  The second relates to the new order of creation that Jesus established by His resurrection – He is the First-born of the Dead (Rv 1:5).  The new Adam (1Cor 15:45) has established a new race where all find their heritage in Him.

Our Lord also knew that He would have detractors who would claim grave-robbers.  St. John states:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. (Jn 20:4-8)

Why is it so important that the cloth that covered the head was separate and rolled up and not with the other cloths?  Grave-robbers only broke in to steal the head cloth which was made of fine linen and could be sold for a large sum of money.  They also would leave the body in the tomb.  Rolled up is also an important detail.  We would say folded neatly.  Robbers do not fold and if they do, it is in haste. Our Lord wanted to make it clear that no grave robbers were here.

As we have noted in the past, gardens are only meant for the consummation of love between the Bridegroom and the Bride.  In times past, the enemy has been a source of division and fear within the garden.  Today is a new day and the enemy has everything to fear.  The reign of Christ the King has begun. Here today, the Warrior-Bridegroom appears perfectly healthy and the enemy and his minions, they find themselves defeated and cowering in fear.

The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. (Mt 28:4)

To add insult to injury, the Lord rises in with glorified wounds. Why? To remind the enemy that the mortal wounds he inflicted have begun the salvation of all mankind of course.  He had played right into the Father’s plan.

Again in this garden the daughters of Eve are found.  This time, unlike the original Eve, they trust and believe the Bridegroom.  They are the now the daughters of the New Eve – Our Lady and thus His Church.  So what is the battle cry of the Warrior-Bridegroom?  It is the ancient greeting and response that signals the defeat of the enemy:

Greeter: Surrexit Christus! (Christ is risen!)

Response: Surrexit Dominus vere! (The Lord has risen indeed!)

Every general has his standard or colors.  For the Christian, it is the Paschal candle that is lit at the Easter Vigil.  The ancient prayer that prepares the Easter (Paschal) Candle is all we need hear to understand St. Paul when he wrote,

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)

Preparation and Raising the Easter Candle Standard

Christus heri et hódie. Princípium et Finis, Alpha et Omega. Ipsíus sunt témpora et sæcula. Ipsi glória et impérium per univérsa æternitátis sæcula. Amen.

Per sua sancta vúlnera gloriósa custódiat et consérvet nos Christus Dóminus. Amen.[2]

Lumen Christi glorióse resurgéntis díssipet ténebras cordis et mentis.

Christ yesterday and today.  The beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. His are the times and the ages. To Him be glory and dominion through all ages of eternity. Amen.

By His holy and glorious wounds may He guard and preserve us Christ the Lord. Amen.

May the light of Christ in glory rising again dispel the darkness of heart and mind.


[1] http://bittersweetblue.blogspot.com/2006/05/cs-lewis-narnia-atonement-theology.html. Captured April 3, 2010.

[2] The Easter Vigil: Preparation of the Candle, The Roman Missal Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing Company (New York, NY: 1985) p.172

The Lord is a Warrior and Bridegroom is His Name!

and the battle continues…

Paradise Lost

The mystics of the Church typically speak of five gardens: Eden, Gethsemane, the secret garden of the Beloved, the soul and the Holy Mass.  All of the gardens are meant to be sacred and set aside for the consummation of marriage.  As we continue our meditation, only two will concern us today on Good Friday.

Adam consummated his marriage in Eden and then let the nahash defile that garden with the entrance of Original Sin. Together Adam and Eve fell and ruptured their relationship with the Father while at the same time seriously wounded their relationship with each other.  They suddenly were alone.  This did not go beyond notice of the Father – He looked for them in the garden to keep Him company.  But they hid.  And so from this time forth in Sacred Scripture, the personal name of the Father is no longer uttered and we are expelled from Paradise.

Paradise being Re-established

The Lord knew they were coming for Him – He was totally in control. In fact, He went out to meet them. (Jn 18:4)  A lover always is open to reconciliation and that is why He came.  As He stood under the full moon’s light, He searched out and provoked the enemy by challenging a cohort to name the one they came for under stealth of darkness. He asked, “Who is it you want? Jesus of Nazareth, they answered.” (Jn 18:5)  Notice they did not say “You!” The darkened mind can never perceive Divine Love even when He stand before them.  (II Cor 4:3-4) And so, they arranged for a sign…a sign of love and affection.  A kiss.  The Divine Lover is betrayed by a kiss in a garden meant only for the consummation of love.  But tonight, that Divine Lover is also a Warrior (Exodus 15:3), the Captain of our Salvation (Heb 2:8-10), and a Might Man of War (Is 42:13).  A Lover fights (shamar – Gn 2:15) for his Beloved, or is supposed too…unlike Adam who handed his Bride over out of fear for his life.

So, our Lord looks and tells them, “I AM, he.” (Jn 15:8) And Scripture says that were paralyzed with fear and fell over backwards on the ground. (Ps 26:2)  This was the seventh and decisive “I AM” statement our Lord makes in the Gospel of St. John.  And again upon the earth, the personal name of God has re-entered the garden out of love and covenant.  Scripture then recounts a quick skirmish with Peter’s sword, the healing of a Malchus’ ear but the Lord is still in control.

Jesus had already begun is free sacrificial offering to atone for our sins at the Last Supper.  He now prepares to continue the liturgy and fulfill the rest of the covenantal curses from Adam through David as the High Priest.  But he cares first for His own, “If I am the man you want,let these others go” (Jn 18:8) His disciples flee…and all is still according to plan. For Jesus knew that in order to accomplish this sacrifice he must be alone:

Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary because of all the sinful defilements and faults of the Israelites. He shall do the same for the meeting tent, which is set up among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one else may be in the meeting tent from the time he enters the sanctuary to make atonement until he departs. When he has made atonement for himself and his household, as well as for the whole Israelite community, he shall come out to the altar before the LORD and make atonement for it also. (Lv 16:17)

The Warrior had been captured but that was all part of the plan.  He is about re-establishing His Kingdom with the unwitting help of the enemy.

A  New Tree of Life in the Garden

Crucifixion by Cosimo Rossetti

Fast forwarding …A kangaroo court takes place (Jewish trials are never permitted to take place under darkness) and handed over to the Gentiles to be executed.  The Jews believe that by handing over Jesus to the Romans that they will be responsible for His death.  Had that been so, we would never enter into eternal paradise.  Pilate finds no wrong in Jesus and washes his hands of this murder – skillfully recalling Deuteronomy 21:7-8.

When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. Look to it yourselves.” (Mt 27:24)

Then all assembled shout out with the verse of our salvation,

And the whole people said in reply, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.” (Mt 27:25)

They torture Him and then march him up to Golgotha to crucify Him…and He is still in control.  Jesus, knew that Golgotha was one of the peaks in the mountain range of Moriah.  He would fulfill the ancient promise made on Mt. Moriah by Abraham to Isaac, that God would provide a lamb. (Gn 22:8)  Jesus knew that He would be the perfect sacrifice fulfilling the Passover requirements of an unblemished lamb. (Ex 12:5). He was still adovah (ing) for His beloved.

Then they crucified Him upon a tree.  Taking our sins upon Him, he fulfilled the covenant requirement by offering Himself, as the High Priest, to make atonement for our transgressions:

If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his corpse hung on a tree… (Dt 21:23)

Now He looks to His mother and says, “Woman, behold your son.”  Shouldn’t He have said, “Mother…”?  In John’s Gospel, the first miracle of Jesus takes place on the day of the covenant, the seventh day, at which we find Jesus at a wedding.  In Genesis, Adam also meets and marries his wife on the seventh day.  Jesus calls Our Lady by the same name Adam called Eve, “isha”  The only other time we hear Him call her that is on the cross giving John to her as His son.  There too, he dies not say John but son.  A family is being born.  Here the Church finds our Lord reciting his wedding vows by His words and body to His Bride the Church found in Our Lady.  When we look upon Him can’t we hear Him say,

“I take you to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

The Church Fathers have always seen these last words of Jesus as His vows to His Bride the Church.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to always point towards the cross and shout out, “Nuptials, nuptials that what is going on here, Nuptials.”  But we all know that wedding vows are not complete until the vows are consummated.  Is it mentioned in Scripture?  John 19:34 says,

“but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”

And so the Church was born and given life.  Jesus gives Himself totally, completely, without reserve to His Bride.  To the mystics the cross is the marriage bed in which our Lord consummates His love for us.  It is no wonder that the saints say that when they unite their sufferings to Jesus on the cross they become blissful love.  Is that not the language the Bridegroom and Bride use when they describe their marital embrace?

And so the Lover plants a new tree in the garden watered by the blood of the divine and consummated in spirit and truth upon a cross.  The warrior lays down His life, unlike Adam, for His bride…and the serpent things that he has won.  But the story continues…on Holy Saturday.

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Holy Thursday: Anointed for Battle

Chrism Liturgy

Chrismatory for ritual oil from Germany, 1636 (silver-gilt, Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

This morning the Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, religious and lay faithful will gather around their Bishop in their cathedral Church.  All will participate in a very ancient rite common to the universal Church since the fifth-sixth centuries.  During this liturgy, “the bishop consecrates the three oils needed for the administration of the sacraments: the holy chrism, the oil of the catechumens and the oil of the sick.”[1]

These oils will be used in the life of the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick.  The most detailed version, found in the Mystagogia (On the Mysteries), is recounted by St. Cyril of Jerusalem who details how the oils were “symbolically applied to thy forehead, and thy other organs of sense” and that the “ears, nostrils, and breast were each to be anointed.” He continues sharing that the “ointment is the seal of the covenants” of baptism and God’s promises to the Christian who is anointed. Cyril taught that being “anointed with the Holy anointing oil [Chrism] of God” was the sign of a Christian and a physical representation of having received the gift of the Holy Spirit. He says, “Having been counted worthy of this Holy Chrism, we are called Christians, verifying the name also by your new birth. For before you were deemed worthy of this grace, ye had properly no right to this title, but were advancing on your way towards being Christians.”(On the Mysteries 3.5)

We should also recall the connection between the Chrism Mass and the Mass of our Lord’s Supper.  Even for our Lord, He was anointed at Bethany before he journeyed to Jerusalem to share the Passover with His disciples.  It is no mistake that the Church connects the biblical events with today’s liturgical events of Holy Thursday.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

They gather in the Cenacle having completed all the preparations that Master requested (Lk 22:12-13).  He had desired to share this Passover more than anything (Lk 22:15).  And then, His disciples notice that this commemoration is different.  They are reclining instead of standing (Ex 12:11), He has changed the words and instituting a new covenant (Mt 26:28) then mandating them to “Do this in memory of me.” (Lk 22:19)  They are quiet and lean upon His every word.  They wonder, maybe even ponder, the significance of His actions.  They have completed the third cup and then…wait, He is leaving.

We cannot help but think that some of these thoughts were running through the disciples of Jesus.  What was going on?  What is He doing?  From the outset, our Lord intended to offer Himself as the perpetual sacrifice in the mystery of the Most Blessed Sacrament. (1 Cor 10:16)  Do we realize that tonight the Lord is picking a fight and settling all the covenants debts since Adam?

It would not have escaped the notice of our Lord’s disciples that He left before the Passover was complete (See tomorrow’s blog for the rest of this story).  Scripture says that they finished their hymn (Mt 26:30) and traveled to the Garden of Gethsemane as was their custom (Lk 22:39).  As He walked out of Jerusalem, He would have walked through the Kidron Valley up to the Mount of Olives where the garden will become a battlefield.  Maybe as He passed through the valley he recalled Ps 23:4, “Though I walk through the dark valley, I shall fear no evil…” choosing to enter into a mortal battle.  Battle?  How do we know that?  Exodus 12:22 commands that on the night of the Passover all were to stay indoors lest they succumb to the angel of death.  Our Lord purposefully goes out into the night to confront that ancient serpent to secure what Adam lost.

The first battle in the original garden was an epic tragedy – the Garden of Eden.  In Eden, we find Adam failing to obey the command of the Father to shamar (protect) and adovah (work) the garden and all its inhabitants. (Gn 2:15)  In this garden, Adam should have contended with the nahash (dragon – usually translated as serpent) but instead said nothing.  The result was staggering.  He saved his physical life and lost eternal life; He allowed evil to enter into the garden, to dominate it and his bride; and He should have been working but was standing doing nothing next to Eve.

Tonight, our Lord goes out singing into the darkness and we find Him in another garden.  Only the victors sing.  Think of the Song of Roland, The Ballad of the White Horse, or the Lord of the Rings – only the victors know how to sing. Our Lord knew He had already won the battle but no soldier or commander underestimates his enemy.  For this reason, Sacred Song is so important to our liturgies.  The music reminds us of the victory our Lord will win for us through this Blessed Triduum. And the story continues…

He enters into the garden; cares for His future Bride, the Church (embodied by His Apostles); and obeys His Father’s perfect will. (Lk 22:42)  He desires them to tarry with Him so they will not be put to the test (Lk 22:40) but gives them their rest anyway.  He kneels to adovah (means both work and pray).  And the battle begins…

Over the next three days, we enter into the Paschal Mystery of our Lord.  He will fulfill the curses of all the covenants but tonight provokes another battle to win back Eden.  The curses of Eden for Adam are three-fold: 1) “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life.” (Gn 3:17; 2) “Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field.” (Gn 3:18); and 3) “By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.” (Gn 2:19).

Jesus answers these curses by: 1) Toiling (remember prayer and work are the same word) on the ground and yielding the fruit of the vine that becomes the fruit of our salvation; 2) His work is so successful that He will be crowned with the work of His hands – thorns and thistles; and 3) His work/prayer is so intense that He sweats blood, provides Himself as the Bread from Heaven and conquers death.

As we continue to reflect upon this mystery let us join the solemn Tradition of the Universal Church and keep watch in our Churches until the Captain of our Salvation is stolen away from us at midnight.  Every good soldier stays with their commander and every Bride with her Bridegroom.  Where will the world find you tonight?  Will it find you consoling your heart’s desire before His unjust arrest or out and about as if His life doesn’t hang in the balance – because it does!

The story continues but that will have to wait until we find out why Friday is so Good…


[1] Zenit interview with Father Juan Flores Arcas, 9 April 2006 (Rome) Grabbed on March 31, 2010: http://www.ewtn.com/library/Liturgy/zholyweek.HTM

Holy Orders: Another Sacrament of Marriage? Part I

Did you ever wonder about the relationship between the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders.  Over the next few blogs, I thought we could reflect on it together.  I need your input to understand if my thinking is sound (in this short amount of space).  Also, I have hyper-linked a few words directing you to references for those who want a deeper study.  Concerning words that are unfamiliar, I would encourage you to look them up (Can’t hyper-link them, sorry!) at Catholic Reference.net.  This also will assist in providing a common lexicon for our discussion.

Introduction

It is clear that Pope John Paul II has provided us a gift through his Theology of the Body, which offers the Church an opportunity to further reflect on her understanding of theology and how that theology shapes and forms her children.  Among those theological disciplines is Sacramental Theology.  This short reflection attempts to illustrate that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is another type of Marriage in the order of grace.  Specifically, this author would like to look at the goods of marriage (don’t fret, I will define) in relation to Holy Orders to draw a comparison between the two and using the lens of TOB, illustrate that the clergy – in particular the priesthood, could gain a deeper appreciation of their vocation by adopting a bridegroom mentality towards their parishes.

In audience 101:7, Pope John Paul II speaks of marriage, “As the primordial sacrament and at the same time as the sacrament born in the mystery of the redemption of the body from the spousal love of Christ and the Church…”[1] Later in his teaching corpus, John Paul II builds a case in audiences 96 – 98 that marriage is the “prototype”[2] to reveal the spousal love of Christ and the Church as illustrated by St. Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33 (He also explains that this Scripture is the summary form of Genesis 2-3, Song of Songs and the Book of Tobit).  At the center of his argument is that the Sacrament of Marriage not only provides a tangible “form” for the mystery of the Christ’s spousal love for the Church but also receives its identity from that same mystery.

I would propose that one can make the same argument for the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  As John Paul II continues his teaching, the Church comes to understand that the Sacrament of Marriage is a visible signpost directing us to understand our final goal – the wedding feast of the Lamb.  At which time, there will be no giving or taking in marriage and the elect will experience a mystical marriage through participation in the eternal exchange of persons which is the life of the Most Holy Trinity.  John Paul II also teaches that the intermediary sign between marriage and the beatific vision is the eschatological sign of continence for the kingdom, the celibates.[3] If marriage is ordered to the visible and natural order[4] (vivified by grace in the sacramental economy of the new dispensation) could one not make the argument that Holy Orders bridges the gap between “the now and the not yet?”

Scripture: Uncovering the Evidence

To begin to ponder this question, we should ground the terms “Bride” and “Bridegroom” in the understanding of Scripture and the Church.  Typologies for the Bride of Christ are well established in the Old Testament.  Many of the prophets used spousal imagery and themes to preach and even prophetically demonstrate (poor Hosea) how Israel’s sins were an affront to God (cf. Hos. 1-3; Is. 54; Is. 62, Jer. 2-3; Jer. 31; Ez. 16; Ez. 23; Mal. 2:13-17).  We also have the great example of Ruth, who with Tobit, bears witness to the tenderness of spouses and the importance of marriage and fidelity.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that, “Tradition has always seen in the Song of Solomon a unique expression of human love, insofar as it is a reflection of God’s love…”[5]

The New Testament likewise reveals our Lord’s own thoughts of how He would relate to the People of God.  In Mark 2:19, Christ refers to Himself as Bridegroom.  “St. Paul speaks of the whole Church and individual members of Christ’s Body as bride ‘betrothed’ to Christ so as to become one with Him” (cf. Mt. 22:1-14; 15:1-13; 1 Cor. 6:15-17; 2 Cor. 11:2).[6]

Bringing the spousal references together, we see in the Genesis 2 imagery of “Two in one flesh” indicates distinctiveness and the mutuality of two persons.  Lumen Gentium 7 illustrates the sacrificial quality and context of this spousal agape love, “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”[7] Even without touring through the Patristic writings, we can safely rely on the evidence within Scripture and the Magisterium that Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride.  That being said, how does the priest act as the Bridegroom?

In order for the imagery to work, two important elements must be established.  The first is that the priest must represent Christ and second, the language of the body demands that the alter Christus must be male.  The teaching of the Church firmly establishes that the reception of Holy Orders “configures the recipient to Christ”[8]; and that it “confers an indelible spiritual character and cannot be repeated or conferred temporarily”[9].  To secure the second element and proper matter for the sacrament, the Church teaches that “Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination.”[10] [11] The Magisterium continues that when a priest is performing those duties specific to the ministerial priesthood, he stands in persona Christi capitis.  “If the Church is to be the bride of Christ, the priest within the Church represents Christ the Bridegroom, and in order to complete the symbolism in this respect, the priest must be a man.”[12]

While it is true that the Oriental Churches have married priests – and there are exceptions in the Western Church, “The bridal imagery of the celibate priest indicates that, representing Christ, he is ‘wedded’ to the Church, and this is expressed in the symbolism of the Episcopal ring.”[13] Additionally,

“The ecclesiological dimension of this mystery is that celibacy enables the man endowed with the sacerdotal dignity to symbolize a bridegroom totally entrusted to the Church which is the eternally dedicated bride of Christ.  Priestly celibacy also reflects an eschatological dimension prefiguring the state of the kingdom of heaven, where ‘at the resurrection men and women do not marry’ (Mt. 22:30).[14]

Understanding that the priest stands as the Bridegroom in his sacerdotal duties, briefly comparing the Sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders should assist in showing the strength of the image.  Naturally, we see that both include a bride and bridegroom.  The question I am posing is, “Does Holy Orders really share in the imagery of the Bridegroom by sharing in the ‘goods’ of the Sacrament of Marriage?”

To be continued tomorrow…thoughts so far?  Are you with me still?


[1] John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, (Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media 2006) 100:7

[2] Ibid., 98:2

[3] Ibid. 76:4

[4] Ibid. 87

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1997), §1611

[6] Rev. Paul F. deLadurantaye, Images of the Church, Ecclesiology lecture, October 27, 2007.

[7] Cf. Ephesisans 5:25-26, 29; Dogmatic Constitution: Lumen Gentium 7

[8] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1997), §1581

[9] Ibid. §1582

[10] Ibid., §1577

[11] Cf. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem 26-27; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), declaration, Inter Inisniores: AAS 69 (1977) 98-116.

[12] Rev. Paul Haffner, The Sacramental Mystery, (Leominster, Herefordshire Great Britain: Gracewing 2008) 224

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

Passionate Vesting

The vestments of the clergy are meant to catechize and remind us of our Lord and His passion.  The Bishop and the Priest are ordained for sacrifice and minister in persona Christi capitas.  This means that all the Sacraments related to sacrifice and/or the forgiveness of sins are oriented and ministered by them alone.

The vestments of our ministers also teach us about their ministry and serve to draw us deeper into the Paschal Mystery of the Christ.  In particular, the stole and cincture stand out when thinking about the Passion of our Lord.

As we know, the stole is the symbol of a priest/bishop’s authority.  A kind of kerchief or neck-piece, it was a daily piece of clothing donned by the upper class in Rome.  Gradually, it was adopted and reinterpreted by the Church to represent the spiritual authority of the clergy.  The bishop and priest wear the stole over their shoulders while the deacon wears it draping over his left shoulder to his right hip.  This vestment also has a secondary meaning that is steeped in centuries of tradition.

Our tradition tells us that the stole is also to remind us of the cords with which Jesus was tied.  It too invokes images of the cross our Lord carried and, particularly with the bishop and priest, the yoke upon their shoulders.  For the bishop and priest it is a constant symbol of the heavy burden they carry which is made light and sweet by the love of the Christ.

The cincture was used out of necessity during walking and activities requiring exertion to gird up a long garment.  It’s spiritual significance is that of the cords that bound our Lord to the pillar during the scourging.  It is also a symbol of modesty and the readiness to work in God’s service.

Consider the two prayers that the clergy pray as they are vesting:

Stole

“Restore to me, O Lord , the state of immortality which I lost through the sin of my first parents and, although unworthy to approach these Sacred Mysteries, may I deserve nevertheless eternal joy.”

Cincture

“Gird me, O Lord , with the cincture of purity, and quench in my heart the fire of concupiscence, that the virtue of continence and chastity may abide in me.”

I would love to hear what your favorite vestment is and why…