Corpus Christi

The Eucharist is not a prize for the strong, but a source of strength for the weak, for sinners. It is forgiveness, it is the Viaticum that allows us to go forward and move along.” — Pope Francis

Corpus Christi Adoration

How fortunate I feel to be able to participate in this celebration! Every first Friday of the month, my church has Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, beginning after 8 a.m. Mass and continuing for 24 hours through Saturday morning Mass. Last month on the first Friday, I went to weekday Mass for the first time, and have been going to every weekday Mass (except for Wednesdays) ever since. Perhaps I’m hoping to make up for lost time? 🙂 Since weekday Masses begin at 8 a.m. (and on Tuesdays, at 7!) I had to turn myself from a “night owl” into a morning person to manage it, and that took a couple of weeks!

When I think of all the times I went to Mass as a child and teenager (as an Episcopalian, not Catholic) I shake my head at how mindless I was to its significance. And as an adult I left the church, and have only now returned and can begin to appreciate this beautiful (breathtaking) offering of Our Lord on behalf of us sinners.

Here is an excerpt of Pope Francis’ homily for Corpus Christi:

 

We separate when we don’t follow the Word of God. When we do not embrace fraternity among ourselves. When we compete for the top spots. When we become climbers.

…Pretending, consuming, putting oneself at the center. But also being competitive, arrogant, unwilling to accept mistakes or seek help. All these points divide us.

I am also very grateful that our priest is such a humble, kind and sweet person, not at all “putting oneself at the center…being competitive, arrogant…” It would have been so off-putting if the priest of our local church (which is the only one I’m able to attend, as I live in a sparsely populated area) were arrogant, pompous! Especially after having a Buddhist teacher who was also humble and kind…

So, remembering Father’s kindness, I took courage and went to my second confession right before the Saturday evening Mass of Pentecost. This time I wasn’t the “deer in the headlights”, as I was at my first confession! Father again kindly helped me through it, as I had questions about what are considered sins that I should be confessing. I’d gotten the impression that he had been a little startled at my asking him a question at my first confession, but he assured me that, yes, I could ask him questions. So I asked him all about “what constitutes sin” and “what if one disagrees with some of the Church’s teachings, is that a sin?”

He told me, delighted, that it is a good thing to go to confession before Pentecost, so that made me very happy! I think I’ll go to confession approximately every two months. Not every week, as that seems a bit much at this point, but not “twice a year”, as the lady from RCIA told me she does, when I asked her how often one should go to confession. That seems a bit too infrequent!

However, I also don’t want to become complacent, or take Mass, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, for granted, as might result from going so frequently to weekday Mass. I have been reading Meditations before Mass by Romano Guardini, a little bit at a time before each weekday Mass. Very helpful to prepare one’s mind and heart for receiving Christ. Also, I reflect on Saint Thomas Aquinas’ beautiful Four Points of Meditation before Receiving the Eucharist, which are really four points of prayer, but are good to meditate upon as well.

So, now that I’m a morning person, I got up early today and spent some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, attended Mass, and then joined my son at the farmers market to shop for our Sabbath meal. Such a beautiful way to spend the weekend!

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Grateful for my dear local church…

Another Gratituesday rolls around, and this week I have so many things that I’ve been grateful for, that I’ll just focus on the Easter-related ones! 😀

  • I’m grateful for the beautiful Easter vigil service, and for the opportunity to be confirmed in the Catholic church, and for the others who also were baptized and confirmed last Saturday.
  • I’m grateful that I stuck with it all the way through the RCIA program, even though at times I wondered what on earth I was doing, why this was such a long, involved process (I’d truly expected that at most there’d be a couple weeks of study and then I’d be welcomed into the church) and considering my ADD whether I’d lose interest over the months of study! (I didn’t.)
  • I’m grateful for how lovely our little church is, with its many stained glass windows, and especially adorned with Easter flowers.
  • I’m grateful that our church celebrates mass every day, so there are many opportunities for me to attend.

One of the sweetest parts of Saturday’s service was during the Gloria, when the children ran up to the front of the church carrying the donated flowers, and handed them to a couple of adults who placed them around the altar, and then the children hurried to the back again to pick up more bouquets and carry them up front. It lasted a good 10 minutes at least, with so many flowers! It was so delightful!

Child with basket of flowers

I’m still contemplating Saturday’s vigil, it so impressed me and was so lovely…

Two Beautiful Evenings

The Holy Thursday and Good Friday services were so beautiful! I especially loved that at the Thursday service we actually sang a Latin hymn, the first time since I began attending this church! We sang the Pange Lingua Gloriosi:

 

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So moving, to sing this ancient hymn. And yes, Father washed the feet of all the candidates and catechumens, but I’ve had such an unnatural calm lately (for me) that I wasn’t bothered in the least by having my feet washed in front of the entire church. I was just very thankful that the water was warm, because the church was sooo cold! Both nights, very cold, so last night I wore my gloves during most of the service, until my hands finally warmed up.

 

Good Friday was also very moving and beautiful. We did Stations of the Cross at noon, and the altar boy who held the cross at each station also attended Thursday night and held the basket to receive our towels after the feet washing. He can’t be more than 10 years old, and has such a sweet, round cherubic face. I have to consciously stop myself from grinning at him every time I see him!

 

At the Friday evening service they had the Veneration of the Cross which I’d never done before, and which touched me deeply. Good thing I have this new-found calm I mentioned (perhaps from confession and penance?), otherwise I might have cried.

 

During the prayers of the people, which Father chanted, I noticed that he would be praying for the Jewish People, and I thought, “Uh oh”. Because if anything negative or disrespectful had been said, I would have had to rethink all of this. Seriously. Because that would be something I would not be able to countenance. But I was very pleased, because the prayer Father read out (chanted, actually) mentioned the Jews as God’s Chosen People whom He’d first revealed Himself to, and prayed that God would bestow on them His redemption, but didn’t say “through Christ” or anything. That may have been implied, I don’t know, but it wasn’t actually said. So I thought, “Good. That’s okay then.” Because if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s any hint of supersessionism in Christianity.

 

We hold the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked, for ‘the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable’ (Romans 11:29). The Church, which shares with Jews an important part of the sacred Scriptures, looks upon the people of the covenant and their faith as one of the sacred roots of her own Christian identity (cf. Romans 11:16-18). As Christians, we cannot consider Judaism as a foreign religion; nor do we include the Jews among those called to turn from idols and to serve the true God (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Pope Francis

 

(I also love this quote from Paul van Buren: “The reality of the Jewish people, fixed in history by the reality of their election, in their faithfulness in spite of their unfaithfulness, is as solid and sure as that of the gentile church.”)

 

Two such lovely evenings, and last night everyone kept reminding me: “Only one more night!” I’ve never been to an Easter Vigil before, and am so looking forward to it!

 

Christ the King

Today, Christ the King Sunday, I attended my first Mass at the local Catholic Church where I’m taking RCIA classes. It’s a beautiful day, though rainy, and I so enjoyed the Mass and then a pleasant walk afterward.

I’d never known of Christ the King Sunday before now (don’t recall that we celebrated it in the Anglican church I attended growing up), and I’m surprised to learn that it’s fairly new, Pope Pius XI having instituted this Feast Day in 1925. Beautiful celebration! Father reminded us in the homily of how the idea of power and Ruler was changed by Christ our Lord, as put forth in this Gospel message:

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10: 42-45

Rather shocking words, when you think of it. A slave to all. I read recently that when the Bible was first translated into English, they substituted the word “servant” for every instance of “slave” (Greek doulos), because at the time England was going through the process of outlawing slavery. But the meaning is slave. We were purchased out of sin by Christ’s blood, and are now owned by him, he is our Master and we serve him, and are to serve each other in Christ. Today’s Gospel reading is one of my favorites, and illustrates this.

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. …Whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25: 34-36, 40

Christ the King Christ the King! It is good to be reminded of his Kingship, as it can be discouraging to look at the evil of this world, the horrible things people do to each other and to this good Earth that God has given us. And then it is easy to forget that Christ is already Victor, already King, the victory over sin and evil and death has already been won! The only thing left to do is to acknowledge his Kingship and give up one’s own will to his rule. As Pope Pius XI said in the encyclical Quas Primas, establishing the Feast Day of Christ the King:

If to Christ our Lord is given all power in heaven and on earth; if all men, purchased by his precious blood, are by a new right subjected to his dominion; if this power embraces all men, it must be clear that not one of our faculties is exempt from his empire. He must reign in our minds, which should assent with perfect submission and firm belief to revealed truths and to the doctrines of Christ. He must reign in our wills, which should obey the laws and precepts of God. He must reign in our hearts, which should spurn natural desires and love God above all things, and cleave to him alone. He must reign in our bodies and in our members, which should serve as instruments for the interior sanctification of our souls, or to use the words of the Apostle Paul, as instruments of justice unto God.

This gives me such joy, to realize our King has already won the war! And I only pray that I can serve him by giving aid to the wounded on the battlefield.

Please enjoy this beautiful video of the hymn Te Saeculorum Principem, traditionally sung on Christ the King Sunday:

The Cross of Christ

This evening in RCIA class we toured the Church sanctuary, and Father spoke of the meaning behind all the ritual items the Catholic church uses during Mass and displays in the church. I’d not visited the church yet (our RCIA classes had been held in a separate building up till now) and I must say I was a little disappointed. The church was so bare! I’ve visited many small Catholic churches as well as large cathedrals, and both types can be beautiful, but our local Catholic church is not very beautiful at all — so plain. *sigh* The only thing that distinguishes it from a plain, bare Protestant church is the Stations of the Cross along the side walls.

And the large crucifix in the front of the church. That struck me very powerfully. One of the questions handed out tonight, after the tour, was “Does the difference between the cross and the crucifix say anything to me?” It’s late at night, so I’ll only put down my first impressions. The cross is the symbol of Christianity and of Christ’s sacrifice for us sinners, and we can in turn use it as a personal symbol of our identity as Christians (in the same way that the Arabic nun is being used today in Iraq to identify Christians). It’s the means by which Christ’s sacrifice was accomplished — on a cross.

A crucifix is an actual depiction of Christ’s sacrifice, of what he actually did for us, and serves as a compelling reminder of that truth. A crucifix is a worthy object of contemplation and veneration, because it depicts Christ crucified, whereas the cross was the Roman method of torture and execution, and although now a symbol of Christianity, in itself shouldn’t be an object of adoration.

Alonso Cano's La Crucifixión at El Museo Nacional del Prado

Alonso Cano’s La Crucifixión at El Museo Nacional del Prado

“The cross did not of itself redeem us. Scripture tells us that the person, Jesus Christ redeemed us on the cross. This act of our redemption was intensely personal on the part of the Redeemer and on the part of the redeemed. The crucifix conveys this in a way that the cross alone simply does not. We do not dare to ignore what He endured. We do not dare to tidy up His passion. We worship Him in precisely the unsightly, bloody appearance of His self gift.” Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

I believe I will be spending a lot of time meditating and worshiping before that crucifix…