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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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!

 

When a Star Isn’t a Star – An Epiphany Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12

When a Star Isn’t a Star – An Epiphany Sermon on Matthew 2:1-12

Beautiful meditation on this Feast Day.

[The epiphany of Christ didn’t happen only when the wise men arrived at the house where the child was. Their entire experience was epiphany. Observing “the star at its rising” was epiphanal. Their journey to Bethlehem was epiphanal. Seeing “the child with Mary his mother” was epiphanal. Offering their gifts was epiphanal.]

Interrupting the Silence

Star of Bethlehem, Feast of the Epiphany, Wise Men, Magi, Matthew 2:1-12, Sermon Star of Bethlehem by Waldemar Flaig (source)

“For we observed his star at its rising.”

Wise men from the East have followed this star to Jerusalem. They will follow it to Bethlehem. They will be overwhelmed with joy when it stops over the house where the child is. For they have come to pay homage to this child who has been born king of the Jews.

Some people have said that star wasn’t really a star. “No natural star could have traveled such a course nor could it have shone so brilliantly at midday and, furthermore, it stood still over the child,” said one person. He doesn’t believe it was a star in the sky and it’s not because he’s not a Christian or because he’s an unfaithful Christian. To the contrary he is one of the greatest preachers and bishops of the early church, St. John Chrysostom…

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Weeping may endure for a day…

Well, this was an unexpected day. I got up with plans for a full day of computer work, housework, writing, cooking. But when I sat down to work, a great wave of depression hit, the most devastating I’ve had in a *long* time. I’ve had a couple of bouts of depression in the past year (and since beginning this blog), but nothing like this in quite a while. I just sat at my desk crying and crying. Whenever it would abate for a while, I’d try to get started on something, and it would hit again. So debilitating.

weeping

I thought I’d skip forward in my schedule to my next session of prayer and scripture reading (I’d done my morning prayers), and believed that would help. Well, it didn’t have an immediate effect, except to hover like a little flame in the back of my mind, reminding me that this will pass. And it’s so good to have now in my life the assurance of God’s presence and love, which I never really had before, when I went through episodes of depression like this.

I finally managed to get a little work done, and a meal made. But that’s about it. Even listening to music, which usually lifts my mood considerably, didn’t do anything for me today. I just had to ride it out…

Things are looking a bit better this evening. I have a delicious meal finishing up, my boys are heading home, I’m listening to beautiful carols (and the music’s finally beginning to cheer me up…) Before, when a major depression hit, it would take days to get over, but I think this time it may pass more quickly, even though it’s been a big one.

Now, it’s off to eat dinner with my family and then more prayer time. “Weeping may endure for a night” (or a day!), “but joy cometh in the morning.”

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:

“It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain…”

In tomorrow’s RCIA class we’ll be discussing Jesus, God the Son, and we’re to bring our favorite picture of Jesus. I decided to ignore my knee-jerk reaction to the idea of “pictures of Jesus”… 🙂 Of course, as a child, I’d been shown numerous depictions of Jesus (including blond ones!) Now that I’m exploring Catholicism, I’ve been introduced to a picture of Jesus that I’d never seen before as a child, and it instantly became my favorite: the Divine Mercy picture.

Divine Mercy

The very thought of God’s mercy leaves me lost for words. I’ll quote here A Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson:

Mercy sweetens all God’s other attributes. God’s holiness without mercy, and his justice without mercy were terrible. When the water was bitter, and Israel could not drink, Moses cast a tree into the waters, and then they were made sweet. How bitter and dreadful were the other attributes of God, did not mercy sweeten them! Mercy sets God’s power on work to help us; it makes his justice become our friend…

God’s mercy is free. To set up merit is to destroy mercy. Nothing can deserve mercy. “I will love them freely.” Hosea 14: 4 …

God’s mercy is an overflowing mercy; it is infinite. “Plenteous in mercy.” Psalm 86: 6 …

God’s mercy is eternal. “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.” Psalm 103: 37. “His mercy endureth forever” is repeated twenty-six times in one psalm, Psalm 136. …

Oh tell others of God’s goodness, that you may set others blessing him, and that you may make God’s praises live when you are dead…

Imitate God in showing mercy. As God is the Father of mercy, show yourselves to be his children by being like him. Ambrose says, “The sum and definition of religion is, Be rich in works of mercy, be helpful to the bodies and souls of others. Scatter your golden seeds; let the lamp of your profession be filled with the oil of charity. Be merciful in giving and forgiving. ‘Be ye merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful.’

Ever since beginning to look into Catholicism, I’ve been contemplating God’s forgiveness and mercy, and about a year ago began praying the Divine Mercy prayers fairly regularly. I believe meditating on God’s boundless love and mercy helps one to get rid of petty ego. Of what possible importance can my little grievances and pissed-off-ness and pouting be compared to what we receive freely and bountifully from God?! The gulf between us and God is simply incredible.

Another new idea to me, from studying Catholicism (so amazing and enjoyable to learn all this!) is the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy that is emphasized in the Church. They are (from the online Catholic Encyclopedia):

Corporal Works of Mercy

  1. Feed the hungry;
  2. Give drink to the thirsty;
  3. Clothe the naked;
  4. Harbor the harborless;
  5. Visit the sick;
  6. Ransom the captive;
  7. Bury the dead.

Spiritual Works of Mercy

  1. Instruct the ignorant;
  2. Counsel the doubtful;
  3. Admonish sinners;
  4. Bear wrongs patiently;
  5. Forgive offenses willingly;
  6. Comfort the afflicted;
  7. Pray for the living and the dead.

Quite a lot to work with, right there! From the same entry on that website we read this definition of mercy:

Mercy as it is here contemplated is said to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s misfortune. It is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas that although mercy is as it were the spontaneous product of charity, yet it is to be reckoned a special virtue adequately distinguishable from this latter. In fact the Scholastics in cataloguing it consider it to be referable to the quality of justice mainly because, like justice, it controls relations between distinct persons. It is as they say ad alterum. Its motive is the misery which one discerns in another, particularly in so far as this condition is deemed to be, in some sense at least, involuntary. Obviously the necessity which is to be succored can be either of body or soul. Hence it is customary to enumerate both corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

I will definitely write more about mercy in future posts, because it’s such a complex and rich topic! And so beautiful and almost incomprehensible…

I’ll leave you for now with this beautiful hymn.

Catholicism and Hallowe’en

Fun and interesting interview with Father Steve Grunow about Hallowe’en from Word on Fire, as quoted at uCatholic:

Catholics need to learn from an early age to look at the world realistically and without the blurring lenses of sentimentality. The world is fallen and finite. People will hurt one another. We are sinners. But this darkness is illuminated by the light of God’s revelation in Christ that makes the deepest truth of what it means to be human available to us in the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus. Yes, look honestly at sin and death. Know about the lure and deceptions of fallen, spiritual powers. Realize that greater than all the fallen powers of heaven and earth is the power of God in Christ, which is a love that is stronger than sin, death and the devil.

Jesus and Mary Pumpkins

 

(Photo courtesy of Cecilia Lawrence of Ann Arbor, MI)