Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, I sat in the back of the Chapel after work. I was asking Jesus if it was all right that I ate that extra protein bar at lunch. I thought I should have gone without it.
You see, I am not allowed to fast. Why? Because for over half my life I have struggled with an eating disorder, and since I have been in recovery I have been told not to fast. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not that disappointed that I don’t have to be perpetually hungry, but there is a part of me that feels guilty alongside those who fast. So I sat in the pew trying to sort out which thoughts were of God and which were of the evil one.
The next morning, as I went for a swim before work, I was praying my Rosary to help me meditate on the Life of Jesus. It was Thursday, so I prayed with the Luminous Mysteries, the first being the Baptism in the Jordan. I thought about Jesus, how he willingly took on our humanity and our sins. I am not alone in my Lenten journey, in my eating disorder, in my recovery, in anything at all! This frames Lent as well as anything I do – I am not alone and neither are any of you!
The second mystery, the Wedding Feast of Cana. The Lord doesn’t ask us to make up for our failings on our own. Following the example of Mary, we come to Jesus as beggars, and ask for His help and His mercy, in whatever way He sees fit. I am not doing this Lent thing by myself or for myself, nor am I trying to overcome an addiction by myself or for myself. It is all through Him, in Him, with Him, and for Him. He makes all things new. By my own strength I could never change water into wine or perform any miracle, let alone heal my own addiction, but I can do all things with Christ.
The third mystery, the Proclamation of the Kingdom. The words that came to me as I was swimming back and forth were, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” I worry constantly that I don’t do “enough.” What is this “enough” stuff? I am comparing myself to others, to where I thought I should be, to where I was before, etc. etc. But what does Jesus ask of me? Is it the same as what I am asking of myself?
A few years ago I spent two years as a sister in Religious Life. In my second year, it became clear that I was struggling with eating, and so my Superior forbid me to fast during Lent. My Lenten “fast” was to eat snacks between meals, which were prepared by another sister so that I wouldn’t cheat. This was the greatest poverty I had ever experienced. I saw sisters fasting intensely as I was angrily smothering butter on my toast. And I felt nothing but shame when it was time for my mid-morning snack, which was hidden in the pantry. Hot tears rolled down my face when another confused sister found my hidden snack one day.
My point is not to make you feel bad for me, but to proclaim the truth that this “fast” is what Jesus asked of me. I wanted to choose my own Cross and fast like everyone else was doing, but that wouldn’t have helped me grow closer to Him–which is the point of Lent, right? If I had fasted as most did, I would have gained pride and a feeling of power. I would not have felt that poverty, that truth that I was totally dependent on the Lord and His Love and Mercy. I knew then the humiliation He felt during His Passion, and by knowing Him, He knew me.
As I was finishing my last few laps I prayed with the Transfiguration. I often ask Jesus if He’s sure He still loves me this way, wounded and far from perfect. Sometimes I delay in coming to Him because I want to be perfect first. But wait…perfectionism…that’s what got me into this mess! Jesus takes fallen humanity and glorifies it. He even gives us glimpses of this light and glory in our own lives, in order to give us strength for the times when we can see only darkness. Foreshadowing the Resurrection, Jesus shows us that in our humanity, in our woundedness, even in our sin He comes to us and gives us Himself so that we can be transformed by His mercy and forgiveness. This is the goal of the Lenten pilgrimage – to be transformed. To experience greater intimacy with Him, as did Peter, James, and John on the mountain, and to let His light penetrate our fearful hearts.
As I got out of the pool and got ready for work I thought of the last mystery, the Institution of the Eucharist. Hmmm…probably the Lord wants me to think about this whole fasting thing. I thought back to my time in the Chapel last evening. The soft flickering of the sanctuary candle made the shadow of the Cross bob up and down. Even though the light was coming from the right side of the Chapel where the Tabernacle kept vigil in silence, it seemed to cast its rays onto the center of the sanctuary where the Jesus hung on the Cross on the back wall. This was the answer to my question last night. Jesus already suffered for my sins. Was I trying to do it on my own? Was I denying that Jesus’ Passion and Death was enough for me? Was I telling Jesus that I had to suffer in a prescribed manner in order to be worthy?
This morning I welcomed again the graces I received yesterday, when He spoke truth to my heart. I was angry at myself for not suffering enough, especially compared to others. Underneath that was another question: am I enough Lord?…am I doing enough and suffering enough for you? If I had given up that power bar, it would have made me feel a little better about myself, as if I had “done” something for Him, and maybe even prevented the body image thoughts that were penetrating my time of prayer. But this was not of God! Jesus was asking me to sacrifice in another way; I was poor in spirit by obediently following my doctor’s orders and by nourishing my body that I have in the past denied–not out of a call to fast but out of fear of not being enough. This gave me the peace my heart desired; I knew this thought was from the Lord.
I begin this Lent with another kind of fasting. Yes, I am fasting, but not in the way most people are fasting. I am fasting from my will, from my passions, from my securities. I am becoming poor in spirit and accepting the Will of God. Yes, I will probably face feelings of guilt and shame about my body, especially around others who are fasting “more.” But what a perfect time to bring these lies to the Lord. I journey with Him in the desert this Lent and I choose Him over the lies and temptations of the evil one. I am not alone. He is with me, He is in my poverty, He comes to me in my brokenness, and He suffered and died for me.
My prayer is that all of you who read this are able to pray about your Lenten journey, that despite what others are doing for Lent, you recognize the places where the Lord is and is not calling you to focus. May our Lenten pilgrimage lead us to the Pierced Heart of Christ, the source of our salvation.
The term “family Mass” probably conjures up all sorts of memories or ideas for people. I’m sure not all of these memories or ideas are positive ones either. Having been in ministry for as many years as I have, I’ve seen and participated in many Masses in the past that I would never consider appropriate now. But in the 70’s things happened. Fast forward and try to get rid of your thoughts, especially the ones against special Masses, and hear me out. Family Mass can be a good thing. Of course, Mass is always good and Mass should never be celebrated for one group to exclude another,
For many years in the parish where I currently work, families were not welcome. At all. There was one altar server. First penance was not celebrated; the confessions were heard in the hallway during class on a Sunday morning. Our goal in having a Family Mass was to invite families to return to their faith home. Once a month, at our regularly scheduled 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass, we have children serve as lectors and ushers. At homily time, the children are called forward and sit on the steps in front of the altar; listening and responding to a homily just for them. A few of the children bring up the offertory gifts. Our children’s choir sings as usual. What are the benefits to doing this? Families come to Mass together, the children participate in serving the parish, and the parish is seen as caring for families. Another important point to note, no one has complained. I have instituted many programs at many parishes and never once have I received no complaints. Older adults, who are the majority of our parishioners, are thrilled to see the children and especially enjoy their participation. Some even comment that they prefer the homilies given for the children since they understand them better.
A family Mass may not work in your parish, but in ours it has been a positive addition. We hope that continued participation in this Mass will help families see the value and necessity of attending every week.
Twas the night before Ash Wednesday
And all through the rooms
Every cushion was overturned
Every piece of old candy consumed
The children were negotiating their Lenten promises in bed
Trying to find loopholes in saintly feast days ahead
With wine and Facebook and chocolate on tap
I was trying to reconcile myself to the long Lenten slap
When all through the house there arose such a clatter
I ignored all their noise for I cared not for their chatter.
And up to the window, I did indeed look about
Annoyed with 40 days to kvetch and to pout.
The moon on the breast on the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of loathing to my crestfallen low.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a cross in a shadow and the grace to persevere
With little old prayer beads, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment this flesh must be licked.
More rapid than eagles, His angels they came,
And He whispered, I answered, He called me by name;
“Now, Sons! Now, Daughters! Now, Children! Now, come!
On command: “Love one another as I have loved every one.
From the mountain of beatitude to the hill of the cross,
If you value your life, don’t be afraid of the loss.
As snowflakes that before a Nor’Easter do fly,
Ice crystals that melt and spring is soon nigh.
So up to the altars your sacrifices anew,
and with heart full of prayers, you have better things to pursue.”
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my heart
The cloud of great witnesses cheering my part
The race we are running, that Lent helps us to win
That heavenly banquet once clouded by sin.
He was dressed all in white, from His head to His foot,
And my clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of sins He had born on His back,
And He looked like a thief, just come from the rack.
His eyes, how they wept! His hands bore the holes.
His back had the scars, His heart knew every last soul.
His side was the fount of love and mercy itself
And immediately I knew the guilt of myself.
He spoke no more words, but went straight to His work,
And paid all my debt, not a sin did He shirk.
And giving a nod, up to the Father He rose
Sending another to come and grace overflows.
So as we begin this sojourn, as they days grow long,
We pray. We fast. And to the needy give alms.
We look to the cross and we fight that good fight.
No Easter is had but with a Good Friday’s long night
Happy Lent to all and keep the Cross in thy sight!
With Ash Wednesday right around the corner, many of us are already pondering what Lenten resolutions we’ll choose or what resolutions we’ll suggest to our students. No resolution can succeed without prayer, however, so here’s six ways to improve your prayer life this Lent.
1. Make a daily prayer date with God. Best friends talk every day, so use the days of Lent to renew and deepen your friendship with God. If you don’t pray every day, pick a specific time and commit to spending just five minutes telling God what’s in your heart. If you already have a habit of daily prayer, add five more minutes to your regular time. For example, if you normally pray ten minutes a day, make it fifteen minutes a day for Lent. Scheduling prayer for the same time every day will help you keep your commitment. You wouldn’t break a standing date with your husband, or your mom, or your best friend, unless you absolutely had to. So try to make and keep that daily prayer date with God.
2. Add a rosary to your day. St. Louis de Montfort said that praying the rosary was like giving a bouquet of roses to the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, make your mother happy this Lent. Saying an entire set of mysteries takes 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how fast you recite the prayers. If that’s too much time, just say the fifth Sorrowful Mystery — one Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, and one Glory Be while meditating on Our Lord’s crucifixion. Say it with your spouse and your kids, and include your whole family in this beautiful tradition of prayer.
3. Make a morning offering. Offer your entire day to God, and he will bless you for it. First thing in the morning, connect with him and ask for his support and consolation throughout the day. You can recite this exquisite formal prayer, penned by St. Ignatius of Loyola: Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. But you can also go a simpler route and create your own morning offering. Our family likes to say, “God please help me to do what you want today.” It takes just a few moments and can bring so much peace to your day.
4. Ask for God’s help more than usual. Sometimes when we feel stressed or overwhelmed, we forget to call on God’s strength. Mini-crises hit us more than once a day, on average, and they give us ample opportunity to request divine assistance. Even if your schedule is too harried to carve out specific times for prayer, you can choose a one-sentence prayer (also called an aspiration) to reach out to God throughout the day. Many people use the Jesus prayer, which is “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” Other possibilities are “God, make haste to help me” or “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
5. Keep a prayer journal. If you decide to make Lenten resolutions, it’s a good idea to keep track of how well you’re doing. Writing down your success (or your failure!) is a great way to ensure accountability. So at the end of the day, you can note down in a journal whether you kept your resolutions that day or not. It will give you extra impetus to stay on track through the whole 40 days of the season.
6. Go to weekly confession. The Church encourages us to go to confession especially during Lent. Many people go at least once, but you don’t have to stop there. Going to weekly confession during Lent will bring you an avalanche of graces. Telling the priest about your progress with your Lenten resolutions will enhance your ability to persevere. Take the whole family with you on Saturday afternoons, and everyone can benefit from this powerful sacrament.
May God bless you during this holy season of Lent! And if you have other ideas for improving prayer life during Lent, please let us know in the comments!
Copyr. Karee Santos, 2014. Image courtesy of Pixabay.
Lent is around the corner. It is the perfect catechetical season. A catechist as well as a parent can find a plethora of ideas about how to practice and live out Lent. I would like to share ideas in 3 categories (be aware that some ideas will overlap): Family Ideas, Classroom Ideas and Personal Ideas. I hope the following links will help assist you as a parent or a catechist in assisting your students to grow closer to Christ this Lent.
~ Pray the Rosary and/or Divine Mercy Chaplet regularly as a family – on the way to/from school, or right after dinner.
~ Read the Bible/pray with your kids before bedtime during Lent.
~ Pray the Rosary more often during Lent.
~ Have a day where the TV Stays off (Maybe Fridays during Lent)
~ Fast from cell phone use, internet, video games from after dinner onward.
~ Fast from going out to eat. Give the extra money to the poor.
~ Fast from gossip or negative thoughts.
~ Fast from eating between meals.
~ Fast from dessert a few times a week.
~ Fast from being lazy (that attitude that says: someone else will do it).
~Listen to Catholic and/or Christian Radio in the car during Lent.
~Sign up for Holy Hero’s daily Lenten email
~ Print and Practice things you put on your Lenten Calendar
~ Give money as a family to the poor: Operation Rice Bowl.
~ Spend more quality time with family.
~ Be positive (maybe charge .25 cents for every negative comment at home and then give the money to a charity).
~ Take time to pray at lunchtime instead of going out with friends or surfing the internet.
~ Read a Psalm each day during Lent.
~ At 3:00pm each day pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet or take a moment to pause in prayer remember the hour that Christ died.
~ Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms – maybe one each day of the week throughout Lent (Psalm 6, 31, 50, 101, 129 and 142).
~ Go out of your way to do one kind deed each day.
~ Do things for people each week without them knowing.
~ Be positive and reflect joy during Lent.
Here are the summary notes from a talk I gave at the Parish of St. Columba, here in D.C.:
Many people think of Advent merely in terms of pre-Christmas time: office parties, shopping, decorating etc. But in the Church, Advent is more a penitential period, a time of preparation for both the Christmas Feast and the Second Coming of the Lord. The purple vestments signal penance. The faithful are encouraged to go to Confession, and the liturgical texts and readings emphasize readying for the coming of the Lord.
The theme of preparation (and much of the season itself) is couched in the dramatic struggle between light and darkness. This makes sense (at least in the northern hemisphere, where the darkness deepens and the days grow shorter). In these darkest days, we light candles and sing hymns that speak of the light that will come: Jesus the true Light of the World. Let’s take a look at Advent in three ways.
I. The Symbols of Darkness and Light – Outside, there is a great drama of light and darkness unfolding before us. The light is giving way to darkness. Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting very short, and they’re going to get even shorter. In Washington, D.C. (where I live), it is dark by 5:00 PM. On cloudy days, it is nearly dark by 4:00 PM. My brothers both live farther north: one in St. Paul and the other in Seattle. It gets dark even earlier there. There’s even a famous saying (probably by Yogi Berra), “It’s getting late very early out there.”
For us who live in modern times, the drama is less obvious. It is little more than an annoyance, as we must switch on the lights earlier. But think of those who lived not long before us in an age before electrical lights. Perhaps it was possible to huddle near a candle, oil lamp, or fire, but in the end, the darkness put a real stop to most things. Neither work, nor reading, nor most forms of recreation could take place. Darkness was a significant factor.
Some years ago, during a widespread power outage, I was struck at just how incredibly dark it was outside at night without the streetlights and the lights emanating from homes. Frankly, it was hard to venture out. I lost my bearings quickly and stumbled over some simple things like a curb and a fencepost. We moderns just aren’t used to this. Once, I toured Luray Caverns in the nearby Shenandoah Mountains. At the bottom of the caverns, hundreds of feet down, they gathered us near the center of a large cave and shut off the lights. The darkness was overwhelming. It was an almost physical feeling. I felt a wave of slight panic sweep over me and was so relieved when the lights came back on. I wondered, “Is this what it’s like to be blind?” Yes, light is very precious.
And so, here in a “deep and dark December,” the light continues to recede. The spiritual impact of this drama of light is brought into the Church. Our hymns turn to images of light. The darker it gets, the more candles we light on the Advent wreath. In the darkest days of December, our Advent wreath is at its brightest. As Scripture says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it … The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world (John 1:5, 9). An old prayer says,Within our darkest night you kindle a fire that never dies away.
As the drama of light and darkness outside continues, we arrive at December 21st and 22nd—the shortest, darkest days of the year. By December 23rd, the ancients could detect a slight return of the light. Now the morning star heralds something new, something brighter.
People, look East. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year …
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.
And then, on December 24th, in the middle of one of the longest nights of the year, the liturgy of Christmas begins: Christ is born and on December 25th a new light shines. From then on, the days get longer.
Yes, a great drama of light is unfolding before us. It is Advent. It is a time to recognize our need for the light and just how precious Jesus, the Light of the World, is. Ponder, in these darkest days, the beauty of the light. There are so many Advent hymns that set forth the dramatic images of light, darkness, and expectancy. They are too numerous to list here. However, click here if you wish to see some samples: Advent hymns that speak to the Light.
Of course, this external drama of light and darkness in nature is but a symbol of the great struggle between light and darkness in our world, our culture, our own hearts, and the hearts of all whom we love. It is the greatest drama of each of our lives. Will we choose to walk in the light or will we prefer the darkness? Our choice will determine our destiny. Judgment day is coming and we must be prepared by embracing the light of God’s truth and Jesus Himself, who is the Light of the World.
Thus, in Advent, we are summoned to understand how bad the darkness of sin really is, andwe are warned to prepare for the coming judgment. Almost all the readings of the first two weeks of Advent speak to this theme of warning and readiness. The Dies Irae, which most associate with the Latin Requiem Mass, was actually written as a hymn for the Second Sunday of Advent.
Now, of course, some may protest such “negative” themes for Advent. But remember, if we aren’t aware of the bad news, then the good news is no news. Hence, this Advent reflection on the seriousness of the dark reality of sin is to prepare us for even greater joy at the birth of a Savior, who is the Light of the World and can lead us out of the dark tomb of sin into the wonderful light of grace.
Hence, the symbols of light and darkness point to a real drama and remind us to be sober and serious about the trouble we’re in, why we really need a savior, and how good it is to greet the Light of the World … IF we are prepared.
II. Our Stance to the Light and Darkness – Ultimately we are either facing the light and welcoming Him, or facing and in the darkness. These are the only two stances possible. There is no third way. Are you walking in the light or are you standing in the darkness?
This is Our Moral Stance. Scripture warns in many places about the two ways of light and darkness, and admonishes us to stand and walk in the light. Here are just a few:
- (Ro 13:11–14) Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
- (1 Th 5:1–11) But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
- (Mt 6:22-24) The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
- (2 Pe 1:19) And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Thus, we are warned what time it is, that judgment draws ever closer, and that we must walk and stand with the light and not be like those in darkness. The Advent season acknowledges the reality of deepening darkness, and that we must all the more run to the coming light, Jesus. We must walk in the light of His truth as set forth in His word, in the teachings of the Church, and in creation. We must seek the enlightenment of the Sacraments and live in honesty, integrity, and mutual fellowship with the Lord’s Body, the Church. This is to be our moral stance: toward the light and away from the darkness.
This is Our Liturgical Stance – Since we are discussing the season of Advent, we might also do well to mention something of our liturgical stance as well. Over the past few decades, our liturgical stance has become muddled and somewhat incoherent. What used to be a clear stance of a community facing East, has become an increasingly closed circle, a sort of image of a community closed in on itself, singing of itself, and referring incessantly to itself in song and (self-)congratulatory applause. Until about 1965, the almost universal liturgical stance was of a community all facing one direction (liturgical East, symbolized by the Crucifix more than by the compass), and being led there by a celebrant who could see where he was going. The celebrant, as alter Christus, represented Christ leading his people to the Father in adoration and thanksgiving. The priest, as a man, stood at the head of the community looking for Christ to come again. Scripture quite frequently attests that God will come “from the East.” (Again, it is less a matter of the compass and more a matter of the community all looking toward the liturgical East, the Cross.) Looking to the East for God to come is no arbitrary notion of a primitive religion. It is well attested in Scripture and makes sense based on the fact that the East is where the light comes from. Physical light is a symbol of the True Light, who is our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Here are just a few Scripture references:
- (Mt 24:27–28) For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man.
- (Bar 4:36) Look toward the east, O Jerusalem, and see the joy that is coming to you from God!
- (Eze 43:1–5) Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the east; and the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory. And the vision I saw was like the vision which I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the vision which I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
- (Psalm 68:32-34) Sing to God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing ye to the Lord: Sing to God, who mounts above the heaven of heavens, to the east. Behold he will give to his voice the voice of power: give ye glory to God for Israel, his magnificence, and his power is in the clouds!
This is not intended to be a full-length treatment of the “Ad orientem” question regarding the stance of the priest and the people. Here I only wish to note that our liturgical stance has become muddled. If it is true that our stance should be toward the Light, then why are we facing all sorts of different and “opposing” directions in the liturgy? Why do we not all face East together for the great Eucharistic Prayer, as we did for over 19 centuries? While it is fitting that the Liturgy of the Word be celebrated toward the people, it seems that the Eucharistic Prayer is more suitably proclaimed with the whole community (priests included) facing to the East—toward God—for it is to God that the prayer is directed and it is to God that the people are led in admiration, thanksgiving, and pilgrimage. The Advent hymn says it well: “People look East, the time is near!”
III. The Summons to the Light – Having laid out the great drama of light and darkness and heard that we should take a stand for and toward the light, we note that Advent also proclaims, through a series of biblical texts and prayers, a warning to those who either reject the light outright or just fail to prepare for it. Here are just a few biblical texts:
- (Ho 6:5) Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light.
- (Mt 25:6–11) Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish maidens said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘Perhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
- (Mal 4:1–2) For behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.
- (Jn 3:16–21) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.
There is not sufficient time in this post to comment on each of these texts above except to saythat they summon us to the light in a spirit of readiness, having first prepared ourselves by becoming accustomed to the light and the fire of God’s love. If we are not ready, the light will seem blinding and the fiery love unbearable, and we will recoil in wrath, rather then rejoice in wonder.
Pay attention to these Advent themes. It’s getting late very early these days. Consider this a warning from the natural world (the Book of Creation), which the Church picks up in her liturgy. Prepare the way of the Lord! Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand. Walk in the light! If we do, light, all glorious and unending, will be ours:
There shall no more be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; 4 they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their foreheads. And night shall be no more; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they shall reign for ever and ever (Re 22:3–5).
This is our future, IF we are faithful and allow the Lord to enlighten us now so that we can love the future light of ten thousand megawatts. Walk in the Light!
A blessed Advent to all.
I was discussing the Mass with a Youth Minister friend, Carolyn Grassmick. I was gushing about how beautiful the Traditional Latin Mass is and how uplifting the Charismatic Life Teen Mass is. I told Carolyn that I loved both Masses so much and that I felt blessed to have a variety of ways to experience worship. She laughed and said, “You are spiritually bilingual! You speak traditional and charismatic Catholic fluently!”
Reflecting on this, I have recognized a disconcerting trend within our beautiful Catholic faith. A rift is brewing between traditionalists and charismatics.
I’m not talking about traditionalists who don’t want to follow Rome (with a unique Pope currently in the seat of Peter) or charismatics who change the words of the Mass and add liturgical dancing; I’m referring to mainstream, truly Catholic groups who just worship differently.
The traditionalists often have little tolerance for contemporary Christian Mass, the music, or things like people ‘resting in the Spirit.’ They reject these experiences as not reverent enough to be valid.
The charismatic movement members, on the other hand, state that they are not moved by the Mass when it’s quiet and traditional. They mistakenly believe that if you cannot visibly see the fruits of the Spirit that you are just not open enough to experience them.
What? The Mass is the Mass!
Have we forgotten that Jesus is present in the Word and in the Eucharist? Whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit are running rampant or there is silent, intense Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, both are forms of Catholic worship. Equal members of the same Faith.
I have seen endless confession lines at the Sacrament of Reconciliation celebrated prior to a charismatic or Life Teen Mass and I have also witnessed incredibly devout traditional Catholics spending hours in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament! Neither group can claim the market on loving Christ and wanting to serve him. Who am I, who are we, to determine who has the deeper Catholic faith?
The Body of Christ is complex and diversified. It has many parts, many talents and many ways of expressing ‘authentic’ Catholic Faith. What it does not have is an appendix (an unnecessary or disposable part).
The goal is to move towards embracing and appreciating our differences as complimentary pieces of the same spiritual puzzle. God bless.
According to Father John Harding, scriptural types exist when “a biblical person, thing, action, or event foreshadow new truths, new actions or new events . . . A likeness must exist between the type and the archetype but the latter is always greater. Both are independent of each other.” These types can be seen in various stories and situations throughout the Old and New testaments. While much attention has been given to Old Testament people who fill typological roles, little attention has been paid to Ancient Jewish liturgy and how it was a preparation for the Catholic Mass.
One could argue that Ancient Judaism formally began with Moses on Mount Sinai. Almost immediately, the nomadic Jewish people began to develop a highly ritualized liturgy that was meant to teach the Jewish people who their creator God was, how to worship this creator God, and how to remain in communion with Him.
The Jewish people, unlike all other ancient people, were taught that man was “very good” and that life was sacred. This nomadic people learned that worship was to be communal and always done within the framework of a community–under the guidance of a sacred priesthood. Their creator God would provide this chosen nomadic people a food that is not merely “lehem” (the Hebrew word for bread) but something other than bread: “manna” (literally in Hebrew meaning, “What is it?”). Here’s the parallel: We your pilgrim church on earth today also eat something that is “other than bread,” provided by a Personal God with a sacred priesthood in a communal worship.
To worship this newly revealed “I AM,” the Hebrew people had to set up their tents and then eventually their sacred Temple according to very specific instructions. There were seven items that were intrinsic to the Jewish liturgy that still find significance in our own Catholic Mass:
- 1. The Ark of the Covenant. This was the special box, made of acacia wood covered in gold, meant to house the three sacred items of the Jewish Law: The Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron, and a jar of manna. Every Catholic Church contains an “Ark of the Covenant”–the Tabernacle. Christ Himself in the Blessed Sacrament is present: truly, really, substantially. He is the New Law, the High Priest, and the Bread of Life.
- The Mercy Seat. In Ancient Judaism, the Kapporeth, or the top of the Ark of the Covenant, sometimes also called the seat of atonement, was a place where the high priest on the High Feast of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) would sacrifice a heifer for the sins of the whole world. It was on this day, and this day alone, that he would pronounce the unpronounceable name, the Sacred Tetragrammaton: YHWH. When the temple was destroyed and there was no longer an ark, synagogues would still retain a chair representing authority. This became known as Moses’ chair. This has two meanings: authority sees its continuity in the word “cathedra” (cathedral of a bishop and ex cathedra of the pope) meaning “chair”; and there is a special chair where the celebrant of every Mass sits. This chair is called the Presider’s chair.
- The Altar. In Ancient Judaism, there were different tables/altars for different purposes. The bronze altar was the main altar for sacrifice. It was not made of gold because bronze was stronger and would hold up against the sharp knife used in sacrifice. Although on our main altar the priest offers an unbloodied sacrifice, we still have an altar for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
- Ritual Offerings. The bronze altar was an altar of continual prayers and offerings. We, too, have an “Offertory Table.” While ours is not made of acacia wood covered in bronze, we utilize a special table on which the gifts of bread and wine are placed before being brought to the altar during the offertory procession.
- Incense. The golden altar of incense was used throughout the day as a symbolic reminder of the prayers of the people rising up to Yahweh. Today we use incense in the liturgy as a symbolic act of purification and sanctification. The smoke still symbolizes the prayers of the faithful drifting up to heaven. The use of incense adds a sense of solemnity and mystery to the Mass. The visual imagery of the smoke and the smell remind us of the transcendence of the Mass which links heaven with earth, and allows us to enter into the presence of God.
- A Water Basin. The bronze basin was also called the copper laver and was made up of the mirrors of the Hebrew women. The bronze basin would hold the holy water for ritual purification, not unlike the blessed water in our baptismal fonts and holy water fonts.
- A Sanctuary Light. The golden menorah lamp stand was originally a seven-branched candled lamp stand symbolizing the seven days of creation. The Chanukah menorah commemorates the eight days of the miracle of light found in the Book of Maccabees, and that is why it has more branches. But both menorahs were made to resemble the burning bush of Exodus, when God uniquely appeared to Moses. Jesus, the light of the world, also appears to us. We acknowledge his unique presence in the Blessed Sacrament with a Sanctuary Candle that is always lit, as long as the consecrated host is in the tabernacle.
Regina Hiney has been a catechist in the Diocese of Arlington for the last 17 years but has been teaching religious education for 22. Currently she is teaching at Saint William of York school in the diocese of Arlington. She attended Molloy College in Rockville Centre New York where she double-majored in English and Education. Regina has a Master’s Degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in medieval church history from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. She is married to Jason Hiney for 20 years and a mom to six great kids.
A cheer broke through my concentration as I sat at my desk working. I looked out the window to the yard behind my apartment. Through the trees, I saw people running. I then remembered that the Dublin marathon was on that day. I thought, how neat it was that everyone would be running right by my apartment! I grabbed my jacket and quickly ran out to watch the race.
I always thought races were only about the runners. But they’re not. There were young and old alike out on the side of the street watching the contestants huff and puff.
There was a lady clapping as they ran by. Another man shouted out encouraging words, “well done” and “keep going, lads”.
There were tables set up with water bottles for people to grab as they went by. Of course, volunteers were required to unpack six packs of bottles as quickly as they could while others held the bottles out to make it easier for the runners to grab them on the run.
Then there was the man and women who were. singing to the runners. “It’s a long way, to Tipperary. It’s a long way to go.” You could see the smiles on the faces of the runners. It was uplifting.
It dawned on me. The folks on the side of the road, are a lot like the Communion of Saints. They are encouraging us as we run the race. Some offer prayers, like the man and women who were simply cheering the runners on. Some are offering spiritual water when we need it. We need only to ask for their intercession. Others provide a consolation to uplift our soul as we experience the pain associated with the race.
Marathons are difficult. In many cases, there is great pain involved. At times, the hills seem insurmountable. But the goal is to reach the finish line. And when we do, we know we have accomplished something. But we don’t do it alone.
Even if we were not fully aware, there were many people along the way who were helping us. It’s like that in life too. As we run our race, there are those that went before us who are, in fact, cheering us on, whether or not we are aware. Let’s thank God for the Communion of Saints!
Learning about the lives of the Saints is a great way to deepen our love of God and recommit us to His service. We are reminded of how the Lord works in the lives of ordinary people, helping us to conquer sin.
These CDs are based on Cat Chat which is a Catholic Audio Show for kids ages 3-11 to help them learn and love their Faith like never before! Using prayer, great conversations, faith-filled stories, and catchy songs, each CD discusses the Catholic Faith while teaching kids powerful lessons for living out their Faith every day. Join Moses the Talking Cat, Papa, Josh, Hanna, and friends for an unforgettable experience!
In this excerpt from the book, Saints for Sinners, the incredible lives of these Saints testify to the truth of God’s transforming love in those who are willing to surrender their lives to Him. These are the stories of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Margaret of Cortona.