Category Archives: Liturgy

Power of the Apostles

I cried this weekend.

I wasn’t bawling or anything, I just got really teary eyed, and couldn’t help myself.  I was just too affected.

This weekend, we had a Mass for a congregation of sisters. It was their 100th year Jubilee, and so was a very big deal. It was amazing to see so many women who have given up their lives to serve Christ, and Him alone. It was truly an awesome experience. To be honest though, I am a sensual being, and while I was intellectually touched by their service and commitment, their lack of habits did not pull at my heart strings.

I’m not saying I don’t honor and respect them, I do, and very much so. I’m just saying that fifty or sixty sisters in normal clothing honestly just look like the rest of the congregation, and so it did not have an emotional impact on me. In that way, it just felt normal. Had they been in habits that made their vows obvious to me, I might have felt differently, I’m not sure. I spent most of the time trying to figure out who was a sister, and who was not. I felt rather silly about it to be honest.

This was a big celebration however, and so our bishop took it upon himself to drive the five hours to our parish to preside.

Dangit, I cry every time the bishop comes. I’ve started remembering to bring a handkerchief.

It’s not so much that our bishop is a swell guy, though he is. It’s not because he holds a similar ideology to me either, which he does. I am the same way any time I get to go to an episcopal Mass, I just can’t help it. It’s not the man that so deeply effects me, it is his office.

The power of the apostles overwhelms me. When I stand in a Mass where the bishop is presiding, I feel so deeply connected that I cannot bear it. I cannot help but see the unbroken chain back to Christ Himself. As he proceeds into the sanctuary, crosier in hand, I can feel his shepherding power. As he blesses the altar, that connection is so tight in my mind, that it is simply overwhelming for me.

I know I should feel this way at every Eucharist, and I know that the fact that I don’t means I have work to do on my faith. But for now, I am content to stand next to my apostle. I admit it, I’m a cheesy guy. But I’m not alone.

“In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a Church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him” (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Trallians 3:1-2 [A. D. 110])

Bad Pews

My church is simply amazing to behold. In a world full of parish churches that often look like sporting arenas or conference centers, I have the good fortune to spend my worship time in one of the single most beautiful churches I have ever seen. It is a monument to the Victorian style, built in the 1800’s, with all the gingerbread and classical amenities that you could wish for. Beautiful marblesque altar, vaulted ceilings, hand painted walls, an unbelievable rederos behind the altar, and massive gold candlesticks adorn this lovely, wooden building. It has been taken care of for generations, and the time and effort that goes into maintaining such a beauty is self evident.

Except for comfortable seating. Our pews sure do look nice, but when it comes to having to sit in them, I would prefer to sit on a bundle of firewood.

I’m not exaggerating, I really would rather sit on a bundle of firewood. They are just the wrong height, so shallow that my entire tush doesn’t fit, and the angle of the pew hits a nerve in my leg that makes my legs bounce up and down uncontrollably.

Pews are of course a rather new phenomenon, an invention that we took from the protestants, and made our own. If you have ever been to one of the older cathedrals in Europe, then you will remember how dinky and out of place the pews seemed, and you would be right. They were added much later as pews become the norm. For a thousand years and more, we would simply stand in a group, milling about. Kids would weave between family and friends, people who knew each other would naturally congregate together, young children would be lifted up so they could see. Elderly folks might bring a stool.

Needless to say, our orderly plod of pews emptying one by one for communion was unheard of, folks would just walk up and kneel at the communion rail, and the priest would weave back and forth distributing the Eucharist. When you had received, you would move away to let someone else in the crowd take your place. (I think my parish would riot if just one person was out of order, this situation would inspire madness to my entire congregation!)

I’m not necessarily advocating a return to this practice, but in honesty, I would prefer it to having sit in our pews. They are just that bad. I would put up with having to kneel on stone, it would be worth it. When First Communion or Confirmation comes around, I cringe knowing that I will have to sit in them longer than normal. This is such a shame, as these are always my favorite Masses.

I think this is one of the reasons why I love to volunteer in our liturgies. When I am reading or assisting the priest as an extraordinary minister, that is one moment less that I must endure the torture. You might think I’m just being silly, but seriously, many people bring themselves a pad to sit on.

So for all you folks with comfortable pews and padded seats, know that I am seething with jealousy, just praying that one day we too might obtain the elusive “comfy chairs”. Lean back and enjoy the feeling of the cushions on your back and really appreciate them. Remember that there are less fortunate people in the world then yourselves, and be thankful for the gift you have received.

As for me, I guess I’ll just have to offer it up.

Praeconium

This is the night.

There are so many things I would love to share about this most beautiful night, but as a man aspiring to the deaconate, there is something so special this night that I fell odd talking about anything else.
The Praeonium, or Exultet is the most beautiful song that has ever been sung, and it is sung by the deacon.
This great hymn reaches across time and space, and touches everything that is beautiful about our faith, our relationships with one another, our common heritage as human beings and about the purpose and destiny of our lives.
The Easter Praises have such depth that I could never begin to express how much they mean to me. This song is the very center of why I feel called to be a deacon. If you would like to know more, please read
It’s long, but oh so beautiful.
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lighting of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.
Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty,
that he who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises.
V/: The Lord be with you.
R/: And with your spirit.
V/: Lift up your hearts.
R/: We lift them up to the Lord.
V/: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
R/: It is right and just.
It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart,
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.
Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and pouring out his own dear Blood
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.
These then are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.
This is the night, when once you led our forebears,
Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.
This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin.
This is the night that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices and from the gloom of sin,
lending them to grace, and joining them to his holy ones.
This is the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death,
and rose victorious from the underworld.
Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night, worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!
This is the night of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.
The sanctifying power of this night dispels all wickedness,
washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious.
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son,
who coming back from death’s domain
has shed his peaceful light on humanity
and lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

Adoration of the Cross

Good Friday is a tough day to live through. On one hand, it is a celebration of what Christ did for us, but on the other hand, what he had to endure was so traumatic, that celebration just doesn’t seem the right thing to do at all.

So we starve ourselves to help unify with His suffering if even just a little while the somberness of the cross brings us to a deep sense of melancholy. Yet it was this moment that defines us, not the resurrection.

This is easy to miss. The resurrection is not the prime moment, it is the proof that the prime moment was the real thing. It is because Jesus rose that we know that the cross was the real deal, and it is the proof that our sufferings will end in our own resurrection.

So today we adore the cross. We hold it up on high as we walk through our Lord’s passion. There is no Mass, because we have no Christ. How can a priest act In Persona Christi if our Lord is not there? Today it almost feels odd for the priest to even preside at the service, I almost feel it would be deeper to see him sitting in the pews with us, the power given to him by Christ stripped bare for the day, as Christ was stripped bare. (Don’t get any crazy ideas, the new rubrics demand that the priest preside at this service!)

Today we adore the cross.

I wanted to share a thought. We, as human beings, are enveloped in time. We live and breathe time like a fish breathes water. We simply cannot even imagine timelessness. When we think of eternal life, we tend to think in infinite life, a life that goes on forever. That is simply not so. Time is an invention of God’s for our benefit, it is not part of the true nature of reality. Eternity is being all places at once, not a stream of consciousness that reaches into infinity.

I know, it’s a little out there, but there is one aspect to this reality that is really important today. When God looks at the world, he does not see yesterday as separate from today. He sees them both at the same “time”. So from an eternal perspective, He sees you and I going about our lives and at the same time He sees Christ hanging on a tree in the desert.

The wood of the cross we hold up is not just a symbol. It is in a very real sense, truly the wood of the cross that Christ is hanging on in the eternal now of God. It may not be made of the same kind of wood, and it may not have the stains of His Blood, but His cross reaches out through eternity, and touches us where we stand.

“Behold, behold, the wood of the cross, on which is hung our salvation.
Oh come let us adore.”

This is why Christ was able to suffer for all, because as God He is here in all times and all places. He truly took the sin you committed yesterday and held them on the cross. He was and is there. The immensity of this act simply staggers the mind.

As you come up today to kiss, touch, or fall to your knees before His cross, know that He is hanging there now, looking down upon you. If you cannot make it too a service today, when you get home, I want you to pull that crucifix off the wall, and look closely at His wounds and thank Him for each one.

“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by you holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Finally Lent is Over!

Well, it will be tonight anyways.

First things first, yesterday I talked about what I feel is an abuse. I want you to put that out of your head. Forget about it. Don’t let it mess with one of the most beautiful Masses of the year!

Tonight is Holy Thursday, and only the Eater Vigil can rival it in sheer mass of content. I am flat out amazed at how much happen in this one single, regular length Mass.

Let’s dive right in.

Holy Thursday has two main themes, first, the Last Supper, and second, Christ in the garden of Gethsemene.

The Lord’s Supper, the first Mass was a jam packed night. The night was already Holy. This was the Passover, the great feast of the Jewish people, that night which every man, woman, and child renewed the memory of their freedom from slavery. This was the night they relived the sacrifice of unblemished lambs that ransomed them from death. This night did not happen in a vacuum.

Christ knew the time had finally been fulfilled, and all that His life had worked towards was finally being set in motion. He himself had sent off Judas. He knew His time was running out, and he had to finish what He had come for. He must have felt rushed, and yet, time must have slowed to a standstill as he tried to take in every last moment with those who were his friends.

It could not just be a walk down memory lane though. Jesus had work to do, and he did not waste any time. He knew he could not leave us alone. So He gave us Himself that night. Before he was even hanging on the cross, His Blood was already in the Cup. He could feel His own body breaking as He broke the bread that had become Himself. What pain He must have felt, what anguish.

I have no doubt that the apostles had no idea what was going on. Here is Christ, already suffering, already broken, already giving Himself, and already those who loved Him did not recognize Him. It truly humbles me. I must admit, there are times when I do not receive Him with full attention. Times when I let my daily cares distract me from my Savior that has come to me in bread and wine. This night reminds me that I am not alone in this.

He could not leave us alone, so this night He gave the most humble gift anyone has ever given. He gave to His apostles power over Himself. This night, He created a new priesthood, wrapped in service. To show what service was truly like, he gave our predecessors two examples. First, He took the form of a slave (not a servant, a slave) and washed their feet. With this act He showed even greater humility by putting power over Himself in the hands of men who had the stain of original sin. They could now call Him down at will, changing bread and wine into His very Body and Blood.

These men, these lowly, foolish, arrogant, normal men now had the power to bring God Himself out of the high heavens. This humility is completely unthinkable. I am awed that in the time of His greatest duress, this is what Christ was capable of.

Tonight we will ring the bells with all our might in thanksgiving for this gift, but alas, all too soon they go quiet.

After Christ had given His greatest gift, fully spent, we relive His anguish. He gave everything He had, down to the last drop, and all we could do was yawn and fall asleep. Several times he asked us that we just stand with Him, just be with Him in His terror, and we were bored.

As you leave Mass tonight, you will leave in silence. You may be able to stay with Him a few hours in adoration, but sooner or later you will go home and go to bed. You have a big day tomorrow, after all. So do I.

As you fall asleep tonight, remember, we have not changed much in the last 2000 years. We still sleep, while He sweats blood.