Ad-Venire

“At this Christmas when Christ comes,
will He find a warm heart?
Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving
the others with God’s own love and concern.”

-Mother Teresa

This evening, I had the opportunity to attend a Rorate Caeli Mass at my home parish. It is a Mass about which I know very little, but it was quite beautiful! The Mass is a votive Mass in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The entire church was lit by only candles, and some of the seminarians from my diocese were there to chant some of the Mass parts. Also, when it came to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the priest celebrated ad orientem – to the East – so that the priest was facing the same direction as the people. The Mass was indeed beautiful. Father’s homily was especially wonderful. I had never heard this priest from my parish preach, but I learned this evening that he is a great homilist. He reflected on two things as we approach Christmas throughout this Advent season. Those two things are what I would like to reflect on here.

Firstly, Father discussed the ad orientem posture of the Mass. He explained that it is an ancient posture of the Church, by which the priest and the congregation all face in the same direction. Everyone faces the East (or liturgical East) in anticipation of the coming Christ, both in the Incarnation and in the Second Coming. Therefore, it is a most appropriate posture to take during this Advent season, for we indeed anticipate the coming Christ. We look to the East as we seek to wait for the Lord. Christmas is the joyous season in which we remember when the Jesus Christ was born. The Advent seasons is a semi-penitential season in which the Church anticipates Christ’s coming at Christmas, at the Second Coming, and in our hearts. We are encouraged to utilize this season in order to prepare ourselves to bear Christ.

That leads us to the next portion of what Father discussed. God gives us a lovely and perfect exampleMary Help of Christians to follow as we seek to prepare our hearts for Christmas, for the coming of Christ: the Blessed Virgin Mary. While it is common for Protestants to neglect Marian devotion, we Catholics recognize her as a gift from God. God did not have to become man through the Blessed Virgin, but He did, and so we venerate His Mother as our own. During her pregnancy and during Christ’s childhood, the Blessed Virgin Mary had a relationship with Jesus more intimate than any other person would ever have. Having born the Christ to the world, Mary knows what it is that will make us worthy to bear Him. We must turn to Mary, to her intercession, to her love, so that we may be truly worthy and truly prepared to bear Jesus Christ within us. We must constantly turn to the Blessed Virgin, so that, as much as she is present within us, so too will Christ be present within us.

“Lovely Lady dressed in blue –
Teach me how to pray!

God was just your little boy,
Tell me what to say!

Did you lift Him up, sometimes,
Gently on your knee?
Did you sing to Him the way
Mother does to me?

Did you hold His hand at night?
Did you ever try
Telling stories of the world?
O! And did He cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things –
Little things that happen? And
Do the Angels’ wings

Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?
Does He understand me now?
Tell me – for you know.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue – 
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little boy,
And you know the way.”

-Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue

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Duc In Altum

Domine, Non Sum Dignus

“Lord, I am not worthy
that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word,
and my soul shall be healed.”

-Roman Missal

For Roman Catholics, these words should sound very familiar. Except for a few altered words, we have said these words at every Mass for our whole lives. The Church calls for a “full and active participation by all the people [as] the aim to be considered before all else” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 14). Full and active participation means saying the words, doing the actions, praying the prayers, and meaning what we say, do, and pray. No, that’s not always easy, but we are called to constantly make that effort for full and active participation. What’s the point if we are not going to devote every fiber of our being to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? The Eucharist is called the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). [The normal language we hear is ‘source and summit,’ but, in the original document, ‘fount and apex’ was used, and I like the sound of that better.] The Eucharist is that from which the Christian life flows and that which it seeks. Does it not deserve our entire selves?

So once again I say: we have heard and said basically these words for most of our lives. HortonHow often have we actually stepped back to actually think about what we are saying? We are standing before the Lord, the God of the Universe, celebrating the earthly liturgy that reflects that heavenly liturgy. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe we should mean what we say. God knows the very depths of our souls. He knows when we tell the truth and when we lie. He knows how much we invest of ourselves into what we do. So should we not give a little thought to what we say and do? Even more so, should we not give a little (or a lot) more thought to what we say and do to God? It seems to me that the obvious answer would indeed be ‘YES!’

How much do you give thought to the words we say at Mass, or the words you say in prayer? I don’t intend to make any sort of judgment about you, but think about it: you can be your own judge, for only you (and God) know what you think in your prayer. Sometimes we can seem to lie to ourselves when we make our prayers to God. We convince ourselves that we can lie to God. Like I said above, He knows man’s heart – ‘the innermost or central part of anything.’ There’s nothing about us that God does not know. He created us, for crying out loud! We can lie to ourselves as much as we want, but that won’t have any effect on the Creator of Heaven and Earth. With that in mind, it seems like one should have a desire to reject any tendency to lie to oneself. In the grand scheme of things, we’re doing nothing but harming ourselves and our relationship with the One for which we were created.

That is something that we should indeed desire to keep in mind as we go forward to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi tomorrow. We celebrate the Body of Christ. That term does indeed refer to several things, including the Church and the Blessed Sacrament. On tomorrow’s Solemnity, the Church seeks to specifically call to mind the importance of the Eucharist in her life and mission. Now, the Mass is indeed important. I repeat, it is IMPORTANT! I still don’t think that adequately states the importance of the Mass. Christians through the centuries have spoken on the centrality and importance of the Mass, coming up with far better words than I ever could:

St. John Chrysostom: “When the Eucharist is being celebrated, the sanctuary is filled with countless angels who adore the divine victim immolated on the altar.”

St. John Vianney: “If we really understood the Mass, we would die of joy.”

St. Thomas Aquinas: “The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.”

So many more saints have spoken on the greatness of the Mass and the immensity of the implications of this prayer of the Church. With that in mind, shouldn’t it strike us even more necessary to believe every word we speak within the context of the Mass???

The above were all thoughts that everyone should keep in mind. The following is a matter of my own personal preference that I would like to present for consideration.

When I say the words ‘Lord I am not worthy,’ I can’t help but take those to heart. We are about to receive the God of the Universe into our bodies. An intimate connection that is merely a foretaste of the heavenly communion we look forward to experiencing. We are sinful human beings. We could not deserve Christ’s gift of His Body,St. Pio Receiving Communion but He desires to give it to us anyway. Christ’s gracious gift calls for a humble reaction. What are my hands that they should be able to place the Eucharist upon my tongue? The priest is said to be In persona Christi. By allowing the priest himself to place the host on our tongue, we are allowing Christ to feed us Himself with Himself. I don’t want to claim to have the ability to grant myself that Gift. Why do we kneel in prayer? It’s a sign of humility, a sign of our smallness, a sign of our recognition of the One greater than us. That is why I kneel to receive the Eucharist on my tongue. I don’t have any desire to be noticed or to give off the holier-than-thou impression. (I actually hate when I get attention, especially for receiving communion.) I desire to be as humble in my reception of Christ’s Body as I know how. It was the tradition for centuries to receive on the tongue whilst kneeling. I don’t expect everyone to revert back to that, but I do desire for everyone to consciously think about that which they are receiving in the Most Blessed Sacrament.

‘O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.’

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, I encourage you to step back and reflect on how you approach the Blessed Sacrament. The Lord humbled Himself to die on a Cross and grant the Church His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to receive. I call you on to think about your reception of that Gift. Maybe you think you should receive on the knees. Maybe you think you should begin receiving on the tongue. Or maybe you think you should just be more conscious about how you receive the Lord into your body. Whatever it is, I encourage you to seek to receive the Eucharist more humbly, more thankfully, and more consciously.

““Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated,
I put before you the one great thing to love on earth:
the Blessed Sacrament. . . .
There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity,
and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien

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Duc In Altum