Evensong at Westminster Abbey

Written from the Priory of the Holy Spirit, Blackfriars, Oxford

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The Elizabeth Tower & the Abbey

IMG_20140327_163051While in London, I had attended Evensong at Westminster Abbey.  Evensong is basically the Church of England’s equivalent to our Vespers.  It is composed of sung psalms, longer readings from scripture, intercessory prayers and the sung Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis.  It really confused me the first time I partook of Evensong a few years prior—I had thought that I was doing Vespers and Compline at the same time. But we’re not.  It’s Evensong.

Anyhow, the Abbey is open from 9:30am till 4:30 more or less for tourists, then they clean up, and reopen at 4:45 to allow worshippers to come in for evening services.   When you go into the Abbey during the day, you have to pay the better part of 35 USD to get inside.  However, if come for Evensong, it’s free.

I didn’t intend to go inside Westminster Abbey at all.  It is irksome to me to pay to see the inside of a church.  It’s the principle of it all.  However, I was in the area at 4:45 that day, so I had decided to pray with my Anglican brethren.  It’s the ecumenical thing to do.

One of the vergers, in a red, flowing cloak, greeted me with about twenty other visitors.

“Can I see inside?”

“What for?”

“I wanna see.”

“No—so sorry, just for services.”

“Oh, but—“

“Your business please?”

“Evensong, if you don’t mind.”

“Step right through, sir.”

(I usually mind being called “sir,” but for some reason, the British accent made up for the annoyance.)

I had joined the river of humanity, filing into the abbey to prayers. Unlike them, these had planned to partake in Evensong.  I went because I was a Tube stop away.  …I’m such a utilitarian….

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Photo: A service inside Westminster Abbey in London, National Geographic

The interior of the Abbey is as beautiful as the legends state.  Vaulting ceiling.  Marble everywhere.  A presentable icon of the Blessed Mother on one side, and a striking image of Our Lord on the other, both littered with candles.  Once inside, I lit one candle for the intentions of our parish.  Larger than life statues of men, women, angels, cherubs.  Statues of people laying with their hands held up in prayer, others laying as though at a Greek symposium.  Marble busts.

 

I scanned the dates of these memorials of people long dead.  1548.  1612.  1747.  Men and women that I do not know, but nonetheless remembered forever in the grounds of this hallowed abbey.  Their names literally inscribed in the stonework of this Church.

I rounded a corner with the rest of the river of visitors, and found the quire, where the choir stalls stood, and a few hundred folding chairs in rows on either side.  To my right was the quire, to the left, the high altar.  Atop each folded chair lay a worship aid.

A verger showed us our row in which to sit.  I squeezed inside and looked at my neighbors.  One man was hushed by a member of the abbey for taking out his camera.  Some others looked around in distain.  Others looked up and around as though lost.  There was a boy that squirmed, attempting to take everything in—it looked like he were attempting to swim midair.

…and then it occurred to me.  How many people are here because they actually want to pray to God?  And how many are here because they didn’t want to pay the pounds to get inside?

Not to be proud, I was here because I needed to fulfill my religious obligations—I needed to say Evening Prayer, and I didn’t want to say it alone.

But I looked around and I wondered about my fellow visitors.  Why are you here?  Are you cheap (like me) and didn’t want to pay the price?  Or are you overbudgeted yet religious (like me) and are eager to see this abbey working like a praying building?

There are times when I wish that St. Dominic’s was better located.  How many times have friends complained that our parish is not near a BART stop.  Or we aren’t close to the water.  Near a Caltrain station.  It’s great that we are so close to the 22 and 38, but still, complainers complain complainingly.

But I digress.  Evensong lifted me up.  Despite the cramped sitting spaces and the endless restlessness of children—and not the mention my own fatigue—I found myself refreshed and enlivened by the chanting of David’s Psalms.  The boys choir would make the heartless believe in God again.  Soaring voices and eager praise.  The precision of the liturgical ministers.  The exactness of speech.  What many would call stiff-lipped, I found quite elegant.

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Credit: Westminster Abbey

After Evensong, the vergers escorted us out like cattle.  I snuck out of line, taking some time to notice the choir stalls, the piercing sapphire blue against the dark, blackish wood.  I saw individual lamps stationed at each choir stall.  After I had stepped over the remains of Sir Isaac Newton—sorry about that—I found myself by a statue of a man I knew not.

I found myself watching my fellow travelers as they left the Abbey.  Most looking ahead, waiting to get out, others soaking in the tombs and inscriptions.  The vergers were polite, yet their faces were eager.  They too just ended their day, and were ready for the next thing.

So I bade farewell to the Abbey.  Most likely, the last time I will be inside.  I prayed for the dead—the Dominican thing to do—and made my way into the elements.

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The beauty of St. Dominic’s is that the visitors to the holy chamber may very well have purer intentions than other churches of better real estate. In other words, you have to make a trip to get there.  You have to find the parish.  Purposed or not, we don’t advertise our parish’s radiance.  Our distance from the BART and Caltrain easily deters tourists. People who come to St. Dominic’s are not merely visitors.  Many are pilgrims.

The Priory Church of St. Dominic will, most likely, never rank to the level of Westminster Abbey.  We don’t have to.  We can be who we are, and be a light to our City in our own Dominican way.

Come, pilgrim, be refreshed by the cool waters of baptism, and allow the blood of the Lamb fill you up and bring you home rejoicing.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner – April 27, 2014

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:19-20)
This second Sunday of Easter we celebrate the feast of the Divine Mercy. This year it is a particularly special day for us Catholics as Pope Francis canonizes two of his predecessors, Sts. Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.  Early reports indicate that the festivities in Rome will bring record numbers of pilgrims to the Eternal City.  Some estimate that this will be the largest gathering of Christians in one place ever!  In commemoration of these historic canonizations, this week I will reflect on Pope John Paul II’s legacy with regard to today’s feast, and later this month, I will consider the legacy of Pope John XXIII in light of the Easter season.

Since preaching and teaching the great mercy of God was one of his favorite and foundational themes, Pope John Paul II has been called the “Divine Mercy Pope.”  In Christ’s revelations to the Polish mystic and nun, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II discovered the great motto which is at the heart of the gospel: “Jesus I Trust in You.”  In his encyclical specifically written on God’s mercy, he reveals the power and personal affection for this devotion: “The Message of divine mercy has always been near and dear to me…one which I took with me to the See of Peter and which it in a sense forms the image of this Pontificate.”   In his writings and homilies, he describes God’s mercy as “the answer to the world’s problems;” for when we entrust our cares, anxieties and sorrow to the divine mercy, trust is formed.  We are familiar with the famous first words of the Pope John Paul II as he echoed Christ’s greeting to the apostles: “Do not be afraid.”  Yet fear is not easily overcome, for the forces of fear in our live can be plentiful.  We fear the loss of loved ones, the loss of employment, the loss of security and admiration.  Such fears can paralyze.  In the face of such fears, Pope John Paul II reminds us “…mercy is Christ’s great response to fear.”  He is a God who forgives and when we experience his mercy, trust grows in our heart.   It is trust which extinguishes the fires of fear.  The generosity of God’s mercy gives us the confidence to overcome our fear and trust in Him.

On 3 April 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified and canonized Sr. Faustina Kowalska in Rome, and not in her native Poland, to underscore that Divine Mercy is for the whole world.  Moreover, he took the occasion to surprise the Catholic world by establishing Divine Mercy Sunday (the feast day we celebrate today) as a feast day for the entire Church.  At the end of his homily, he delightful remarked, “This is the happiest day of my life.”  Providentially, Pope John Paul II died on the Vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday (the evening before the feast day), five years after inaugurating this feast of mercy.  It is not surprising that, before he died, the Great Mercy Pope left us a message for Divine Mercy Sunday, which was read after the Mass that had been celebrated for the repose of his soul:  “There is nothing more man needs than Divine Mercy – that love which is benevolent, which is compassionate, which raises man above his weakness to the infinite heights to the holiness of God. Those who sincerely say ‘Jesus, I trust in You’ will find comfort in all their anxieties and fears.”  In this Easter season, let us call down the full abundance of Lord’s mercy on ourselves, our families and our community that we might always trust in his care and providence.

Yet another lesson in Divine Providence

In late March, I was in London and Oxford for about nine days.  Everyone that knew that I went ask how the trip was.  Some ask me where my British accent went.  Other ask the more important question of why did I leave Hogwarts in the first place.

And believe you me, the trip overflowed with wonderment and grace.  An amazing trip. But it wasn’t amazing the entire time.

In fact, it started horribly.

The flight went very smoothly.  I flew out of San Francisco, direct to Heathrow airport.  However, getting from the airport to the London Priory?  Not as smooth.

10703-640x360-oyster12ns After I went to the cellular phone company to take care of my mobile needs (which blew my budget, believe me) I got myself an Oyster card for my transportation needs throughout the Capitol.  I took out a printed email from the Guestmaster at St. Dominic’s Priory in London and read the directions.

 

Now, you can ask me, “Why didn’t the brothers pick you up?”  There is a funny stigma Californians have against public transportation.  There are some that are ashamed or hesitate when they admit that they do not have a car.  There is a presupposition that you are a not real Californian if you do not have you own set of wheels.  In London, and perhaps in all of the United Kingdom, public transportation is the way to go.  Efficient, very clear to understand, and timely.

“But why didn’t the brothers pick you up?” you ask.  It’s a busy house.  A really busy house.  Besides, I wanted the adventure of wanting to figure out the Tube on my own.

Mistake #1.

Now, honestly, my challenge of traveling to the Priory was really my fault, not looking closely at the maps and assuming that knowing how to read English was enough to get by.  And I did know that I was going to be fatigued.  I knew that I was going to be overwhelmed and overstimulated.  And I knew that I only had three hours of sleep on the plane.

Anyhow, as God has ordained it, the London Priory sits on one of the more complicated lines of the London Tube.  After I had made it to King’s Cross (and resisting a short trip to The Harry Potter Shop, also known as Platform 9 ¾), I look for the Northern Line, which will take me to the closest stop to the Priory.   However, the Northern Line splits at Camden Town.  And of course…I take the wrong split.

Mistake #2.

Haverstock Hill, Camden Town, Greater London, NW3 2, UKSo I loop around and finally make it to Belsize Park.  I take out my trusty email again and look up the walking directions.  I pull out my phone, find myself annoyed that the GPS isn’t working perfectly, and start walking.

Mistake #3.

What I should have done is prayed.  What I should have done is ask directions (I know, I am such a guy). What I should have done is go to Platform 9 ¾.  What I should have done was get a taxi.

I really should have taken a taxi.

Mistake #4.

So I walk around Hampstead Heath for the better part of an hour.  The sun is setting.  I’m living off of 3 and a half hours of sleep.  I’m hungry. I’m dehydrated.  I’m lugging around my suitcase and cursing at myself.

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I ask the natives how to get to my Priory.  One person was also visiting, another hadn’t known, and another looks towards my general direction with a glassy expression on his face and completely, yet politely, ignores me.

Then it occurs to me.  I haven’t said Evening Prayer.  I haven’t been praying.  The Person that got me here on this crazy adventure to London—and I don’t even ask Him for help.

While walking down the main road, I start to pray.  Okay Lord, I say, where is the street?  Tell me where to go.  Show me a way.  The way.  Whatever way.  Get me to my house, in the name of your Son.

You know what happens right?  I mean, because it’s happened to us all.  I know that you know what had happened next.  You ready for the answer?  Really?

Exactly.  Found the correct street.  Bingo.  Right there.  As though it were a riddled with glowsticks.  And naturally, I didn’t see it till that exact moment.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  And be annoyed with myself.  Why didn’t I pray earlier?

Within 10 minutes, I’m inside the house, shown my room, and told that, if I would like, I can pray Vespers with the brethren, have Mass, and have dinner.

Within 10 minutes.

It still causes me to shake my head in shock.

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St Dominic’s Priory Church, London

So really, mistake #1 was that I didn’t pray before I left the airport that God would lead me to the house directly. Mistake #2 was that I didn’t pray before I got onto the Tube, asking me to show me the best route.  Mistake #3 was that I didn’t pray that I find the house quickly.  Mistake #4 was that I didn’t pray and discern whether or not I should have taken that blasted taxi.

And mistake #5 is that I forgot to pray.  Period.

The funny thing with the Father is that He is willing to do anything and everything for us.  And He is, of course, able to do anything and everything.  He can bring on the rain.  He can bring on the inspiration to help you pass a test.  He can bring the great news from home, the right answer to the complicated question, anything we want.

But we rarely ask for it.

We are so stubborn that we would rather walk around northern London for an hour rather than ask for God’s help.  We would rather do things our way because we think that it is the safest route. We would rather do it our way because, if we did anything God’s way, we would be forced to change and change terrifies us.

Yet when we do ask for God’s providential help, funny thing tends to happen.  Odd, roundabout opportunities emerge.  Connections are made.  Unpredictable adventures commence.  You find your outlet street in front of you.

Once again, at the beginning of my trip to London, I found out little I pray and, just as importantly, how much I need to.  And consequently, throughout the trip, I did a lot of praying—on the tube, on the bus, before and after meals, at the museums.  God and I talked a lot over the course of the trip…mostly because I was traveling alone, and frankly, there was not any others to talk with.

But the ultimate travel buddy is always next to us, waiting for us to ask for directions.  The thing is,  we rarely do.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

The Catholic Guy Show from Sirius XM Radio here at St. Dominic’s

So here’s the deal.  I’ve been in London for about two days, and I get a random message on my Facebook wall – “Contact me ASAP.” It was from Seminarian Michael Lilliedahl, a parishioner of St Dominic’s.  So after a Facebook message conversation–he was in class and I was atop of red double decker bus, overlooking London at night (I have such an odd life)–we pull off something that I thought improbable.

On April 9th and 10th, Lino Rulli, from “The Catholic Guy Show” on the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, broadcasted live from your favorite Dominican Parish.  Michael, who helped engineer the guys’ visit, was asked to offer a quick reflection on the event. 

Thanks for coming, Lino and Fr. Rob!

 

Michael writes:

Sitting in my seminary class a few weeks ago with my laptop open taking notes a pop up alert showed up on the upper right corner of my screen.  “Lino Rulli has sent you a DM on Twitter”.  Hmmm…that can’t really be I thought.  Lino Rulli is the host of The Catholic Guy Show on Sirius XM’s Catholic Channel and somebody I had been listening to for a few years.  “Hey Mike, I’m bringing the show to SF soon and wanted to run an idea by you.  Email me.”

Live recording of "The Catholic Guy Show" with Lino Rulli, center, with Fr Rob, right, and Michael, left.

Live recording of “The Catholic Guy Show” with Lino Rulli, center, with Fr Rob, right, and Michael, left.

 Simple enough.  I emailed him back and soon found out that he was looking for a place to broadcast his international show from while in San Francisco.  My first thought went immediately to St. Dominic’s and after a few emails Fr. Hurley, graciously agreed.  So, last Wednesday and Thursday Lino and his co-host, Fr. Rob Keighron of the Diocese of Brooklyn, set up their travelling radio studio in the Aquinas Room and broadcast from St. Dominic’s parish to the world.  And two people got to go on the air with them-  DRE Michael Smith and myself.

After the April 9 recording

After the April 9 recording

I certainly can’t speak for Michael and his experience, but the nerves I had when I got called up to put on the headset and speak into the mic knowing that possibly thousands and tens of thousands of people were listening were hard to contain.  Speaking out trying to live out my vocation went by very quickly and before I knew it the show was over and I was helping them take apart their set up.  But St. Dominic’s was given a few shout outs and if you listened you hopefully learned a very valuable lesson-  “Beer is not meat”.

…of Easter Eggs and Bunnies – Monday of the Octave of Easter

credit: mattymfiction.wordpress.com

credit: mattymfiction.wordpress.com

Our culture is once more letting its Christianity show when Safeway puts Easter Eggs and chocolate Easter Bunnies on sale. For a very simple reason, Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies are a wonderful and profound Easter Symbol—if we allow it to be.

Ponder the egg.  Life potential.  The symbol of a new life being born.

Now ponder the bunny.  Perhaps the most fertile mammal on the planet.

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Noli me Tangere by Fra Angelico, OP

The egg and the bunny are symbols of new life—new life in Christ. A new life that has been given to us.  In looking at these symbols, we are reminded of the life that we have when we were baptized.  Moreover, we are reminded of the new life that we are to live by the very partaking of Eucharist.

New Life.

The Resurrection of Jesus has given us a new life, and the eggs and bunnies remind us of the life we are to live.

May the fruit of the Easter Octave inspire you, and bring you closer to He Who Calls.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Our Pastor’s Corner, April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord

Hurley_Easter_finalA sheath of sound shatters the silence: Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation! Huddled together with tapers lit, we delight in the Easter proclamation, the Exsultet, as it announces the mystery of our salvation. Uniquely chanted at the Easter Vigil, this great hymn lifts our minds and hearts to rejoice in Christ’s triumph over sin and death. Resurrection is astonishing. Easter begins with the Exsultet so that we might once again share the joyful surprise of the first disciples. Joy is the first fruit of Easter amazement.

I recently came across the Annual Gallup Poll report that surveys a wide swath of folks about daily life. One of the results which made me take notice was the response to the question: Do you find joy and satisfaction in your daily work? The result: only about 30% of people answered in the affirmative. Of the other 70%, some say that they are extremely unhappy in their life’s work, but most are simply indifferent, and “not actively engaged” in the work they do. These numbers made me reflect: Where do I find joy in my life? Certainly our first instincts reflected by our culture drive us to seek joy in pleasure, money, success and recognition. But deep down we know that these joys are fleeting. Real joy is precious, if not elusive, because it is not simply a feeling, but rather a delight in connecting with the One who created us and who knows what satisfies our deepest desires.

Pope Francis begins his most recent Apostolic Letter: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” This is the promise of Easter. Christ’s Resurrection is not simply the historical belief that Christ rose from the dead, but that we, too, will share in the life he now has. Easter proclaims that we have a future, and this proclamation is the source of our joy. In fact, Jesus summarizes his preaching and mission in terms of joy, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

If the Gallup Poll results show us that our lives are often full of burden and sorrow, the promise of Easter is joy. The JOYS of Easter is the recognition that Jesus Overcomes Your Sorrow. This is the good news which we need to hear, for sorrow slips into the fabric of our lives, sometimes even unawares. Consider the many daily sources of sorrow: difficulty forgiving, fearing the future, being stuck in a rut of selfish routine, the criticism of judgment and resentment, or the disappointment of failed hopes. Our life can be awash in silent and significant sorrows.

Christ’s Resurrection pierces the depths of these sorrows. It offers us the new life of Christ alive in our hearts. It is the invitation of a second chance at a fresh start. This does not mean that our lives are suddenly free from worry and fear. The JOYS of Easter encourage us to discover the wonder and blessings of the God who even in this moment loves you into existence.

I invite you this Easter season to renew your relationship with the Risen Lord. Be mindful of his presence, open your heart to his inspiration, and share the joys of his blessings with others. We all know well that the impressive crowds that pack our Easter Masses dwindle in the coming Sundays. If you’re among that Easter crowd, that’s ok. But know that you are welcome every Sunday. In fact, I guarantee that if you begin coming to Mass on a regular basis, you’ll begin to experience life in a more vibrant and spiritual way. When you embrace and begin to live your faith, you will know the joy of the Lord in your life. Too often, our faith is simply an idea and thus the joys of life are thin and meager. Though Easter begins with a blast of rejoicing, it will quickly fade to silence unless Christ’s joy fills our hearts. Living our faith awakens us to the joy of life.

Today we rejoice in Christ’s victory. Today we hear the glad refrain, “Christ is Risen.” And we respond, “Truly, He is Risen.” May His Resurrection be your joy. On behalf of the Dominicans brothers and staff at St Dominic’s, Happy Easter!

~Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.

 

Easter Vigil – A Preview

Let’s talk about fire.

flames backgroundAt the very beginning of the Easter Vigil, we witness the blessing the Easter Fire.  Jesus is dead.  The Light of the World had been extinguished.  Yet, at the beginning of our liturgy, we see the blessing of the new light, and the lighting of the new candle.  And the fire of this candle is spread throughout the congregation (except the catechumens in most cases), so that we are able to symbolize Christ’s light shining within us.

The blessing of the candle is beautiful.   As Fr. Michael blesses the candle, he inserts the incense pins into the five wounds of Christ, in the form of a cross, praying:

Christ yesterday and today
the Beginning and the End
Alpha and Omega
all time belongs to him
and all the ages
to him be glory and power
through every age for ever.
Amen.

Once the Paschal Candle is lit, the light is given to the congregation, and slowly, the Light of Christ spreads throughout the world, so that the words of the Exultet ring true,

fire “Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.”

What is most dramatic and solemn is when the deacon holds the candle in front of the darkened Church and we hear the words, “Light of Christ”.  We see nothing but a darkened tomb behind him, yet here is this tall, white, decorated candle that is almost blinding in comparison.

When you come this evening, look around you as your find your seat.  See how the light and the light of your neighbors illuminate the inside of the Church.  …it’s a pretty cool effect.

We are called to be this very same light in our very same world.  We rely on the light that had been given to us—through Christ, our Pasch—and the light given off by our neighbors, in order to illuminate our darkened world. We cannot be the light without Christ, and we cannot be the light without our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We need each other, we have been given to each other, in order to keep our light burning brightly.  May the light we hold in our hands this evening be a sorry symbol for the saintly light that we are called to be.

See you tonight.

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!

Good Friday Service – A Preview

Good-Friday-Wallpaper-04The beginning of the Good Friday service is a humble one.  The presider and his assistants process to the Church, and prostrates in front of a bare altar.

Such humility.

As a liturgical act, the prostration is a rare and powerful one.  In my experience, it is used only four times in the Church’s life, and in all four instances, it means the same exact thing.  It is used when a person receives the habit of the Dominican Order, when a person professes their vows to the Dominican Order, when man is ordained (to the diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate), and most commonly, today.

130329132956-pope-good-friday-01-horizontal-galleryIn all four instances, the prostration symbolizes the same thing: self-denial.  I lay my will at the foot of the altar in order to obey the will of the One Who Calls.

When you attend the Good Friday service, the prostration is not only for the presider and his assistants.  By no means.  The prostration is done in the name and person of the entire congregation.  Through the instrumentality of the presider, the entire congregation prostrates.  We are all invited to lay our lives at the foot of the altar in order to obey the will of the One Who Calls.

The question is if we have ever truly prostrated in front of the altar.  Do we really die to self and live for Him?  Do we dare the Anointed One to die for us and be born in our hearts, minds and soul?  Do we throw our lives away and answer the One Who Calls?

Mass of the Lord’s Supper – A Preview

TheTriduumToday begins the Great Paschal Triduum.  At sunset, the great mystery of our redemption begins.  The reason the Word of God incarnated into a human being comes to fruition comes to us this very night.

The Paschal Triduum is one liturgical event. What the congregation will witness and partake between tonight, tomorrow (afternoon or) night, all through Saturday is one liturgical event.

11_04_16_passionOn Thursday evening, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins with the Sign of the Cross, and ends with adoration till a late hour, as Peter, John and James did that strange night so many years ago.  It is a night that begins with the Sign of the Cross, yet ends in silence.  Good Friday begins, in silence, with the prostration, and ends with the silence of venerating the cross of our redemption.  The Easter Vigil begins with the crackling of fire with the Fire of the New Light of Christ, and ends with the Sign of the Cross.  Like any other Mass throughout the year, it begins and ends with the Sign of the Cross.  The Paschal Triduum is one liturgical event.

You cannot have the Eucharist without the Cross, you cannot have the Cross without the Resurrection.  You cannot have Thursday Night without Good Friday afternoon without Sunday Morning.  It is one event.

So begins the Great Drama.  The Universe is tilted, Chaos veers his ugly head.  Be present, O Christian, to the Great Mystery.  Your God comes to redeem you.

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Reflections on the Sacrament of Baptism, part III – Baptized for a Mission

Something happens at baptism.  We cannot empirically prove it. You cannot run an MRI or a CT and tell the difference between the baptized and the nonbaptized.  The water will dry, the candle is put out.  The white garments will be put away.

But something happened.

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

St. Thomas Aquinas, OP

You were once in a life where your goal in life is your own happiness; and now your goal in life is to live the life of Jesus Christ—from the nativity to the ascension—in the here and now.  That all parts of your life are now called to be completely integrated, if not overwritten, by the life and will of Jesus Christ.

We are brought into a new relationship.

St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “As the Apostle says, all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in His death.  And further on he concludes, So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Hence it is clear that by Baptism man died unto the oldness of sin, and begins to live unto the newness of grace. (Part III, Q 69.1)

 BAPTIZED FOR A MISSION

After the baptism of children, they are usually anointed with the Sacred Chrism.  This is used three times during the year—baptism, confirmation, a priestly and episcopal ordination.  At all three times, a person is anointed for a particular mission.  The mission of the baptized is to be holy—to be a saint.

I remember the first time when I was told that this is our vocation–to be a saint.  I was taken aback—I had images of being zapped into a statue or a stained-glass window.  I had a presupposed notion of what holiness is, and it is not necessarily what the Second Vatican Council teaches.

v2navThe Council elucidates what holiness is on in one of its pillar documents.  The fifth chapter of Lumen Gentium is entitled “Universal Call to Holiness” reads:

41.  The forms and tasks of life are many but there is one holiness, which is cultivated by all who are led by God’s Spirit, and, obeying the Father’s voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and truth, follow Christ, poor and humble in carrying his cross, that they may deserve to be sharers in his glory.  All, however, according to their own gifts and duties must steadfastly advance along the way of a living faith, with arouses hope and works through love.”

First of all, living a life of holiness is Trinitarian.  We are led by the Spirit, obey the Father, and follow the Son.

Second, we obtain holiness through our own gifts and duties; via our charisms as given by the Holy Spirit, and through the duties of our particular state of life.

The document reads on, “Accordingly, all Christians, in the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives and through all these, will grow constantly in holiness if they receive all things with faith from the hand of the heavenly Father and cooperate with the divine will, making manifest in their ordinary work the love with which God has loved the world.” (LG 41.7)

Though in previous paragraphs, the document does make specific calls of holiness—like spouses should support each other in mutual love, that priests should remember that they belong to a fraternity of priests of the High Priest, Jesus Christ–the document does not go into any specifics on how holiness ought to look.  It acknowledges that we are all unique manifestations of God’s love, and thus, we obtain our holiness in differing ways.

Holiness is not necessarily going into ecstasy, or saying 20 mysteries of the rosary everyday, or reading the Bible cover to cover in a week…nothing overextraordinary.  Holiness is continually receiving and dispensing grace from God.  Receiving grace by attending to the sacraments—Mass and Confession Praying privately or communally, acting in self-denial—fasting, giving time, treasure and talent, doing corporal acts of mercy.

http://constructionlabor.com/construction-workers-and-laborers/Thus, our ‘ordinary work’ will lead us to holiness, as manifest in how we show our love for one another.  It’s by manifesting our love for one another that we obtain holiness.

From paragraph 42.1 “…But if charity is to grow…all of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out his will by what they do, with the help of his grace; they must frequently partake of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, and take part in the liturgy; they must constantly apply themselves to prayer, self-denial, active sisterly and brother service and the practice of all the virtues.”

Holiness is not merely wasting time with God before and after Mass, not only going to adoration and reconciliation regularly—but doing acts of goodness, corporal acts of mercy.

 

https://thepadre10.wordpress.com/tag/baptism/Why did Jesus get baptized?

He got baptized in order to prefigure his Passion, Death and Resurrection.  But also to put himself in context with all of salvation history—Jesus, in getting baptized, found a way to submit himself to the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic Covenants.  Thus, when Jesus initiated his own covenant—the covenant we remember every time we attend Mass—it is perfectly in line with all of God’s promises from the very beginning.

But it goes further.  Jesus was baptized in order to show us a way to be holy.  Our vocation as members of the Body of Christ is to be saints, pure and simple.  We aren’t told to be saints in one particular way, or in one particular language, or vocation, or country, or ecclesiastical rite…but to be called to be another Christ, and alter Christus, to be another Jesus, to be a Holy One of God.

Fra Angelico, OP St. Dominic & Christ

Fra Angelico, OP
St. Dominic & Christ

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!