Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Now this wise virgin has gone to Christ. Among the choirs of virgins, she is radiant as the sun in the heavens.

 — Gospel Antiphon of Lauds on the Memorial of St. Scholastica
685px-Kleinmariazell_-_Altar_Scholastica_2

“Death of Saint Scholastica” (detail) by Johann Baptist Wenzel Bergl, 1765. This altar painting is found at the Basilica of Kleinmariazell in Austria.

Today is the Feast of Saint Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 542), the sister of the great St. Benedict. Her life is a witness to the reality God’s desire to enter into a personal relationship with each one of us and to be active in our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate anew
the Memorial of the Virgin Saint Scholastica,
we pray, O Lord, that, following her example,
we may serve you with pure love and happily receive
what comes from loving you.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

From the Desk of Deacon Richard….

Rembrandt_van_Rijn_-_Christ_Preaching

Dear Parish Family:

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we hear Our Lord say, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

For three years, Christ travelled and taught. He preached throughout the Holy Land. The Gospels record some of what Christ said and taught, but do they record all of it? Clearly they do not. In his Gospel, the Beloved Disciple tells us that if all of the things Christ said and did were written down, all of the books in the world could not contain it. Does this mean that there are teachings of Christ that are lost to us?

God forbid! In the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we enjoy the many fruits of Sacred Scripture. But we also enjoy Sacred Tradition; we know there are many teachings of Our Lord that are passed on to us through tradition, just as they were passed on to everyone in the early Church before the New Testament took written form. In fact, all of the writings of the New Testament come out of Sacred Tradition, so in a very real way our venerable Tradition in the Catholic Church is larger than Sacred Scripture because it contains all of Scripture and more as well.

The joy of being a Catholic is being in communion with the one Church that enjoys the fullness of Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. Nothing is left out or laid aside. We have everything that God intends for us to have.

Peace,
Dcn. Richard

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

0202-presentation-of-lord-640x780

“And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), and thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed'” (Luke 2:33-35)

Today is a good day to reflect on Mary and to pray for the grace to be obedient to God. Mary, though the mother of God Incarnate, was still the very model of humility and obedience to God.

Merciful God,
Through the intercession of
The Blessed Virgin Mary,
Give me the grace to follow
Mary’s example of faith and obedience
So that I may grow close to You
Through Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who lives and reigns with You
And the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Homily for February 1, 2015 — the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Pope Benedict celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Pope Benedict celebrating Mass ad orientem.

When issues arise regarding the Sacred Liturgy there are always certain preconceived notions, individual beliefs, and private preferences that come into play. Everyone is entitled to the respect due to a fellow Christian through the dignity of baptism as differences are discussed and solutions discovered. Of supreme importance in reaching agreements when there is a division regarding how to approach the Liturgy is to be sure that the direction followed is allowable within Holy Mother Church’s norms and that it does no harm to the Sacred Liturgy. One must always be prepared to embrace the opportunity for ongoing conversion by setting aside one’s own preference if this preference is not within the teaching of Holy Mother Church.

The direction the priest and deacon face is important to the celebration of the Liturgy; it contributes to the noble simplicity and resplendent beauty of the Mass and helps foster among the faithful a deeper spirituality and a more profound encounter with the Lord in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There are two possibilities that come into play regarding the direction the priest faces when saying Mass, specifically whether he faces ad orientem or ad populum.

Ad orientem means, literally, to the east. This is what we do at Lourdes now. Father stands facing the same direction as the congregation. Ad populum means, literally, to the people. This is the way Mass use to be said here; father stood behind the altar and faced physically if not spiritually toward the congregation.

11_06_25_ad_orientem_01I have been asked enough times over the last several weeks why we have changed from ad populum to ad orientem that it seems wise to me to speak about that very thing today. There are compelling arguments to support both positions and while I believe myself that ad orientem is the better choice, it is clear that greater catechesis is needed so that all understand the reasons for the decision made and are thus more fully able to realize their call to active participation.

The priest acts in the Person of Christ when he presides at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but he is also a human being and one of the faithful. There is a long tradition of all of the faithful — including the priest — facing ad orientem in anticipation of the return of Our Lord, Who is always the primary, central figure at the Mass. It is important to note that if the priest faces toward the congregation in celebrating the Mass, that this is legitimate but it lacks the symbolic character of an ad orientem facing, a facing toward liturgical east, toward the rising sun and toward Christ, Who will return.

Active participation — and this is very important — does not require that the faithful be able to “see what is going on” to fully and actively participate in the Sacred Liturgy as if the Mass were a performance. Active participation takes place first at the spiritual level and second through the communal participation in the prayers, gestures, singing and actions of the faithful. One is called to active participation in the Church’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and it is one’s right as a Catholic to be able to actively participate in the manner that the Church Fathers teach is appropriate to the faithful. There is benefit to the people’s ability to see better the actions of the priest when the priest faces ad populum; however, this benefit is by no means a compelling or overriding factor in the decision.

11_09_10_ad_orientemA priest who celebrates Mass ad populum is not merely performing a show; the Mass is never a show. It is the proper worship due to our Lord and God. From a spiritual and liturgical standpoint, even when facing ad populum the priest is still facing primarily – that is, in a spiritual way – toward the Lord and not toward the people because the sacrifice is not offered to the people but to God. Certainly, no right thinking Catholic would want that any other way. It would be a terrible mistake to believe that when the priest faces ad populum, that somehow the Holy Sacrifice is offered to the people.

There is a group in Rome called the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The CDW helps guide the Church in what are proper forms of worship; in writing about the facing of the priest, the CDW teaches that “There is no need to give excessive importance to elements that have changed throughout the centuries. What always remains is the event celebrated in the Liturgy: this is manifested through rites, signs, symbols and words that express various aspects of the mystery without, however, exhausting it because it transcends them. Taking a rigid position and absolutizing it could become a rejection of some aspect of the truth which merits respect and acceptance.” (Prot. No. 2036/00/L) Throughout that document, the CDW makes it clear that the symbolic and spiritual facing of both priest and people is far more important than their actual, physical, geographic orientation. The CDW even goes so far as to mention that factors like local building codes could ultimately influence the outcome of the decision at an individual parish.

Fortunately, at Lourdes, we do not have to be servants of local building codes or victims of bad architecture. In our church building, liturgical east and actual east are the same direction. We are very fortunate. Here we have the ability to all face toward the Rising Son, the returning Lord and Our Savior Jesus Christ. At Lourdes, Father can lead us in the Mass facing ad orientem as we all anticipate the coming of the Lord. Father no more has his back to anyone than the person sitting in front of you has his or her back toward you. It would be incorrect to say the person in front of you has their back to you; it would be far more correct to say that you are both as members of the congregation facing in the same direction as you participate in the celebration of the same Mass. And so I ask: Shouldn’t Father and I be among the faithful and face toward Our Lord the same as everyone else?

which-makes-sense

 

The Sacred Liturgy develops organically over great spans of time because it is directed by the Holy Spirit. It is only through prayer, study, reflection and a genuine desire to be faithful to the teaching of Christ’s Holy Church that one can come to a deeper understanding of her Sacred Liturgy. Regardless of the direction that Father faces while celebrating the Liturgy, Christ is the central figure of the Mass. It is Our Lord on whom we should all be focused as we come together as one community in Christ with a solid foundation from which to build our understanding and to more fully realize the Christian dignity to which we are called by virtue of their individual baptism.

Personally, I believe it is the right decision to celebrate ad orientem. I now feel that when I serve as Deacon, I am celebrating with my parish family instead of trying to pretend that you aren’t there… that the church ends at the edge of the altar, and that I see nothing except the mercy of God beyond the small crucifix on which I use to focus. Now it seems as if I am a part of a whole — a congregation who can all focus on the same crucifix as we await the coming of Our Lord.

Ultimately, it is the pastor’s decision to make regarding whether to celebrate Mass ad orientem or ad populum, and we all owe Father Angelo the respect, charity, and understanding due to a pastor of souls, whatever direction he chooses to face when celebrating the Holy Eucharist. It is the spiritual and not the physical orientation of the priest that is of supreme importance; here at Lourdes, we can be very thankful indeed that we have the opportunity for the physical action to be a direct reflection of the spiritual reality.

2010-02_ad-orientem

 


This homily is based largely on an essay I wrote in 2008 for Professor Benedict Nguyen’s Liturgy & Sacraments class when I was a student at the Institute for Pastoral Theology. The original essay is below:

 

EXTRA CREDIT CASE STUDY

LITURGY & SACRAMENTS
IPT PHX & MCI

Benedict Nguyen, M.T.S., J.D./J.C.L.
FALL 2008

DIRECTIONS: Please analyze the following situation applying and synthesizing what you have learned.  There is no required format.  This case study is worth a maximum of 10 points extra credit and will be added to your overall class points.  Please type your answer double-spaced.  This case study is due at the beginning of class on Weekend V.  

AD ORIENTIUM vs. AD POPULUM

You recently have been hired at St. Lawrence Feingold Parish to assist in the coordination of the sacred liturgy.  At your first Liturgy Committee meeting, you come upon a very divided group.  The main issue of disagreement concerns the possible decision by Fr. Julius, the pastor, to begin celebrating Mass ad orientum, that is, facing away from the people.  Fr. Julius is seriously considering this and is asking the members of the Liturgy Committee what they think of it.

Group #1 is dead set against it and want to continue having the pastor celebrate Mass ad populum, that is, facing the people.  They argue that we are a “Vatican II parish” and since Vatican II changed this, we cannot “turn the clocks back.”  To them, this goes against the spirit of the liturgy since the people cannot see what is going on and cannot actively participate in the liturgy.  Furthermore, since the Mass is a meal, it would be rude to have the main host – the priest – with his back to the people.  They further argue that Vatican II says the liturgy should grow organically, thus to have the priest turn his back to the people after nearly 40 years of facing them is not organic growth and would only serve to confuse and divide the people.

Group #2 is entirely for the pastor celebrating Mass ad orientum.  They argue that the liturgical changes of Vatican II were largely incorrect – particularly Vatican II’s decision to turn the priest around – thus we need to return to the way it was done before Vatican II.  They believe that Mass with the priest facing them is distracting and becomes just a show.  They also believe that this has led to all kinds of confusion.  They argue that Mass ad orientum would allow everyone to understand that we laity do not actively participate in the liturgy but rather that it is the priest who offers the sacrifice to God on our behalf.  They believe that you cannot have true organic development of the liturgy until you go back to the point of departure.

Fr. Julius, Group #1 and Group #2 all approach you and ask you to give a short presentation on the issue and to give suggestions on what you think should be done.

-0-

 It is important to bear in mind that when issues arise regarding the Sacred Liturgy that these always involved certain preconceived notions, personal peccadilloes, individual beliefs, and private preferences. Everyone is entitled to the respect due to a fellow Christian through the dignity of baptism as differences are discussed and solutions discovered. Of supreme importance in reaching agreements when there is a division regarding how to approach the Liturgy is to be sure that the direction followed is allowable within Holy Mother Church’s norms and that it does no hurt to the Sacred Liturgy. One must always be prepared to embrace the opportunity for ongoing conversion by setting aside one’s own preference if this preference is not within the teaching of Holy Mother Church.

The direction the priest faces is important to the celebration of the Liturgy; it contributes to the noble simplicity and resplendent beauty of the Mass and helps foster among the faithful a deeper spirituality and a more profound encounter with the Lord in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Both groups offer compelling arguments to support their individual positions; however, neither group is entirely right and it is clear that whether the priest celebrates Mass ad orientum or ad populum, that greater education is needed within the congregation so that all understand the reasons for the decision made and are thus more fully able to realize their call to active participation.

The priest acts “in the Person of Christ” when he presides at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but he is also a human being and one of the faithful. There is a long tradition of all of the faithful including the priest facing ad orientum in anticipation of the return of Our Lord, Who is always the primary, central figure at the Mass. It is important to note that if the priest faces toward the congregation in celebrating the Mass, that this is legitimate but it lacks the symbolic character of an ad orientum facing, a facing toward liturgical east, toward the rising sun and toward Christ, Who will return.

Active participation does not require that the faithful be able to “see what is going on” as if the Mass were a performance to fully and actively participate in the Sacred Liturgy. Active participation takes place first at the spiritual level and second through the communal participation in the prayers, gestures, singing and actions of the faithful. One is called to active participation in the Church’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and it is one’s right as a Catholic to be able to actively participate in the manner that the Church Fathers teach is appropriate to the faithful. There is benefit to the people’s ability to see better the actions of the priest when the priest faces ad populum; however, this benefit is by no means a compelling or overriding factor in the decision.

A priest who celebrates Mass ad populum is not merely performing a show; from a spiritual and liturgical standpoint, even when facing ad populum the priest is still facing primarily – that is, in a spiritual way – toward the Lord and not toward the people because the sacrifice is not offered to the people but to God. It would be a terrible mistake to believe that when the priest faces ad populum, that somehow the Holy Sacrifice is offered to the people.

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in writing about the facing of the priest teaches that “There is no need to give excessive importance to elements that have changed throughout the centuries. What always remains is the event celebrated in the Liturgy: this is manifested through rites, signs, symbols and words that express various aspects of the mystery without, however, exhausting it because it transcends them. Taking a rigid position and absolutizing it could become a rejection of some aspect of the truth which merits respect and acceptance.” (Prot. No. 2036/00/L) Throughout that document, the Congregation makes it clear that the symbolic and spiritual facing of both priest and people is far more important that their actual, physical, geographic orientation. The Congregation even goes so far as to mention that factors like local building codes could ultimately influence the outcome of the decision at an individual parish.

The Sacred Liturgy develops organically over great spans of time because it is directed by the Holy Spirit. It is only through prayer, study, reflection and a genuine desire to be faithful to the teaching of Christ’s Holy Church that one can come to a deeper understanding of her Sacred Liturgy. Regardless of the direction that Father Julius faces while celebrating the Liturgy, it is clear that more education is needed among the faithful at St. Feingold’s so that both groups can have their fears that the congregation will be confused and divided put to rest and instead come together as one community in Christ with a solid foundation from which to build their understanding and to more fully realize the Christian dignity to which they are called by virtue of their individual baptism. Ultimately, it is Father’s decision to make and the congregation owes their pastor the respect, charity, and understanding due to a pastor of souls, whatever direction he chooses to face when celebrating the Holy Eucharist. Further education within the parish will help the congregation to see that it is the spiritual and not the physical orientation of the priest that is of importance.