Ad Te Levávi Ánimam Meam

To Thee have I lifted up my soul (Introit – 1st Sunday of Advent)

Archive for the ‘liturgy’ Category

Question: Why do we celebrate before Easter?

Posted by james0235 on November 6, 2012

Ok, so I’m confused. Why do we celebrate the 40 days before Easter instead of the 40 day after the Resurrection?

We celebrate both.

The season of Lent commemorates the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and praying in the wilderness (Matthew 4). This was in preparation for His public ministry.

40 is an important amount of time when it comes to preparing for something. Noah and his family spent 40 days on the ark in a storm before finally finding dry land and rebuilding civilization (Genesis 8). Moses spent 40 days on top of Mt. Sinai with God before giving the people the 10 Commandments (Exodus 24). The Hebrews spent 40 years wandering in the desert before they were permitted to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14). Elijah spent 40 days walking to Mt. Horeb where God instructed him to anoint a king for Israel and to anoint Elisha as a prophet (1 Kings 19).

So, we spend 40 days fasting and praying before we celebrate the Resurrection. If you count it up it is actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. But, we don’t count the 6 Sundays of Lent as every Sunday is like a mini Easter itself.

We also celebrate the 40 days Jesus spent on Earth after His Resurrection. This is called the Season of Easter and it actually goes through the Feast of the Ascension – 40 days after Easter – and ends on the Feast of Pentecost – 50 days after Easter.

Ok, but how do we celebrate then? Because we don’t fast or anything.

We did the fasting and praying for the 40 days of Lent in preparation for the Resurrection. Then, when Easter comes and God conquers death through death, we celebrate by living in that moment for awhile. At least liturgically, we kind of stop time in a sense. We celebrate Easter on Easter Sunday (of course). But, Easter lasts for an entire week – all the way through the following Sunday. This is called the Octave of Easter – octave meaning 8 days.

The day after Easter is often called Easter Monday, the next day is Easter Tuesday, etc. , all the way up to the following Sunday which is called the 2nd Sunday of Easter.

Things are done a little differently this whole week to highlight the fact that it is still Easter. First off after “fasting” from the Alleluia “Praise God” for 40 days it comes back on Easter.

On Easter Sunday there is a special prayer known as the Sequence read or sung right before the Gospel. The one used on Easter is called Victimae paschali laudes and it begins “Christians, to the Paschal Victim offer your thankful praises!” For the rest of the Octave this prayer is typically recited.

The “Alleluia verse” the verse of scripture that is read or sung right before the Gospel is the same all week – “Alleluia, alleluia. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. Alleluia, alleluia.” (Psalm 118:24)

If Eucharistic Prayer I is used it actually changes slightly to during the Octave to highlight the fact that it is still Easter – “Celebrating the most sacred day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh…”

And finally during the Octave Mass ends differently – “Go forth, the Mass is ended, alleluia, alleluia. Thanks be to God, alleluia, alleluia.”

These changes stop after the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, to show that the Octave is over and we are no longer celebrating the day of Easter. But, we continue with the Season of Easter (3rd Sunday of Easter, 4th Sunday of Easter, etc.) The season doesn’t actually end after 40 days with the Ascension. It continues for another 10 days and ends 50 days after Easter on Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles.

The primary thing you will notice during the Easter Season is that the Easter candle, blessed during the Easter Vigil and representing the light of Christ, is near the altar. It will remain there, symbolizing the Risen Christ with us, until the Feast of the Ascension or Pentecost. The rest of the year it will stand next to the baptismal font and will be lit during baptisms as, representing the presence of Christ, it is a symbol of new life and rebirth (John 3:5) or it will be placed next to the coffin at funerals to represent Christ’s victory over sin and death (Romans 6:3-5).

Only 2 days of the year are special enough to require an Octave to stop time and rest in the moment for awhile: Christmas when God became man and Easter when that man conquered death.

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The Church Militant

Posted by james0235 on February 22, 2012

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. 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.

Collect, Ash Wednesday

We kick of Lent with this, the opening prayer, or Collect, for Ash Wednesday. And what an opening it is. The Church is reminding us that we are at war and “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12 NAB) and our weapon in this fight is the self-restraint that is learned by disciplining the body through fasting.

The very idea of waging a “campaign of Christian service” is very evocative of Matthew 16 where Jesus tells us that the gates of hell will not be able to stand against the Church. This doesn’t just mean that the Church will not be overcome by the powers of hell. Rather, Jesus puts hell itself on the defensive. The Church brings the battle to the forces of evil and she will be victorious.

I couldn’t help but notice the different tone this prayer has compared to previous years considering the new, corrected Mass translations. The previous “translation”, rather than having us wage a “campaign of Christian service” had us asking God to “protect us in our struggle against evil”.  It really feels different to be marching to victory rather than cowering in fear.

 

 

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Octave of Pentecost

Posted by james0235 on May 24, 2010

“After Easter, the Solemnity of Pentecost is the second most important day in the Church year.”

Bishop Peter J. Elliott, Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year 325

If Pentecost outranks Christmas on the Liturgical Calendar (or,  I know it might be argued, is equal to it) then why is it that Christmas has an Octave but Pentecost does not? It appears that even the pope who approved the elimination of the Octave of Pentecost had no idea what was going on. Fr. Z explains what a Liturgical Octave is and tells the story of the Octave of Pentecost in a podcast found here.

On the older Liturgical Calendar the Octave Day of Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. This is always a great time of year to re-familiarize yourself with what the Catholic faith teaches us about the Holy Trinity:

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 234


The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God”. To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 237


and it is a great time to recite the Athanasian Creed.

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Asperges Me

Posted by james0235 on May 23, 2010

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite the priest sprinkles holy water on the people before the principal Mass on Sundays. Beginning on Pentecost the Antiphon that is sung at this time changes from the Vidi Aquam to the Asperges Me.  These Antiphons can be used as part of the Rite of Sprinkling before Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. When the Rite of Sprinkling is used it replaces the Penitential Rite in that Mass.

On Sundays, especially in the Season of Easter, in place of the customary Act of Penitence, from time to time the blessing and sprinkling of water to recall Baptism may take place.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal 51

Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo et mundabor,
Lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

You will sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop and I shall be cleansed
You will wash me, and I shall be whitewashed more than snow is.
Pity me, O God, according to Your great mercy.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now, and always shall be in ages of ages. Amen.


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Ascension Thursday Sunday

Posted by james0235 on May 13, 2010

Once again Ascension Thursday Sunday is upon us. Despite the Ascension of the Lord occurring exactly 40 days after the Resurrection many U.S. bishops insist on transferring it to the 7th Sunday of Easter, the Sunday before Pentecost – 43 days after we celebrate the Resurrection. In the U.S. only those dioceses located within the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia celebrate the Ascension Thursday instead of Ascension Sunday.

It is not a question of if it is permissible to transfer the Ascension to the following Sunday – the Code of Canon Law gives this authority to the Episcopal Conference with the approval of the Holy See (Code of Canon Law 1246) – rather the question is why would the bishops wish to do this? Does anyone truly benefit spiritually from having one less Mass to attend on a weekday once a year?

But, even though most U.S. dioceses will not be celebrating the Ascension today those parishes offering the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, permission for which was affirmed for all priests of the Roman Rite in Pope Benedicts XVI’s Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, will be celebrating the Ascension today, regardless of what the rest of the diocese is doing. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei has confirmed that this is permitted.

So ends my annual rant on Ascension Thursday Sunday.

There is a rubric after the Gospel in the 1962 Roman Missal, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, that reads as follows:

After the Gospel of the High Mass, the Paschal Candle, figure of the risen Christ, is extinguished; it is removed after Mass.

So, immediately after we hear of Christ’s Ascension into heaven:

“…And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God…” (Mark 16:14-20)

the Easter Candle, the symbol of Christ’s presence which has been in the Sanctuary since he arose from the dead at the Easter Vigil, is extinguished. This beautiful little ceremony is, of course,  used in those parishes using the 1962 Roman Missal. But, it works a bit differently with the 1970 Roman Missal, the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, in use in most parishes:

The paschal candle has its proper place either by the ambo or by the altar and should be lit at least in all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of the season until Pentecost Sunday, whether at Mass, or at Morning and Evening Prayer. After the Easter season the candle should be kept with honor in the baptistry, so that in the celebration of Baptism the candles of the baptized may be lit from them. In the celebration of funerals, the paschal candle should be placed near the coffin to indicate that the death of a Christian is his own passover. The paschal candle should not otherwise be lit nor placed in the sanctuary outside the Easter season.

Congregation for Divine Worship, Pascahele Solemnitatis 99

The Easter Candle remains in use until Pentecost, the end of the Season of Easter rather than the Ascension when Christ is no longer with us.  Unfortunately, I think that we really lost some amazing symbolism with the loss of that rubric.


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May Day

Posted by james0235 on May 1, 2010

In 1955 Pope Pius XII established May 1st as the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. On the modern Liturgical Calendar in use since the release of the 1970 Roman Missal this Feast Day ranks as a Memorial. The institution of this Feast by Pope Pius was in response to communist-backed “May Day” celebrations on the 1st of May and served to offer a Christian view of labor. Communism, and really Socialism as well, are incompatible with the Catholic faith and both have been repeatedly condemned by the Holy See:

To this goal also tends the unspeakable doctrine of Communism, as it is called, a doctrine most opposed to the very natural law. For if this doctrine were accepted, the complete destruction of everyone’s laws, government, property, and even of human society itself would follow.

Blessed Pope Pius IX, Qui Pluribus 16 – November 9, 1846


Hence we have reached the limit of horrors, to wit, communism, socialism, nihilism, hideous deformities of the civil society of men and almost its ruin. And yet too many attempt to enlarge the scope of these evils, and under the pretext of helping the multitude, already have fanned no small flames of misery. The things we thus mention are neither unknown nor very remote from us.

Pope Leo XIII, Diuturnum 23 – June 29, 1881


If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.

Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno 120 – May 15, 1931


See to it, Venerable Brethren, that the Faithful do not allow themselves to be deceived! Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking whatsoever. Those who permit themselves to be deceived into lending their aid towards the triumph of Communism in their own country, will be the first to fall victims of their error. And the greater the antiquity and grandeur of the Christian civilization in the regions where Communism successfully penetrates, so much more devastating will be the hatred displayed by the godless.

Pope Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris 58 – March 19, 1937


Now, the Catholic Church is no stranger to the cause of worker’s rights. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “The catechetical tradition also recalls that there are “sins that cry to heaven”: … injustice to the wage earner” (CCC 1867). And when it comes to presenting a solid Christian view of labor I don’t believe that it should be any surprise that devotion to St. Joseph has long been the vehicle chosen to do so.

The Gospels present him as both “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a) and a laborer – Jesus is called “the carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:54-58). The Church presents these passages to us on the Solemnity of St. Joseph (Gospel 1st Option) and on the Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker (Gospel) respectively. And notice that Pope Pius XI issued his encyclical condemning atheistic communism, Divini Redemptoris quoted above, on March 19th – the Solemnity of St. Joseph. A bit closer to our own day Pope John Paul II held up St. Joseph, as a laborer,  as a model of holiness for us all:

Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth. The Gospel specifies the kind of work Joseph did in order to support his family: he was a carpenter. This simple word sums up Joseph’s entire life. For Jesus, these were hidden years, the years to which Luke refers after recounting the episode that occurred in the Temple: “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them” (Lk 2:51). This “submission” or obedience of Jesus in the house of Nazareth should be understood as a sharing in the work of Joseph. Having learned the work of his presumed father, he was known as “the carpenter’s son.” If the Family of Nazareth is an example and model for human families, in the order of salvation and holiness, so too, by analogy, is Jesus’ work at the side of Joseph the carpenter. In our own day, the Church has emphasized this by instituting the liturgical memorial of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1. Human work, and especially manual labor, receive special prominence in the Gospel. Along with the humanity of the Son of God, work too has been taken up in the mystery of the Incarnation, and has also been redeemed in a special way. At the workbench where he plied his trade together with Jesus, Joseph brought human work closer to the mystery of the Redemption.

Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos 22 – August 15, 1989

The more time that I spend meditating on the life and the work of St. Joseph the more I am coming to appreciate him as a role model. Over the past few years I have slowly been growing in devotion to him. And this is something I foresee continuing well into the future.



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Purification, Presentation, and the Churching of Women

Posted by james0235 on February 2, 2010

Today, the 40th day after Christmas, is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This Feast has a very solid biblical foundation:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

(Luke 2:22-24)

On the 40th day after giving birth the Blessed Virgin Mary visited the temple to offer a sacrifice in accordance with the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:1-8). She didn’t offer this sacrifice because she was actually made unclean by the birth of Christ but rather it was in order to fulfill “the prescriptions of the law of the Lord” (Luke 2:39). In imitation of this event in the 4th century the Church instituted the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be celebrated on the 40th day after Christamas, February 2nd, every year.

This Feast had 3 emphases:

The Purification of the Blessed Virgin (Leviticus 12:7),

The Presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22),

and the recognition of Christ as the light to the Gentiles by the prophet Simeon (Luke 2:29-32)

In the revisions to the liturgy following the 2nd Vatican Council this feast was renamed the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The Purification of the Blessed Virgin and the recognition of Christ as the light to the Gentiles (represented by the  blessing of candles which are then carried in procession before the Mass) seem to have been de-emphasized slighltly while the Presentation of Christ in the Temple has been emphasized. But, all of these aspects of the Feast are still quite evident in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite.

In addition to the Mass we see these aspects of the Feast also displayed in the devotions of the Church. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is the 4th Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Simeon’s proclamation of Christ as the light to the Gentiles (Luke 2:29-32), known as the Nunc Dimittis or the Canticle of Simeon, – is prayed every night in the Liturgy of the Hours in the Office of Compline (Night Prayer). And the idea of a ritual purification after childbirth can still be seen, albeit quite rarely, in a very beautiful ceremony known as the Churching of Women.

The Churching of Women is performed soon after childbirth. Ideally it was given as soon as a woman was able to return to Church for the first time – which does not necessarily mean the following Sunday. Remember that the care of infants does excuse one from the obligation to attend Mass (CCC 2181). The Churching, also called the Blessing of a Mother after Childbirth in the Roman Ritualone of the Liturgical books of the Roman Rite, was both a blessing given to a new mother and it was an opportunity for the new mother to give thanks to God for the birth of her child. While it is not actually a ritual purification – the Church does not teach that childbirth makes a woman ritually unclean – it is inspired by the purification rituals that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord commemorates.

The beautiful prayers of the Churching of Women can be found here.

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Ave Regina Caelorum

Posted by james0235 on February 2, 2010

Beginning at Compline on the Feast of the Purification (also known as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas) the seasonal Marian Antiphon changes from the Alma Redemptoris to the Ave Regina Caelorum. This Antiphon is used until the Triduum.

Ave, Regina Caelorum,

Ave, Domina Angelorum:

Salve, radix, salve, porta

Ex qua mundo lux est orta:

Gaude, Virgo gloriosa,

Super omnes speciosa,

Vale, o valde decora,

Et pro nobis Christum exora.

Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.

Hail, by angels mistress owned.

Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn

Whence the world’s true light was born:

Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,

Loveliest whom in heaven they see;

Fairest thou, where all are fair,

Plead with Christ our souls to spare.

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Countdown to the Incarnation

Posted by james0235 on December 17, 2009

Advent has been described as a countdown to the Incarnation and this is very evident, even if not well known, in the Liturgy of the Roman Rite. The first example of a countdown can be seen in the O Antiphons. These Antiphons are prayed in the Liturgy of the Hours at Vespers in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite beginning on December 17th. And with the release of the 1970 Roman Missal they are prayed in the Mass of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. I have previously written quite a bit about this here.

A lesser known countdown to the Incarnation can be found in the Gospel readings for the Sundays of Advent in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite – the 1962 Roman Missal.

The Gospel readings follow a reverse chronological order. We begin on the 1st Sunday of Advent with Luke 21:25-33 where Jesus tells his disciples about his second coming. On the 2nd Sunday of Advent we move back in time to Matthew 11:2-10 where the disciple of John the Baptist ask Jesus if he is the Messiah they have been waiting for. On the 3rd Sunday of Advent we go even further back to John 1:19-28 where John announces that he is not the promised Messiah but rather the precursor. And finally on the 4th Sunday of Advent we have Luke 3:1-6 where John’s mission as the precursor of the Messiah is shown as being foretold by the prophets. (This Gospel is used in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite on the 2nd Sunday of Advent Year C.)

And when we finally reach the Incarnation we cease our countdown and begin to move forward. The Gospel for the Vigil Mass of the Nativity, Matthew 1:18-21, shows us the angel Gabriel announcing to Joseph that his wife has conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Gospel of Midnight Mass, Luke 2:1-14, details the birth of Christ. The Gospel of the Mass at Dawn, Luke 2:15-20, gives us the story of the shepherds journeying to see Christ in the manger. And finally the Gospel reading of the Mass during the Daytime, John 1:1-14 is that famous passage that tells us that “the word (who) was in the beginning with God…was made flesh.”  This “last Gospel” also is read at the end of almost every Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Now, how cool is that?

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Alma Redemptoris

Posted by james0235 on November 29, 2009

Beginning at 1st Vespers of Advent the Seasonal Marian Antiphon changes from the Salve Regina to the Alma Redemptoris.

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