Sunday, November 29, 2015

Choose Your Advent Attitude: RESOLVE to Run to Meet Christ

In the Collect for today's Mass we heard - for the 5th year in a row - words which are by now becoming familiar:
Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ
with righteous deeds at his coming,

so that, gathered at his right hand,
they may be worthy to possess the heavenly Kingdom."
The key to all this is that we are asking God for something called "resolve." Just what IS that?

According to the Miriam Webster Thesaurus, resolve is
firm or unwavering adherence to one's purpose
Synonyms decidedness, decision, decisiveness, determinedness, firmness, granite, purposefulness, resoluteness, resolution, resolve, stick-to-itiveness
Related Words doggedness, obduracy, obdurateness, obstinacy, obstinateness, perseverance, persistence, persistency, stubbornness, tenaciousness, tenacity; certainty, certitude, confidence, sureness; alacrity, eagerness, gameness, readiness; backbone, fortitude, grit, iron, pluck, sand
Near Antonyms doubt, incertitude, indetermination, uncertainty; aversion, disinclination, indisposition, reluctance, unwillingness
Antonyms hesitation, indecision, indecisiveness, irresoluteness, irresolution, vacillation
This is a great summary of what we are asking of God. We want to avoid all doubt and uncertainty, but instead to have the firmness of purpose to be ready to be ready for Christ, no matter what happens. In a world torn by conflict, hatred, bigotry and war, this is a pretty tall order. We are really asking for the same kind of certainty that recent Christian martyrs slain by ISIS have had. They died rather than deny Christ. Could we?

Not without the grace of faith. In the end, it is this for which we ask. Faith is not something we decide we will have. So, we ask God to send us the sort of confidence, that dispels the darkness of a world in a nighttime of fear and uncertainty, We ask this at Mass, because it is through the Eucharist that we can be transformed from people of fear to people of faith, from people of hesitation to people of eagerness.

We need Advent light now more than ever: to stand on tiptoe in anticipation of the dawn of what Jesus and the Prophets called "The Day of the Lord." This Advent, don't slump with fear and uncertainty. Instead, as we heard in today's Gospel reading, "stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand." (Luke 21:28) This should be your Advent attitude.  Raise your heads and look for the dawn.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The LORD is King: In Him Alone is Hope

This weekend, amid the uncertainty and political turmoil in the wake of recent violent terrorist activity, we find ourselves at the end of the liturgical year. As we turn the page to The-Solemnity-Formerly-Known-as-Christ-the-King, the first thing that strikes me is that the new name, "The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe" expands our very image of Christ. No longer is he just King over all the earth. Now, he is King of the Universe. (How very interesting that despite formal rejection of the theology of the Cosmic Christ, the name of this feast almost begs for it.)

If Jesus is all-powerful King, then every knee should bow indeed. No power on earth or anywhere else in the universe can match him. No political leader, no king, no dictator means anything in the end. What would such a universe look like if we took that seriously? Interesting to consider.

More than that, this is a celebration that helps us see who is really in charge. It's not us. It's This Guy:

R.  The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.  
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed;
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The LORD is king; he is robed in majesty.

If Christ the King of the Universe "the firstborn of the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth" is in control, if "his decrees are worthy of trust indeed," as long as we believe and trust, there is nothing to fear. Not terrorism. Not uncertainty about what people might or might not do if allowed into our country. We need only to follow his commands - to "Do this in memory of me." (Celebrate the Mass and receive Eucharist) and "Go forth and preach, teach and make disciples" - (Evangelize)  Most of all, we need to "Do as I have done" - wash feet, be servants, not masters, and trust in the will of the Father, even when it leads into Paschal Mystery - suffering, death - because that ultimately, leads to resurrection. 

If in Christ alone is certainty, then in the end, all we have is hope - and the promise that all will be well. At the end of time, good will prevail.  "The Lord is my light and my salvation. Of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Why Parishes Should Provide Ongoing Liturgical Catechesis on the Mass: "Intelligent Worship"

The best bit of wisdom in this week's second installment of Fr. Douglas Martis' Elements of the Catholic Mass is the reminder that the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy made it incumbent on pastors to see that the faithful are properly prepared for their role at Mass.

He quotes:
"But in order that the liturgy may be able to produce its full effects, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds should be attuned to their voices, and that they should cooperate with divine grace lest they receive it in vain. Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects." Sacrosanctum Consilium, 11
So, when was the last time YOUR parish provided support for full participation in the Mass by helping the laity to understand their role, both interior and exterior?  What ongoing support is there for them? You may want to start by sharing these weekly videos on the Mass, by giving the link and the study guide for each episode to small groups  or using them as opening prayer for parish meetings....

Or by downloading and distributing this handout on participation.

By the way, watch for more information on an upcoming new series of instructional books, From Mass to Mission: Understanding the Mass and its Significance for Our Christian Life on participation in the Mass for adults, teens and children from Liturgy Training Publications.  Yours truly was privileged to be asked to author the children's book and the accompanying teacher's guide! Publication will be early next year... (and the children's book will include a nicer version of my handout above.)

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Deeper Invitation: Elements of the Catholic Mass Video Series

This week, the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein launched a powerful new initiative - a series of short weekly videos on the Mass by director Fr. Douglas Martis that invites lay people into the beauty of the liturgy. Martis, whose liturgical expertise has roots in his studies in France, offers a look into the deeper meaning of the Mass that is not generally presented to the ordinary Catholic - and, if the first videos are any indication, he will do this by breaking open liturgical theology for the rest of us. His teaser video offers his reasons for offering this liturgical catechesis

In short, his experience of the joy that people have shown when they are helped to understand why we worship the way we do has motivated him to create a way to share his expertise and love for the Mass more widely - one short bite at a time.

Episode 1 goes deep - very deep - into the nature of the liturgy, the God we worship and why we do what we do, by exploring the meanings of  liturgy as "the work of the people," the work of Christ who saves us, and even bigger, the work of God:

Download this episode's study guide here.

Each week the Liturgical Institute promises a new video in this series. You can subscribe to receive the link in your email here. I, for one, will be looking forward to my Sunday morning inbox.