Season’s Greetings and Happy Holy Days

I’m seeing a lot of sentiment from folks online for keeping Christ in Christmas, and some who are outright offended at the “holiday” greetings that are sometimes used instead of Merry Christmas.

I am not one of those people.

I’m not offended by someone wishing me “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings”.  I’m not offended because I don’t believe the sentiment steals anything from Christmas, rather, I believe it enhances it, since it is inclusive of several memorial and feast days in the time span from December 1 through January 5 this year.

December 1 kick-started the “holidays” with the first Sunday of Advent, reminding us, that Jesus wants to be born in us anew, again, and we wait anxiously for His arrival, both in our hearts and for the day when He returns to the earth to take His children home.  While we wait, we are reminded of the prophecies foretelling the details of his birth, and prepare our hearts for Him to be born in us again.  We are mindful of our sinfulness, our need for a Savior, the blessed example of the one woman whose “yes” to God continues to inspire us, and the example of Jesus Himself, who being God, stepped down in humility and became man, for mankind.

In fact, truth be told, every Sunday is a holy day in which Jesus comes to us, is born in us, gives His body for us, and is raised and raises us to new life again.  With that in mind, wishing me “Happy Holidays” is a perpetual blessing as I see it, that lasts through the winter holidays all year long.

Blessed Advent!

Merry Christmas!

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

“Happy?”

wpid-IMG_20131126_154851.jpg

Before we left for Canada in 2011, I gave my oldest daughter a plastic rosary that was given to me at RCIA when we learned about prayer.  As we crossed the Confederation Bridge into PEI Canada, we got a telephone call informing us that our first grandbaby was in the hospital, due to a collapsed lung.  We would later find out that this was her only working lung, as they discovered that her left one was missing a valve that connected it to her heart.  To say that his baby has seen her share of medical professionals, hospitals, and stethoscopes, would be a severe understatement.

My daughter still has this rosary, and her children have taken to it, handling it, sleeping with it, and sometimes wearing it around their neck.  Today, Grammie Reward #1 (baby with the heart issues) had it, and was using the crucifix as a stethoscope on her Momma.  She would place the cross on her Momma’s chest, and say “Happy?”  then move it to another spot on her chest and ask again “Happy?”

Watching this Sacramental being used in a way in which she had become familiar, was both heart-gripping and profound.  Every once in awhile, I get a little glimpse of the Father’s heart.  Today was one of those times.  I’m telling you…I got a serious case of Holy Ghost bumps.

In my mind’s eye, I saw the Great Physician holding the stethoscope of the Cross over our hearts, and using it to gauge its intentions, motives, and attitudes.  And he asks “Are you happy?”

And I think sometimes, all too often, he hears something that causes Him to check further…”was that a murmer of discontent?  Impatience?  Pride?  Hmmmm…this heart is not happy”, and so he begins His procedure, removing those things that are not healthy, and repairing and rebuilding what is broken.  “Heart surgery” is painful, so He sends His Holy Spirit to comfort us as we heal, and He sends His Son…His love letter…the Word to console us to teach us His ways, so that when we have our next “checkup”, he can again examine us and find a happy, healthy heart.

 

About the Holy Mass – Part 3 – Liturgy of the Eucharist

continued from Part 1 – Introductory Rites and Part 2 – Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy of the Eucharist

Catechism of the Catholic Church – 1324

The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

“The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.

The Liturgy of the Eucharist, or “the breaking of bread” is the highlight of our week.  It is a most reverent time, and we pay it the utmost respect.  After the Liturgy of the Word, an offering is collected and brought to the front with the bread and wine.

The priest receives and says a prayer over the offerings, then takes the bread and says:  “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life”. The congregation responds:  ” Blessed be God for ever”.

“Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.  Blessed be God for ever.  The priest then follows a tradition from the first church and adds a drop of water to the wine to symbolize the union of Christ’s divinity and humanity, and of Christ with His Church.  At this time, the priest washes his hands and says; “Lord, wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”

We stand as the priest says:  Pray, my brothers and sisters, that our sacrifice
may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.  And we respond:  “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his holy Church”.

The priest now says a Eucharistic prayer, then addresses the congregation for dialogue:


Priest:  The Lord be with you.    Congregation responds:  And with your spirit.
Priest:  Lift up your hearts.  Congregation responds:   We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest:  Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God.    Congregation responds:  It is right and just

Together we all say:  Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Then we kneel and sing the Memorial:  When we eat this bread, and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Oh Lord, until you come again.

The Priest then gives the “doxology” which is:  “Through him, with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.  And the congregation sings the “Amen”

After the Doxology, everyone prays the Lord’s prayer together.  It is beautiful to follow the instructions for how to pray, by our Lord, and to hear and participate in it together.  Another example of the unity that Jesus prayed his followers would have with Him and one another.

Following the Lord’s prayer, we are encouraged to give one another the sign of peace.  Couples hug or kiss, and say “peace be with you”, parishioners shake hands with those around, or wave to one another while saying “peace be with you”.  I love that we offer one another peace, before we sing “Lamb of God”.  It’s a beautiful show of unity prior to partaking together.

Lamb of God you take away the sin of the world.  Have mercy on us.  Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.  Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world.  Receive our prayer.”

Now row by row is dismissed to receive the Eucharist, or “Communion”.  We walk forward while a hymn is being sung, and we receive the body and blood of our Lord.  If you are not in communion with the Catholic Church, you can still go forward for a blessing, but you may not receive the Eucharist.  Cross your arms in front of your chest, and the priest will know that you are not Catholic, that you do not receive the Eucharist, and he will instead give you a word of blessing with the sign of the cross on your forehead.  If you don’t wish to receive that blessing, it is an option for you to just remain quietly seated until the Eucharist has been distributed.  At that time, the priest says a prayer, makes announcements, and offers a blessing over the congregation before dismissal.  I love how the priest in my parish does this.  He says “bow for the blessing”, and while heads are bowed, he offers some of the sweetest most encouraging words to see us through our week.

When he is finished, the Deacon says “This Mass is ended.  Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” and everyone says “Thanks be to God” and exits their seats.  Again, bowing to the altar/tabernacle as a sign of reverence, and crossing ourselves.  When we exit the building, we again remind ourselves of our baptism by dipping our finger in the holy water and crossing ourselves, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

The scourging…

Yesterday, I posted the following on New Things’ fb page.

Having my morning cuppa coffee and meditating on a passage in this morning’s prayer at http://www.universalis.com/.

Come, let us worship and bow down,
bend the knee before the Lord who made us;
for he himself is our God and we are his flock,
the sheep that follow his hand.

One thing I have learned in this journey into the Catholic Church, is the practice of bowing/kneeling before the altar/tabernacle. We do this before we seat ourselves at Mass, as a sign of reverence and respect to the the Lord, who is present with us. Since He is always with us, it is a beautiful reminder of my place before Him. The Word of God says that every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that He is Lord. I’m just practicing up for the big event. 🙂

It does make me wonder though, why is it easy for us to confess that He is Lord, and so difficult to bow before Him?

After posting this, I prayed the Rosary while puttering around in my kitchen, doing dishes, scrubbing the floor, etc.  I love to be able to follow along with a recorded production, it helps my brain stay on track.

This particular rosary has little meditations before each Hail Mary, and when it got to the part about the scourging of Jesus, there was a phrase spoken, that though I’ve heard many times before, hit me in a whole new way:  “Then they genuflected before Him and pretended to pay Him homage”

Immediately, in my mind’s eye, I saw people walking into Mass.  Kneeling to the Tabernacle where Jesus is, bowing to His altar before being seated.  Making the sign of His cross over their bodies.   I saw the hypocrisy and pretension of one who comes in, kneels, and participates in the Mass, all the while holding a viewpoint or belief contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, continuing in the sin that He came to die for.  While Jesus is present, offering His broken body for us, there are those who kneel and pretend.  And He stands there, receiving the mocking and scourging of the world, in the same way He did 2000 years ago.

While there are those who struggle to bend their knee to Christ, there is another extreme that will “go through the motions” while having their heart far from Him.  May it never be said of me, Lord.  Have mercy.  Make me genuine in my faith and love for you.  Keep my heart clean and sensitive to obedience of what You call me to do.  In Jesus’ Name.

A word of advice

So, you’ve decided to follow Jesus.  This is my best advice for you in your new decision, specifically the bold text:

Sirach, chapter 2

My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
    prepare yourself for testing.
Set your heart right and be steadfast,
    and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.
Cling to him and do not depart,
    so that your last days may be prosperous.
Accept whatever befalls you,
    and in times of humiliation be patient.
For gold is tested in the fire,
    and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.[b]
Trust in him, and he will help you;
    make your ways straight, and hope in him.

You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy;
    do not stray, or else you may fall.
You who fear the Lord, trust in him,
    and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the Lord, hope for good things,
    for lasting joy and mercy.[c]
10 Consider the generations of old and see:
    has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?
Or has anyone persevered in the fear of the Lord[d] and been forsaken?
    Or has anyone called upon him and been neglected?
11 For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;
    he forgives sins and saves in time of distress.

12 Woe to timid hearts and to slack hands,
    and to the sinner who walks a double path!
13 Woe to the fainthearted who have no trust!
    Therefore they will have no shelter.
14 Woe to you who have lost your nerve!
    What will you do when the Lord’s reckoning comes?

15 Those who fear the Lord do not disobey his words,
    and those who love him keep his ways.
16 Those who fear the Lord seek to please him,
    and those who love him are filled with his law.
17 Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts,
    and humble themselves before him.
18 Let us fall into the hands of the Lord,
    but not into the hands of mortals;
for equal to his majesty is his mercy,
    and equal to his name are his works.

Growing up Protestant, and learning to hide God’s Word in my heart, my favorite books of the Bible were always a close tie between Proverbs and James, I think because of their down to earth, practical teaching and the word pictures that are created in their words of wisdom and encouragement.

When we became Catholic, I was introduced to more books of the Bible that I had never heard of.  Sirach has now made my favorites list a three way tie.  I cannot say enough about this beautiful book full of priceless treasures.

When we moved to Canada, and found it not to be exactly as we had imagined it would be, God gave me Sirach, chapter two.  It was so relevant for me, explaining perfectly what was happening, and encouraging me to stand firm and remain calm.  I find myself returning to this advice as I continue on this path on which the Lord accompanies us.  It is like a soft whisper in my ear…that still, small voice if you will.

Of course, this is much different than many television “evangelists” would preach.  But that, my peeps, is another post entirely.

Blessings.

About the Holy Mass (Part 2 – Liturgy of the Word)

continued from part 1 – Introductory Rites

“The Liturgy of the Word”. 

There are typically three readings from Holy Scripture, plus a responsorial Psalm.  The Lector will read the first reading which is from the OT.  When he is finished, he will say “The word of the Lord”, and everyone responds, “Thanks be to God“.

The responsorial Psalm is next.  The Psalmist or cantor will sing or say the Psalm, and the congregation will make their response.

The second reading is from the New Testament, and is conducted just as the first, with the people responding at the end “Thanks be to God

Now we sing “Alleluia“, as the priest or deacon prepares to proclaim the Gospel, which is our third reading.  If the Deacon is doing the reading, he will first bow before the priest, and ask for his blessing.  The Priest says in a low voice: “May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim His gospel worthily and well, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” and the Deacon will respond “amen”.

If there is not a Deacon, the Priest will bow before the altar and say a prayer:  “Cleanse my heart and my lips, Almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel.  He then proceeds from the altar to the podium, and greets the congregation with “The Lord be with you”, and the people respond “and with your spirit”

The Deacon or Priest then says “A reading from the Holy Gospel according to ____” while making the sign of the cross over the book, his forehead, his lips and his heart; and the people respond with “Glory to you, Oh Lord” as we make the sign of the cross on our foreheads, then our lips, and finally over our hearts.  When I do this, I pray that God will print His word on my mind, that it would be on my lips, and that it will be impressed and stored in my heart.

The Deacon or Priest will then read the gospel message, ending with “The Gospel of the Lord”  And we all respond “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”  Then, he kisses the book, and says quietly “Through the words of the gospel, may our sins be wiped away”.  The Homily is next, and the Priest or Deacon will expound on the readings, and encourage the faithful in their faith.  when the homily is finished, we all profess our faith together by reciting the Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God,

born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God

begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, through Him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven,

(bowing, we continue…) and by the Holy spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate  He suffered death and was buried,

and rose again on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life

who proceeds from the Father and the Son;

who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified;

who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.

Lastly, there is another prayer, “the Universal Prayer”, where we offer up prayers for our world, our country, and one another.  After each petition, the people respond together with “Lord, hear our prayer“.

This concludes the Liturgy of the Word, and we move to the high point of the Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Part 3 – Liturgy of the Eucharist

Prayer Journal – Let Thy Kingdom Come

kingdom comeWhen Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus, and “found” him in the synagogue teaching the teachers, they asked why he would behave this way and cause them anxiety.  If we want to follow and imitate Him,  His answer should give us a clue to our mission.  He answered;  “didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2)

As His followers, we need to be about our Father’s business.  When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we are recognizing that His will in heaven is our business here on earth, and when we pray for His Kingdom to come, we are lining ourselves up with and agreeing with His will for His Kingdom.  If we are boldly praying for His Kingdom to come, it would behoove us to know what His kingdom looks like.  I think we get a great insight into this by the example Jesus set for us in His prayer  in John 17.

According to this passage, His will is:

  • …that He be glorified in me so that He can bring glory to the Father.
  • …that I know Him.  And as a result of knowing Him, I have eternal life in Him.
  • …that we (His followers) be one, as He and the Father are one…His will is unity in the Spirit.
  • …to have His joy made complete in me.
  • …that I would be sanctified in His word, that is truth.
  • …that the world will know God loves them and will believe Jesus was sent from God by looking at me, and seeing my relationship in Christ.
  • …that God’s love will be in me, and that Jesus Himself will be in me.

thy will

Here I wrote out my favorite answer to the question “What does God want me to do?  What is His will for me?”  I actually learned to sing this Scripture when I was young, and it has never left me.

You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

earth_heaven

I was meditating on this part of the verse as John 17’s words about unity and oneness with the Father, Son, and one another reverberated through my mind, mingled with parts of the Apostle’s creed.  His will (according to John 17) is that we be one…and according to this model of prayer that He gave us, we are to pray that His will be done on earth, as in heaven.  He has one body, and we are all part of one another, here on earth as well as in heaven.

This is a vivid picture of the communion of the saints that is taught and professed in the apostles creed.  Though they have gone from this life on earth to REAL life, eternal life in heaven, a departed saint is still part of the “body of Christ”.  Dying has not disconnected them from Christ’s body of believers, otherwise, where would they go?  Christ only has one body, and it is comprised of those here on earth, as well as those in heaven.

I believe they are part of that cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 that is watching and cheering us on in our journey (the race), and they can and do continue to pray to the Father for us.  They haven’t left or been removed from His body, they are still active participants in His will at the feet of “our Father in heaven”, just as we are present in His body, the church, here on earth.  We are still one body, and we are held together, connected in purpose and spirit, by the Son, in whom we find unity one with another, as He prayed we would.

Our Father

Petitions

Religion or Relationship

Religion or relationship…another both/and answer to an either/or question.

People talk about the need for a personal relationship with the Lord instead of religion.  I hear it all the time in evangelical circles…and even really good, God-loving people will completely dismiss the one in favor of the other.

Growing up Protestant, I was taught that religion is man’s effort to reach God, and all our efforts will never accomplish that.  Relationship, on the other hand, is God reaching down to man and drawing man to Himself.  Of course, when defined that way, it’s easy to see why one would dismiss “mere religion” in favor of a friendship with God, and so, I joined them, for many years in ditching anything that “looked” religious, and bragged about “my personal relationship” with God.

But is that the true definition of religion?  I had to look and see.

According to World English Dictionary, religion is defined as:

  1. belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny
  2. any formal or institutionalized expression of such belief: the Christian religion
  3. the attitude and feeling of one who believes in a transcendent controlling power or powers
  4. chiefly RC Church  the way of life determined by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience entered upon by monks, friars, and nuns: to enter religion
  5. something of overwhelming importance to a person: football is his religion
  6. archaic — a. the practice of sacred ritual observances  b.  sacred rites and ceremonies

[C12: via Old French from Latin religiō  fear of the supernatural, piety, probably from religāre  to tie up, from re-  + ligāre  to bind]

I LOVE the word picture of the origination of the word “religion”.  I see “fear of the Lord”, tied up, bound together…I see relationship here.  Because of my fear of the Lord, I respond to Him, and we are bound together as one.  I see relationship AND religion working together, one is God’s initiation to me, the other is my response to God.

According to the Bible, there is a religion that is valuable, pure, and faultless…it comes as a response to God’s initiation…a response to His gift of grace:

James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I’ve been challenged with this lately, in my thoughts, and in my daily walk with the Lord.  As a Catholic, I’m finding it is not an either/or dilemma at all, but that BOTH are valuable and essential.  God, in His love and mercy, sent His son to die for my sins, and to bridge the gap from heaven to earth.  The “work” of redeeming man is done.  The gift is there, but it is not a relationship until the gift is unwrapped and accepted.