Thursday, May 12, 2016

Easter Octave. What?

   We began the Easter Octave with the celebration of the Easter Vigil.  Appropriately so, for it is in the Vigil where we are reminded of the new birth Christ offers to us through his Passion. During the three hour Vigil we surveyed the restoration of humanity to the LORD recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. And if we are mindful of how the liturgy has progressed since Easter Vigil, we can see how the Vigil marks the ever-present beginning of a new season of grace and a time of joy and thanksgiving. That, as you know, is what we remember (in one hour) in our worship at each Mass. So why is this thing called the Easter Octave such a big deal in the liturgy?
   We as Catholic Christians understand that Easter is not one day of celebration—it is a fifty day celebration, that is why we refer to the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday as "the great Sunday." We remain true to apostolic tradition by recognizing that the feasts of Easter and Pentecost were the ultimate of the liturgical year. We know this season now as the Easter Octave. Sunday, May 15, 2016, is Pentecost Sunday. No doubt you have given more attention to the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church as you have read and prayed the Sacred Scriptures during the Easter Octave, you really can't avoid it. This Sacred Tradition of remembering our identity as first, Creations of our Triune God and ultimately as a child of God has enlarged what we used to understand in part as the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Faith--Sanctifier of our life in Christ. True, but as we continue in our Christian Faith as Catholic Christians we are realizing what we previously believed was a part of a much wider and profound understanding.
   The treatise, On the Holy Spirit, by Saint Basil the Great was included with the Sacred Scripture readings of the Divine Office during this Easter Octave. It so resonated with us that we want to share it with you, our fellow Catholic Christians. St. Basil the Great (330-379 A. D.) is a Doctor of The Church. You can read more about him at:

The Work of the Holy Spirit:
"The titles given to the Holy Spirit must surely stir the soul of anyone who hears them, and make him realize that they speak of nothing less than the supreme Being. Is he not called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, the steadfast Spirit, the guiding Spirit? But his principal and most personal title is the Holy Spirit.
To the Spirit all creatures turn in their need for sanctification; all living things seek him according to their ability. His breath empowers each to achieve its own natural end.
The Spirit is the source of holiness, a spiritual light, and he offers his own light to every mind to help it in its search for truth. By nature the Spirit is beyond the reach of our mind, but we can know him by his goodness. The power of the Spirit fills the whole universe, but he gives himself only to those who are worthy, acting in each according to the measure of his faith.
Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.
The Spirit raises our hearts to heaven, guides the steps of the weak, and brings to perfection those who are making progress. He enlightens those who have been cleansed from every stain of sin and makes them spiritual by communion with himself.
As clear, transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit dwells, and who are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and a source of grace for others.
From the Spirit comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of the mysteries of faith, insight into the hidden meaning of Scripture, and other special gifts. Through the Spirit we become citizens of heaven, we enter into eternal happiness, and abide in God. Through the Spirit we acquire a likeness to God..."

   Father, into your hands we commit our spirit to be transformed into your likeness by your Spirit. Your Spirit imbues our nature as we recognize that the circumstances of our life are the sacraments of your grace on the way of salvation. May we let go of our own control of our image before others so that your image--your divine nature--outshines all that is contrary to you in us.
   Come, Holy Spirit! In our relationships within our families, may we choose first to allow you to posses our thoughts so that our words and actions would be Christ's words and actions.
   Confirm us, Holy Spirit! In our vocations as fathers and mothers, may God's divine purpose for the family be accomplished by our desire to live our identity in the love that God has for his Creation. May we foster in our children love for you by attending to their spirits as we train them in the way they should go.
   Empower us, Holy Spirit! We aren't able to correct all the injustices in the world, but through your strengthening may we practice mercy and justice in all relationships. As employees, managers, leaders may we recognize that our value begins and ends in our identity as Christ's ambassadors in our world. May his Beatitudes be our attitude in all responsibilities.
   Teach us, Holy Spirit! Tame what is restless within us. Shine the light of God's brilliance into the hidden places of our mind and heart. Anoint our thoughts with discernment, wisdom and understanding. Take control of our tongues, may they be instruments of grace and not weapons of self-promotion. 
   Remind us, Holy Spirit! You are near us at either hand, you are near us at each step. May our labor be offerings of thanksgiving to our Creator. May our actions be the work of kindness done in praise and honor of our Triune God.

Litany of Humility for this Year of Mercy

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I,

Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.(repeat after each line)

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Quotidian Apologetics--7: Sacred Tradition--Part Two

   When we were Protestant Christians we assumed that the word liturgy referred to the readings of the Scriptures.  We were not wrong in that understanding we were just too narrow in our scope of understanding the word.  We have always valued the Sacred Scripture as God's Word to us and rightly believed that it is the reading of the Word of God that we learn the nature of God. One of the several reasons why we journeyed out of the Protestant Movement was because we hungered for more of God and the authentic worship of him.  It is in the liturgy of The Catholic Church that we discovered the more of what we longed for.  
    The word "liturgy" originally meant a "public word" or a "service in the name of/on behalf of the people." In Christian tradition it means the participation of the People of God in the "work of God." Through the liturgy Christ, our redeemer and high priest, continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church. CCC1069
   Years ago we were listening to an interview of one of our favorite authors who happens to be a Benedictine nun.  We latched on to a phrase in her description of how Catholic Christians are taught to understand life. "All of life is sacramental" by that she communicated that as Catholic Christians we have a deep sense that our identity is defined and completed by the whole of liturgy.  We worship God in the sacrament of the Eucharist for it is the source and summit of The Faith. And we worship God through the sacramental life.
   Your Protestant friend probably won't quibble much over this truth. But it is in how the worship of God through the sacraments and sacramentals ("devotionals" in Protestant speak) of our Catholic Faith that the Protestant Movement has diffused and watered down the celebration of Christian Mystery. The very word "mystery" causes the modern thinking of Protestant Christianity to doubt. The history behind that is complex but we leave that to the historians and theologians.  All we need to be aware of as we are relating to our Protestant and unbelieving friends is that it is the acknowledgement that God is mystery is a long step to take. If that seems impossible to them then understanding the Sacred Tradition will be a long climb up hill.

   The Catechism refers to the purpose of the sacraments by stating that they are to sanctify humanity. The body of Christ everywhere present through The Church is nourished through what is referred to as the "sacraments of faith." The ultimate purpose of the seven sacraments is to give right worship to God in all things...all things! Every word and action is the currency of the Sacramental Economy. 
   You may have been a Catholic Christian for so long that you have forgotten how these precious sacraments nourish your faith in and worship of God. Your Protestant Christian friends may appreciate some of the sacraments but have not connected the dots of the Sacramental Economy to why the worship of our Triune God in The Catholic Church remains faithful to biblically ordained worship.  They may not realize that wherever they worship they are seeing what "worship" devolves to when Sacred Tradition is tossed aside. All manner of variations and dilutions have replaced what is the source and summit of our Christian Faith. Yet in The Catholic Church the sacramental life culminates in the worship of our Triune God in the Mass and the worship of our Triune God in the Mass nourishes and sustains our sacramental life. What a sacred and treasured mystery!

   "The wonderful works of God among the people of the Old Testament were but a prelude to the work of Christ the Lord in redeeming mankind and giving perfect glory to God. He accomplished this work principally by the Paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrection from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby 'dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.' For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth 'the wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'" For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation. CCC1067 

    Let's begin by revisiting what the seven sacraments of The Church are as we continue in our exploration of The Sacred Tradition. If the Sacramental Economy is where our faith in God and our identity as his Creation moves and lives and has our being, then the sacraments are the currency that obtains the fruits of Christ's Paschal mystery that we celebrate at each Mass in the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.  If our heavenly Father is the source and goal of the liturgy of the people, then we are investing our lives in the here and now and most importantly in eternity where adoration and thanksgiving will be the culmination of our existence as God's created image. 
   "From the liturgical poem of the first creation to the canticles of the heavenly Jerusalem, the inspired authors proclaim the plan of salvation as one vast divine blessing" CCC1079
   "In every liturgical action the Holy Spirit is sent in order to bring us into communion with Christ and so to form his Body. The Holy Spirit is like the sap of the Father's vine which bears fruit on its branches....CCC1108

   It is in us living the sacraments of The Faith that the vine of Christianity is nourished. So what are the these seven sacraments that serve us in honoring and worshipping our Triune God in the Eucharistic sacrifice of our worship as Catholic Christians? The first three sacraments will be familiar to your Protestant friends, no doubt their part of the Movements accepts parts of the truth of these sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. The other four sacraments are secure signposts to guide us on our path of faith toward eternity.  They are the Sacrament of Reconciliation, known by most Protestants as Confession, but we know it is so much more than simply an act of confessing our sins to our priests. The vocational sacraments--Sacrament of Marriage and Sacrament of Holy Orders-- are given to us who live our lives within these sacred vows as a way of imparting God's life in us. The last sacrament is the Sacrament of Healing that aptly complete the life of Faith.  It is the sacrament that strengthens us as we journey into our full identity as a child of God in this life into "real" life--eternity.
   GetFed is one of our favorite go-to sites for succinct descriptions of The Catholic Faith. You may access their excellent one page article on understanding the seven sacraments here:
The article sums up the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church as "injections of divine grace to help us live our lives, from birth to death, in harmony with the will of God."  It is in this harmony that true happiness and well-being are ultimately found. These injections of grace is what we will turn our attention to now, beginning with the Sacrament of Baptism.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Quotidian Apologetics: Sacred Tradition: Worshipping Mary?

   Let's begin with the big stumbling blocks of misunderstanding of the Sacred Tradition of The Catholic Church for Protestant Christians and unbelievers. No doubt, your friend may lead with these errors when you attempt to explain the Sacred Tradition of The Catholic Church.  You may confidentially inform your Protestant friend that the Catechism does not teach what they may think it teaches.

1. The Catechisim of the Catholic Church does not teach Catholic Christians to worship Mary.

2. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not teach Catholic Christians to worship the Pope.
3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not teach that a priest has the power to forgive sins.
4. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not teach Catholic Christians to worship a dead Christ.
5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not teach Catholic Christians to worship a Saint.
6. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not teach Catholic Christians to use a rosary like a lucky charm.

   We believe that once the common misunderstandings of The Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church are acknowledged by us as Catholic Christians, our Protestant Christian friends may be more open to understanding just how beautiful and good Sacred Tradition is. We moved past our own misunderstandings of The Sacred Tradition as we made our own journey from believing in parts of the truth of Christianity to entrusting ourselves to The Catholic Church's intrepid defense of the integrity of the Christian Faith.
   In order to remain brief in our own attempt at explaining what has already been stated in history, we will begin each chapter by opening a window to how we used to believe as Protestant Christians.  Your Protestant friends may have differing views and beliefs according to their own affiliation with the Movement due to the multifarious re-interpretations of Christian Doctrine. We cannot speak for all Protestant Christians. 
   The introduction to the section on Sacred Tradition in the Catechism begins by answering the question, "Why the liturgy?". It is an appropriate question to answer since it is in the worship of the Triune God that you can witness the veracity of the Sacred Tradition of The Church with Biblically-ordained worship of our Creator from the beginning of recorded history. More specifically, the liturgy of the worship of God has remained true in its purpose and that is because the Sacred Authority of the Church has protected the Deposit of Faith present in the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition.  As you will find in our discussion on the Sacred Tradition, we wouldn't have a leg to stand on (pun intended) without these other two legs of the stool of the Christian Faith. In our next essay on The Sacred Tradition we will explore what liturgy actually means and how we participate in "the work of God" in worship and in living a sacramental life as a servant in the image of our Lord.