Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thanks to Dr. Michael Foley of Baylor University and the St. Gregory the Great Society of Waco, Texas--I am lifting two wonderful articles from his monthly newsletter, OK as he lifted them from previous works. Thanks for all the heavy lifting Mike. :)

If you do not have time to read them now, print them out and read in bed later. And if you cannot read it all and want to dismiss it as more of Daniels love for all things Latin--the important point of both is the ancient and venerable beauty of our faith--here is one of our most famous churches in Rome who tomorrow celebrates its 1400th year as a Catholic Church--wow--and the other, not everyone needs to rush out and join the old things, but we must bring into the new rite--more and more, the silence and reverence that is due Mass as the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our dearly beloved Lord Jesus Christ. What a beautiful Church and what a beautiful Mass we have been given.

more glad to be Catholic every day,



Restoring All Things: A Column on the Liturgical Year

“To restore all things in Christ” (Eph. 1:10) was the motto of the great liturgical reformer Pope St. Pius X and a fitting description of how the Church calendar sanctifies everyday life. In this column we present some of the customs that developed from the Church’s celebration of its sacred cycles.

The following is a great article on a great church which has a great anniversary tomorrow and a great connection to the upcoming feast of Pentecost.

Turning Temples Christward

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, APRIL 30, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Rome may have celebrated its 2,782 year anniversary on April 21, but another important birthday is in the offing. On May 13, the Pantheon will celebrate its 1,400th year as a Christian church.

The jewel of Rome's historical center, the Pantheon was the most ambitious building project undertaken in Roman history. The giant hemispherical dome resting on the cylindrical drum drew on every lesson the Romans had learned in 800 years of conquest and construction.

The engineering mastery displayed in the Pantheon surpassed any country in the Empire. The concrete dome spanned 143 feet in diameter, twice as large as the next runner up -- a bath complex in Baiae. The sophisticated employment of pozzolana cement, instead of lime mortar, the structural arches countering the lateral stress, and the gradation of the density of the cement from foundation to dome testified to a people who had outstripped

even the Egyptians and their pyramids.

This monument to man's ingenuity was intended to symbolize the Roman fixation with deification. The first temple on the site, built in 25 B.C. by Agrippa, son-in-law of Augustus, featured Mars and Venus, the divine ancestors of Julius Caesar and by extension, Augustus himself. The new building constructed by Hadrian in 125 at the zenith of the Roman empire went even further.

The height and diameter of the building are equal: 143 feet by 143 feet. The equality of the horizontal and the vertical signifies the conjunction of heaven and earth. The giant open oculus, a round hole at the very top of the dome, provides the sole source of light for the temple. It was conceived as an eye (hence the name oculus) through which the gods surveyed the emperor, the god-in-waiting on earth. And the decoration of the dome and floor were made up of intermingled circles and squares, symbols of heaven and earth, respectively.

A Pythagorean reading of the Pantheon saw the oculus as the sun, the 28 ribs extending from the oculus as the moon, and the three semicircular niches in the drum as a triangle with the emperor at the apex. This interpretation sees the design of the Pantheon as a symbol of the emperor's apotheosis.

After almost half a millennium as a pagan structure, the Eastern Emperor Phocas gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV who conferred new life and identity on the ancient structure. On May 13, 609, it became the first pagan temple to be transformed into a Christian church.

Instead of falling into disrepair and ultimately being quarried for new projects, the Pantheon was reborn as St. Mary of the Martyrs, ready to continue through the centuries with a newer and more glorious purpose. To cement its dignity among churches, the bones of hundreds of martyrs were brought from the catacombs outside the city for safekeeping within its strong walls.

As a result of the martyrs' translocation, the Pantheon celebrates its dedication on Nov. 1, All Saints Day.

In Rome, the roots of conversion were sunk so deep that the very urban fabric turned from its old pagan significance to a greater Christian message. Mirabilia Urbis, a medieval Roman guide book, recounts a convoluted tale of the Pantheon as a temple to the fertility goddess Cybele, claimed for Christianity in the name of Mary, mother of God.

The most wonderous manifestation of the Christianized Pantheon take place on Pentecost Sunday when red rose petals are dropped through the oculus into the church. Representing the tongues of flame of the Holy Spirit, the petals flutter among the gathered crowds, a festive reminder of how through God’s grace, all things can be made new.

Makes Sense: A Column Featuring Articles of Interest

This outstanding piece of homespun wisdom comes to us from Mrs. Christi Derr, who describes herself as “an average, church-attending, EWTN-watching, married mother of five, lay Catholic.” The Byzantine liturgy, incidentally, is the rite used by the Eastern Churches, both those in full union with the pope (such as the Ukrainian Catholic Church) and those not (e.g., the Greek Orthodox). It is an ancient liturgy that can be traced back to St. John Chrysostom (5th century).

True Worship of God is the Cure for Insanity

By Christi Derr

Three earth-shattering events converged in my life recently and radically altered my whole world view. I attended a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, I attended a Latin Mass, and I visited my hair stylist.

To begin with the last: Everyone knows that the most astute social scientists in the world are bartenders, taxi drivers, and hair stylists. So, recently I climbed the mountain, so to speak, to seek the latest wisdom from my personal stylist. In the midst of a cut and style she casually informed me that the most abused drugs are prescription anti-depressants. I later discovered through news articles that the abuse of anti-depressants is indeed a fact. Abusers range from pre-teen kids to every age of adulthood. I can’t even imagine how many children and adults are in therapy. I am completely overwhelmed by the obvious conclusion that so much of the treatment contains some sort of prescription! It is impossible to not ask the question, "Why?" The United States is one of the most affluent nations in history; there are no current wars on our soil, no famine, or great plague sweeping the nation. We have antibiotics, modern dentistry and indoor plumbing; even the economy cannot explain why we are all so depressed.

Next snapshot: Many Catholic families whose faith and lives I greatly admire have started attending Latin or Byzantine liturgies. There are not enough, probably to justify a trend article in the news, but enough in my personal sphere of acquaintance that I took note. Here, I must admit to a kind of impatience with criticism of Vatican II that I have listened to over the years. I had some initial reluctance over attending these “throw back” liturgies with them, but I eventually accepted their invitations. What I experienced at these parishes was truly life changing to me!

After participating in the liturgies I walked away with the same reaction from both. I was filled with a sort of holy awe and struggled to come to grips with what I was feeling. I had just worshipped the Almighty Triune God. I realized that up until participating in those liturgies, I had gone to Mass, but now I had worshipped God. I suddenly felt like I had never worshipped Him before. It isn’t very modern to worship; I was almost uncomfortable saying the word. I experienced a radical shift in my understanding of the sacrifice of the Mass. There are so many “helps” throughout these liturgies that make the average church goer really understand what he is participating in! Here are a couple of elements from both Masses that really struck me as a newcomer to worship.

In the Byzantine Liturgy the priest sings out, “Wisdom, be attentive!” before the readings and Gospel. How effective! I suddenly stop looking at the shoes of the woman in front of me and am attentive to the Word of God. Similarly, before the anaphora, again the lector sings out, “The doors! The doors!” the doors of the iconostas open and we are reminded in a physical manner of a great spiritual truth — that heaven itself has been opened to us and we are allowed (we do not by any means deserve this privilege) to participate in the heavenly banquet of the Lamb. The most powerful aspect of the Eastern liturgy, though, is its overpowering beauty! The prayers and praises sung throughout the celebration are so splendidly beautiful that one is almost convinced that the Holy Spirit dispensed with His usual custom of inspiring man to write, and just took up a pen and wrote everything Himself — so much does the beauty seem to be beyond anything man is able to produce.

In the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass there is an effective use of silence. If there is any single overpowering trait of the modern world, it is a lack of silence. Much of what the priest prays during consecration is prayed quietly. The people are left in silence to reflect upon what is happening, dare I say, to contemplate. In fact there is time for reflection throughout the whole of the extraordinary form of the Latin Mass. Brilliantly, this silence is then contrasted with Gregorian chant of the Psalms. The most powerful attribute of the “old Mass” to me though, is the time spent kneeling at the altar rail, waiting for the priest to bring Our Lord to each communicant. Why in the world did we ever do away with altar rails? I was raised on the Novus Ordo, so it is not like I am going all nostalgic here. I can not tell you how much that time for reflection accompanied by the appropriate body language helped to remind me of the great truth — Jesus Himself, God in the flesh, is allowing me to receive Him and thus become a part of Him! Look at the difference in symbolism and instruction: Waiting in line and putting out my hand is no different from a million different activities that I do daily. I wait in line and put my hand out for movie tickets, to get change, airline tickets, etc. In contrast, there is no time ever that I kneel down, open my mouth and someone “feeds” me. Body instructs spirit. My body is telling me that something is happening here that is like nothing else in my life. The fact I am “fed” reminds me of my true helplessness and the fact that God Himself is stooping down to feed me! The fact that I am kneeling tells me that God and I are not equals, He is greater than I. The fact that I have to wait teaches me that I do not command God; I wait on Him.

The modern Mass is of course, valid. Jesus in the Eucharist is still Jesus in the Eucharist. But it is too often celebrated in way that is “bare bones” and minimalistic. What are missing in the “normal” American Mass are the “helps” that some of us ordinary Catholics need. What is missing is our preparation to receive Him properly. He is not changed, we are. To me, it is the difference between pouring water on a sponge and pouring water over concrete. God is all powerful and in His Mercy He comes to us in any valid Mass but our disposition in receiving Him is radically different in the three discussed liturgies. The chants, the silence, beautiful music, bodily postures and poetic descriptions all help us to understand what great act is really taking place at the Mass and prepare us to receive Jesus with love. Should we ever be matter-of-fact or comfortable with the idea that Jesus comes to us in the Holy Eucharist? Shouldn’t we be in perpetual shock? Where is the awestruck gratitude? Where is the worship of the Word made flesh? Or are we so comfortable because we really don’t believe it anymore, or worse, can’t wait to change the subject back to us?

“Wait a moment, average church-going lay woman,” you protest, “didn’t you just say that you were impatient with complaints about Vatican II and handwringing over the Novus Ordo? Is this whole article a subversive way of encouraging rebellion against the new Mass and enlistment in Fraternity of St. Peter or Eastern Rite churches all over the country?” Well, no. Mother Teresa became a Saint by attending the Novus Ordo Mass; the Mass is still holy. What we need to rebel against is the way we have been participating in it. (And perhaps the music — well, one song at least and immediately. I would like to nominate, “Sing a New Church into being” as the first to go!) We need to blow on the glowing ember of our worship of the Holy Trinity and rouse it to bright and hot flame.

Pope St. Pius X, whose name, sadly, has been dragged through the mud by schismatic traditionalists, prophetically stated that the modern heresy would be man worshiping himself. He writes in E Supremi , “[M]an, with infinite temerity, has put himself in the place of God…[and] made of the universe a temple wherein he himself is to be adored.” And so the reason for our depression becomes clear. If man is god, what a pathetic and weak god he is! I mean, we can’t even solve the smallest of our daily problems — traffic for instance. We all are familiar with the pettiness, selfishness, lack of love, and sometimes even cruelty, we experience in ourselves and others. Who wouldn’t be depressed if we, with all these evils, are god?

Which brings me back to my hair stylist…A definition of sanity is when one’s perception of reality matches reality. For instance, if there is a paper in front of me, and I perceive a paper and not an army of flying monkeys, I am sane. On the other hand if mankind, despite all evidence to the contrary, starts to think that man is God, we are collectively insane. No wonder so many people are being prescribed anti-depressant drugs. For many of these people the answer to all this sadness and hopelessness is: Worship! Adoration! Our souls are nourished on truth, beauty and goodness in the same way that our bodies are kept alive with food, water and air. Without worship and adoration our souls become sickened.

Again, it is not practical, nor even a good idea for all of us to run out and join a Church with ancient liturgies. However, just as midwives making an entrance into health care reformed the ways doctors were delivering babies, and the remarkable success of homeschoolers in the educational scene has challenged schools to improve, we need collectively to be inspired by the worship that is occurring at these liturgies and emulate it. We need to quiet our souls and realize that participating in the Holy Mass is THE most important thing we will ever do in our lives. The most immediate and practical response to this challenge of worship would be to fill up the hours of adoration at our parishes, or to start adoration there. We need to cry out with the angels, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” We should fall down in worship before Almighty God, thereby realizing the truth that He is God and we shall not have any false Gods before Him! As with all things connected with Our Good Lord, if we begin by trying to render Him a service — true love and worship, He will turn it to a good for us — in this case, the reclamation of our sanity!

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