Thoughts On The Liturgy This Sunday

The bishops recently approved a new translation of the Liturgy.  It is my understanding that we will begin using it in Advent.  Recently, in speaking to priest of his archdiocese, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster made a number of points worth considering:

1.    My first conviction is this: Liturgy is never my own possession, or my creation.  It is something we are given,  from the Father.  Therefore my own tastes, my own preferences, my own personality, my own view of ecclesiology, are marginal, of little importance, when it comes to the celebration of the Mass.  We don vestments to minimise our personal preferences, not to express or emphasise them.  Liturgy is not ours. It is never to be used as a form of self-expression.  Indeed the opposite is the truth. Within the diocese, when the priests of a parish change there should be clear continuity in the manner in which Mass is celebrated. The Mass is the action of the Church.  That’s what matters, not my opinion.  I once heard that Blessed Pope John Paul never commented on a Mass he had celebrated.  It’s the Mass.  My task is to be faithful.

2.    My second point flows from this: the Liturgy forms us, not us the Liturgy.  The words of the Mass form our faith and our prayer.  They are better than my spontaneous creativity.  At Mass my place is very clear: I am an instrument in the hand of the Lord.  I am not a conductor, still less a composer.  Ordained into the person of Christ the Head, I am just an instrumental cause of this great mystery.  This is so important.  My celebration of the Mass each morning shapes my heart for the day ahead.  At Mass I am the Lord’s instrument just as I hope to be in the day that follows.  In all the events of the day, in the decisions I make, the words I speak, my greatest, safest hope is that the Lord will use me and that I, personally, will not get in His way.  We are servants of the Liturgy through which God opens to us His saving life.

These are very important points.  The Liturgy is not ours nor the Church’s.  It is a gift from the Father.  Understanding Mass that way changes a lot for me.  It causes me to have fewer opinions – if the Liturgy is God’s gift to us, then my response in faith is to accept.  What a fool I would be to carp about a gift from the Almighty Master of the Universe!  The ingratitude is breathtaking.  It would be like saying, “God, you are the Supreme Being; perfect in knowledge, perfect in power, and perfect in love.  But, I, finite creature that I am, think you got it wrong with the Liturgy stuff.  So I guess you’re not all-knowing, all-powerful, or all-loving.  Maybe next time; I will let you know if I approve.”  Absurd, but very, very common.

The second point is important, too.  “The Liturgy forms us; not us the Liturgy.”  God gave us the Liturgy to help form us so that we could join Him in Heaven.  This point is similar to the first.  The Liturgy is not ours to shape and manipulate as we please.  It is a gift from the Father intended to bring us to greater holiness.  We are changed by the Liturgy, not the other way around.

Archbishop Nichols concludes with a beautiful point:

[W]henever the Liturgy of the Church, the celebration of the Mass, truly enters our heart and soul, then the result is a vibrant sense of mission. When we meet the Lord in all His love for us, then we are ready to respond, especially in the care we give to the poorest and those most in need, those closest to the Heart of our Saviour.

Although the degree to which we will feel this sense of mission will differ according to each person’s spiritual development, the Liturgy strengthens it.  Although directed toward his priests, pondering Archbishop Nichols’ thoughts would be worthwhile for all.

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When Does Lent 2011 End? (Update)

Good news for all of us struggling with our Lenten vows:  Lent officially ends on April 21, 2011 at the time the Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins.  According to the General Norm 28,

Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive.

Of course, we’ll all be in Mass so it’ll be difficult to take advantage of the timing!

_________

Update:

The end of Lent does not mean the end of fasting.  We just replace our Lenten vow with a traditional Easter Fast until Easter Sunday:

On Good Friday and, if possible, also on Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the Easter fast is observed everywhere.

General Norm 20.

Seven Founders Of The Order Of Servites

(image source)

The memorial (optional) of the Seven Founders of the Order of Servites is February 17th.

The proper name for the Servites is the Order of Friar Servants of Mary.  The Servite Order began around the year 1233.  It was founded by seven wealthy merchants, cloth merchants.   So what is the Servite Order all about?  This short video explains:

The founders were:  (1) Buonfiglio Monaldo; (2) Alexis Falconieri; (3) Benedict dell’ Antella; (4) Bartholomew Amidei; (5) Ricovero Uguccione; (6) Gerardino Sostegni; and (7) John Buonagiunta.

Some information about the Seven Founders of the Order of Servites:

The American Catholic has a short summary and a reflection, New Advent has another, Catholic Culture.org, and Catholic Fire has a final one.

Catholic Boot Camp: Solemnities, Feasts, and Memorials

Have you ever wondered why we Catholics do what we do? I don’t mean the high theological moral issues, but why does the priest where white on certain days, green on others, and pink (er, . . . rose) on one day of the year? You never have to wonder again! Catholic Boot Camp will answer all your questions and, hopefully, bring out the meaning behind a lot of what we do. Check it out every Thursday.

A “solemnity” is principal celebration of a mystery of prime importance. Father Edward McNamara, a professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum University, explained in a news item in 2008:

Solemnities are the highest degree and are usually reserved for the most important mysteries of faith. These include Easter, Pentecost and the Immaculate Conception; the principal titles of Our Lord, such as King and Sacred Heart; and celebrations that honor some saints of particular importance in salvation history, such as Sts. Peter and Paul, and St. John the Baptist on his day of birth.

Each solemnity has several unique liturgical elements such as its own opening prayer, communion antiphon, and so on. This liturgy takes precedence over a regular weekday or Sunday liturgy when they conflict. What are the solemnities for the Church generally? In the United States for 2010-2011, they are:

  • December 8, 2010:       Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • December 25, 2010:      The Nativity of our Lord
  • January 1, 2011:     Octave Day: The Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God
  • January 2, 2011:    The Epiphany of the Lord
  • March 19, 2011:     Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • March 25, 2011:    The Annunciation of the Lord
  • April 24, 2011:      EASTER SUNDAY: THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD
  • April 25, 2011:      Monday of the Octave of Easter
  • April 26, 2011:      Tuesday of the Octave of Easter
  • April 27, 2011:     Wednesday of the Octave of Easter
  • April 28, 2011:     Thursday of the Octave of Easter
  • April 29, 2011:     Friday of the Octave of Easter
  • April 30, 2011:     Saturday of the Octave of Easter
  • May 1, 2011:          Divine Mercy Sunday
  • June 2, 2011:         The Ascension of the Lord
  • June 12, 2011:      Pentecost Sunday
  • June 19, 2011:     Most Holy Trinity
  • June 24, 2011:    The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
  • June 26, 2011:   THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
  • July 1, 2011:  The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • August 15, 2011:  The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • November 1, 2011:  All Saints Day
  • November 20, 2011:  OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST THE KING

Feasts

Feasts are a step down from solemnities.  Professor McNamara explained:

A feast honors a mystery or title of the Lord, of Our Lady, or of saints of particular importance (such as the apostles and Evangelists) and some of historical importance such as the deacon St. Lawrence.

The feast usually has some proper prayers but has only two readings plus the Gloria. Feasts of the Lord, such as the Transfiguration and Exaltation of the Holy Cross, unlike other feasts, are celebrated when they fall on a Sunday. On such occasions they have three readings, the Gloria and the Creed.

Finally, per Fr. McNamara, a “memorial” is “usually of saints but may also celebrate some aspect of the Lord or of Mary. Examples include the optional memorial of the Holy Name of Jesus or the obligatory memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”