30 December 2008

Spoken in silence...

From the Introit for the Day:

While all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the midst of her swift course, thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.

-Wisdom 18:14-15a

The image of the Almighty God sending out His Incarnate Word while all of creation was in silence is a powerful picture. It has a sense of timelessness, and yet it is an actual event. Rather than coming with fanfare and loud announcements, God chose a quiet way. And too, there is a link with the description found in St. John’s Book of the Revelation, chapter 8, verse 1, where he writes, “When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” This silence marks the awe which comes before the great blasts of the trumpets which will follow. St. John tells us that while it is still silent, an angel comes and stands at the altar of incense with a golden censor, reminding us of the priest Zachariah, who received God’s revelation about the Forerunner while offering incense. The silence took place just before the great battle was to begin, linking it to the “quiet silence” in the Book of Wisdom, that silence in which the Lord and Conqueror chose to come.

29 December 2008

The martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket

From the Golden Legend.

“…Then one of the knights smote him as he kneeled before the altar on the head. And one Sir Edward Grim, that was his crossier put forth his arm with the cross to bear off the stroke, and the stroke smote the cross asunder and his arm almost off, wherefore he fled for fear, and so did all the monks, that were that time at compline. And then smote each at him, that they smote off a great piece of the skull of his head, that his brain fell on the pavement. And so they slew and martyred him, and were so cruel that one of them brake the point of his sword against the pavement. And thus this holy and blessed Archbishop S. Thomas suffered death in his own church for the right of all holy church. And when he was dead they stirred his brain, and after went in to his chamber and took away his goods, and his horse out of his stable, and took away his bulls and writings, and delivered them to Sir Robert Broke to bear into France to the king. And as they searched his chamber they found in a chest two shirts of hair made full of great knots, and then they said: Certainly he was a good man; and coming down into the churchward they began to dread and fear that the ground would not have borne them, and were marvellously aghast, but they supposed that the earth would have swallowed them all quick. And then they knew that they had done amiss. And anon it was known all about, how that he was martyred, and anon after took this holy body, and unclothed him, and found bishop's clothing above, and the habit of a monk under. And next his flesh he wore hard hair, full of knots, which was his shirt. And his breech was of the same, and the knots slicked fast within the skin, and all his body full of worms; he suffered great pain. And he was thus martyred the year of our Lord one thousand one hundred and seventy-one, and was fifty-three years old…”

Update: Here's the complete entry about St. Thomas from the Golden Legend.

"God stoops down..."

"Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?" This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms, praising God's grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity. God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us! God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him. The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning. But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who "is seated on high", looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me. God's looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God's looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me. The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: "He raises the poor from the dust." In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me to rise from depths towards the heights. "God stoops down". This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God's stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down: he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity's neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable.

- Pope Benedict XVI, Midnight Mass 2008

25 December 2008

The Solemn Proclamation of Christmas

The twenty-fifth day of December.
In the year five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-nine from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth;
In the year two-thousand nine-hundred and fifty-seven from the flood;
In the year two-thousand and fifty-one from the birth of Abraham;
In the year one-thousand five-hundred and ten from the going forth of the people of Israel out of Egypt under Moses;
In the year one-thousand and thirty-two from the anointing of David as king;
In the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel;
In the one-hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
In the year seven-hundred and fifty-two from the foundation of the city of Rome;
In the forty-second year of the reign of the Emperor Octavian Augustus;
In the sixth age of the world, while the whole earth was at peace —
Eternal God and the Son of the eternal Father, willing to consecrate the world by His gracious coming, having been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and the nine months of His conception being now accomplished, was born in Bethlehem of Judah of the Virgin Mary, made man.

The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the flesh.

22 December 2008

Eagerly anticipating...

I know it's still Advent, but I'm a push-over for the unashamedly sentimental things of Christmas...

At the other end of the building...

Recently I had the opportunity to move from my usual place in the sanctuary, back to the organ loft. Our students presented their magnificent Christmas concert of sacred music, and to save Mr. Murray from having to run back and forth from the front, he asked if I would be willing to play the organ for the congregational singing of the Christmas carols.

It really was great fun, and I enjoyed being "back on the bench" for a little while. As a young college student, I had begun my degree in music, majoring in organ performance and minoring in voice. After a year, I came to realize that my vocation was leading me to eventual ordination and so changed my concentration to Biblical studies and philosophy. But I never lost my love for music, and although I don't have the time anymore for any serious practice, I do enjoy catching a few moments now and then to sit at the organ and attempt to re-live my youth!

Although this picture doesn't show the big smile on my face, I had a great time "pulling out all the stops," so to speak.

Mass schedule

Mass schedule for the
Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Christmas Eve

Vigil Mass at 5:00 p.m.

Midnight Mass begins with music at 11:00 p.m., followed by the Solemn Proclamation of Christmas and Mass at 11:30 p.m.

Christmas Day

Low Mass at 8:00 a.m.

Sung Mass at 10:00 a.m.

18 December 2008

Leaving the nest...

Some of the students graduating from our parish school this year have begun to get responses for admission to colleges and universities. We're proud that two of our seniors -- Danny Cruse and Brittany Weems -- have been accepted by the University of Notre Dame, and James Galindo has been awarded a place at the U. S. Naval Academy.

Well done!

17 December 2008

The Great O Antiphons

Today is the first day of Late Advent, and we begin the great “O Antiphons,” which lead up to the Vigil of the Nativity. Each antiphon highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel, and they are taken from the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming of the Messiah.

The order of the antiphons isn't accidental. If we work backwards, beginning with the last title and take the first letter of each antiphon -- Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia -- the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” The Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and to whom we refer in these seven Messianic titles, tells us: “Tomorrow, I will come.”

16 December 2008

It's a miracle!

With the news that 2008 will go on record as the coldest year in a decade, it can be officially declared: our prophet/president-elect has accomplished his first miracle. He has stopped global warming, even before his inauguration. We can only guess what wonders are to come...

15 December 2008

And then there were six...

The community of our original five Poor Clares has grown! Sr. Maria Magdalena has moved from the Shrine in Hanceville, and has taken up residence here.

Pictured above are (left to right): Sister Grace Marie, Sister Mary Peter, Sister Rose Marie, Sister Elizabeth Marie, Sister Maria Magdalena, and Sister Marie St. Clare.

You can see our three spires in the background. The Sisters enjoy living just across the street from the church and school, and we certainly love having them take part in parish life.

13 December 2008

A great day...

What a great day we had yesterday, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Of course, it's always wonderful to start the day with the beautiful and quiet 7:00 a.m. Mass in the Sacred Heart Chapel. Then it was on to the glorious Sung Mass with the students at 9:15 a.m. Incense was hanging in the air, the music was gorgeous, and we had lots of visitors -- many of them families who had come to take a tour of the school with the intention of enrolling their students. During the homily I enjoyed telling the children about the miraculous tilma of St. Juan Diego, and I think several of them had their interest piqued enough to want to explore more about it on their own. In the afternoon all the students gathered again in the church for Solemn Evensong and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a beautiful way to honor Our Lady.

All throughout yesterday I received birthday cards and greetings from all the classes (today, St. Lucy's Day, is my 59th birthday), and to top it off, our varsity basketball team won last night's game! Altogether, a super day -- thanks be to God!

08 December 2008

Good advice from a great Cardinal...

On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, some excellent guidance...

02 December 2008

That marvellous Anglican chant...

A particularly beautiful way of singing the Psalms is when they are set to Anglican chant. We use this form of psalmnody frequently at the parish, and it's always a joy to participate in this style of chanting. Based upon the earlier practice of plainsong, Anglican chant provides a way of singing non-metrical verse using four-part harmony, and it's common to hear it in Anglican cathedrals and parishes with a strong liturgical music program.

Here's a fine example sung by the King's College Choir:

When I was a young theological student studying at Sarum in England, my buddies and I heard the wonderfully funny rendition done by the Master Singers, setting a weather report to Anglican chant:

After hearing that, some of us would have contests to see who could come up with the most bizarre concoction, so one was liable to hear the local police blotter, or portions of C. S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity" sung to Anglican chant. Ah, those carefree student days!

Here's one more from the Master Singers:

01 December 2008

"Before the throne of grace..."

As is our tradition each year on the First Sunday of Advent, we chanted the Great Litany in procession, which was followed by the Exhortation:

Beloved in the Lord: Our Savior Christ, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood as a sign and pledge of his love, for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, and for a spiritual sharing in his risen life. For in these holy Mysteries we are made one with Christ, and Christ with us; we are made one body in him, and members one of another.

Having in mind, therefore, his great love for us, and in obedience to his command, his Church renders to Almighty God our heavenly Father never-ending thanks for the creation of the world, for his continual providence over us, for his love for all mankind, and for the redemption of the world by our Savior Christ, who took upon himself our flesh, and humbled himself even to death on the cross, that he might make us the children of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, and exalt us to everlasting life.

But if we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and drinking of that Cup.

For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord’s Body. Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.

Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven. And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the banquet of that most heavenly Food.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God and Father, to him be glory in the Church evermore. Through him let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise, which is our bounden duty and service, and, with faith in him, come boldly before the throne of grace and humbly confess our sins to Almighty God.