Liturgy of the Hours

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Blessed Christmas

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2: 6-7


Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas is about Christ, not gifts, cardinal reminds Catholics


The Archbishop of Guatemala, Cardinal Rodolfo Quezada Toruno, called on the faithful in that country not to reduce Christmas to the mere “exchanging of gifts” and to keep in mind that “Christ must be the irreplaceable and only focus of our Christmas celebrations.”

In his pastoral exhortation for Advent and Christmas, the archbishop stated, “It is not possible to reduce it to an occasion for extraordinary purchases, to the exchanging of gifts, to a children’s festivity or a simple excuse for profane celebrations.”

He called on Christians to “see the time of Advent as a spiritual journey towards Christmas and to not allow it to be swallowed up by the consumerist atmosphere of the age.”

The cardinal said nativity scenes should be turned into “small domestic altars, places of payer, reflection and great spiritual content.” He also encouraged Guatemalans to be austere in their celebrations for Christmas, in “imitation of Christ, who was born, lived and died in poverty.” “A good Christian must never fall into the claws of a consumerist society.”

“To consider superfluous material things as necessary and to acquire them at any cost is a new form of slavery,” he added.

“May all of us find in this celebration another reason to be consistent with our faith in our personal, family and social lives,” the cardinal stated.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dignitas Personae (The Dignity of a Person)

An Instruction from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on ethical issues arising from biomedical research, provides guidance on how to respect human life and human procreation in our heavily scientific age.

See USCCB page.

"No estoy yo aquí que soy tu Madre?"

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Mystical Rose,
make intercession for the holy Church,
protect the Sovereign Pontiff,
help all those who invoke thee in their necessities,
and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary
and Mother of the true God,
obtain for us from thy most holy Son
the grace of keeping our faith,
sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life,
burning charity
and the precious gift of final perseverance.

This prayer was approved and enriched with an indulgence of five hundred days by Pope Pius X at all audience held on August, 1908, and was included in the official edition of approved indulgenced prayers (1950).

Raccolta number 389, 500 days Indulgence, Pope Saint Pius X audience, August 15, 1908.

Am I not here, who am your Mother?
- Our Lady to San Juan Diego

Our Lady of Guadalupe,
Patroness of the Philippines,
Protectress of the Unborn,
pray for us!

Saint Juan Diego,
pray for us!

O Mary conceived without sin. . .

Note: This post is, as usual, late. But it's never to late to honor the Holy Mother in her Immaculate Conception which the entire Church celebrated as a Solemnity five days ago. The Immaculate Conception is the Patroness of the Philippines and December 8 is a Holy Day of Obligation in the entire archipelago.

The Immaculate Conception, Giovanni Battista TIEPOLO;
1767-69; oil on canvas; Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Immaculate Conception; Bartolomeo MURILLO;
1678; oil on canvas; Museo del Prado

Inmaculada Concepción (La Colosal) (Immaculate Conception),
oil on canvas, 436 x 297 cm.

On March 31, 1876 Pius IX authorized the following antiphon, versicle and prayer in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The prayer below is the collect for the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8)

Ant. Haec est virga in qua nec nodus originalis, nec cortex actualis culpae fuit. Ant. This is the rod in which there was neither knot of original sin, nor rind of actual guilt.
V. In conceptione tua, O Virgo, immaculata fuisti.
R. Ora pro nobis Patrem, cuius Filium peperisti.
V. In thy conception, O Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father, whose Son thou didst bring forth.
DEUS, qui per immaculatam Virginis Conceptionem dignum Filio tuo habitaculum praeparasti, quaesumus, ut qui ex morte eiusdem Filii tui praevisa eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos, eius intercessione, ad te pervenire concedas. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen. O GOD, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin didst make ready a fitting habitation for Thy Son, we beseech Thee that Thou who didst keep her clean from all stain by the precious death of the same Thy Son, foreseen by Thee, mayest grant unto us in like manner to be made clean through her intercession and so attain to Thee. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Raccolta #410. (S. C. Ind. Dec. 14, 1889; S. P., March 15, 1934).

From the Thesaurus

A Season (not just a Day) to Celebrate

Especially in the Philippines, Christmas is so highly anticipated to the extent that people start singing Christmas melodies and decorating their homes as early as September (the first of the '-ber' months). Sadly, the wonderful season of preparation (Advent) is oftentimes ignored. More than that, after December 25, which is Christmas Day, people start exclaiming "Napakabilis ng Pasko" (Christmas came too fast) or "Napakatagal pinaghandaan, iisang araw lang naman" (We prepared so long for Christmas, but it is just celebrated for one day)

Read the article "On the 18th day of Christmas?" by Patricia Coll Freeman at Catholic Anchor wherein she discusses that Christmas is an entire season, not just a day to celebrate.

Friday, December 5, 2008

With the patience of love

From Fr. Z's blog, WDTPRS:

Liturgy between innovation and tradition

With the patience of love

By [Rev. Fr.] Nicola Bux

A new liturgical movement is rising that looks to the liturgies of Benedict XVI; instructions prepared by experts are not enough, what is needed are exemplary liturgies that allow an encounter with God.

Only intentionally shallow spirits could fail to notice it. It is a new beginning that comes from the core of liturgy just like last century’s liturgical movement that reached its peak with the council.

Liturgy as the place of the encounter with the living God, neither a show to render religion interesting nor a museum of grandiose ritual forms. The people of God celebrates the new rite with respect and solemnity, but remains disoriented by the contradictions of the two extremes. Liturgy gets back to being an ecclesial action, not of specialists and liturgical committees, but of fathers and teachers who – thanks to their knowledge of sources - saw western liturgy as the result of a historical development and eastern liturgy as a reflection of the eternal one. They opposed the falsification of liturgy and through their knowledge of history they showed us the several forms of its itinerary. The Holy Father picks up their legacy and renders it fruitful. He fulfilled their wish that both the ancient and the new form could coexist side by side as is already with the Ambrosian and the Eastern liturgies.

Let’s trust him: he brings patiently the wisdom of Catholic imagination into the life of today’s Church. He understands well how innovation is not hostile to tradition but is part of it as the lymph of the Holy Spirit. He is neither a “conservative” nor an innovator, but a missionary “humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord”. In the book “Jesus of Nazareth” he stresses the “sympathy” for the Israelites Jesus demonstrates – unlike in the other Gospels – in the Gospel of Luke:

“It seems to me particularly meaningful – he observes – the way he concludes the story of the new wine and the old and fresh wine skins. In Mark we read: “no one pours new wine into old wine skins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the skins are ruined. Rather, new wine is poured into fresh wine skins." (Mk 2,22). In Matthew, 9,17, the text is similar. Luke hands down the same conversation, but he adds at the end: And) no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’"(5,39) – an addition that could perhaps be interpreted as an expression of sympathy for those who wanted to stick with the “old wine” (pp 216-217)”.

Couldn’t this parable be applied to the debate between usus antiquior and usus novus of the Mass that followed the Motu proprio?

Christian liturgy, like the Christian event itself (“avvenimento Cristiano”), is not something we make.. A word like actualization has given birth to the idea that we had the power to replicate it, to create the right conditions for it to happen, to organize it, as if we were the creators of what we affirm to believe. As a matter of fact it is Jesus Christ who makes the sacred liturgy with the Holy Spirit. Our role is to follow, give room to his work. The method within everyone’s reach is to watch what happens – they used to say to “assistere” – that is ad-stare, to stand before his presence; it means to adhere to Something that precedes us, to follow what he does in our midst, always capable of turning upside down the idea that (culto) worship (liturgy) is something we make . Liturgy is sacred because it is one Thing that comes from Heaven.

We would like to help the comprehension and the worthy celebration of the Liturgy as the possibility of the encounter with the reality of God and the source of man’s morality, (to help) understand its degradations as a symptom of spiritual emptiness, to show the path to a restoration of its spirit in the perspective of the unity of the Catholic and Apostolic faith, and to promote a serious debate and an educational itinerary by following the thought and the example of the Pope to allow a restart of the liturgical movement. We need to aim to the spirit of the liturgy as the worshiping of the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, and as a pedagogy to enter the mystery and be transformed by it in morality and holiness. It’s an invitation to those who do not believe but desire truth, because nobody goes untouched by the doubt that perhaps Someone else exists to dedicate time to! On this “perhaps” – which liturgy does not unveil completely, and that’s why it is necessary to preserve the sense of mystery and sacred – it will be possible to enable the communication between believers and non-believers or differently believing?

From the "Island Envoy"

Pick up the Ball and Run!

by Most Reverend Archbishop Thomas Gullickson

Taking a Stance on the increasing Sentiment in favor of a
Reform of the Liturgical Reform

Recently I happened across what I presume was a sports shoe commercial for television but of a very surreal sort built around a rugby theme. In the video the ball comes crashing through the front window of a restaurant and the next thing you know the men from the restaurant in business suits are joining in the game on the streets of the busy city outside. The video resembles as much urban warfare as it does a sport. I know rugby has become a genuine “thing” for boys and young men, replacing for our day and time the quest for the “red badge of courage” once to be gained in a forgotten type of warfare that was far from all-out for the civilian population but oftentimes mortal for the flower of a nation’s youth. In watching the video, the thought came to me that much of what goes on in the area of vernacular liturgy, its planning and celebration is not without parallels to the sport of rugby and its ethos. The incongruity of this thought is as shocking to me as watching the video “rugby” chase over cars, down alleys and onward through a bustling business district of town. The ethos of Divine Worship should be another.

Since the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum the calls for a genuine reform of that liturgical reform which we have netted over the past forty years have become more insistent but likewise more eloquent and credible as proponents clarify their positions and line up behind the Holy Father. The contrast to the at times rugby-like status quo presented by the Pope’s gentle hand and his balanced words, notably during his recent visit to France, has led me to draw my little parallel between what has been touted as a reform according to the mind of the Second Vatican Council but which many times over the years and even yet today rather seems to resemble rugby rules for picking up the ball and running with it, that is, if you dare. The liturgical renewal which many of us have experienced in many parts of the Western World is unfortunately tinged with an inclination on the part of the priest celebrants to protagonism and no small amount of bravado being shown by others (let’s point our fingers at some of the pop choirs, musicians and dancers, leaving aside people with feminist and other agendas who also occasionally attempt to highjack what we were taught was the work of all God’s people).

I do not believe I am alone in having witnessed attempts by individuals or groups to steal center stage or at least run as far as they can with the “ball” without being tackled. Today’s Catholic youth and a goodly number of folk on the brink of or even immersed in middle age have known only this situation where what was cautiously and wisely decreed by Sacrosanctum Concilium has been bowled over by the “cavalry charge” initiated by enthusiasts who saw their chance to take the high ground. The fundamental appreciation which the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had for the need to set forth the liturgical reforms begun by Pope St. Pius X and Pope Pius XII seems to have been lost in the shuffle or huddle.

The recent announcement of the intention of the Bishop of Tulsa, Oklahoma to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in English but ad Orientem on the First Sunday of Advent and on Christmas is clearly motivated by a commendable desire on the part of the bishop to reestablish the continuity of the reform within the tradition, one of the hallmarks of the reform as intended and decreed by the Second Vatican Council. The publication in an Italian liturgical “blog” recently of a very eloquent page taken from a publication penned in 2001 by our present Holy Father dealing with being Christian in the new millennium has given new urgency to my own sense of obligation to take a stand in this “game”. For some strange reason, not wishing to challenge anyone’s good will, it seems evident that vernacular liturgy as celebrated today is not only too open to abuse, but is seemingly distant from what the Council Fathers intended and what could have been accomplished since then if everyone had held to their words of instruction and direction.

Were we (priests and people) ill-advised by the liturgical experts to stop praying in the same direction and start facing each other across the table? We know now that the nearly absolute banishment of Latin from our musical repertoire was an impoverishment, a form of iconoclasm, not dissimilar to that which whitewashed and stripped once pretty little churches of their countless votive offerings: sometimes leaving behind barren places where formerly one had felt at home with God, the Blessed Virgin and all the Saints. Could we not then also have been ill-advised in accepting something without precedent in our history (remember that the advice came from the same people and who evidently didn’t sufficiently understand the history of divine worship or care enough about what the Council Fathers had prescribed)? The negative consequences of this personalizing of worship (face to face) are patent. They place unreal expectations on the priest celebrant who as often as not instead of leading us in prayer seems obliged to seek engagement or even eye contact with the people before or around him.

Sacrosanctum Concilium N. 23 laid down the following principle among others for renewal: “Finally, there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them, and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.” Even in the best celebrations of the reformed liturgy today, one would be hard pressed to show any urgency for celebrating across the altar table as “genuinely and certainly” being required for the good of the Church. Organic growth too is hard to plot in what so many people have experienced as rupture.

When N. 33 of the same conciliar decree urges that the sacred liturgy be instructive it does so reminding us that “… the sacred liturgy is principally the worship of the divine majesty…” The above cited page from Cardinal Ratzinger from 2001 rightly emphasizes that it is of the utmost importance that we reacquire respect for the liturgy and once again recognize that it is not open to manipulation; it is not placed at our discretion to be planned and presented as our talents allow. The present Holy Father called in this article for the reestablishment in a clear and organic way of the connections with past history.

I cannot help but think that the multiplication of celebrations according to the usus antiquior since Summorum Pontificum will be of aid in helping us back to the tradition. A full restoration of things as they were before Sacrosanctum Concilium, however, denies the wholesome analysis and the longing of saintly past Popes and an historic ecumenical council. Pope St. Pius X was right to come to the defense of Gregorian Chant and Pope Pius XII gifted us with a renewal of the Sacred Triduum to reflect the sublime mysteries celebrated therein. Both Popes’ interventions brought genuine change to the liturgy in an atmosphere of profound respect for the sacredness of the words and gestures they were modifying. It was undoubtedly the intention of the Second Vatican Council to set forth this same sort of cautious and organic reform. But, as I say, one has the impression that rugby rules were often applied and more than one stalwart decided to pick up the ball and run for it.

The article I read on the decision of the Bishop of Tulsa contains two great quotes from Bishop Slattery: “I hope that this common posture of the Church at prayer will help you to experience the transcendent truth of the Mass in a new and timeless way… “I pray that this restored practice will help us understand that at Mass we participate in the authentic worship which Christ offers to His Father by being ‘obedient unto death’ (Philippians 2:8)”. A modest wish on my part would be that many more chief shepherds would soon be setting a similar example.

The attraction held by the usus antiquior for young people in particular ought to give pause for thought. The explanation for this phenomenon could be as simple as recalling the God experience of the Prophet Elijah on Mount Sinai: he went to the opening of the cave and covered his face with his cloak at the tiny whispering sound of God passing by. God was not to be found in the storm or tempest. Much of what is propagated as youth liturgy today must certainly be judged at odds with Sacrosanctum Concilium N. 34: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity. They should be short, clear, and free from useless repetitions.” Though my life as a child was much quieter and free of external stimulation than is that of my nieces and nephews, I still found respite even as a preschooler in the big, quiet church of Sunday morning, where if it wasn’t High Mass, the silence might be broken only by an organ prelude, by another subdued organ piece during Communion and by the antiphons sung by a single voice from the choir loft on high. The genius of the past and its attraction for people of today comes from being able to perceive the Mass as gift, as withdrawn from the ambit of my discretion or caprice, as something of God, something sacred. Pope Benedict XVI speaks with urgency of our need to reawaken an interior sense of the sacred.

We have something altogether priceless in the renewed liturgical calendar and in the bounty of the lectionary with its three year cycle for Sundays and Solemnities. The introduction of the vernacular to worship certainly responded to an almost desperate hunger outside of the Latin world at least, if not universally within the Church. I would like to believe that the Bishop of Tulsa is on to something when he very simply and humbly moves to reestablish a single orientation for prayer in his cathedral this Advent and Christmas. May his attempt succeed to rescue the Mass from those who would beat it down with personal inventions or change the rules of the game to those of aggression! There’s a time and a place for rugby and not all of us are hearty enough to play such a game.

Head of Russian Orthodox church dies

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, has died at the age of 79. - He died at his residence outside Moscow although here was no immediate word on the cause of death.

Patriarch Alexy II was an establishment figure who restored the authority of the church after decades of Soviet repression.

Born Alexei Ridiger, Alexy II made his ecclesiastical career at a time when the church was controlled by Soviet authorities before forging an alliance with the new Russian state under presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.

The patriarch was an impressive character with a benign expression and moral authority among millions of Russian believers but his personality was always locked in by the deeply hierarchical nature of his role.

Alexy II took stances on foreign policy issues that often matched the Kremlin line, criticising Nato strikes against Yugoslavia, the US-led war in Iraq and defending the rights of ethnic-Russians in the former Soviet Union.

But his role in the international arena was marked above all by wariness of Catholics, whom he accused of "proselytism," and he refused repeatedly to meet Roman Catholic pope John Paul II and his successor Benedict XVI.

The main reason for the row was a property dispute between the Catholic and Orthodox churches in Ukraine, where the Greek Catholic church, which was banned by Stalin and dispossessed, took back hundreds of parishes from the Orthodox church at the beginning of the 1990s.

The creation of four Catholic dioceses in Russia also created suspicion among Orthodox leaders. Several rounds of negotiations between Catholic and Orthodox officials failed to smooth differences.

He was also, however, a unifying Orthodox figure who helped engineer a union with a branch of the Russian Orthodox church that separated from Moscow-based church authorities after the 1917 Soviet revolution.

Ridiger was born on February 23, 1929 in then independent Estonia, the son of an Orthodox priest. He worked in two cathedrals after Estonia became part of the Soviet Union and entered a religious seminary under Stalin.

He married but then divorced in order to become a monk in 1961 during the anti-religion campaigns launched by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. He was soon promoted to become an Orthodox bishop.

Ridiger had a successful career under Leonid Brezhnev at a time when the Orthodox church was effectively controlled by the KGB and dissident priests were thrown into jail.

The future patriarch conformed and rose rapidly through church ranks, becoming number two in the influential external affairs section of the patriarchate.

Despite his ties with the Communist establishment, he made some efforts to curb Soviet repression, including keeping a famous convent in Estonia open despite the threat of closure.

He became patriarch in 1990, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union.

At the time, Ridiger was seen as more in touch with the reforms to the Soviet system being undertaken by Mikhail Gorbachev than another candidate, metropolitan Filaret, considered even closer to the Communist regime.

The new patriarch remained prudent after the fall of the Communist system, ruling out investigations against church officials accused of links to the Soviet secret services.

In close collaboration with Yeltsin Putin, Alexy II used his close relations with the authorities to rebuild the influence of the Orthodox church.

Seminaries were restored, churches were rebuilt and church finances were greatly boosted by income from customs duties granted by the Russian government during the 1990s.

The lavish Christ the Saviour cathedral in central Moscow, which was destroyed under Stalin and replaced by an open-air swimming pool, was rebuilt in full splendour during Alexy II's patriarchate.

Religion gained influence in schools, prisons, hospitals and the armed services.

Within the church, Alexy II was never an innovative leader and opposed himself to liberal policies but he also rejected deeply anti-Semitic and nationalistic currents in religious thinking.

The patriarch died at a time when the Russian Orthodox church had not yet determined its preferred status, as an institution closely allied with political authorities or a church more in tune with the Russian people.