I Choose to Drink of Your Cup

Chalice

The Called and Gifted workshop ended at 4 pm. Saturday Vigil Mass begins at 4 pm. There was no way that I could walk up the stairs from the Social Hall and not attend. I just couldn’t. Plus, I love Palm Sunday! Right before the homily, Fr. John exhorted us to pray that we give our imaginations and attention to God, so that we can truly take in what He would like to say to us today. He said that if we found ourselves lingering at a particular point during the retelling of the Lord’s Passion, that we are to stay there (since it’s probably the Holy Spirit’s work, right?) and not worry about “catching up” to where everyone else is. And to pay attention to this throughout Holy Week.

During the reading, I seemed to dwell on two images or points in the Gospel. The first was the image of the woman anointing the Lord’s head with the costly spikenard, and how this was a type of anointing for his burial.

3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. 4 But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment thus wasted? 5 For this ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to the poor.” And they reproached her. 6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burying. — Mark 14:3-8.

The second was at the Lord’s Supper where, “he said to them, This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,'” Mark 14:24.

Preparation for death and His cup.

As I am writing this, my mind is racing with all sorts of things related to this. But as I am to reflect upon this throughout Holy Week, I will take up some of those ideas at a later time and just relate what I was thinking during Mass, which has to do primarily with His cup.

The first thought was of the Father’s Will. Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt,” Mark 14:36. In so saying, Jesus is choosing to drink from the cup, if that is what the Father offers Him. Jesus chose to drink.

My second thought was of the disciples, squabbling about who among them would be “first,” and Jesus’ response: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink…?” Mark 10:38. I take this to mean that by drinking His cup, you are asking to share in His Passion.

With both of these thoughts, it seemed to me that the Lord was asking me if I was willing to participate in Holy Week by sharing in His Passion. Would I drink from His cup?

The chalices on the altar called to me. My eyes were drawn to them. This was a serious question. There was only one way I felt I could respond, “I will, yet let not what I will, but what You will be done.”

I was sitting quite far back in the Church and thought that perhaps I wouldn’t actually get to make this choice. Perhaps the cup would pass me by (meaning that the Extraordinary Ministers would be all out of the Precious Blood by the time I got up there). I was actually worrying that this might be the case, because, for some odd reason, I wanted to do this! But God did not allow that to happen. When I got to the cup, there was more than enough for me.

So, I consumed His Blood and I united myself to whatever the Father had in store for me, whatever experience of the Lord’s Passion I am to have this week, with confidence, knowing that I would be bolstered by the Holy Spirit and loved by the entire Trinity throughout the week.

What, to all other eyes in the Church this afternoon, appeared to be just another parishioner receiving communion under both species … was probably the most important question and powerful decision that I have made so far during this Lent.

May I cooperate with His grace.

Find Joy in Each Day

Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa

Today was our Parish Reconciliation Service. I had tried to go to reconciliation on Friday at Christ the King, but they only have confession for 25 minutes prior to Mass, and there was a long line of people. It got to where I was the very next person to get into the confessional and I was started to really think that I’d get in. Alas, the woman in front of me took a long time and I wasn’t able to go. It’s so disappointing when that happens.

I try very hard to control my emotions, although they want to do things like make a sign right next to the one that says “Confessions will stop 5 minutes prior to Mass” which says, “This means you should confess your sins in number and kind and not try to justify them, for the sake of the people behind you in line who also need to be forgiven of their sins.” It doesn’t take that long to say, “I kicked a puppy three times, smacked my kid brother, was late for Mass every Sunday for the past 3 months and stole a pen from work.” 10 seconds. DONE.

So, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they haven’t been to Confession in a long time or are extremely shy? Maybe they do have a lot things to confess? Suppose something upsetting happened to them and they need extra counseling from the priest? With all that, you can’t be upset at the other people who were in line.

All of this comes and goes in a second. A moment’s irritation and then I am back to myself again. 🙂 But, it does leave me with the question of where I am going to get to go to Reconciliation. I was too sick on Saturday to do much of anything, and I know that Palm Sunday weekend is rather hit-or-miss for being able to catch confession. So, when I saw that we had the Parish Reconciliation Service, I knew that I had to go then.

I was the second person to see my priest. I was in and out quick (you’re welcome!) and my penance was to say a prayer, either from the liturgy aid or from somewhere else. I gathered my things and went from the church to the chapel, where — delightfully — the Eucharist was out for Adoration. I had looked in the bookshelf before entering the chapel for a book of prayers, but didn’t see any. I was going to grab a Bible and pray one of the psalms, but the Bible I was looking for wasn’t on the shelf. I thought that someone might have left it in the chapel and went in. Alas, no Bible in the pews. I sat down and looked through the things in my bag, looking for a prayer. (Doesn’t one usually search for the *answer* to a prayer?)

I came across my “Bringing Lent Home with Mother Teresa” book and opened to today, Monday of the 5th week of Lent. In the prayer section was, “Dear Lord, help us to find joy in each day no matter what is happening.” This reminded me of this weekend, which was arguably one of the roughest weekends, healthwise, that I have had in a long time.

Saturday started with me waking up screaming in pain from some major muscle cramping. Screaming. It was that bad. After that, I had some muscles in my upper back begin cramping up. They haven’t really subsided, even now. Ouchie. On top of that, I had a headache, dizziness, nausea, and a lot of chest pain. I slept most of the day, only waking up when a friend rang my doorbell for us to go see the play, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” at the seminary (which was *awesome*).

Sunday, I felt just as bad, except my back and shoulder had hurt so much, I hadn’t slept very well. But, it was a gorgeous and warm day, and I didn’t want to miss out on it, so I got ready for the day, packed up a bag with some books and headed out. I stopped at a friend’s house to see if she wanted to accompany me, but she had to work. I dropped her off and made my way to Cranbrook, where I had a lovely time reading among the various flowering trees. I picked her up from work a couple hours later and we spent some time at Manresa. I still felt pretty bad, but thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful, peaceful day that God had granted me. I was able to see, however, just how poorly I was doing, because even a slow meandering around outside was too much for me.

But, I persevered on. Went to Mass and the RCIA meeting where we had some pizza for dinner. Finally, I collapsed into bed, thankful for the wonderful day and the great people He placed in my life.

I think that joy is both a grace and a choice. God gives me joy, but I also choose to be happy. I choose to focus on the beauty and gifts and grace which I have been given. I choose to not get discouraged over my physical problems. I choose to live as best I can every day, even when the pain is great and the temptation to sleep away my days is lulling me to stay in the house. I choose to offer up my pain in the hope and expectation that God will be able to help someone else because of my cooperation. I choose to accept the joy he offers.

And every day, I get the chance to choose joy again.

A Fantastic Evening

SHMS Jesus

Have I mentioned lately that I love God? Because I love God! He blesses me so often, and so much! (I know that is not a *reason* to love God, but others showing you affection is always a happy thing).

Tonight, I had a *fantastic* evening! Oh, let me count the ways!
1. I wasn’t as sick as I have been lately.
2. After work, I dragged my friend with me to Reconciliation. She hadn’t been to Confession since Easter, and was glad that she had gone.
3. Next, I took her to Fiamma Grille in Plymouth, where we had yummy appetizers! Another friend had mentioned that we might be going out for dinner later, so I didn’t eat a meal.
4. After dropping my friend off at home, I went to the Seminary’s Christmas Choir Concert.
5. I listened to some great music!
6. I met up with several friends and got to spend some time with them. I love these people and I’m so happy that I was able to be around them, even if for a short time!
7. Through everything, God was very present to me. Earlier in the day, a dear friend had asked me to pray for him for something specific. Before the evening’s activities, I found out that God had granted my prayer request for my friend! After Reconciliation, I felt the Lord’s presence in everything and everywhere I went.

God + food + music + friends has got to = some small preview of Heaven! Can I go there now? 🙂 Because I loved tonight, and if Heaven is anything like tonight (and I have reason to hope that it is better), I want to go there NOW! 🙂

Last Chance Mass

Cyril and Methodius

This weekend I did … pretty much nothing. I didn’t feel very well and spent the weekend on the futon watching episode after episode of Kyle XY, followed by (when I had seen all the episodes) 17 Kids and Counting. Exciting times.

I didn’t make it off the couch and into the shower in time for 10:15 am Mass. Then, I got hungry and didn’t have the requisite hour fast for the 12:15 pm Mass. Ditto the 5 pm.

I was still not feeling well and permenently affixed to the couch at the end of the night. Time for the Last Chance Mass. Ss. Cyril and Methodius Slovak Church has an 8:30 pm Mass on Sunday night. I made it over there, but was still in my shorts and T-shirt. So, I hid in the chapel with people who were there for Reconciliation. It was quite nice. All the lights were off, so we were praying in the light of the vigil candle.

As Mass proceeded, however, I felt increasingly dizzy and nauseated. Finally, I felt that I had to leave early while I was still able to drive home. So, shortly after Communion began, I headed to the car.

And entered a monsoon. It was *pouring* out. I was soaked in 5 seconds. What is this? A second baptism? Is God angry I left early?

But…

I *love* storms. And heavy rains. I thought it was great. 🙂 So, I was the idiot heading to her car (at the far, far corner of the lot) with her hands orans, giggling at the water. And I felt a little bit better. 🙂

May We All Be One

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Love craves unity.

We are physical beings as well as spiritual beings.

For these reasons, tangible expressions of love are so necessary. It is not enough that I am told that I am loved, but I need to see it, hear it and feel it. I need that hug, that kiss, that hand on my shoulder. We have an inborn need to profoundly connect with other people.

I was reminded of this by my latest reading:

Brothers, when we were bereft of you for a short time, in person, not in heart, we were all the more eager in our great desire to see you in person. (1 Thes 2:17)

It is not only other human persons for which we have this desire for unity but, most of all, for God. Which is why God gave us the sacraments, so that we can, tangibly, come into contact with Him. Through the sacraments, we can concretely encounter and interact with Christ. In Reconciliation, we can not only know that we are forgiven, but we can hear it said, “I absolve you….” In the Anointing of the Sick, our sick bodies are touched and the oil remains as a reminder of the healing freely given. In the Eucharist, it is Christ Himself whom we take into our bodies under the appearance of bread and wine. God effects in us the very unity which we crave. Would that we truly come to know what it is that He is doing.

In addition to this idea of tangible unity, the other thing this verse brings to my mind is the idea of intercessory prayer. I truly believe that prayer unites people. As I pray for you, my heart is softened toward you and I become better able to love you as God loves you. I believe this is why Paul says, “…we were bereft of you…in person, not in heart.” While they may have been physically separated, Paul continued to remember them, and not just in abstract recollections of memory, but — because heart in Paul’s day meant something more like the center of your will, rather than the center of your emotions — remembered them in prayer, where he was actively willing for their good.

Which brings me back to:

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)

Reconciliation

This is in follow-up to my last post.

I went back to SS. Cyril and Methodius tonight at 8 pm, to try again to go to Confession. There were about 12 people already there, scattered around the room. I was difficult to keep track of who was next. Over time, new people would come in. One woman asked if she could go ahead of everyone, since she had a small child. Another older woman just cut in line. The man sitting next to me looked over and said, “Don’t worry, we will get in there eventually!” and we had a short conversation about this. I tried to be patient, but in my head, I pictured myself jumping up and down shouting, “Me! Me!” Obviously, I really *needed* to go to Confession. I spent my time reviewing what I was going to say. Not to make it sound better, but to try to be as accurate as I could and minimize the rationalization and contextualization that I often try to stick in there to make it sound as if I really wasn’t as bad as I was.

When I got in, my confession was kind of like a series of bullet points. I committed sin X, Y, Z…. Bare and hanging out there, with no justification for why I committed them. The priest stops me for a minute to ask a question, then says this:

“You are a young person, you could be such a blessing to others…. But you need to make a routine, or you will never go anywhere in your spiritual life.”

I hadn’t said anything yet about feeling like I have been slacking off in my prayer life, or feeling disconnected from God this week, but here he is! Speaking about that very thing! You need no further proof to know that when you confess, you are confessing to Christ himself working through that priest! And that is so true. I really do need a routine in my life when it comes to spiritual matters. I am so haphazard about it and that bothers me.

After confession, I went back to St. Anastasia and spent some time with the Lord in the chapel. I took the Bible off the shelf and sat there for a moment, thinking of where I should start reading. It popped in my head to start reading in Hosea. So, I opened to Hosea and started reading at the first page I came to:

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When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
The more I called them,
the more they went from me;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals,
and burning incense to idols.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them up in my arms;
but they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of compassion,
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one,
who raises an infant to his cheeks,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim!
How can I hand you over, O Israel!
How can I make you like Admah!
How can I treat you like Zeboiim!
My heart recoils within me,
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my fierce anger,
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come to destroy. — Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9

Basking in God’s love and God’s forgiveness, I knelt down to pray. A minute later, I felt a warm glow on my face and opened my eyes. The light from overhead was reflecting from the gold of the cover of the Bible.

God’s Word was shining on me.
Such a lovely way to end the evening.

Sacrifice and Love

I have to confess that lately my prayer life has really stunk. I mean, I pray every day, especially intercessions for the people I care about. But I haven’t felt that I am growing in my relationship with the Lord. I just feel disconnected in a way. And this is upsetting to me because I am used to having, or feeling that I have, a close connection to Him. So, I have been floundering quite a bit. Which also means that I have been sinning more often and in worse ways than “normal” (if sin can ever be called normal). Which is also irritating, because I really have no desire to do the sins I do, yet I find myself doing them anyway.

I know the problem is me. All me. And I need Reconciliation. I need to stop what I am doing in my life right now and re-order everything — making God my center. This morning, I got up early and went to Adoration before the exposed Eucharist in our chapel. I started by reading the Pope’s book, “In the Beginning,” but was soon interrupted. Something was bothering me; what was it?

I looked up. The Lord was present in the center flanked by 4 candles. In the niche to the right was the tabernacle. In the niche to the left was the Book of Gospels.

Divine Mercy Chapel - dscn0074

However, the Book of the Gospels wasn’t lit as brightly as the tabernacle. You could see that the light was on, but it was as if the dimmer switch was turned very low. This is what was bothering me. We are fed from both tables. We should revere the Word of God as we revere His Body. I wanted the lighting for the two niches to be equal.

I looked back to the book in my hands. It is a great book, and I was enjoying reading it. However, I was still unsettled and I felt an urging, a nudge, to read His Word. So, I got up and grabbed a Bible and sat back down, reading Genesis 3-5.

After Benediction, I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte at my local Starbucks. Instead of leaving right away as I usually do, I settled into a comfy armchair and continued reading the Pope’s book. At one point, I stopped reading…because he said something that made me review my week.

In my last post, I talked about fractioning using a large vs. medium sized host and I included a quote about the Altar of Sacrifice, which gave us a graphic image of the Lord’s Blood and Body splashed all over the altar — for us.

Two days after that post, I was at Mass during lunch at the hospital. Our priest told us that there was a priest upstairs who had been declared brain dead, and that our Transplant team was going to be harvesting his organs for Gift of Life later in the day. I work for the Department of Surgery. That was my team that was going to be in that OR. I was involved, in a way, with this. I thought about what this meant. This priest, whom I didn’t know personally, was giving of himself — one final time here on Earth — for the benefit of another person. Talk about sacrifice. Talk about self-gift. All priests lives flow from and return to the sacrifice on the altar. This news, this realization of what he did and was doing, was a powerful image for me of that visceral, close connection that our priests have to the Mass, to the Lord’s Passion, to the Eucharist. So beautiful.

When I go to Mass, at consecration when the Body of our Lord is elevated, I pray in a particular way. Usually, it goes something like this,

This is Your son, who has You in his hands. I see him looking up at You, and I feel You looking down on him with such love. Please Lord, bless and protect him. Strengthen him to be able to do Your work. Refresh him and support him and give him comfort and encouragement, as only You can do. Keep him healthy in mind and body. Help him to turn his heart ever more towards You. Let him know of the incredible love that You have for him.

I hear back the words the Father spoke at the Baptism of the Lord, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

As I finish my recollection of these events of the past week, I return to the Pope’s book. What had given me pause was where he was speaking of the greatest love there is: “I will for you to be.” I think, in context, he was speaking of the incredible love that God has for each one of us that he not only called us into being, but is continually sustaining us in being. For me, I think that this is the best kind of love, one that we should all aspire to have towards the people around us. They are not objects to be used, but people to be loved. Just because they are. Their existence alone gives such joy…or it should.

I am blessed, blessed, blessed by the people I have around me. I love them and I love our Lord who gifted me with them. And I realize that even though I have felt like I’ve had a bad week in my relationship with the Lord, he has been there through it all, giving me grace and love.

After Starbucks, I headed to SS. Cyril and Methodius for Reconciliation prior to Mass. I was to be the next person into the confessional when the priest stopped hearing confessions in order to pray Mass. I looked at the Lord in the tabernacle for a while, “Now what?” After a bit, I headed to St. Anastasia for the 10:15 am Mass. During his homily, Fr. JJ was talking about the Prodigal Son, saying that most people think that they have to reconcile with the Father in order for him to bestow his grace and love upon them, but in fact it is the reverse: it is the fact of the Father’s love which leads to reconciliation.

So, now that I have been graced with this reflection and with the beauty and power and gift that is the Mass…. I will try again to get to Reconciliation this evening. Because God has given me everything which is good in this life.

And I love Him.

The Fractioning Question

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There was a link to a discussion on what happens during fractioning posted on XT3.  The referenced link with commentary by Fr. Z posted here.  The original post by Fr. Allan McDonald can be found here.  

What they are basically saying is that the larger hosts used during Mass scatter lots of pieces of the Lord’s Body during fractioning and that they can no longer in good conscience use the larger hosts, and have switched to using a smaller host.  Fr. McDonald’s trial with the larger host did show the pieces which broke off from it in detail; however, a similar trial was not done using the smaller hosts.  It is possible that they scatter a larger number of pieces, which are smaller in size and harder to detect.

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand Fr. Z and Fr. McDonald’s concern over the unnecessary and avoidable scattering of the Body of our Lord.  However, I absolutely LOVE this reply to the discussion:

I have always felt that the Altar is a table of sacrifice. It is enough to imagine the priest of the OT accomplishing the sacrifice of the lamb by dismembering it in the ritual manner and see the pieces of flesh and blood splattered allover the altar of sacrifice as he divides the different portions. I had a view of the butcher’s shop to see how much blood and small pieces of flesh are scattered all over the place as he cuts them to small pieces.That reminded me about what happens when the sacrifice is offered each day at the Altar. I imagine the flesh and blood of the Lord splashed all over the place. Mercifully the Lord has concealed Himself in the form of Bread and Wine, that we may continue to celebrate the Mass. But how much care is needed in the fraction and cleansing of the holy vessels. And as I kiss the alter to depart, to remember that the table is soaked with the Blood of the Lord spilled to save me and mankind.  — Fr. Jose Sebastian, posted on XT3 website 9/6/10

The Paper with All the Sheep!

Jennie Miller

June 15, 2010

Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist

The Eucharistic sacrifice is the source and summit of Christian life (Lumen Gentium 11).  As the source, all sacramental graces flow from the primordial sacrament which is Jesus Christ, and all sacraments are intimately tied to the celebration of the Eucharist.  As the mystical Body of Christ, it is the whole community which celebrates the liturgy (CCC 1140).  When we sin, we damage our relationship with God.  When we freely consent to commit a grave sin with full knowledge of its sinful nature, we sever our relationship with God and no longer have access to these sacramental graces.  But God, in His infinite mercy, has given us a way to restore our relationship with Him:  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9 Revised Standard Version).

I think it is important to take a moment and reflect upon to whom we are supposed to confess our sins.  When appearing to the apostles after the Resurrection, Jesus tells them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained,” (John 20:23).  The Church has understood this to mean that we should confess our sins to the priests, who share in the authority passed down from the apostles for the binding and loosing of sins.  The Catechism tells us more about this special duty of the presbyters and bishops:

The ordained ministry or ministerial priesthood is at the service of the baptismal priesthood.  The ordained priesthood guarantees that it is really Christ who acts in the sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church.  The saving mission entrusted by the Father to his incarnate Son was committed to the apostles and through them to their successors:  they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in his name and in his person.  The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the sacraments, (CCC 1120).

 What it is saying is that through the ministry and particular charism of the ordained priesthood, our liturgy has efficacy by the power of the Holy Spirit to unite us with the graces freely offered to us by our Father, to enable us to grow in holiness so that one day we may enter into the divine life of the Trinity. 

The priesthood is a wonderful vehicle for understanding the mystery of how the Sacrament of Reconciliation relates to the celebration of the Eucharist, perhaps especially in the analogy of the Good Shepherd.  Jesus uses this analogy to instruct the disciples,

“I am the door of the sheep…, if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture….  I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.  So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again,” (John 10:8-17). 

Here, He is talking about sacrifice, access to the divine life, and the gathering of people as duties specific to the shepherd.  Already, we can see an interweaving of the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist.  In the laying down of His life, our Shepherd, by His action on the cross, has made it so that our sins could be forgiven.  It is precisely this sacrifice that we experience in the confessional when our sins are forgiven, and it is precisely this sacrifice to which we are made contemporary at Mass.  In the confessional, we are reconciled with God and restore our relationship with Him as adopted sons and daughters, as sheep passing through the door of the Lord into the life of the Trinity.  By partaking of the Eucharist, we are taking the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord into ourselves and uniting ourselves with all the sheep in all of the folds into the one flock, the one Body of Christ.  “I know my own and my own know me…,” can be seen as a dialogue between the two sacraments.  In confession, we pour out our innermost selves to the priest standing in personae Christi – we let God know us.  In the liturgy of the Word, the Lord speaks to us – He tells us of Himself.  It is true that God is all-knowing and doesn’t need our verbalization to know us in all respects, but there is a stronger bond of love formed when self-truth is proclaimed willingly, when we make ourselves humble and vulnerable. 

The shepherd views feeding the sheep, protecting the sheep and seeking after lost sheep as all aspects of what it means to be a shepherd.  He seeks after the lost, brings them back into the fold and feeds and cares for them.  In an analogous way, the priest reaches out to the people, reconciles them back to God in the sacrament of penance and feeds them at the celebration of the Eucharist.   Just as sheep left alone will scatter, so too do we, especially if we absent ourselves from the sacraments, tend to drift away from the Lord and into sin.  We are in constant need of conversion and a restoration of our relationship with God after we have sinned, and a strengthening in Him and in one another as affected in the Eucharist.  “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects,” (James 5:16).

The two sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance are very closely connected.  Because the Eucharist makes present the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross, perpetuating it sacramentally, it naturally gives rise to a continuous need for conversion, for a personal response to the appeal made by Saint Paul to the Christians of Corinth:  “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20).  If a Christian’s conscience is burdened by serious sin, then the path of penance through the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes necessary for full participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, (McCarthy, 2003, p.67).

All of our lives should be devoted to continual conversion as we strive towards greater unity with God and each other.  We do this in many ways as we “share in the sufferings of Christ, [endure our] own difficulties, carry out works of mercy and charity, and adopt ever more fully the outlook of the Gospel message,” (ROP 2).  We acknowledge the fact of our continued need for conversion especially during the Act of Penitence in the Introductory Rite, where we confess that we are sinners, and ask pardon of God and of our neighbors (ROP 4).  In this statement, we recognize the fact that our sins are not private, but that “one person’s sin harms the rest even as one person’s goodness enriches them,” (ROP 5).  “Basing itself on scripture and tradition, [Vatican II] teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation:  the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church,” (Lumen Gentium 14).  All of the faithful comprise the Body of Christ, but this is most evident during Mass when “the priest stands at the chair and, together with the whole gathering, makes the Sign of the Cross.  Then he signifies the presence of the Lord to the community gathered there by means of the Greeting.  By this Greeting and the people’s response, the mystery of the Church gathered together is made manifest,” (GIRM 50).  Because this gathering of the faithful as Church is a sacrament of unity and because we most fully enter into that unity of the Body of Christ when we feed from the one loaf, it is most important that “…if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift,” because there can be no division within the Body of Christ (Matthew 5:23-24).

Because we cannot have division within the Body of Christ, whether between ourselves and God or between ourselves and our brother, we have a particular responsibility to equip all the faithful with the tools that they need for continual conversion.  It is our responsibility as Church to ensure that the faithful are properly catechized in our faith.  This is primarily the responsibility of parents as the primary educators of their children, but cannot be neglected by any member of the Church as we all work to further understand the mysteries contained within the Deposit of Faith and grow in holiness.  As stated in Lumen Gentium previously, “the Church is necessary for salvation,” (14).  Because of this, we are called to proclaim the Gospel to all we come across, bringing people into the community of the Church, for the salvation of all mankind.  Evangelization is a requirement and a priority for Christians.  Further, we have a duty to properly form our consciences so that we can live holy lives and avoid sin wherever possible.  Reflecting upon an Examination of Conscience, usually done prior to the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance, can be a useful tool to help us see where we have fallen short of God’s ideal, but we should approach life being constantly aware that we are to be a light to others.  Our faith is not something which happens once a week at Mass, but rather at all times in all places.  Because our sins are not personal but affect our community, perhaps it is most fitting that we do celebrate the Sacrament of Penance at times in community, so as to highlight to the faithful this aspect of unity.

Since the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist are so closely linked, it is helpful to have the liturgies be available in chronological proximity, so that one may be reconciled to God and then feed on Him and be welcomed back into the unity of the Body of Christ.  For this reason, and also to highlight the connection between the sacraments, many parishes have adopted the practice of having scheduled times for Reconciliation on Saturday, to prepare the faithful for the Sunday liturgy.  Some parishes have set aside time prior to every Mass for the celebration of Reconciliation; and most parishes/dioceses plan for communal penance services with individual confession and absolution, particularly in the seasons of Advent and Lent.

Elements of the Sacrament of Penance can be seen in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, beginning with the Act of Penitence which can contain the Confiteor and Kyrie Eleison.  “This rite concludes with the priest’s absolution, which, however, lacks the efficacy of the Sacrament of Penance,” (ROP 51).  While it does lack the efficacy of the sacrament, it serves to remind us of our sinful nature, to draw our hearts to conversion and to foster a sense of connection and unity within the congregation.  In the Presentation of the Gifts, we offer our entire selves back to God, in response to His sacrifice which has freed us from the bonds of sin.  “The priest then washes his hands at the side of the altar, a rite that is an expression of his desire for interior purification,” (GIRM 76).  While not a prayer that the lay faithful say with the priest, it is an appropriate time for each person to ask God for his own interior purification prior to receiving the Eucharist.  “In the Lord’s Prayer a petition is made for daily food, which for Christians means preeminently the Eucharistic bread, and also for purification from sin, so that what is holy may, in fact, be given to those who are holy,” (GIRM 81).  The Rite of Peace which follows not only asks for the Lord’s peace to be given to us, but also allows for us to exchange our peace with our neighbors – in a way an “I forgive you” to the “I’m sorry” of the Confiteor – and a recognition of our unity, prior to the reception of the Eucharist, which is the penultimate symbol of our unity.  Just after the fractioning, the faithful along with the priest pray, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,” again calling to mind our sinful nature and continual need for humility, conversion and reconciliation, yet prayed in hope and knowledge of the Lord’s mercy, (Bouley, 1992, p. 292; GIRM 84).  “As often as the sacrifice of the cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch is sacrificed’ (1 Cor 5:7) is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out,” (Lumen Gentium 3).

Similarly, elements of the Sacrament of the Eucharist can be seen in the Sacrament of Penance, beginning with the greeting of the penitent by the priest and the Sign of the Cross.  This is then followed by the reading of the Word of God.  Through the ordained ministry of the priest and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ is the one who hears our confession and forgives us of our sins.  The Sacrament of Penance reconciles us back into the life of the Church and makes us ready to participate in the worship of the Church.  In order to be properly disposed to receive the Eucharist, the rite calls first for the penitent to have a genuine sense of contrition, “which is ‘heartfelt sorrow and aversion for the sin committed along with the intention of sinning no more.’,” (ROP 6).  In light of this sincere conversion of heart, the penitent will confess his sins to the priest after undergoing a thorough examination of conscience.  “Confession requires on the penitent’s part the will to open the heart to the minister of God and on the minister’s part a spiritual judgment by which, acting in the person of Christ, he pronounces his decision of forgiveness or retention of sins in accord with the power of the keys,” (ROP 6).  This interchange between the penitent and the priest is essential, because this is not a work of the penitent or a work of the priest, but rather an encounter with the living God.  “True conversion is completed by expiation for the sins committed, by amendment of life, and also by rectifying injuries done,” (ROP 6).  The penances given during Reconciliation should work to fix any relationships, with God and with neighbor, which have been damaged by the sin and should help the penitent to grow in holiness.  It is most appropriate that the penance would be related to the sin committed and, if possible, be an action rooted in the corresponding virtue to that sin.  Just as Christ manifests as the Blessed Sacrament so as to join with us physically, He also through the laying on of hands encounters us in the Sacrament of Penance, precisely at the time He tells the penitent, through the words of the priest, of his absolution of their sins (ROP 6).  Because this event of our reconciliation is made possible because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the celebration of the sacrament is also a celebration of the Paschal mystery, (Martinez, 2003, p. 197).  We are given access to the same mystery which is re-presented to us at every Mass.  With individual Reconciliation, there is, perhaps, more of a realization of the fact that God was crucified for you, by name.  At Mass, the nuance is more towards the realization that God came for all.  There is not a dichotomy between the two ideas, rather both are appropriate to the understanding of Christ’s Passion.

In conclusion, the two sacraments of Penance and Eucharist are intimately linked.  They flow into and through each other as the Sacrament of Penance re-establishes a right relationship with the people and God and prepares them for the reception of the Eucharist; while the Sacrament of the Eucharist points people to their eschatological end and reminds them of the continual conversion necessary to reach this end and enter into the divine life of the Trinity.  Tying them both together is the presbyter, standing in the place of the Good Shepherd, as

Christ places the lost sheep on his shoulders and brings them back to the sheepfold, and the Holy Spirit resanctifies those who are the temple of God or dwells more fully in them.  The expression of all this is the sharing in the Lord’s table, begun again or made more ardent; such a return of children from afar brings great rejoicing at the banquet of God’s Church, (ROP 6).

 

References

Bouley, A. Ed.  (1992).  Catholic Rites Today: Abridged Texts for Students.  Collegeville, MN:  The Liturgical Press.

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1994.  New York, NY:  Doubleday.

Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium.  Vatican II, November 21, 1964.

General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), 1975.

McCarthy, B.  (2003).  The Eucharist.  Goleta, CA:  Queenship Publishing.

Rite of Penance (ROP), 1973.

Which Mass is Your Favorite?

…  Because, of course, we have to rank these things, right?

I think my ranking will have to be:
1. Easter Vigil
2. Easter/Christmas
3. Chrism Mass
4. Palm Sunday
5. Priest Ordination (I haven’t been to one yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to rank high)
6. Midnight Mass for Mary, Jan. 1st
7. Lord’s Supper Mass/Tre Ore

Why does the question of ranking come up? Well, I was just reflecting on how excited I was that Chrism Mass is ALMOST HERE!!! 🙂

I’m sure Priest Ordination is going to be awesome! I mean, just think of the squee of New Priest! Awww!!! So precious. There’s something about that indelible mark on their soul and being conformed ontologically to Christ. *grin*

Why is Chrism Mass so special for me? There’s quite a few reasons, actually.
1. That smell! Yum! There’s something special about Holy Chrism that just smells like…home. 🙂 *bliss*
2. ALL THE PRIESTS RENEWING THEIR VOWS!!!! 🙂 *major squee!*
— That’s hundreds of reasons right there!

So….
Holy Week.
In just a few days!

I’ll get Palm Sunday, (Seder dinner), Chrism Mass, Lord’s Supper Mass, Pub Crawl of the Altars of Repose, Midnight Benediction, Tre Ore, Tenebrae, Easter Vigil Mass and Easter Mass.

Could there ever, ever be a better week??

I don’t think so.

At least, until the Lord comes again. 🙂

God Bless you all and have an amazing, solemn and joyful Holy Week!!!