Sunday, March 22, 2020

Office of the Mass: 4th Sunday in Lent

Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation. Ps. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Glory be to the Father.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

(Gloria Omitted in Lent)

V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we, who for our evil deeds justly deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy grace may mercifully be relieved. Through our Lord. 
A Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.
Brethren: It is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman and the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh: but he of the free woman was by promise: which things are said by an allegory. For these are the two testaments. The one from Mount Sinai, engendering unto bondage: which is Agar: for Sinai is a mountain in Arabia, which hath affinity to that Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But that Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother. For it is written: Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not: break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for many are the children of the desolate, more than of her that hath a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born according to the flesh persecuted him that was after the spirit: so also it is now. But what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. So then, brethren, we are not the children of the bondwoman, but of the free: by the freedom wherewith Christ has made us free.

I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. V. Let peace be in Thy strength: and abundance in Thy towers.
They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Sion: he shall not be moved for ever that dwelleth in Jerusalem. V. Mountains are round about it: so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth now and for ever.

V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

A Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. John
R. Glory to Thee, O Lord.

At that time Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias: and a great multitude followed Him, because they saw the miracles which He did on them that were diseased. Jesus therefore went up into a mountain: and there He sat with His disciples. Now the pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand. When Jesus therefore had lifted up His eyes, and seen that a very great multitude cometh to Him, He said to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat? And this He said to try him: for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him: Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little. One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, saith to Him: There is a boy here that hath five barley loaves and two fishes: but what are these among so many? Then Jesus said: Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed to them that were set down: in like manner also of the fishes, as much as they would. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples: Gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost. They gathered up therefore, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which remained over and above to them that had eaten. Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the prophet that is to come into the world. Jesus therefore when He knew that they would come to take Him by force and make Him king, fled again into the mountain, Himself alone.

V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Here is made a prostration.
Praise ye the Lord, for He is good: sing ye to His name, for He is sweet: whatsoever He pleased, He hath done in heaven and in earth.

Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together: for thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to praise Thy name, O Lord.

V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Grant us, we beseech Thee, O merciful God, ever to celebrate with sincere worship and receive with faithful hearts Thy holy mysteries, of which we continually partake. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, etc.

V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Last Gospel
The beginning of the Holy Gospel according to St. John.
Glory be to Thee, O Lord.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men: and the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness to give testimony of the light. That was the true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons of God: to them that beleive in His name: who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. Here is performed a prostration.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the gory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Amen.

To Thee belongeth praise, to Thee belongeth hymns, to Thee be glory, God the Father and the Son, with the Holy Ghost, forever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Let us pray.

O God, the protector of all who hope in Thee, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, multiply Thy mercy upon us, that with Thee for our ruler and leader, we may so pass through the good things of this life as not to lose those which are eternal. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever, Amen.
[Additional Collect from the Mass in Time of Pestilence:

O God, Who desirest not the death of sinners, but their repentance, look mercifully upon Thy people when they turn to Thee, that, while they show devotion to Thee, Thou mayst turn away from them the scourges of Thine anger. Through
our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever, Amen.]

V. O Lord hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. And may the souls of the faithful departed, by the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Amazon Synod, and the Liberal Enemies of Inculturation

Despite my being on the front lines research on (ahem) “indigenous liturgies”, I have not been inspired to comment on the Amazon Synod or even, frankly, follow the news of it. That for a very simple reason. When it comes to inculturation, you have to do a massive amount of homework on each community and its history and language to do it right—or even just to comment on it intelligently.

And I really don’t know what the situation is in the Amazon. I have no knowledge of the peoples there or the history of its Catholic missions. But when I saw Fr. Zuhlsdorf mention a putative “Amazonian Rite” of the Mass, I felt compelled to address this idea with some general points and underlying principles that I’ve worked out from my own experience of American and Canadian inculturation.

First, do not let modernists and liberals anywhere near any liturgical books. Ever. Their motives are defective at best and insidious at worst, and by and large they have no idea what the heck they are doing. If given the chance, they will destroy indigenous Catholicism in the process of “saving” it.

I know that’s a strong assertion. But it’s not a strong assertion that I offer just because I’m some cranky, close-to-50 traditionalist with an axe to grind. It’s a strong position that I have, from 20 years of research in this specific area, slowly arrived at by studying how the 1960s liturgical reform was implemented.

I am probably going to upset many people with this next comment, and particularly some Native American Catholics who are emotionally invested n the current status quo. But not everyone is as fortunate as I am to have such intimate contact with the traditional sources. And since I have a duty to the larger Native community to tell the truth, I’m going to say it anyway.

Almost all of the “indigenous liturgies” of the post-Vatican II period are stereotyped, patronizing junk. What we see passed off as “Native American liturgy” in too many places is really just a mangled Modernistic parody of the Roman Rite, spiced up with a few token Indian stereotypes that could have been yoinked from the set of any cheesy 50s western: Plains-style headdresses, peace pipes, and Pendleton blankets.

I have nothing against any of those objects in their proper cultural context. But they shouldn’t be displayed as mere props to satiate the primivitist fetish that pretentious European liberals have toward my Native countrymen. They are authentic elements, yes, but garbled into an ignorant progressive’s opinion of what an “indigenous liturgy” should look like, rather than what an indigenous liturgy actually does look like.

For centuries, the Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes along the St. Lawrence had their own distinct uses of the Roman Rite: half-Latin, half-Native liturgies first shaped by missionary adaptation in the colonial period and then carefully preserved, transmitted, and even expanded until Vatican II. In some Native languages, these now-obsolete liturgies were called the “Native Masses” or “Indian Masses”.

It was the traditional Latin Mass that the Indians called that, mind you—not the Novus Ordo. And that should tell you which liturgy was actually best adapted to the sensus fidelium in these communities. But to the Modernists, these traditional Masses were apparently just outmoded “Tridentine” relics that stood in the way of their liturgical Utopia, like the old buildings of Rome must have seemed to the deranged emperor who dreamed of a glorious Neropolis.

As Christopher Vecsey points out in his books on Native Catholicism, when these Latin/Native liturgies were replaced with the English Novus Ordo Missae, many American Indian Catholics felt that they were being robbed of their culture. And, in fact, they were.

So while inculturation marched on after 1970, it had lost much of its ancestral connection to what went before, and everyone after that day who waxed rhapsodic about respecting indigenous tradition would have a glaring inconsistency at the heart of their argument—whether they knew it or not.

By and large, liberal-minded Catholics who proudly defended Native tradition did not bother to bury their noses in the Tsiatak Nihononwe to study Mohawk or Algonquin adaptations of the Terribilis and the Gaudeamus Introits and their use through the festal and penitential liturgical seasons. They didn’t squint through archaic Abenaki manuscripts in one hand, with Rale’s dictionary in the other. They didn’t ferret out and perform concerts of Native-language plainchant and polyphony. They didn’t promote or revive devotional wampum.

Instead they issued reports, as the USCCB did in Native American Catholics at the Millennium (2002), that continued to promote a garden-variety, Eurocentric Novus Ordo lightly flavored with generic eagle feathers, drums and tobacco.

This is the “indigenous liturgy” situation as it unfolded in North America, and this is why I am supremely wary of any priest, bishop, or even Pope who favors the liberal approach to inculturation. Liberals had 50 years to do a good job of inculturation, and they failed. If they were truly serious about the issue back in the 1960s, they would have worked to spread the centuries-old Indian Masses that were already in place—not completely gut them and start over.

Brazil may, for all I know, be a completely different story—but the voices in favor of an “Amazonian Rite” seem to be the same ideologically as the vandals who sacked the Canadian missions.

Let me make one thing clear. It is impossible—impossible—to create a new Rite. The Apostles and the Church Fathers who formulated the existing Rites—the Roman, Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Byzantine, Syriac, Coptic—are not around anymore, and there is no one left on earth with the authority to do the job. Oh sure, we have had scholars like Annibale Bugnini who gleefully assumed the task—but if you force your unwilling brain to stitch together the phrase “the Divine Liturgy of Annibale Bugnini”, you realize the inherent ridiculousness of what he did.

But that’s an exaggeration, you might was done under the authority and permission of Pope Paul VI. That is a much less offensive author, I admit, and not an improper one, even though there are strange stories how little he actually knew about it. But still, exactly what right does any modern Roman Pontiff have to completely gut and reorganize the Roman liturgy as if it was his personal property to dispose of, rather than a trusted possession he was tasked with preserving and protecting?

I can hear the objections now. Well there’s no solid evidence that the Apostles and Church Fathers wrote the liturgies ascribed to them. Ok let’s suppose that to be true. But the fact that people still called them by Apostolic and Patristic names indicates that the Catholic faithful naturally want their rituals authored by unquestionably holy saints, and sanctioned by immemorial tradition. If there is any doubt that Chrysostom or Basil authored the Byzantine liturgy, there is still no doubt that people down the centuries felt like these men should have been its authors. Why is that? Well, it’s obvious—because Sts. Chrysostom and Basil could be trusted to do the job right. If the highest and holiest prayer on earth can be written or extensively revised by anyone, we want the job done by the holiest and highest authorities.

I do not know who would be in charge of writing a putative Amazonian liturgy. It is possible that he would be a top-notch Amazonian scholar. But unless he is a holy man as well—someone of unimpeachable orthodoxy on the top rungs of the Ladder of Divine Ascent—I don’t give one fig for his scholarship. Scholars can be horribly wrong, and if they are not also saints you can never quite be sure of which side of the angelic hosts they are really serving when they are deciding on revisions.  Saints might not always make their arguments as scholarly as we would like, they might not proceed on a ruthlessly logical basis, but since their whole ethos is oriented toward God you won’t ever be led astray by following their lead. As the Archbishop of Philadelphia has sagely observed—“the only true authentic inculturators are not theologians, or bishops, but the saints.” You know him—the Potawatomi bishop who has been pointedly denied the title of Cardinal. The wrong sort of indigenous person......apparently.

Anyone who does this job of liturgical inculturation has to understand their solemn responsibility not only to the community they are working for, but also the tradition they are purporting to work within. Ideally, such a person would review every stitch of historical evidence he could find on mission liturgies in the Amazon. Only when he has a firm grasp of the historical situation, can he then move accordingly. There are so many variables to consider—were there any previous Catholic missions? Do they have existing unique liturgical expressions? Do we have manuscript or printed evidence? Is this pagan practice theological or merely cultural? What precedents did the early missionaries set?

When Eugene Vetromile, missionary to the Abenaki, was asked by his bishop to change the traditional Abenaki baptismal formula, Vetromile declined “for the respect of that old formula”, that he had found “preserved among the Indians—made by their first missionaries, sanctioned by their successors, and which we do not feel prepared to alter.” We hardly hear such a natural reticence to mess with existing tradition anymore, so fixated have we become on novelty and alleged improvement—but it is as sound an instinct as the old Hippocratic oath: “first do no harm.”

I have admittedly gone into my research with a pre-conceived hypothesis on what an “Indian” Mass or an African-American Mass would look like. But I have been in both cases forced to re-orient my thinking, sometimes dramatically, by the primary source material I found.  Each cultural group within the church has its own heritage, its own patrimony to draw from. And the responsible scholar will adapt to what he discovers without trying to push it in a direction it never wanted to go. For example, the Catholic Indians of Quebec had a unique Mass but no unique liturgical calendar. The Black Catholics of the United States had no unique Mass that I can find, but they did observe a unique liturgical calendar. It’s the actual customs of the community that matter—not whatever novelties we can dream up.

Let me offer, though, a small concession. I would have no theoretical problem if the Amazon would organically develop a new Use of the Roman Rite. Uses are just local variations of Rites. We’ve always had plenty of those around, and they are of comparatively late derivation. The Algonquian/Iroquoian ones appear around A.D. 1700. The Divine Worship Missal of the Ordinariates is an even more recent synthesis. And sometimes they don’t quite work out—like the neoGallican uses in France. With these we can afford to be slightly more adventurous and perhaps even experimental.

A new Rite, though, with a dramatically modified text and, perhaps, a whole new anaphora is a patently ridiculous and arrogant proposition. It was ridiculous and arrogant in 1970 and it still is in 2019, despite all the protestations to the contrary. It is an act of supreme hubris for any Catholic liturgist to falsely claim for themselves the gravitas of a Gregory, an Isidore, an Ambrose. It is an honor they have not earned.

The call for an Amazonian Rite at this point in history, I think we all sense, is nothing more than a liberal Catholic power play that does not, ultimately, have the good of the Amazonian Church in mind. Just hide your heresies behind a select group of easily manipulatable patsies (in the 60s it was gullible university students—now it’s poor Amazonians), and then use whatever permissions you gain to then run over the faithful Catholics in the pews with a liturgical bulldozer.

Liberal Catholics have done incalculable damage to true inculturation by infecting it with their Modernist poison. They were never the champions of indigenous people that they claimed to be—and now they have become incorrigible European imperialists with a pseudomonotheistic zeal to install giant idols of their false deity—that indolent Prussian atheist—in every culture on earth.

I leave with some parting advice for intelligent devout Catholics debating the goings-on in the Synod.

If you are not knowledgeable about Amazonian history and culture, it is not going to be productive attacking the idiocies of the synod on a specific cultural basis.  I have heard a few arguments bandied about that are, well, silly—like the whole business about the feathered hats. I’m not sure how we attack “pagan clothing” when the priestly vestments of the Roman Rite are directly descended from garments worn in antiquity. And it will also be surprising news to 200 years of devout Iroquois Christians that the gustoweh is suddenly an affront to Almighty God.

Keep the argument on the larger theoretical level—not about the Amazon specifically, nor even about paganism, but more about the way that liberal Catholics are disingenuously using the Amazonians as a cover to smuggle in their own asinine theology. Europeans are your main enemies here—not Natives. Accuse them pointedly and directly of hegemony, cultural imperialism, and of exploitation of Native people to serve the political left. Find, cite, interview, and hand over your media megaphones to contrary indigenous voices such as Jonas MacuxĂ­, recently interviewed by LifeSite News.

To defeat the smarmy liberal elite on this, we need to explode their entire raison d’etre—that their only goal is to welcome and help Native communities live in the Church. Show the world how what they are doing is accomplishing the exact opposite, and they, being rather cowardly and frankly addicted to worldly praise, will run away in bewilderment that anyone dared question their motives.

As for me, well, I’m not going to give this Synod much more attention; I have an Algonquin Introit to work through.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Corona of the Immaculate Conception

As we approach the patronal feast day of the United States, it's the perfect time to mention a beautiful devotion to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

The Corona of the Immaculate Conception is a chaplet composed by a Jesuit priest who was one of North America's great explorers: Father Jacques Marquette.

Unfortunately, the Corona is not very well known. There's another, better known devotion called the "Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception" written by St. John Berchmanns. But in terms of authorship and historical context, Marquette's Corona has a special significance for Americans and Canadians.

Let's set the stage with an account of the Corona from Marquette's Jesuit superior Fr. Claude Dablon, writing from Montreal in 1677:
"Some months before his death, he [Marquette] said every day with his two men a little Corona of the Immaculate Conception which he had devised as follows: After the Credo, there is said once the Pater and Ave, and then 4 times these words: Ave filia Dei patris, ave mater filii Dei, ave sponsa Spiritus Sancti, ave templum totius Trinitatis: per sanctam virginitatem et immaculatam conceptionem tuam, purissima Virgo, emunda cor et carnem meam: in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, — concluding with the Gloria Patri, the whole repeated three times."
For a long time I never found an actual Corona of the Immaculate Conception for sale anywhere. So I went ahead and made my own with cord/twine, 15 blue oval beads, and a miraculous medal.

The Rosary Workshop now offers a fancier version of the Corona. You can also use St. John Berchman's Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception, which has the same arrangement of beads.

How to Say the Corona of the Immaculate Conception

1. On the medal, say the Apostles' Creed.
2. On the first bead, say 1 Our Father and 1 Hail Mary.
3. On each of the next 4 beads, say a Corona Prayer:
Hail Daughter of God the Father,
Hail Mother of God the Son
Hail Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
Hail Temple of the entire Trinity.
By thy holy virginity and Immaculate Conception,
O Virgin most pure,
cleanse my heart and my flesh.
In the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
4. End with 1 Glory Be.
5. Repeat steps 2-4 two times.

If you'd prefer to say the chaplet in Latin, the text of the Corona prayer can be found italicized in the passage from Fr. Dablon above.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Advent Hymns and Carols

Amanda at The Homely Hours has a list of Advent hymns and carols for each day of the season. It's a great compilation, and a timely reminder for us to keep the spirit of the season.

There is so much beloved Advent music. I doubt many who know it would be eager to toss it aside--even for a few extra weeks of Christmas carols.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Roof Collapse atop St. Peter's Church

So the roof collapsed on a Church in Rome today. No one was hurt, thank God.

This was the Church built atop the Mamertine Prison where St. Peter was imprisoned in Rome: known as San Giuseppe dei Falegnami or San Pietro in Carcere. The titular cardinal of San Giuseppe is Francesco Coccopalmerio. Remember him?

A Church's roof just fell in. This week. Where the first Pope was chained, imprisoned, and then miraculously freed. The Church under the titular leadership of Francesco Coccopalmerio.

Fun fact: a related cathedral in Rome is St. Peter in Chains. There is a legend that Pope Leo I compared the chains of this church to those of Mamertine Prison, and they miraculously fused together. The current Cardinal titular of this Church? Donald Wuerl.

All just coincidences, I'm sure. Just like the lightning striking the Vatican.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hallowtide: The Window to Heaven and Hell

Halloween is an eminently Catholic holiday, but the average American would be forgiven for never realizing it.

Perhaps even we in the Church have not realized how this holds true even for the worst aspects of the modern bastardized holiday—the gluttony, the immodesty, the perverted iconography, and the adoration of death and the demonic. All of these are, in an odd way, as much a part of this liturgical season as the Saints.

Admittedly, the propers of Hallowtide are mostly concerned with the crowns of beatitude rather than the powers of hell. The latter make an appearance—but only in a few select places, and never for very long.

The Communion verse for the All Hallows Eve Mass has a glancing reference:

Justorum animae in manu Dei sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum malitiae—"The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them"
And the Office of Matins for All Souls' Day has the following excerpt from Venerable Bede on the life of the blessed:

There the devil will be no more an object of fear; there no evil spirits lie in wait; there, the dread of hell will be gone.
So the Church has not forgotten that there are evil spirits to be saved from. She remembers. She just does not dwell on the powers of hell during this season. We might well ask—why not, when everyone else is?

Because in Hallowtide, the Church is standing in contrast to the world.

She calls attention to what she represents, while the world calls attention to what it represents. She is the light, and it is the darkness. She stands with the angelic hosts, and it stands with the demonic legions. She boasts in the modesty of saints, and it boasts of the profligacy of the damned.

The world's freakish and ghoulish Halloween nightmares furnish us with a crucially important icon for meditation—they put on flagrant display the other half of the lesson that the Roman liturgy is tastefully circumspect about. At the end of October, Almighty God has allowed our enemy, perhaps even forced him unwillingly, to drop his mask and display his ultimate reality for everyone to see.

This world is the princedom of the devil. It is the antechamber to hell. If we ever doubt that, and tend toward daydreaming only of idyllic Arcadian glens and fairies dancing in sun-dappled forests, it will only take a 9-11 or an ISIS to wake us. In a puddle of our own blood.

All around us, right now, men and women are selling their souls to pride, to money, to power, to sex, to hatred, to any or all of the seven deadly sins. Some of them will be saved from that fate by the grace of God. But many...many...will not.

The Middle Ages had a keen sense of horror. Their art proves it. They showed a readiness to use ghoulish images and devices to make a theological point. They made the gate of hell a mouth—which frankly gets far closer to the devouring, insatiable nature of the demonic than an inanimate, static cave which a person can walk in and out of at will.

Yet the medievals were no nihilists. They saw both the transcendent splendor of love and the monstrous corruption of evil. Theirs was not a pastel, soft-focus Christianity but one in bold colors: bright golds, bloody crimsons, and pitch blacks.

We modern Catholics have lost much of their wisdom. We have rashly judged their world too primitive, too coarse, too folklorish to be credible in an age of science. But having lost the sense of the monstrous, the hideous, the hellish, having psychologized and explained away evil to a mere mistaken tendency or uninformed worldview, we have lost the truth of the world. We are in desperate need to behold evil once more as it truly is. As something unspeakably terrible and ugly.

And this is precisely where the world comes in, filling a liturgical mission it didn't even know it had.

During this sacred Triduum, the minions of hell will be crawling from the bowels of the earth to mark their own.

Decadent revelers will blacken their eye sockets, tear their skimpy clothes, and paint festering wounds on their flesh. Devotees of Santa Muerte will offer prayers at the blasphemous altars of Hades and invoke, supplicate, and adore the Negation of Life. Impenitent heretics—no accident the anniversary of their rebellion falls in this period—will exult in their brazen defiance of Christ's Church and train themselves to resist it to the end. Even respectable suburban homeowners will decorate their yards with horrors from Dante's Inferno. Not to warn or teach about the Last Things but purely for "fun"—apparently.

And Catholics? We see the harvest come in, the leaves fall, the nights grow long, and the world turn dark. And through it all we keep our eyes firmly fixed on heaven. We stand with our fellow sinners in repentant tears at the Calvary of the Mass. We invoke the saints for their aid and strive to dress ourselves in their clothes and virtues. We sacrifice and pray for the souls of our dearly departed, putting their needs above our own. And through it all we grow, little by little, in charity toward God and man.

The stark contrast between the Church and the world ought never, and least of all in this time of year, to be confused or muddled. There will be a time for the Church to speak forcefully about hell and the damned, but it is not during Hallowtide. This season is about two paths, and these paths must be laid out clearly and crisply, blazed everywhere along the way with reliable, unmistakable markers of their destinations. So that, in the end, not a single soul can pretend to be surprised at where they have arrived.

God has given us Hallowtide as a three-day window to the Last Judgment in all its bright glory and dark horror. It is an audition for our part in Eternity, a dress rehearsal for that Day of Wrath that lies before us all. The liturgy of the Church versus the revelry of the world.

All of us, whether we are inconstant friends of Christ, avowed enemies of God, or secular revelers seeking nothing more than a bit of amusement—all of us in these three days will be dressing up both literally and metaphorically. And we will all be preparing and training.

Just with very different vestments, and for very different ends.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Overloading Advent

Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful that Advent is even acknowledged at all in the commercial world. In the United States where we seem to have a preponderance of low-church Christians, the liturgical year is never as well emphasized as it could be.

The difficulty is that Advent is a time of penance and expected waiting, not celebration. Our kids have an Advent calendar courtesy of generous grandparents, but it's all simple things like crackers and candies, and they also got Bible verses to go along with every day, lest we forget what it is we're waiting for.

Companies haven't generally been quite that restrained. Advent has become big business. Pottery Barn has gotten into the fray, and now even Aldi has a wine calendar that is making the rounds.

Nunc est bibendum! Traditionally, the feast of St. John on December 27 was the big day for wine, but once again there seems to be an increasingly sloppy blurring of the two seasons.

Commercial outfits are motivated by and interested in one thing: moving product. There's nothing wrong with that.... our publishing company has a wonderful Advent book for this time of year:

Lynne's book is, though, more oriented toward making simple little crafts with prayers and devotions rather than moving stuff off of shelves. It's not wrong to encourage good solid Advent products like these, just to make gifts and treats the sole focus of Advent instead of tangible helps on the way to discovering what Advent really is.

Advent has a real danger of becoming overloaded with gifts, especially if we add in treats for St. Nicholas's feast, the ever-more popular "let's just exchange Christmas gifts now because we won't be seeing each other during the holidays", and even Hanukkah presents from our Jewish family and friends. Some of this can't be helped. But it seems like if we're not getting gifts, we're thinking about gifts, running around purchasing gifts, worrying about gifts, wrapping gifts.

No one described this pre=Christmas tension with better wit than the great C. S. Lewis, in "Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus."

Let's make sure we Niatirbians-in-spirit maintain a bit of restraint in this penitential season so we can show up with bright shining faces to Mass on December 25th.