Sunday, June 3, 2018

Corpus Christi Thursday and Sunday

I have already celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi: our Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form of the Latin Rite) community and Blessed Sacrament Parish collaborated on a Thursday night Mass with a Eucharistic Procession and Benediction. The choir of Blessed Sacrament sang the Sine Nomine Mass of Palestrina--and will again this morning at the 11:00 Mass today--and we chanted St. Thomas Aquinas' great sequence for the feast during Mass and the Pange Lingua during the procession, concluding with Tantum Ergo back at the Altar. Father Thomas Hoisington offered Mass beautifully and offered a great homily on the Paschal Mystery: the Passion and the Mass.

Pope St. John Paul II expressed the Church's doctrine of and his own love for the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in his 2013 encyclical letter ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA:

3. The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church's life. This is already clear from the earliest images of the Church found in the Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (2:42). The “breaking of the bread” refers to the Eucharist. Two thousand years later, we continue to relive that primordial image of the Church. At every celebration of the Eucharist, we are spiritually brought back to the paschal Triduum: to the events of the evening of Holy Thursday, to the Last Supper and to what followed it. The institution of the Eucharist sacramentally anticipated the events which were about to take place, beginning with the agony in Gethsemane. Once again we see Jesus as he leaves the Upper Room, descends with his disciples to the Kidron valley and goes to the Garden of Olives. Even today that Garden shelters some very ancient olive trees. Perhaps they witnessed what happened beneath their shade that evening, when Christ in prayer was filled with anguish “and his sweat became like drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (cf. Lk 22:44). The blood which shortly before he had given to the Church as the drink of salvation in the sacrament of the Eucharist, began to be shed; its outpouring would then be completed on Golgotha to become the means of our redemption: “Christ... as high priest of the good things to come..., entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:11- 12).

4. The hour of our redemption. Although deeply troubled, Jesus does not flee before his “hour”. “And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour?' No, for this purpose I have come to this hour” (Jn 12:27). He wanted his disciples to keep him company, yet he had to experience loneliness and abandonment: “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Mt 26:40- 41). Only John would remain at the foot of the Cross, at the side of Mary and the faithful women. The agony in Gethsemane was the introduction to the agony of the Cross on Good Friday. The holy hour, the hour of the redemption of the world. Whenever the Eucharist is celebrated at the tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem, there is an almost tangible return to his “hour”, the hour of his Cross and glorification. Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit to that place and that hour.

“He was crucified, he suffered death and was buried; he descended to the dead; on the third day he rose again”. The words of the profession of faith are echoed by the words of contemplation and proclamation: “This is the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world. Come, let us worship”. This is the invitation which the Church extends to all in the afternoon hours of Good Friday. She then takes up her song during the Easter season in order to proclaim: “The Lord is risen from the tomb; for our sake he hung on the Cross, Alleluia”.

5. “Mysterium fidei! - The Mystery of Faith!”. When the priest recites or chants these words, all present acclaim: “We announce your death, O Lord, and we proclaim your resurrection, until you come in glory”.

In these or similar words the Church, while pointing to Christ in the mystery of his passion,also reveals her own mystery: Ecclesia de Eucharistia. By the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the Church was born and set out upon the pathways of the world, yet a decisive moment in her taking shape was certainly the institution of the Eucharist in the Upper Room. Her foundation and wellspring is the whole Triduum paschale, but this is as it were gathered up, foreshadowed and “concentrated' for ever in the gift of the Eucharist. In this gift Jesus Christ entrusted to his Church the perennial making present of the paschal mystery. With it he brought about a mysterious “oneness in time” between that Triduum and the passage of the centuries.

The thought of this leads us to profound amazement and gratitude. In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries, there is a truly enormous “capacity” which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist. But in a special way it should fill the minister of the Eucharist. For it is he who, by the authority given him in the sacrament of priestly ordination, effects the consecration. It is he who says with the power coming to him from Christ in the Upper Room: “This is my body which will be given up for you This is the cup of my blood, poured out for you...”. The priest says these words, or rather he puts his voice at the disposal of the One who spoke these words in the Upper Room and who desires that they should be repeated in every generation by all those who in the Church ministerially share in his priesthood.

This morning, I'll attend Mass of the External Celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi at the Spiritual Life Center. Professor Bradley Birzer, author of Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson and other works will speak on Russell Kirk and J.R.R. Tolkien on the last day of the Fourth Annual Catholic Culture Conference:

1:30 p.m. Bradley Birzer, presenting “The Christian Humanism of Russell Kirk—one of Catholicism’s greatest (but largely forgotten) 20th century figures”

A convert, Kirk went from spiritualism to Stoic Paganism to Catholicism in the first 45 years of his life. From 1964 to his death in 1994, he served the Church faithfully, in word, if not always in deed. He was, however, one of the single most charitable men of his age.

2:30 p.m. Break, and book signing/continued conversation with Dr. Birzer

3:00 p.m. Bradley Birzer, presenting “The Inklings and J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology”

Most of you know something about J.R.R. Tolkien and his monumental work, The Lord of the Rings, and the literary impact of his friendship with C.S. Lewis and the rest of the “Inklings”. Below the surface, however, there is much in Tolkien’s work that lies hidden to the casual reader. In this lecture, Dr. Birzer will explore Tolkien’s mythology as a Catholic answer to the terrorist ideologies of the previous century.

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