“Christ, not the priest, not anyone else, is the centre”

“Christ, not the priest, not anyone else, is the centre”

A great article from an interview with Dom Alcuin Reid, from over at NLM. Some highlights:

But why are bodily gestures or, generally, the way in which a priest celebrates the Mass important for the life of the Church? Isn’t Faith, aren’t good works more important?

Faith and good works are not disembodied. We are body and soul together in this life and we discipline and train our bodies for so many things, for sport, athletics, and so on.

We must discipline and train our bodies also spiritually. As in certain circumstances we would behave with our bodies with respect and attention towards other people, so when we come for Christ in the liturgy, we too have certain bodily gestures.

It is very unusual for us in our modern culture to kneel. But to kneel in the presence of Christ in the liturgy tells us that we are doing something not usual, it speaks to us. To genuflect, to bow profoundly, to sing the Church’s chant in a disciplined way, all these things remind us physically that we are doing something different to a normal way of behaving, relaxing. So, too, the Church’s liturgical vesture reminds us that this is not a priest, a human person that is doing his thing. He is doing Church’s thing, he is putting on Christ, which is symbolised by the vestments.

These things are not part of Divine Law themselves, they are human traditions coming out of love and worship for the Church. They are not absolute, but they are tried and tested means of expressing our Faith and worship.”


Also, this:

The Mass is not entertainment, it’s worship, so what we need to do for young people is not provide an imitation of the culture we think they might like, but to introduce them to the person of Christ active in the liturgy. The Mass is boring if I look at it as some form of stimulation which must keep me entertained. The Mass is not boring if I enter into it as encounter with, communication with the person of Christ to whom I give all that I can and who gives me all that I need.”


On leaving Mass early…

leaving early


I think I’ve heard all the excuses. “I don’t want to stand in line, I want to get out of the parking lot first, I want to get a seat at the restaurant (really), I have other things I have to do, I don’t sing, I don’t like the last song, I, I, I….” My personal favorite: “I already got Jesus, so why do I need to stick around?” (Sure, but you might have missed the point…)

Maybe we’ve all offered one of these excuses at some point. There are so many reasons this is wrong, but first let’s look on the bright side. Here are 5 reasons for staying until the end of the Mass:

1)   Show Jesus how important he is to you. You just received Holy Communion. You’ve received Jesus’ entire life, death and resurrection for the salvation of the world. Spend a couple minutes thanking him for this incredible gift he suffered for you. Show him this is the most important part of your day and week. He hung on the cross for 3 hours, you can wait with him for 3 minutes.

2) You have just been united in Christ with the entire Church, here on earth, in purgatory and in heaven by participating in this Sacrament. Yes, the Eucharist is a Sacrament every time. Show your unity and respect to the members of the Church that have gone before you.

3) You have united yourself in Christ with your parish community. To leave before everyone else is a sign of your disunity with your community. Even our responses to prayer and the dismissal are signs of our unity. Unite yourself with your community.

4) We pray together.  The prayers at the end of Mass are great. Don’t believe me? The entire Mass is based on Sacred Scripture, up to the very end. The words of Scripture, the words of Mass are sacramental, that is, they make present the reality of Christ. Why would you walk out on the Word of God?

5) We sing together. The hymn can be a prayer, if your parish sings a thanksgiving hymn after communion or a recessional hymn. If you skip out when there is half a verse left, or just before the hymn, you miss praying together with one voice. If you don’t sing or don’t think you know the song, look at it at least. Pray the words. Unite your heart to the prayer of the whole Church.

There are a million more reasons I could give you. Remember who the very first person to leave Mass early was…there is a reason they call this the “Judas shuffle.”

If you’re confused about whether it is a sin or not: no, it is not seriously sinful, but it is extremely disrespectful, even more so if it is habitual. Are you only concerned about the bare minimum?

Besides, if you cut out early, you’ll miss important things happening in the parish community, and also the goodies when we have them after Mass…

Words Matter

Words matter. Especially in the liturgy. Every word can be richly symbolic and expressive of our faith (if we don’t mess with them). We have to remember that the words, even pronouns like “his”, really do matter.

If you feel a rant coming on…you probably know me in real life. But bear with me as I explain… One of the things that really bugs me is not only when people decide on their own to change the words of the Mass (which is one thing) but also to teach other people the incorrect words, going so far as to give reasons why their words are better than those given to us by the Church! There are so many things wrong with this, including poor liturgical theology, that we can’t get into all of them here. Let us examine just one example and see why the change does not make sense.

Here is one part of the Mass I notice quite often people change the word “his” to “God”:

May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his holy Church.

Okay, step back and look at the prayer of the priest right before it:

Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

First, notice that this prayer is addressed to God the Father. We are speaking about a specific role for this specific person of the Trinity, whose role is associated with male characteristics. This does not mean God the Father is anatomically male, but that he has characteristics of ontological male-ness, that is, the truth of his being has qualities of male-ness. Both man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God, and I am not suggesting that we ignore that, but I am saying they are different. Despite what secular culture wants you to believe, men and women are not the same at a fundamental level of their being. In this particular instance, we are saying something about God as Father, and that is an important distinction. There are other times when we properly express other qualities of God. The words of the liturgy are completely interconnected, and to arbitrarily change “His” to “God’s” because you want to remove the male pronoun actually means you just didn’t listen to the prayer right before it.

Secondly, it becomes a grammatical error. We don’t want to imply that “Lord” and “God” are two different entities, which is what it often sounds like if you change these words. That would be a serious problem.

Finally, a very important principle to remember, which is reiterated in the Second Vatican Council (SC 22), is that no person, not even a priest, may change the Mass. This would include the words.

Think this week about the specific words you are praying, how they relate to the rest of the liturgy (as each prayer does not exist in a vacuum) and how these words express the different facets of our faith.

Anointings in the Bible

anointing_of_fresh_oilRemember the gospel from last Sunday –  the one about the woman anointing Jesus’ feet?  There are many layers of meaning to this gospel passage, and while we have already reflected on it, I’d like to look at it more closely.  Often as Catholics, we do not always study the layers of meaning in our Scripture readings, often because we do not spend the time to study Sacred Scripture at all!  This week I would like to take a moment to delve deeper into that particular reading.

One important aspect of this gospel reading, sometimes overlooked, is the great significance of the act of anointing itself, which is just one of the indicators we have from the Old Testament that this is the Christ, the Messiah!  Christ, in this moment, prophesies his own burial (“She has prepared me for burial.”) While the woman was not anointing him a priest, as Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit, the very act of anointing itself hearkens back to the anointing of Aaron, which we read about in the books of Exodus and Leviticus.  This anointing consecrated Aaron for his “holy duties”, that is, his priesthood.  In this gospel, the symbolism in the act of anointing Jesus is to prepare him for his holy duties, his priesthood, his sacrifice on the cross.  Leviticus (21:10) says that the high priest is anointed with oil and is ordained to wear the priestly garments.  The one who is anointed is dedicated to God.  Jesus is THE ULTIMATE high priest. He is anointed not only with oil, but with the Spirit.

We also read about the anointing of David as King in 1 Samuel 16, where Samuel anoints David with the “horn of oil” and the Spirit of the Lord rushes down on David.  The psalms serve as further reminder that David is anointed as the Lord’s servant (see Psalm 89)  This is important to keep in mind when reading our gospel passage also, as Jesus is not only anointed priest, he is also King.  This is one of the reasons we hear in the baptismal rite of anointing that we are anointed just as Jesus was, “Priest, Prophet and King”.  Of course, Jesus did not need to be anointed with oil, since he was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10), but this is one of the many signs of the Messiah.

While we could examine anointings in the Bible for a very long time (I am not intending to be comprehensive!), it comes down to one thing.  This gospel reminds us who Jesus is – the Christ.  The very word “Christ” comes from the Greek “Khristos”, meaning: The Anointed One. He is the Messiah!

Why we use nice things for Mass…


The Gospel from yesterday morning, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, (Luke 7:36-8:3) has a very pertinent application to the liturgical life of the Church. The sinning woman in the gospel brings an expensive alabaster jar filled with ointment (costly perfumed oil in Matthew, or “spikenard” as Mark). She washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and anoints them.  In the three other accounts of this gospel, the disciples become indignant and say this is a waste, even mentioning that it is worth 300 days’ wages (that’s almost a year! What, like, $30,000 or more today?). Why spend this nice oil washing some dirty feet? Wouldn’t it be better to sell the oil and give the money to the poor? Jesus tells them to leave her alone, that she has done a good thing, and forgives her sins.  He also adds, “The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” (Mt. 26:11)

What does this mean for us in the celebration of the Liturgy? Many ask, “Why doesn’t the Church sell everything and give the money to the poor?” What Jesus could be saying is even if you sell this stuff and feed people for a day, a week, a month… you will still have the poor. Then what? How do you feed them after that? Thankfully we DO still have Jesus with us in the Eucharist. We honor him with what we have to give, and he can feed us for an eternity.  The use of “nice things” in the Liturgy does not mean the Church is against giving to the poor. For centuries, even the poorest have given what they could to the Church to honor God. That is why we use vessels made of precious metal – Jesus is the Christ, our King, and we would give the best we have to honor him if we truly believe that! The beautiful celebration of the Liturgy is not at odds with caring for and serving others. We come to the Eucharist to be nourished ourselves before we can go out and feed others. However, the Liturgy is not about “getting” – it is not about just coming to get fed so we can go out, it is about giving of ourselves to glorify God. Blessed Theresa of Calcutta is one example of a total servant who recognized the importance of being nourished herself by the gift of Christ present in the Eucharist and giving glory to God, which then enables us to go out and serve him more faithfully.

More on this next time, as this gospel is so rich: it has great connections to the Old Testament and to the Sacraments of the Church! In the meantime, reflect on what you give to honor God. It doesn’t have to be money.  Have you ever done anything for Christ as extravagant as this woman? What do you give in your own way?

Introit for the 4th Sunday After Pentecost


“Dominus illuminatio mea, et salus mea, quem timebo? Dominus defensor vitae meae a quo trepidabo? qui tribulant me inimici mei, infirmati sunt, et ceciderunt.

Ps. Si consistant adversum me castra: non timebit cor meum. Gloria Patri…”

The Lord is my light and my salvation…

(Thanks to CCWatershed for practice videos for Gregorian chant…please go check out their site.)