The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 

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Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, often known as “Corpus Christi”.  You might be thinking, gee, don’t we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass?  Sure, but just as with the Lord’s Resurrection, a particular day is set aside to celebrate and reflect on this aspect of the mystery and saving work of Christ!

The Catechism, no. 1374, quotes both St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Paul VI in teaching us about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist:

“The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique.  It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as ‘the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.’  In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.’”

So, to repeat it, BOTH the Body and the Blood of Christ that we receive contain ALL of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  Christ is not just there “beside the bread” (which is a Lutheran belief, consubstantiation – not to be confused with the word consubstantial in our Creed, which is not applied to the Eucharist).  The word that we use for this is TRANSUBSTANTIATION.  The substance of the bread or wine has changed – it is no longer bread or wine!  It only retains the “appearances” (physical qualities) of bread and wine, but it is not bread and wine.

This is a great time to focus on how we approach for the reception of Holy Communion.  Do we show respect for the Eucharistic species?  How do our actions reflect our beliefs?

A couple of reminders on the reception of Holy Communion:

1)      Bow, before both the Body and Blood of Christ.  This still applies even if you are not receiving!  (So don’t just walk past the Blood of Christ like it’s not there.  Is that how you would pass Jesus in the street??)

2)      If you are receiving in the hand, consume the consecrated Host immediately.  Do not walk anywhere with the sacred species. If you drop Him, pick Him up and consume!

3)     The reception of Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue is always permitted!

Finally, another reminder – go to confession! To receive the Most Holy Eucharist, one should be in a state of grace. If it is not possible to get to confession, make a perfect act of contrition before reception, and then go to confession!  How amazing and awesome the endless mercy of God…chalice

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The Most Holy Trinity

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This past weekend is a great example of how the mystery of Christ unfolds for us throughout the liturgical year.  The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity is easily overlooked – after all, Easter season is over, Pentecost was so exciting, and oh yeah, this year, we’re all focusing on our brats and beers for Monday (especially in this state!) Well, I for one can’t complain – while visiting my brother, I attended a beautifully celebrated High Mass perfectly fit for the occasion.

Remember that solemnities are the highest-ranking celebrations on the liturgical calendar.  They are opportunities for us to rejoice in the richness of our faith, and to understand it more fully.  Today, we examine more closely the mystery of the Trinity, the central mystery of our life in Christ, as the Catechism (no. 234) teaches:

“The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the ‘hierarchy of the truths of faith.’”

All Christians are baptized with the “Trinitarian formula”.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Notice it is “the name”, and not “the names…”  The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God, not many gods, and so we express this belief in the language we use.  We must be particular in our use of language about our faith.

Every single time we pray, we sign ourselves with the Sign of the Cross, the sign of the Trinity.  This is the first prayer we learn as children, and the one we pray the most often.  Do we just go through the motions, or do we pray these words with care?

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Pentecost

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“The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ – the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, ‘until he comes.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1076).

We speak about Pentecost as the beginning of the Church, but do we really know what we mean when we are saying that?  Often our “great commission” is quoted, that we need to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations.  Yet the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost is not only for the purpose of evangelizing non-Christians.  The Holy Spirit helps us experience that invisible heavenly reality through the Sacraments and other sacramental signs.  The Holy Spirit helps us to understand how Christ is acting through the Church, through her Sacraments, in this time when we can’t physically see him.

“In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to a new age.  He acts through the sacraments, in what the common Tradition of the East and West calls the ‘sacramental economy’;  this is the communication (or ‘dispensation’) of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s sacramental liturgy.” (CCC 1076).

Read this carefully.  Christ acts through the Church.  It is through the Church’s liturgy that we receiving the “fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery” (the saving work he did for us on the Cross).  The sacraments, signs and symbols of heavenly realities, were instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church.

As we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost, and remember our own reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us to understand how he is working through the Church and making Christ present to us at each and every Mass.

Heaven

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Heaven is radiant and light. It is detached from earthly things, and it transcends beyond all ages. It is populated with The Trinity, Saints (people we know are in heaven) and Angels (spiritual beings with no bodily form). Heaven is perfectly ordered.

The way we think about heaven informs the way we think about the Liturgy. We believe that at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we participate in the Heavenly Banquet. One way of thinking about it is that at the Mass we lift the veil between heaven and earth. We learn from Sacrosanctum Concilium that the purpose of Liturgy is to give glory to God (which is ordered praise, not self-expression), and to become more holy (sanctification). Becoming more holy means conforming ourselves to Christ, becoming a perfected version of ourselves. In order to this, we need God’s help, as we receive his grace in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

Remember that Sacraments both represent and make present the invisible heavenly reality. If heaven is perfect, ordered, and transcends all ages, then hopefully our Liturgical celebrations (which are sacramental by their very nature) approach this heavenly reality. This means that the Mass should be ordered and radiant, but also detached from earthly things and transcend beyond all ages. There must be an “other-worldliness” in the Liturgy, because it is basically training us for what heaven will be like. Heaven is not about autonomous self-expression, or a giant party; it is perfect union with God, joined with the choirs of angels in their unending song of praise.

The Path to Heaven

Ghent altarpieceIn my last entry, I briefly described purgatory.  Here is a quick review: It is a purification on the way to heaven, if we are not prepared to go immediately to heaven.  This is due to the effects of sin throughout our lifetime.  As long as we are not in the state of mortal sin (so go to confession) when our time on this earth comes to an end, we either go straight to heaven, or spend a bit of time getting ready for heaven, being conformed more to Christ to be truly prepared to enter the kingdom.  It is said that the souls in purgatory sing the Gloria, because they know for sure they will be united with God in heaven someday. (So, again, go to confession!!!)

So…what is heaven like?  I mean, we all want to go there, don’t we?

Often, people believe heaven to be like one big party, with everyone doing their own self-expressive dance and having a great time doing whatever they want.  Sorry to tell you, that’s not what heaven is like!  Heaven is not chaos, with everyone doing whatever they feel like!  Heaven is the ordered praise of God, all creation united as one in a song of joy.

The Catechism teaches: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.” (CCC 1023).  It continues, “This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity – this communion of like and love with Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed – is called ‘heaven’.  Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” (1024)

This perfect state is often described in Scripture as the heavenly banquet, the wedding feast, the heavenly Jerusalem.  When we participate in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is said that the veil between heaven and earth is lifted and we catch a brief glimpse of heaven.  The manner of our participation will affect how closely we can represent the heavenly banquet, and therefore how clearly the symbols speak – remember that to be truly symbolic, sacramental, means to make present invisible heavenly realities.

Here are a couple of questions (courtesy an exercise one of my professors often does in presentations) to reflect on what heaven is like:

Is heaven radiant or dull?  Light or dark?  Living or dead?  Earthly or detached from earthly things?  “Modern” or transcending beyond all ages?  Empty or populated?  (With whom?) Is heaven ordered or chaotic?

Cantate Domino – Introit for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Here is the Gregorian Introit for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. This is one of my favourites, and a great one for all singers (and the name of our choir here!)

“Sing to the Lord a new song, alleluia; for the Lord has accomplished wondrous deeds, alleluia; he has revealed his justice in the sight of the Gentiles, alleluia, alleluia. V. His right hand and his holy arm have given him victory.”

(Thanks to CCWatershed and their collection of practice videos for the Propers!)