Dies Domini 26: Image of Eternity

Counting can be a problem, at first glance. Old Testament literalists may fuss at Christians for shifting Sabbath observance to the first day. But in our weird way of counting time, and adding a dollop of the transcendant to the week, it is said we celebrate the eighth day. Not the first.

Pope John Paul II titles this section, “The eighth day: image of eternity.” What does he mean by that?

26. By contrast, the Sabbath’s position as the seventh day of the week suggests for the Lord’s Day a complementary symbolism, much loved by the Fathers. Sunday is not only the first day, it is also “the eighth day”, set within the sevenfold succession of days in a unique and transcendent position which evokes not only the beginning of time but also its end in “the age to come”.

A doctor of the Church gives witness:

Saint Basil explains that Sunday symbolizes that truly singular day which will follow the present time, the day without end which will know neither evening nor morning, the imperishable age which will never grow old; Sunday is the ceaseless foretelling of life without end which renews the hope of Christians and encourages them on their way.(Cf. Saint Basil, On the Holy Spirit, 27, 66: SC 17, 484-485. Cf. also Letter of Barnabas 15, 8-9: SC 172, 186-189; Saint Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 24; 138: PG 6, 528, 793; Origen,Commentary on the Psalms, Psalm 118(119), 1: PG 12, 1588)

Sunday is a suggestion of heaven. Perhaps some look forward to an eternal TGIF, or a golf-n-leisure filled Saturday. But Saint Basil suggests here that eternity may look more like a Sunday. Would we want it to look and feel more like a Sunday? And if not, does that say something about our current views and practices than it does about our great expectations of the afterlife?

Looking towards the last day, which fulfills completely the eschatological symbolism of the Sabbath, Saint Augustine concludes the Confessions describing the Eschaton as “the peace of quietness, the peace of the Sabbath, a peace with no evening”.(“Domine, praestitisti nobis pacem quietis, pacem sabbati, pacem sine vespera“: Confess., 13, 50: CCL 27, 272) In celebrating Sunday, both the “first” and the “eighth” day, the Christian is led towards the goal of eternal life.(Cf. Saint Augustine, Epist. 55, 17: CSEL 34, 188: “Ita ergo erit octavus, qui primus, ut prima vita sed aeterna reddatur“.)

Pax sine vespera: what a beautiful image. An eternal afternoon to enjoy God and be enjoyed by the Almighty. No curtain of darkness descending. No doubts or questions about what might come tomorrow.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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Reconciliation Lectionary: Matthew 26:69-75

mary-the-penitent.jpgIt is a timely reading for Holy Week, and we hear Peter’s denial every year at this time. Sometimes twice. Would we add a third time at a Communal Penance liturgy, or in form I with an individual penitent?

As I’ve gotten older, I haven’t grown accustomed to watching Peter in these Scriptures. In a way, it feels a bit like moral voyeurism. I feel guilty for the man. It’s like when my siblings got into trouble when I was a kid. Occasionally, I felt they got theirs … finally. But usually, I wanted to keep my head down. And I didn’t feel it was my business.

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard.
One of the maids came over to him and said,
“You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
But he denied it in front of everyone, saying,
“I do not know what you are talking about!”
As he went out to the gate, another girl saw him
and said to those who were there,
“This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.”
Again he denied it with an oath,
“I do not know the man!”
A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter,
“Surely you too are one of them;
even your speech gives you away.”
At that he began to curse and to swear,
“I do not know the man.”
And immediately a cock crowed.
Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken:
“Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.”
He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Do Peter’s denials inspire penitence in my own life? I suppose it’s easy to say, as Peter himself did, “I will never deny you, Lord.” But we do reject Christ and his way. Quite often it is in subtle ways. A little bit here and a little there.

We deny sin. We deny it a little more vehemently, pressed. Peter even curses, lashing out, when someone insists. Of course, his sin is not in his association with Jesus or not. His anger is clearly self-directed. He knows he is in denial. He cannot hold it in.

Can we place ourselves in Peter’s place, denying the Lord? Maybe this reading works better for an individual penitent. If a parish does a Communal Penance liturgy during Holy Week (not that we don’t have enough on our plates) this Gospel seems appropriate. What do you think?

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Socks Off

David Gibson summarizes two millennia and recent history on washing feet Holy Thursday evening. He does stumble when attributing it to “church law.” Viri selecti is descriptive of a 1956 presumption, and hardly prescriptive. Except for people who want it that way.

It speaks to the substance of the ritual that it attracts so much attention. If it weren’t important–if it were an ordinary thing like lace or burlap–it wouldn’t attract so much attention.

It’s an annual entertainment, not to mention a sad perversion of a gesture of service. To fight is to miss the Lord’s point.

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EG 144: Speaking From An Enlightened Heart

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneWhat does it mean to “speak from the heart”? Is it just enthusiasm and charisma? Pope Francis suggests something deeper: enlightenment.

I think the Holy Father is asking questions of the Church’s preachers. Are they aware of and formed by the Word? And not just the Word, or a specific interpretation of it, but by a wider view of the entire tradition. Certainly, it is impossible for any person to access all of Tradition. But is there openness to it?

144. To speak from the heart means that our hearts must not just be on fire, but also enlightened by the fullness of revelation and by the path travelled by God’s word in the heart of the Church and our faithful people throughout history. This Christian identity, as the baptismal embrace which the Father gave us when we were little ones, makes us desire, as prodigal children – and favorite children in Mary – yet another embrace, that of the merciful Father who awaits us in glory. Helping our people to feel that they live in the midst of these two embraces is the difficult but beautiful task of one who preaches the Gospel.

The image of two embraces: baptism and reconciliation. Do preachers cultivate these in their communities? Do believers see how each in turn comes to the fore at different times in their lives?

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is available online.

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The Armchair Liturgist Reminds Liturgical Ministers

One or two of my colleagues think I pamper my liturgical ministers. A person in an important role in worship should not need a reminder.

But on the sign-up forms, we give them an opportunity to check a box that reads “reminder by e-mail.” The last few minutes at the parish office today were spent sending lector assignments and links on the USCCB Bible page for the appropriate set of readings.

Sit in the purple chair and render judgment. Would your liturgical ministers get reminders? If so, how would you handle it?

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Bad Bishops: “Bad Pope, Bad Catholics”

Jimmy Mac sent me this link. After pondering that some prelates were maybe slugging down too much anise aperitif, I was thinking about 89 pages. Is that all?

To be truthful: once you’re on a roll, why stop with 10.79 schismatic years per page? If you’re trolling internet sites opposed to Pope Francis, if not Catholics in general, there are tons of material out there. And that’s just the electrons. Imagine committing all that spit to paper.

Nothing like a bracing shot of anti-ecumenism. Only a short step to the antigospel from there.

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Dies Domini 24-25: The Day of the New Creation

With these two sections, John Paul II looks at “The day of the new creation.” He cites Jewish/Christian connections in the Scriptures. Linking the Creation account with the Christological hymn of the letter to the Colossians.

24. A comparison of the Christian Sunday with the Old Testament vision of the Sabbath prompted theological insights of great interest. In particular, there emerged the unique connection between the Resurrection and Creation. Christian thought spontaneously linked the Resurrection, which took place on “the first day of the week”, with the first day of that cosmic week (cf. Gn 1:1 – 2:4) which shapes the creation story in the Book of Genesis: the day of the creation of light (cf. 1:3-5). This link invited an understanding of the Resurrection as the beginning of a new creation, the first fruits of which is the glorious Christ, “the first born of all creation” (Col 1:15) and “the first born from the dead” (Col 1:18).

A similar connection might be made with the incarnation as well–that’s fairly obvious (cf. the prologue of John’s Gospel, the opening verses of the Pentateuch and 1 John.)

Sunday moves to primacy because of the importance of the sacramental life we have in Christ:

25. In effect, Sunday is the day above all other days which summons Christians to remember the salvation which was given to them in baptism and which has made them new in Christ. “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12; cf. Rom 6:4-6). The liturgy underscores this baptismal dimension of Sunday, both in calling for the celebration of baptisms — as well as at the Easter Vigil — on the day of the week “when the Church commemorates the Lord’s Resurrection”,(Rite of Baptism of Children, No. 9; cf. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, No. 59) and in suggesting as an appropriate penitential rite at the start of Mass the sprinkling of holy water, which recalls the moment of Baptism in which all Christian life is born.(Cf. Roman Missal, Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling of Holy Water.)

I’m not sure all liturgists and theologians would see the Sprinkling Rite as penitential–it’s clearly more baptismal. At any rate the suggestion is spot on that such an expression is wholly appropriate for Sunday Mass.

The Vatican site has Dies Domini in its entirety.

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