PS 97-98: Easter Day

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check the full document Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet. We’re now done with considerations of the Easter Vigil (PS 77-96), so we turn out attention to the next morning:

97. Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity. It is appropriate that the penitential rite on this day take the form of a sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon “Vidi aquam”, or some other song of baptismal character should be sung. The stoups at the entrance to the church should also be filled with the same water.

Remember this sprinkling on Easter morning takes place after the homily. It would seem the proper order would have the penitential rite omitted from the introductory rites.

98. The tradition of celebrating baptismal Vespers on Easter Day with the singing of psalms during the procession to the font should be maintained where it is still in force, and as appropriate restored. (Cf. GILH. 213)

Some places celebrate Mass in the evening, but yes, this would be a good tradition to restore. I wonder how religious communities celebrate this. If I lived close to a monastery, I think I’d prefer to visit and have someone else be responsible for this last Easter liturgy. What about you?

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Laudato Si 12: A Magnificent Book

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20).

Jewish wisdom and Pauline theology, not to mention many saints of than Francis have noted this.

For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.[Cf. THOMAS OF CELANO, The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul, II, 124, 165, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 354] Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

How often in our dealings with people we also see problems rather than opportunities for contemplation.

Your thoughts?

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Worthy Women: Gertrud Luckner

 Gertrud Luckner, an English born German, spent a year of her life living in England. That year was 1932, and by the time she returned to Germany, she found her country completely transformed. Gertrud was stunned and horrified, and realized very quickly what these changes meant.

At this time, the German clergy’s response to the rise of the Nazis was mixed, between “wait and see” and outright support. The Vatican signed a Concordat with Hitler shortly after his ascendency, thereby recognizing him as Germany’s legitimate leader. Gertrud Luckner’s own bishop vocally supported both the SA and the SS. Gertrud, on the other hand, was inspired by her faith to recognize the evil of Nazism. Gertrud Luckner worked to help Jews, and nearly paid for this with her life. In 1943, she was arrested and sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp. Fortunately, she was still alive on May 3, 1945, when the Russians liberated the camp.

gertrud lucknerAfter returning to Germany, Gertrud Luckner began to work on reconciliation between Jews and Christians. Tensions between the two groups were understandably high. Jews who returned to their homes in Germany were greeted with demands that they pay backed taxes on their property, including property their neighbors had destroyed. Luckner, in contrast, convinced the German bishops to call for restitution to the Jews, as a matter of justice. She did not stop there. She wanted to rid Germany of anti-Semitism. Gertrud realized that this would not be possible without changing the way Jews and Christians related to one another.

To accomplish this goal, she purchased a theological journal, the Freiburg Circular, and became its editor. The journal’s mission was to expose and to oppose anti-Semitism, and she was very much alone in this task. She had no money to even pay writers for subscriptions. In an effort to gain support for her endeavor, she wrote to the Jesuit priest Robert Leiber, who was Pius XII’s personal secretary and confidante, asking the Holy See to acknowledge the importance of her work. The Holy See responded to Luckner’s request by launching a formal investigation. At the conclusion, the Vatican issued a monitum, an official warning. The Vatican accused Luckner and the Freiburg Circular of promoting religious indifferentism.

Luckner did not care. Instead, she continued cataloguing stories of Jewish cemeteries being defaced and religious processions that recalled ancient slanders against Jews. She joined forces with Jules Isaac, a Jewish historian who wrote extensively about Christian anti-Semitism. In time, Luckner began to win over the younger German bishops, bishops who later be called to the Second Vatican Council and spoke in favor of Nostra Aetate.

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Dives in Misericordiae 7b: Good Friday

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4In his public ministry, Jesus demonstrated mercy in numerous ways. Not only did he heal people, and relieve their suffering. He showed mercy in subtle and simple ways: listening to people, experiencing the emotions of inner movement, as well as cultivating friendships.

No feast exemplifies mercy more than Good Friday:

The events of Good Friday and, even before that, in prayer in Gethsemane, introduce a fundamental change into the whole course of the revelation of love and mercy in the messianic mission of Christ. The one who “went about doing good and healing”(Acts 10:38) and “curing every sickness and disease”(Mt. 9:35) now Himself seems to merit the greatest mercy and to appeal for mercy, when He is arrested, abused, condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, when He is nailed to the cross and dies amidst agonizing torments.(Cf. Mk. 15:37; Jn. 19:30) It is then that He particularly deserves mercy from the people to whom He has done good, and He does not receive it. Even those who are closest to Him cannot protect Him and snatch Him from the hands of His oppressors. At this final stage of His messianic activity the words which the prophets, especially Isaiah, uttered concerning the Servant of Yahweh are fulfilled in Christ: “Through his stripes we are healed.”(Is. 53:5).

Jesus shows human beings mercy, even when the same people did not return mercy at the hour of his torment, arrest, and execution. What does that mean for us? My sense is that we are dealing with something deeper than a historical event. It is easy enough for us to say in hindsight, “I would have stood with Jesus. I would have gone in his place.” But the reality of the spiritual life is that we are given opportunities often enough. But we don’t always stand with him. We don’t always demonstrate the mercy we long for and which is offered to us.

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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PS 95-96: Promoting and Preparing the Easter Vigil

Jesus arms outstretchedRemember, you can check all of Paschale Solemnitatis on this site, among many on the internet. With these two sections, some notes on publicity and catechesis:

95. In announcements concerning the Easter Vigil care should be taken not to present it as the concluding period of Holy Saturday, but rather it should be stressed that the Easter Vigil is celebrated “during Easter night”, and that it is one single act of worship. Pastors should be advised that in giving catechesis to the people they should be taught to participate in the Vigil in its entirety. (Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium 106)

A liturgy of two to three hours can be demanding for some. I have to confess I’ve encouraged people with young families to come for the Liturgy of Light, then return for Easter Mass in the morning.

96. For a better celebration of the Easter Vigil, it is necessary that pastors themselves have an ever deeper knowledge of both text and rites, so as to give a proper mystagogical catechesis to the people.

What do you see as the single most important piece of mystagogy you would communicate, were you the preacher or catechist?

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Laudato Si 11: Affection, Not Naïvete

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

Picking up on the theme of the pilgrim mystic in LS 10, I don’t think we can easily dismiss the 13th century man from Assisi as a naif.

11. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.[THOMAS OF CELANO, The Life of Saint Francis, I, 29, 81: in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999, 251]

The love spoken of is not the same as infatuation, as the Holy Father describes it here. True and committed love is not self-absorption, but a choice. And a choice to love often moves one in response to the beloved in unexpected ways. The choice to pay attention to the planet is more than a wrestling match between economic numbers and temperature readings.

His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”.[The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 6, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 590]

There is a distinction between using creatures (and people) as objects of obsession, rather than as opportunities to love. I don’t perceive in Francis the extremes of what is essential a narcissism that arranges loved ones in an array of support. The choice to love is one of self-giving. Not affection for its own sake.

Such a conviction cannot be written off as naïve romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behavior. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.

People obsessed with a beloved, family or friends, or their pets are just another version of exploiter.

By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.

Use and control: do you think the Holy Father has his diagnosis right? What would your comments be?

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Dives in Misericordiae 7a: Mercy Revealed in the Cross and Resurrection

Divine_Mercy_Sanctuary_in_Vilnius4Chapter V is titled “The Paschal Mystery.” It’s the longest of the document, and certainly we have a wealth of material to cover.

The messianic message of Christ and His activity among people end with the cross and resurrection. We have to penetrate deeply into this final event-which especially in the language of the Council is defined as the Mysterium Paschale – if we wish to express in depth the truth about mercy, as it has been revealed in depth in the history of our salvation. At this point of our considerations, we shall have to draw closer still to the content of the encyclical Redemptor Hominis. If, in fact, the reality of the Redemption, in its human dimension, reveals the unheard-of greatness of (humankind), qui talem ac tantum meruit habere Redemptorem,(Cf. the liturgy of the Easter Vigil: the Exsultet) at the same time the divine dimension of the redemption enables us, I would say, in the most empirical and “historical” way, to uncover the depth of that love which does not recoil before the extraordinary sacrifice of the Son, in order to satisfy the fidelity of the Creator and Father towards human beings, created in His image and chosen from “the beginning,” in this Son, for grace and glory.

Do you follow this? This is just the beginning of the exploration of the Paschal Mystery, so we have three more numbered sections ahead. I like how St John Paul roots this examination in the liturgy. While we can reflect on the Cross, the Passion, the empty tomb, and the Resurrection anytime, the celebration of the Triduum brings an encounter with the mercy of Christ right before our eyes. All of our senses, really.

It’s not just reenactment of history, but an opportunity to encounter the merciful Lord Jesus.

Thoughts? Comments?

Dives in Misericordia, the second encyclical of Pope John Paul II, is available online here, and is copyright © 1980 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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