Monday, November 28, 2011
The Roman Missal's official edition is in Latin, and it is this official edition that is translated into all the languages of the world. This official edition was revised by the authority of Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2002. This revision was not to change the Mass, obviously. The Mass remains the same. The revision of Pope John Paul II was made in order to include some new material, such as feasts of newly canonized Saints, some new Prefaces for the Eucharistic Prayer, and clarifications in the way we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. This change to the official edition necessitated the preparation of a revised version in the various languages of the world, including, of course, English.
As a result of the new English translation, you will notice a few changes to the prayers, acclamations and responses. Most of the changes in wording occur in the prayers offered by the priest. With time and patience, all of these prayers will become as familiar to us as those we have been using over the last few decades.
Also to be implemented are some changes to posture. At the beginning of the Missal is a section called The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM). It stipulates the norms to be followed for the correct celebration of Mass, including directives pertaining to posture. These directives have as their intention to assure consistent practice and conformity with the universal law of the Church. This is very important. The oneness of our faith is to be apparent in the unity of our gestures and posture at the Sacred Liturgy.
This moment of change is a wonderful occasion for a renewed appreciation of the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist. For a while we shall naturally be focusing upon what to say, not to say, when to kneel, stand, sit and so on, but let us not forget the sublime mystery that underlines it all. In the celebration of Holy Mass, the Lord himself is present to us, present with us. In the transformed gifts of bread and wine, the sacred body and blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes truly and really present. In the Mass, we worship God, we give thanks for his countless gifts, especially the gift of salvation, we listen to his Word, we receive from the altar the sacred body and blood of Christ, and we are sent forth to be his agents of love in the world.
The Mass is the central event, the highlight, in the life of every Catholic. In its celebration we encounter our Lord and draw life and strength from his love. For this reason, our liturgical celebrations must be beautiful and dignified. For this reason, we must give careful attention not only to the way we celebrate but also to our interior dispositions as we approach the Mass and enter into its celebration. Have I reviewed the readings for Mass before coming to Church? Have I made an examination of conscience and confessed serious sin? Have I reflected upon the countless blessings that God always pours out upon me and offered thanks?
Perhaps the most important question for us is this: how shall we translate our encounter with the Lord into the way we live our lives? The new Missal is a translation from Latin to English. Yet this is in service of a much deeper and more significant translation that must take place: the translation of the mystery of the Eucharist into daily living. Here we meet the love of God for each of us. Do we translate that into love for others? Here we encounter the mercy of God towards us sinners. Do we translate that into the forgiveness of those who have hurt us? Here we receive the gift of salvation. Do we translate that into lives of hope? In the Gospel for Sunday we heard Jesus tell us to be ready to meet him when he comes again. His return will be at a time we simply do not and cannot know. This means to be ready now. As we enter this holy season of Advent, may the Lord help us ready ourselves by translating the encounter with Christ in the Eucharist into lives of Christian holiness.
On Saturday night I gathered at our Basilica with a group of people who translate their encounter with Christ into work and prayer for the protection of all human life. We marked the beginning of the new liturgical year with solemn evening prayer for nascent human life. This event springs from an initiative of Pope Benedict XVI himself, who last year invited all dioceses to gather for this prayer. We repeated it again this year and plan to do so henceforth every year at the beginning of Advent. We must not fail to pray for nascent human life, for life in its beginning stages, initiated at fertilization and now wondrously developing in the womb of the mother.
We are all called to speak in defense of this life and to witness to its beauty in the face of so many threats against it. Yet without sustained prayer such efforts will bear little fruit. What is needed in our society is an awakening of conscience and a profound conversion of heart. This is brought about by the grace of God, and so let us ceaselessly implore the Lord to touch the hearts of all people and effect a new beginning of respect for all human life, especially at its most vulnerable stages.
Monday, November 21, 2011
I returned to Edmonton late Saturday evening. The minus-30 temperature was sure a shock to the system, but – hey – this is home and I’m glad to be back.
This evening (Monday) I have the great privilege of joining with the priests of the Archdiocese to celebrate a Mass in honour of those of our number celebrating this year important jubilees of ordination. It is perhaps providential that our Mass occurs on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. The traditional teaching that Mary was brought at an early age by her parents, Saints Joachim and Anne, to the Temple has been handed on in the Church since the early centuries.
Although it stems from non-historical sources, nevertheless it has been kept and honoured liturgically because it reflects an important theological intuition of the Church, namely, that Mary, from her earliest years, was entirely dedicated to God. It complements and flows from the truth of her Immaculate Conception. Mary was prepared from the beginning by God for her unique role in salvation history, and when that message from Gabriel came to her, she said yes. It is a pleasure to honour the men who have modeled their priestly lives on Mary’s docility to the Word of God and who have thus greatly enriched the life of the Church and the lives of the countless people entrusted to their care.
Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King, and heard the passage from Saint Matthew concerning the Last Judgement. It is a story that never fails to rivet our attention, because it spells out clearly that for which we shall be held to account by the Lord: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these…” Students at exam time would give almost anything to see the examination questions in advance so that they can prepare. That seldom happens. Yet that is precisely what Jesus is doing for us in this Gospel passage. He is giving us the questions in advance. How have you loved?
In other Gospel passages he tells us that the greatest of all commandments is love of God and of neighbour, and in this one from Matthew he spells out that we obey the greatest commandment through the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and the prisoner, and so on. Furthermore, he so identifies himself with the needy that, in our care for them, love of God and love of neighbour mysteriously become one: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.”
Last week brought to our attention brothers and sisters in particular need of love and mercy: the dying. A report by a special parliamentary committee that was examining the state of palliative care services in Canada was released. I was encouraged by its obvious deep concern for the terminally ill and by its call for adequate compassionate and palliative care services. A statement by the CCCB in support of the report can be found on our Archdiocesan website. By way of very stark contrast, a report by a panel of persons commissioned by the Royal Society of Canada was released only a couple of days prior. It calls for the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. I was able to give it only a quick read, but even that was enough to make me heartsick. It is not too difficult to find in it the not-too-subtle suggestion that helping people kill themselves or allowing doctors to kill them would help to ease the “burden” of care felt by families or the financial “burden” placed upon our health care system. The human person at any age and in any circumstance is always a gift, not a burden, and we should aim, as the parliamentary committee’s report says, at ever new ways for social inclusion of our weak and vulnerable, not exclusion.
We need to keep our eyes on this issue and be ready to speak out in defense of life. I recommend you keep abreast of this by referring to the website of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition(check out Alex Schadenburg’s blog). For reference I also recommend the statements issued by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, which you can find at http://www.colf.ca/mamboshop/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=85&Itemid=119.
God bless and have a good week.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011