25 December 2006

Christmas Mass During the Day

Well personally I was at Holy Cross for Mass and as its normally the case in many other parishes, a very long sermon was given and then later Eucharistic Prayer II is used. Cannot it be at least for Solemnities of the Lord, the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) is used? And I'm not even asking for it to be in Latin. Even in the Missal of Paul VI, the laity continue to have the right to hear the Roman Canon more often. Why should it be used? It fully expresses Catholic Doctrine.

Yet the greater problem lies with the current inadequacies of the current English translation of the Missale Romanum.

Collect (Opening Prayer)

What we heard in English at Mass:
Lord God, we praise you for creating man,
and still more for restoring him in Christ.
Your Son shared our weakness:
may we share his glory...

What it is in Latin (2002 Missale Romanum):
Deus, qui humanae substantiae dignitatem
et mirabiliter condidisti, et mirabilius reformasti,
da, quaesumus, nobis eius divinitatis esse consortes,
qui humanitatis nostrae fieri dignatus est particeps.

Literal Translation (via WDTPRS):
O God, who in a wondrous way created the dignity of human nature,
and yet more wondrously shaped it anew,
grant us, we beg, to be partakers of the Godhead of Him
who deigned to become a participant of our humanity.

Super Oblata (Prayer over Gifts)

What we heard in English at Mass:
Almighty God, the saving work of Christ made our peace with you.
May our offering today renew that peace within us
and give you praise.

What it is in Latin (2002 Missale Romanum):
Oblatio tibi sit, Domine, hodiernae sollemnitatis accepta,
qua et nostrae reconciliationis processit perfecta placatio,
et divini cultus nobis est indita plenitudo.

Literal Translation (via WDTPRS):
O Lord, let the sacrificial offering of today’s solemnity be acceptable to You,
from whence issued forth the completed appeasing of our reconciliation,
and also was imparted to us the fullness of divine worship.

Post Communion (Prayer after Communion)

What we heard in English at Mass:
Father the child born today is the Saviour of the world.
He made us your children.
May he welcome us into your kingdom...

What it is in Latin (2002 Missale Romanum):
Praesta, misericors Deus, ut natus hodie Salvator mundi,
sicut divinae nobis generationis est auctor,
ita et immortalitatis sit ipse largitor.

Literal Translation (via WDTPRS):
Grant, O merciful God, that just as the Savior of the world born today
is for us the author of divine generation,
so too may He be the bestower of immortality.

More commentary on the prayers themselves available on WDTPRS.

The lack of proper catechesis is a problem faced by the Catholic Church today and it is only being exemplified by the less than adequate translation of the beautiful prayers that we have and the propensity to choose certain prayers simply because they are shorter. Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief. When Catholic Doctrine is not fully expressed in her prayers, it is the laity who suffer as they do not fully know what to believe in.

So let us in this Solemnity of the Lord, seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, to continue to guide Vox Clara and the various Episcopal Conferences that use English to have the wisdom to make the right decisions and make major improvements to the English translation of the Missale Romanum.

Sedes Sapientiae Ora Pro Nobis.

A Sacred Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord

Sermon for the Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord by Fr Laurent Demets FSSP
Taken from De Fide Catholica

"Tomorrow shall the iniquity of the earth be abolished and the Savior of the world shall reign over us." (Alleluia of the Mass)

The beautiful Alleluia of this Mass is a proclamation of Faith and Hope. We, disciples of Jesus-Christ, know that the feast of the Nativity means the end of the reign of Satan on earth. We know that the birth of Jesus has changed the world and that now a kingdom of peace and justice has been established. The first vespers of the Nativity will remind us this afternoon that the King of Peace reigns now over the entire world. It is true! It is a fact! We must believe it.

Yet, if we look at the world, it doesn’t seem so evident. Iniquity remains and the Savior doesn’t reign supreme. Tomorrow’s proper first make reference to the days after the coming of the Savior. For the Jews of the Old Testament, tomorrow meant the coming of the Messiah. What about for us?

Let Pope Benedict XVI answer the question, or rather Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. He wrote in his book, The spirit of the Liturgy: “The Church Fathers described the various stages of fulfillment not just as contrast between Old and New Testament, but as the three steps of shadow, image and reality. In the Church of the New Testament the shadow has been scattered by the image. ‘The night is far gone, the day is at hand.’ (Rom 13,12) – this was the epistle of the first Sunday of Advent – But, as Saint Gregory the Great says, it is still only the time of dawn, when darkness and light are intermingled. The sun is rising, but it has still not reached its zenith. Thus the time of the New testament is a peculiar kind of ‘in-between’, a mixture of ‘already and not yet.’ The empirical conditions of life in this world are still in force, but they have been burst open, and must be more and more burst open, in preparation for the final fulfillment already inaugurated in Christ.”

Dear Brethren, tomorrow the sun will rise but it will not yet reach its zenith. And it will not until all is fulfilled and the number of the elect is achieved. The sun will rise but there will still be clouds in our sky and even, at times, some eclipses that seem to shut out the light. If some days you don’t see the sun, then don’t forget that it is still here, above the clouds.

Our life is like mountaineering. If you want to reach the top of the mountain, you have to get up early in the morning and start climbing in the dark. When the clouds are low and it is raining, your climb to the top becomes more difficult, but you know that at the top of the mountain the sun will shine. The thought of the beauty you will contemplate there gives you so much ardor that you no longer care about your fatigue or the weight of your backpack and the rain that soaks you. You move forward with more strength of will and more enthusiasm than ever. The idea of giving up now becomes unbearable. After all the effort you have already made, it would be complete nonsense. You are right. You are right because the pains you suffer during the ascension are nothing in comparison to the beauty of the panorama you will enjoy standing at the top and to the feeling of well being you will have.

And such is our life on earth: an ascension toward the Sun of Justice. As long as you walk through life with hope, you will go forward, because you know that your present sufferings will be changed into joy. The Baby Jesus is the guarantee that our hopes are not vain. He already came into the world, poor and rejected by men. His coming was already his first suffering. But at Bethlehem, in the manger, it is not the appropriate place for wails and lamentations. It is the time for joy and hope.

In a few hours we will hear the angel of God saying: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.

Dear Brethren, the joy of Christmas prefigures the eternal happiness of Heaven. Let nothing come to remove it from our souls. And let us spend the time who have before the birth of Jesus with His mother. The sweet and maternal presence of Mary will appease our hearts and help us to open our souls to God.

22 December 2006

During a Retreat...

Well during another rather recent retreat I went for there was an image of the late Pope John Paul II and a Latin Prayer that no one around was really familiar with. The Prayer is as follows..."Totus Tuus ego sum et omnia mea Tua sunt. Accipio Te in mea omnia." There is actually 1 more sentence to the prayer and it is as follows... "[Praebe mihi cor Tuum, Maria.]" What does it mean in English?

"I belong to you entirely and all that I possess is yours. I take you into everything that is mine. Give me your heart, Mary."

Hmm... and Latin is supposed to be a dead language.

13 December 2006

White Christmas? (Again)

Comment in NLM

I'm dreaming of a Trad Christmas,
just like grandpa used to know,
with white vestments glisten
and children listen, to angels singing Sanctus.

Im dreaming of a Trad Christmas,
with every prayer I say tonight,
Mass ad orientem,
and may every Mass be Tridentine!

Ratzinger on Advent

Taken from Roman Miscellany

What is Advent? Many answers can be given. We can grumble and say that it is nothing but a pretext for hectic activity and commercialism, prettified with sentimental cliches in which people stopped believing ages ago. In many cases this may be true, but it is not the whole picture.

We can say the reverse, that Advent is a time when, in the midst of an unbelieving world, something of the luminous quality of this lost faith is still perceptible, like a visual echo. Just as stars are visible long after they have become extinct, since their erstwhile light is still on its way to us, so this mystery frequently offers some warmth and hope even to those who are no longer able to believe in it.

Advent is a time when a kindness that is otherwise almost entirely forgotten is mobilized; namely, the willingness to think of others and give them a token of kindness. Finally Advent is a time when old customs live again, for instance, in the singing of carols which takes place all over the country. In the melodies and the words of these carols, something of the simplicity, imagination and glad strength of the faith of our forefathers makes itself heard in our age, bringing consolation and encouraging us perhaps to have another go at that faith which could make people so glad in such hard times.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Seek That Which Is Above (1986), pp16-17

11 December 2006

The Immaculate Conception

Taken from De Fide Catholica

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is probably one of the most touching among all the dogmas. The reason for this is that it is intimately connected with our very human nature. This dogma concerns our Mother. It reveals a part of the person of Mary. It helps us to understand her better and consequently to love her more.

This dogma came during a difficult time for the Church. You know that the belief in the Immaculate Conception has not always been evident to all throughout centuries. Even the great and genius Saint Thomas Aquinas didn’t think that Our Lady could have been conceived without any sins. He would have been right, if God Himself had not preserve Mary by a unique privilege. It is only after many centuries of theological discussions and reflexions that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed and this took place in the middle of the XIX century which was renowned for its strong rationalism. The Magisterium was forced to intervene many times to refute and correct the numerous errors of this century. Pius IX would condemn them in his famous Syllabus of errors in 1864. In a certain way, I would say that they were already implicitly condemned by the Bull of proclamation of the Dogma: Ineffabilis Deus.

First, because this dogma is a dogma, and, as such, requests the adherence of our Faith. Refusing to give our assent would, ipso facto, exclude us from the Communion of Saints and of the unity of the Church. Secondly, this dogma is Marian. Our Most Holy Mother Mary, who, by crushing the head of the serpent, is victorious over all heresies. And finally, by its content, this dogma is a refutation of rationalism. By declaring that Our Lady, “in the first instant of her conception, by a unique grace and privilege of the omnipotent God and in consideration of the merits of Christ Jesus the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin”, the Church obviously reaffirms the truth of original sin. And through this, she also reaffirms the existence of a supernatural order, which has been wounded by original sin and restored by Jesus Christ. It is precisely in consideration of the Incarnation, and consequently the Redemption, that Mary was preserved from original sin. So, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception truly is at the center of our Faith. It sheds a new light on the mystery of the Incarnation and cannot be understood without it.

The Second Vatican Council has recently given more precision to the explanation of dogma stating that Our Lady was “Redeemed by reason of the merits of her Son and united to Him by a close and indissoluble tie. She is endowed with the high office and dignity of being the Mother of the Son of God, by which account she is also the beloved daughter of the Father and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all creatures, both in heaven and on earth.”

Though the dogma was proclaimed only recently, the belief in the Immaculate Conception had already been liturgically expressed for many centuries by the Church. Pope Sixtus IV approved the liturgical celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1477. Then, Clement XI made this feast a universal one in 1708. Finally, Our Lady herself recognized her title. She presented herself to Saint Catherine Labouré as being conceived without sin. And she ratified the Bull of Pius IX four years later by telling Saint Bernadette: Que soy era immaculada councepciou.

What a beautiful privilege! What a beautiful gift from God! What a great dignity for Mary! As Cardinal Journet says, “The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary was already a first degree in the union with the Divine purity. This union would reach its peek in the Incarnation." Mary knew it. She knew that she had been preserved by God in order to become the Mother of the Savior, the Mother of God. She has been consecrated for a unique mission in the History of men. The sign of this consecration is her virginity, the beautiful expression of her Immaculate Conception. Immaculate Conception and Blessed Virgin are precisely two names of Mary. They express who she is. Denying one of them is denying Mary herself and denying her is denying the work of God. It is reducing the mystery of the Incarnation to a pure human concept. It is a rationalization of the Mystery. This is a frequent temptation because we would like to understand the mysteries, but we cannot because they are above our reason.

Yet, God gives us a way to approach Him. The way of the little and of the poor in spirit. It is the way of humility, the way of Mary. We don’t understand the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception. Then what? With Dom Delatte we say: “What does it matter if those truths are above our intelligence? It is already a joy for us to not be able to measure and to mumble when the supernatural beauty of the Blessed Virgin is spoken about. It is by excellence the field of God’s liberty and liberality.”

What can we say about the Immaculate Conception of Mary? Dom Delatte says again that in this matter, "we miss the appreciation and the measure of the appreciation." We can only say with Saint Anselm and the entire Catholic Tradition that the Supernatural beauty of Mary is such that no greater beauty can be found except in God. All the works of God are wonderful – Mirabilia facta sunt – but Our Lady exceeds all of them, because she is the Mother of the Incarnate Word.

How is it possible that so many Christians don’t see that? Why don’t they understand or why don’t they want to understand? How can they say that glorifying Mary is belittling God? Admiring the gem made by the hands of the jeweler is recognizing his ability. Mary is the purest creature made by God and recognizing this can only compel us to glorify God more. Our Lady, better than anyone can say these words of Saint John: De plenitudine ejus omnes nos accepimus et gratiam pro gratia - of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace.

Mary has received all from God and she renders all to God. We, her children, want to do nothing else but to render grace for grace with her to God our Father. May Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception, lead us on the way of humility – her way – so that we can return to Our Father from whom we come.

-Fr Laurent Demets, FSSP


Magnificat from Advent Vespers at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. The Rector, Mgr Jeremy Garrett incenses the altar while Fr Gerard Bradley, the Spiritual Director, directs the choir.

To mark the first Sunday of Advent the seminary organised an 'Open Day' inviting parents and friends of the students as well as anyone who may be considering a priestly vocation. After a meditation and a Holy Hour there was a service of psalms and reading in the Chapel. The students mingled with their guests while the Schola were vested in albs.

Courtesy of Southwark Vocations and The Hermeneutic of Continuity

10 December 2006

Advent Perspective

Taken from Athanasius Contra Mundum

It is of course just like me to begin a post on Advent after Advent has already begun. I prefer not to blog on Sundays, then the week turned out to be 3 times busier than I expected. I had all kinds of ideas for what I was going to write early this morning, but then I woke up late. Figures.

One of the things I find fascinating is that while in the Eastern Church there had always been a fast preceding the celebration of the birth of Christ, there has never been a canonical fast in the west. The nature of the fast varies according to the sources you read, but it had never at any time the force of law to fast for either 40 days or the 4 Sundays of Advent. Even in the Eastern Church, the fast is not as rigorous as the Great Lent because it is said to have come not from the Apostles as the fast at lent but from pious traditions of men, at least according to Dom Gueranger.

Regardless of which tradition, east or west, one is going to follow, we should fast and pray in some manner befitting a serious preparation for the coming of God.

Something I find fascinating about Christmas time as a whole is that all year around men blaspheme God, mock him and sin against him, then all of the sudden at Christmas time, they are happy to sing songs about a child born in Bethlehem, carols that declare Christ is God and the king of the new Israel and even put out a nativity set somewhere. Of course they don't really care about Our Lord because they set up trees only to see presents, foolishly and imprudently spend hundreds of dollars beyond their means and offend God by curses and slanders against his name because they have to wait in line longer. In fact, a friend of mine who works for Walmart sent me a picture of the after Thanksgiving blitz. People who had waited in line since 1am burst into the door at 5am when the store opened, like craven animals running for the first sight of food in days. Why? A 52" TV was on sale. Wow. I don't think you can get that through the baggage checkers on your way into heaven. No, it gets muddled up with all the vices and sins and things.

What is truly sad however, is that often we Christians are little different. We just have different baggage. For example, avoiding the commercialism of Christmas, we decide we are going to be better than everyone else. Yet we are still rude to our parents, we still don't give God His due in prayer, and we still don't make a suitable home for the Christ-child. In fact, it is generally more like Herod's welcome rather than that of the shepherds.

What can we do about this state of affairs? Fasting and prayer. For some that means taking on more tasks, for others giving things up. In the Eastern Church there is fasting and abstinence from meat on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while on Tuesday and Thursday a simple abstinence from meat. For Latin Catholics, we have traditions of fasting but no law. Nothing prevents us from fasting from meat and sweets (and alcohol) at least an extra day or two a week. Furthermore, there are things we can do which we do not ordinarily do like reciting the offices of the Church, Lauds and Vespers, learning Psalms in Latin which you can recite during the day, or Eucharistic adoration. Fill your mangers with straw, not with nails should be our motto, because we easily become like everyone else. It is for Christians rather to be against the world, and especially the worldliness in ourselves.

8 December 2006

Sacred Music

Is it so hard to have Sacred Music?

1. Sanctus
2. Agnus Dei

Courtesy of NLM

A Silent Retreat…

From 5 to 7 December 2006, I went for a silent retreat conducted by Opus Dei. It was the first ever silent retreat I ever went for, but it was time very well spent. I had missed the Diocesean Vocations Camp, due to my exams. By the grace of God, this retreat just happened to be at the right time. After the closing hectic weeks of the term, it was good to spend time to be refreshed spiritually.

I won’t go into the details of the spiritual input received but the mainstay of the retreat was 1/2-hour meditations, daily mass, daily way of the cross, daily rosary, daily benediction, spiritual reading at meals. On top of all this I brought along the reprint of the 1963 Monastic Diurnal that I have to pray the breviary. So basically every 3 hours from 6am to 9pm I prayed the appropriate hour. It’s not that many really, just 6 separate timings. Yet with my limited Latin, I prayed most of the Breviary in English. Plunging into the depths of Catholic spirituality would be one way to summarise it, and the beautiful setting of the Oratory was a great assistance in this.

Just some highlights…
1. This was the first time that I ever picked up any book written by Saint Josemaria Escriva. I picked up “The Way” and my goodness, such sublime words of wisdom are contained within so small a book. For example, "The Mass is long," you say, and I reply, "Because your love is short." (No 529)
2. It was a deeply humbling experience leading the way of the cross using the meditations contained with ‘The Handbook of Prayers’. Tears started forming in my eyes and I choked up.
3. Daily Mass in full Latin and ad orientem is really a sight to behold. The priest was fully vested with cassock, alb, amice, stole and chasuble. A chapel veil was used to cover the chalice, purificator paten and pall, and a burse was used to contain the corporal. During Holy Communion a special communion paten was also used, and Communion was received kneeling down. Now if only all these was more widely practised. As Saint Josemaria Escriva so aptly put it, “Show venerations and respect for the Holy Liturgy of the Church and for its Ceremonies. Observe the faithfully. Don’t you see that for us poor humans, even what is greatest and most noble enters through the sense?” (The Way, No 522)
4. Living a life of Holiness in one’s present state of life is of the uttermost importance. Its not about, “I can lead a holier life, if such and such changes.” The Lord sends us out into the world, and in the world we are witnesses.

And some quotations…
* Don’t be upset when you state an orthodox opinion and the malice of whoever heard you caused him to be scandalised. For his scandal is pharisaical. – The Way, No 344
* “The Mass is long you say,”, and I reply, “Because your love is short.” – The Way, No 529
* With what famous lucidity does Satan argue against the Catholic Faith! But lets tell him always, without entering into debate: I am child of the Church – The Way, No 576
* True humility is the knowledge of our human littleness alongside the infinite greatness of our God and the awareness that God delights in his creatures and wants them to be God-like – c.f. Christ is Passing By

4 December 2006

1st Sunday of Advent, St Francis Major Seminary, Carmelites

Well the 1st Sunday of Advent began for me by watching 1st Vespers celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI at St Peter's Basilica and telecast live on EWTN. It not the best example of Vespers, and the "Quia tuum regnum est.." followed straight after the Pater Noster, which should not have been the case at all. The Pope however was wearing a rather interesting cope.

And well for the 1st time in a very, very long while, I attended the Sunday Morning Mass at 9am. I should have arrived earlier to go for confession, but I am really not a morning person. Fr Suyono was to celebrate Mass, so he was not able to take my confession before Mass started. Surprisingly however, after the Mass started Fr Anthony came out to take confessions. It being the 1st Sunday of the Mass, the "Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water" was used. So as Fr Suyono was going round with the aspergillum together with the altar boy carrying the holy water vat, I slipped into the confessional. Finished my penance just in time for the Collect.

In the evening I went all the way up to Pungol for the Feast Day for St Francis Xavier Major Seminary, since 3 Dec is the Memorial for St Francis Xavier. For once the chapel in the seminary was completely filled and additional chairs were needed on the outer parts. Bishop celebrated the Mass and I guess there was a record number of concelebrants. Personally, the choice of hymns was far from ideal and having hymns in so many different languages just was simply a mess. Sacred Music is to be used in the Mass, and it should in the the first place Sacred. There is to be active participation in the liturgy but choosing hymns just so that those from the different language language can sing at least one song to be is not a good idea at all. Being able to sing a hymn in one's own language is far from actively participating in the liturgy. Active participation means in the very first place understanding that the Mass is a Sacred moment where the Son offers himself up as a pleasing sacrifice to the Father. This part of the Mass is the most important, not the hymns and not the homily. And well personally I feel that 'Christ will come again' is really a nonsensical response to the Mysterium Fidei. It does not take a genius to realise that more accurately 'Christ has come again'. To my surprise however, there was the announcement that a book that compiled the vocation stories of various Diocesean Priests had been published and for those intending this Mass, they would distribute it for free. Hmm...being present at Diocesean events does have its privileges. The reception was also not bad.

After this I then dropped by the Carmelite House that was just nearby and stayed on for their Compline. Flos Carmeli was sung in Latin as the closing hymn. Yet I still prefer the old Monastic Breviary. The English Translation of the current Divine Office is just far from ideal really.

3 December 2006

White Christmas?

With the arrival of Advent one inevitably encounters Christmas Carols both sacred and otherwise. While I would very much prefer sacred music, here's and example of a secular carol made into a Traditional Catholic one...

I’m dreaming of a broad indult,
and chant restored to pride of place.
Mass ad orientem,
Usque venientem
would be a wondrous Christmas grace.

I’m dreaming of a broad indult,
Just like we’ve heard through the grapevine
May we all be turned towards the divine
And may Christmas Mass be Tridentine!

*Christum, understood

Courtesy of Fr Tim Finigan commenting on WDTPRS. And hehe I started it with "All I want for Christmas..."

2 December 2006

Compendium to the Cathechism

I just happened to walk into Carlo Catholic Bookshop today following my visit to the Adoration Room in the Church of St Peter & Paul. To my surprise I saw a reduced sized version of the Compendium to the Catholic Church retailing for S$7.00. The cover is the same as the UK version with a red border, as opposed to the US one that has a green border.

Seems the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei has published a Compendium for this region as well. Many thanks to the Malaysian Catholic weekly, The Herald, for the effort. Thank you for making the Compendium cheaper in this region and making available an official publication with Latin-English Prayers.

Being 2/3s the size of the US one, this version is much more portable. And no worries about the font size, its still bigger than the US one. All this done with only a marginal increase in thickness. Couldn't resist getting my hands on it, even though I already own the US version. Alas for my impatience.

Note: If you're wondering, yes the Compendium printed in India is even cheaper.

The Wisdom from Phanar

Taken from WDTPRS

With the grace of God, Your Holiness, we have been blessed to enter the joy of the Kingdom, to "see the true light and receive the heavenly Spirit." Every celebration of the Divine Liturgy is a powerful and inspiring con-celebration of heaven and of history. [BOOM. This concise phrase also expresses what the Latin Church thinks. This is an encounter with the transcendent. An encounter which transforms the human experience.] Every Divine Liturgy is both an anamnesis of the past and an anticipation of the Kingdom. [Holy Mass makes the historical event present in a sacramental way, which is no less "real" than the reality we sense and touch, etc.] We are convinced that during this Divine Liturgy, we have once again been transferred spiritually in three directions: toward the kingdom of heaven where the angels celebrate; toward the celebration of the liturgy through the centuries; and toward the heavenly kingdom to come. [Perfect. Beautifully put.]

This overwhelming continuity with heaven as well as with history means that the Orthodox [And Latin!] liturgy is the mystical experience and profound conviction that "Christ was, is, and ever shall be in our midst!" For in Christ, there is a deep connection between past, present, and future. In this way, the liturgy is more than merely the recollection of Christ’s words and acts. It is the realization of the very presence of Christ Himself, who has promised to be wherever two or three are gathered in His name.

At the same time, we recognize that the rule of prayer is the rule of faith (lex orandi lex credendi), [When I heard this phrase, in Latin, from the lips of the Ecumenical Patriarch I almost did a spit-take on my monitor! In my opinion, the Patriarch is letting us know one of their serious points of concern about their Western brothers. What are we doing with our liturgy? If you Latins are celebrating your Mass in the way we see you celebrating, what on earth do you believe? Do you believe what we believe?] that the doctrines of the Person of Christ and of the Holy Trinity have left an indelible mark on the liturgy, which comprises one of the undefined doctrines, "revealed to us in mystery," of which St. Basil the Great so eloquently spoke. This is why, in liturgy, we are reminded of the need to reach unity in faith as well as in prayer. Therefore, we kneel in humility [This is amazingly ironic. The Orthodox don’t kneel as much as Latins do, in one sense, as when we enter our churches. No… wait… in a lot of places you never see Latins kneel at all anymore, do you? Especially during Mass?] and repentance before the living God and our Lord Jesus Christ, whose precious Name we bear and yet at the same time whose seamless garment we have divided. We confess in sorrow that we are not yet able to celebrate the holy sacraments in unity. And we pray that the day may come when this sacramental unity will be realized in its fullness.

And yet, Your Holiness and beloved brother in Christ, this con-celebration of heaven and earth, of history and time, brings us closer to each other today through the blessing of the presence, together with all the saints, of the predecessors of our Modesty, namely St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom. [Good reminder.] We are honored to venerate the relics of these two spiritual giants after the solemn restoration of their sacred relics in this holy church two years ago when they were graciously returned to us by the venerable Pope John Paul II. Just as, at that time, during our Thronal Feast, we welcomed and placed their saintly relics on the Patriarchal Throne, chanting "Behold your throne!", so today we gather in their living presence and eternal memory as we celebrate the Liturgy named in honor of St. John Chrysostom.

Thus our worship coincides with the same joyous worship in heaven and throughout history. Indeed, as St. John Chrysostom himself affirms: "Those in heaven and those on earth form a single festival, a shared thanksgiving, one choir" (PG 56.97). Heaven and earth offer one prayer, one feast, one doxology. The Divine Liturgy is at once the heavenly kingdom and our home, "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21.1), the ground and center where all things find their true meaning. The Liturgy teaches us to broaden our horizon and vision, to speak the language of love and communion, but also to learn that we must be with one another in spite of our differences and even divisions. In its spacious embrace, it includes the whole world, the communion of saints, and all of God’s creation. The entire universe becomes "a cosmic liturgy", to recall the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor. This kind of Liturgy can never grow old or outdated. [Again, I ask, what must they think about what we are doing in our churches? what we are doing to those who want the traditional forms?]

The only appropriate response to this showering of divine benefits and compassionate mercy is gratitude (eucharistia). Indeed, thanksgiving and glory are the only fitting response of human beings to their Creator. For to Him belong all glory, honor, and worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Truly, particular and wholehearted gratitude fills our hearts toward the loving God, for today, on the festive commemoration of the Apostle founder and protector of this Church, the Divine Liturgy is attended by His Holiness our brother and bishop of the elder Rome, Pope Benedict XVI, together with his honorable entourage. Once again, we gratefully greet this presence as a blessing from God, as an expression of brotherly love and honor toward our Church, and as evidence of our common desire to continue – in a spirit of love and faithfulness to the Gospel Truth and the common tradition of our Fathers – the unwavering journey toward the restoration of full communion among our Churches, which constitutes His divine will and command. May it be so.

1 December 2006

Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom

Watching the Divine Liturgy for the first time was a real eye opener for me. Witnessing His All Holiness Ecumenical Paticarch, Bartholomew I celebrating the Divine Liturgy with the Pope in attendance was really a sight to behold. Somehow the more prevalent Missal of Paul VI that is celebrated within the Latin Rite of the Church just seems very alien to the Divine Liturgy. Compared to the Divine Liturgy, one can validly say that the Novus Ordo just seems so shallow. Its was very interesting to hear the Dominus Vobiscum, Susum Corda and Gratias Agamus Deo Nostro all in Greek. Hearing the Credo and Pater Noster in Greek was also another very educational experience. In many parts of the Divine Liturgy, Kyrie Eleison is chanted to a rather refreshing notation. Reception of Communion is exclusively on the tongue via a spoon and there is no such thing as altar girls, extraordinary ministers of holy communion or liturgical dancers. There was chanting in Greek throughout with no such thing as contemporary noise passing off as music. The Liturgy very clearly was a Sacred act and the Mystery of Faith remained. The depth of the words used in the Liturgy very clearly expressed the lex orandi, lex credendi of the Church.

The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom was telecast live from Vatican Television Centre and I caught it Live via the EWTN. Hearing Pope Benedict XVI saying the Pater Noster in Greek was just sublime. Yet fret not, the technological innovations of this age has allowed one to view it again at their own convenience. Watch it here. (Note: This Divine Liturgy was apparently considered short as there are certain parts that have been omitted, but it still is 3 hours worth. Still it is really worth one's time.)

Special thanks to NLM for the video link.