Friday, November 25, 2011

"Much Obliged"

“Much obliged” is an old fashioned phrase first noted in the Old Oxford English Dictionary in the sixteenth century.  Over the centuries, the phrase has lost some of its richness.  Originally, it meant to be bound to a person by ties of gratitude.  Today, the phrase is more often used as an automatic response to someone who has performed a mechanical service.  Unfortunately, this practice doesn’t convey the sense of truly being bound to each other by gratitude.  What a loss!
Because of that loss, many people understand the word obligation as a burden rather than a commitment and duty that flows from a relationship.  Obligation is a form of indebtedness that comes from within the heart of a relationship.  Think of the obligations that make for a rich family life.  A parent doesn’t say, “I wonder if I have to feed my children this week?”  Husbands and wives carry out countless tasks in service to each other during the course of a week and never ask, “Do I have to?”
In loving relationships, we are grateful for the gift of each other and we express that gratitude by doing right actions because we want to.  Obligatory behaviors grow out of communication, intimacy, and personal and communal relationships.  These examples can help us reflect on our “obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2041).
The heart of Sunday obligation is gratitude.  The word Eucharist means “to give thanks.”  We gather each week because we are “much obliged” to God ~ for everything.  This obligation is not an automatic response to someone who has performed a obligatory service.  We come together to “give thanks” to God, our Father who is the source of all life and creation, and to Jesus, God’s Son who gave us eternal life through his death on the Cross that is made present in every Mass as we participate again in Christ’s death and Resurrection through the Eucharist.  Each time we “attend Mass,” we bring our lives, our very selves, to the table of the Eucharist.
We gather together as a community, grateful to have each other as fellow pilgrims in faith and grateful to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ.  Just as the relationships and obligations in families are nurtured and strengthened by intimacy and communion, so too does our participation in the Eucharist nurture and strengthen our relationship with the Trinity.  Food nourishes our body in the same way that our participation in Holy Communion nourishes our spirit and unites us together as individuals and as a community in Christ.  Acting on our Sunday obligation of being “much obliged” gives us reason to be “more obliged” in the most authentic sense of obligation.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Here at the NCYC ~ National Catholic Youth Conference with another 24000 folks for the closing Mass on Saturday evening to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. The theme for this year's gathering was "Called to Glory" ~ a very challenging theme for all.  Jesus certainly calls all of us to gather to himself, and then to more!  As the youth of the Catholic Church gathered in Indianapolis, they were given the challenge in many ways.  Time will tell if that challenge was accepted.
Let's continue to pray for these amazing young people.
Here's a photo of our small parish group...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Communion Rite

The communion rite of the Mass keeps us coming back week after week.  In it we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, receiving our spiritual sustenance for the week ahead.  This week we’ll finish our look at the new translation of the Roman Missal.  The communion rite begins with the Lord’s Prayer and continues through the Prayer after Communion.
After the priest gives an invitation, everyone prayers the prayer Jesus himself gave us.  The priest says another short prayer and we all say another acclamation.  The words of the Lord’s Prayer haven’t changed.  We’ll continue to use the same words we’ve used our entire Christian lives.  This is the only text of the Mass that keeps the Old English pronoun “thy” in use…  “Thy will be done…, thy kingdom come.”
The Lord’s Prayer that we know has achieved a certain level of holiness.  We who speak English have used it for so long, it just can't be replaced.  The same applies to the words that conclude the Lord’s Prayer.  You’ll still conclude with: “for the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever,” either recited or sung.
Again, my part has changed more than yours.  I now introduce it with these words: “at the Savior’s command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say…”  Between the Lord’s Prayer and your acclamation, that prayer has changed even more.
Instead of asking for protection from all anxiety as I now do, I’ll pray that we be “safe from all distress.”  The prayer concerns the circumstances that cause distress, not the feeling of anxiety. 
Instead of saying, “we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ” I will say, “we await the blessed hope, and the coming of our savior Jesus Christ.”  The words echo the words of Saint Paul to Titus, which affirm that Christ has come and that we look forward to the blessings of his return.  Christ is our hope.  We wait for his coming ~ even when we perhaps aren’t so joyful.
After the Lord’s Prayer, the priest prays to Jesus for peace and unity in the Church.  My words are slightly different, but you will recognize them.  I will begin to say: “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles, peace I leave with you, my peace I give you,
Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church and grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.  Who live and reign for ever and ever.”  Whenever you hear those words, your response is: “Amen.”
Pronouns referring to the Church are now feminine; as the word “her” in this prayer.  The sign of peace is now optional, but you will rarely see it omitted.
During the breaking of the bread, when we divide the consecrated hosts into the four bowls, you sing the “Lamb of God.”  Those words haven’t changed.  There are prayers that the presider will say silently that have changed… but because they are to be done silently, you won’t hear them.
Just before communion is distributed, the priest makes an announcement.  The new translation is: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to the supper of the lamb.”
You notice the words have changed… John the Baptist is quoted as he saw Jesus walking on the side of the Jordan River, he said to his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God…
“Happy” has been changed to “Blessed.”  You may be blessed even when you are filled with sorrow.  This change, together with the reference to “the supper of the Lamb,” makes clear the vision of John in the Book of Revelation.
Your reply makes two changes.  You will soon respond… “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”  Recall the Roman Centurion that asked Jesus to heal his servant, saying those words.  We imitate the humility of this centurion so that Jesus won’t avoid us, but will come to us on the strength of our virtue.
The other change is the words, “my soul shall be healed.”  We are directly asking for spiritual healing that only Jesus can bring.
When you receive communion, the words won’t change.  “The Body of Christ.”  “AMEN”  “The Blood of Christ.” “AMEN” 
You may have seen that Bishop Olmsted has issued new regulations for Communion under both kinds in our Diocese.  Those regulations were effective last week on Monday, and in effect didn’t change anything we are currently doing at St. Gabriel’s.  He is leaving the decision on communion from the chalice up to the pastor.
What Bishop Olmsted wants is a new understanding of what we do when we receive the Eucharist and a renewed reverence for the Eucharist under both kinds.  So we will still be offering communion from the cup at St. Gabriel’s.
After communion there is a moment of quiet.  After the prayer after communion, there is a blessing that may be done in a couple of ways.  There is a simple blessing, a solemn blessing, or a prayer over the people blessing.  If you hear the words: “Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing,” simply do so.
At the dismissal, the deacon has four options now.  He can’t make things up anymore.  “Go forth, the Mass is ended,” “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord,” “God in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life,” or simply “Go in peace.”
These new formulas were promoted at a meeting of bishops in Rome recently, and included in the Missal by the Pope.  Even though the words of dismissal are new your response is the same: “Thanks be to God.”
The new translation starts, let’s embrace our opportunity to conscious, active participation!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New guidelines

Bishop Olmsted will publish new guidelines from Communion under both Kinds in Monday's issue of the Catholic Sun. Having seen these newly released regulations, I can assure you that the practice at St. Gabriel's will not substantially change. We will talk more about the practice of receiving communion, and the fullness of the sign of the sacrament. Our special ministers of the Eucharist will also receive more intense training.
Please read Monday's issue carefully!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November 6th

Midway through the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest has been inviting you to proclaim the mystery of faith.  The response has been one of four acclamations that we know very well.  Now we have new ones to learn.  The memorial acclamation comes just after the part of the Eucharistic Prayer that contains the words of Jesus from the Last Supper.  There are slight changes in the words that the priest uses there too, that I’ll have to get used to. 
I now say: “Take this all of you, and eat it; this is my body…”  I will soon say: “Take this all of you and eat of it, for this is my body…”  Again, the Latin language is a little more precise than English, and lets us know that we all partake of the one bread and so we become one body in Christ. 
There are more differences when the priest takes the wine.  You will notice the word “chalice” instead of “cup.”  This matches our way of referring to the vessel on the altar.  It highlights the ceremonial use of the vessel even at the Last Supper; and it matches the frequent appearance of the word “chalice” in the bible.
The new translation is: “…for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins…”
The covenant will be called eternal instead of everlasting.  The length of God’s covenant with us can't be measured.  In place of blood that is shed, we see blood that is poured out.  The new verb underlines the fact that Jesus freely gave up his life for us.  The Passion isn’t just something that happened to Jesus, but something that he freely chose to go through.
Many people will notice the difference between blood shed for all has now been changed to shed for many.  To some, the new translation will make it sound as though Jesus had second thoughts about how many would be redeemed.
Its clear in the New Testament that Jesus came for the salvation of all people.  But the word in Latin means “many.”  This is the word we believe Jesus used at the Last Supper.  It is probably an allusion to Isaiah, chapter 53, about the suffering servant who bore the sins of “many.”
The line after this has changed from “so that sins may be forgiven” to “for the forgiveness of sins.”  There is no major difference in meaning, but the new wording is a more direct translation and a stronger statement of the reconciling ministry of Jesus, who came not that sins, “may” be forgiven, but “for the forgiveness of sins.”
The priest then announces “the mystery of faith.”  We used to say, “let us proclaim the mystery of faith.”  This is more of what appears in the Latin.  Its similar to what you hear in other parts of the Mass: “The Word of the Lord,” “The gospel of the Lord,” “The Body of Christ,” “The Blood of Christ.”  These are simple faith filled statements that call for a response. 
The priest is in the middle of a long prayer; the words are all being directed to God the Father.  In the current translation when we say, “Let us,” we suddenly shift focus and address the community and then back to the prayer directed to the Father.  By omitting the word “let us,” the new translation should help the priest keep centered on his role.
Besides, “let us” implies that the priest will also be making the acclamation, which the previous translation has encouraged him to do.  The acclamation is the community’s to make, not the priest’s.  The priest is not supposed to join you in it, any more than he should make the response to: “the body of Christ.”  He makes the announcement, you make the acclamation.  Afterward, he starts up his prayer to the Father and begins with the theme you just acclaimed; the memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ.
There are three acclamations that are in the new missal.  They resemble the ones we know, but their deeper meaning is revealed.  Probably the best known of our acclamations is going away. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”  It is a strong acclamation, but its weakness in this context is that is makes a statement of faith about Christ, rather than a prayer to him.  It also fails to express you role as the one who shares Eucharist and awaits its fulfillment.  The new acclamations will make this function clear.
The first two of the previous acclamations have three phrases that are very similar.  “Christ has died” is like “dying you destroyed our death.”  “Christ is risen” is like “rising you restored our life.”  “Christ will come again” is like “Lord Jesus come in glory.”  These two acclamations are based on the same Latin text, and the new translation is a more faithful rendering of the original.
Instead of three brief statements that build in intensity, this translation shows the connection between the dying and rising of Christ, and the way we proclaim it in anticipation of his coming.
There is almost no change in the next acclamation, except for timing, clarity, and rhythm.  In the last acclamation, the word order is changed.  The text now offers an explicit prayer to Jesus: “Save us.”  His two titles in the previous translation are combined into one.  Jesus has freed us by his cross and Resurrection, and for this reason we ask him to save us.
For most Catholics it is the communion rite of the Mass that keeps us returning here week after week.  This is when we partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, receiving our spiritual nourishment for the week ahead.  Next week we’ll finish our look at the new translation of the Roman Missal and look the words in our Communion and Concluding Rites.