Sunday, January 26, 2014
Next week at our Masses we will be celebrating the Presentation of the Lord. Each year on February 2nd, we celebrate the day when Mary and Joseph presented the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem. Two things actually happened on the 40th day following the birth of a firstborn son of a Jewish family: the mother was purified and ready to reenter the temple grounds after having been ritually unclean for the period after giving birth. The son was then presented and dedicated to the Lord at the Temple. For the presentation, sacrifices were offered to God.
There’s an interesting history behind this practice of presenting the son. It goes back to the Exodus and the plague of the death of the firstborn that the Lord sent upon Egypt. All the firstborn sons in Egypt were struck down on the night of Passover, except for the families of the Israelites, whose homes were marked with the blood of the lamb, and the angel of death passed over them. The lives of the firstborn sons of Israel were spared. Because of that, all the firstborn sons of Israel were to be set apart, holy, and consecrated to the Lord’s service.
Traditionally, the Presentation is when the candles used in the Church for the year would be blessed. That is why this feast is often referred to as “Candlemas,” also called “Candelaria” in Spanish. It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Jesus who is Christ our Light. The feast is always celebrated on February 2nd, and for the first time since 2003 falls on a Sunday. The celebration of the Presentation takes precedence and next Sunday we will celebrate it instead of the 4th Sunday in Ordinary time. Why tell you this week? Because next week’s celebration is special. There will be a candlelight procession at each Mass and each of us will be given a candle which will be lit and blessed. After Mass we will take our candles home.
The new Roman Missal calls us to more fully enter into the rites and rituals, seasons and movements, of our liturgical year. The celebration of the Presentation of the Lord is just one of the ways in which we participate in the life of the Church.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Last week we concluded the Advent and Christmas seasons. We now transition into the 34 weeks of Ordinary Time that are broken up by Lent and the Easter season. You’ll have noticed that our Art and Environment Committee made some changes in our worship space.
The Stations of the Cross have been moved from the sanctuary wall of the church. This visually frees the sanctuary to be more prominent. The larger perk is that the stations are now handicap accessible. Also note that the fourteenth station is under the parish art of the Risen Savior, which becomes the 15th station.
Welcoming us into the church from the main lobby is Michael the Archangel. St Michael the Archangel is the patron of soldiers, military, police, and first responders; with all that is going on in our world, he is on duty. This is a gift from Omar Real who operates Camino Real Imports on Rio Grande in Old Town. He is also the donor of the various stands used in the environment. The black stands we’re using are temporary and will be replaced with wooden ones to match our other wood furniture.
The Marian shrine can now welcome flowers as well as can the shrine to St Joseph. Shrines are for prayers. Each shrine has a prayer located near it which you may find comfort in praying.
The Mandamus—or foot washing statue—is now elevated for better viewing and given a specific definition within the context of the upper room. This statue was donated by Monsignor Richard Olona and
is carved of beautiful olive wood.
The Marian Center which is also our parish pre-school is taking on a more defined Catholic identity. The environment there is being tied to the liturgy of the church.
The Art and Environment Committee works with the visual as prayer. Many make this space happen. Even the confirmation youth and parents assisted with the transformation our worship space. That includes setting up and taking down. Those who could climb ladders did, those who were artists or seamstresses plied their crafts. It truly takes a parish.
The Advent and Christmas season brought in many roses: statements like “prayerful”, “elegant”, “quieting” were some of the words used. Every church is a house of prayer. May our space continue to cause us to be more holy.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
As children, many of us learned from the Baltimore Catechism that Baptism “is the sacrament which cleanses us from Original Sin, makes us Christians, children of God, and heirs of Heaven.” The more recent Catechism of the Catholic Church expands that definition, saying that Baptism is “the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God…” (CCC, p.1213)
If this is true – that the sacrament of Baptism takes away original sin and makes us children of God – then why was Jesus baptized? After all, we know that Jesus was born without original sin, and that He is the Son of God. So why did Jesus present Himself to John for Baptism? Of what benefit was it to Him?
As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are born into original sin because we inherited our human nature from our first parents. According to the Catechism, “Original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants” (CCC, p. 405); original sin is not something we have personally “committed” – it is a “condition” we inherit. The People of God in the Old Testament tried to understand the human condition and the connection to the fall of Adam and Eve, but they were at a disadvantage in that the story’s ultimate meaning is “revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (CCC, p. 388) That is, we must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The "reverse side" of the doctrine of original sin is the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of everyone: that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. (Paragraph 389)
God did not abandon us after that first sin. He sent His only Son who, through His death on the cross, not only makes amends for the sin of Adam and of the whole world, but renews all things in Himself: Jesus says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) It is Christ who restores that which was lost through original sin and raises us to even greater heights by inviting us to share in His very life. This is why Baptism is so important: it is the means by which we share in grace, in God’s life.
The Baptism of Jesus, on His part, is an act of obedience to His Father and the acceptance of His mission as God’s Servant. Fully human, He allows Himself to be numbered among sinners. At His Baptism, “the heavens were opened” – the heavens that Adam’s sin had closed. Through Baptism, we are connected to Christ, our Savior: we must go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with Him. We must be reborn of water and the Spirit. (CCC, p. 536)
Sunday, January 5, 2014
For many years in the English speaking world the feast of Epiphany has been overshadowed by that of Christmas. But for most of the world the Feast of the Epiphany is the bigger event. The significance of the Epiphany is lost if we see only the Christmas side of the mystery of the Incarnation. After contemplating the staggering fact that God has become a human child which we’ve done at Christmas, we turn to look at this mystery from the opposite angle and realize that this seemingly helpless Child is, in fact, God, the King and Ruler of the universe. The feast of Christ's divinity completes the feast of His humanity. It fulfills all our Advent longing for the King "who is come with great power and majesty." We see that whereas Christmas is the family feast of Christianity, Epiphany is the great "world feast of the Catholic Church."
Many of us remember this feast was celebrated on January the 6th. Today in the United States and most English speaking countries, the feast is moved to a Sunday between the 2nd and 8th of January. Why a “moveable” feast? Because this feast is so important to our faith that our bishops don’t want us miss it and so have attached it to a Sunday. This feast is so important that some have referred to the Epiphany as “Christmas Major” and refer to December 25th as “Christmas Minor.” For most of the world the Epiphany is the date that gifts are exchanged, reflecting the Magi bringing gifts to the Christ-child. It is the twelfth day of Christmas.
Epiphany is a complex feast that originated in the Eastern Church and has various themes woven together: The Epiphany celebrates the Divine Manifestation of Christ as the Son of God and looks forward to His Second Coming.
A second important idea is the revelation of Christ to the three kings at Bethlehem is a symbol of His revelation to the whole of the world, Jew and Gentile alike. The Epiphany presents to us the calling of not merely a chosen few, but all humankind to Christianity.
Closely linked to both these themes of divine manifestation and world kingship is a third idea running through the Epiphany feast: that of light. At Christmas the Light shone forth, but dimly, seen only by a few around the crib: Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. But at Epiphany the Light bursts forth to all nations and the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: "The Gentiles shall walk in your light, and kings in the brightness of your rising."
Epiphany lifts our eyes from the family celebration of Christmas and changes our vantage point to "all the ends of the earth." Like the three wise men, we are called to have the courage to follow the light of the star we have seen, however difficult the journey. And like these kings we return to our own places a different way, carrying to all those we meet the light of Christ.