Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fr. Andersen Homily: True Beauty Wounds Us

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, 
Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon

June 23rd, 2013

Dominica XII Per Annum, Anno C.

“If anyone wishes to come after me, 
he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Friday was the feast day of St. Aloysius Gonzaga. This young saint died at the age of 23. His confessor, St. Robert Bellarmine, testified that young Aloysius had never mortally offended God. At lunchtime on Friday, I was eating lunch with another priest and two young men who are discerning their possible vocations to the priesthood. We got in a conversation about St. Aloysius. The mere mention of this young saint’s name called to mind the beauty of his pure soul. St. Aloysius is the patron saint of youth, which applies to teenagers and also to young adults who are single. He is especially appointed to these because of his purity.

Can you imagine what it would be like to glimpse the soul of a saint? What would his soul look like? I would dare to say that if God allowed us to see the beauty of St. Aloysius’ pure soul, we would weep.

Why do I say that? Because true beauty wounds us. The beauty of which I speak is what we call the transcendental beauty of God. In other words, the beauty of God transcends all earthly beauty. Beauty is one of the transcendental qualities of God. For instance, we say that God is the fullness of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. These are called the transcendental qualities of God because they transcend earthly truth, earthly goodness, and earthly beauty. All created things that are beautiful pale in comparison with the fullness of beauty which we find in God. We call these created things beautiful by analogy only. Nothing can be truly beautiful that is not God Himself. But we see glimpses of God’s beauty in created reality…and the nearer things are to God, the more beautiful they are. So when we consider the beauty of a pure soul; the soul of a saint like that of St. Aloysius sanctified in heaven; of course his soul would pale in comparison with the beauty of God, but it would still be so beautiful by analogy that we would weep at the mere sight of it.

Perhaps that is one aspect of the Cross about which our Blessed Lord speaks in the Gospel. He says “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Can we say then that beauty is a cross, or even a burden? I propose that we can. To discover beauty brings with it an obligation to guard and protect that beauty because it is precious. Truth, goodness, and beauty all necessitate that we guard and protect them because they are precious. This is a cross.

It is a cross because once one discovers truth, then one feels the burden of spreading that truth. But it is not a burden to speak truth and defend it. It is an absolute joy to know truth, to speak truth, and to defend truth. The burden, or cross, of Truth is the grief that one experiences when others reject Truth. One grieves for the souls of those who reject truth. Those souls will never know true joy because they are deprived of that which causes true joy. That which causes true joy is Truth Himself, who is God. Jesus Christ declares this. He says “I AM the Truth.” To embrace the absolute Truth incarnate, Jesus Christ, is a cross. But it is a necessary cross that we must pick up daily and carry.

Goodness too is a cross for the same reason. There will be those who reject goodness. And there are those who reject beauty. And so beauty too is a burden, a cross. Beauty is a cross in a different way. Let me clarify that when I refer to beauty, I am not referring to that which is pretty or attractive. Beauty is much greater than that because it is a reflection of God.  
When one experiences true beauty, then that person’s life changes. That person must carry the cross of grief knowing that others chase after created things which are not beautiful…nor true…nor good.

And yet the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of God would surely change the lives of all men if only they could come to discover these and embrace them. St. Peter was given the truth of who Jesus is: the Christ, the Son of God. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to him, but our Heavenly Father revealed it by means of the Holy Spirit of Truth. It brought St. Peter great joy throughout his life when hearts were converted to Jesus Christ, who IS Truth incarnate. But it surely brought him great sorrow when people he spoke to, preached to, and cared about rejected Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

In our day and age, there is a rejection of truth, goodness and beauty. People are willing and even wanting to settle for less. It is as though they are repelled by beauty and therefore by goodness and truth.

Beauty is looked upon with distrust and even disdain by many in the artistic community, as though “beauty is a bad thing” (Wolfe). In a (lecture given at the CL School of Community in Portland a few years ago), (Professor) Gregory Wolfe asked: “What is the impetus for the in-your-face ugliness of modern art?” He answered this rhetorical question by citing Plato’s Republic. According to Plato, poets were dangerous because they employed beauty in order to seduce. Wolfe continued: “Pleasure scares us because it is powerful.” Puritans and Marxists judged beauty to be dangerous to justice and truth in the order of society. The result of this attitude has been the separation of beauty from art. Art has become subjective, while beauty has been tamed “by making it pretty” (Wolfe). (Andersen. Hymnody in the Roman Breviary. p. 44).

Can we see the same thing happening with marriage? Ever since society accepted the separation of procreation from marriage, the institution of marriage has become subjective. But marriage is not subjective. It has nothing to do with whether one thinks one is married. It is an objective, binding, and legal fact. One is either married–objectively and legally–or not.
Marriage is a reflection of the love of God. St. Paul calls the love of Christ for His Church a spousal love which is reflected in the love of a man for a woman in marriage. He calls marriage a great sacrament that applies to Christ and His Church. Marriage therefore participates in the True, Good and Beautiful because it is a reflection of God. Marriage transcends the earthly relationship because it participates in a heavenly reality. When one fully realizes the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of marriage, then one is obliged to defend and guard it. Therein lies the Cross, especially today when marriage is under attack. We hear again the words of the Lord: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

We as Catholics are in a position to defend many things which are true, good, and beautiful. Marriage seems to be at the forefront today. The current political situation calls for the Church to stand up and vigorously defend marriage. Not only must we defend marriage, but we must defend our freedom to defend marriage. This Fortnight for Freedom which the Church has proclaimed in our great country, seeks to make you the Catholic faithful aware that our religious freedom is threatened. Truth is being obscured. Goodness is being mocked. Beauty is being degraded.

We are made for beauty, for goodness, and for truth. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and since God is the fullness of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, we participate in these qualities and are to imitate Him and reflect Him in these qualities. In this is the cross of Christ that we are to carry. We have been given so much. We cannot keep it to ourselves. We must guard and protect all that is truly good, truly beautiful. We must guard and protect the institution of marriage. That will be our cross. It is a joyful Cross, a light burden, a sweet yoke.

Like the pure soul of a saint like St. Aloysius, if we were to see the beauty of holy matrimony as God sees it, it would make us weep. It would wound us in such a holy way that our lives would be changed. We would take up that cross and proclaim it to the world. We must live, however, by faith and not by sight. Perhaps we have not been given the gift to see that transcendent beauty. But many of us have wept at the sight of something holy and beautiful. That is a gift from God and a cross that we must embrace. We are given this beautiful cross to carry: to guard and defend the truth, goodness, and beauty of holy matrimony between one man and one woman, as a lifelong union for the procreation and raising of children and the good of the spouses. What a beautiful cross. Let us carry this cross daily and follow Jesus wherever He leads us. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Ruin the Mass: Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker, managing editor of Sacred Music and publications editor of the Church Music Association of America, has a good article in Crisis Magazine on June 18.  The title is “Five Ways to Ruin the Mass”.

Here are the five reasons with just a snippet of what Mr. Tucker says by way of explanation. Be sure to read the entire article!

Is your parish guilty of these missteps?

** ** ** ** **

Improvisation of the Liturgical texts

The problem of celebrants who make up their own words on the spot, in hopes of making the liturgy more chatty and familiar, continues to be a serious annoyance. It is obviously illicit to do so.

This is truly tragic for everyone sitting in the pews. If the texts can just be ignored, why shouldn’t the faithful themselves feel free to take what they want and otherwise discard core teachings of the faith? This whole practices encourages a general disrespect for the ritual and even the faith itself.

Politicized and newsy prayers of the faithful

Sometimes these prayers seem like last month’s newspaper, calling to mind events that left the 48-hour news cycle long ago. Or they can seem subtly manipulative, trying to get us to think and believe things about the controversies of the day that are actually more in dispute than the prayer would indicate. A particular annoyance to me are the prayers that are crafted to straddle some kind of triangulating political position that has nothing to do with the liturgy or doctrine or morals.

Extended and chatty sign of peace

…[I]t is not supposed to be a micro-social hour that encourages people to mill around as if at a cocktail party.

…[I]f there is an invitation to have the people offer a sign of peace, it should be short. The General Instruction says: “it is appropriate that each person, in a sober manner, offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest.”

…In general, this whole part of the Mass invites confusion and awkwardness, and no matter how much we try to solemnize it, it still has more of the feeling of a civic or social activity than a truly liturgical one. At best it is a distraction. At worst, it can result in hurt feelings and all around confusion.

Replacing the sung propers with something else

Since the earliest centuries, the liturgy assigned particular scriptural texts to particular liturgical days. This happens at the entrance, the music between readings, the offertory, and the communion. The instructions are very clear: the assigned chant is to be sung. If something else was sung, the words were still said by the priest. And so it was in most countries from the 7th century until quite recently.

Today, the Mass propers are mostly replaced by something else, usually a hymn with words made up by some lyricist. Quite often the results have nothing to do with the liturgy at all.

Just say NO!!

Today we hear conga drums, trap sets, bongos, and other drums played not in the style of Monteverdi processions, or Masses by Haydn or Mozart. Instead we hear them just as we would hear them in a bar or dance hall.

They are used just as they are in the secular world: to keep a beat, to make the music groovy, to inspired us to kind of do a bit of a dance. That’s the association of percussion we have in our culture. It is not a sacred association. The association is entirely profane. There’s a role for that. But Church is not the place and Mass is not the time.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fr. Andersen Homily: God Doesn't Define Us By Our Sin

 A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR

June 16th, 2013
Dominica XI Per Annum, Anno C.

In the first reading today, we encounter King David who is suffering the consequences of grave sin. He repents of his sins, and his sins are forgiven, but the prophet Nathan tells him that the consequences of the sin are that the child of the illicit union will die. King David lusted after another man’s wife. He used his power to seduce her. He treated her like an object. He did not see her in her humanity. He did not treat her as someone with an immortal soul, with an eternal destiny. He saw her with the eyes of selfishness. She was an object whom he could use to obtain what he wanted. He used her selfishly. This action bore bitter fruit.

Now the wife of Uriah was not accustomed to being used. Her husband Uriah was an honorable man. He was a soldier. When King David tried to get him drunk so that he would go home to his wife, Uriah, being an honorable man, did not get drunk and he did not go home. A soldier could not have relations with his wife as long as he was in a period of military service. He must remain chaste and continent. This was out of respect for his office and for his wife. She was accustomed to this honorable treatment from her good husband.

We contrast this with the sinful woman in the Gospel. She is accustomed to being objectified and used by men. But our Lord does not treat her as an object. He sees her as a person, not as a thing. The Pharisees look at her as an object of scorn. They do not look upon her as a person. Jesus sees her as a person with an immortal soul and an eternal destiny. She is not an object, but rather a subject and He treats her as such. She knows this and she trusts Jesus.

This is the difference between lust and love. Lust is about power. Lust uses other people, treating them like objects, in order to get what one wants. Lust is selfish; it takes. Love on the other hand, is generous; it gives. Love looks upon the beloved as an immortal soul destined for eternal life. That is how our Lord looks upon us. We are destined for eternal life.
We are not defined by our sins. The Pharisees defined this woman by her sins. That was all they saw. God does not define us by our sins. He sees us as His beloved sons and daughters.

What we see in the Gospel is a woman with an apparently scandalous past. But all the more does Jesus forgive her sins. And she loves Him all the more because she has been forgiven more. She knows that He can heal her from the effects of sin which have ravaged her. That is why she seeks Him out as she does. She trusts Him because He is pure and not lustful. He gives her true love.

Each of us seeks to be loved. Love is healing to our souls. We seek love through our families, our parents, and siblings, etc. Some people seek out the love of God by means of marriage; others seek out the love of God directly through the consecrated life or the priesthood. The love of God, the love of Jesus, is real love. We know that Jesus will give us Himself and He will treat us with love and respect. We need never worry about being objectified by Him. In His eyes and in His heart, we are subjects and not objects. His is a pure and true love for us.

This woman was converted from her life of sin to a life of purity when she encountered Jesus. She did not go back to her scandalous life after this encounter. How could she? Her heart and soul had been healed by Jesus. She had desperately sought this kind of love before but turned to sinful encounters trying to find it and not finding it at all. Instead she found sorrow and loneliness and scorn from other men.

But from Jesus, she found joy, and love, and peace. How did this happen? She poured out herself to Him. She was extravagant with her gifts to Him. By her extravagance with Jesus, her own heart was healed. She once treated other men in an idolatrous way, seeking from them what only God could give to her. But now she knows that only God can love her enough to fill the emptiness inside of her. We can learn from that.

With Jesus, we cannot be too needy or too extravagant. We can give and give and give to Jesus, and He will love us purely and perfectly in return. And He will not be outdone by us. He will give back to us in ways that we might not even anticipate. And He will never treat any of us as a thing. We will always be a person––a subject––with an immortal soul destined for eternity. Let us not hold anything back from Him. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Is Scandal?

Last week, an episode of the Vortex, “Houston, We Have a Problem”, examined a scandalous event that took place in Houston. Michael Voris reported:

Here’s the quick background: [on] May 28, an event called a "service of commissioning and ordination" occurred at the Co-Cathedral conducted by Methodist Bishop Janice R. Huie. We called and talked with the Chancellor of the archdiocese, Bishop George Sheltz, who confirmed for us directly that Cardinal DiNardo had approved this personally. He said that “bishop” Janice is someone he works with closely and when she called and said, “Hey, can we use your cathedral for our ceremony to ‘ordain’ our clergy?”, the Cardinal was more than happy to oblige.

Moreover, when we asked Bishop Sheltz if the Cardinal had asked others in the chancery for their input, he said he had, and they all agreed unanimously – no one thought a thing about it.

So let’s get all this clear, shall we: a fake ceremony by a fake bishop – who is a woman bishop – fakely ordaining a lay person to a fake position of being a fake priest is allowed to occur inside the sanctuary of a Catholic cathedral.

One Vortex viewer told CMTV that he had spoken directly with Cardinal DeNardo regarding the scandal this kind of thing causes:

Just talked with Cardinal DiNardo for 15mins on the phone. He made the decision and sees nothing wrong with what he did. I mentioned the fact that the Methodists are pro-gay "marriage" and pro-abortion. He didn't seem to care. Considered the action to be "ecumenical hospitality" to promote "goodwill" with the Protestants. I told him that he has created scandal. He said "sorry you're scandalized”, but I responded "it's not just me…it's many young adults." I suggested he give a public explanation for his actions. He said "well they are your friends, so you tell them." I said, "I definitely will, but I think it would be appropriate for you to do it yourself, publicly, so that I don't misrepresent anything you told me." He said he'd consider my advisement.

Scandal”, it seems, is a term often thrown about, but it really has a couple of different meanings. I get a little confused about what we mean when we talk about “scandalizing the faithful”. So here I go, thinking out loud…

Here’s the dictionary definition of scandal:

1 a : discredit brought upon religion by unseemly conduct in a religious person
 b : conduct that causes or encourages a lapse of faith or of religious obedience in another

2 : loss of or damage to reputation caused by actual or apparent violation of morality or propriety : disgrace

3 a : a circumstance or action that offends propriety or established moral conceptions or disgraces those associated with it
b : a person whose conduct offends propriety or morality <a scandal to the profession>

4 : malicious or defamatory gossip

5 : indignation, chagrin, or bewilderment brought about by a flagrant violation of morality, propriety, or religious opinion

Some examples of scandal were given at the same website, including these:

There was a major scandal involving the mayor's ties with the Mob.
Government officials were caught in an embezzlement scandal.
Her behavior caused a scandal at school.
The gossip magazine is filled with rumors and scandal.

All of those examples focus on the reaction of people who are already aware of “right” vs. “wrong” behavior.

Now let’s look at the definition of scandal given in the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (I’ve done a little editing for brevity):

2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.

2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized…Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.

2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"

The secular dictionary definition of scandal appears to focus primarily on the dismay felt by those witnessing or hearing about something they know to be morally wrong.

But the definition of scandal in the Catechism (2284 through 2287) seems to be summed up by the statement that "Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged" (2287).  

In other words, a person who is "scandalized" in the sense of the common dictionary definition would not be led to do wrong, because his morals are already offended; he knows right from wrong. A person who is "scandalized" in the CCC sense of the word doesn't know right from wrong in a particular case, and is led astray by an authority figure who sets a wrong example.

For instance, if we say that the action of Cardinal DiNardo in allowing the Methodists to use the Co-Cathedral (first I ever heard of THAT term!) for an "ordination" ceremony is "scandalous", do we mean that it caused outrage among the faithful who believe that this was an inappropriate use of the Cathedral? Or do we mean that the action caused many of the faithful to now believe that it's okay to "loan" the Cathedral to Protestants because "we're all Christians" or some such reasoning? Or do we mean both? People have been outraged, but the Archdiocese of Houston says that since only 4 people called to complain, that does not constitute a "scandal". On the other hand, if the rest of the Catholics in that archdiocese are not complaining, it may be that THEY are the scandalized ones: they think that since Cardinal DiNardo allowed it, it must be okay.

Michael Voris concludes the Vortex episode with this note:

When I asked about scandal [Bishop Seltz] said, “There are over a million Catholics here, and I’ve only received four phones calls – I don’t consider that a scandal.

It seems to me that the faithful who are truly scandalized - who are being led astray by the actions of Church leaders, for example - don't even realize that they are "scandalized" - they don't know they have been misled.   

So… if the vast majority of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Houston don’t see anything wrong with the Cathedral being used for a Methodist “ordination” ceremony, perhaps there is more true scandal present that the Cardinal or the Chancellor of that archdiocese realize. Have the faithful there been led away from the truth without even knowing it?

Here is the Vortex episode; the script is available here:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Living Well and Dying Well: Fr. Andersen Homily

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, Oregon

June 9th, 2013 
Dominica X Per Annum, Anno C

The readings today speak of God’s power over life and death. We fear death and it is right that we should. We are not ultimately made for death, but bodily death must come to us all. And so, through the Christian ages, we the faithful have been exhorted to remember death. Memento mori, remember you must die. Many of the great fathers and doctors of the Church have written on this exhortation. St. Robert Bellarmine wrote a treatise called “The Art of Dying Well”. In the dedication at the beginning of the work he writes this:

A few months ago I wrote a little work on the art of dying well both in order to prepare myself for my own coming death and in order to share willingly with my brethren and lords, as is my custom, what I found useful for this greatest of all tasks (Robert Bellarmine, Spiritual Writings: The Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist, p. 233).

Do we think of our death in that way, as “the greatest of all tasks?” St. Robert Bellarmine says that “so few are eager to learn the art of dying well, which ought to be well known to everyone” (235). He writes: “We see every day that, while awaiting judgment about even the least matters, the litigants are without rest; one moment they visit the lawyers, the next the prosecutors, and then the judges and the judges’ friends and relatives.” (235). Then he compares this to the case of the dying man; “while the case is pending before the supreme judge about everlasting life and death, the defendant, often unprepared or overcome by illness, hardly mentally competent, is forced to render an account of those things about which he had never thought when he was in good health” (235). It was as though the man had not feared death and so did not pay it any heed. Yet the contrary was true. The man feared death and so he avoided thinking about it and preparing for it.

I was that man. I remember that when I was in the seminary, I was talking to my spiritual director one afternoon and we spoke about the fear of death. He advised me this: “stare death in the face daily.” Hmmm. That didn’t sound like much fun! He reminded me that this was a classic counsel of the Church from so many of the greatest of saints who lived that way. Instead of living with fear of death, they looked death in the face and it transformed their way of thinking so that they were no longer afraid of death but looked at it as Christians so that they could see the beautiful side of death as God has transformed it by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Well, okay,” I thought, “that doesn’t sound so bad.”

So I decided to start doing my spiritual reading on the topic of death, as written about by the saints. Let me clarify. This was not a morbid fascination. I was not reading about death in a dark way at all. I was reading the writings of the saints on Heaven, on Purgatory, on the Judgment, and the Resurrection of the Body. In my holy hours, I would read little bits, then pray about it, journal about it, and I came to see the beauty of death for a Christian. Along the way, I discovered “The Art of Dying Well” by St. Robert Bellarmine.

In this book, the saint writes about the rules of the art of dying well. He divides these into two parts. First he gives “the rules that we should use while we are in good health” (239). Secondly, he gives “those that we will need when we suffer such a dangerous illness that death is probably immanent” (239).

But the general rule that is set before both of these is that “one should live well if one desires to die well. For since,” he writes, “death is merely the end of life, surely everyone who lives well up to the end cannot die badly, since he has never lived badly, just as he who has always lived badly dies badly, and one cannot fail to die badly if he has never lived well” (239).

Now, what about the person who has not always lived well. St. Robert uses the example of the Good Thief, St. Dismas. He says that it was not the case that the Good Thief… “lived badly, yet ended his life well and happily. …rather the good thief lived piously and holily and for that reason met a good and holy death. Though he spent the greater part of his life in crime, nonetheless he spent another part of his life in such a holy manner that he easily rid himself of past sins and acquired extraordinary merit. For burning with love for God, he openly defended Christ from the calumnies of the wicked; and burning equally with love for neighbor, he admonished and corrected his own blaspheming companion and tried to recall him to a better life” (240).

It is comforting to know that it is never too late for conversion while we are still living and breathing. “Yet,” St. Robert says, “no one can deny that it is dangerous to put off conversion from sins to justice until the end of life, that they are far happier who have borne the yoke of God’s law ‘from their youth’ [Lam 3:27]” (240). In today’s readings, there are two young men who are raised from the dead. First the Lord brings a young man back to life through the prayers of Elijah, the man of God, and then the Lord brings a young man back to life by His own power. God speaks the command and it happens. But that boy was not raised to life forever. Sooner or later, he had to die because he was mortal. But God raised Him because there was unfinished business to take care of. The boy had to make good on his new life. God heals first and foremost for the good of our souls. He has rescued us from death to save our souls. And in the end, at the Resurrection, our bodies will also enjoy freedom from death when they are rejoined to our souls in the new heaven and the new earth at the Second Coming.

Let us prepare for that day, giving thanks to God for each new day, and let us cultivate the art of living well for the sake of the art of dying well. That will be a beautiful death about which we need have no fear.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

New Book: Zeal For Thy House

This new book is available now at CreateSpace (use code 4UUKR7CA for a 15% discount). 

It's also available on Amazon and Kindle. 

From the back cover:

In this book, Dr. Boyd hopes that those who experience pain and suffering at the Masses offered at their parishes will find some solace in knowing that they are not the only ones! It is helpful to recognize that we are not alone in the battle to have liturgies properly celebrated.  The pain and suffering is real, and it is justified by the fact that the Church has shown us clearly how the Mass – whether the old form or the new form – should be celebrated. We are not wrong or “divisive" if we voice objections and concern when the rubrics of the Mass are ignored or altered to suit the personality of the celebrant or, in some cases, the “liturgy committee”. Whether the abuses and missteps are intentional or made through ignorance, the pain and suffering of those who desire good liturgy is legitimate, and deserves to be heeded.

Dr. Boyd also wants to encourage those who suffer through Mass to cling to the hope that brighter liturgical days are ahead. To that end, included at the end of each section of the book are a few “Glimmers of Hope”. All is not lost! The gates of Hell will not prevail! Hope springs eternal!

From the “Epilogue”:

Hope Springs Eternal

I am not a Bible scholar by any means, but it seems to me that we may find a source of solace and hope in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, where the story is told of the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. In a sense, those who are struggling against “bad liturgy” and fighting to reinstate the extraordinary form of the Mass are attempting to rebuild the “temple” that is our Faith. The Eucharist is, after all, the source and summit of our faith (Lumen Gentium, 11), and when the celebration of Mass is deficient, it can only lead to a deficient faith. Many writers and speakers have noted the truth of this statement: the increase in abuses of the liturgy, especially in the Novus Ordo, certainly seems to correlate with a decline in the markers of a robust faith, such as vocations to the priesthood and religious life, attendance at Mass by the lay faithful, and fidelity to the teachings of the Church by bishops, priests, and laity.
In the book of Ezra, we see the beginning of the account of the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. The reigning non-Jewish monarch, King Cyrus, actually commanded it, and the Israelites began the work in good faith. Soon, however, naysayers undermined the project; first, they offered to join in and help, saying “for we seek your God just as you do” (Ezra 4:2). They were only seeking to undermine the project from within, though; and when the Israelites declined their help, the Samaritans then “set out to intimidate and dishearten the people of Judah so as to keep them from building. They also suborned counselors to work against them and thwart their plans” (Ezra 4:5). Finally, the enemies of the Jews succeeded in persuading a later king to put a halt to the rebuilding.

Years went by with no work being done, but it would seem that the Israelites did not give up hope; they finally began to build again when some bold Israelites listened to the words of their prophets. When questioned by the local authorities, they insisted on their right to rebuild, and noted that a previous king had given permission; after a review of the past documents, the reigning monarch allowed them to proceed. Then, in the book of Nehemiah, we are told of the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Still the naysayers were fighting against the completion of the work; Nehemiah himself cries out, “Take note, O our God, how we were mocked! Turn back their derision on their own heads and let them be carried away to a land of captivity! Hide not their crime and let not their sin be blotted out in your sight, for they insulted the builders to their face!” (Nehemiah 3:36-37)

The opposition grew to the point of physical attacks on the workers, at which point Nehemiah tells us, “From that time on, however, only half my able men took a hand in the work, while the other half, armed with spears, bucklers, bows, and breastplates, stood guard behind the whole house of Judah as they rebuilt the wall” (Nehemiah 4:10). There were plots against Nehemiah’s life as well.

If you have been one of the faithful who is trying to “rebuild the temple” of our faith through  fidelity to the liturgical rubrics, I’m sure you see the similarities between your own battle and the battle fought by the Jews as they rebuilt the temple at Jerusalem! Not only are we rebuilding the temple, but we are rebuilding the wall – the wall that separates our faith from the secular influences that lead away from the truths of the Faith and down the slippery slope of moral relativism, which a number of popes have warned against. Indeed, the physical rebuilding of the temple was not the only “rebuilding” that took place. Chapter 8 of Nehemiah describes how Ezra was called upon by the people to “bring forth the book of the law of Moses which the Lord prescribed for Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1). And far from complaining about a long service, the people stood and listened as Ezra read “from daybreak till midday”!

The book of Ezra also recounts that the people had not been faithful to the laws of the faith: “…they have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and thus they have desecrated the holy race with the peoples of the land. Furthermore, the leaders and rulers have taken a leading part in this apostasy!" (Ezra 9:2). I think we can see parallels here with our own culture – not necessarily with regard to the specific issue of Catholics marrying outside the Church, but with the “marriage” of our Faith to the errors of our secular society. Our Catholic Faith has been desecrated by this, and indeed, even some of our shepherds have taken a part in the watering down of Catholic precepts.

The battle for the rebuilding of Jerusalem was long and hard, and fraught with peril, but the people did not lose hope. Nor should we! The Israelites persevered in their mission and task, and so should we. It can be daunting to face the criticisms and sometimes even calumny of one’s fellow parishioners, but it is important that each one of us continue to respectfully request correction of liturgical abuse. We have documents to support our endeavor, just as the Jewish people had the document of a former monarch to justify their rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem – for instance, there is the instruction Redeptionis Sacramentum (On certain matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist). And we must also insist on the proper implementation of the changes mandated by Vatican II – and point out the changes that have occurred that were not mandated and have perhaps been harmful to the Church.

It is true that we may not witness the changes we’d like to see in our own life times, but we should find hope in noting that progress is being made…or at least, not hindered. For instance, though many of the tradition-minded feared that Pope Francis would turn his back on the EF Mass, that fear seems unfounded at this point. In a recent report, the Holy Father declined to heed the advice of a group of bishops who wanted to squelch the traditional Latin Mass.

We have the favor of the Holy Father, and so must press on with the rebuilding. There is reason for hope!

[In the book, there is also the example of Archbishop Luigi Negri, who recently told the faithful at an EF Mass, “…[Y]ou must try to get as many people as possible to walk down this path of yours”; as well as Archbishop Alexander Sample, who, as the bishop of the Diocese of Marquette, who worked hard at improving the quality of liturgical music in his diocese via an article in the Diocesan newspaper and in a pastoral letter.]

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fr. Andersen on Corpus Christi: The Offering of Melchizedek

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR
June 2nd, 2013
Corpus Christi  

In the beginning when God created man, Adam and Eve were in perfect communion with God and there was no death. But when they fell due to original sin, it is clear that God would require sacrifice. It is not clear how He required it. But we do know that from the very beginning Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, offered up the first fruits of the harvest and the flock. We can deduce that Adam, as their father, would have taught them to do so. These two sons copied their father in his priestly office. Abel was more attentive, more thoughtful. The sacrifice of Abel was more pleasing to God. Abel offered to God the first born of the flock. The blood of a lamb was poured out in the very beginning. God was pleased. Cain, the other brother, offered up the fruits of the harvest, but he put no sweat into the sacrifice. He did not make bread out of the wheat. He merely offered wheat in its natural state. He had not paid attention to his father’s instructions. Cain was jealous of Abel because God was more pleased with Abel. Cain put to death his brother the priest. Abel was both priest and victim, whose blood was shed; a type of Christ. Abel, the priest, never married, and never begat any children.

Adam begat another son, Seth, given in place of Abel. The last verse of Chapter 4 in Genesis tells us that “to Seth also was born a son, whom he called Enos: this man began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26). In the Latin it says that he began to invoke the name of the Lord. This is an interesting sentence. Surely Adam and Seth had called upon the name of the Lord. What does this mean? How was Enos set apart from the other men in his family? It has been suggested that Enos be looked upon as the first liturgist, that is, the first author of some form of organized, public and solemn rites and ceremonies by which the world, as yet in its infancy, paid its debt of worship to the omnipotent Creator (cf. Graf, Ernest. The Priest at the Altar, 8-9).

Keep in mind that Adam is still alive. Enos, who invokes God in a liturgical sense, learns from his father Seth and from his grandfather, the first man, Adam. The source of revelation here is the word of Adam, handed down to his sons, to Seth and his sons after him. Among these sons was Enos, the originator of divine liturgy. In this same line came Henoch who walked with God in a way reminiscent of Adam. “Henoch lived altogether three hundred and sixty five years, the close friend of God; then God took him to himself, and he was seen no more” (Gen 5:24 [Ronald Knox trans]).

Listen to that. Henoch walked with God. God took him to himself and he was seen no more. What does that remind you of? Can you hear the account of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus disappeared and the disciples recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. Henoch walked with God, then God took him to Himself and he was seen no more. He became one with God through his ministry to God. This is a description of the priestly office.
From this same line of sons comes Noah. In Genesis 8:20ff we learn that “Noah built an altar to the Lord, and chose out beasts that were clean and birds that were clean, and made burnt offerings there. And the Lord, smelling such a scent as pleased him, made the resolve, Never again will I plague the earth on man’s account.”

Now Noah was of the line of Seth, son of Adam. The sons of Noah preserved the revelation given to Adam and handed down to his sons before the flood. The three sons of Noah are the link to the priestly patriarchial worship before the flood. This in part might explain the existence of Melchizedek. In our first reading today, Abraham meets Melchizedek, “priest of the most High God” (Gen 14:18). This mysterious priest offers up bread and wine. Who is he? Where does he fit into the story. He has credentials as a priest. We know that his sacrifice is pleasing to God and he seems to know what he is doing, but then we do not hear much about him again for about 1000 years until King David composes a psalm about him. What is interesting is that Melchizedek’s sacrifice is similar to this Holy Sacrifice offered today on this altar. But it is not like the sacrifice of Moses, who was commanded to offer the blood of a lamb. Moses’ sacrifice was like Abel’s.

I think this gives us a clue as to why Cain’s sacrifice was not acceptable. Cain offered up the fruit of the earth: wheat in its natural state. His sacrifice was not acceptable to God. Melchizedek offers up bread and wine. Bread is fruit of the earth and work of human hands. So is wine. The sacrifice of bread and wine appears only dimly in the mists of history as the early patriarchal worship handed down somehow from Adam, from before the flood (cf. Meagher, How Christ Said the First Mass, p. 218).

So who is Melchizedek? He was the king of Salem, which later came to be known as Jerusalem. St. Paul writes: “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but likened unto the Son of God, he continues a priest forever.” He was a priest not according to the priesthood of Aaron which slaughtered countless animals in bloody sacrifice. No, he was a priest who offered the same offering that our Lord offered: bread and wine (cf. Meagher 219). Many have speculated that Melchizedek was an angel, or perhaps the Holy Spirit (cf. 218). Others have speculated that he was the oldest son of Noah (cf. 219).

Rabbinical writers wrote of Shem, the first born son of Noah, who by right inherited his father’s property, kingship and priesthood. Shem was born before the flood and was an adult when Noah built the ark. After the flood, according to the calculations of years in the scriptures, Shem was still living at the time of Abraham (cf. 220f). Shem had come to be known by the Canaanites as “The Just King” which in their language is Melchizedek (cf. 223). So, he was "the last link to the world before the flood. No writing, record, or monument survived of the ages before God wiped out the world’s wickedness with the waters" of the deluge (223). But Shem, being the eldest son, was the "sole depository and heir of all his father’s learning, property and priesthood" (223).

Abraham meets Melchizedek and it is from him that "he would learn Adam’s religion, the story of creation, the fall of man, the prophecy of the Redeemer, the story of the world before the flood. According to patriarchal custom, these truths passed down to Isaac, Jacob, to the Hebrews as traditions, until Moses gathered them up in the Book of Genesis" (Meagher 224). Moses then received from God an altogether new and full cult of worship that was liturgical and involved the sacrifice of animals. But it also involved the show bread, a remnant of the bread sacrificed by Melchizedek. The show bread was also called the “bread of the presence” or literally the “bread of the face” (cf. 93) It was lined up on a special golden altar in the temple. Twelve loaves of showbread were placed there each week with Frankincense burning before them as an offering to God. Each week, the priests would consume the 12 loaves of bread as they brought fresh loaves to replace them (cf. 93-94). In this we see a type of the 12 baskets of bread in the gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves. 12 baskets of bread were left over after all had eaten their fill. Jesus was pointing towards a greater showbread, a greater bread of a greater presence. These were the twelve men He had chosen to be the priests he would ordain at the Last Supper.

Melchizedek was a different kind of priest than Aaron and his sons. The priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ was according to that of Melchizedek, but not that of Aaron (cf. 219). Psalm 109/110 says: You are a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek. This was written by King David 800 years after Melchizedek met Abraham. It pointed toward a greater priesthood, a greater sacrifice, a greater communion with a greater bread of presence: a true Presence. Presence of what? Well, the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. We are here today to adore our Lord. Corpus Christi is a feast of adoration. Some will say that we are not supposed to adore our Lord at Mass. Well, they are wrong. There are four ends to the Mass and the first end of the Mass is adoration. Let us not be ashamed or embarrassed to adore our Lord, falling to our knees when we see Him. He is God and He has a right to receive that from us.

Unlike Adam and his sons, we are not deprived of seeing the glory of God. We see Him face to face in the Holy Eucharist, which transcends and fulfills the bread of the presence. This is not just the ‘bread of the face’ as in the Old Covenant. This is truly gazing upon the face of God. Our God is so generous and loving. He gives Himself completely. Let us give ourselves as completely as we are able and adore Him, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in this most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.