Work of the People
Archived Posts from this Category
Archived Posts from this Category
This installment takes off in a different direction. We begin with a domestic example, make a technical point, and reach a conclusion of spiritual significance.
Let’s revisit the example of your Thanksgiving Dinner. What time do you eat it? What do you serve, and with what china and linens? Who is there, and what do you do after dinner? Many people can give very definite answers to each of each of these questions. It is part of family lore that there is a football game at 10:00am, dinner is served at 2:00pm, Aunt Mabel brings her famous mincemeat pie, and we always use the centerpiece that Mom found on that trip to Bucks County, Pennsylvania. These customs serve as a point of conversation when you meet that family who eat at noon and serve duck!!! More important, these usages provide constancy in family history. How much it means to come home from college, or the military, or a new marriage, and find them all still in place! How jarring it is when a move, a divorce, or a death changes these simple yet crucial arrangements. Everyone recognizes these matters are not morally significant in themselves: here is no right time for Thanksgiving dinner. But if you summarily invite people for 5:00pm rather than 12:00pm, eyebrows will rise and something may be said. Of course, while change may cause comment, it comes inevitably, and with the gentle editing of memory these are woven into the fabric of the family rite.
There is the word! All of these arrangements make up a family’s rite for Thanksgiving, which stands alongside its rites for Christmas and for the Fourth of July cookout. These provide stable moments to which all kinds of change can be brought, and they are safe spaces for those who are in crisis. They offer still points against which to measure growth.
Our Pastor, Fr. Walter Wagner, O.P. has been composing letters to the parish every week. These missives are intended to benefit the faithful’s experience of the liturgy, with an eye toward the upcoming implementation of the revised translation of the ordinary form of the Catholic Church’s Roman Rite of the Mass. They will all be posted under the heading “The Work of the People” and will easily be found if one searches under that title (using the quotation marks) within this blog. Happy reading!
It’s time to stretch a bit, for we have come to the Sunday of Jesus in the Desert. Serenely, he exerts his humanity to the point of living off God. Jesus humanly resists temptation: further He does so easily promptly and joyfully. Something deeper than adrenaline has mothered his stamina. Consider the complete self-mastery behind his third retort, “the Lord, your God, shall you worship, and Him alone shall you serve.” (Matt. 4, 10) It reveals a well-ordered relationship to God with more brawn than Satan’s appeal to the appetites. Jesus does not make a statement of what one ought to do: it is simply what He does. He credits God as his source, His sustenance, and His goal, and thereby renders God no more than His due. He has done this so completely as to develop an instinct the Evil One cannot break.
You and I stand at the cusp of change. In our bones we know that spring is coming, slowly but inexorably winning its contest with the muck in the streets. Lent, from the Old English word for spring, has come into view so tardily we had been furtively hoping to skip it this year and proceed directly to the chocolate bunnies already on sale. But its forty days, and the fifty of Easter, represent one large leitourgeia of thirteen weeks assigned to all of us, an appointed task for each of us. As with each Mass, fulfilling this liturgical task will make us more ourselves, as God has designed us and graced us to be. If He has bound us to the duty of seasons and days, he has also assigned the whole of it to Himself. He will meet us in the doing of the duty. Faith looks at the liturgy and discerns there the anatomy of the soul’s encounter with the One who creates, redeems, and sanctifies.
When I was in the Studium, our preaching professor said to us, “You have ten seconds to convince me I should listen to this.” By this logic, I must persuade you in these two pages to stick with me for a walk through the familiar terrain of the Mass, cloaked suddenly in a forest of new language. This essay will repay my writing and your reading if we grasp how the mass repays our celebration of it. So we come to the bottom line; why go to Mass at all? Entering into a new translation will not compel our interest if the Eucharist itself does not.
During Advent I wrote to the parish and indicated that we would be preparing for the advent of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in English. This will come on the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2011. It is safe to say that on that date the “feel” of the Liturgy will change to a degree we have not experienced since 1970 when the First Edition of the Missal came to us in the wake of Vatican II. Refined principles of translation mean that while the differences between this new edition and previous versions are not earth shattering in Latin, our experience of the texts in English will be markedly different.