Sunday, April 22, 2007


Deus Caritas Est. God is love. Caritas most closely means affection and , of course is the root from which comes the English word charity. In English we use the word love to cover a whole range of meanings. I love chocolate. I love my mommy. I love you. Different meanings, same word.
Most languages have different words to describe different kinds of love. In Latin caritas means affection, amor describes romantic love. Like wise in Greek, the language of the Gospel, there are different words for different kinds of love, as the Holy Father discusses in Deus Caritas Est. There is eros, which is passionate love, filius, which is brotherly love, and agape which is the all encompassing love between a husband and wife.
In today's Gospel reading, in the original Greek, different words for love are used. I've replaced the English with the Greek in the following translation. See if you can guess what it means.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you agape me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I filius you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you agape me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I filius you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you filius me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I filius you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Now a deacon I know is fond of saying, "Peter, God love him, is not the sharpest pencil in the bunch."
One interpretation of the above passage relates it to Peter's three denials of Christ on the night he was betrayed. Three attestations of love to counterbalance the three denials.
This is also one of the passages that gives Peter the supremacy as the vicar of Christ, giving him authority over the Church.
But we also have to remember when this happened and what had happened just before. This was the third time that Jesus appeared to the Apostles after his resurrection. They knew he had risen, but had not yet been visited by the Holy Spirit.
So Peter, seemingly in forgetfulness of what the Lord had told him, "You will now be fishers of men," decides he is going to go fishing. They catch nothing all night, until the Lord appears on the bank, and as he had before, told Peter where to cast his net.
In this way the disciples recognized it was the Lord.
So after they eat, Jesus asked Peter to attest to his love for him, but not the love of friendship. Jesus ask Peter to profess the complete love which humans only resolve for their spouse, or for God. Peter doesn't get it yet. He answers, attesting his friendship and affection. So Jesus asks again. And again Peter answers. So finally Jesus, knowing Peter is not yet ready, asks him to attest to his friendship and affection. He wants Peter's total love, but he will take his friendship, for the time.
Then Jesus prophesies.
"Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”
Which is a description of Peter's death, on the cross.
The first reading today happens after these events. In it Peter and another disciple are called before the Sanhedrin. This time Peter does not flinch. It is after Pentecost, and he is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Eventually Peter will end up in Rome, where he will be hung upside down on a cross, perhaps the best testament to his agape.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech

As it says in my profile I live in Virginia in the Diocese of Richmond. And yes I know young people at Virginia Tech. None, thank God, who were either hurt or present at Monday's shootings. We will be holding a prayer service on Sunday evening in place of our usual Life Teen activities.
I pray for the students, both living and dead, their parents and the parents of the killer. I should be more charitable and extend prayers for the disturbed young man who carried out these acts, but I'm not that far enough along my journey to be like my savior yet.
The young man was disturb, obviously. But many people are disturb. many people are angry, and do not kill perfect strangers because of it. I believe Satan's hand is in this, as it is so much in things that we modern westerns Christians refuse to acknowledge because we fear our secular friends would thinks us superstious or simple minded.
It is Satan's greatest feat, convincing the modern secular world that he does not exist. But he does, and this week he visited Blacksburg.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vertical vs. Horizontal part III

When we talk about vertical verses horizontal in the Mass the framework often seems to be set as conservative (Traditional) vs. liberal (Post Vatican II.) Mass of Pope Pius V (Tridentine) vs. Mass of Pope Paul VI (Novus Ordo) This is an illegitimate as well as unhelpful paradigm for a variety of reasons. One is that the assumptions tied to each side are in many cases erroneous.
Assumption 1: The Tridentine Mass is said in Latin. The Novus Ordo is said in the vernacular. A special indult is required to say the Mass in Latin.
Not necessarily true. The Novus Ordo is contained in the Roman Missal, whose most recent revision was promulgated in Latin in 2002. In the United States there is an English translation approved by the USCCB. A priest may, at the present time say the entire Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, only say the entire ordinary (that is the Creed, Kyria, Our Father, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, etc.) in Latin and the rest in the Vernacular or only say part of the ordinary in Latin.
At the present time an indult is required to say the Tridentine Mass.
Assumption 2: In the Tridentine Mass the priest faces away from the people. In the Novus Ordo he faces toward the people.
Again not necessarily. In the Tridentine Mass the priest faces Liturgical East (ad orientem.) As part of the post Vatican II liturgical renewal in many church buildings the altar was moved. In most places this results in the priest facing (versus populum) toward the people, but not always. Some modern church buildings have their altar placed in the center, which means the celebrant faces some of the people, but has his back to others. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal does not specify either ad orientem or versus populum. So an individual celebrant can pray the Mass in either orientation.
Assumption 3: The Tridentine Mass is boring. The Novus Ordo is lively and interesting.
A well celebrated Tridentine Mass. especially a High Mass, at which chant or polyphone is sung to God's glory can be incredibly beautiful. A Novus Ordo at which bad music is played or the celebrant allows liturgical abuse to occur can be an affront to both God and man. Conversely a Tridentine Mass can be badly celebrated, especially if the faithful do not participate fully, as they are required to do, by being prayerful and attentive to the Mass. And a Norvus Ordo Mass can be very prayerful and have beautiful music, sung in either Latin or the Vernacular or a combination of the two. A poorly written and delivered homily can make any Mass no matter how well celebrated substandard.
Assumption 4: There can be only one or the other. There cannot be two Missals and two rites of the Mass.
This is the silliest assumption of them all. There are already more than two rites of the Mass in the Western Church. Besides the Novus Ordo there is the Anglican Use, which was instituted in the 1980's, plus the ancient Mozarabic, Ambrosian, Bragan, Dominican, Carmelite, and Carthusian rites. This does not even encompass the Eastern Rite Churches in communion with Rome.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Holy Week

By looking at secular culture it would be quite easy for an extraterrestrial, that is an alien from another world, if there is such a thing, to assume that Christmas is the greatest holiday (holy day) of the year. After all, we prepare for it from before the time of Thanksgiving (in the United States, at least.) Huge amounts of money are spent decorating public and private spaces (Though in recent times those decorations seem determined to banish the religious significants of the day.) Schools are let out, businesses close, sometimes for an extensive period between Christmas eve and the New Year, and even the secular media is flooded with Christmas specials, Christmas music and Christmas movies.
And then there's Easter. A few eggs are hidden, a rabbit delivers chocolate and many businesses don't even close for the day.
So which is the greater Christian holiday?
Before Christmas we prepare during Advent. Before Easter we celebrate Lent. Advent is a time of preparation. Adventus is the Latin word for "Coming." We prepare to celebrate the Nativity of our Lord, but more so we prepare for Christ's Second Coming.
Lent is also a time of preparation, but it is a more solemn, longer period, which includes fasting, and in the modern age abstinence of Fridays, a practice which use to hold throughout the year. The word Lent derives from the German word for spring. In the old Latin the word quadragesima was used, literally "the fortieth day" before Easter.
Lent ends with the Easter Triduum, which consists of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
A Christian realizes that important as Christmas is, there can be no Christ the man with out the birth, it is the Easter season during which our salvation was effected. We spend Lent preparing for Easter, yet many skip some of the most meaningful of our Catholic worship traditions, by skipping the services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
No, they are not holy days of obligation. And it's true some who think of themselves as Catholic manage to skip every day accepting Christmas and Easter, as is evident by the time one must arrive at Church on those days to actually get a seat one occupies the whole rest of the year. So how bad could it be to skip three days of long services in a row. And long they generally are. On Thursday and Saturday, the day of the Easter Vigil Mass, many ceremonies not usually done at Mass are added. Saturday's Easter Vigil Mass at my parish starts at 8:00 pm and usually runs at least three hours. But these days include traditions which go back to the beginnings of our faith.
On Thursday we turn to John, who does not explicitly mention the initiation of the Eucharist, but instead tells us of Jesus' lesson of humility to the Apostles. The priest, who stands in the person of Christ in the Eucharist, washes the feet of some members of the laity, as Christ washed the feet of the Apostles. And We read the Passion, with the priest speaking the words of Christ and we the words of the crowd, because in the end it was not the Jews or the Romans who put Jesus on the cross, but us.
On Good Friday we do not celebrate Mass. It is the only day of the year on which no consecration takes place. Instead we venerate the cross, the instrument by which Jesus secured our salvation. We do receive Communion, consecrated on Holy Thursday.
On Holy Saturday, after sundown we celebrate Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil is the most important Mass of the liturgical Year. It marks the start of the Octave of Easter and the beginning of the fifty day long Easter season. By deep historical tradition it is when adults are baptized and catechumens are received into full communion with the Church.
Too late for Holy Thursday or Good Friday this season. Catch Easter Vigil if you can.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Muto Proprio

Amy Welborn has a "Motu Proprio Tip Sheet" posted. It covers just about every aspect of the not yet released MP on the "freeing" of the Tridentine Mass. Excellent reading, especialy for those who wonder why this is happening.
Also brings up a few points that I will cover in future Vertical vs. Horizontal discussion.