Life in a small town, The Inner Struggle

The Octave of Easter and the importance of Reverence in the Liturgy …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

Continued on from my last post. First of all it appears that that large noisy crowds from the Easter Sunday morning Mass were actually not Catholic, that is they actually were a couple of families worth of non-catholic visitors attending for the rather large Easter First Communion of a couple of kids who are Catholic. That kind of behaviour is perfectly normal for unchurched secular modernist “none’s” who have no clue about appropriate behaviour in a church or place of worship. This morning the reverence and quiet returned together with the more normal behaviour of the congregation absent the unchurched sports bar crowd.

For the remainder, the regulars, the remnant, the Truth of our faith is that The Lord Jesus, on the night before he suffered on the cross, shared one last meal with his disciples. During this meal our Savior instituted the sacrament of his Body and Blood. He did this in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages and to entrust to the Church his Spouse a memorial of his death and resurrection. As the Gospel of Matthew tells us:

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:26-28; cf. Mk 14:22-24, Lk 22:17-20, 1 Cor 11:23-25)

The Last Supper, Da Vinci, 1495-1498, oil/tempera on plaster, in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

The words that Jesus used during the Last Supper about the unleavened bread and the cup echo what He had said after He fed the 5,000: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…I am the living bread that came down from heaven.

Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink” (John 6:35; 51; 54-55).

Da Vinci’s “last Supper” masterpiece (image above right) was commissioned by Duke Ludovico Sforza for the refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. I am quoting much of the following from an interesting web site about the Italian Rennaisance.The scene we see comes from the Gospel accounts on the night before Christ’s Passion and Death when Christ and the apostles are together in a room for supper. We are watching them at a point in the “Supper” narrative after which Christ has made a great revelation to the apostles that one of them will betray Christ (“One of you is about to betray me”, Matthew 26:21 ).

He is, of course, referring to Judas, but at this point in the Gospel there is a great outburst of emotion as all the apostles want to know who the betrayer is. We can see this emotion in the various apostles, who are linked by their hand movements. Emotions range from protest (Philip, #8) to sadness (John, next to Christ) to acceptance (Christ).

Judas, 3rd on the left from Christ is, however, shadowed and turned towards Christ so that we only see part of his face while he clutches his money bag, presumably containing the 30 silver pieces. At the time this was painted, Judas was normally arranged across the table from the other apostles in Last Supper depictions, but here he is depicted in the same grouping as John and Peter.

All of these figures would go on to play prominent roles in the Passion of Christ (Judas in the betrayal, Peter with his denials, and John who remains with Christ at the cross)“. But the point I am trying to emphasize here is that this is the evening when Christ Himself gave us His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, the “Real Presence” living with us in every tabernacle in Christendom.

Sacro cuore di Jesù (“Sacred Heart of Jesus”), Pompeo Batoni, painting on the altar in the northern side chapel of Il Gesù in Rome, 1767

So we believe that Salvation comes through Christ and the sacrifice of His physical body on the cross. Recalling the words of Jesus, the Catholic Church professes that, in the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest.

The whole Christ is truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearances of bread and wine—the glorified Christ who rose from the dead after dying for our sins.

This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. The real presence of the Creator of the Universe and everything in it including us, and who keeps us in existence moment by moment because He wills it. And we ignore this at our peril.

Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. . . . For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:51-55). This presence of Christ in the Eucharist is called “real” not to exclude other types of his presence as if they could not be understood as real (cf. Catechism, no. 1374).

The risen Christ is present to his Church in many ways, but most especially through the sacrament of his Body and Blood. The important point here is that GOD in the person of Jesus Christ, the Creator of the Universe and everything in it, is truly and actually present and residing in every Tabernacle on every Alter in the Catholic world. This belief is one of the defining understandings which makes a Catholic believer “Latin rite Catholic”.

If one does not believe this tenant then one is, by definition, not a “Catholic”. That person who does not believe in the Real Presence may be Christian, they may even believe that they are indeed Catholic, but they are not a Catholic Christian. They are, at best, an ecumenical “smorgasbord” catholic in the same way that a member of the Anglican communion are catholic.

So what if one’s church turns into a spiritual “Sunday Smorg” similar in intent to the ubiquitous Sunday “Chinese Smorg” found in many small Alberta towns. What is one to do if one discovers that their particular church is drifting away from “revealed truth” into some sort of modernist quasi-spirituality arrived at by means of a popularity contest amongst competing “personal” truths?

This is an important question to some of us.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sheds more light on this mystery thus:

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What does it mean that Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine? How does this happen? The presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist is an inexhaustible mystery that the Church can never fully explain in words. We must remember that the triune God is the creator of all that exists and has the power to do more than we can possibly imagine.

USCCB headquarters in Washington April 28, 2011. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec) (April 28, 2011)

As St. Ambrose said: “If the word of the Lord Jesus is so powerful as to bring into existence things which were not, then a fortiori those things which already exist can be changed into something else” ( De Sacramentis, IV, 5-16). God created the world, in time, in order to share his life with persons who are not God. This great plan of salvation reveals a wisdom that surpasses our understanding.

But we are not left in ignorance: for out of his love for us, God reveals his truth to us in ways that we can understand through the gift of faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We are thus enabled to understand at least in some measure what would otherwise remain unknown to us, though we can never completely comprehend the mystery of God.

As successors of the Apostles and teachers of the Church, the bishops have the duty to hand on what God has revealed to us and to encourage all members of the Church to deepen their understanding of the mystery and gift of the Eucharist. In order to foster such a deepening of faith, we have prepared this text to respond to fifteen questions that commonly arise with regard to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

We offer this text to pastors and religious educators to assist them in their teaching responsibilities. We recognize that some of these questions involve rather complex theological ideas. It is our hope, however, that study and discussion of the text will aid many of the Catholic faithful in our country to enrich their understanding of this mystery of the faith.”

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And there are, in fact, other “Catholic” churches, other rites in communion with the Latin rite.

Because we believe in “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church,” some might object, “There is only one Church, so how can we speak of many ‘Churches?'” It’s helpful to consider an analogy used by the Church Fathers: While there are three distinct Persons who share the One Divine Essence, there are likewise many autonomous individual Churches that make up the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. As it is with the Triune Godhead, we must be careful not to blur true and important distinctions of the individuals in order to emphasize their unity.

Eastern Catholic Churches, 2019

When Christ founded His Church, He commissioned the apostles to go out into the world to preach and baptize. Most Catholics are familiar with the founding of the see of Rome by Peter.

The primacy of that Church was sealed with the blood of Peter and Paul, and the succession of bishops continues to the present day. What many do not know is that the other apostles themselves founded churches, and that their own successions of bishops continue as well.

As presently defined, there are 24 Catholic Churches that can be grouped into eight different rites. A rite is a liturgical, theological, spiritual, and disciplinary patrimony of a distinct people manifested in a Church.

While each Catholic Church may have its own rite or customs, in general, there are only eight major rites. History, language, misunderstandings, nationalism, and basic human weakness have resulted in the current communion of 24 Churches. And then there are additional sources of orthodoxy in the form of  Prelatures, Ordinariates, and so on in which licit Masses and Sacraments can be found.

So, if one’s own particular church falls into unbelief and heresy either by active denial of a critical truth, or by passive denial in the manner of their lack of affirmation of support of said truths;  by their conduct against  or lack of conduct in support of a critical belief, are there then any other rites readily available to us and are they a viable alternative path in order to fulfill our obligations?

More to follow as I feel moved …

Cheers

Joe

… the dream time …

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Life in a small town, The Inner Struggle

Last Sunday …Easter Sunday & The Octave of Easter …

“Crux Fidelis”, Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, from the album “Lent at Ephesus”, (2014)

Notre Dame de Paris … not the only fire in the Catholic Church. The uncontrolled flames of the “Modernism” heresy seem to have gutted her.

A week ago, on Easter Sunday morning, at Mass in my parish church, the MOST important Mass in the entire liturgical year, I had an epiphany.

Now, to be clear, my understanding of “epiphany” is: “derived from the Greek word epiphaneia, epiphany means “appearance,” or “manifestation.”

In literary terms, an epiphany is that moment in the story where a character achieves realization, awareness, or a feeling of knowledge, after which events are seen through the prism of this new light in the story”.

My epiphany was a sudden clarity of perception at the point when the Mass was ended and priest blessed the congregation and instructed them “Go forth the Mass is ended”. And the congregation responded “Thanks be to God”.

This would “normally” be the moment when many parishioners would kneel and pray for a while thanking God for all His blessings and benefits, and for once again coming into our lives personally.

Even more people, perhaps the majority of those present, would file out onto the steps of the church to discuss how things were going in their lives and shake hands with the priest, and generally turn things into a social occasion for chatting after Mass with people who had not been seen for a week and so on and so forth. That would be pretty normal and has been the scene after Mass in the Catholic church in Canada since I was a kid.

What actually happened, what I really noticed this time around, is that the church suddenly turned into a loud sports bar with people turning to their neighbour and shaking hands and just in the space of a breath the quiet of the Mass was completely wiped out by loud boisterous voices  yelling and talking and shouting over each other and over the Recessional music which is reasonably supposed to hint at an orderly and respectful egress from our Lord’s Presence and from the place of worship.

The Last Supper, Juan de Juanes 1523 – 1579, oil on panel (116 × 191 cm) — ca. 1560, in Museo del Prado, Madrid.

I noticed it this time probably because I was in the midst of the shouters instead of actually singing the recessional from the ambo as cantor. The parishioners didn’t even try to leave the pews and meet outside on the church steps .. they just couldn’t wait to share their “Good News”.

Everyone turned their back on the Lord in His tabernacle and ignored and profaned the most important and revered person in the universe to get on with their social gathering.

And this continued for the better part of half an hour. Everyone ignored our Lord, real and present in His tabernacle behind the alter before gradually winding down and moving on to a better venue, perhaps with beer and wings or wherever – the grocery store, Sunday dinner, whatever.

And the epiphany was that I realized that my fellow parishioners were/are not actually Catholic. These parishioners (rather obviously) do not believe in the real presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

And the more I thought about it the more I saw the truth of it. Almost no one believes in the real presence, no one believes in confession, no one believes in the importance of reverence in liturgy, no one believes in the traditions which have kept the faith alive for more than 2000 years. Our parishes have become nothing more than “Social Clubs”, much like all the Protestant parishes around us.

This is the norm in most Protestant sects, now so noticeably fragmenting and in decline across our land, but this is the first time that it hit me like a hammer blow to the heart that our nominally Roman Catholic congregations seem to share this lack of faith … they are, really, no longer “Catholic” in the most important matter of faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist … no longer Catholic.

Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

Here in the early years of the 21st century the Catholic Church here in my normal modern parish is dead. This parish, perhaps this Archdiocese, perhaps the entire Canadian Catholic Church, is no longer “Catholic” by any traditional definition of “Catholic”.

So what is Joe supposed to do now? I don’t really know … I am at a loss and the ideas are not coming freely at this point.  So let me tell a short story about Joe. Well, as gentle reader no doubt knows, this blog is Joe’s blog, so it is no surprise that a story about Joe comes up.

I will continue this in my next post, perhaps … I need to pray and think on this and perhaps consult other more level heads as to what is appropriate to discuss and what is not.

More to follow as and when I feel moved …

Cheers

Joe

… the dream time …

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