So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saint Matthew's guide to right orientation in worship and living.

The Beatitudes can guide us in the appropriate worship of God.

Note—those present to Christ on the Mount of the Beatitudes are disposed, first, to listening! All worship begins with being present to Christ (—we begin with the Sign of the Cross to place ourselves in God's presence). We acknowledge His Lordship by our reverent silence in His Presence, for His word purifies us.

Recall the bread and wine offered to God as sign and symbol of our self offering. That bread and wine, by the power of the Holy Spirit, becomes the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
Chapter 5
1. Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him.
True worship is oriented to Christ, not the congregation.

Moses ascended a mountain—Mount Sinai—to receive the Law of God. Christ ascended the mountain to deliver/teach the New Covenant. Christ also ascended another mountain, the mount of the Transfiguration, and revealed His glory. Christ ascended yet another hill—Calvary—to seal the New Covenant in His Blood. His Blood was poured out upon the earth. When the soldier's lance pierced His side, water poured forth, the water of the New Covenant. Salvation is offered to all; many will accept while others will reject His gift.

The Mount of the Beatitudes

The gathered people would have had to look up toward Christ seated above them. God, in the weakest of forms, descends to meet us: first, as an infant; then as a brutalized messiah; now, under the appearances of bread and wine. God makes Himself vulnerable for us. And, what do we do—pop His precious Body in our mouth like we're snacking on chips/crisps? God makes Himself vulnerable. Can we not make ourselves vulnerable by receiving Him with utter humility? Can we not receive Holy Communion on the tongue as an infant would receive nourishment from a loving mother's breast?

God descends. Are we attentive? Do we see and hear Christ delivering the New Law from His throne above? The Sermon on the Mount reminds us that Christ is the new Moses, the new lawgiver because He, Christ, is the Law, the eternal Word Incarnate.
2. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
This verse could have simply been worded 'And he taught them'. Included, however, is the phrase 'And he opened his mouth'. Jesus' teaching is, indeed, heard. The sermon is an actual event, not some pious reflection on Jesus' life and teaching and dismissed as such by modern revisionist scholars. People are attentive to the word of the Word Incarnate. The word(s) Christ spoke remain(s) forever.
3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The Mass is heaven on earth. The humble person believes that the Holy Eucharist is what Jesus says it is—His Body and Blood which we must eat and drink. Recall that many complained and left the company of the disciples when Jesus uttered those shocking words captured by Saint John in the sixth chapter of his Gospel.

In the various Gospel accounts of the public ministry of Jesus, demon's acknowledged who Jesus is, but they cannot love Him. Only a humble soul who accepts Jesus' word whole and entire can acknowledge and receive Him as Lord of all creation.

Our orientation in the Mass must be one of receptivity. To be poor in spirit is to be emptied of obstacles to the truth of the Gospel. To be poor in spirit is to be disciplined and free of distractions. A cup (mind and heart) that is full (of itself) has no room in it for wine (the teaching and person of Christ).

To be poor in spirit means to value things of the spirit before material possessions. To be poor in spirit means to put to death (get one's priorities right!) attitudes which are beneath our dignity as spiritual beings created in the image and likeness of God, spiritual beings with bodies that are to be treated with dignity. Mass celebrated with dignity of movement and gesture reminds us that we, the redeemed, have the privilege of worshipping God in spirit and truth.
4. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
The Mass is the same Sacrifice of Calvary. How is it that the Mass, as commonly celebrated these days, rarely brings people to tears? The Son of God died on Calvary. The Mass is the making present of the one Sacrifice of Calvary. Think on that for a moment.

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Remember the scene in the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of the Christ when Jesus breathes His last breath. The camera angle, if you will, shifts to a view from above. The view is distorted by what immediately becomes recognizable as a tear, a tear in the eye of the Father Who witnesses the death of His Son at the hands of wicked men.
compassion (n.) from Late Latin compassionem (nominative compassio) "sympathy," noun of state from past participle stem of compati "to feel pity," from com- "together" + pati "to suffer".
Are we so indifferent to the meaning of Jesus' sacrifice of His life for us that we are not awestruck by His death on the Cross? Awe is one of the prerequisites for Eucharistic adoration. How does one obtain a sense of or enter into the awesome reality of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine? One asks for God's grace to accept the truth of Jesus' word and action. We ask to be meek, to accept God's word at face value.

Arguably, we are not ready for adoration if we are not awestruck by the magnificent gift God offers us in the Holy Eucharist. Those who cannot or will not see the face of God in the Holy Eucharist lack faith. They should ask God for the faith to believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ.
5. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Holy Communion requires humility. What better way to recognize and honour the Body and Blood of Christ than to receive Holy Communion on the tongue?

Recall that the first man, Adam, is formed from the clay of the earth. His name means "of the earth". The word humility means much the same. Those who are humbled know their origin and their dependance on God. If God were to withdraw His sustaining Presence, then man would return to the dust.
If he (God) should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and all mortals return to dust.—Book of Job 34:14-15.
Humility gives us the ability to receive the grace to discern the Body and Blood of Christ. Saint Paul reminds us that
any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.—1 Corinthians 11:29
Woe to those who receive Holy Communion and do not realize what they are doing. 
6. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
The Holy Mass, the Holy Eucharist, is soul food. When we receive the Bread of Heaven we ingest the Word. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ we receive the Way, the Truth and the Life.

A Liturgy of the Word
James 1:21-22. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:27. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Gospel: Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23
The above passages remind us that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, speaks us into being and sustains us in being to speak the Word we have received to others in charity. The first great mercy we can offer another person is sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Authentic mercy is best expressed in the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy which are, of course, compiled directly from the Gospel.

Penitential Right

The Penitential Rite reminds us that we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. Only a heart which is swept clean of debris and made a resting place for God can hope to find the rest which God alone can offer to a penitent man.

Recall the grace-filled words of the Confiteor (Ordinary Form), the words given to us by our loving holy Mother Church to help us prepare to receive the Lord on an ongoing basis:
Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, et vobis fratres, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo, opere et omissione: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Ideo precor beatam Mariam semper Virginem, omnes Angelos et Sanctos, et vos, fratres, orare pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters,to pray for me to the Lord our God.
8. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
True orientation of the heart allows one to discern the Body and Blood of Christ. A unified heart, a heart made one by grace, a heart with a single focus, is blessed with vision of God.
Much energy has been misapplied to encouraging Catholics to "participate" in the Liturgy. Indeed, singing the acclamations and responses are a good thing. Sadly, Catholics are routinely bullied into performing roles that are properly reserved to the choir, for example. The net effect of making the Mass egalitarian is a lowering of the aesthetic quality of the music which, in former times, was a capable vehicle for drawing people out of their narrow self interests into the realm of truth, beauty and goodness. Democratizing the Mass has led to an unfortunate blandness that reduces worshippers to mere utility, as if the assembly (and not the Holy Spirit) somehow manufactures the Mass. The neo-pelagianism and the neo-iconoclasm of the regressive liturgical revisionists have made their way into the sanctuary with little critical awareness of the problem demonstrated by the majority of the flock of Christ.
9. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Sign of Peace

Peace is made. Do recall that the Lord has said that "no greater love hath a man than to lay down his life for a friend." Of course, he was alluding directly to His approaching sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary.

The Sign of Peace should flow from the Crucified and Risen Christ Who becomes present—Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity—at the hands of His priest, living water flowing from the cleft rock—the altar stone upon which the Lord's Presence rests.

The sanctuary is hardly a place set apart if people wander into and out from it with little attention paid to the distinctions that preserve that which is holy from defilement, i.e., the Holy Eucharist.

The Sign of Peace is not a human peace. The Sign of Peace comes from God and embeds itself in the gestures which preserve the orientation to the origin of the Peace.

Priests are forbidden from leaving the altar to extend the peace to, for example, members of the congregation. The Priest's "sign", if you will, is the word he speaks from the altar that calls all present in Jesus' name to offer a sign of the peace which only Jesus can give, the only peace that satisfies. Gushy, trite and awkward signs merely obscure the essence of the Sign.
10. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Call to Holiness

Discipleship has a cost. No matter where one finds oneself in the world these days, being a Catholic requires a readiness to suffer persecution. In the West, our lives are not immediately threatened for being Catholic. Catholic identity is, happily for the devout Catholic, becoming an added strain in the workaday world. Pressure to conform tests and purifies one's convictions. Anti-Catholic bigotry is rampant in government, schools and other workplaces. We, nevertheless, are called to the holiness of a white martyrdom, i.e., a threat not to life and limb but a threat to one's livelihood. Let us recall our brothers and sisters in muslim and communist countries (e.g., China, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Middle East) where Catholics and non-Catholic followers of Christ are frequently persecuted.

Of course, the lukewarm Catholic has no worry. No threat lingers over the head of one who has traded his or her soul for material or political advantage. In truth, they have their reward.
11. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Public witness to Christ

We are reminded at the end of every Mass that we must go forth to proclaim the Gospel. "Go in peace. The Mass is ended."

For the Catholic, the mission of the Church supersedes narrow self interests. Perhaps one of the reasons the New Evangelization is slow to take off is that the bar has been set far too low. It seems that Catholics, for the most part, are merely holidaying as missionaries who are barely able to step out of their comfort zones to tend to the spiritual and bodily needs of others. We need a vast company of missionaries dedicated to lifelong service. There is a great reward for those who, during the tenure of their service, suffer and who may die for Christ and Church. So saith Jesus Christ Himself.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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