Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

While the following is taken from a homily by St. Proclus of Constantinople (5th century archbishop of Constantinople) for the feast of the Epiphany, the content of that feast in the Eastern Church focuses on the Mystery of the Lord’s Baptism, and therefore is appropriate for our celebration today. Christ appeared in the world, and, bringing beauty out of disarray, gave it luster and joy. He bore the world’s sin and crushed the world’s enemy. He sanctified the fountains of waters and enlightened the minds of men. Into the fabric of miracles he interwove ever greater miracles. For on this day...

The Epiphany of the Lord

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way. ~Mt 2:12  “Epiphany” is from the Greek for “manifestation” especially of the divine.  While among Eastern Christians today’s feast revolves around the “manifestation” of the Blessed Trinity at our Lord’s baptism, in the West the feast focuses on the “manifestation” of Christ not only to the Jewish nation, but to all the nations, represented by the magi.  Our encounter with Christ cannot but change us.  While the route home for the magi was altered as a consequence of the instruction to...

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. ~Lk 2:19 Unlike other solemnities of the Blessed Virgin Mary (think of the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, and the Assumption), today’s celebration is in one sense fairly new.  Before the liturgical changes ushered in by the Vatican II Council, the feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated on October 11, (not coincidentally the date St. John XXIII inaugurated the Vatican II Council), but even this feast was a relatively new addition to the calendar given that Pope Pius XI had added it to the universal...

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. ~Lk 2:22, 24 The collection of liturgical celebrations that liter the Christmas season are a prolonged unpacking of the numerous consequences of God making his dwelling among us.  Among these consequences is that God has entered the world by means of a human family.  He does not descend from the heavens like an Olympian god or E.T., he lovingly submits himself to the normal human process of: conception, gestation, birth, and development.  In doing so, he sanctifies all...

The Nativity of the Lord | Christmas

And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. ~Jn 1:14 If the mystery of Christmas were to be summoned up in one word from scripture, perhaps one of the best contenders for that word would be Emmanuel, Hebrew for “God with us.” The verse from the Prologue of the Gospel of John, which is read at the Mass during the Day on Christmas, communicates essentially the same truth. God has made his dwelling (literally the Greek means “he has pitched his tent”) with us. However, the Gospel of John reveals to us the shocking content of Isaiah’s prophetic...

Fourth Sunday of Advent

May it be done to me according to your word. ~Lk 1:38 It may come as a surprise to know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is honored not only by Christians, but by Muslims as well. In fact, if we go by the number of times the name “Mary” is mentioned in their respective scriptures, we find that Mary’s name appears more times in the Quran than it does in the Bible. The Quran, granted, is not considered by the Church to be an inspired text, and whatever the nature of its origin, the content the Quran shares with the New...

Third Sunday of Advent

Rejoice always. ~1 Thes 5:16 “Rejoice always.” Bold words. On this Gaudete Sunday, the theme of joy is clearly highlighted throughout the liturgy: from the Entrance Antiphon, to the Collect, to the Second Reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The sober hue of violet yields briefly to the brighter shade of rose. The Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity is nigh! If Advent is such a brief liturgical season, and Christmas is so close, why then the need for this preemptive celebration or relaxation of Advent sobriety? What’s the point of Gaudete Sunday? “Rejoice always.” It seems easy and intuitive enough...

Second Sunday of Advent

He is patient with you. ~2 Pt 3:9 “If God wants me to be a saint, why doesn’t he give me the grace to become one now?” This question seems to come up inevitably for those of us who have experienced at least an initial conversion in our lives. Having cooperated with God’s grace, which has sought us and found us, we respond to this gift and discover a new world of friendship with God. But then life continues. The initial progress we seemed to have been making seems to run up against a wall. We find ourselves confessing the same...

1st Sunday of Advent

Postponement and Repentance As a child, I thought that Advent was an artificial thing. It seemed a forced time of year, a concoction to get us excited about the coming of Christmas. It felt fake. After all, the birth of Christ had happened a long time ago. What was the point of pretending that it hadn’t? It was like going through the motions of contrived expectancy when we knew the outcome in advance. Now I am beginning to see Advent differently. The cycle of the seasons that we as a worshiping people live through each year is not an exercise in “let’s pretend”...

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

King of majesty tremendous, Who does free salvation send us, Fount of pity, then befriend us!~Dies Irae (Sequence and Hymn) While it is no longer an essential component of Funeral Masses, the medieval sequence the Dies Irae still remains the most recognizable and most influential sequence of the Church’s liturgical patrimony.  The sequence is a type of hymn that originated from adding words to the melismas (many notes on the same syllable) that frequently ended the Alleluia before the Gospel.  During the Middle Ages, the sequence was quite popular and many hundreds were composed for the different feasts on the liturgical...