Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Composition of Place

This is a wonderful example of "composition of place" taken from The Anchoress.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I turn my face toward Jerusalem...

I come to the door of the house, carrying my jar of ointment, still wondering what possessed me to come. As I bribe the doorkeeper -- who knows me -- to let me in, I wonder what He will do when I touch His feet. If He should kick at me, it is only what I deserve, but if He does before I can anoint Him, what then? What then? No answer comes. And now I am already inside, burning under the hostile gaze of everyone in the room. Oh, God, it is a regular dinner party! They all know, they all accuse, they all wonder how I gained entrance. Even the maidservants stare.

But there He is, and he is not looking at me. He is attentive to a conversation which He has just begun with someone on the opposite side of the table -- almost as though He is deliberately distracting attention from me -- and others are joining in now, too. The oppressive, silent accusation is lifted, and I make my way to Him. As I remove His sandals, he doesn't flinch, and I begin to weep. He is letting me touch Him! He is letting me touch Him without fuss or ceremony; I didn't even have to ask! As my tears fall on His ankle accidentally, I realize how dirty these feet are. Whatever water I can, I use; my tears shall cleanse Him even as they cleanse my heart from so much worry, so much shame. All my memories of sin, I pour out of my eyes; all my wishes to begin again as a new woman, become tears to wash away the dust on these precious feet. But what shall I use to dry them? Even my clothes are tainted by my past life -- I cannot dirty these feet anew by using defiled veil or dress. But my hair is mine, God-given from before I fell away from him. Pulling back my veil, I loosen its combs and let its coils tumble down. Gently, I dry away my tears and try to calm the tremors in my stomach and hands. How can He be allowing this? He still has not even looked at me!

Finally I reach for my jar. Though this ointment cost me nearly all my ill-gotten fortune, it now pales in the face of what this wandering prophet has given me. I no longer desire any vestige of my sinfulness, any remnant of this life, and I break the neck of the jar on the stone floor, emptying its entire contents on the feet before me. The noise and smell which soon overpowers the room immediately bring attention back on me, and I hide my scarlet face by bending and kissing once more His now-pungent feet.

Then I hear his voice and feel a gently hand on my head. "Simon, I have something to say."

What ensued I can hardly admit even to myself. He described my actions beautifully, as if they were favors to Him instead of supplications, and then He turned to me, raised me up, and forgave me. Then, taking my veil and covering my head again, He said, "You shall no longer be a woman of the streets, but a woman of the Way. Come, follow me! You can stay with Simon Peter's family, and they will give you new clothes. With them, you will serve and follow me and my disciples."

A new life! A new path! I rejoiced even in my astounded state, and Simon Peter led me out through the streets to his mother. I am leaving everything behind! Everything, except those things stored in my heart...which, Simon points out, are all that He desires me to keep anyway.

Then I -- once again QM -- went back and spoke with this Jesus who had just asked me to come and follow Him. I began to understand that the Lord is asking me to come now, and leave behind my life in the world to join Him as he travels to Jerusalem and to Calvary. My service will be to Him and to others on the Way for the rest of my life, to be on the inside of the circle of disciples and to stay there, not going out to minister to those outside.

"But why, Lord? Why should I not care for those others?"

"Because other apostles will do so -- and you must care for them."

"But they don't have the mind I have, nor the talents..."

"...nor the heart! And it is for that very reason that I ask you to come with me. For you need and desire to be formed in my own Heart, before you can use all these gifts to the utmost for my glory. You must learn to be one with me and my Way, so that when you do finally write and speak, it is with my words and my Heart, not your own. This is not a case of what is right or wrong, or a case of what is good or bad, but rather a case of you. And because it is you whom I call, I call you to this life."

"So, just to be perfectly clear, Lord, are you asking me to serve you as a contemplative nun?"

"I am."

"Then, the Passionist Nuns?"

"Then, the Passionist Nuns." He smiled.

I fell to my knees. "Lord, have mercy on me, a poor sinner."


This has been the weblog of Quantitative Metathesis, who departs on the morning of August 19 to begin her aspirancy with the Passionist Nuns in Whitesville, KY. You may catch glimpses of her new adventures at their own blog, found here. Please pray for her, as she does for you!

May the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ be ever in our hearts!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eucharistic Miracles

In his homily for August 16 Deacon Greg Kandra wrote about a Eucharistic miracle I had long forgotten about:

It happened almost exactly 280 years ago, on the Feast of the Assumption. August 15, 1730. At that time, there were special services and festivals held around the town in connection with the feast. And so while most of the town was out celebrating, and the church was deserted, a thief went into the chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was kept, picked the lock to the tabernacle, and carried away the gold ciborium with the consecrated hosts.

Nobody discovered the theft until the next morning, when the priest went to the tabernacle for communion. He alerted his superiors and the entire town began searching for the hosts and the ciborium. The Archbishop even ordered public prayers of reparation.

Two days later, in another church in town, a priest noticed something white sticking out of the offering box. He took a closer look and discovered it was a pile of hosts. Since the offering box was only checked every few months, it was filthy. Some of the hosts were suspended on cobwebs. Authorities soon confirmed that they were the same hosts that had been stolen from the Church of St. Francis – nearly 400 of them.

The hosts were cleaned off, placed in a ciborium and returned to the Church of St. Francis.

And at this point, the friar telling the story paused to explain the miracle that followed.

Across nearly 300 years, those hosts have remained intact.

They have not deteriorated. They haven’t crumbled or decayed. In fact, they still smell as if they were freshly baked.

And then the old friar walked over to a side altar, pulled a small chord, and a curtain behind him parted, revealing those hosts, in a glass ciborium. Each one was perfect and white and appeared, for all the world, brand new.

As we knelt before the ciborium, the friar told us that theologians and scientists had all examined the hosts over the centuries – most recently in 1922. They could find no explanation for what had happened. One doctor even wrote that the preservation of the hosts was “a fact unique in the annals of science.”

What makes this especially significant, the friar explained, is that this miracle has never stopped. It continues. It is ongoing – even as I speak. Since the hosts are in a perfect state of conservation – still maintaining completely the appearance, taste and smell of bread – the Church has declared that they are still truly and completely the Body of Christ.

This prompted me to do a little research and I found a site dedicated to the Real Presence which I had also forgotten about having discovered some time ago. I hope you spend some time there.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Facing East

Bishop Edward J. Slattery writes:

Because the Mass is so necessary and fundamental to our Catholic experience, the liturgy is a constant topic of our conversation. That is why when we get together, we so often reflect upon the prayers and readings, discuss the homily, and – likely as not – argue about the music. The critical element in these conversations
is an understanding that we Catholics worship the way we do because of what the Mass is: Christ’s sacrifice, offered under the sacramental signs of bread and wine. If our conversation about the Mass is going to “make any sense,” then we have to grasp this essential truth: At Mass, Christ joins us to Himself as He offers Himself in sacrifice to the Father for the world’s redemption. We can offer ourselves like this in Him because
we have become members of His Body by Baptism. We also want to remember that all of the faithful offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice as members of Christ’s body. It’s incorrect to think that only the priest offers Mass. All the faithful share in the offering, even though the priest has a unique role. He stands “in the person of Christ,” the historic Head of the Mystical Body, so that, at Mass, it is the whole body of Christ – Head and members together that make the offering.

From ancient times, the position of the priest and the people reflected this understanding of the Mass, since the people prayed, standing or kneeling, in the place that visibly corresponded to Our Lord’s Body, while the priest at the altar stood at the head as the Head. We formed the whole Christ – Head
and members – both sacramentally by Baptism and visibly by our position and posture. Just as importantly,
everyone – celebrant and congregation – faced the same direction, since they were united with Christ in offering to the Father Christ’s unique, unrepeatable and acceptable sacrifice.When we study the most ancient
liturgical practices of the Church, we find that the priest and the people faced in the same direction, usually toward the east[Ad orientem], in the expectation that when Christ returns, He will return “from the east.” At Mass, the Church keeps vigil, waiting for that return. This single position is called ad orientem, which simply
means “toward the east.”

Having the priest and people celebrate Mass ad orientem was the liturgical norm for nearly 18 centuries. There must have been solid reasons for the Church to have held on to this posture for so long. And there were! First of all, the Catholic liturgy has always maintained a marvelous adherence to the Apostolic Tradition. We see the Mass, indeed the whole liturgical expression of the Church’s life, as something which
we have received from the Apostles and which we, in turn, are expected to hand on intact. (1 Corinthians 11:23)

Secondly, the Church held on to this single eastward position because of the sublime way it reveals the nature of the Mass. Even someone unfamiliar with the Mass who reflected upon the celebrant and the faithful being oriented in the same direction would recognize that the priest stands at the head of the people, sharing in one and the same action, which was – he would note with a moment’s longer reflection – an act of worship.

In the last 40 years, however, this shared orientation was lost; now the priest and the people have become
accustomed to facing in opposite directions. The priest faces the people while the people face the priest, even though the Eucharistic Prayer is directed to the Father and not to the people. This innovation was introduced after the Vatican Council, partly to help the people understand the liturgical action of the Mass
by allowing them to see what was going on, and partly as an accommodation to contemporary culture
where people who exercise authority are expected to face directly the people they serve, like a teacher
sitting behind her desk. Unfortunately this change had a number of unforeseen and largely negative effects. First of all, it was a serious rupture with the Church’s ancient tradition. Secondly, it can give the appearance
that the priest and the people were engaged in a conversation about God, rather than the worship of God. Thirdly, it places an inordinate importance on the personality of the celebrant by placing him on a kind of
liturgical stage.

Even before his election as the successor to St. Peter, Pope Benedict has been urging us to draw upon the ancient liturgical practice of the Church to recover a more authentic Catholic worship. For that reason, I
have restored the venerable ad orientem position when I celebrate Mass at the Cathedral.
This change ought not to be misconstrued as the Bishop “turning his back on the faithful,” as if I am being inconsiderate or hostile. Such an interpretation misses the point that, by facing in the same direction, the posture of the celebrant and the congregation make explicit the fact that we journey together to God. Priest and people are on this pilgrimage together. It would also be a mistaken notion to look at the recovery of this
ancient tradition as a mere “turning back of the clock.” Pope Benedict has spoken repeatedly of the importance of celebrating Mass ad orientem, but his intention is not to encourage celebrants to become “liturgical antiquarians.” Rather, His Holiness wants us to discover what underlies this ancient tradition and made it viable for so many centuries, namely, the Church’s understanding that the worship of the Mass is primarily and essentially the worship which Christ offers to His Father.

The Pastor says in response:

I have been a priest for more than 30 years. I have never considered myself to be the focal point of the Mass. The Altar of Sacrifice is in plain view of both the priest and the people. There they can see the gifts of bread and wine placed on the altar and understand that as they gaze a miracle takes place through the power of the Holy Spirit and the sacramental action of the Church as the priest, standing in persona Christi pronounces the words of consecration and the bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The notion is that of gathering around the altar to see, adore and worship Our Eucharistic Lord. Nothing is more humbling for a priest than to stand in the person of Christ in the midst of the assembled faithful and gaze with them upon the Sacred Host and Precious Blood. I do not understand how priests (bishops) take it upon themselves to make such changes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Habits are a Visible Sign

Today's NY Times has an interesting article on the results of surveys on recent vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It confirms what has been said anecdotally for several years about habited communities.