Monday, November 13, 2006

Why the Mass? (Kevin)

I have recently been researching the early Church and it is fascinating. There is so much to learn and so many people to learn from. I can hardly read one book at a time. I am routinely tempted (successfully) to pause my reading to research a footnote or an author. Sometimes I worry that I will read 75% of thousands of books and 100% of none, but this is how I work!

Teri and I recently had an argument during which she stated (rather accurately) that when we havean issue with what we are learning about the Catholic Church, I head right to my newly found historical resources and look there instead of discussing it with her. I see both folly and wisdom in my reaction. I am driven almost 100% by the need for facts, clear judgement, and decisiveness. Sometimes I don't get that in a discussion, but I almost always do when I am reading history and the Fathers of the Church. The folly is that I neglect to acknowledge the enourmous value there is in hashing through issues with my intelligent, sensitive, and intuitive wife. I am basically missing out on half of the value of the research of these issues and building a Robinson Crusoe story of my own. Anyway, I will try to stop!

What, you ask, does this have to do with the Mass? Well, nothing; you are so intelligent! I felt like I needed to say the above before I got into my Mass post. Here you go...

The biggest immediate change in moving from Protestantism to Catholicism is the Sunday Service. The Catholic Mass is about as different to a typical Protestant service as could be. Why in the world does the Catholic Church insist on hosting a service that is so foreign to the average Christian and not conducive to easy recruitment of non-Christians (and Christians)? The answer is simple, but not shallow: because recruitment is not the purpose of the Mass! What, you ask, is the purpose? First, let me say that you ask such good questions! The purpose of the Mass is to remember Jesus. To remember what he has done for us. To remember what it has been like for the last 2000 years in the Catholic Church. The way the Mass is celebrated has remained consistent since the early Church. Refer to The First Apology of Justin Martyr, written around 150 AD where the following description of the Mass is written:

"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead."

See for the entire apology.

What do Saint Martyr tell us? First, we read the Holy Scripture. Second, we are exhorted (the homily). Third, we pray. Fourth, we receive the Eucharist. Fifth, we give our offering. The celebration of the Mass has been consistent since the Apostles walked the earth.

The attraction of the Mass is obvious once one understands what is happening and for how long it has been happening. In the Mass, the Church is offering back to God the only thing that has ever been pleasing to him - Jesus, the once for all sacrifice. We acknowledge the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because this is what Jesus taught and what the Apostles passed on to their successors. We long for partaking the Eucharist because, in this, we take on the flesh and blood of Jesus and partake of "true food and true drink."

So, in conclusion, the question should really not be "Why the Mass", but rather be "Why anything else besides the Mass?" What else offers what the Mass offers?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints Day (Teri)

Wednesday nights have been my night out lately, and tonight I went to Mass since it is a "Holy Day of Obligation" (frankly, I think that's a funny term). I wish Kevin could have been with me, since he's been wanting to see inside the "old building" at our church and tonight's service was held there. It is humble and holy and historical.

For the record, this entry is more of a personal journal entry that probably won't contribute to anyone's understanding of my Catholic journey, but it will confirm that I need Jesus - and I'm so glad I know him. Praise be to God, if ya wanna get all official sounding.

We are in a parish that is a large part Mexican. Tonight's service was bilingual. I delight in that, to some extent. I really feel bummed when I sit in an all-white, all middle-class congregation. It seems lacking. The few times I've been in more diverse congregations, it presents a bit of a foreshadowing of Revelation 7:9, "After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands." Tonight was diverse. I can't remember the last time I sat in a bilingual service. (Okay, I can - but I was in Guatemala - one expects it.) In addition, there were very young children and people so old they could barely walk. Furthermore, the economic diversity was astounding. There was a white-haired distinguished-looking gent in front of me who was wearing a watch that may have cost more than my car. Immediately to my left was a woman who more resembled my image of a homeless person. In the back I saw a Mexican woman draped in black lace. Lord forgive me but she looked like an extra in the opening scene of the movie "Tombstone". I'm such a sheltered white girly-girl, I swear. And the whole experience was convicting. 'Specially for this chica who still struggles with putting on appearances and being good to get to Jesus. Can you believe, ladies and gentlemen, that the woman seated next to me smelled like smoke? You can't be a Christian and smoke, for crying out loud! And if you insist on such a nasty addiction, at least hide that you do it so that you can appear to be holy for the sake of the goody-goody former Baptist sitting in the pew next to you on All Saints Day! I know I'm being a little hard on myself, but for good reason. We all gather together to worship the Lord of heaven and earth and etc. - smokers and Mexicans and judgmental white girls. And I'm betting he's still glorified - even by those who smell like smoke.

Done. I'm glad I went. I'm glad the woman next to me came, too.

Now... in honor of the day, in honor of All Saints --- a hymn I LOVE. If I hum the music to myself I can conjure up a memory of singing it at InterVarsity's Urbana Missions Conference. And I can hear 17,000 voices and the amazing worship team and all the powerful, powerful music. And then, more than ever since, I really believed they could hear us.

For all the Saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

I have tears in my eyes when I sing the Alleluias. Because they're beautiful. And because of that memory of singing in the company of so many others- dead and alive, I daresay.