Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Stones Crying Out

One of my favorite lines from the Scriptures is found in the Gospel of St. Luke, who recounts an interaction between Jesus and some Pharisees. Jesus processes into Jerusalem fresh from raising Lazarus (Jn 11), both followed and preceded by thousands of excited admirers (Jn 12:17; Mk 11:9), who are cheering "Hosanna," which means something like "God save..." or "Long live...", as in, "Long live the King!" The word hosanna is actually related to the proper name Yeshua, Jesus' name in his mother tongue. Trust me on this one. Now, as people are cheering, "God save the one who comes in the Name of the Lord," a reference to the messiah, the pharisees become perturbed (Mt 21:15; Jn 12:19). The Pharisees ask Jesus to tell the crowds to stop calling him King (Lk 19:39).

Here's what Jesus says to answer them:  I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out, (Lk 19:40).  That's it.  That's one of my favorite lines.  Think about it - even the paving stones under their feet are yearn, bursting forth with the news that God has come to his people, that God has returned to holy Jerusalem, that God is going to reclaim his holy people.  Even the stones!

This idea doesn't originate with Jesus though, except inasmuch as he is God and everything originates with him.  Read the first few verses of Psalm 19:

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
   and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
   their voice is not heard;

Yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,
Which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and like a strong man runs its course with joy... (Ps 19:1-5).
Jean Corbon, who is said to have shadow-written the fourth part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which deals with prayer, wrote a book called The Wellspring of Worship.  I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand what is the heart of liturgy.  By "liturgy" I am not indicating any migration to an Eastern Rite.  Still less am I getting hippified and refusing to use the word "Mass," which is the correct English-language word designation for what we Catholics are required to attend on Sundays and other obligatory holy days.  Liturgy is a broader term whose translation is often botched as "work of the people."  The Greek term, and its Latin loan word, both meant "public work," which is different.  Works of the people include things like potluck dinners, spontaneous singalongs, and quilting bees.  There are obviously people in the Church who want the Holy Sacrifice to fall into this category and so continue to promote this incorrect translation.  A "public work" is different.  In ancient Greece or Rome, liturgia would have described such things as arenas like the Colosseum, a new sewer system, or a nice fountain.  Modern things like the Washington Monument, Fed-Ex Field, or your local public school serve as modern equivalents.  Then as now, the state built such things, and so did very wealthy, private benefactors.  They were gifts to the people, and very often built by the people, and in those senses were "public works"; but they most certainly were not the brainstorms of people on the street, or for that matter, people in the pew.  So it is with the Mass.  The Mass is a gift to the people and not from the people.  It originates in Jesus Christ's sacrifice of the cross because we need it, and not because he needs it.  And the Mass is one instance of liturgy.

The Church has been entrusted with at least six other liturgies: one for each sacrament.  The different liturgical churches within the Catholic Church each have their own liturgy, their own way of carrying out the seven sacraments.  Liturgy is a sort of scripted, cyclical ritual given by God in order to orient us toward God.  It is liturgy in this sense that Corbon examines in his book.  I will attempt to summarize his central thesis in a single sentence: God has created all of creation to share in his joyous, loving glory, which pulsates throughout creation, drawing all creation back toward God; and God has designed creation specifically to bring as many people as possible back to himself.  He might say that all creation is a sort of living, breathing, God-worshiping organism.  we humans enter into the reorientation of self toward God that is worship by entering into the liturgy that is the universe, particularly the sacramental life of the Church, which Jesus has instituted for that purpose. (OK, I cheated by using a semicolon. It's a big book, with lots of points to make...)

I wish I could paraphrase Corbon better, but I haven't got my copy of his book handy.  I gave it away in a moment of blind affection.  Ah, well.  It's on my Amazon wishlist.  Lol.  I mention all of this now because I came across the YouTube video below on the Anchoress's blog.  If what I wrote above seems kind of abstract, watch the six minute beauty below.  Heck, even if you got what I wrote above, which given my penchant for Ryanese strikes me as a bit unlikely, watch the video.

Do you see what I mean now? EVERYTHING: my car wreck a week or so ago that taught me a little obedience to the divine will, the snow that swamped DC this past weekend and made us rest and stay at home, baptisms and transubstantiations, animals in the zoo, sunny days on mountaintop meadows, all of it... it was all created by God because he loves us and wants to teach us to love Him in return. As we learn to enter into it, to discern his will, act charitably and as good stewards, respond with gratitude, we do in fact draw closer to him. Everything is meant to build this reality into us, and especially the sacraments are meant to do so in a way that nothing else can. Jesus, the Gracious God Made Flesh, became flesh precisely so that grace can operate in fleshly things. He would not have heaven and earth, the spiritual and the material, separated forever. In his nativity, God becomes a native of planet earth so that we can become strangers and exiles here, with a new citizenship in heaven.

It's just amazing what he did that day two thousand years ago in Bethlehem. Creation is still reeling with the ripples of God diving into his own creation, to change us from the inside, to teach us to praise his Father in every circumstance.

Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the LORD.  Hosanna!

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