THE LITURGICAL YEAR

Sermons, hymns, meditations and other musings to guide our annual pilgrim's progress through the liturgical year.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

A SERMON FOR WHITSUNDAY


When our Lord ascended into heaven, his apostles were left speechless and gaping up to the clouds where he had disappeared. What were they going to do now?  As men do, when a crisis befalls them, they sought a stable refuge so they could sort out their confusion.  They returned to the nearby city of Jerusalem, to the place where our Lord had ordained them as priests on Maundy Thursday, where he had instituted the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to which they had fled in fear on Good Friday.  Here in Jerusalem they waited, obeying the last instructions of their Master, hoping that his promise of a Comforter to come would soon be fulfilled.

Nine days later came the Jewish feast of Pentecost, the anniversary of which we celebrate today.  We know very well the enormity of what happened on that memorable day, with the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and the birth of the Church.  And it was fitting that our Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church should find its beginnings in the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was the ancient capital of the Jewish state of Judea.  Its status as the capital city of the chosen people derived from the holy mountain on which the city was built, Mount Zion.  Here, the temple of Solomon was constructed, and here, the great sacrifices of the Jewish people were made to their one true God, according to the laws given to Moses. These sacrifices were, of course, the precursors of the greatest sacrifice of them all, that of the only-begotten Son of God.  It is noteworthy that his Passion took place within the walls of Jerusalem, whereas his actual death was outside the city walls on Mount Calvary.  This transition from the city itself to the hills around Jerusalem was the Via Dolorosa, that sorrowful path taken by our Lord as he dragged his cross from Mount Zion to Mount Calvary, from inside the holy city of the Jews to a hill outside that city.  

It was a path that clearly shows the transition from the Old Testament to the New, as our Lord walked away from the old Temple, carrying the instrument of our Redemption, the cross, to a new Temple, where a new sacrifice would be fulfilled on the spot known as Golgotha in Hebrew, or Calvary in Latin.  In English, it is called the Place of the Skull, the burial spot of the skull of Adam. Here, the Precious Blood of our Saviour would seep down from the cross to wash the skull of Adam and cleanse him and all his children, Jew and Gentile, from their sins.

As the Master showed the way from the Old to the New Covenant, so the disciples were to follow in his footsteps.  Once they received the Holy Ghost on that first Pentecost Sunday, they left the Holy City of Jerusalem, dispersing to the four corners of the known world, spreading the Gospel and converting people to the Catholic Faith.  They had a strong message, one given them by the Saviour himself, that no one could possibly come to the Father except by him.  That outside the Church that he had founded for us, there could be no salvation. 

And eventually, the chief of the twelve Apostles came to Rome.  He became the bishop of that city, making it the new capital of the chosen people. Rome, built not on one hill like Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, but built on seven hills, representing the seven sacraments which are the foundation of our faith and worship.  In Rome, he was joined by St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, and on June 29, in the year of our Lord 67, they were both put to death, St. Peter by crucifixion and St. Paul by the sword.

Their martyrdom in Rome took place in the year 67, the year after the Jews back in Jerusalem had rebelled against their Roman occupiers.  Think of this uprising as the last desperate attempt by the Jews to preserve their now broken covenant with God.  They had not accepted their Messiah when he lived amongst them, teaching, healing and performing miracles.  And now they would suffer the consequences of this rejection, as their rebellion of Jerusalem against Rome, Old Testament against New, was met by a disaster unparalleled in the entire history of the Jewish nation.  To quell the rebellion, Emperor Nero dispatched a great army under the command of General Vespasian.  In the year 70 A.D. the city of Jerusalem, along with its temple, were completely destroyed, and the Jews were dispersed in what became known as the Great Diaspora, losing forever their tribal identity and priesthood in the process.

And so Jerusalem was destroyed about the same time that the new Holy City of Rome was coming into its new greatness as the capital of the Catholic Church.  The curse, which the Jews called down upon themselves and their children when they rejected their Messiah, became a blessing unto the new Christians.  The Jews blasphemed that Christ’s Blood should be upon them and upon their children—and thus it was.  But meanwhile, the curse of Jerusalem was the blessing of Rome, as the Blood of Christ and the blood of the early Roman Martyrs were the source of such blessings on the Church that it would rise to be the powerful source of all truth and grace.

The history of man continued from that point on for many hundreds of years, with the apparent permanence of this status quo. The Jews were dispersed all over the world—poor, wandering Jews, who would be downtrodden and mistreated by their host nations, seemingly forever; and the Christians, blessed with the seven sacraments and salvation purchased by God himself.  It was a status quo which would meet with an upheaval in the twentieth century, however, when after two of the worst persecutions of the Jews ever to take place, the pogroms of Soviet Russia and the Nazi holocaust, the Jews finally did the unthinkable and returned to what they regarded as their rightful God-given land of Palestine.  In 1948, they founded the Jewish state of Israel.  They were still blinded of course by their persistent rejection of Christ and their allegiance to a covenant with God that had long ago been torn apart like the veil in their temple.

Israel was founded on May 14, 1948 and the Jews returned to Zion.  Exactly two weeks later, on May 28, 1948, Pope Pius XII appointed Fr. Annibale Bugnini as Secretary to the Commission for Liturgical Reform.  This may not seem like a particularly important event, but it was in fact absolutely catastrophic for the future of the Church.  In his new role, Bugnini immediately set about attacking the authority of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and within two years he had begun his work of destroying the entire liturgy of the Catholic Church. He began by abolishing most of the Church’s most ancient ceremonies of Holy Week, including the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday.  And this was just the start.  His intention all along was to gradually whittle away at the unchanging character of the Roman Mass until he had completely destroyed it.  And sadly, it met with little resistance.  Even with the benefit of hindsight, several supposedly traditional groups embrace his early work of destruction, and thus participate in his conspiracy against the sacred liturgy of the Church.  We must not forget, however, that his intention all along was the complete destruction of the Mass, which is founded upon the Blood of the New and Everlasting Covenant between God and man.  His satanic ambition was no less than the nullification of the New Testament.

By 1967 Bugnini’s work was just about done. In June of that year, there took place, again not by coincidence, the Six-Day War in the Middle East, during which Israel captured part of the city of Jerusalem, laying claim again to that city as their capital.  By October of that year Bugnini presented his complete draft revision of the new Mass to the bishops for approval.  Again, the fate of the two holy cities of Rome and Jerusalem found themselves mysteriously intertwined.  The Devil continued his work of destruction against the new testament between God and man, while at the same time fulfilling the ambitions of those who persist in holding to the old testament.

In this week before Pentecost, the United States was the first country to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. What new attack should we expect on the eternal city of Rome as a result?  Perhaps the canonization of the new Mass in the form of the canonization of the man who foisted it upon us, Paul VI?  The pattern is there for all to see, and every day we take a step closer to the final battle.

And what is our role in all this?  Simply to do what the Church, the trueChurch of Christ, wants us to do.  That is to reject every attack on the Church’s sacred liturgy, especially the work of Annibale Bugnini, and instead to preserve the traditional Sacraments.  These are our seven pillars on which our faith is founded, the seven “hills” of Rome. The Mass especially, in which Christ’s Blood once again and in its daily celebration, provides the source of all the graces we receive from God.  Let’s be quite clear: we can never dare to call ourselves truly Catholic unless we are firmly dedicated to the continuation and restoration of the authenticliturgy of tradition.  How can we think of ourselves as Catholic if we accept to worship according to the rites devised by the enemies of the Church? 

The battle we fight is on a higher plane than we perhaps realize.  When we consider the history of Rome and Jerusalem, we see the hand of God and get a small glimpse of his serene intervention in the affairs of man.  Today especially, this day on which we celebrate the birthday of our Church, this Pentecost, let us pray that God will again send to us his Spirit, and that he will renew the face of the earth. That he will in fact renew the New and Everlasting Covenant, and restore true faith and worship to the eternal city of Rome and to the world.

COME HOLY GHOST, OUR SOULS INSPIRE

A HYMN FOR WHITSUNDAY 


1 Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire;
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart:

2 Thy blessèd unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire oflove;
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight:

3 Anoint and cheer our soiled face
With the abundance of thy grace:
Keep far our foes, give peace at home;
Where thou art guide no ill can come.

4 Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And thee, of both, to be but One;
That through the ages all along
This may be our endless song,

5 Praise to thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


            By Rabanus Maurus, 8th-9th cent.; translated by John Cosin, 1627

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

A MESSAGE FOR WHITSUNDAY


God does not perform miracles without a purpose.  Miracles are not conjuring tricks for the entertainment of those watching.  Never once will you find our blessed Lord performing a miracle in order simply to impress someone.  Indeed, when Pilate sent him to King Herod, this man was very keen to see our Lord perform a miracle.  But Christ’s answer was dignified silence.

There are certain Protestant sects, and today, sadly, even those within the conciliar Church, who profess to speak in tongues.  At their meetings, you would be startled when one of them stands up and begins to babble in some kind of gibberish, that someone else then pretends to interpret.  Why would God do this?  The purpose of speech is to communicate, so why would God have someone communicate in a language no one can understand (except of course for the one enlightened listener, who will gladly reveal all for your amazement).  

Today’s account of the first Pentecost gives us a very clear picture of what the Apostles were doing when they spoke in tongues.  Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish faith, was a place of pilgrimage, and particularly on the great feasts of the year, of which Pentecost was one.  The city was full of men “out of every nation under heaven.”  Naturally, they all spoke their own language, and many would not have understood the Apostles when they spoke “the wonderful works of God.”  And so the Holy Ghost allowed the Apostles to speak in such a way that those listening heard them in their own language. This was no silly parlor trick, but an effective way of spreading the Gospel quickly before the crowds dispersed.

Last week, we approached the whole idea of speaking as the oracles of God. Today, we remember that the first and most important objective in speaking is to communicate effectively. Whether we are speaking of the “wonderful works of God”, or merely making polite conversation, it is not worth opening our mouths unless we can put across to our listener what we want him to hear.  And in keeping with God’s will, what people hear us say should always strive to be spiritually or at least emotionally uplifting.  For like all the gifts that come from God, speech should have as its purpose the drawing of souls towards their eternal source and final end.

Speaking in tongues like the Pentecostals does nothing to raise a soul to God.  But we might want to learn how to speak so that those hearing us understand what we’re trying to say, and can actually learn something of those “wonderful works of God.”