All posts tagged: liturgy

Ora et Labora: Christians Don’t Need Leisure

We Christians, no less than other human creatures, are interested in ourselves. Deformed versions of this interest are narcissistic: under that rubric, we think of ourselves as if we were intrinsically valuable and important and good, and then we forget that whatever value, importance, and goodness we have has been given to us by the triune LORD whom we worship. That gift denies us anything of our own. Less deformed versions of our concern with ourselves begin and end with the thought that we are creatures, brought into being out of nothing by our LORD for purposes scarcely apparent to us. Thinking about ourselves in this way has the double good of requiring us to think about our LORD, and of deflating our pretensions. It is not easy to think like that, however; narcissism was not abolished by Jesus, even if its eventual overcoming is assured, and a good deal of Christian theological anthropology, professional-hectoring and popular-sentimental both, shows narcissism’s deleterious effects. We Christians remain disposed to concern about how the world seems to us …

The Benedictine Charism of Slow Evangelization

I had the opportunity to spend a week in June at Saint Anselm Abbey in Manchester, New Hampshire for the annual Junior Summer School for Benedictine monks who have made simple vows. Thirty juniors from various communities in the United States, from both the Swiss-American and American-Cassinese congregations, participated in liturgies, attended conferences, and ate meals in community. The week we spent together reminded us how our Benedictine way of life continues to be a model for the entire Church, even after sixteen centuries. One of the activities we participated in was a seminar on the upcoming Synod for Youth, Discernment, and Vocations taking place in Rome this October. Abbot Elias Lorenzo, O.S.B, the Abbot President of the American-Cassinese Congregation, led us juniors in a discussion about what we can do, both individually and within our communities, to evangelize young people in the 21st century. We divided into four small groups and answered prompts about the challenges facing the Church when evangelizing young people. Young people were defined as men and women, ages 18 to …

Alexander Schmemann’s Rejection of Orthodoxism

Alexander Schmemann’s writing is responsible for the structure of my discussion. I do not mean he spoke to me in my sleep or met me over the Ouija board, I mean that I have long wished to explore one of his clearer statements about what liturgical theology is, and am grateful to this forum for the opportunity to do so. I began by re-immersing myself in his thought by reading articles I had not previously read when I was more narrowly focused on my dissertation topic. It was a risk to return to an author who was so important to me over three decades ago—will I find him passé? Will my interests have moved on? I am happy to report that Schmemann is as stimulating and fruitful as he ever was. Schmemann tells us himself that the most characteristic thing about his thinking is the reunification of liturgy, theology, and piety. When the latter two are divorced from the former one, then theology “is imprisoned in its own ‘data’ and ‘propositions,’ and having eyes does …

The Sacramentality of Time

“Time is precious.” “My time is valuable.” “Time is money.” “Do you have any free time?” We have commodified time. We “spend time,” “save time,” “make time,” “waste time,” “kill time.” Time is the water we swim in, the air we breathe, and so we take it for granted. We forget that it is granted, that it is entrusted to us as a gift that we are to steward and return to our Giver. We have forgotten that the economy of time is woven tightly together with the economy of salvation, “as if,” in the words of Henry David Thoreau, “you could kill time without injuring eternity.”[1] Pastoral ministers of the Church, of all people, should know that we are made for eternity—that, though in time, we are not ruled by time. Yet we, too, live under what Charles Hummel calls “the tyranny of the urgent.”[2] Robert J. Wicks, author of Availability: The Challenge and the Gift of Being Present, writes: Some of us are ‘too available.’ Thus, true availability becomes watered down. We become …

The Mass: Heart of the Church and Academia

One of the best expressions of “Catholic community” in Higher Education is the academic colloquium. Only recently, Pope Francis reminded a gathering of Italian teachers that a commitment to free association was a way of fostering “an open outlook towards the social and cultural horizon.”[1] Such opportunities for shared exploration of ideas are welcome reminders of the Church’s longstanding engagement with the cultural challenges encountered in the mission to evangelize. It could be argued that such events risk presenting an elitist face to both the world and the wider Church. At their best, however, they offer multiple opportunities for fruitful dialogue on how to address the challenges of relativism and materialism, which, according to Pope Benedict XVI, make up a contemporary “educational emergency.”[2] I had the privilege of recently organising one such colloquium at the University of Glasgow (founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V). Catholicism, Culture, Education (the title of the Colloquium) was an opportunity for an international audience of Catholic educators (mainly in third-level institutions) to share thoughts on how to energise their …

Anointing of the Sick Confronts Human Finitude and Dependence

Anointing of the sick sanctifies the journeying disciple in his weakest moment, reinvigorating hope for healing and ushering in the kingdom of God. Anointing of the sick configures the ill to Christ’s passion, inaugurates the glorification of the body and spirit in the resurrection, and rejoins the marginalized into the Body of Christ. Anointing of the sick confronts human finitude and asserts our total dependence on God for healing. In the sacrament, God hears the cry of his people[1] and rushes towards them in their pain, revealing his nuptial love.[2] The grace of the sacrament strengthens the sick man in his obedience to God, inviting him to trust in God with his whole life[3] and surrender to healing on God’s terms.[4] Anointing of the sick calls the ill to freely unite himself to the passion and death of Christ[5] by living out the Paschal mystery through his particular suffering as a witness to the cross, with hope in the resurrection. Anointing bestows new meaning on suffering[6] without justifying the incoherence of evil. God recasts our …

Abp. Fulton Sheen’s Eucharistic Spirituality

Perhaps no other prelate in the history of the United States could rival the positive impact of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895 – 1979) upon the work of evangelization in the United States. A household name in Catholic and non-Christian households alike, Sheen authored approximately 70 books in his lifetime, and he captivated millions of Americans through his newspaper columns and broadcasts on radio and television in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. It was not unusual for the mail he received to average 15,000 to 25,000 letters per day,[1] and it was estimated that thirty million people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, tuned in to his programming each week.[2] His message was both simple and profound: Jesus Christ must be at the center of everything. To what can we attribute Sheen’s success in proclaiming the Gospel in his work toward revitalizing the religious landscape of the United States? The key to Sheen’s success was his profound Eucharistic spirituality. We will focus on two things: 1) providing an introduction to Sheen’s Eucharistic spirituality by demonstrating the central …

The Sacraments of Love and Death

Marriage Marriage exalts a husband and wife through the humble, transparent, and irrevocable gift of self[1] to the other, “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”[2] In marriage, the husband and wife pour out themselves to live for the salvation of one another in Christ, through the fidelity, continence, and permanence[3] of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of marriage lifts the natural union[4] between man and woman into the divine love of the Paschal mystery, Christ and the Church,[5] and the Trinity. The transcendence of marriage originates in God’s act of creating man and woman[6]—in His bestowal of the vocation of complete companionship.[7] God fashioned Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, commissioning them a role in His creative work.[8] Marriage commemorates God’s faithfulness to humanity as expressed throughout salvation history[9] and fulfilled in Christ. Marriage impresses the “indelible character of God’s creative love”[10] and bears witness to the eschatological love of the communion of saints in Christ.[11] By His incarnation, Christ assumes and purifies human love, marking it with …

Dante and the Liturgical Formation of Desire

  On an allegorical level, the pilgrimage depicted in Dante’s Divine Comedy is an exploration of the landscape of the human soul. Our choices create the various kinds of existential hell, purgatory, and paradise experienced on this mortal coil. In Dante’s vision, our experiences of misery, our moments of conversion, and the blessings of bliss take place with attention to our concrete histories—with the persons, places, memories, and events that make up our complicated lives. It is difficult to remain a mere tourist-reader with Dante; we are enticed to become pilgrims and expose our tragic-comic lives to his “believable vision.”[1] As he guides us through his vision, Dante helps us think about liturgical participation, not as one option among many, but as a privileged site for the ordering of our loves—as the source and summit of our Christian lives. Dante masterfully illustrates that one of the central challenges of our lives is the arduous integration of eros and agape, of desire and self-giving love. While the power of eros promises self-transcendence through intoxicating intimations of …

Why the Eucharist?

The Eucharist invokes God’s memory. Christ entered into time, therefore all of time has become salvation history.[1] God’s memory is the window through which the whole Body of Christ gazes upon all of salvation history: past, present, and future. The Church is the continuation of Christ through history, speaking the Word time and again in the Eucharist.[2] As many grains are joined together in bread,[3] the Eucharist gathers us into Christ’s Body.[4] The Eucharist celebrates Jesus Christ as he existed, before time, in time, and outside of time. The Eucharist is never a divine escape from this world, but rather the Eucharist reforms creation[5] in the image and likeness of God as it was originally made: in and for love.[6] In the Eucharist, God’s pure and perfect Word bends down to speak our language of symbols and rituals, so that one day we might speak God’s Word.[7] The Eucharist humbles itself to be dependent upon the work of human hands.[8] The self-emptying of Christ’s body and blood into the sacrament[9] recapitulates the perfect sacrifice of …