Offers food for thought
The Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Readings: Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Psalms 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10; First Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-2
“I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides me.” Unlike the ruler Cyrus, because we are God’s own, we know this to be true, and we are called to align our whole selves; our hearts, our minds, our souls to this truth. In doing so, like the Thessalonians in the second reading, what was true of them will also be true of us. That as chosen by God and made heavenly citizens, brothers and sisters who are loved by God, our work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, will be done as it was for St. Paul and his co-workers in the vineyard, in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
The central work of our faith which must be a labor of love and endure in the hope of the Lord, is our fruitful worship through the Eucharistic Celebration here in the vineyard of the House of God. This is essential to our participation in the mission of Christ as the Church which is the mystical ‘Body of Christ’, for our salvation and the salvation of the world and through which the glory and the Kingdom of God is manifested.
From the readings of the previous two Sundays, we have reflected on the nature of the Mass and our role in that Eucharistic Celebration. If we continue to go deeper into what makes for an extraordinary experience and offering in the liturgy, we must contemplate our nature and identity in God. "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Can these words be applied to our understanding of our Eucharistic Celebration, which must always be a work of giving glory and honor to God? Absolutely.
We bear the image and likeness of God whose inscription of the law is written upon our hearts. We belong to God and therefore, in all we are and all we do, we are to give glory and honor to God. As such, our worship must reflect who we are in God and our heavenly citizenship. What we do here, in the House of God, cannot be the same as an everyday family communal meal. It cannot be a concert of ‘praise and worship’ led by talented celebrities and informed by secular rhythms, whether those of 500 years ago or entirely contemporary. Neither you nor I can be the center of attention. What we do here is not merely or primarily a ‘meet and greet’. What we do here is not for the purpose of direct evangelization. We do not come to hear a ‘motivational speech’ filled with clichés of affirmation.
We come here, even in our brokenness, with joyful hearts and minds to rejoice and glorify the name of God, in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction…. To proclaim that we, too, have seen the salvation of our Lord. We come here, to the only place on earth united with heaven, to forever praise you with a new song of praise. We are here with the angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven proclaiming God’s glory without end: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Hosanna in excelsis. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest, hosanna in the highest.
We are here to repay to God, what belongs to God. Pure, unadulterated worship.
There are many things that make our worship what it ought to be. But indispensable to this, is our understanding of and ability to, enter into silence. Cardinal Sarah, who recently wrote a book on the subject, said “Silence is a necessary condition for deep, contemplative prayer, and an important component of the liturgy.” As Scripture says, “the Lord is in His Holy temple; silence before Him all the earth.”
He continued, “Ascetical, that is silence made possible through ‘holy indifference’ which inspires exterior silence, runs deep in our long tradition and serves to remind us of the nature of silence which God requires. The Fathers of the Church assign an eminent place to silence in the ascetical life. As Cardinal Sarah recently pointed out, think of Saint Ambrose (In psalm. 37, 12-15), Saint Augustine, Saint Gregory the Great (Moralia II, 48; XXII, 16; XXX, 16), not to mention Chapter VI of the Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia on “taciturnity,” or Chapter 62 on grand silence at night, where he adopts the teaching of Cassian. Starting with those spiritual masters, all the medieval founders of religious orders, followed by the mystics of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, insisted not only on the ascetical but also on the mystical importance of silence.”
They tell us that silence is and experience of freedom, a sort of purging of the soul and a disposition of attentiveness. It is the humble obedience of one who comes to listen, learn and respond. Although this is an experience rich in spiritual reward for an individual in solitary devotional prayer, it is also a profoundly communal experience of one’s whole being, in communion with the whole assembly, in communion with the whole Church, in communion with our Triune God. Through this disposition of listening, we open wide the gates to our being and all its interior places, to a God who seeks to save us. In this communal quietness we are prepared to receive and know His presence; that still small voice speaking to our hearts through his various motions in the liturgical celebration.
In this silence…
I highly recommend reading the following article by Cardinal Sarah, in which he clearly articulates (sections 3 and 4) in his own words and with reference to the words of Scripture, Magisterial documents, and Popes… the role and importance of Silence in the Liturgy.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.