Altars, Pagan and Christian

First of all, let me say this: To see LeBron get sat-down was…SWEET!

…At Holy Mass, after Communion, when the deacon or priest cleanses the chalice, he says this prayer quietly to himself:

Quod ore sumpsimus, Domine, pura mente capiamus: et de munera temporali fiat nobis remedium sempiternum.

The translation of this Latin sentence which appears in the current English Sacramentary is an utter mush.

But soon we will have a new English-language Missal! This is how the prayer will be translated:

What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.

Beautifully put. Speaking of well-written sentences: I have seen Hamlet many times. I have seen all the movies, and I have seen it on stage probably a half-dozen times.

The other night I saw the best Hamlet I have ever seen. At the Folger Shakespeare Library. (Not the Folger Shakespeare Theatre Company downtown, which is to be avoided like a noxious cesspool.)

The Hamlet at the Library was great. Seeing it restored my faith in the art of Thespis. Ophelia stole the show. The play made sense to me in a new way–as the story of ruined love. Do whatever you can to get a ticket.

…Here is a short Ascension Day homily:

Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by hands, but heaven itself, that He might now appear before God on our behalf. (Hebrews 9:24)

St. Paul traveled the world to teach the Good News. When he went to the pagan city of Athens, he observed the many shrines to the many pagan gods. This moved him to explain the difference between pagan worship and Christian worship.


Pagans have altars; the Church has altars. Pagans have priests; the Church has Her priests. Pagans offer sacrifice; the Church offers sacrifice. What, then, is the difference between true worship and false worship?

We men build altars because we know that we owe God our worship. We ourselves are not the highest power. In fact, we are dust and ashes. If we do not come to the altar to worship—then we live a lie. For us human beings to live in the truth, we need religion.

This presents us with a very profound problem. When we come to the altar, what are we going to offer God? What gift can we present? What will please God? To know the answer to these questions, we have to know Who God is and what He is really like.

Almighty God is not one god among many. He knows all, and He holds all things in His sway. He is so awesome that no picture or image could even begin to show Him forth to our meager little eyes.

God is beyond any stratagem we devise. We cannot manipulate Him. He does not have whims and fancies. He cannot be tricked.

He sees with perfect clarity that all of us human beings are sinners. He sees perfectly that we have no right to demand anything from Him. In truth, God would have every right to turn away from us and leave us all as the little piles of dust from which we came, right on the floor.

But this is not what He chooses to do. He does not leave us to our own foolish devices. He does not leave us to come before Him with pointless sacrifices.

No. He gives us the one and only truly pleasing sacrifice. He hands the perfect Victim to us, to offer on our altar. There is one Victim Who pleases the Father. There is one High Priest Whose prayers and supplications sweeten the tabernacle in heaven like music and incense. God has given us this priest to be our priest and this sacrifice to be our offering. Who is the true priest and the pleasing sacrifice? Christ. Jesus Christ.

True religion is the offering of the Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of the Son of God to the Father. Christ ascended into heaven to be our eternal priest. At the Last Supper, He told us what to do to participate in His perfect worship. When we obey His commands, He lifts us up to Himself, and we ourselves become part of the pleasing sacrifice.

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