The Hugeness of Mass on December 21

Ecce Agnus Dei

Well, we’re still here.

St. Paul wrote that all of creation groans with labor pains, even until now. Longing for fulfillment, completion. Longing for, dare we say it: consecration.

The groaning of the world continues for one more day at least. The New Agers at the foot of the Mayan temples caught the wrong vibe, apparently.

Also the first day of winter today. What is winter, if not the great longing for spring? Hidden germinations rooting in the soil, longing for—aching, itching, yearning, reaching out towards—the sun.

doomsday comingAnd, as we considered yesterday, Our lady longs. The perfect, pristine bosom of love, the renewed Garden of Eden in a shawl—she longs to dar la luz. To bring to light the hale and hearty babe.

Because His birth will consecrate her. His birth consecrates the entire earth. The earth groans in labor pains until she brings forth…the Christ.

And the Church, too, longs to bring forth this Christ. The Church longs for the consecration.

Everyone watching for the final consummation at the end of the Mayan Long Count should have come to Mass instead. The final consummation can be found nowhere else.

Qua Church, we obey the Word of God in its entirety. We say like Our Lady: Behold, Your handmaid, Your Church. You speak; we believe. You command; we do.

And God satisfies all the longing by coming in the flesh on the altar.

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Beautiful Richmond Painting of the Day

…Beautiful prayer of the day (consecration of holy Chrism):

God our maker, source of all growth in holiness, accept the joyful thanks and praise we offer in the name of Your Church. In the beginning, at Your command, the earth produced fruit-bearing trees. From the fruit of the olive tree you have provided us with oil for holy chrism. The prophet David sang of the life and joy that the oil would bring us in the sacraments of Your love.

After the avenging flood, the dove returning to Noah with an olive branch announced Your gift of peace. This was a sign of a greater gift to come. Now the waters of baptism wash away the sins of men, and by the anointing with olive oil You make us radiant with Your joy. At Your command, Aaron was washed with water and Your servant Moses, his brother, anointed him Priest. This, too, foreshadowed greater things to come. After Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, asked John for baptism in the waters of the Jordan, You sent the Spirit upon Him in the form of a dove and by the witness of Your own voice You declared Him to be Your only, well-beloved Son. In this You clearly fulfilled the prophecy of David, that Christ should be anointed with the oil of gladness beyond His fellow men.

And so Father, we ask You to bless + this oil You have created. Fill it with the power of Your Holy Spirit through Christ Your Son. It is from Him that chrism takes its name, and with chrism You have anointed for Yourself priests and kings, prophets and martyrs.
Make this chrism a sign of life and salvation for those who are to be born again in the waters of baptism. Wash away the evil they have inherited from sinful Adam, and when they are anointed with this holy oil make them temples of Your glory, radiant with the
goodness of life that has its source in You. Through the sign of chrism grant them royal, priestly, and prophetic honor, and clothe them with incorruption. Let this be indeed the chrism of salvation for those who will be born again of water and the Holy Spirit. May
they come to share eternal life in the glory of Your Kingdom. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Baptized people are anointed with Chrism to be confirmed. Men’s hands are anointed with Chrism to become priests. Altars are anointed with Chrism to be consecrated.

Happy Days

God is good to me.

I say this not just because the Geogetown Hoyas are 5-0, having trounced the Mount last night, even more thoroughly than they did a year ago.

I say it not just because He makes the sun rise in the morning and the moon at night.

I say it not just because maybe some day I will be able to go to jail for refusing to let two grooms use our church hall for their “reception.”

(By the by, our old friend had the guts to vote against the madness today).

No. The reason I praise God is that He has brought together two events in my life in such a way that I could never have asked for something so wonderful.

For me, there are two kinds of days on the calendar. There is December 8, and then there are all the other days.

December 8 is the day when the Garden of Eden was restored to the earth, the day when the flower of mankind bloomed again.

I am the happy slave of the Lady conceived on December 8.

For me, the days leading up to December 8 are special holy days of prayer and closeness to the Immaculata.

It just so happens that during the Immaculate Conception Novena this year, Archbishop Wuerl is going to come to my church and renew my consecration as a priest, when he installs me as the parish pastor this Sunday.

I am unworthy of such good timing–to be able to give myself again to the priesthood during the days when I first gave myself to the Blessed Mother as a slave.

May our Lady make good use of me. She is a gentle mistress.

Dedication of St. John Lateran

facade1Today’s feast is very important. It is so important that we even keep it on a Sunday. Last week we kept All Souls on Sunday, because it is such an important day. Usually, if a feast falls on a Sunday, we do not keep it that year. So the Dedication of St. John Lateran must be an important day. The problem is that a lot of people have no idea what this means.

Let’s go over the name of today’s feast word by word, so that we can be sure that we understand what we are celebrating.

naveFirst word: Dedication.
Generally speaking, we human beings do what we need to do IN BUILDINGS. Don’t get me wrong—it is nice to get outside, go for a walk, take a bikeride. But we are not like birds, or tigers, or wolverines. We cannot live outside. We need shelter from the elements.

As a general rule, we cannot have Holy Mass outside. Maybe occasionally, like Pope John Paul II’s funeral 2 ½ years ago in St. Peter’s Square. But, generally speaking, we need a church for Mass.

A church building is not like any other building. A church building is itself a symbol of invisible realities. Both the exterior and the interior of the church building express the reality of God, His angels, and His saints. For any prayerful Catholic, his church is a precious fixture in his interior life.

Because a church is a sacred building, set aside for divine worship, it must be solemnly dedicated after it is built. Then, every year on the anniversary of the dedication, we can thank God again for the gift of the church building, and for all the grace that He pours out in it.

Today, then, is the anniversary of the dedication of a church building. Which church? St. John Lateran. Ever heard of it?

St. John Lateran is a church in Rome.

The Pope's cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
The Pope's cathedra in the apse of the Lateran Basilica
Now, of all the churches in a particular city, there is one that is especially important, namely the cathedral. The “cathedral” is the church which has the cathedra in it. The cathedra is the bishop’s seat of office. The cathedra symbolizes the bishop’s authority to teach and govern his diocese.

Here in Washington, many people think that the cathedral of our diocese is the National Shrine. The Shrine is the grandest church in the city. But the Archbishop’s chair is not in the Shrine. The cathedra is in St. Matthew’s on Rhode Island Avenue, downtown. St. Matthew’s is the cathedral.

Washington is not the only city where people get confused about which church is the cathedral, as we shall see.

Of all the dioceses in the world, there is one that is uniquely important. All the bishops in all the cities of the world are successors of the Apostles of Christ. The Bishop of Rome is the Successor of St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles. Therefore, the Bishop of Rome is the Pope, the chief shepherd of the whole Church.

The Baldacino over the High Altar, containing the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul
The Baldacino over the High Altar, containing the heads of Sts Peter and Paul
The cathedral in Rome is the most important church building in the world. In the cathedral in Rome, the Pope sits in his cathedra and teaches and governs all the Catholic people on earth.

The National Shrine is the largest Catholic church building in the western hemisphere, but it is not the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Washington. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is the largest church on earth, but it is not the cathedral of Rome.

“Lateran.” What does this word mean? We have to go back seventeen centuries. Christianity was legalized by the Emperor Constantine in A.D. 313. For the first time, it became possible to build churches.

The Emperor’s family owned a large piece of property that had previously belonged to a prominent Roman family, the Lateran family. The Emperor gave it to the Pope, and the Pope built his cathedral church on that piece of property.

In 324, this cathedral church of Rome was solemnly dedicated and placed under the patronage of St. John. Because it was on land that had belonged to the Lateran family, it came to be known as St. John Lateran.

aerialSo today is the day that the Pope’s cathedral was dedicated, the day the most important church building in the world was dedicated.

Now, most people think of St. Peter’s Basilica as the Pope’s church, and of course it is his church. For the past 700 years, the Pope has lived at St. Peter’s instead of St. John Lateran. The truth is that the Pope has four Basilicas in Rome: His cathedral, St. John Lateran, the basilica at the tomb of St. Peter, the basilica at the tomb of St. Paul, and a basilica dedicated to our Lady.

May God be praised for giving us such splendid churches in which to worship Him!