Wednesday, 14 June 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI

A number of years ago I did a bit of exciting detective work.  In a stately home in the heart of England several stained glass windows show Dominicans,  holding a monstrance, containing the Blessed Sacrament. Among them there’s St. Thomas Aquinas, who is said to have composed the liturgy for today’s feast. Research has led me to conclude that the glass has probably come from our priory in Liege, Belgium, where that devotion originated. 

So, what’s this devotion all about, and why is it important?  Well, most of us come to Mass every Sunday, and many during the week.   Though that’s very good, there is the danger of our taking the Mass for granted.   So, today’s feast of Corpus Christi, or Body of Christ -should give us the chance to reflect on what may have become too routine. If familiarity doesn’t here breed contempt it can easily lead to complacency.  Hopefully, our celebration of Corpus Christi would renew and fire up our wonder and gratitude for the gift of the Mass.  

We believe that at every Mass Christ’s sacrifice of the cross is made present on the altar for the local community.   Our crucified and risen Lord continues to offer Himself to His Heavenly Father, as, on our behalf, He makes our peace with God.   And we are united with Christ in offering ourselves in loving service of God and each other.    The Mass should sum up and re-enforce our whole lives as generous givers, rather than selfish grabbers.

The feast of Corpus Christi reminds us that in the Eucharist Christ is present in a very special way, and gives Himself to us in the form of a meal.    We believe that the bread and wine are changed into Christ’s own Body and Blood.   This meal nourishes us so that we can grow as Christians.   We call this meal, ‘Holy Communion.’   Our personal communion with God and our fellow members within the Church is expressed and strengthened by our sharing the one Body and Blood of Christ.
We can understand the meaning of communion if we think of how we celebrate special occasions with a meal.  We enjoy good food and drink together, but more than that, we’re nourished by each other’s company and conversation. Such special meals draw us closer to each other. And that’s what should happen at Mass.   We’re nourished by the very best of food and drink –Christ’s own Body and Blood.   And we’re nourished by His company and conversation, as He speaks to us through the Scriptures, the Creed and hopefully the sermon.   The sacred Eucharistic Meal should draw us closer to Christ and each other.  

The Blessed Sacrament, consecrated at Mass, is reserved in the Tabernacle.   This is firstly so that Holy Communion can be taken to the sick who can’t get to Mass.   That means that Jesus can not only be brought to them to nourish them in a special way, but Jesus in the Sacrament itself keeps them in union with the community’s celebration of Mass.   The Blessed Sacrament is also reserved in the Tabernacle so that we can drop into church, to worship Jesus who is there present amongst us in the Eucharist.  As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament we have time to deepen our understanding and devotion for the Mass itself and to take part in future Masses with greater reverence.  In other words, Eucharistic devotion outside Mass is always linked to the Mass itself.   That’s very true of Benediction and Corpus Christi processions.

Corpus Christi is a wonderful, joyful feast.  It’s not surprising the Mass should be called the ‘Eucharist,’ which means, ‘Thanksgiving.’   Today, above all others, we should be filled with gratitude for the gift of the Mass! 

Isidore O.P.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

THE BLESSED TRINITY

Just before He ascended to Heaven the risen Lord commissioned His followers to continue His work.   “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."  (Matt. 28. 19-20). The Church was to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Blessed Trinity -the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Though He would no longer be visibly present Jesus would always be with us.
So, what does being baptised in the name of the Blessed Trinity mean for us?   Well, our names denote who we are. I belong to the Clarke family.   Baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity gives us our identity, as God’s children, who enjoy the very life of the Blessed Trinity.  Through the life-giving sacrament of baptism we are raised beyond our human, creaturely limitations to share the very life of the Blessed Trinity and are called to share its happiness.   The Trinity makes its home in us, and we in the Trinity.   Each of us – our very selves - becomes God’s temple, His sacred dwelling place.
As God’s children there’s a family resemblance between us and God.   We’ve been made in His image and likeness.   Our perfection and happiness lies in becoming ever more like God –in knowing and loving God as He really is, living lovingly as God lives.   That means becoming like the Trinitarian God, and knowing and loving God as Trinity.
So, what is the Trinity like?    The simple answer is –nothing on earth!   God is completely different from the physical world in which we live.  He transcends the whole of His creation.   In other words, God is mysterious.
But let’s not panic!   We’re used to living with mysteries in our daily lives.   We don’t fully understand ourselves, let alone anybody else. We’re constantly being taken by surprise.  But that doesn’t prevent us loving each other. In fact the mystery makes us much more interesting to know and love.   We can destroy love by too much analysis –by trying to define and categorise people.   So, we shouldn’t be put off by God being the greatest of all mysteries.  Instead, we should welcome, love and praise the mystery of the Trinity, which is God.  We want to be loved for ourselves, as we really are, and not as some fantasy of us -so does God. It’s exceedingly insulting to love a fantasy, rather than welcome the real person. If we try to force God to fit into our limited understanding of Him we will end up with fashioning our own god.  That would be idolatry.
God has revealed something of Himself by attributing to each member of the Blessed Trinity a different way of being involved in our salvation… the Father – Creator; the Son – Saviour; the Holy Spirit – Sanctifier!
In John’s Gospel we’re told that God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son into the world to save us.  The Son expressed God’s love for us by becoming one of us and sacrificed His human life so that we could share His divine life.       No one could show us greater love than that!           And after ascending to heaven Jesus sent God’s Spirit into the world so that we could receive the divine happiness which He’d won for us on the cross.   Without the activity of each member of the Blessed Trinity our lives as Christians would be meaningless, impossible.
Obviously there’s much more that could be said about the Blessed Trinity.   But in the end, we have to admit that God can’t be pinned down by intellectual analysis and definitions -nor can we!              We will draw far closer to God by welcoming Him with love as He is in Himself –as the mysterious Blessed Trinity.   We will know, love and praise God much, much better in heaven. That will be our eternal happiness.
Isidore O.P.  

Friday, 2 June 2017

THE DIVINE NUTCRACKER!


Ever since Easter Sunday the Church in its Liturgy has been listening to the Apostles and St. Paul proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus…as it were, IN A NUTSHELL – the absolute essentials.
We’ve been made aware of vast crowds  becoming instant and fervent  believers.  Some had never heard of Jesus before.  Others had been among those who had called for His crucifixion.
What an impact this preaching had!
“Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, brothers?' 38 'You must repent,' Peter answered, 'and every one of you must be baptized in the name of  Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,”
(Acts 2.37sq.)
These were genuine conversions, not passing enthusiasms. These people deserve the credit of being hard-headed realists – nobody’s fool. Could we not describe them as being hard nuts to crack? Our hands won’t break open hard wooden nut-shells, nor will our teeth. A solid stone, a cutlass or a nut-cracker is needed for us to get at the tastiness inside.

I put it to you there’s encased inside our very selves  a goodness  which as t we’ve yet to discover or come to appreciate - the basic truth of our humanity that all of us are made in the image and likeness of God. He has inclined us, empowered us, to lead virtuous, just and loving lives. Surely we tend to undervalue ourselves and then under- perform in the quality of our living?

We all need a Spiritual Nutcracker to open us to our very selves!   Who else but the Holy Spirit could  reveal the truth about ourselves to ourselves – the delightful reality that we are beloved children of God? Who else could expose to us the  sinful murkiness of our lives? At Pentecost the Holy Spirit brought the crowd to being ‘cut to the heart’ and begging to know ‘what they must do.’
We go further  as we  now we see ourselves as being nutshells of a certain size, such as coconuts. Once opened they can be used as receptacles – for refreshing drinking water or,  if properly mounted, for  ice cream, even flowers.
Once the Holy Spirit – our Spiritual Nut-Cracker - has opened us up  He can fill us with priceless spiritual delicacies.     This He did to the many converts at Pentecost –the gift of Sanctifying Grace, of Faith, Hope and Charity.     But most of all the Holy Spirit can take up His residence within us –        not as an interloper, a squatter, but as a welcome guest.  St. Paul writes,
9 Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God?” (1 Cor.2.19).
The grace of the Solemnity of Pentecost is that we be convinced that what God did in the past He can do today.      The Holy Spirit can crack open the modern hard head and hard heart.     He can fill the hardest people with His powerful presence; open them to a new way of being themselves – as believers in Jesus, as followers of Jesus.
Our conviction must be that the Holy Spirit can break through any resistance –not crushingly but creatively.      Because we believe in “THE DIVINE NUT-CRACKER” we do not give up on anybody  as being too hard-headed,  too hard-hearted, for even God to bring round to a life of decency…and more!
Before the world becomes more brutish it needs the Holy Spirit to tame it.    The more hard-headed people become  the more we should  invoke the Holy Spirit to have a crack at them!

Tell me, am I going nuts?          
My twin brother, Isidore, says, “YES!”

Peter Clarke, O.P.
 
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