Thursday, August 21, 2014
|PERPETUAL ADORATION: |
AN ANCIENT DEVOTION IN MODERN TIMES
At the Transfiguration, Peter was so moved by the vision of Jesus—"radiant with light," "dazzling white"—that he wanted to build three booths and set up camp there forever.
He wanted to offer perpetual adoration to the Lord. And in that desire, he has been joined by Christians down through the ages.
In the early Church, monks would chant prayer and psalms to God without ceasing, spelling one another in shifts.
But since the Middle Ages, in the Western Church the desire for continuous prayer to the Lord has most often been expressed in perpetual eucharistic adoration: the worship of Jesus truly present in the consecrated host, either reserved in a tabernacle or exposed in a vessel called a "monstrance."
Usually sponsored by a parish, religious community or diocese, perpetual adoration is offered by successive worshipers without intermission.
Through the first millennium of Christianity, there is little evidence of worship of the Eucharist outside the liturgy, and still less of anything that might be called "perpetual."
With the Eucharist, as with the Trinity, the Church gradually grew in its understanding of the mystery. Councils defined doctrines more clearly, and people responded with devotion ever more ardent.
Often this happened in response to heresies. Particularly when false teachers denied the goodness of the created world or the goodness of the human body, orthodox Catholics responded with deeper reverence for the Eucharist—the Word himself made flesh. To deny matter's goodness, they believed, is eventually to deny the incarnation of God in Jesus.
Such was the heresy of the Priscillians, a gnostic sect in fourth through sixth-century Spain. Priscillians disdained marriage, wine and meat, and were condemned by many Spanish bishops and councils. In reparation for the offense of this heresy, the cathedral church of Lugo, Spain, is said to have offered perpetual eucharistic adoration for more than 1,000 years, up to the present day.
Another anti-matter heresy, Albigensianism, arose in 12th-century France, and there faithful Catholics responded with a spontaneous surge of eucharistic worship.
In what would become the first recorded instance of true perpetual eucharistic adoration, King Louis VII in September 1226—having just defeated the Albigensians—called his subjects to offer thanksgiving to the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the Chapel of the Holy Cross at Avignon.
So many people showed up the bishop extended the time of exposition into the night—and then into perpetuity. The Holy See ratified his decision, and adoration continued uninterrupted till the persecutions of the French Revolution in 1792. Perpetual adoration resumed—in 1829.
During the Middle Ages, many more of the faithful began to adore the Blessed Sacrament apart from the Mass. At first, the custom was to worship the host reserved in the tabernacle. Eventually, some came to practice the devotion with the tabernacle doors open. Later still, solemn exposition of the host, in a monstrance, became the norm.
The practice spread through Europe and culminated in the establishment of the Feast of Corpus Christi—Latin for "the Body of Christ"—in 1264. The feast itself, now celebrated each June, helped spread the devotion.
In 1393, an Italian religious community arose, "Religiosi bianchi del corpo di Gesu Christo," dedicated primarily to adoration of the sacrament. The custom of uninterrupted "Forty Hours" exposition began in Milan in the mid-1500s, and in 1592 was formally recognized by Pope Clement VIII, who commanded its observance in Rome's churches.
But the real flowering of perpetual adoration came at the beginning of the 16th century during the early years of the Protestant Reformation, when church lootings were common, as were desecrations of the Blessed Sacrament. Faithful Catholics made reparation to God by keeping a loving vigil before Him, around the clock. Perpetual adoration became a symbol of constancy in a volatile age.
Throughout Europe and eventually America, new religious orders arose centered on uninterrupted eucharistic adoration. In 1907, the Catholic Encyclopedia could state that such orders were too numerous to list.
In the United States, the practice waxed through the middle decades of this century, especially as Archbishop Fulton Sheen promoted the custom of spending a Holy Hour before the tabernacle. But eucharistic devotions in general waned in the '60s and '70s. Some liturgists rejected the devotion, saying it detracted from the Mass.
Today, though, it seems to be on the rebound.
For example, the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., recently launched perpetual adoration in a chapel at its seminary in Stamford. And during the great blizzard of January 1996, parishioners at St. Michael's Church in Annandale, Va., maintained a vigil that had been unbroken since the early '80s. They camped out in the chapel with sleeping bags.
Msgr. Francis Mannion, president of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, believes that perpetual adoration is gaining popularity because it has "the sense of dignity, reverence and solemnity" that people miss in the way the Mass is celebrated today.
"The transcendent character of the Eucharist is strongly evident in eucharistic devotions, as are the contemplative and mystical dimensions of the Eucharist," he said.
He disagrees with liturgists who "express alarm at the return of eucharistic devotions."
"At a time when surveys are showing that belief in Christ's eucharistic presence is on the wane even among church-going Catholics, such devotions can play an important role in restoring authentic Catholic faith at a popular level," he said.
Mike Aquilina is editor of The Pittsburgh Catholic.
Organization Promotes Adoration
Since the early 1970s, L. Owen Traynor has been promoting perpetual eucharistic adoration throughout the world.
Today, his organization, Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, supplies information and support for people who wish to establish the devotion in their parish or diocese. PEA's statutes were approved by the Holy See in 1991.
Traynor can be reached at 660 Club View Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90024.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Aquinas' Five Proofs
What real evidence can be supplied for God's existence? St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologica, sets forth five separate proofs for the existence of God, Unlike St. Anselm's proof, which deals with pure concepts, St. Thomas' proofs rely on the world of our experience-what we can see around us. In these proofs we can easily see the influence of Aristotle and his doctrine of the Four Causes.
l) The Proof from Motion. We observe motion all around us. Whatever is in motion now was at rest until moved by something else, and that by something else, and so on. But if there were an infinite series of movers, all waiting to be moved by something else, then actual motion could never have got started, and there would be no motion now. But there is motion now. So there must be a First Mover which is itself unmoved. This First Mover we call God.
2) The Proof from Efficient Cause. Everything in the world has its efficient cause--its maker--and that maker has its maker, and so on. The coffee table was made by the carpenter, the carpenter by his or her parents, and on and on. But if there were just an infinite series of such makers, the series could never have got started, and therefore be nothing now. But there is something everything there is! So there must have been a First Maker, that was not itself made, and that First Maker we call God.
3) The Proof from Necessary vs. Possible Being. Possible, or contingent, beings are those, such as cars and trees and you and I, whose existence is not necessary. For all such beings there is a time before they come to be when they are not yet, and a time after they cease to be when they are no more. If everything were merely possible, there would have been a time, long ago, when nothing had yet come to be. Nothing comes from nothing, so in that case there would be nothing now! But there is something now-the world and everything in it-so there must be at least one necessary being. This Necessary Being we call God.
4) The Proof from Degrees of Perfection. We all evaluate things and people in terms of their being more or less perfectly true, good, noble and so on. We have certain standards of how things and people should be. But we would have no such standards unless there were some being that is perfect in every way, something that is the truest, noblest, and best. That Most Perfect Being we call God.
5) The Proof from Design. As we look at the world around us, and ourselves, we see ample evidence of design--the bird's wing, designed for the purpose of flight; the human ear, designed for the purpose of hearing; the natural environment, designed to support life; and on and on. If there is design, there must be a designer. That Designer we call God
triskelion, I interpret proof #3 as talking about the creation of the elements; proof #2 as talking about the forming of the elements into creation; and proof #1 as creation being put into motion.
The irony of proving God exists is, to a non-believer it can never be proven, but to a believer, proof of God can be seen just about everywhere.
Of course, if you need to see it to believe it, do you really have faith?
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS . . .
Great movie . . . charming! Many smiles! My little French
granddaughter, Naomi and I watched "You've Got Mail" together.
Naomi is 7.
There is a place in the movie where the shopgirl/owner, Kathleen
Kelly/MegRyan, closes her children's book store door for the final
time. Kathleen Kelly has lovely memories of growing up, going to
work in that store with her mother and "twirling" in the back
In fact, there is a picture of her "twirling" with her mother on the
wall. At the "close out sale" you might notice that picture of
Kathleen and her mother twirling, and a sign pasted on the frame
saying, "not for sale!"
When Kathleen closes the door of the "Shop Around the Corner"
for this final time, now totally empty of books and chairs and
pictures on the walls, she removes the large bell of brass from the
door, turns off the lights; she takes a final look back and for a brief
moment she "sees" that memory of her mother twirling her as a child.
She hears the music.
It is a most precious moment.
It is enchanting.
I told Naomi that she always needs to remember that part of the
movie. Even though the store had to be closed, and even though
a chain store put Kathleen out of business, and even though Kathleen
had to leave this place she loved. . .no one, not ever in her life, could
take away the memory.
Memories are ours forever.
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Christians believe in angels. That goes without saying. From the first pages of the Old Testament to the last pages of the New, God speaks of these mysterious beings. They appear as mighty creatures, pure spirits, guarding the gates of paradise, offering purest worship, guiding and protecting God’s people. When God delivers the law, he does so through the ministry of angels. When he delivers his people in battle, it is through the intervention of an angelic host.
The Scriptures speak also of fallen angels, who use their phenomenal power to tempt human beings and thwart our salvation.
Angels appear at every moment in the story line of human history. St. Paul explains that in the Old Testament, they act as glorified babysitters—“guardians and trustees” (Gal. 4:1-3)—trying their best to keep an unruly people in line. When they appear to the human senses, their form is terrifying. When people see an angel, their immediate response is to fall on the ground in fear and awe (Num. 22:31).
In the New Testament, however, the relationship changes. In the opening chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find angels attending a human birth. We even see an archangel paying homage to a peasant woman of Nazareth, hailing her as “full of grace.”
Angels appear often in the New Testament, but now as the servants of Jesus Christ, who is true God and true man. Moreover, they appear as servants of those who are in Christ, those who have been “changed into his likeness” (2 Cor. 3:18) and have come to share in his riches (2 Cor. 8:9). As children of God, we are now heirs of God and “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). In every Christian, angels serve the divinized humanity of Jesus Christ.
The first generation lived with an intense awareness of the presence of the angels. In the Acts of the Apostles, Rhoda’s companions would have been far less surprised by the apparition of an angel than they were by the sudden appearance of St. Peter (Acts 12:11).
This does not mean that the angels are any less powerful in relation to us. Nor does it mean they are any less awe-inspiring. In the Book of Revelation, when St. John encounters an angel, his instinct is to fall down and worship (Rev. 22:8f). But the angel lifts him up to stand as his fellow.
This is what Christ has accomplished: the holy communion of heaven and earth, all united in him, all united in worship. Thus, when we go to Mass, we are constantly invoking the angels, because they are present with us, and we sing their songs with them. The “Gloria” is the song they raised at the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14). The “Sanctus” is what they sing at heaven’s throne (Rev. 4:8).
We should not cease to marvel that the angels are now our “fellows.” We should not let this truth grow old or grow cold for us.
Consider the fact that you have a guardian angel. Jesus assured us that each of us has one, from our earliest days (Matt. 18:10).
Consider that God has made this person exclusively for your care. Your guardian angel is smarter than a thousand Einsteins, and stronger than any army on earth. And God created him to serve you!
What difference does that make in your life? What difference should it make?
If a human relative or benefactor gave you a sports car, or a half-million dollars, or your dream home, you would find frequent and creative ways to express your gratitude. How often do you thank God for the extraordinary gift of your guardian angel?
And how often do we thank our angels for their care? Remember: angels are persons. To ignore them, after all they do for us, is at least rude, but also daft. Why would we choose not to enter into a close friendship and “working relationship” with these creatures who are dear to God and far closer to us than our nearest kin?
What sets too many Christians today apart from their ancestors in the faith is our neglect of devotion to the angels. For the early Christians, this was a lively devotion. Thus, for this book I have selected three hundred and sixty-five meditations from the writings of the early Fathers of the Church. Some of it is admittedly speculative—and the Fathers were the first to acknowledge that there were some things about the angels that they couldn’t know. But most of it is plain truth, learned from Scripture and taught by the Church. And it’s all classic Christianity. As such, it demands our attention and cries out for our imitation.
I believe the angels are the great neglected intermediaries in human relationships. How much stronger our families would be—our neighborhoods would be—our friendships would be—our workplace would be—our society would be—if only we, habitually and silently, called upon the help of the guardian angels of the people who are with us in the course of a day.
In the coming year, let’s draw closer to our angels, through prayer and study, as we meet them in the following pages, and as we meet them wherever we go.