PASTOR’S MEANDERINGS 14 – 15 MAY 2016
STEWARDSHIP: One miracle of Pentecost was that, despite their diversity, each listener heard God’s word in his or her own language. The meaning for stewardship is that, by sharing the gifts poured out on us by the Holy Spirit, we will be empowered to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters, whatever they may be.
“Remember that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, the spirit of holy fear. Preserve what you have received. God the Father has sealed you. Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has given you the guarantee of the Spirit in your heart, as you have learned from the apostolic teaching.”
READINGS THE MOST HOLY TRINITY 22 MAY ‘16
Prv. 8:22-31: The author speaks of Lady Wisdom, God’s creation who functions as artisan, sage, and guide. She is, therefore, the link between God and the created world. To listen to Lady Wisdom is indeed to acquire wisdom.
Rom. 5:1-5: We are still hoping joyfully for the final manifestation of the relationship with God which we have by faith through Jesus.
Jn. 16:12-15: The Paraclete to come will guide the disciples along the way of truth, not by simply repeating the teaching of Jesus, but by developing it. In this process the Paraclete glorifies Jesus.
Byzantine Horologion, Troparion at Nocturns. C. sixth to eighth centuries
“The Father is my trust, the Son is my refuge, the Holy Ghost is my protectin. O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee.”
PENTECOST: The Easter season lasts for fifty days, ending with Pentecost (Greek, pentekoste, “fiftieth”). Ranking second only to Easter, the feast of Pentecost must be understood in the context of the Jewish feast by the same name. Its other name in Jewish tradition is Feast of Weeks, a full season of seven weeks of thanksgiving beginning with Passover Sabbath (see Tobit 2:1; 2 Maccabees 12:32). This prolonged festival celebrated the theme of harvest and thanksgiving. It evolved before the time of Christ into a memorial of the covenant and, by 300 CE, a memorial of the giving of the Law.
By the end of the 2nd cent., Christians were observing a similar fifty-day festival of rejoicing after the annual Pascha. People prayed standing, and fasting was prohibited. It seems that originally the followers of Jesus continued to observe the Jewish festival, a time of “first fruits” (see 1 Cor. 16:8, 15:20, 23) rather than a distinctly new theme. During these weeks, fasting and kneeling were forbidden because of the joyful experience of resurrection.
By the late 4th cent., the feast of the Ascension was celebrated in some parts of the church on the fortieth day after Easter (see Acts 1:3, 9-11). Originally, this mystery of the ending of Jesus’ visible presence among His followers seems to have been observed as part of the outpouring of the Spirit on the 50th day, or Pentecost. For the first time, the original 50-day festival was broken. In many dioceses in the U.S., the Ascension has been moved to Sunday and replaces the seventh Sunday of Easter.
The weekdays between the Ascension and Pentecost are a preparation period for the outpouring of the Spirit. It is popularly called the Pentecost Novena (Acts 1:14).
Pentecost itself closes out the Easter season. It celebrates the overwhelming experience of God pouring out the Spirit upon the first community of those who believed Jesus was the Lord and Christ (Acts 2:1-4). Pentecost is called, therefore, the birth of the church or the birth of the church’s mission.
The color of vestments and decorations for Pentecost is red. It symbolizes the intense love and fire of the Holy Spirit. Other symbols of the Pentecost event are the dove (Lk. 3:21-22), the tongues of flame (Acts 2:1-4, and wind (Acts 2:2).
Located on the Icon Stand at the entrance to the church.
The pattern for this icon is very old, conforming to Byzantine traditions dating from before 800 AD. Mary and the Apostles are touched by “tongues, as of fire” as the Holy Spirit shown as a dove accompanied by fire descends upon them, transforming a group of frightened people into bold proclaimers of the Good News. See Acts, Chap. 2.
The Apostles are shown gazing heavenward in poses of surprise and apprehension. Tradition does not name all of their portraits explicitly. Naming them yourself is an interesting meditation. They all have halos of gold surrounding their heads. Halos are used in iconography to identify saints. Gold, being a metal that doesn’t corrode, is used to symbolize Divine light.
Mary is shown in her traditional garb of a dark red homophorion (a combination veil and cape) over a blue dress. Three stars grace her homophorion that symbolize her virginity, before, during, and after Jesus’ birth. She gazes toward the viewer with hands raised in prayer, her dignified manner in sharp contrast with that of the twelve Apostles.
Below Mary is a man with a long bead, crowned head, and bearing a cloth holding twelve scrolls. The Greek letters identify him as Cosmos, “the world.” He is a symbolic representative of the world’s multitudes gathered together in Jerusalem for the Festival of Weeks at the time of that first descent of the Holy Spirit. He is in a walled-off dark place, the world without faith. His crown is the rule of sin and he is aged by the sin of Adam. The scrolls represent the teaching of the Twelve Apostles, bringing the light of faith to his dark world.
Located on the bracket on the right side of the church.
While He was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly
two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee,
why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” (Acts 1:10-11)
The Feast of The Ascension is observed forty days after Easter, ending the Easter season and celebrating the culmination of Christ’s supreme act of salvation. The feast has been commonly called “Ascension Thursday,” although in dioceses such as ours it has been moved to the following Sunday, while in a diocese such as Pittsburgh it is still celebrated on Thursday.
The mountains, the olive trees, and the cracked terrain set the scene at the Mount of Olives, a hill east of Jerusalem overlooking the city. The gold leaf background is symbolic of Divine light, gold being an incorruptible metal, reflecting light rather than possessing a specific coloration like paint.
Jesus is shown in kingly robes, seated on a rainbow. Christ’s halo, the iconographic symbol for sanctity, is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters omicron, omega, nu, spelling “HO ON.” In English, this becomes “Who Am,” the name used for God in Exodus 3:14. He is surrounded by a mandorla, symbolic of the high heavens, supported by angels. The angels emphasize His divine majesty. Jesus doesn’t need them for physical support, being quite capable of ascending on His own.
The two lower angels in white are heavenly messengers as described in Acts, and their white robes in this composition provide a sharp visual contrast that sets Mary apart. The Bible doesn’t explicitly place her at the Ascension, but ancient tradition includes her in the scene because she is specifically mentioned in Acts 1:14 as participating in prayer with the Apostles.
Mary is presented to us in this icon as the traditional Virgin Orans, looking straight at the viewer with hands raised in prayer. Her formal, symmetric pose in quite different from those around her. She, together with the Apostles, represent the “People of God,” Christ’s church on earth. Further reinforcing this symbolism is the presence on Mary’s left on St. Paul, who could not have been historically present like St. Peter on her right, but was a central participant in the shaping of the early church. Because of Mary’s role as Theotokos or “God-bearer.” The link between the divinity of Christ and His humanity, she represents here the formal church, linking God and His people.
SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION: Cont.
The Sacrament of Confirmation
Confirmation is seen as the perfection of baptism. Although, in the West, Confirmation is usually received as a teenager, several years after making First Communion, the Catholic Church considers it the second of the three Sacraments of Initiation. Confirmation is regarded as the perfection of Baptism, because, as the introduction to the Rite of Confirmation states:
by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptized are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.
The Form of the Sacrament of Confirmation:
Many people think of the laying on of hands, which signifies the descent of the Holy Spirit, as the central act in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The essential element, however, is the anointing of the confirmand (the person being confirmed) with chrism (an aromatic oil that has been consecrated by a bishop accompanied by the words “Be sealed with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit” (or, in the Eastern Catholic Churches, “The seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit”).
This seal is a consecration, representing the safeguarding by the Holy Spirit of the graces conferred on the Christian at Baptism.
The Minister of the Sacrament of Confirmation:
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, “The original minister of Confirmation is the bishop.” Each bishop is a successor to the apostles, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost – the first Confirmation. The Acts of the Apostles mentions the apostles imparting the Holy Spirit to believers by the laying on of hands (see, for example, Acts 8:15-17 and 19:6).
The Church has always stressed this connection of confirmation, through the bishop, to the ministry of the apostles, but She has developed two different ways of doing so.
Confirmation in the East:
In the Eastern Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox) Churches, the three sacraments of initiation are administered at the same time to infants. Children are baptized, confirmed (or “chrismated”), and receive Communion (in the form of the Sacred Blood, the consecrated wine), all in the same ceremony, and always in that order.
Since the timely reception of Baptism is very important, and it would be very hard for a bishop to administer every baptism, the bishop’s presence, in the Eastern Churches, is signified by the use of chrism consecrated by the bishop. The priest, however, performs the confirmation.
Confirmation in the West:
The Church in the West came up with a different solution—the separation in time of the Sacrament of Confirmation from the Sacrament of Baptism. This allowed infants to be baptized soon after birth, while the bishop could confirm many Christians at the same time, even years after baptism. Eventually, the current custom of performing Confirmation several years after First Communion developed, but the Church continues to the stress the original order of the sacraments, and Pope Benedict XVI, , in his apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, has suggested that the original order should be restored.
Eligibility for Confirmation:
Even in the West, priests can be authorized by their bishops to perform confirmations, and adult converts are routinely baptized and confirmed by priests. All those who have been baptized are eligible to be confirmed, and, while the Western Church suggests receiving the sacrament after reaching the “age of reason” (around seven years old), it can be received at any time. (A child in danger of death should receive Confirmation.)
A confirmand must be in a state of grace. If the sacrament is not received immediately after Baptism, the confirmand should participate in the Sacrament of Confession before Confirmation.
The Effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation:
The Sacrament of Confirmation confers special graces of the Holy Spirit upon the person being confirmed, just as such graces were granted to the Apostles on Pentecost. Like Baptism, therefore, it can only be performed once, and Confirmation increases and deepens all of the graces granted at Baptism.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists five effects of Confirmation:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation [as sons of God] which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;
- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.
Because Confirmation perfects our baptism, we are obliged to receive it “in due time.” Any Catholic who did not receive Confirmation at baptism or as part of his religious education during grade school or high school should contact a priest and arrange to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
SAINT OF THE WEEK: BERNARDINE of SIENA, PRIEST (1380-1444) 20 MAY
Bernardine degli Albizzeschi was the son of the governor of Massa Marittima, Italy. Orphaned at the age of seven, Bernardine was raised by an aunt. He chose to join the confraternity of Our Lady at seventeen and, by the age of twenty, was running a hospital in his hometown of Siena for victims of the plague. After several months of this work, however, he was overcome by a lingering fever.
After his recovery, Bernardine spent another year caring for the aunt who had raised him. At her death, he began to fast and pray that God’s will would be made known to him. At the age of twenty-two, he entered the Franciscan order. Ordained in 1404, Bernardine spent the next several years in solitary at the monastery.
A Dynamic person, Bernardine began to preach in Milan in 1417 against the evils of paganism which was widespread at that time. He soon became known for his eloquence and attracted crowds of as many as 30,000 as he followed St. Francis’ advice to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.”
Bernardine traveled on foot throughout Italy, and might preach for several hours in one town before walking on to speak in another town.In Europe at the time, the use of pagan symbols was widespread. To counteract this, Bernardine devised a symbol for Christ which is still in use today. He took the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek – IHS – and superimposed them in Gothic letters on a blazing sun.
In Europe at the time, the use of pagan symbols was widespread. To counteract this, Bernardine devised a symbol for Christ which is still in use today. He took the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek – IHS – and superimposed them in Gothic letters on a blazing sun.
There is a story about Bernardine, who, while preaching against the evils of gambling in Bologna, lit a huge bonfire to destroy all instruments of vice: playing cards, dice, and other things. Seeing this, a manufacturer of playing cards complained that Bernardine was taking away his livelihood. The saint told him to start making medals which bore the symbol IHS, instead of cards. The man did so, and made more money than ever before.
St. Bernardine died on Mary 20, 1444 while on a mission trip.
Reference was made above to a commonly seen “symbol” in church decorations. We as an institution make heavy use of symbols; Why?.
The use of symbols is found throughout our society, relied on by most organizations in some degree: we have the flag, patches, ribbons, badges worn on uniforms, designs found in the decorations of buildings and monuments, it is found in our actions, phrases and manner that we at times interpret what is occurs around us. So what is a symbol?, something through which something other than itself is incarnated and encountered. A symbol runs deeper than a mere sign, which arbitrarily points to some other thing extrinsic to itself. A symbol in various ways embodies and mediates the other, as does a dream the subconscious or an artifact a vision of life. Such symbols are of different kinds: they may be concrete things, linguistic concepts, or ritual actions. Symbols are multivalent; they open up different meanings that cannot finally be circumscribed. Symbols are also realistic; they bear the reality poured into them; they often communicate what can be reached in no other way. Religious symbols embody transcendent reality.
Because of these various qualities, the category of symbol is particularly relevant to theology and commonly used in its sub-disciplines. Some theologians understand revelation as having a symbolic structure: God is always encountered as mediated through things of this world. Faith as a human response expresses itself in objective beliefs such as the creeds, traditionally referred to as symbols of faith. Jesus is the Christ because He mediates God. Sacrament is a subspecies of symbol. The Church, as the sacrament of Christ, mediates God through Christ symbolically. The concept of symbol is as important in Catholic theology today as the idea of analogy was in the Middle Ages.
The symbolism of the early Church was characterized by being understood by initiates only, while after the legalization of Christianity in the 4th-century more recognizable symbols entered in use. Christianity has borrowed from the common stock of significant symbols known to most periods and to all regions of the world. Christianity has not generally practiced Aniconism, or the avoidance or prohibition of types of images, even if the early Jewish Christians sects, as well as some modern denominations, preferred to some extent not to use figures in their symbols, by invoking the Decalogue’s prohibition of idolatry.