Sunday, April 16, 2006

This is the day that the Lord has made...

Hæc díes, quam fécit Dóminus:
exsultémus, et laetémur in éa.
Confitémini Dómino, quóniam bónus:
quóniam in saéculum misericórdia éjus.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Praise the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.

This is the traditional centuries old acclamation that served as the entrance prayer at the beginning of the Mass. It is not a biblical reference, comes from a celebratory poem composed by St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. in the mid thirteenth century. It made its way into the liturgy as a sequence ( an add-on ) to celebrate the coming of the “hour” of Jesus. The “day” meant the time of His glorification through His sacrifice and His resurrection. It is a reminder of just how wonderful Jesus Christ is and how His mercy towards us continues down through the ages. His life, death and Resurrection fulfilled one of the prophecies of Ezekiel which the church proclaimed for many centuries as well,

Vidi aquam egredientem de templo,
a latere dextro, alleluia:
et omnes, ad quos pervenit aqua ista,
salvi facti sunt, et dicent, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus:
R. Quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius.

V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
R. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula sæculorum. Amen.

I saw water coming forth from the temple
on the right side, alleluia:
and all those to whom this water came
were saved, and shall say, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Give praise to the Lord, for He is good:
R. For His mercy endureth forever.

V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
R. As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
(Ezekiel, chapter 47)

This second proclamation was either sung or recited before the Mass begun as the priest went around the church sprinkling the faithful with baptismal water for the forty days following Easter. It is possible that not a single person in the pews knew the origin of this wonderful vision of a brave prophet. It is also possible that not one of them knew the depth of the meaning of the words. All they knew was that for six weeks the tune and the words changed. The reason why was simple, this was Easter Season, and things changed after Easter the same as they changed after Ash Wednesday.

Now that we have a different vision of the Liturgy in which we participate and we have the freedom and the initiative to go to Google and the Bible and look these things up, they are no longer a significant part of our lives. It takes an old “fogie” like me to dig this stuff up and place these wonderful bits of meditation in front of people.

The “Vidi Aquam” is a quote from a vision that the prophet Ezekiel had where God was showing him the depth of His commitment to His covenant with His people. God was showing Ezekiel that the length and the breadth of the Promised Land would be fertile and be vivified by a grand river that would never run dry. Ezekiel saw it starting from a trickle from the Temple and God brought him downstream some way and the river kept getting deeper and deeper and wider and wider as it flowed toward the land of the twelve tribes of Israel.

It is easy to see that this is a reminder of the vivifying waters of the three rivers in the Garden of Eden (Gen, 3). It is a picture of the water flowing from the rock that Moses struck with his staff on the way to the promised land from Egypt. (Ex, 22 – 27). It is a picture of the Persian commander, Naman, washing himself clean of leprosy in the Jordan. (II Kings, Chapter 5) It is a picture of John using the God-given waters of the Jordan to Baptize new followers into the ways of repentance. (John, chapter 1; 19 – 31)
It is a picture of the new life that Jesus brings to us on the “Day that the Lord has made” beginning with the water that flowed from the lance wound in His side and going forth with the waters of Baptism that forever keep the life of His Church vibrant and growing.

This is Easter season. This is the season of new life and vitality. This is the season when the cleansing that took place during Lent blossoms into greater resolve in the life of the Spirit. This is the season when we see the Neophytes glow in the white robes of their new-found innocence in the Lord’s Church. This is the season when we revisit our Baptism and resurrect with Jesus into a new life. This is the season when we resolve to visit the river of enriching waters of Grace that God has used forever to sustain us in His Kingdom. This is the season when we dedicate ourselves to work in the Garden into which He created us so that like our first parents in the days of their glory, we can listen to His voice and feel His generous love.

Yes, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad that He did.” The joy and the happiness that comes from His creation of this day will make us appreciate the rich flowing waters of the river of grace that comes from His Temple.

Enjoy the six weeks of Easter for the rest of your life.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)

Jesus, Born Free, Lived Free, Died Free


Jesus, Born Free, Lived Free, Died Free

This is the time of the year when we become more conscious than ever that Jesus is a strong presence in our lives. For the last two weeks or so I have been exchanging ideas about God, Jesus and human freedom with a rather intelligent, open minded individual. We have been swapping E-mails and the truth is that I await his reaction to my E-mails with great anticipation. We don’t see eye to eye, but we do respect one another’s point of view about he important points of our faith.

It all started when I read an article of his that is entitled, “Jesus is Pro-Life. Really.” I responded to his article and he wrote back to me. Soon we were discussing the wonders of having been created free. I was extolling the grandeur of the gift of freedom as granted us by God, and he was hedging his complete assent to my position because freedom sometimes makes us do things that are not pleasing to God. As it turns out, after exchanging some seven or eight rather lengthy E-mails, we still do not see eye to eye on the matter, but we became respectful of one another and I am sure that we will exchange more ideas on other topics sometime in the future.

I do not share his reservations about human freedom. We are the only creature left in God’s “inventory” that has freedom as a divine gift. The angels had it, but lost it. Adam and Eve had it and, despite their disobedience, did not lose it. Throughout the entire history of human beings, freedom has been the source of glory and of opprobrium. Either we laugh or we cry; we either choose right or we choose wrong; worse still, either we decide for the right or we decide for the wrong. Still, God is there, loving us through it all. In fact, “…He so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish, but might have eternal life.” (John; 3/16)

I love this verse because it tells us something that we don’t think about too often. It tells us that Jesus was not sent to the world with the sole purpose of dying for us. Jesus was sent to the world in order to shed light on how human behavior should look. Jesus came into the world to teach us how to use our freedom. He came into the world to teach us how to choose the good and how not to be fooled into opting for evil. He even went so far as to teach us that choosing death over life is not always bad.

He taught us that the source of strength and spiritual power comes to us from a strong relationship with God. When Satan tempted Him in the desert, He quoted Sacred Scripture back to the evil one; He prayed in Gethsemane; He prayed at the Last Supper; He led the prayers and the instructions in the Synagogue; He stayed in His Father’s presence when the duplicitous politicians and Synagogue leaders tried to draw Him off base.

Where did Jesus learn how to behave this way? Need I tell you, Sacred Scripture? The Pharaoh’s daughter chose to save the life of baby Moses; Moses chose to obey God; Noah chose to obey God; Abraham chose to obey God; Ruben chose to convince his brothers not to kill Joseph, their brother; David made a lot of bad choices and did some evil things, but he did more good than evil, and he served as a model for Jesus Himself; the prophets are exciting examples of zealous missionary behavior; the Maccabee brothers gave their lives for the renewal of the temple; Job never turned away from God through all the misery that he suffered. Need I go on? God the Father and God the Son have revealed to us all just how precious a gift human freedom really is.

We have the tools. We have the resources to exercise our freedom for the good that God expects of us. The next week or so is a series of highlights from the life of Jesus, our co-human and our God. Let’s take advantage of this season to insert ourselves into His spirit of love.

We might not always make the right decisions; we might sometimes “fall off the wagon”, but with life (physical and spiritual) and freedom, there is always love and hope. Amen.

(Click here to view the rest of the many wonderful articles that await you in, America's Catholic Lifestyle Magazine)