Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
My bulletin letter for last week had to be in early, due to the holiday schedule of the printer, so I didn’t get a chance to thank people yet for Christmas liturgies. So, here it is: Thank you so much to everybody who added to the beauty of our Christmas Masses! The decorators, the cleaners, the cantors and musicians, the lectors and Eucharistic distributors, the ushers, the greeters who helped with our extra guests, our altar servers and deacons. I think you all can be so proud of the beauty of our liturgies, once everything comes together. And, that means you can be very hopeful that all of our guests, and we also, will be impacted as deeply as possible by our encounter with Jesus Christ in such Masses! And, that’s what everything is aimed at – salus animarum, “the salvation of souls”.
On another note, I didn’t notify everybody in advance that I would be missing the Saturday Masses on December 22nd. I was absent from our Masses on that day, because as Dean of our local deanery, it was incumbent upon me to attend the dedication of the newly renovated St. Mary’s Church in Defiance. The ceremony began at 4:30 PM, and it lasted about two hours. It was very beautiful. Two hours went by very quickly! Because St. Mary’s renovation was so substantial, changing almost everything inside the church – the altar, the ambo, the flooring, the wallcoverings and decorations, the ceiling colors, additional statues, brand-new tabernacle and candles, new seats for the priest and deacons and altar servers, etc., etc… Because the renovation was so substantial, the Bishop actually used the ceremony for the dedication of a new church. This is the first time I’ve actually been present for the dedication of a new church. The Mass is always inspiring, but there were particularly inspiring parts of this ceremony of dedication, which included the Mass.
Most noticeable was that everything was totally barren in the sanctuary before Mass. Because there was no Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, and because the altar had not yet been dedicated, the servers and ministers processing in at the beginning made none of the typical signs of reverence. That felt really strange! We’ve always been taught to genuflect if the Blessed Sacrament is in the center behind the altar, or at least to bow whenever we pass the altar during the Mass. And the priest and deacons always kiss the altar out of reverence at the beginning of Mass. But here we were just walking in casually (hands folded!) up to our seats, as if were passing a mere table. But, before the altar is dedicated by the Bishop, it really is just a mere – although fancy – table.
During the rite – after his homily – the Bishop poured copious amounts of sacred chrism over the marble top of the altar, covering every single millimeter with a very thick layer of chrism, and then he went back over the whole thing to make signs of the cross at the corners. Then he walked around the whole exterior of the church applying with his hands a huge sign of the cross in sacred chrism at the corner of each wall, right on top of the paint.
Then the Bishop put a bunch of incense over a bowl of hot coals on top of the altar, so the whole church could be filled with the aroma of holiness. Then he took a thurible of incense and incensed all the sides and corners of the altar; and a deacon took the same thurible around the entire interior of the church to incense all the walls.
What’s the purpose of renovating the church so beautifully? Salus animarum! The salvation of souls! Helping people to encounter Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as deeply as possible. Human beings rely on material things – what we can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste – in order to know what we know. So the Mass in all its aspects – including the building where it is celebrated – has to be as beautiful as possible. The Lord shows himself to us using this beauty. The Solemnity of Epiphany is all about the Lord showing himself to us and all the nations.
Have a blessed Epiphany!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,