minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the month “March, 2013”


20130331-094639.jpgEucatastrophe is a term coined by J. R. R. Tolkien which refers to the sudden turn of events at the end of a story which ensure that the protagonist does not meet some terrible, impending, and very plausible doom. He formed the word by affixing the Greek prefix eu, meaning good, to catastrophe, the word traditionally used in classically-inspired literary criticism to refer to the “unraveling” or conclusion of a drama’s plot. For Tolkien, the term appears to have had a thematic meaning that went beyond its implied meaning in terms of form. In his definition as outlined in his 1947 essay On Fairy-Stories, eucatastrophe is a fundamental part of his conception of mythopoeia. Though Tolkien’s interest is in myth, it is also connected to the gospels; Tolkien calls the Incarnation the eucatastrophe of “human history” and the Resurrection the eucatastrophe of the Incarnation.

Full article from Wikipedia

Happy Easter everyone.

Good Friday





The scenes from the Good Friday found in the famous book of hours, Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, show a progression of events from the Crucifixion to the entombment of Christ. In a similar way the Stations of the Cross, a lenten devotion, takes us on a spiritual pilgrimage along the journey of Christ from his being condemned to the entombment. It is understood that from noon to 3:00 Christ suffered on the Cross, and then He died. During this time, silence, contemplation, reflection, or devotions like the Stations should bring us all to a place of stillness as we consider the profound implication of God dying.

I suppose to many people today there may not be much meaning in the gospel, especially the gory and brutal segment concerning the Crucifixion. People have spent too much time inventing ways to avoid the problem of things like sin, shame and guilt. Some to the point that they don’t even believe in such ideas anymore, making allowance and exception for their actions, though they often don’t make the same exceptions for the actions of others. G.K.Chesterton stated that the easiest way to avoid the problem of sin was to simply say that there is no sin, and this may be the way of the world today. Responsibility means letting others deal with the consequences of my actions and accountability has become a series of pointing fingers at the next guy. Not that things were really different during the time of Christ. After all things like blame and corruption started right from the garden. They have been there from the start and will be there til the end. But here in the story of Christ, and especially in this retelling of the Passion, we come face to face with the consequences of our actions and watch as another takes our blame. And as God is bent low, crushed and broken, and the last breath escapes from the Incarnation, I am left there as a bystander with the gift of forgiveness staring back at me with eyes fading.


stock-photo-stained-glass-windows-and-votive-candles-in-a-catholic-church-47286904If there is one thing that can be said about the catholic church which is true whether said by it members or it opponents, it must be the fact that catholics sure like their candles. I remember several times being presented a list of reasons why the catholic church is false, which listed dozens of inventions of the church that apparently the person handing me this information hadn’t really read or thought about. I have found that more often than not, it is the catholic who has to do the homework for such people, which meant I had to explain why all of these criticisms were wrong to begin with. The problem with this list of catholic inventions, is that its merely the result of another invention not made by the church, and that is the “Protestant invention of Sola Scriptura (16th century)”. It is hard for those who hold such a belief to grasp the real history of the church as it developed over the centuries and as such they pick out points in this developement process which they disagree with and call it an “invention”, then imply that this is proof against the church. I will usually start by pointing out that the such things as the “Doctrine of the Trinity (2nd-3rd century)” or the “Canon of Scripture (3rd-4th century)” should also be considered “inventions” since they came from the same church and in the same centuries as other inventions.

However the point of all this isn’t about apologetics, rather it is about the use of candles, which makes it on the list of catholic inventions. apparently the use of candles during worship is “an invention” of the catholic church from the year 320 AD. This, as mentioned, isn’t really true. Candles were used in Jewish worship long before this, and even if this were not the case, it should be obvious that candles in a utilitarian way would simply provide light.  But it is this criticism that demonstrates an attitude or maybe even a stereotype about the catholic and the candle. And in this there is some truth. Catholic use candles during Mass; at home; to symbolize the Holy Spirit; during the Easter vigil and at shrines. Candles present to us an idea or image of light and life. They can be a symbol of Jesus, the Light of the World; they can represent our prayers; they are even used to draw attention to objects such as the Scriptures or the Eucharist during Liturgy.

Tenebrae candle hearse

Tenebrae candle hearse

The Tenebrae is a service which is celebrated during the Lenten season and is another example of the use of candles. The word tenebrae is from Latin and translates as “darkness”.  Like the Stations of the Cross, which is also a Lenten service in the catholic church, the Tenebrae service tells the story of the Passion of Christ. The church is lit by a set of candles, which after psalms and readings from the Gospel will be extinguished one by one as the story continues. The last candle is hidden or extinguished as the Passion ends with the death of Jesus. The service grows darker and darker until that last candle is left, a single point of light which we all know will soon be removed. The candle will then be replaced to symbolize the resurrection. It is a quiet observance and all depart in silence. The imagery and presentation of this particular service is wonderful. Like so much of the catholic faith, it ties in the spiritual with the physical, to present the story of the Gospel. For those who choose to see life through a more mystical or contemplative worldview, such devotions can open up even greater ideas. It can place me at Calvary, a participant in the Passion. It also reminds me of Gods covenant with Abraham where in the darkness of night a flaming torch and smoking fire pot entered the area of sacrifice (Gen 15). Moses and the burning bush. And especially when the last candle is remaining, and the Gospel reading tells of the death of Jesus, the last flame is like a star shining in the night sky, even that star which appeared in the sky heralding His Birth.

The use of candles in worship, as well as other catholic devotions, are one of the great things about the church. It may be a criticism from some but in the end I will take the candle over the “Protestant invention of using lightbulbs during worship c1900 AD.” any day of the week.

Missa – Collecta

topThe Introductory Rites of the Catholic Mass end with a call to prayer. The priest says: “Let us pray” (Latin “Oremus”), inviting all the faithful participating in the Liturgy to follow along with the prayers to be spoken, and all will respond with an “Amen” upon completion. This call to pray will show up several times throughout the mass and in this first instance the it is called the Collect, which refers to the gathering of people together to pray. (collective)

The Prayers will vary depending on the day or season and will help to set the stage for the focus of the particular day which the mass is being said, and there will often be variations to choose from. The Collect is part of the “Proper” which means that unlike those parts of the mass which are “Ordinary”, it will tend to vary according to the day or season. As the priest says the prayer he will stand with his hands raised in what is called the “orans”, which is translated as “praying”. It is a posture of praying which goes back to the Jewish religion and can be seen in christian art from ancient times. 0024

A collect may also call us to reflect on a particular saint and what they did in their life as they followed the Saviour. For instance a typical Collect would go like this:

By your help, we beseech you, Lord our God,
may we walk eagerly in that same charity
with which, out of love for the world,
your Son handed himself over to death.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

However if the mass were on a particular Saints Day the Collect may go something like this:

Almighty God,
who in your providence chose your servant Patrick
to be the apostle of the Irish people,
to bring those who were wandering in darkness and error
to the true light and knowledge of you:
Grant us so to walk in that light,
that we may come at last to the light of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and ever.

The Collect ends the Introductory Rites of the Mass. To this point the congregation has been standing and only several minutes have passed. It is interesting to me that so much has been accomplished in so little time. Images of Christ entering Jerusalem, and carrying His Cross, prayers of repentance, and praise which because of recitation have infused us with theology and thoughts for contemplation. As we all say “Amen.” at the conclusion of the Collect, the congregation will now take a seat as the Mass continues into the first of its major parts; the Liturgy of the Word.

Missa – The Great Doxology

image002Following the Kyrie in the “Order of the Mass” is the Gloria. Taking it’s cue from the praise of the angels at the Nativity who sang: “Gloria, in excelsis Deo”, which translates as “Glory to God in the Highest”, this hymn of praise is a beautiful example of the ancient trinitarian doctrine expressed through poem. In a way it could almost be considered the Creed in the form of a prayer. The Gloria is known as the Great Doxology which is contrast to another popular prayer known as the “Glory be”, which is the “Minor Doxology”.

A Doxology is typically a song or psalm which in the christian church was sung to the Trinity. The word comes from the Greek doxa – “glory” and logia – “saying”, an in early church years these hymns find their birth. Some of these were done in attempts to imitate the psalms from the Hebrew Scripture and are termed private psalms (psalmi idiotici).

To my the Gloria follows other creedal statements, it begins with a statement which addresses God, and then begins to focus on definition as attention is drawn to the Father and continues to the Son and follows with the Holy Spirit. The Gloria uses terms which we have seen already and will see again in the mass, hinting back to the Kyrie and looking forward to the Creed and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).

An interesting thing about the Gloria is that it is part of the “ordinary” but during Advent and Lent is absent from the liturgy. This is to emphasize the importance of the holidays which follow both preparation seasons, Christmas and Easter. For the layman in me it works. It’s like a surprise or a visit from an old friend. At Christmas, I can sing with the angels: Gloria in excelsis Deo… and at Easter I can sing Gloria as I celebrate the resurrection of the Lamb.


Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to people of good will.
We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory.
Lord God, heavenly King, O God, almighty Father.
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;
you take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer.
you are seated at the right hand of the Father,
have mercy on us.For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. AmenCristo%20na%20Cruz

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