minima maxima sunt

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

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Ars nova- Moonlight

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Have started painting as of late and wanted to share a little. Have to admit that this is something I’ve always wanted to try and it has been really fun. This is my most recent pic depicting the mountains at night lit by a full moon. One of my favorite sites when living in Alaska was the night turning to an almost day because of the brilliance of reflected light and illumination.

Missa – Credo

Depiction of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with Mary who represents the Church.

Depiction of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with Mary who represents the Church.

The word creed comes from the Latin verb ‘credere’ which simply means ‘to believe’. Credo is in the first person and it means ‘I believe’, which is how the creed begins: “Credo in unum Deum”/”I believe in one God…..”. At its most basic the creeds are a statement of belief, or a set of beliefs all bound up in one confession. In the church the two primary creeds we say at mass are the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed and in both cases they start with the idea of God and then go into the important details about the God we believe in, which really end up being a list of definitions about the 3 persons of the Godhead,  or what we know as the doctrine of the Trinity.

A basic breakdown of the creeds shows the first part concerning the Father, the second speaks to the Son; and especially the incarnation, and then the Holy Spirit; and strangely enough the creeds conclude with the Church. The church isn’t part of the Trinity of course, but there is a ‘mystery’ of sorts which includes the church in the purpose of God. The Bride of Christ, the body of Christ, being hidden in Christ, are expressions used to describe the Church and draw up in my mind some very “mystical” thoughts which are tough to put to words, except maybe to use the example of a family, where the two become one; the bride becomes “one” with the groom, they become one flesh, and even her identity becomes hidden by the conversion of her name to that of the husbands.

This seems to follow a pattern found in Scripture in the 1st chapter of Ephesians, which if you look hard enough, you can see this “creedal” idea in it’s earliest form. Starting with the Father, Paul transitions through to the Son, then the Spirit and ends up at the church.

The Creeds which we currently use were formed over the first several centuries of the church and are primarily the result of a lot of controversy concerning the person and nature of the Son. The end result was the formal doctrine of the Trinity and especially the Nicene Creed in the 4th century, but contrary to the arguments of modern anti Trinitarians, the belief in the trinity wasn’t something invented out of thin air centuries after Christ ascended. The belief is found “undefined” in Scripture, in the writings of Church Fathers and in the arguments which formed the “Christological Controversies” of the first several centuries. Likewise, the term Trinity is not found in scripture, but it was used long before the doctrine was formalized, as early as 170 ad.

It is probably one of the more interesting points about the Ancient Church that often gets lost in todays discussion and criticism of doctrine, that the formation of the canon of scripture and the creed/trinity go hand in hand with the Catholic/Orthodox church. Or maybe a better way to say it is that the early church period had several sects, which used other books as their set of sacred texts, which were not included in the canon of scripture accepted by the Ancient Church, and their beliefs about the Son tended to either increase or diminish His divinity. Ebionites believed he was just a man, Gnostics held that he was pure spirit and not incarnate; Arianism, which was probably the greatest challenge during this period, believed that Son was created. To these challenges the Church stood her ground and responded. The heresies and sects diminished and eventually disappeared, but the church remained and with it the Creeds and the Scriptures. The heresies and several sects of today have adopted our canon but rejected our Creed, opting for the lost christologies or new versions of old arguments. This has always been a ‘head scratcher’ for me. Why take our canon if our creed is false? Or why accept our Creed yet reject the canon we established? Why not take the canon of those sects who held a closer belief to the one proposed? In a way the old heresies were more honest in their practice, even if we believe they were incorrect. They set their own beliefs and formed their own canon.

Regardless, it must be stated; and this from personal experience, that the Creeds are an anchor of sorts. A symbol, a reminder, a roadmap, or whatever you wish to call that thing which allows you to keep your feet on the ground in the plethora of beliefs, arguments and controversies which we all have to deal with today. It held me to a standard when I wandered into denominational Christianity years ago, helping me to steer clear of those sects which invented new versions of old heresies. The Creeds also played their part in bringing me back home to the Ancient Church. And maybe that is why it is placed in the center of the Mass, as the transition between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Missa – Homilia

imagesCAE7622EThe Liturgy of the Word has its own “communion”. It follows the Gospel reading, which is the climax of the first part of the mass and as the Priest proclaims “The Gospel of the Lord”, the congregation responds with “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!” and then takes a seat as bread is broken.

The bread and communion we most often think of, in relation to Christianity, is the Body and Blood; which in the catholic church, is the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist. But did you know that the Sacred Scriptures are also understood as “bread”? They are broken open and distributed at every mass in the readings, as seen from the last several posts, when it is read and sung; and especially as we stand for the very Gospel. And then comes a communion of sorts as we sit to hear the Homily.

The word “homily” comes from Greek (homilia) and means to have “communion” or a “verbal intercourse” with another. It is an interaction with the Written Word, and it comes to us in the manner of a small sermon. The homily explains, explores, and breaks down the scriptures for us, and can come in the form of a parable, an admonishment, a commentary or expository. What I have noticed is that it really depends on the priest or deacon who is giving it. Some are funny and use humor, others more serious. Some dig into history and lives of saints, while others focus on modern issues and world events and how the church should respond. Homilies can focus on morals, ethics, or doctrine as it explains the Scriptures. Whatever the style or manner, it is this “communion”, which takes the written Word of God and moves it into the hearts of the church through this most ancient form of preaching.

29. When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his own word, proclaims the Gospel. Therefore, all must listen with reverence to the readings from God’s word, for they make up an element of greatest importance in the Liturgy. Although in the readings from Sacred Scripture God’s word is addressed to all people of every era and is understandable to them, nevertheless, a fuller understanding and a greater effectiveness of the word is fostered by a living commentary on the word, that is, the Homily, as part of the liturgical action.

:From the General Instruction of the Roman Missal

Missa – Evangelium

evangeliaryAt the heart of Catholicism, whether its doctrines and tradition, its prayers, its worship or its all its practice and function, the whole system of belief which we call our faith comes down to Jesus, who if we are patient to seek, we will certainly find. On several occasions I have had people ask me about praying to Mary and why catholics would worship her instead of Jesus? But even in our veneration of Mary, which is not “worship”, I would quickly point out that right in the center of the “Hail Mary” prayer, is a pause as the prayer bows to her Child. “and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”.

This Jesus centeredness is certainly found in the Mass as well and in several ways. In these recent blogs on the mass we have now come to the heart of the Liturgy of the Word. We have read from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Psalms, and the Christian Scriptures in the New Testament and now we will hear from the very Gospels.

The Evangelical Symbols, Book of Kells 8th-9th century

The Evangelical Symbols, Book of Kells 8th-9th century

The Gospels consist of 4 books which were accepted by the church as inspired. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is believed that they were some of the last books written; coming long after many of the Epistles. In our canon they come right at the beginning of the New Testament which fits them into a chronological order with the rest of the writings, but right in the “center” of the Bible. But in history, before the Bible was assembled into a single book or before it became easy to do this by means of a printing press, the Gospels were often contained in their own volume which was called the Evangeliarium, or a Gospel Book. These books are noteworthy in that the cover is often in Gold and has the symbols of the 4 Evangelists on them, though this is not always the case. The celebrated Book of Kells is an example of a Gospel Book from the middle ages.

During the Mass as preparation for the Gospel reading begins, the congregation will stand as a sign of importance. Instead of just announcing the Gospel and beginning to read, we honor this ‘Good News’ of our Lord by singing “Alleluia” as the Deacon. accompanied by candle bearing altar boys, lifts the Gospel Book for all to see. The “Alleluia” will usually have a verse that emphasizes “hearing the word”, and in some masses incense is also used to herald the Gospel reading. The candles are used to draw attention to the Gospel, with their symbol of light.

Closing%20Mass%206As mentioned the center of our worship always comes down to Christ, and this is the climax of the Liturgy of the Word. Our attention now on the reading, which will be from either the deacon or the Priest, again demonstrating the importance of the Gospel, we wait for the introduction. “A reading from the Gospel of ______”. At this point all will sign themselves with the cross “signum crucis” on their forehead, mouth and heart; symbolizing Christ in my thoughts, my words, and in my heart. And then the reading begins telling us of the events of Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of the Most High God, as he lived and died among us. And of how He rose again.

Upon completion of the reading the we hear the words “This is the Gospel of the Lord”, speaking not about the scroll or the book but the very heart of what the word means, and that is the “Good News”. And our response is “Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ”.

Missa – Epistolē

Paulus_St_Gallen[1]The second reading in the Liturgy of the Word directs us to a portion of the New Testament which is separate from the four Gospels. The Epistles which make up the majority of these writings take the spotlight, however the book of Acts and Revelation will also make an appearance.

The New Testament or Christian Scriptures consist of 27 books, 4 of which are Gospels. After the Gospels comes the book Acts, which tells a history of the early church, and at the end is the book of Revelation, a prophetic apocalypse dealing with christian eschatology, or in plainer terms the “end times”; however, it must also be noted that the primary function of Revelation is a disclosure of Jesus Christ as the Most High God, the Lamb who sits on the throne at the right hand of the Father.

Sandwiched between this ‘beginning’ in Acts and the ‘end’ in Revelation are a collection of Letters or Epistles (greek) written to the church  in the Apostolic Age. The majority of these are attributed to the Apostle Paul and are referred to as the Pauline Epistles. These include Romans, Corinthians and Galatians, all the way to Hebrews; making 14 in all. The remaining 7 are called the catholic or general epistles and their authorship is indicated in their names, James, Peter, Jude and John.

The Epistles demonstrate the Apostolic nature and function of the church. Written before the Gospels, these letters expose the Tradition that was being formed by those sent by Christ to bring the Gospel to the world. Paul, in most of his letters, states right at the beginning, the authority he has to instruct and teach as he declares himself an apostle. He explains the gospel, handles disputes and settles arguments, he also corrects and admonishes the churches he writes to. This we also find in the other epistles. The important thing to understand is that during this time, there was no “canon” of the New Testament. It was being written, collected and passed around among the early church, but for all the teaching and theology of Christianity during its formative years, a believer couldn’t just pick up a bible and start reading; they had to rely on the Apostolic Tradition which is still the primary function in the teaching authority of the church. With the canonization of the Sacred Scriptures, which were also a result of this Tradition, we have what is termed now as the written Word. This in combination with the spoken Word, or Sacred Tradition make up what we call the “Deposit of Faith.” And it is this function which is clearly demonstrated in the epistles, as the Apostles teach the message handed to them by Christ, and explain the scriptures that were available to those in the early church period, which we now call the Old Testament.

In the mass, the second reading will often tie in with the first reading from the Old Testament and bridge into the Gospel reading which will follow, demonstrating the continuity between the testaments. As with the first reading, upon it’s conclusion the lector will say “The Word of the Lord” to which the church responds “Thanks be to God”.

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