If you’re new to this Advent blog, I recommend reading Welcome to Advent 2009 to get a sense of why we want to spend four weeks preparing for our Christmas celebration and how it can help you deepen your (our) spirituality whether you are a Catholic or even a Christian.
I’d like to call your attention to yesterday’s first reading (Isaiah 2: 1-5 ) because it’s an important Advent theme:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4.
All of my adult life my writing and my prayer has been against war —
Viet Nam / the Balkans / the Gulf War / Iraq / and Afghanistan.
Pope Paul VI, speaking before the United Nations General Assembly made an impassioned plea:
“No more war! Never again war!
And Pope John Paul II said the Iraq war was A defeat for humanity.
And Dwight David Eisenhower, the great general of Word War II and President of the U.S. said: “When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war. War settles nothing.”
And now Pope Francis has gone even further. The Vatican had a conference recently about building a world free of nuclear weapons. Pope Francis has inferred that the global political system has become irrational, describing his decision last month to shift papal teaching away from an acceptance of nuclear deterrence as partly due to the world’s instability.
In an hour-long press conference aboard the papal flight to Rome Dec. 2, the pontiff also said it is his “convinced opinion” that the world is “at the limit of licitly having and using nuclear weapons.”
Asked what about the world situation had changed that caused him to break with the church’s previous acceptance of nuclear deterrence, and if recent saber-rattling between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had played a role, the pope replied: “What has changed is the irrationality.”
Pope Francis pauses as he answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Rome Dec. 2.
Comparing his November 10th statement at the Vatican conference that the “very possession” of nuclear weapons is to be “firmly condemned” to Pope John Paul II’s determination in 1982 that deterrence was “morally acceptable,” Francis said: “Many years have passed since the time of John Paul II.”
“Today, we are at the limit,” the pontiff continued. “Why? Because with nuclear arsenals that are so sophisticated today, the destruction of humanity is at risk, or at least the great part of humanity.”
Francis then told journalists he wanted to ask a question “not as part of the papal magisterium, but as a question made by a pope.”
“Today, is it licit to maintain nuclear arsenals as they are?” he asked. “Or, today, to save creation, to save humanity, is it not necessary to go backwards?” (National Catholic Reporter / Dec 2, 2017 online edition / Joshua J. McElwee)
And now, what about you and me?
Advent is a time to wish for peace / pray for peace / work for peace.
The Christmas story is about peace. One of the titles of Jesus is “Prince of Peace.”
But we become cynical about peace.
Many of us have our private little wars that we engage in every day with a sibling or a friend or co-worker.
Let’s “Practice peacefulness”, as a friend put it to me once. Let’s stop the gossiping, giving people a chance. Try to be kinder to the folks you interact with today.
The legend of St. Christopher carrying a child across a stream on a stormy night invites us to greet every human person as if they were Christ himself.
Think thoughts of peace. Be peace. At least try it today, the second day of Advent.
I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace,
peace for his people and his friends.
and those who turn to him in their hearts.
Mercy and faithfulness have met;
Justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven.
The Lord will make us prosper
and the earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps.
Before you go here’s a simple hymn about peace with a slideshow. Click here. Be sure to enter full screen. And here are today’s Mass readings: Click here.
In our last presentation, we talked about the opening session of the Second Vatican Council on October 11th, 1962. Pope John the Twenty-Third solemnly opened the Council on that day and I gave an excerpt of his address.
Unfortunately, Good Pope John died of stomach cancer a year and a half later on June 3, 1963. We lost two great men named John within a few months of each other and the Catholic world – if not many others – felt their loss deeply. President Lyndon Johnson posthumously bestowed on Pope John awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian award, in recognition of the good relationship between Pope John and the United States.
Pope Paul VI finished his work and the Council and set his own goals very clearly. His opening address on September 29th, 1963 stressed the pastoral nature of the council, and set out four purposes for it:
• to more fully define the nature of the Church and the role of the bishop;
• to renew the Church;
• to restore unity among all Christians, including seeking pardon for Catholic contributions to separation;
• and to start a dialogue with the contemporary world.
The Council solemnly closed on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1965.
The premier document of the Sacred Council was Sacrosanctam Concilium – The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.
Pope Paul approved the “New Mass,” that was implemented in 1970. Do you remember – if you’re of my generation – that suddenly the Mass was all in English, the priest was facing the people, and we were singing strange songs in church like Here We Are and Kumbaya, (Praise God, church music has much improved over the years.)
The oils were hardly dry on my hands when my classmate Phil and I were asked to make the presentations to our brother priests how to celebrate Eucharist in the new fashion; we had been trained by Father Eugene Walsh, an outstanding pastoral liturgist before we left the seminary.
I’m going to reflect on some of the points from Sacrosanctam Concilium myself in these writings. I hope I can make it interesting enough for you, so give it a try.
This is central statement of liturgy document:
The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed;
at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. (No. 10.)
(I’ll be speaking to my Catholic readers directly from time to time but I hope this will be informative to my other readers as well.)
Font and Summit. Is the liturgy the font, the source of and the summit, the focus of your Catholic life?
Have you gotten into the spirit of the liturgical life of the Church?
I’ve loved the sacred liturgy all my life.
I became an altar boy as soon as I could learn my Ad Deum qui laetificats. And in my senior year of high school I put together a book so that the priests could easily arrange the Holy Week services after I left. Later, in my seminary years, I was instrumental in persuading our university to provide good liturgy for the students. In my early priesthood, my bishop appointed me director of liturgy for the diocese, a work to which I gave myself enthusiastically.
These days, in my retirement, I still live the liturgy quietly from day to day. September, for example, is filled with feasts I love: Our Lady’s birthday (Sept.8th), the Exaltation of the Holy Cross that connects me with my beloved Holy Cross Cistercian Abbey in Berryville, Va. followed by St. Robert’s day, ending up with St. Michael’s Day at the end of the month. I also share my love of the liturgy with others through my blog (https://bobtraupman.wordpress.com(which you are reading) and my Arise reflection / letter.
Thus, the sacred liturgy is still the font and summit –the source and highlight of my life. And so, I ask again,
“Is the liturgy the font and summit – the source and focus of your Catholic life?
Before Vatican II, we worshipped mostly in silence; we didn’t understand what the priest was saying, unless we used a missal the Scriptures were few and in Latin but the priest read the gospel in English; the sermon was rarely on the scriptures and the choir sang everything.
But all that changed.
The liturgy constitution (SC) said the “Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation that is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy (no. 14).
Wow! That’s quite a strong statement and quite a change. And the SC goes on to say, “yet it would be futile to entertain such hopes of realizing this unless pastors themselves, in the first place, thoroughly become imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it.”
So, a question for you:
When you participate in the sacred liturgy, do you do so just to fulfill your Sunday obligation — half-heartedly – or do you do so “fully, consciously and actively” as the Council Fathers hoped the renewal of the liturgy would bring about?
We’ll stop here for today and explore the implications of this powerful statement ~ “full, conscious and active participation” of the people in our next segment on Monday.
But for your you go, for your listening enjoyment, here’s the song I mentioned in the last blog by Carey Landry, one of the earliest generation of liturgical composers ~The Spirit is a-movin’ Click here.(There’s sound but no images.) Carey sang that song at my ordination in 1969.