Thursday, December 15, 2011

Update: New Articles

I added some new links to my collection of Resources for Advent 2011. They include the following:
I added links to a few other areas of my blog as well. To the "Catechetical Materials" page, I added the following websites:
To the "Online Works by Great Catholic Authors" page, I added The Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons and the following works by Germain Grisez:
To the "Scripture Study Resources" section in my right sidebar, I added the following:
Finally, I added Early Church Texts to the "Early Church Fathers" section.

Needless to say, my search for awesome resources on the internet is never-ending. I hope these are of help to you.

Pax Christi,

Catholic Q&A: Part 19

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Why do people love the pope so much?

Well, I can only speak for myself here, but I know that I love the pope for many reasons. For one, I very much respect his intelligence of the faith. Pope Benedict XVI is a supremely learned man, very knowledgeable and wise. I can't say I've read a great many of his books, but what I have read has always impressed me greatly. In particular, The Spirit of the Liturgy, and his two-volume work on the life of Christ (Jesus of Nazareth) have been very influential in my life.

I also love the pope because he is my shepherd and I have confidence in him. I am thankful for the office of the papacy, that it exists as a sure guide and a sturdy foundation in my life as a Catholic. But, that this man in particular would fill this office is a real dream come true for me. When Pope John Paul II died, it was my hope that Ratzinger would take his place, but I never thought in a million years that it would actually happen. When it actually did, I was exceedingly happy. I knew that this was a man who could lead us in the right direction.

I love the pope, furthermore, for his devotion to the liturgy, to the "reform of the reform", to helping the Church to better realize the intention of the Council while at the same time embrace a "hermeneutic of continuity" in liturgy, and faith, and life with what has come before. In particular, I consider his work to make the Extraordinary Form more available and to complete the work of John Paul II in publishing the third edition of the Roman Missal to be extraordinary gifts to the Church.

Finally, I think he is a charming man. He's much more personable and accessible than I think anyone ever thought he would be. He is very "grandfatherly" and endearing to me. He is not quite the "star of the show" or the center of attention like JPII was, but instead has a sort of quiet confidence and calming effect on people. Of course, I've never met the man, so I'm not really sure what gives me that impression of him. Maybe it's his smile, or his German accent. At any rate, I can imagine sitting with him by a fire and just talking forever ... and I really like that about him.

What are the elements that enter in the interpretation on the Bible?

The quickest way to answer this question is to refer you to the following website: A Catholic Guide to Biblical Interpretation: Exploring the Many Worlds of Scripture with Faith, Reason and Praxis. The title may sound a little intimidating, but this site is actually quite accessible and it gives brief overviews of the various contexts and approaches to Scripture that are important for an authentic Catholic interpretation of the Bible.

What are the four Marian dogmas?

The four Marian dogmas state that:
  1. Mary is the Mother of God,
  2. she was conceived without the stain of original sin (and consequently committed no sins in her entire life),
  3. she remained a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Christ,
  4. she was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory
For more on the four Marian dogmas, see the "Mary" topical index page.

Do you have any commentary on the bread of life?

I'm assuming you are referring to the "Bread of Life" discourse in Jn 6. For Catholic commentary on this and the entire Gospel of John see my blog post: "Online Scripture Commentaries on St. John's Gospel".

Pax Christi,

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gaudete Sunday, Rose-Colored Vestments, and Advent Wreaths

Why does the priest sometimes wear pink on the third Sunday of Advent?

First, it’s important to define the exact color in question. The liturgical color that can be worn on the third Sunday of Advent (“Gaudete Sunday”) is rosacea, or “rose” – not pink. Rosacea has a slight orangish-red tint to it, sort of like a fresh salmon filet. If you’ve never actually seen rose-colored vestments before, you might be surprised to find that they are very distinguished and beautiful. Pink, on the other hand, is a paler, more feminine color. Think “Pepto-Bismol”.

In our modern times, vestments for this day have gotten a little bubble-gum crazy and, as a result, a priest risks looking like a big Care Bear every time Gaudete Sunday rolls around. Thankfully, he can also choose to simply wear violet.

Here are some examples of rose-colored vestments, courtesy of Fr. Z and New Liturgical Movement (go to each site and search for "Gaudete" and "rosacea"):

As you can see, there is some acceptable variation in color. Some of the vestments above are closer to red, others closer to purple. All of them are very dignified and appropriate for the third Sunday of Advent.

The reason for the color change is to emphasize in a poignant way that the Lord is near. Advent is now more than half-way over! The bursting forth of such an unusual color has the effect of a sudden exclamation in a quiet room. In the midst of our penances, and our quiet contemplation, a voice cries out: Gaudete in Domino semper! “Rejoice in the Lord always!” Those are the words of the Entrance Antiphon for today, and that’s why we call this day “Gaudete Sunday.”

Where does the Advent wreath come from? What does it mean?

The following explanation is from Fr. William Saunders, a popular Catholic apologist and theologian:
The Advent wreath is part of our long-standing Catholic tradition. However, the actual origins are uncertain. There is evidence of pre-Christian Germanic peoples using wreaths with lit candles during the cold and dark December days as a sign of hope in the future warm and extended-sunlight days of spring. In Scandinavia during winter, lit candles were placed around a wheel, and prayers were offered to the god of light to turn "the wheel of the earth" back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

By the Middle Ages, Christians had taken up this practice and infused it with profound symbolism as a way to prepare for Christmas. Since Jesus is the light of the world (cf. Jn 8:12), it is fitting that the wreath would produce more and more light the closer we get to Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Christ. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Three of them are purple, a color traditionally associated with penance and prayer. One of them is rose, a symbol of our rejoicing. The circular shape of the wreath, which has no beginning or end, symbolizes the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life found in Christ.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, December 04, 2011

What Is Advent?

The Modern Catholic Dictionary, by Fr. John A. Hardon provides the following definition:
  • A period of prayer in preparation for Christmas, including four Sundays, the first nearest the feast of St. Andrew, November 30. It is the beginning of the Church's liturgical year. The use of the organ and other musical instruments is restricted in liturgical functions. However, it is allowed 1. in extraliturgical functions, 2. for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, 3. to support singing, and 4. on Gaudete Sunday, feasts and solemnities, and in any extraordinary celebration. Altars may not be decorated with flowers. In the celebration of matrimony, the nuptial blessing is always imparted. But the spouses are advised to take into account the special character of the liturgical season. Masses for various needs and votive Masses for the dead are not allowed unless there is a special need. (Etym. Latin adventus, a coming, approach, arrival.)

Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is a time of preparation for and anticipation of the coming of the Lord that we celebrate on Christmas Day. It is an opportunity to place ourselves in the shoes of the Jewish people who waited so long for the coming of the Messiah. It is an opportunity to renew our appreciation for the Incarnation, the moment when the Son of God became man, one like us in all things but sin.

Advent takes on a somber tone, similar to Lent, because our minds are focused on what life is like without Christ, without God’s entrance into our world. Of course, in waiting for this coming of the Lord, Advent takes on an eschatological tone as well since, as Christians, we also await the Second Coming, when Jesus will come again and make all things new.

Unfortunately, the same world that God so desired to save can often squelch the spirit of Advent that we are called to embrace. If we are somber it is not because we anxiously await the coming of the Lord, it is because traffic to the mall is backed up, Wal-Mart is all out of Nintendo Wii’s, and the kids are yelling in the back seat because they want to go see Santa Claus. It’s easy in times like this to forget what Christmas is really all about.

This is where Advent comes in. Once we understand Advent for what it is truly meant to be, it can be the antidote to the stress that often accompanies the holiday season. Advent calls us to refocus are minds back to what is important and to remember again the true reason for the season.

Over 2,000 years ago, God asked a virgin a simple question: “Will you let me use you to bring my Son to the world? Will you give me your flesh, your life, your time, your entire being?” In a sense, this is the same question that God asks us today, and Advent is a time to prepare ourselves so that when God wishes to come through us, we like Mary, will be able to say “Yes” to Him.

Let's also remember that with Advent's past significance (in the Incarnation) and future significance (in the Parousia) is also a present reality. Jesus comes, here and now, wherever the Eucharist is celebrated. In a sense, every Mass is a new Advent, and it only makes sense that, during this time of preparation, we should remain close to Christ in the Eucharist. It is in that advent that He is preparing us for the advent that awaits the end of time.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Thanksgiving and Advent Articles

Just wanted to make a quick update and let you know about some new links that I have added to my Thanksgiving and Advent collections. I know, Thanksgiving is already over, but the virtue of thanks is one that we should always foster, especially during the Season of Advent, when our thoughts are focused on a world without Christ and the great gift that was His coming:

Pax Christi,
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