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Maximize the Beauty of the Liturgy

January 8th, 2015, Promulgated by Bernie

Epiphany 2015

Post by Gregory Dipippo

From the New Liturgical Movement

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, chapter 1

Very short but spot on:

Jesus was born in a humble stable and placed in a manger, true. But the Wise Men did not bring Him straw, dirt, and dung; they brought Him costly royal gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The way in which Our Lord was born revealed His humility, which disdains earthly pomp; the way in which the three kings adored him revealed…

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19 Responses to “Maximize the Beauty of the Liturgy”

  1. avatar gaudium says:

    I have a good friend who served in Vietnam as a Marine. He has spoken movingly about attending a Mass celebrated in the bush on the hood of a jeep. This is like the Haitians under the tent issue. The reason my friend is still deeply moved when he speaks of that experience is because of its extraordinary nature. The priest cared enough to celebrate under very dangerous circumstances and Christ cared enough to make himself present for those men in desperate straits. I am sure that my pal would be horrified if he showed up at our local parish and the priest had moved a jeep into the sanctuary to use as an altar. To compare making a stripped down version of a church in a prosperous suburb to the dire straits the Haitians found themselves in is quite unfair to the Haitians. It seems as though an objection to a properly ornamented church on the basis of simplicity should be authentically manifested in that person’s living in stark simplicity himself.

  2. avatar christian says:

    I must admit that I am drawn to the beauty of older style churches and cathedrals, more traditional in style. (I was even drawn to a large scale black and white framed photograph that I saw in a coffee shop this morning, of a dilapidated, abandoned cathedral, presumably in Europe. It found out that it was entitled “Apostacy.”) I saw beauty in the photograph of that cathedral, even though it was in disrepair and abandoned.

    I do not think true faith was against the people in Haïti rebuilding their churches/cathedrals, but wanted to highlight that the people’s Faith and indwelling Holy Spirit, was their greatest treasure.

    I may not relish a church/parish building’s style of sanctuary or seating, but I would not bring it up directly after those parishioners suffered the loss of that church/parish building’s sanctuary or seating, as I deem it inappropriate and insensitive in their time of loss.

    The time to bring up modifications and other suggestions of the church building is after the parishioners have had time to adjust, the insurance company has settled the claim, and the basic work for support and restructuring of walls is underway. The most important thing people/parishioners need at the time of a devastating loss is our support and prayers, and a reminder that their Faith and indwelling Holy Spirit, in addition to being able to partake in Eucharist, is their greatest treasure.

  3. avatar christian says:

    Ideally, the people/parishioners should match the church building in reverence and beauty, and the church building should match the people/parishioners in reverence and beauty, but I must admit the most important of these two aspects is that the people have reverence and beauty.

    Noted, the Wise Men brought Jesus the best they had as their heart was in the gift. People of old sacrificed to give the best they had in building magnificent churches as a tribute to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Today, it is our call to give our best to our church/parish and to those we meet encounter everyday whether it be face to face, over the phone, or via the Internet. I believe God knows our financial situation and our heart and would be honored with a church building where he could be worshiped, even if was made with nearby hand hewn lumber and special effects taken out of a person(s) personal wealth, rather something else built out of others’ excess wealth. I have to remind myself that what is most important is how God sees things.

  4. avatar Bernie says:

    I did not post this link with the Pius X post in mind. It’s a take on a theme that anyone who has read my many posts will recognize. Hindsight tells me I should have realized that folks would make a connection to the discussion that followed the Pius X post. I should have waited.

  5. avatar true faith says:

    I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with the replies of gaudium and christian. I entirely understand the sentiments of gaudium’s friend in relating the Mass he attended as a Marine serving in Vietnam on the hood of a jeep. It was the extraordinary nature of this Mass in this dangerous and unlikely setting among men who had experienced hardship, suffering and loss which made this a special and moving experience. This was the same experience as in Haïti , driving in a truck through roads lined with rubble and ruins to a tent already filled with faithful Haïtians in heartfelt worship.They had joy and a deep faith despite not only their hardship following the earthquake, the suffering and injuries they experienced, but their loss of their Cathedral , their schools , their hospitals and homes and the loss of their family members , friends and church leader. That Jesus Christ can be so present in a situation of danger, suffering, hardship and loss is an experience that a Christian can never forget, but treasure. This once in a lifetime experience is what the Japanese refer to as ” ichi-go ichi-e ” A unique occasion to be savored, appreciated and remembered for it can’t be replicated again.

    This is another kind of beauty that Christians experience during the sacrament of the sick and during ministry visits to their hospital bed , their home, their nursing home and their jail cell.

    I never indicated that the Haïtians had no intention of rebuilding their Cathedral or that church architecture or sacred art wasn’t important or edifying. I was commenting on their joy and worship despite destruction and loss. There is worth to their experience of Christ’s Presence during suffering giving them joy, comfort and peace. To minimize this in favor of objectively discussing plans of architecture and sacred art to make their new Cathedral even better than the old one would come across as insensitive, shallow and undeniable avoidance of others’ suffering.

    I can’t add anything more to the excellent posts of gaudium and christian but to say amen and amen ! Why discuss the plans for a better architecture and sacred art for Pius X Church while the parishioners are presently suffering the tragedy of the destruction of their church and the wound is fresh ?
    Shouldn’t we be supporting them , encouraging them ,helping them and praying them as fellow Christians . This is too soon to discuss opinions about their former church and what could make it better.

  6. avatar Diane Harris says:

    “Jesus was born in a humble stable and placed in a manger, true. But the Wise Men did not bring Him straw, dirt, and dung; they brought Him costly royal gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

    The Magi didn’t come to the stable either. They found the Holy Family in a house. See Matthew 2:11, which means that most of the stable/manger scenes are not accurate — showing the 3 Kings. The gifts they brought must have provided for the Holy Family during their years in Egypt, the Flight which began quickly after the departure of the Magi. How loving and care-full was the Heavenly Father in His protection and provision.

    It would also seem that the stable site not only shows the humility of God’s coming in the Flesh, but we rarely hear or realize the privacy, the modesty and the holy contemplation it afforded Mary for the birth, which might have been difficult to achieve in a busy inn, and the “low profile” it allowed so that searchers wouldn’t be aware of and seek out the child to execute Herod’s decrees.

  7. avatar Scott W. says:

    St. JPII to the rescue:

    From Ecclesia De Eucharista (my emphasis)–

    47. Reading the account of the institution of the Eucharist in the Synoptic Gospels, we are struck by the simplicity and the “solemnity” with which Jesus, on the evening of the Last Supper, instituted this great sacrament. There is an episode which in some way serves as its prelude: the anointing at Bethany. A woman, whom John identifies as Mary the sister of Lazarus, pours a flask of costly ointment over Jesus’ head, which provokes from the disciples – and from Judas in particular (cf. Mt 26:8; Mk 14:4; Jn 12:4) – an indignant response, as if this act, in light of the needs of the poor, represented an intolerable “waste”. But Jesus’ own reaction is completely different. While in no way detracting from the duty of charity towards the needy, for whom the disciples must always show special care – “the poor you will always have with you” (Mt 26, 11; Mk 14:7; cf. Jn 12:8) – he looks towards his imminent death and burial, and sees this act of anointing as an anticipation of the honour which his body will continue to merit even after his death, indissolubly bound as it is to the mystery of his person…

    …48. Like the woman who anointed Jesus in Bethany, the Church has feared no “extravagance”, devoting the best of her resources to expressing her wonder and adoration before the unsurpassable gift of the Eucharist. No less than the first disciples charged with preparing the “large upper room”, she has felt the need, down the centuries and in her encounters with different cultures, to celebrate the Eucharist in a setting worthy of so great a mystery. In the wake of Jesus’ own words and actions, and building upon the ritual heritage of Judaism, the Christian liturgy was born. Could there ever be an adequate means of expressing the acceptance of that self-gift which the divine Bridegroom continually makes to his Bride, the Church, by bringing the Sacrifice offered once and for all on the Cross to successive generations of believers and thus becoming nourishment for all the faithful? Though the idea of a “banquet” naturally suggests familiarity, the Church has never yielded to the temptation to trivialize this “intimacy” with her Spouse by forgetting that he is also her Lord and that the “banquet” always remains a sacrificial banquet marked by the blood shed on Golgotha. The Eucharistic Banquet is truly a “sacred” banquet, in which the simplicity of the signs conceals the unfathomable holiness of God: O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur! The bread which is broken on our altars, offered to us as wayfarers along the paths of the world, is panis angelorum, the bread of angels, which cannot be approached except with the humility of the centurion in the Gospel: “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof ” (Mt 8:8; Lk 7:6).

  8. avatar Sid says:

    @Diane, I agree with you regarding Matthew 2:11. It’s likely the birth site was not habited by the Holy Family for long.

    As for that “stable” though… that representation is fairly modern. It is actually VERY old tradition (Church fathers… early centuries) that the manger (a trough of sorts used to supply animal feed) was actually within a cave rather than a human-constructed stable.

    It’s even sometimes even today still represented in Nativity Scenes such as this one at the Vatican:
    http://vassallomalta.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/20121215-205302.jpg

  9. avatar Diane Harris says:

    Excellent point, Sid. (And very nice Nativity Scene you linked to as well.) Likely the perception of a stable/barn came about because of the use of the term manger — food trough for animals — therefore our perception of a barn. I guess St. Francis might have helped that image along, as well. Animals were also ‘stabled’ in caves, which would likely have been somewhat more comfortable temperature-wise.

    Luke 2: 7, 12, 16 would be the main source of the translation “manger” with the Greek word, ????? (phatna) used only 4x in the NT, all in Luke (see also its translation as a “stall” in Luke 13:15.) However, in the Protoevangelium of James (apochryphal, not canonical) we do find the word ‘cave’ in that infancy narrative. In 15:9 we read: “So the wise men went forth, and behold, the star which they saw in the east went before them till it came and stood over the cave where the young child was with Mary his mother.” While we have the better word “house” for the Magi’s arrival in Matthew, perhaps there was some oral tradition which indicated that the child had been placed at birth in a manger in a cave.

    Cave is used once in the RSV translation of the NT, when John 11:38 describes the tomb of Lazarus as being in a cave. The word ???????? (spelaion) relates to rock, and is also translated in other places as “den.” I don’t have the Greek regarding the word James used, but the NT word for cave/den clearly differs from manger. How jarring yet appropriate would be birth in a cave, which was often used for burial too? It is probably too fanciful to think that Lazarus’s tomb could have been the same cave as the Nativity, isn’t it?

    (Note: I am definitely not raising the apochryphal to canonical status; only noting another reference — not in the NT — to use of cave.)

  10. avatar christian says:

    Diane Harris – It is my understanding also since my early thirties, after encountering further adult education and bible study, that the Magi did not reach the Christ Child and his parents, Mary and Joseph, until the child was older, probably between 1-2 years of age, in another dwelling. This would explain why Herod put out a decree for all male children of the Jews, 2 years of age and younger, to be killed. (Feast of the Holy Innocents – a church feast which does not seem to get much attention nowadays).

    There is thought that there were more than 3 Kings/Wise Men/Magi who visited Jesus to pay him homage. The Magi/Wise Men were from the religion Zoroastrianism. Their prophet Zoroaster, prophesied the birth of a king and savior hundreds of years before the birth of Christ in texts of the Gathas. He referred to him as “Righteousness”, the second member of the Trinity, and “Word Incarnate.” He even swore allegiance as a prophet to the second member of the Trinity. It has been stated that he left certain astronomical signs for those who would come after him, to be a sign that this savior had been born in the land of the Jews, and to follow that star/light to find the child.
    There was a really nice PBS special that was shown various years, to historically recount the phenomenon of this great star/light when Jesus was born, and the journey of the Magi. Apparently star can also mean light. There were a few theories presented which could account for this great star/light. One of the theories, which was present at the time approximated for Jesus Christ’s birth, was a certain alignment of the planets that caused great intense light.

    I still find it fascinating and awesome, that a different people, from a different religion, came to pay Jesus Christ homage as their new born king and savior. That’s the whole connection of the Feast of Epiphany, the revelation that Jesus Christ was Savior of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; He is Savior of the World, Savior of the Universe.

    Regarding where Jesus was born: Today, I found another reference to where Jesus has been thought to be born. It refers to a type of cave called Tower of the Flock which was prophesied in the Old Testament. It states this watch tower was used by shepherds for protection from their enemies and wild beasts. It states that this sheltered building/cave is also where ewes were brought safely by priests who were about to lamb, and the lambs were from “an unique flock that was designated for sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem.”
    http://bible-truth.org/BirthPlaceofJesus.html

    Mary and Joseph probably brought their donkey into this cave. It is conceivable that there were sheep and lambs present. It is also conceivable that shepherds who visited the Christ Child and his parents, were accompanied by a dog or another domestic animal. I have no doubt that there were animals present.

    Diane-I think you are correct when you state St. Francis of Assisi might have helped to bring the image along of a stable/barn where Jesus was born, because that’s what we of European ancestry normally think of as a place to house/stable animals. The image of the Magi/Wise Men/Three Kings coming to visit Jesus at the Nativity Scene is probably to depict the revelation of Jesus Christ as Savior of the World, to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. If you see a French Crèche, it has people of different occupations and walks of life, coming to pay Jesus homage at his Nativity in addition to the Magi. Historically, the Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker, Maid, and other peoples and occupations were not present when Jesus Christ was born, but people out of their humility, devotion, and gratefulness at Christ’s coming, want to place themselves and their occupations/trades spiritually and symbolically at the birth of Christ to pay him homage.

    I am sure that most, if not all of us, would like to place ourselves spiritually and symbolically at the Nativity of Jesus, in our walk of life, with our gifts and occupation/trade, to pay homage to Jesus for being born in such humble circumstances, for our salvation, and also to honor his parents, Mary and Joseph.

  11. avatar Diane Harris says:

    @ Christian
    I think we both are mostly on the same page. In Luke, in the announcement to the shepherds, Christ is called in the Greek text a “brephos” (babe, infant, new born) in a manger. However in the Gospel of Matthew, the Magi arrive to find a “paidion”, i.e. a toddler living in a house. Thus, just before the Slaughter of the Innocents (should be a Holy Day of Obligation in the US, IMO), Christ was likely a toddler 2 1/2 years old or younger. Joseph rose and took Mary and the toddler in Matthew 2:14.

    [Interestingly, this same distinction is made in Luke 18:15-16 when the Apostles complained that mothers were “even” bringing infants to Christ. Christ’s reply was to allow the toddlers to come to Him. One might ask why “even” infants was objectionable, and perhaps it was some failure to follow the Law requiring purification or presentation before “going out in public?” At any rate, there is just such a distinction in those two verses between babies and toddlers.]

    I agree with you that the two year old limit regarding the slaughter of the innocents was an edict based on when the Magi saw the star. And sometimes there are calculations of how many children it would have involved, forgetting that “two years and under” does not mean “before their 2nd birthday” but all the way up to their third birthday (being two years old the day before turning 3.) The apocryphal gospel of James also has the slaughter, and a related search for John the Baptist (whose miraculous birth was known throughout the Hill Country of Juda.) This may thus have widened the search beyond the city limits of Bethlehem. That “Gospel” of James also attributes the death of Zachariah (See Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51) to refusal to disclose the whereabouts of John the Baptist. Since he would have been 6 months older than Christ, it would place Christ, the toddler, as no older than 2 1/2.

    To round out the timing, the Book of Revelation describes the Mother of the Messiah fleeing to the desert to escape Satan, and staying there for 1260 days, in Revelation 12:6 “… and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” If that relates to the time in Egypt, it would be nearly 3 1/2 years, making Christ 5-6 years old when returning to Nazareth.

    Not one to ever watch the same show more than once, I have see The Bethlehem Star at least 6 times, and learn more each time. The progressed stars, conjunctions and retrograde motion lines up well against the prophetic text in the bible. I highly recommend viewing it, described here: http://www.bethlehemstar.net/

    The ‘thesis is that the Kings came from an astronomy school in Babylon likely descended from Daniel, who apparently did not return from the exile. That idea is offered in The Star to explain why an otherwise pagan culture would have an interest in the Jewish Messiah.

  12. avatar christian says:

    I think this falls under liturgy: Regarding carols and hymns for Christmas: I am not even mentioning the rewording of carols and hymns to make them more “inclusive” or to enable a publisher to get around copyright constraints. I am discussing how the Christmas Message is lacking if it does not include the Mission of the Christ Child from His birth.

    I have noticed for many years now, that certain refrains or verses are left out of some Christmas hymns which depict a foreshadowing of the baby’s mission on earth and His suffering and death to save Mankind.

    I have observed this at all the churches I have attended in the Christmas Season for at least the last 15 years. Example: “What Child Is This” -the refrain to the second verse is “Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you, Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary.” Yet, the refrain to the second verse is replaced by repeating the refrain to the first verse instead -“This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing, Haste, haste to bring him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary.” Then when we come to the refrain to the third verse- “Raise, raise a song on high, The virgin sings her lullaby, Joy, joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary.” While they’re at it, to make things simpler, the refrain to the first verse is substituted again.

    Example-“We Three Kings of Orient Are” – The third verse – “Myrrh is mine: it’s bitter perfume, Breaths a life of gathering gloom, Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding dying, Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.” This third verse is purposely omitted by various church and community music directors as they find that verse depressing in the Christmas Season.

    I have not heard other Christmas carols or hymns which used to be sung, including verses that foreshadowed Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, to set us set us free from the power of sin. I have also not heard “Lullay,Thou Little Tiny Child.”

    There appears to be a spin on keeping everything that might be construed as melancholy and depressing out of the Christmas Season.

    I heard these Christmas carols and hymns in their fullest text years ago, and I was also taught to sing all these Christmas Carols and Hymns in their fullest text from the time I was a child and sang in children’s choirs.

    Many years ago, in a former parish, various locations in the church were used for the Nativity Scene for Christmas. One year, the Nativity Scene was placed in front of a backdrop of a drape that covered the large crucifix on the wall. Some onlookers dismayed that you could see the online of the Cross behind the Nativity Scene. I commented that it was very appropriate.

  13. avatar christian says:

    Regarding what Sid mentioned (as well as Diane Harris’ account) – My maternal grandmother’s nativity set had a cave setting for the birth of Jesus accompanied by Mary and Jesus. We still have that nativity set. The nativity set has the angel, the donkey, and the usual animals and people in a nativity set. I do not know how old that nativity set is, but it pre-dated Vatican II and it might go back as far as the 1920’s (or earlier).

  14. avatar christian says:

    I came across this painting of the Magi visiting Jesus as a toddler. The painter was not listed.

    http://www.jesus-story.net/Copy_of_1956176_f520.jpg

  15. avatar militia says:

    Having no place else to post this, it seems that those interested in this topic would also like the (brief) listverse on the 10 most important Councils of the Church:

    http://listverse.com/2015/01/12/10-of-the-most-important-councils-that-defined-the-catholic-religion/

    But beware — even the first paragraph begins with errors! Paul never met Christ? Did the Damascus Road count for nothing? Paul interpreted the Gospels (he wrote before the Gospels were completed)….. but nevertheless the choice of the 10 top Councils as seen from outside the Church is interesting, including the confirmation of the existence of Purgatory.

  16. avatar christian says:

    Thank you for posting the link militia – it was interesting and informative.

  17. avatar Sid says:

    @militia,
    Yes, I agree that the list is a decent one, but I too have some quibbles. For instance, #8 deals with the First Vatican Council of 1870. In the commentary, the writer states that Popes speaking ex cathedra has only occurred twice, first in 1950 by Pope Piux XII regarding the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin and again in 1994 when Pope John Paul II said ordination was reserved to men.

    I might be picking a nit here, but I believe John Paul’s declaration was actually an example of infallible teachings of the ordinary and universal magisterium rather than an papal ex cathedra statement per se. Don’t get me wrong, it would still be infallible, but it didn’t originate from him.

    If I am incorrect here, please someone correct me.

  18. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    I wouldn’t put Vatican 2 anywhere on the list. We have seen its fruits and I don’t see much good that came from it. I have seen incredible evil springing up

  19. avatar raymondfrice says:

    I can see that many people are concerned about the type of Church where the Mass is said at Christmas etc,; should it be Gothic, modern, ornate, simple, have good music, be quiet or very still, singing “good ” carols, have a magnificent organ , playing Bach or Rolling Stones (LOL) etc!!
    However, I think we must keep in mind that the next step after His arrival in a Church is what He encounters if and when we invite Him into our hearts, the Church of our soul. How is our personal/ heart Church!!!! This is the spiritual issue.


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