Rebooting the Liturgy
As we reboot our liturgy we will be keeping the following principles at the forefront of our practice.
- We continue to be concerned about the poor and vulnerable among us. We are called to take special care of the vulnerable in our midst, especially during this time of the pandemic. As the United States Bishops remind us, “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.” (USCCB Website).
- We are all doing the best we can as we adjust to changing circumstances. We are all in different places regarding this time of transition. We want to empower people to make their own decisions (while always expecting the needs of others). God has given us the gift of freedom to be used for the benefit of all (See USCCB Website – Rights and Responsibilities).
- We will follow the best scientific guidance available to us. Faith and reason go together. (See this interesting article on our Faith and science). As encouraged by the Diocese of Green Bay, we will continue to follow the best practices we can as our knowledge develops. COVID rates continue to go down in our area as vaccination rates increase. Precautionary measures used previously are no longer required. While some caution, particularly for the vulnerable, is still needed, the guidelines are changing. This is good news for all of us.
As we try to balance these concerns, we are making some changes to how we will celebrate the liturgy. The ones that will be most obvious are:
- For the next several weeks, our 5 pm Saturday liturgy will have a focus on protecting the vulnerable. We are strongly encouraging everyone who attends this liturgy to continue to wear a mask to create the safest possible environment for our vulnerable brothers and sisters.
- At the 8 am and 10 am Sunday liturgies, masks are welcome, but not required. The newest guidelines point out that people who are fully vaccinated have a minimal risk of contracting or spreading COVID 19 and many members of our community have been vaccinated. You are free to determine whether or not to wear a mask and where you would like to sit.
- We will continue to have a section with social distancing available in church as well as seating in the gathering area for those who desire to sit there.
I’m sure things will continue to change as we learn more and the summer progresses. Hopefully, the situation will continue to improve. May God continue to bless us as we begin our summer!
By Pietro lorenzetti [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest.’” (Mt. 21:9)
“[Pilate asked the crowd] ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!”” (Mt. 27:22)
This Sunday we celebrate the beginning of Holy Week. The technical name for this day is: Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. This name hints at the dual dimension of today’s feast.
The first dimension is pointed out by our entrance procession. Instead of gathering in the church as usual, we gather elsewhere and hear the proclamation of the Gospel recounting Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. We hear of the crowd singing “Hosanna” (which means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”) and rejoicing. They welcome Jesus as a king who has come to set his people free. There is a spirit of excitement and anticipation as they wait for Jesus to free his people from Roman domination. We join the crowd in this song as we enter the church.
But it is not long before we encounter the second dimension of this day. It is one of two days a year that we hear the proclamation of the Passion. On Good Friday, we hear St. John’s account of the passion; today we hear Matthew’s. Moments after joining the crowds cries of “Hosanna” and welcoming Jesus as a king who will save us by his power, we join the crowd in crying out for Jesus’ crucifixion when he does not meet our expectations.
The dual nature of today’s liturgy points out the weakness of our hearts to surrender to the power of God revealed in love and mercy. It points us firmly toward the full celebration of the Paschal Mystery through the celebrations of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter). Through the celebration of these sacred days this week, may our hearts be strengthened to surrender to the love and mercy of our God.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This Sunday we see how deeply biblical our liturgy is. John the baptizer refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, a phrase we hear every week at Mass. Just before communion we say “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Moments later the priest says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” This image of Jesus as the Lamb of God is profoundly biblical and reveals dimensions of Jesus which we often overlook.
The primary reference for the phrase is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed and whose blood was spread on the doorposts before the Israelites fled Egypt (Cf. Ex. 12). The blood of this lamb saved the Israelites from death and began their journey to freedom through the Red Sea. Likewise, Jesus blood shed on the cross, frees us from death and initiates our journey as disciples.
Another reference to the “Lamb of God” occurs in the suffering servant songs in Isaiah. A mysterious figure, perhaps the Messiah, is described as bearing the sins of the people and being like a lamb led to the slaughter (Is. 53). Jesus, especially on the cross, bears our sins.
The image of the Lamb reappears in the final book of the bible, Revelation (5-7). This Lamb appears as the one who brings about final victory over evil in the world. “They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings… “ (Rev. 17:14). Jesus is the one who ultimately defeats evil and ushers in the Kingdom of God.
Every Sunday at Mass, this biblical image reminds us of who Jesus is as our savior and the Lord of history. Behold, the Lamb of God!
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
What are we missing? Mass is not about entertainment. A great video to share with youth about what the Mass is not.
I note that while there are several places where God rejects liturgy for want of justice, I know of no biblical location where God rejects justice for want of liturgy. Liturgy is the symbolic celebration of divine justice so that in the latter’s absence the former is empty.
John Dominic Crossan
“The congregation being fully assembled, now, the bell rang once more,
to warn laggards and stragglers, and then a solemn hush fell upon the
church which was only broken by the tittering and whispering of the
choir in the gallery. The choir always tittered and whispered all
through the service. There was once a church choir that was not
ill-bred, but I have forgotten where it was, now. It was a great many
years ago, and I can scarcely remember anything about it, but I think
it was in some foreign country.”
Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer chapter 5